Next of Kin in the Digital World

There are few things more challenging for a family than losing a loved one. Historically, that person's digital existence was of lower importance relative to everything else going on during the painful transition. However, as more vital processes move online, the problem of a next of kin in the digital world will need a cleaner solution.

Right now, your best bet is to use a password manager and make sure your partner or chosen family member/friend has the master password. This isn't the worst choice, but most people don't even do this much. Furthermore, it does nothing to address the wishes of the deceased. Do they want accounts deleted? Ignored? Made into memorials?

A more thorough thought experiment would be required to design a complete solution, but this is touchy territory. Aside from the dark nature of the topic, there is risk in any single company's solution here. If someone provides a "take care of your digital existence" solution, what happens when they don't get that last payment? What happens if they go out of business? That risk holds true any time, but when the originator of the request for services is no longer available, it passes the burden to someone who might not be equipped to handle it or fully understand the nature of the situation.

An open standard might be the solution here. On top of the standard private companies and services can and should be built, but this would allow you to not get totally locked into a single service for example. Companies could try their various sales models, "free", cheap but minimal, expensive and full featured, subscription, etc.

It's an interesting discussion to have and I suspect will eventually be a thriving industry. Only time will tell how this problem is solved and what services flourish to meet the needs.

Look to the Wealthy People, But Not For the Reasons You Think

Wealth is frequently mistaken for success because they often go hand-in-hand. So when I say "look to the wealthy people" I am not giving life advice on attaining success. I simply mean to look at the wealthy people in the world today and consider the fundamental advantages they have. If you're able to distill these advantages and learn how to streamline them and decrease cost with technology, you might want to start picking stitching for the leather on your yacht. Still not following? 

Since hindsight is 20/20 let's take a look backward in time and extrapolate. 

Not long ago only wealthy people had phones in their cars, they were available around the clock and could get business done while on the move. Now you and a few billion of your closest friends have a super computer while you're in the bathroom. Similarly, only a few years ago, having a luxury sedan at your beck and call 24/7 was only for those who wouldn't waste time to pick up a $100 bill if they dropped it. Now we've got Uber and Lyft in most metropolitan areas on the planet.

You can pick any two points in history and be able to find this pattern emerge. Cars, trains, huge televisions, medical care, air conditioning... the list goes on. Yesterday's unattainable comforts are tomorrow's standard for living.

Smart homes are exciting, but I think there's a bigger one looming in our not-too-distant future. What does every wealthy person have instantly available to them around the clock to take care of anything they need, yet the average person couldn't hope to afford? An assistant. The biggest gain to be realized in a successful instance of this pattern emerging is when technology can scale for next to nothing and replace an otherwise costly human resource. 

Interestingly, the biggest problem with this breakthrough might not actually be the technology. I suspect it will be the public perception and acceptance of this technology. An assistant knows every detail of their boss's life. They know their most personal information, they know intimate things, they know where they are the vast majority of the time. Most crucially, a good assistant can piece all of this together and make logical inferences to anticipate the needs of their boss. Therein lies the power of the dedicated assistant.

When this assistant is a person, there is an opportunity to develop a trusting relationship. There is accountability. If something is leaked, you've got a human being to point the finger at and that human being will take responsibility. This doesn't transfer well to the digital realm. When a leak takes place some executive might get fired, but that doesn't repair the personal damage done. You can't easily develop a trusting relationship; instead to fully realize a digital assistant you will need to to relinquish your most intimate information while accepting the associated risk.

Taking this leap will not be easy, and there will be many people who refuse to do it. There are still people who disable location services on their iPhones so they can't realize the immense power in maps or any number of the thousands of location based services.

There will be several options when it comes to how this sensitive information is handed over. This discussion is too nuanced to cover here, but the over-simplified version is that you will have the Apple version where you pay for the service directly or through "costly" hardware, then you'll have the Google version where the services are "free" and the ways in which your data will be used for Google's profit will be detailed in legalese on page 182 of the Terms of Service that we each read so thoroughly. Neither one is right, neither one is wrong, but a choice will have to be made if you decide to opt in at all.

I know three things for certain: 

  1. I will be opting in.
  2. I will be willing to pay a modest price for a service I consider worthwhile.
  3. If the depiction of wealthy people in movies is a preview of where we're headed, then I am particularly excited having seen the Iron Man movies.

A Few Thoughts On Jony Ive's Promotion to CDO

I want to preface this that I hold Jony Ive in the highest regard and his work is what gave me an appreciation for beautiful things. These are just a few "what if's" and thoughts that went through my mind on the news of Jony Ive being promoted from Senior Vice President of Design to the extraordinarily rare (for Apple) C-level Chief Design Officer.

Work and Family

I don't know Jony or his family, but if there is any family pressure to return to the U.K. then he is in a really tough position. The number of people that count on him, the number of people that directly benefit from his work, and the overall impact he has is profound. How do you balance that with a family who (hypothetically) want's to move? Of course, this "move to the U.K." is all rumor at this point. If the world is lucky, it is nothing more. 

I believe it is right to pick your family over your work, but as a beneficiary of his work, I can say I will be deeply saddened when he leaves Apple.

On Replacing Jony

You can't replace Jony Ive. Just like you couldn't replace Steve Jobs. When Steve passed there were two strong rails for the Apple train to run on: the culture at the core of everything Apple does, and Jony Ive. That is how it looks from the outside, of course I don't actually know. So what happens when Jony leaves? Without Jony or Steve I think the culture will remain on autopilot for a while. It's tough to say if that will be a year or twenty years, but I think somewhere in the 3-5 year area with no un-Jony product changes is a very safe bet.

Over time culture adapts. The culture of Apple is even to adapt at its own short term expense (think iPhone cannibalizing the iPod). Inevitably the nuanced impact that both Steve and Jony have in the seemingly irrelevant details will fade. I suspect this will lead to changes in directions akin to going from skeuomorphic to flat design, and that is a good thing, this evolution is necessary.

Let's hope the rumors are wrong so that we can be selfish and bask in the benefits of a Jony Ive designed life for at least a little bit longer.


Again, this promotion could very likely have nothing to do with him leaving any time soon, but when the notion was brought up I couldn't help but consider it. I am eternally grateful for the work Jony has done and wish him nothing but happiness, whatever that means for him. 

Android vs. iOS: Revenue Per User Won't Catch Up and That's Okay

The metric of choice for comparing iOS to Android is average revenue per user, or ARPU (spoken phonetically exactly as you'd guess). This is fine, it is certainly technically accurate, but it isn't exactly relevant for most of the discussions where it is used as ammo. It's like comparing the average revenue per user of all car buyers vs. only Ferrari* buyers – it tells you what you already know.

Notice how I didn't say Hyundai vs. Ferrari, that would be a hyperbolic falsity, I specifically said all cars because that's much more aligned with the reality of Android. You need to understand the Android spectrum to fully appreciate the volume, human impact, and glory of what they've pulled off.

This graphic shows the ARPU comparison between the platforms, it is interesting data, but remember to keep perspective on the topic (source article).

Android vs. iOS ARPU vs Deepak Abbot on Medium

Now some considerations and perspective:

  • Note the ARPU difference and relationship in app sales vs. ad revenue. 
  • Android has been installed on a lot more phones than iOS. I am basing this on data that is getting old, but I don't think enough has changed to change the blunt fact that Android dominates on pure install base – Android had (Q4 2013) 78% market share to iOS's 18% worldwide. The data above shows a 74/26 split purely between these two platforms. Before you get angry at the mention of install base metrics...
  • Install base doesn't mean much of anything for any discussion aside from install base discussions.
  • There are many millions of Android device owners that don't own a computer or have another source of Internet in the home, the phone is their first and only computer and their connection to the web.
  • There are Android users who don't have running water, plumbing, or electricity at home. Communities have communal charging stations on the side of the road. Benedict Evans does a great job of tracking and tweeting (or retweeting) data and anecdotes about this. Can you imagine walking a day or more just to charge your phone?
  • Android devices are connecting people from the third world to services and communities that allow them to catapult their communications capabilities forward by decades.

There isn't one smartphone market. You can make it look like a single market on paper, but the reality is there are several markets. I would love to see data on premium device ARPU broken out by region, this would be a more valid comparison to make. There are hundreds of millions of Android devices that are in the same premium segment as iPhones, and there are old hand-me-down iPhones that are in a similar segment to lower end Android (though I don't believe even the bottom of the iPhone spectrum reaches the price points/capability of the low end Android phones). These devices have changed the world overnight unlike anything most of us have ever seen.

Next time you pull out your device of choice and think that you can't live without it, remember that there are millions of people for whom their smartphone is fundamentally changing the entire trajectory of their family's livelihood. Apple and Google have enabled extraordinary things with their platforms and there is no question about our love for and dependence upon our phones. However to compare the two platforms outright as one market is a fool's errand without maintaining perspective on the extraordinary differences between what the platforms (or even subsets of each platform) enable.

*I picked Ferrari because I originally picked Audi and then started questioning whether the revenue from super cars would actually be enough to offset the lower end cars and render my analogy dead in the water. Rather than picking Audi and doing the math, I went with a car I knew would represent a huge ARPU that the car industry as a whole couldn't touch.

Two Factor Authentication Matters - iMore's Guide to 2FA

I am a firm believer in two factor authentication; I can't imagine a better way to keep yourself secure than enabling 2FA on any service that supports it. Contrary to popular belief, there is minimal inconvenience. For any site or service that you care about, the benefits outweigh the cost by several orders of magnitude.

It's worth taking a look at who all supports it and noticing the pattern that that so many "old dogs" (companies that are huge and have been around for a long time) don't support it, but newer companies do. This shouldn't come as a surprise, but might help you decide who gets your business.