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The opportunities that Apple missed

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Apple was at the forefront of technology for many years. But since Steve Jobs died the company has not brought out any radically new products and may have even missed a few opportunities along the way, writes BRIAN PEREIRA of Digital Creed.

I have been a keen observer of Apple for many years and have bought some of its products for personal use. There’s no doubt that Apple changes the status quo in technology with its exemplary products that are far ahead of the competition. However, after Steve Jobs passed away in 2011, we have not seen a radically new product (that’s if you exclude Apple Watch).  In the post-Jobs era, Apple has been making incremental changes to its existing product lines. It gave us lighter, sleeker  products with new colors like Rose Gold. And it has introduced new features like wireless earphones (AirPods), TouchID (fingerprint ID sensor), USB-C, Siri and the much publicized omission of the headphone jack.

However, Apple missed the boat for a number of innovations that other companies now have. These are:

  1. Dual rear cameras (Huawei Honor phones)
  2. Smart homes (Amazon Echo, Google Nest, Philips  Hue etc)
  3. Autonomous vehicles (Tesla)
  4. Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality (Oculus Rift, Sony Playstation VR, HTC Vibe, Microsoft Hololens)

We know that the next version of the iPhone will have dual rear cameras. But Apple is playing catch-up. Instead, it should really reverse the trend and set the standards.

Having said that, I am grateful to Apple (and its team of engineers) for giving us light laptops with 12-hour battery life. How many other laptops can you find that are so light and run all day long?

I am also thankful for the iPod and the iPhone — that set new standards for the music, movie and telecom industries. In the 1980s, I could never have imagined carrying thousands of songs (and CDs) in my pocket! I mixed C-90 cassette tapes myself, and the maximum I could squeeze in (both sides) was 24 songs! Fraunhofer Institute also gets the credit for creating MP3.

Opportunities Ahead

I think the future of technology will be governed by software (not hardware). Intelligent software that preempts actions, prompts, informs, and acts proactively — will be in demand. And natural human interfaces will be the norm. Anyone should be able to use the software with minimum training. We should be able to use it in the most natural ways.

Yet, beneath those simple interfaces lie layers of complexity, hidden away from us. There would be complex algorithms for machine learning, enabled by artificial intelligence. And development could become code-less – a drag-and-drop affair.

That’s the big opportunity for Apple. It needs to become a software company first and then a gadgets maker.

Over the years Apple has made some great software, with simple, intuitive, visually appealing interfaces. Even toddlers can use its software with minimal training. That’s why Apple has a lot of success in the education and creative industries.

So Apple does have the capabilities to make this intelligent software. It can borrow notes from Salesforce, for example. Salesforce is the maker of a popular CRM application. It has now embedded artificial intelligence into all its products. So the applications study customer and transactional data, and using analytics, throws back intelligent suggestions at salespersons and marketers. This makes them a lot more productive. You can read more about it here.

In conclusion, I have to say that the opportunities for Apple lie in intelligent software.

The ‘i’ that prefixes its product names should now stand for ‘intelligent’.

* Brian Pereira has been tracking technology since 1989. He is the former editor of CHIP and InfomationWeek magazines in India. He now blogs at www.digitalcreed.in

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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SAFTA awards get first streaming video nominees

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The 2019 nominations for The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) were announced late last week, and for the first time in the 13-year history of the awards, a TV series produced for a video-on-demand service was in contention. The result was a surprise boost to streaming service Showmax.

The comedy series Tali’s Wedding Diary, which premiered in December 2017, represented a major step for the then two-year old streaming service. It was the debut Showmax Original, the first time Showmax ventured into producing its own content. The gamble paid off, with the show becoming the most watched of any series on its first day on Showmax, and now Tali’s Wedding Diary has been further recognised with seven SAFTA nominations, making it this year’s most nominated comedy.

“When we first floated the idea of Tali’s Wedding Diary, we joked about winning awards,” says Candice Fangueiro, Showmax’s head of content. “At that point, just getting our first Showmax Original off the ground was already a major challenge and it was more than we could hope for to actually hit it out of the park. I was stunned when I heard the news about the nominations – it’s amazing to be considered in the same company as these other shows and thanks to this we’re already seeing a fresh spike in Tali views.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary was also a first for co-creator and star Julia Anastasopoulos, who until then was best known as YouTube star SuzelleDIY. “I am so thrilled about the SAFTA nominations for Tali’s Wedding Diary,” says Julia, who is up for Best Actress – TV Comedy and Best Achievement in Scriptwriting – TV Comedy, along with her husband Ari Kruger and Daniel Zimbler. 

“It was such a big and daunting step to create a full TV comedy series and intro a brand-new character. I really didn’t know how it would be received and am so happy to have received such positive feedback for the show and the Tali Babes character, along with the nominations. It feels so good to be recognised for something we poured our hearts into. None of it would have been possible, of course, without the incredible hard work and vision of my husband Ari and the incredible team, cast and crew that were part of the show. And a huge thank you to Showmax of course for making it all possible. Congratulations and best of luck to the entire team and to all the other nominees.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary is a mockumentary that follows Tali, a self-obsessed Joburg princess who’s moved to Cape Town and is planning her wedding to property-agent fiancé Darren (Anton Taylor). The series was inspired by Julia’s own wedding to Ari, her SuzelleDIY and Tali’s Wedding Diary co-creator, who is also up for Best Achievement In Directing – TV Comedy.  

In addition to Julia and Ari’s nominations, Tali’s Wedding Diary is up for Best TV Comedy, Art Direction (Keren Setton),  Cinematography (James Adey), and Editing (Richard Starkey). Winners will be announced on 2 March 2019 at Sun City Superbowl.

Following the success of Tali’s Wedding Diary, the second Showmax Original, The Girl From St Agnes, was released earlier this month. A third Showmax Original, Trippin With Skhumba, is slated for release at the end of February.

“With three Showmax Originals now under our belt and more on the way, we’d like to think this is the start of many more SAFTA nominations for shows from a streaming service,” concludes Candice.

South African content currently on Showmax has 110 nominations and includes the most nominated movie (Five Fingers With Marseilles), telenovela (The River), drama (Lockdown) and soap (Isibaya), with more SAFTA nominees scheduled for the coming months.

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