Technology

Why Apple killed off its plans to build a smart TV; New Windows 10 upgrade information: Best of the Web

Andrew Sadauskas /

In recent years, there have been persistent rumours that Apple has been working on a smart TV.

But according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Apple dumped plans to build a smart TV earlier this year.

Over at Wired, Brian Barrett argues that decision represents a shrewd business move by Apple supremo Tim Cook, which kept the tech giant out of a low-margin quagmire.

Rumors of an Apple-made television set started as early as 2010, when an analyst named Gene Munster foretold its arrival within “two to four years”. Munster would go on to be the Apple HDTV’s most vocal champion, proclaiming multiple times through the intervening years that it was just on the horizon, a fata morgana slowly bobbing further out of reach.

What Munster and other enthusiastic analysts could never quite demonstrate, though, is why Apple would make a television set in the first place. Or rather, what would be in it for them.

Television is a notoriously slim-margin business, according to IHS analyst Paul Gagnon, gross margins average out to about 10 percent (net margin, meanwhile, which factors in marketing and other ancillary costs, amounts to a break-even proposition for most). It’s also slow turnover; you don’t buy a new television every two years, like you would a smartphone or (Apple hopes) a watch. You hold onto your set for seven, eight 10 years if you can; it’s not worth ponying up for a new one unless the old one dies, or until a new standard like 4K forces your hand.

 

Which version of Windows 10 will you upgrade up to?

 

The big tech news on the horizon for any small business that relies on Microsoft is the release of Windows 10. As with previous versions of Windows, there will be multiple editions aimed at different segments of the market. Over at Ars Technica, Peter Bright explains how the free upgrade process will work for different versions of Windows:

We now know how the different editions will work. Windows 7 Home Basic and Home Premium, and Windows 8 and 8.1, will all upgrade to Windows 10 Home. Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate, and Windows 8 and 8.1 Pro, will all upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. This upgrade will be free, and will be delivered exclusively through Windows Update. Corporate Windows Pro systems using WSUS will have to use Windows Update in order to use the upgrade.

Windows Phone 8.1 devices will be upgradable to Windows 10 Mobile. Oddly, the blog post says that this too will be a time-limited upgrade. A little uncertainty surrounds the Windows 10 Mobile upgrade process. When announcing the Windows 10 editions, Microsoft said that it would be handling the updates for the phone platform. This led to conjecture that perhaps, at last, the platform would be free of the carrier intervention that has delayed so many updates in the past.

Forbes’ most valuable brands of 2015

Forbes has released its list of the world’s most valuable brands for this year. And in a piece of news that will come as a great surprise to absolutely nobody, Apple and Microsoft once again top the list:

The Apple brand is now worth [US]$145.3 billion by our count, up 17% over 2014. The brand ranks on top of Forbes’ list of the World’s Most Valuable Brands for a fifth straight time and is worth twice as much as any other brand on the planet. The company sold 74.8 million smartphones worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2014 with phone sales up 49%.

Microsoft ranks as the second most valuable brand worth[US] $69.3 billion, up 10%. After years of getting beaten up in the press and by users, the $94-billion-in-sales company is suddenly cool again under CEO Satya Nadella, just the company’s third leader in 40 years. The company is intriguing developers and introducing captivating products like its HoloLens, a headset which brings hi-def holograms to life using Windows. “We want to move from people needing Windows to choosing Windows, to loving Windows. That is our bold goal,” said Nadella at the Windows 10 launch event in January.

 

The Philadelphia train crash and the issue of safety systems

 

The recent crash of a train in the US on the crucial Amtrak Boston-to-DC Northeast corridor has raised a range of questions around rail safety. As Chris Ziegler explains in The Verge, one of the central issues has been the rollout of computerised rail safety systems:

Speed has remained a central focus of the investigation, which has turned the focus to PTC — Positive Train Control, an established technology in the rail industry that uses a system of signals, computers, and GPS to prevent trains from going too fast and colliding with other trains in the event an engineer is incapacitated or makes a mistake. PTC is so promising as a tool for improving rail safety that the federal government has ordered its deployment across broad swaths of the US rail network by the end of 2015. And furthermore, the accident has led the Federal Railroad Administration to demand that Amtrak “immediately” enable automated controls on the segment of track where the disaster occurred.

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Andrew Sadauskas

Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.

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