Archive for February 12, 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Amazon Acquires Eero

Chris Welch (MacRumors, Hacker News):

Amazon has announced that it’s acquiring Eero, the maker of mesh home routers. Amazon says buying Eero will allow the company to “help customers better connect smart home devices.” It will certainly make Alexa-compatible gadgets easier to set up if Amazon also controls the router technology. Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed.

Nilay Patel:

Eero was one of the few major (and necessary) tech products you could buy that was 1. terrific 2. made by a well-run, personable company 3. not made by one of the giants

Dieter Bohn:

Maybe Eero’s mesh network could be built-in to future Echoes. Maybe future Eeros could get microphones built into them. Maybe Amazon will hug Eero so tightly it will die or maybe Amazon will let it live as an independent unit, much like Ring. Maybe Eero Plus — which includes a VPN and anti-malware and even a subscription to a password manager — would get bundled for free into an Amazon Prime subscription.

[…]

But this time, the surprise might be on Amazon. The first reaction from people who know and love Eero wasn’t speculating on any of those possibilities. Instead, the overwhelming reactions were consternation, concern, and exhaustion.

Dan Masters:

I remember when I thought Apple would integrate the AirPort Express into the Apple TV. #waste

Dave:

I thought the same thing.

Before the ‘reinvented’ 4th gen Apple TV came out, it was supposed to be a console/Steam competitor, a cable TV killer, home Siri, and Wi-Fi - all in one.

It got basically none of that right.

Instead, we go an awful remote and apps no one uses.

Jon Gales:

I still find it really weird that Apple got out of the wireless networking game. Amazon and Google clearly see value in it.

Joe Cieplinski:

At some point, Apple is going to have to ask itself: If we care about privacy, should we be providing our customers with a means to protect themselves at all points of their internet connections?

See also: Rene Ritchie.

Previously:

Update (2019-02-13): John Gruber:

I know Amazon wants to keep its options open and isn’t going to commit to anything today, but that “at this time” is painful to read.

Rene Ritchie:

Google, Amazon, Facebook are massive data harvesting companies with service/device front ends critical to facilitate that harvesting. It makes any/unlimited numbers categories business-necessities.

Apple doesn’t need to make routers. We need them to because of the above. :(

Spencer Callaghan:

right but as a market strategy, would keeping that data from competitors not be a good move? Also, they are clearly interested in the smart home space, embedded routers in HomeKit devices just makes so much sense, particularly from a company that values minimalism.

Nut Button:

The only companies that feel like there’s a market in routers are the ones that do it for data collection. If Apple really wants to walk the walk they’d be making routers. I hope that if they aren’t already that this is a wake up call.

Robert Walter:

I know Apple believes in security but if they were really serious about it, they’d offer 1. Safe router, 2. VPN and 3. upgrade iCloud Keych/Apple Wallet to a full function p/w mgr..

Apple originally sold Airports because so few good routers. Should do now because few safe ones

JFMartin:

The iDevice could have played the role of the HomeKit bridge and respond to Siri requests from the wireless speakers (just like the Siri Remote is able to send requests wirelessly to the Apple TV). The combinaison of all these features could have become an ecosystem by itself, a new platform. Configuration would have been done via the Home.app (or a seperate app for more advanced feature configuration like firewall rules or internet content filtering.

What name could Apple give to this fabulous new product? The HomePod. Now that would have made sense. Boom.

See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

Update (2019-02-14): Rosyna Keller:

I’m personally mode terrified Amazon will start requiring an Amazon account to do anything with an eero.

Google Wi-Fi already requires a Google account.

Update (2019-04-09): Rachel Kraus (via Hacker News):

It revealed that the final sale price was $97 million. Crunchbase reports that Eero took $90 million in venture capital (the Wall Street Journal put the number at $100 million). PitchBook, a highly accurate source of VC information, claimed a final $40 million Series D fundraising round from December 2017 brought that number up to $138 million. Eero declined to comment, instead pointing to a March 12 blog post confirming the sale.

An additional $10 million debt line Eero took out brings the total money put into the company at $148 million — 150 percent of the Amazon sale price.

[…]

The documents state that after transaction costs and debt, the actual price will be closer to $54.6 million. That means that Amazon is covering around $40 million of the debt that Eero owes. Ex-employees believe the debt to be from hardware manufacturing costs, since they said that Eero took on corporate financing to actually manufacture the products.

Transparency in macOS 10.14

Dr. Drang:

Why should the Dock appear as if it’s transparent? It’s not as if there’s anything interesting behind the Dock. That space can’t be used for icons, and I wouldn’t put any there even if it could be. So there’s no value is seeing through the Dock, but there is value in distinguishing the icons in the Dock from those that may be next to it on the Desktop. The distinction between the icons in the Dock and those on the Desktop is unnecessarily reduced by the excessive transparency of the Mojave Dock.

[…]

This is ludicrous. This menu isn’t directly in front of the Desktop, it’s in front of the browser window (which is white because I was on Google’s home page when I took the screenshot). There is no reason for it to look like you’re seeing through it to the Desktop. That it looks that way screws up the sense of layering, especially since it still has that shadow around its border.

This absurd fake transparency isn’t confined to Safari. The little popup boxes that appear in Maps have the same muted Desktop coloring even though their conceptual position is floating on top of the map, not on top of the Desktop.

“Reduce transparency” is less effective than before. I usually run with “Increase contrast,” which further reduces the transparency and makes text more readable. But it also exposes a variety of bugs with standard controls and with built-in apps (e.g. the top of the main table view in Mail and the Show Desktop pop-up menu in the Mission Control preferences).

Nick Heer:

For what it’s worth, I don’t necessarily share Drang’s complaints with transparency more generally on the Mac; I think it’s more decorative than helpful, but it’s fine. But I keep the “Reduce Transparency” setting switched on mostly because I prefer a solid background for the menu bar. The resulting layering and compositing doesn’t make any spatial sense and, especially with a saturated desktop picture, is often jarring.

Previously:

Update (2019-02-13): Tony Arnold:

I have to be honest, recent changes to macOS’ design have me scratching my head, too. How and when things show through seems like a massive mess. The content of vibrant sidebars is less emphasised, and harder to read when the window is focused.

Update (2019-03-26): macOS 10.14.4 fixes the bug with the Dock and Reduce Transparency.

Apple Retail Employees Aggressively Pushing iPhone Upgrades

Chance Miller:

A source tells 9to5Mac that this is a new policy at all Apple retail locations. Employees are being instructed to push for an upgrade instead of repairing an existing device. In some stores, the source says, an employee is tasked with pitching iPhone upgrades to Genius Bar customers as they wait for appointments. Other stores have the Geniuses themselves to pitch an upgrade.

[…]

First and foremost, pitching users of the iPhone X to upgrade comes across as a desperate move. The device is barely over a year old, and many iPhone X users haven’t even had it for more than a year. Trying to get someone who spent $1,000+ on their iPhone less than a year ago to spend another $1,000+ is a bold move.

Further, many people dread the task of going to Apple stores and many have to drive several hours to do so. The last thing those people want is for an employee to immediately up-sell instead of helping them repair their existing phone. An employee’s first response to my problem shouldn’t have been, “Have you considered upgrading to a new iPhone recently?” It should have been promising to resolve my problem as quickly as possible.

Benjamin Mayo:

The Apple Store is a store. It’s a place to buy something, and a place for Apple to sell something. However, the Apple Store has never been defined by the hard sell. In fact, it boldly fought against it. Apple retail employees have never earned commission because the goal was to give shoppers the right advice, and match person to product based on need and wants, not which one gives the biggest kickback.

These new initiatives to juice iPhone XS and iPhone XR fly in the face of the principled stance Apple has established in the past. Staff advice is distorted by upper management marketing pressure, rather than monetary incentives, but the result is the same for the customer. The advice is currently biased towards hitting Apple’s targets, not what the person walking in the shop really wants.

As he notes, Apple’s rhetoric is increasingly at odds with how the company actually behaves.

Previously: 2018 iPhone Sales.

Update (2019-02-13): Justin Miller:

I have seen this daily for months when I check http://apple.com. It used to be an inspiring place to see what Apple’s stance on tech is. Now it’s a blaring ad to trade in your phone or to act on a limited time pricing offer. Everything above the fold is about selling.

Apple Storing Russian Users’ Data on Local Servers

Amy MacKinnon:

Roskomnadzor, the Russian government agency that oversees media and telecommunications, has confirmed for the first time that Apple Russia is to adhere to a 2014 law that requires any company handling the digital data of Russian citizens to process and store it on servers physically located in Russia. Under Russian counterterrorism laws, Apple could be compelled to decrypt and hand over user data to security services on request.

[…]

Russian law takes a broad interpretation of personal data and applies it to anything that could be used to identify individuals or their behavior. Photos, music, and e-book downloads would all indirectly be defined as personal data, said Medvedev, who specializes in internet and e-commerce law.

Via Nick Heer:

It isn’t clear to me how Russia could expect to decrypt any user data with the exception of email, as it’s end-to-end encrypted in Russia the same way as it is anywhere else.

So far, it seems that Apple has been happy to move data to local servers so long as they get to maintain control over encryption and privacy practices. But what happens when a country passes a law that requires them to relinquish their ability to secure user data?

However, I disagree about most user data being end-to-end encrypted.

Previously: iCloud in China and on Google’s Cloud.