Cold Takes

(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter — more about it here.)

It’s been awhile.

Sorry about that. I know, no excuses necessary, but I remain interested to see how/if I can fit this into my daily (or daily-ish) routine, and like writing itself, I’ve learned just how quickly it can go by the wayside when life gets busy. I’m still not to the place where I know what I want to do here, so the journey continues for now. Appreciate the patience and the readership.

(And especially putting up with these boring meta posts. Though hopefully it’s useful to some of you also potentially interested in exploring the newsletter space — as it seems a number of you are based on feedback!)

Top of Mind

I think I read over all of the major Google Pixel reviews (the Techmeme link above does a good job highlighting the best of them) and the consensus seems pretty clear: it’s a great phone, clearly the best Android device ever, and the first such device that can truly compare to the iPhone. Of course, I feel like we’ve heard that refrain before in reviews (usually around the Nexus or Galaxy devices), and then sometimes they spontaneously burst into flames after enough usage. So… we’ll see. But I’m going to order one to try it out myself.

The speed seems to be universally praised. The camera as well, though most reviewers seem to note that it’s just different from the iPhone camera — a bit more over-the-top presentation-wise versus the iPhone’s more “natural” look. (It seems to be a matter of personal taste which one you’ll like more.) The one big knock on the Pixel seems to be battery life (though Dieter Bohn had a different experience and found it to be great). And everyone seems to really love the new Google Assistant, with basically everyone noting that it runs laps around Siri (which, as we all know, honestly isn’t saying much).

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“OK Google, let’s do this.”

5ish Links

Really liked the simple framing of this post by Tim O’Reilly, which was a capture of his recent talk at the White House Frontiers Conference. Being scared of technology is as old as technology itself. And while it’s good to be mindful of the changes happening, I think it’s folly not to look to the past to see all the great — great — consequences of technology over time.

As O’Reilly notes:

But those weavers couldn’t imagine that their descendants would have more clothing than the kings and queens of Europe, that ordinary people would eat the fruits of summer in the depths of winter. They couldn’t imagine that we’d tunnel through mountains and under the sea, we’d fly through the air, crossing continents in hours, we’d build cities in the desert with buildings a half mile high, that we’d put spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter, that we would eliminate so many scourges of disease! And they couldn’t imagine that their children would find meaningful work bringing all of these things to life!

The continued abysmal ratings for the NFL continue to fascinate me. And I’m still skeptical of it being about the election. And the insiders seem to be expanding that excuse. As Drew Harwell reports:

In an internal NFL memo sent last week and given to The Washington Post, two league executives, Brian ­Rolapp and Howard Katz, wrote that “all networks airing NFL games are down” and that “primetime windows have clearly been affected the most.”

They pointed to “a confluence of events,” including the election, to explain the ratings slide. “While our partners, like us, would have liked to see higher ratings,” they added, “they remain confident in the NFL and unconcerned about a long-term issue.”

We’ll see. I think something being downplayed is the long-term trend:

Though it still dominates the country’s leisure time, traditional TV viewership has rapidly dwindled. Since 2010, the time Americans spend watching TV has dropped 11 percent, Nielsen data shows. For people younger than 24, their TV time has plunged more than 40 percent, with many of those minutes spent instead on social media and their phones.

Young people on their phones/devices instead of watching TV is undeniable. The question, of course, is whether they’ll end up watching the NFL that way. Personally, if I was betting on sports here, I’d still bet on soccer or the NBA…

One more tidbit:

Long-term slides in ratings pose a financial minefield for the big TV networks, which have agreed to pay the league tens of billions of dollars to air NFL games through 2022.

The networks do not make enough ad revenue to fully cover those arrangements, according to an industry estimate provided by Magna. But they believe the promotional halo of having NFL games leading viewers into other programming makes the deals worth it. Falling viewership, however, could drive down ad revenue, making the networks’ calculations harder to defend, Hughes said.

While I like the prospects of the NBA as a global sport more long-term, I have the same concerns about these crazy TV deals and their impact on the sport. And on the networks!

Also, the football games themselves have sort of sucked thus far this year. So it’s probably not great for the NFL that they’re everywhere now!

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While we’re on the topic of football, here’s a fun one. When I shared the GIF a couple weeks ago of Patriots coach Bill Belichick smashing a Microsoft Surface tablet on the sidelines, I thought he was just pissed off about a play gone bad — I didn’t realize he actually hates the tablets. In his own words:

“They’re just too undependable for me. I’m going to stick with pictures as several of our other coaches do as well because there just isn’t enough consistency in the performance of the tablets. I just can’t take it anymore.”

That’s pretty damning, and certainly not what Microsoft thought it was getting when it signed a $400 million exclusive deal a couple years ago…

As Fitz Tepper notes:

So why is the sideline technology so hard to get right? The tablets (as well as headphones and all other sideline technology) are owned and maintained by the NFL. That means it gets delivered to teams literally hours before the game and taken away when it ends. This makes it hard for teams to test for issues before a game and to troubleshoot when something goes wrong.

If the NFL allowed teams to choose their own sideline technology, team staff would be able to test it ahead of time and have people standing by ready to quickly fix potential issues. Oh, and we’d probably see a lot more iPads on the field.

Instead, we’ll see more pictures, apparently.

Ewan McGregor on the notion of returning to the Star Wars universe.

“I’ve always thought there was a story to tell between my last one and Alec Guinness’ first one. It would be fun to film that story now that I’m older.”

“I’d be the right age. I’m 45; Alec Guinness was what, 60? I could do two of them!”

As he was basically the only halfway decent thing about the prequels, I’m in.

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George Lucas approaches…

(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter.)

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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