It is true that Switzerland’s GDP is around $700 billion. But GDP is a measure of value added in a country in one year. That is, it’s the income of the place. Apple’s $700 billion valuation is the total value of the company: this is akin to wealth, not income. And of course the value of a stock is the net present value of all of the future income from it. So, that $700 billion for Apple is the current value (as the market estimates it) of everything that Apple will ever do in the future. The valuation of Switzerland, that $700 billion, is what the place made this year alone. Two very different numbers.
To get to something comparable for Apple we need to work out this year’s added value. A rough and ready definition of that is profits plus wages paid (this is approximately equal to the labour and profit shares in GDP which don’t quite equal total GDP but good enough for rough comparisons). Apple’s profits are around $40 billion, it employs a little under 100,000 people directly. Say each of those is paid $100,000 a year (obviously, some get very much more but when we add in the Genius Bar folks that might be reasonable enough as an average) which gives us another $10 billion. Not entirely accurate but reasonable enough to say that Apple’s value add, the equivalent of GDP, is some $50 billion.
When we go looking for a country at around that we find The Sudan and Luxembourg jointly on some $55 billion. And Luxembourg is some 400,000 people, and roughly half of the people in a country work (take out the kiddies, pensioners, housewives etc, roughly correct) giving us a Luxembourgois workforce of 200,000 people. 100,000 people in one of the most profitable companies on the planet produce about the same value as 200,000 rich world people in a country. OK, that’s impressive for Apple but it’s a much better indication of the company’s economic size than any other measure. It is, around and about, fair to say that Apple produces the same economic value as Luxembourg. […]
And to repeat the point at the top, we’re never going to really understand corporate power or the size of the corporate sector (or corporations) until we start to understand what these different numbers being bandied about as valuations and value of production etc really mean. Corporations really are very much smaller than countries: even the largest and most valuable of corporations is really only comparable to a city sized country. To give you a much better idea of the size of Apple relative to economic output of an area then Apple’s about the size of Raleigh, North Carolina, Omaha Nebraska, maybe, just maybe as large as Forth Worth, Texas, or Charlotte, North Carolina. Somewhere in that range at least. Or to use States, perhaps around Rhode Island or Maine.
Corporations just aren’t as large and economically powerful as some seem to think.
Tim Worstall, “Apple Isn’t Worth Switzerland But It Is Worth All The World’s Airlines”, Forbes, 2014-11-22.
December 12, 2014
November 12, 2014
Scott Adams relates his quasi-religious experience with the latest iPhone:
The experience of getting the iPhone 6 Plus was like getting a puppy. From my first touch of the sleek, sexy miracle of technology I was hooked. I loved it before I even charged it up.
It was large in my hand, and slippery to hold, but I didn’t mind. That would be like complaining that my newborn baby was too heavy. This phone is pure art and emotion frozen in a design genius so subtle that competitors probably can’t even duplicate it. It was pure beauty. Sometimes I found myself just staring at it on the desk because I loved it so. Oh, and it works well too.
But I needed a case. I tried to imagine my anguish if I accidentally dropped this new member of my family and cracked it. I needed protection.
So I went to the Verizon store and bought the only cover they had left that doesn’t look like a six-year old girl’s bedroom wall. The color of my new case could best be described as Colonoscopy Brown. It is deeply disturbing. But because I love my iPhone 6 Plus, and want to keep it safe, I put it on.
Now my phone is not so much a marvel of modern design. Nor would I say it is nourishing my soul with beauty and truth the way it did when naked.
Now it just looks like a Picasso that three hundred homeless people pooped on. You know there’s something good under there but it is hard to care. Now when I see my hideous phone on my desk I sometimes think I can hear Siri beg me “Look away! Look away!”
Beauty needs to be temporary to be appreciated. I think those magnificent bastards at Apple know that. I think they made the case slippery by design. They want you to know that if you keep your phone selfishly naked, and try to hoard the beauty that is designed to be temporary, that phone will respond by slipping out of your hand and flying to its crackly death on a sidewalk.
November 6, 2014
… but not necessarily in a good way:
Here is what they never tell you — Apple has devised a very clever way to make leaving the iOS world really, really painful. Specifically, when you send a text message on an iPhone, unless you fiddled with the default settings, it gets sent through iMessage and the Apple servers. If it is going to another iPhone, it can actually bypass the carrier text messaging system altogether, a nice perk back when texts were not unlimited but useful today mainly for international travel.
But here is the rub — when you switch you phone line away from an iPhone to an Android device, the Apple servers refuse to recognize this. They will think you still have an iPhone and will still try to send you messages via the iMessage servers. What this means in practice is that you can send messages from the new phone to other iPhones, but their texts back to you will not reach you. They just sort of disappear into the ether, and will try forever to be delivered to your now non-existent iPhone.
September 20, 2014
David Akin posted a list of questions posed by John Gilmore, challenging the Apple iOS8 cryptography promises:
Gilmore considered what Apple said and considered how Apple creates its software — a closed, secret, proprietary method — and what coders like him know about the code that Apple says protects our privacy — pretty much nothing — and then wrote the following for distribution on Dave Farber‘s Interesting People listserv. I’m pretty sure neither Farber nor Gilmore will begrudge me reproducing it.
And why do we believe [Apple]?
- Because we can read the source code and the protocol descriptions ourselves, and determine just how secure they are?
- Because they’re a big company and big companies never lie?
- Because they’ve implemented it in proprietary binary software, and proprietary crypto is always stronger than the company claims it to be?
- Because they can’t covertly send your device updated software that would change all these promises, for a targeted individual, or on a mass basis?
- Because you will never agree to upgrade the software on your device, ever, no matter how often they send you updates?
- Because this first release of their encryption software has no security bugs, so you will never need to upgrade it to retain your privacy?
- Because if a future update INSERTS privacy or security bugs, we will surely be able to distinguish these updates from future updates that FIX privacy or security bugs?
- Because if they change their mind and decide to lessen our privacy for their convenience, or by secret government edict, they will be sure to let us know?
- Because they have worked hard for years to prevent you from upgrading the software that runs on their devices so that YOU can choose it and control it instead of them?
- Because the US export control bureacracy would never try to stop Apple from selling secure mass market proprietary encryption products across the border?
- Because the countries that wouldn’t let Blackberry sell phones that communicate securely with your own corporate servers, will of course let Apple sell whatever high security non-tappable devices it wants to?
- Because we’re apple fanboys and the company can do no wrong?
- Because they want to help the terrorists win?
- Because NSA made them mad once, therefore they are on the side of the public against NSA?
- Because it’s always better to wiretap people after you convince them that they are perfectly secure, so they’ll spill all their best secrets?
There must be some other reason, I’m just having trouble thinking of it.
March 30, 2014
Well, right in this particular analysis, anyway:
Which is where we can bring Karl Marx into the discussion. Wrong as he was on many points he was at times a perceptive analyst. And he noted that what determined the wages of the workers wasn’t some calculation of a “fair wage”, nor some true value of their production (although he had much to say on both points), but in a market economy the wages that were paid were a reflection of what other people were willing to pay for access to that labour.
If, for example, there were a large number of unemployed (that “reserve army of the unemployed”) then a capitalist didn’t have to raise the wages of his workers however far productivity grew. If anyone tried to capture a bit more of the value being created, say through a strike or other activity, then the capitalist could simply fire them and bring in some of those unemployed. No profits needed to be shared with the workers. However, when we get to a situation of full employment then the dynamic changes. It’s not possible to simply hire and fire to keep wages low. For the other capitalists are competing for access to that labour that makes those profits. The higher profits go the higher all capitalists will be willing to bid up wages to continue making some profit at all.
The obverse of this is if the employers collude in order to artificially suppress the wages of the workers which is why that case involving Apple, Google and so on is going to trial. That’s monopoly capitalism that is and we really don’t like it at all.
But in this case with Yahoo trying to challenge Google’s YouTube, it will be the workers who benefit. For the two companies are vying with each other for access to the content being made and thus the profits that can be made. Of whatever revenue can be made a larger portion will go to the producers of the content and a smaller one to the owners of the platforms. Which is excellent, this is exactly what we want to happen.
January 12, 2014
Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf has quietly become an e-book bestseller, climbing high on the charts of political books on Apple’s iTunes and Amazon’s Kindle, even as print sales of the 1925 anti-Semitic screed continue to languish.
“Mein Kampf hasn’t made the New York Times‘ nonfiction chart since its U.S. release in 1939, the same year Germany invaded Poland, and its print sales have fallen steadily ever since,” Chris Faraone wrote for the website Vocativ. “But with a flood of new e-book editions, Hitler’s notorious memoir just clocked a banner digital year.”
Two different digital versions of Mein Kampf currently rank third and fourth on the Politics & Current Events on iBooks, outpacing books by modern-day conservative pundits and celebrities such as Sarah Palin, Charles Krauthammer and Glenn Beck. The books sell for 99 cents and $2.99 respectively.
On Amazon, the Kindle version of Mein Kampf ranks No. 1 in the category of Propaganda and Political Philosophy.
Odd how the LA Times‘ instinct is to compare the sales of Mein Kampf with books by American conservatives, rather than works by, say, Marx, Mao, or Mussolini. You know, comparable theorists of totalitarian power (oh, wait…that is how the Times views Palin, Krauthammer, and Beck).
In a post from 2010, Reason TV looks at the power of Nazi Propaganda:
From radio and film to newspapers and publishing, the Nazi regime controlled every aspect of German culture from 1933-1945. Through Josef Goebbels’ Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, the German state tightly controlled political messaging, promoting deification of the leader—the Führerprinzip—and the demonization of the ubiquitous and duplicitious “racial enemy.” A new exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., examines “how the Nazi Party used modern techniques as well as new technologies and carefully crafted messages to sway millions with its vision for a new Germany.” Reason.tv’s Michael C. Moynihan visited with museum historian and curator Steve Luckert to discuss the role and effectiveness of propaganda in the rise of fascism and what lessons can be drawn from the Nazi experiment in mass manipulation.
January 8, 2014
In Wired, Steven Levy explains how the NSA nearly killed the internet:
On June 6, 2013, Washington Post reporters called the communications departments of Apple, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and other Internet companies. The day before, a report in the British newspaper The Guardian had shocked Americans with evidence that the telecommunications giant Verizon had voluntarily handed a database of every call made on its network to the National Security Agency. The piece was by reporter Glenn Greenwald, and the information came from Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old IT consultant who had left the US with hundreds of thousands of documents detailing the NSA’s secret procedures.
Greenwald was the first but not the only journalist that Snowden reached out to. The Post’s Barton Gellman had also connected with him. Now, collaborating with documentary filmmaker and Snowden confidante Laura Poitras, he was going to extend the story to Silicon Valley. Gellman wanted to be the first to expose a top-secret NSA program called Prism. Snowden’s files indicated that some of the biggest companies on the web had granted the NSA and FBI direct access to their servers, giving the agencies the ability to grab a person’s audio, video, photos, emails, and documents. The government urged Gellman not to identify the firms involved, but Gellman thought it was important. “Naming those companies is what would make it real to Americans,” he says. Now a team of Post reporters was reaching out to those companies for comment.
It would be the start of a chain reaction that threatened the foundations of the industry. The subject would dominate headlines for months and become the prime topic of conversation in tech circles. For years, the tech companies’ key policy issue had been negotiating the delicate balance between maintaining customers’ privacy and providing them benefits based on their personal data. It was new and controversial territory, sometimes eclipsing the substance of current law, but over time the companies had achieved a rough equilibrium that allowed them to push forward. The instant those phone calls from reporters came in, that balance was destabilized, as the tech world found itself ensnared in a fight far bigger than the ones involving oversharing on Facebook or ads on Gmail. Over the coming months, they would find themselves at war with their own government, in a fight for the very future of the Internet.
December 4, 2013
In Forbes, Tim Worstall explains a misunderstanding of Ricardo’s Iron Law of One Price on the part of the Guardian:
This is a fun little bit of data calculation and visualisation. It’s a database and then mapping of the global price list for Apple’s iPhone 5s. And there are two interesting ways of using it. The first is simply to look at how prices differ around the world:
You can do this in USD or GBP as you wish. And this can be used to explore the violations of Ricardo’s Iron Law of One Price. Which is where David Ricardo insisted that the prices of traded goods would inevitably move to being equal all over the world. Well, equal minus the transport costs of getting them around the world. And transport costs for an iPhone are trivial: it would be amazing if Apple were paying more than a couple of dollars to airfreight one to anywhere at all. So, we would expect prices to be the same everywhere: but they obviously are not.
However, when The Guardian reports on this something appears to go wrong. Not their fault I suppose, it’s about economics and lefties never really do get that subject. But here:
Similar to the way the Economist tracks the cost of the ubiquitous McDonalds burger across countries, nations and states, Mobile Unlocked tracked the price of the iPhone 5S across 47 countries in native currencies with native sales tax, and then converted those prices into US dollars (USD) or British pounds (GBP).
No … the Big Mac Index operates entirely and exactly the other way around. We need to make the distinction between traded goods and non-traded goods. The Iron Law only works on traded goods. What we’re trying to find out with PPP calculations is what are the price differentials of non-traded goods? Which is why the Big Mac is used. It is (supposedly at least) exactly the same all over the world. It is also made almost entirely from local produce bought at the local price in local markets. US Big Macs use American beef, Argentine ones Argentine and so on. So we get to see the impact of local prices on the same product worldwide. That’s what we’re actually attempting with that Big Mac Index. The Economist then goes on to compare the prices of this non-traded good with exchange rates and attempt to work out whether the exchange rates are correct or not.
This is entirely different from using the price of a traded good to measure local price variations. For what we’re going to be measuring here is what interventions there are into stopping the Iron Law working, not what local price levels are.
November 1, 2013
Dan Goodin posted a scary Halloween tale at Ars Technica yesterday … at least, I’m hoping it’s just a scary story for the season:
In the intervening three years, Ruiu said, the infections have persisted, almost like a strain of bacteria that’s able to survive extreme antibiotic therapies. Within hours or weeks of wiping an infected computer clean, the odd behavior would return. The most visible sign of contamination is a machine’s inability to boot off a CD, but other, more subtle behaviors can be observed when using tools such as Process Monitor, which is designed for troubleshooting and forensic investigations.
Another intriguing characteristic: in addition to jumping “airgaps” designed to isolate infected or sensitive machines from all other networked computers, the malware seems to have self-healing capabilities.
“We had an air-gapped computer that just had its [firmware] BIOS reflashed, a fresh disk drive installed, and zero data on it, installed from a Windows system CD,” Ruiu said. “At one point, we were editing some of the components and our registry editor got disabled. It was like: wait a minute, how can that happen? How can the machine react and attack the software that we’re using to attack it? This is an air-gapped machine and all of a sudden the search function in the registry editor stopped working when we were using it to search for their keys.”
Over the past two weeks, Ruiu has taken to Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus to document his investigative odyssey and share a theory that has captured the attention of some of the world’s foremost security experts. The malware, Ruiu believes, is transmitted though USB drives to infect the lowest levels of computer hardware. With the ability to target a computer’s Basic Input/Output System (BIOS), Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), and possibly other firmware standards, the malware can attack a wide variety of platforms, escape common forms of detection, and survive most attempts to eradicate it.
But the story gets stranger still. In posts here, here, and here, Ruiu posited another theory that sounds like something from the screenplay of a post-apocalyptic movie: “badBIOS,” as Ruiu dubbed the malware, has the ability to use high-frequency transmissions passed between computer speakers and microphones to bridge airgaps.
September 20, 2013
I haven’t yet upgraded my iPhone to the latest OS — I don’t want to be one of the doughty pioneers who discovers new bugs on my own phone — but many others have already made the plunge. While I’m sure some of the new features are great, there are bound to be some changes which are less-than-stellar. In the Telegraph, Richard Gray has a few things you might want to change:
Contacts names on text messages
On the locked screen, messages flash up with the contacts name and a fragment of their message. However, in the new iOS, the message no long displays their full name by default.
Instead it will only show their first name. While this may feel friendlier, for anyone with more than one David or John in their contacts book, it will be confusing.
To restore formality back to your world, access Settings, select Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
Then under the Contacts section, select Short Name and then select the option you prefer — First & Last Name, First Initial & Last Name or just if you are the public school sort, pick Last Name Only.
Control Centre while using an App
The new look control centre is designed to be easy to access — simply swipe up from the bottom of the screen and the frosted-glass effect pane will appear.
Great. Unless of course you are using an app or playing a game that requires just such an action, like the hugely popular Temple Run — then up pops the control centre exactly when you don’t want it.
Fortunately it is possible to turn this off so the control centre will not open when you are using apps.
Access Settings and then select Control Centre. Turn off Access with Apps and no longer will the Control Centre intrude upon your App using experience.
H/T to Nicholas Packwood for the link.
September 13, 2013
The Register‘s Andrew Orlowski speculates that we’ve hit PEAK SMARTPHONE:
Apple’s keynotes seem to command more mainstream front-page press attention than ever before — but each time, there’s less and less to report. Is the modern smartphone era limping to a close?
Apple’s announcements on Tuesday about the iPhone 5S and 5C were wearily predictable. Cupertino just doesn’t seem to be where the action is any more.
It is almost as if Apple and its arch-rival Samsung have exhausted themselves by suing each other around the world — and now look like two very knackered boxers agreeing to shuffle their way through the remaining rounds to the bell, rather than risk throwing big punches.
But the warning signs are there. Samsung reportedly held “crisis talks” this after sales of the Galaxy S4 failed to meet its expectations, Apple iPhone sales have declined for the past three quarters, and, well, “Peak Apple“.
Samsung piled on gimmicky and slightly creepy features like eyeball tracking, simply because it could. Apple’s user-facing innovation (the A7 64-bit chip is the real star of the show) entails building in a fingerprint scanner — a commodity laptop part for the past 10 years. Indeed, the only “radical” moves by Apple are adding colours to a slightly cheaper (but certainly not cheap) iPhone and rejecting NFC (or “Not F*cking Connecting”, as it’s known around here), which is a technology flop. Not so radical, then.
The stark truth is that smartphones, like computers, were only ever a means to an end — and once the services and apps markets matured, the smartphone itself became less … important. It didn’t really matter what access device you were carrying. The PC reached a point where the devices became beige boxes competing on price, and the smartphone era is drawing to the point where it doesn’t really matter what black rectangle you’re carrying — provided it accesses the services and apps you want. Fetishising the access devices is as strange as thanking LG or Panasonic for creating BBC2. No wonder both Samsung and Apple are looking at new higher-margin peripherals such as watches.
September 1, 2013
Strategy Page talks about the US Air Force use of Windows tablet computers for aircraft pilots and the wider adoption of tablets in the rest of the military:
Air forces all over the world are catching up when it comes to iPads. These devices were soon being adopted by officers and troops after they first appeared in 2010, without waiting for official permission. The iPad mini showed up in 2012. While using PDF files to replace maps and manuals was one of the first military uses, this was quickly followed by military-specific smart phone apps.
Early on combat pilots in Afghanistan, like many businesses, discovered how useful the iPad could be on board. U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilots found the iPad a useful way to carry hundreds of military maps, rather than the hassle of using paper versions. Marine commanders quickly realized this “field expedient” (a military “hack” that adopts something for unofficial use while in the combat zone) worked, and made it official. That meant buying iPads for this and getting to work coming up with more uses. Meanwhile, support troops that have to handle a lot of data, quickly found ways to get it done on iPads. This was pretty simple for technical troops who rely on lots of manuals. They are often already available in PDF format, and can easily be put on an iPad. But the iPads are basically hand-held computers, and can do so much more. The troops quickly began making that happen themselves.
About the same time iPad appeared the U.S. Army decided to establish an app store (the Army Marketplace) for military smart phone users. This quickly included the iPad, which soldiers were instant big fans of. The army app store included an “App Wanted” section where users could post descriptions of an app they need. If a developer (in uniform, or an army approved civilian with access to the Army Marketplace) was interested, a discussion could be started on an attached message board. The army found that many needed apps were quickly created and made available at the Army Marketplace. Developers could charge for their apps, although the army is also would pay developers to create needed apps that have been described by military smart phone users. The other services quickly adopted a similar attitude towards app development and many of the U.S. Army apps have shown on smart phones outside the country.
August 13, 2013
At The Register, Jasper Hamill reports on the latest oracular pronunciamento from Larry Ellison:
Oracle supremo Larry Ellison has told Apple that it doesn’t stand a chance of success without Steve Jobs at the helm.
In an interview with CBS, the multibillionaire performed a bizarre dance routine meant to illustrate what chance Apple has in the post-Jobs era. Just like the oracles of old, Ellison’s predictions take a bit of interpretation.
The Oracle was asked what he thought of Jobs, to which he replied: “He was brilliant, he was our Edison, he was our Picasso. He was an incredible inventor.”
But then came a question about how the fruity firm is likely to fare without their godhead on the throne.
“Well, we already know,” Ellison said, before embarking upon a simple piece of interpretive dance to illustrate his thoughts.
In Maclean’s, Peter Nowak wonders why Microsoft hasn’t already purchased Blackberry:
The logic is pretty solid. Android and Apple have run away with the smartphone market, with the Canadian company clutching at a distant and declining third-place slice. The latest numbers say the company has indeed lost that spot to Microsoft and its Windows Phone.
That’s not cause for any excitement — these are low, single-digit scraps we’re talking about. Android and Apple have about 80 and 13 per cent of the market, respectively. (As an aside, it’s funny how those numbers are starting to look like the historical division between Windows and Mac computers, huh?)
So what’s the fastest and easiest way for a company to make its anemic market share bigger? It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out the answer: combine it with somebody else’s equally anemic share into something with a little more meat on its bones. Putting BlackBerry and Microsoft’s Windows phones together would amount to almost seven-per-cent share. That’s still small, but it’s almost within striking distance of Apple.
More importantly, Microsoft — through an acquisition — would eliminate its biggest obstacle. In some countries, especially Canada. BlackBerry still enjoys decent success as the de facto third brand that buyers gravitate to because they’re loyal and/or hate Android and Apple. By most accounts, Windows Phone sales are extra anemic to non-existent in these markets as a result.
August 9, 2013
In Wired, Brett T. Robinson talks about the similarities of the “Apple cult” to religious beliefs:
Technology ads provide parables and proverbs for navigating the complexities of the new technological order. They instruct the consumer on how to live the “good life” in the technological age.
Like all advertising, Apple’s ads perform a vital educational function in consumer society. The advertisements are allegorical, rhetorical attempts to domesticate foreign and abstract concepts, making them accessible and attractive to everyday adherents.
In fact, they resemble medieval morality plays in their personification of good (Mac) and evil (PC). As such, the ads contain a moral — or, more explicitly, they propose a morality customized for the conditions of the age.
Media technology has acquired a moral status because it has become part of the natural order of things. Luddites, those who have sworn off new technologies, are the new heretics and illiterates. Technology is an absolute. There is no turning back or imagining a different social order. Challenge is acceptable as long as it remains within the confines of the technological order. Apple may challenge Microsoft. Samsung may challenge Apple. But the order must not be challenged.
The impact of digital culture, then, is epistemic; it insinuates a moral system based on its own internal logic.
In the Apple story, the brand cult began offline, with users meeting in real, physical locations to swap programs and ideas. Now, the Apple community is more diffuse, concentrated in online discussion groups and support forums. However, Apple product launches and conferences remain sacred pilgrimages where Apple fans can congregate, camp, and live together for days at a time to revel in the communal joy of witnessing the transcendent moment of the new product launch.
The reverence once reserved for holy relics and liturgy has reemerged in the technology subculture. The shared experience of living in a highly technological era provides a universal ground for a pluralistic society. There may be many different devices, but only one Internet.
Technology has become the new taken-for-granted order that requires our fidelity. Obedience to the new order is expressed in the communication rituals that take place every day in the use of computers, music players, and smartphones — devices that bind individuals together. From the farthest satellite to the nearest cellphone, the mystical body of electricity connects us all. Personal technology has become “the very atmosphere and medium” through which we mediate our daily lives.