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Ben Thompson on Why Samsung Will Fall

Thompson has a great post cataloging why Samsung is stuck in the pincers between sustainable high-end smartphones (Apple), and the inexorable appeal of lower-cost smartphones to those who are price conscious. Read the whole thing.

But I thought this one section — about the stupidity of analysts — is dead on:

Software Matters – For years analysts treated all computers the same, regardless of operating system, and too many do the same thing for phones. I personally find this absolutely baffling; you cannot do any serious sort of analysis about Apple specifically without appreciating how they use software to differentiate their hardware. The fact is that many people buy iPhones (and Macs) because of the operating system that they run; moreover, that operating system only runs on products made by Apple. Not grokking this fact is at the root of almost all of the Apple-is-doomed narrative (which, by the way, is hardly new).

Software-based differentiation extends to apps. While a fully-fleshed out app store is table-stakes, for the high end buyer app quality matters as well, and here iOS remains far ahead of Android. I suspect this is for three reasons:

  1. The app store still monetizes better, especially in non-game categories
  2. iOS is easier to develop for due to decreased fragmentation
  3. Most developers and designers with the aptitude to create great apps are more likely to use iOS personally

None of these factors are likely to go away, even as Android catches up with game-based in-app purchases and as iOS increases in screen size complexity.


Ultimately, though, Samsung’s fundamental problem is that they have no software-based differentiation, which means in the long run all they can do is compete on price. Perhaps they should ask HP or Dell how that goes.

In fact, it turns out that smartphones really are just like PCs: it’s the hardware maker with its own operating system that is dominating profits, while everyone else eats themselves alive to the benefit of their software master.

Maybe Tizen is the shovel that Samsung could use to dig themselves out of the hole?

We live in a new space.

Michel Serres

The digital world eleiminates distance in the physical world.


2 of every 2 U.S. households have only wireless phones, but the growth rate of wireless-only households slowed last year.


2 of every 2 U.S. households have only wireless phones, but the growth rate of wireless-only households slowed last year.

That’s what happens with disruption — while it is happening, it seems like it is going slowly. Then all of a sudden things are different.
The future has already been a disappointment.

Paul Starr, The Second Machine Age, Reviewed 

Starr juxtaposes techno optimism and pessimism, spiraling about the core question: why doesn’t rapid innovation in technology and science lead to a/ higher productivity and b/ better economic outcomes for all?

Brynjolfsson and McAfee, the authors of The Second Machine Age, blame the former on organizational inertia, and the fact that value may not be falling, even when prices are (think about the music industry). Basically, they say our economics hasn’t caught up with the foundational changes in our economy.

Robert Gordon is a Northwestern economist who has long contended that technology’s benefits are largely overstated. His work suggests that growth might be less than 1% in the decades to come because of various ‘headwinds’ — like demographic change, declining educational quality, inequality, and economic adjustment (think music business).

Starr summarizes Gordon’s position on b/:

Unless we change our policies in such areas as education, health care, and taxation, the bottom 99 percent will not see much improvement in living standards. For the great majority of Americans, the problem is that productivity growth, whatever its real level, is not translating into higher incomes. The gains from growth are going to the top—and on this point Brynjolfsson and McAfee have no disagreement with Gordon.

Starr wants to end on a hopeful note, so he suggests that ‘we will find a way forward only when we can put growth and equality back together’.

But that is more of dream than a roadmap. Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty First Century suggests that we might be moving into an era — the postnormal — when income inequality and the oligarchic conservation of wealth will become the new steady state. And technological innovation may be an engine for that, rather than a force for equality and a better future for all.

It heightens the level of uncertainty, anxiety and risk aversion, to know that you’re only a bad day and half a dozen tweets from being fired.

Ben Domenech, cited by Maureen Dowd in Who Do We Think We Are?

Technology isn’t a section in the newspaper any more. It’s the culture.

Ben Smith, cited by Maureen Dowd in Who Do We Think We Are?

In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.

Martin Gilens and Benjamin J. Page cited in Are Cities Laboratories for the Future of Democracy? by Drew Reed

(Source:, via studio630)