Dekko Debuts An Augmented Reality Racing Game Playable From The iPadDekko, a San Francisco-based startup that just closed extra funding to build a platform for augmented reality apps, just brought its first title to market with a racing game that has players drive virtual cars across tabletops. OK, so augmented reality, which overlays virtual items or information over the real world through a phone or tablet’s viewfinder, hasn’t really come into its own yet. There have been plenty of companies like Layar, which built one of the very early augmented reality browsers for the iPhone, which have been around for a few years. That’s partially because the user experience is still a bit unwieldy with people having to take their phones or iPads out and pan their built-in cameras around. But it’s possible that Google Glass could change all of this. Dekko, which recently took an additional $1.3 million in funding, is betting that augmented reality’s moment could be around the corner. Other startups are making this bet as well; another company Daqri just picked up $15 million in a Series A round for augmented reality as well. “We wanted to solve many of the basic user problems with augmented reality. We had a compulsion to at least show something that’s real and fun,” said co-founder and CEO Matt Miesnieks. “We wanted to build an experience that is kind of magical.” The game, which you can demo below, has players hold up their iPads over a table. On the screen, you can see cars racing across a virtual track. It can turn any kind of flat surface into racetrack that’s visible on the iPad. The app is also multiplayer, allowing between one and four people to race each other, do stunts and crash into each other’s cars. The multiplayer mode can show a single, real-time shared view. Tabletop Speed Trailer from Dekko on Vimeo. To me, it sounds like a proof of concept that demonstrates Dekko’s platform, which was built by the startup’s in-house team of computer vision experts. Eventually, they’ll bring their platform to wearables like Google Glass. “One thing we know about Glass is that our tech will work on it,” Miesnieks said. Dekko’s backers include Echo Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Venture 51, Blumberg Capital, Launch Capital, Thomvest, Eniac Ventures, and Zig Capital, as well as angels like Howard Lindzon, Erik Moore, Dan Conway, and Raymond Tonsing.
Mac OS X Lion: This Is Not The Future We Were Hoping For (AAPL)
It breaks my heart to say this, but Mac OSX Lion's interface feels like a failure. Its stated mission was to simplify the operating system, to unify it with the clean experience of iOS. That didn't happen. If it weren't for the fast, rock-solid Unix, graphics and networking cores, Lion would be Apple's very own Vista. The path to a simpler future When Steve Jobs first introduced Lion, he set a bold goal: to take what has made the iPad and the iPhone so successful and bring it to the desktop. There's nothing wrong with that. The simplification of the computer experience—which actually gives more power to the users by allowing them to focus on their work instead of screwing around with their machine to make it do what they want—has been the Holy Grail of computers since the 80s. It happened then, when we switched from the command line to the graphical desktop. (For the complete history of this evolution, read this). But in the last three decades computers have again become too complicated for a lot of people. The rest of us put up with it because we've gone through years of conditioning, but most people don't know any conventions and shortcuts accumulated over two decades—the layers upon layers of user interface, patched one on top of another. That's why the iPad and the iPhone have been so amazing. They were clean slates that kicked all those conventions to the curb. The result is a simple, powerful environment. It's awesome. It is the future. Lion is the wrong step into that future. By trying to please everyone, the OS X team has produced an incongruent user interface pastiche that won't satisfy the consumers seeking simplicity nor the professional users in search of OCD control. Apple hasn't really targeted a specific population. Or provided varying levels of user control—a super-simple modal interface for normal people and pro-level classic window interface for nerds. That's what Microsoft is trying to do with Windows 8. Ironically, if Apple had taken a page out of Microsoft's book in this case, it would have been a step in the right direction. Lots of good intentions The first time I started Lion I was expecting Launchpad to take over the screen, like the iPad. Apple touted it as the new way to launch your apps. The combined theory of Lion-iOS-iCloud is good, almost magic: Launchpad to access your apps, apps to access your documents which, eventually, would all be in the cloud and accessible from all your devices. Eliminating the physical desktop metaphor completely, the same way Gmail has eliminated the need to have mail folders. With current instant-search technology, there's no need for anal folder organization. Advanced users and other masochists would still have access to their Finders for the time being, of course, just like Microsoft is doing with Windows 8. That could have made a lot of sense for everyone involved. But what Apple did doesn't compute: Launchpad is supposedly the way to access all your apps, but who wants to click once on the dock's Launchpad icon, launch that interface, and then select your app when you can just open the app from the Finder itself? It's an extra click (or two or three). It's added complexity; it's superfluous. Mission Chaos That's one part of Lion's multiple personality problem. Mission Control along with Full Screen apps is another. Mission Control is touted by Apple as the perfect merger of Exposé and Spaces. Beloved by advanced users, Exposé and Spaces are great productivity tools in Leopard. The first allows you to quickly select apps and windows. Spaces helps pro users organize work environments, by grouping different app windows all floating on different desktops. The way they mixed it (check the video for a better understanding) may work for advanced users, but it is way too complicated for consumers. It feels like a broken bridge between the modal world and the windowed world. By default, there's a Dashboard Space, where all widgets live, like in the current Mac OS X. Then there is a Desktop Space, where the windowed apps exist. Again, this is like in Leopard. In Lion there could be multiple desktops grouping different apps, all set by the user. And finally, there is Full Screen App Space, which results in multiple spaces too, one per app taking over the whole screen. iPhoto, Preview and many system apps can run full screen at this point. This is not a bad idea per se. When you work only with Full Screen Apps it all makes perfect sense. It's very easy and smooth to move from one app to the other swiping your three or four fingers left or right. Your mind switches tasks as you move from app to app. I mostly work with Photoshop, my tabbed browser, iMovie/FCP and Mail. Add iPhoto for my personal 70,000-photo album and iTunes for about 12,000 songs. It'd be very convenient for me to switch through full screen versions of these apps. I like the simplicity and the clarity it brings. But when you add Desktop Spaces and the Dashboard Space, it all becomes a mêlée of windows, desktops, squares, Dashboard widgets and icons. When you get into Mission Control by swiping three fingers up, you get a new clusterfuck that is added to the traditional windowed clusterfuck we have now. Click on one of the windows or spaces or whatever to go to it. Does it work? Yes. Is it more confusing for consumers than Exposé or Spaces? Yes. It's more complicated because it tries to mix control of all these different entities in one single place. The mix doesn't work. Allegedly, as all third-party apps include the full screen mode that Apple is advocating, a Desktop Space would become a home for small single-window apps like iChat or Twitter (or at that time, it may be better to move all of those to the Dashboard Space and get it over with). Advanced users would be able to run all their apps in the Desktop Spaces if they wanted so. Normal users would be able to run all their apps in full screen mode, simplifying their lives. Like with Launchpad, full screen apps should be the default mode of apps, unless specified in the System Preferences. For consumers, that would result in a pure, gloriously simple modal environment like the iPad. The pros would still have their clusterfuck. The inconsistency problem This mix and match of concepts brings a lot more problems. Take this example: when you are in a full screen app, there's no easy way to open a new app. You either have to swipe your way back to a Desktop space and launch your app from the Dock or the Finder or Launchpad. Or you swipe your three fingers up to access Mission Control and launch your app from the Dock or click on Launchpad in the Dock and find your app there. Or you can access the Command + Tab menu and access Launchpad from there. Or you can find your app in the Spotlight widget on the top menu of the full screen app. These multiple points of access would make the head of any consumer explode, while advanced users would probably go for a quick third-party launcher like Alfred, something that would allow them to quickly open any app or document from anywhere. That's not the only headache that this mix of multiple concepts introduce. There's the issue of inconsistency in gestures. Never mind the introduction of Natural Scrolling, which basically reverses the way you have scrolled all your life to match the way the iPad does it (your brain will adapt to it in a few minutes—but you can always turn it off). The problem is that gestures are not consistent between applications. You swipe left and right with three fingers to move through spaces, but when you are in Launchpad, you do a similar thing by using two fingers only. One doesn't work. That's because Launchpad is an application, so it uses the two-finger page-swapping gesture. But it feelswrong because your brain is wired to the way you swap spaces. In Safari, the two-finger swapping makes you travel in your history. In Preview, it makes you go through pages. Which kind of makes sense, but it doesn't. There's a problem there, which is likely going to affect other apps. It feels like the gesture language is non-consistent and it's certainly not as intuitive as the iPhone or the iPad, perhaps because the touch element doesn't exist. One tip: If you are going to get Lion, get a Magic Trackpad. The ugly failure of the physical metaphor Another iOS aspect that has worked its way into Mac OS X Lion is the graphical emulation of physical surfaces. Now there's gross faux wood panelling in Photo Booth. The Address Book is a real world hardbound address book. iCal is a bloody pseudo-calendar made of paper and leather. The question is: Why is Apple reproducing things that are obsolete already? Do people still use calendars made of leather and paper? Do people use agendas? Seriously, does anyone under 18 even know what these are? I understand that the iOS guidelines call for physical surfaces to invite touch, but that's because there's a screen to touch. And, let's face it, we are not in 2008 anymore. Everyone knows how to touch a screen. And I can't touch my iMac screen and make it do anything, anyway. It may be the subject for another article, but this emulation of old stuff feels like a juvenile gimmick, much like the old gummy-drop Aqua interface feels old and dated now. In this regard, perhaps Apple software people should have taken a page from Jon Ive and his cronies: Simplify the interface, get rid of the things that don't add any information to the user, all the useless adornments. I'd have loved to see a user interface that echoed Apple's own hardware and use of typography. The right stuff It's not all bad. They got rid of the Aqua jelly scrollbars and—when they are not doing gimmicky real-world object emulation—the graphical aspects of the user interface are simpler and unified. More sober than ever before. The use of animation is also gorgeous, and full of meaning. The sharing interface of AirDrop works great. It's simple, it makes sense, it works. There's nothing superflous there. In Mail, the animation used to show threads works well. It helps the user to understand what's going on ("oh, it's expanding!"). I would love to see more simplification of the graphics and more use of animation to convey information. There are lots of other little things, like iChat and its unified contact list, a much needed fix that third party chats apps already had. The accounts and contact information is also unified in a iOS-like kind of way. Those things feel good. As do things like saving the status of application and the automatic versioning of documents, which saves your data automatically and allows you to go back in time to reverse edits on a document-per-document basis. These little things will be reason enough for many to upgrade to Lion. I don't need Lion, and you probably don't need it either But overall, it doesn't feel like a must-have upgrade to me. I love Mac OS X. I've used it since the very first and painful developer preview, back in September 2000. I love iOS too, because its modal nature simplifies powerful computing, and, at the same time, empowers normal people. I hoped Mac OS X Lion was going to merge both perfectly. Sadly, from a user interface point of view, it has failed to achieve that. And by failing at this task, it has made a mess of what was previously totally acceptable. Mac OS X Lion still works. It's fast. It's solid. Its shortcomings could be partially fixed. And I'm sure that many will learn these new user interfaces patches and live with them. Me? I'd rather wait for a more coherent operating system. Perhaps Mac OS 11. Or iOS 6. This post originally appeared at Gizmodo. Please follow SAI on Twitter and Facebook.Join the conversation about this story »See Also:Watch The Atlantis Shuttle Launch LiveNew Kinsey Report Turns Everything You Thought About Sex On Its HeadLEAKED: Rebekah Brooks Secretly Recorded By News Of The World Staffers
Square COO Keith Rabois Explains The Death Of The Web And How Square Will Move Beyond Payments
Keith Rabois has already lived several successful lives in Silicon Valley. Like a lot of today's tech bigwigs, Rabois started his career at PayPal, then moved on to become an angel investor in tech successes like YouTube, Yelp, and LinkedIn. Now he's helping to run one of the fastest growing startups in San Francisco: payments company Square. In 2010, Square founder Jack Dorsey recruited Rabois to be the company's Chief Operating Officer. Since then, the company has grown from a few dozen to more than 250 employees and has reportedly been valued at more than $1 billion. More than 1 million customers are using the Square reader and apps, and Square will probably process more than $4 billion in payments this year. And that's all with minimal advertising and no direct sales force. But Square's ambitions don't stop at payments — the company wants to solve all sorts of pain points for small business owners. We caught up with Rabois in Square's ultra-modern offices in the old San Francisco Chronicle building. Here's what we learned.
Square is thinking beyond payments. "Square's mission is to reinvent commerce on both sides of the counter .... We actually look at all of those pain points [small businesses face] and try to rank order them in terms of how much friction is there for that small business person, how much of a disadvantage do they have. We will try to find the solution for them over time. It won't all happen overnight."
It's harder to build great tech companies in great economic times. "One of the perverse things about a bubble in Silicon Valley is, it tends to fragment talent across too many companies, so you get sort of a suboptimal number of successful companies. If everybody starts their own companies you don't wind up with a density of talent at one place, which is what really is required to build an amazing company, whether it's PayPal or Apple back in the day, or Yammer or Square today."
Want to recruit great people in a talent crunch? Solve a real problem. "We have a mission of helping local businesses thrive so that they can grow their businesses so that they can hire people so that they can help the U.S. economy. It's not social gaming — that's a very good business, it can be a very creative exercise for the people who work there, but it's not clear that it has any societal impact, and if it does it may be negative."
Mobile devices and apps are killing the web. "When I [first] said it, it was a little bit provocative. Now it is so obviously true that actually I find it boring. I don't know any smart person in the Valley who doesn't agree with that now .... Which is going to be more important to the future of society: a web site with www-dot-url or one of these?" [pulls out his iPhone.]
Google SHOULD be nervous about mobile. "If every American is going to carry around a fully functional computer 24 hours a day with different censors and different pieces of information available, that radically transforms the type of content and the type of applications that are going to be most important. Steve Jobs famously said 'people don't go to Google on this [the iPhone], they go to Yelp.' So search is a last resort on this, it's not a first resort. On the web, before Facebook, search was pretty close to a first resort."
Physical credit cards aren't going away — and forget NFC. "Every American of almost any age and certainly any demographic knows exactly how to use one of these pieces of plastic .... There's absolutely nothing better about taking a phone and kind of waving it around than pulling out a credit card and swiping it. It's actually more complicated because usually the phone is locked behind a password and there may be a separate password for your NFC app."
Why a lot businesses won't give you a free cup of water. (It's not because they're cheap. To see the real reason, read on...)
Here's a lightly edited transcript of our conversation: Business Insider: I asked this question to Yammer CEO David Sacks as well, so I'm curious what your take is. What was so special about PayPal back in the day? Why did so many people at this relatively small company go on to such big things? Keith Rabois: I think a decade ago, we had a group of very talented, wicked smart, entrepreneurially driven, ambitious folks that sort of banded together to try to revolutionize payments. It's very rare to collect in one place a reasonable number of those people, they tend to fragment. Part of the reason was at the time, 2000 to 2002, the rest of Silicon Valley [collapsed]. So we had something like an 85% acceptance rate on all of our offers. One of the perverse things about a bubble in Silicon Valley is, it tends to fragment talent across too many companies, so you get a suboptimal number of successful companies. If everybody starts their own companies you don't wind up with a density of talent at one place, which is what really is required to build an amazing company, whether it's PayPal or Apple back in the day, or Yammer or Square today. Also, we were quite contrarian and had — today it would be described as a missionary zeal — and I think that that's one of the biggest reasons. We approached problems from scratch, rethought a lot of axioms. BI: How does Square overcome the talent crunch now that everybody is running off and building their own startup?KR: We started January of last year with 37 people, we started this year with 210. So we have done a great job of becoming a magnet for talent in the Valley. First, we have a very clear vision of what we are trying to do, and it's very ambitious, and that attracts the best people in the world. People who are really good at what they do, elite engineers, elite designers, are all motivated by difficult challenges and confronting them. The second thing is that we have significant and substantial momentum in the marketplace, so it reinforces that vision. Then the third is that we have a positive impact. We have a mission of helping local businesses thrive so that they can hire people, so that they can help the U.S. economy. It's not social gaming — that's a very good business, it can be a very creative exercise for the people who work there, but it's not clear that it has any societal impact, and if it does it may be negative. BI: So, about a year ago you made an interesting comment that you thought the web was dying. Do you still think that's true?KR: When I said it, it was a little bit provocative. Now it is so obviously true that actually I find it boring. I don't know any smart person in the Valley who doesn't agree with that now. The three biggest fans that have sort of proselytized this view in the Valley have been Marc Andreessen, Jack [Dorsey], and me. But Marc, Jack, and me sort of articulated this two years ago. So even by [a year ago] all of the evidence suggested this — like you guys are running graphs actually, just pull up Business Insider and see what consumption of the Web is on an iPad, it is already passing PC consumption and browsing, so that's almost like a no brainer at this point.BI: When you say the web is dead you mean the PC, desktop based browsing?KR: Yes that's dying, but even web sites as a whole arguably. So for example, which is going to be more important to the future of society: a website with www-dot-url or one of these? [pulls out his iPhone]. And in fact the original vision of Square was the proliferation of these devices, whether an Android phone or iPhone or an iPad, means the entire world of payments and commerce can be completely rearranged. Similarly, the reason why you see people investing in things like Instagram and photo sharing apps is because they believe you can reinvent social from a bottom up, from scratch, for a mobile device. We do that for payments and commerce.BI: Larry Page just said the other day that the Internet has a tendency to revert back to these balkanized walled gardens. (Exact quote: "It's the tendency of the Internet to move into a well guarded state"). Do you think that's a problem?KR: I don't know. Each of these apps [on his iPhone] is sandboxed. I actually find it to be a quite high quality user experience. I don't have any problem opening an app for Twitter or opening an app for Facebook or opening Yelp, Square, or my calendar app. So I'm not sure about how much it matters. I am more observing what the future is, not saying what is better or worse. But the truth is if every American is going to carry around a fully functional computer 24 hours a day with different censors and different pieces of information available, that radically transforms the type of content and the type of applications that are going to be most important. Steve Jobs famously said "people don't go to Google on this [the iPhone], they go to Yelp." So search is a last resort on this, it's not a first resort. On the web, before Facebook, search was pretty close to a first resort. But it's not on this. It's the thing you do when you can't find the app for that. Two other points. If you are installed on a home screen, it's not accidental. So being installed on a home screen encourages more use, whereas on the web you don't necessarily have that home screen. Then secondly, what's on my home screen here is self expressive. I know people are going to see my phone so I have Yelp here intentionally, and I have Twitter here intentionally, and Quora is here intentionally. So it's not just a shortcut.BI: It's a personal statement.KR: Exactly, but then it reinforces — which apps do I use the most? because by the time I start flipping around like here [to the third page of his iPhone's screen], it's like highly unlikely I'm going to use those apps. BI: So you said you have a very clear vision. What is Square's mission?KR: Square's mission is to reinvent commerce on both sides of the counter. Both the process of buying and the process of selling in the real world. Empowering local businesses to have the tools to compete with the elite. So we started with credit cards. Historically in that space if you wanted to accept a credit card it was a privilege that you were afforded, if you were lucky enough to jump through certain hoops and hurdles without falling. You had to apply but usually it would take days to weeks to months. You had to submit to a credit check. And often you were disqualified if you had never run a business professionally before. However, if you got access, it was highly likely that by processing credit card for the first time your sales would grow. So every new entrepreneur starting a business who couldn't get access to credit cards was losing sales and was losing volume to big businesses like Target, Walmart, Starbucks. We stopped that and we said everybody is getting access, everybody is going to get to have that tool. The next thing that big business have lots of information. Store managers are pushed all kinds of analytics, how to optimize sales, pricing, we give everybody that now for free. So you take your iPad, you install Square Register, and you have analytics that allow you to manage your business. Traditionally, the businesses we serve were basically counting cups, and they would literally stack their cups up in their coffee shop that they would know the number of coffees that were being sold or cappuccinos that were being sold by the end of the day. That's exactly why they won't give you water if you've ever tried — it screws up the inventory management system. So with Square Register, every business now gets tools that help them manage their business. Should I open an hour earlier or should I stay open an hour later? Should I change the pricing on this Diet Coke Cherry Zero, should I raise it, lower it? What happens when it rains, what happens when it snows? Nobody whose been a sole proprietor or who has been a small business person has ever had analytics like this before. BI: So in theory you could all of the other things that sole proprietors and small businesses struggle with, like financials and taxes.KR: Yep. We actually look at all of those pain points and try to rank order them in terms of how much friction is there for that small business person, how much of a disadvantage do they have. We will try to find the solution for them over time. It won't all happen overnight. BI: The small business market is incredibly fragmented, it's hard to reach all those business owners. How do you overcome that?KR: I think it's because the product speaks for itself. The Square card reader plus the experience basically creates an epiphany for people. They never thought they could do this before. So if I am running a restaurant and you buy this Coke from me, you swipe your card through Square on the iPad or on the phone and then you sign and you say "what is that?" And I say "Square." And you say, "I am a taxi driver, that would be perfect for me." So our growth comes from people actually seeing Square in the real world. It turns out if I am running a coffee shop I have real world customers of every type like personal trainers, SAT tutors, math teachers ... journalists. BI: Have you guys done any advertising? KR: We occasionally test advertising in different channels but the primary driver of the Square option is actually seeing Square in the real word.BI: So no sales force.KR: No sales force, none whatsoever. We have bought an online ad here and there but not in any serious sense. We do sell Square to retailers. So Square is available today in roughly 11,500 retail stores. There's Apple, Walmart, Radio Shack, Best Buy, Office Max, Fed Ex stores, and UPS stores. A lot of people go to the store to get Square. They already knew about Square and they want to find one near their home then take it back tonight they don't want to wait for us to ship them one.BI: It seems like there's still this thing, particularly in San Francisco and among some kinds of businesses, like small restaurants and coffee shops, where they take take cash only. It's almost like a point of pride. Do you think that's a reluctance to pay anything to anybody? Or do you think they don't realize that they are losing of business from people like me who get annoyed and then walk out?KR: One is that free is free. Free is attractive to lots of people. That said, I think the knowledge about how much they are sacrificing isn't obvious to everybody. So what I tell friends of mine who have small business I say, just run Square for one day. Just take out the Square, it's free, the app's free, try it for a day and see how much your sales go up. If you have just run a bar forever, a cash-only bar, do you know how much you're losing? You may not. And so we have to frame that for them and explain that. Visa [a Square investor] does a good job too. I mean Visa's business for the last 40 years has been to communicate this. AmEx does a great job of this. The second thing is, in San Francisco I would say a lot of businesses certainly know that Square exists, but across the United States, no. That's what were working on. BI: Are you guys going to move outside of the United Sates?KR: This year we will launch outside of the United States. We haven't specified yet the exact dates and in what order for new markets.BI: Are different regulations the main challenge with that?KR: Well a variety of things are different. Different currency, different language, sometimes different rules, different partners, different processing partners, so there's definitely complexity to launching outside the U.S. when you move money around. But we now have a lot of experience with all of this stuff in the United States so actually it's incrementally easier to launch in new markets than people think. Launching Square from scratch was a Herculean effort by a very small team here. Now that we have a lot of expertise and a lot of traction and proven success it's actually a lot easier.BI: Will payments evolve to the point where a card reader is no longer necessary? Is that one of your goals?KR: I don't know. Every American of almost any age and certainly any demographic knows exactly how to use one of these pieces of plastic. Doesn't have to be trained. You show them a card and they know what to do with it, they know what it can be used for, they know how to swipe. So I think physical cards like that are gonna be used by Americans for a very long period of time and we're gonna embrace that. Now we have started to shift a lot of users to pay with their name, pay with their real world identity. All a credit card is, in some ways, is just 16 digits uniquely identified with you. PayPal figured out in 1998 into 1999 that email address is a very good unique identifier as well and that drove a lot of the magic behind PayPal. It sounds kind of trivial now but in fact it was fairly revolutionary. So ultimately your name, your photo, and your phone are very good unique identifiers. So people will start finding out that this specific piece of plastic is not necessary, and in fact can actually be an incremental barrier. But it is still tied back to a funding source, a payment source like Visa. There is still a relationship with a Visa or MasterCard, it just may not be presented with a piece of plastic. BI: I still think there's a sense of magic when you walk into a place say "I want that" and you can pay for it without using anything at all. Totally frictionless.KR: We think it is magical to walk in and be treated like a VIP and just walk in and have someone treat you like a VIP where you walk in. They greet you by name, and say "would you like your normal?" And we're the only company that can do that using your name, your photo, your real world identity, and a little bit of technology that ensures the whole system works really well. That's what forges authentic loyalty — I go back to bars and restaurants that recognize me and treat me well, not because they offer me some discount. BI: Do you think there's any purpose for like NFC or any sort of short range wireless technology, where you can use a phone or other device in place of a credit card?KR: There could be some technology that we invent that other people invent that would be amazing, but NFC is certainly not that. NFC is a technology in search of a value proposition as I've said probably two years ago. It doesn't help merchants and it doesn't help buyers. The only people it helps as far as I can tell are people who want to have cocktail party chatter in the financial services world that makes their jobs feel cool. BI: Or phone makers that want you to buy a new phone every two years? KR: But actually the consumers don't like using it, so I don't think it drives purchases as a phone. There's absolutely nothing better about taking a phone and kind of waving it around than pulling out a credit card and swiping it. It's actually more complicated because usually the phone is locked behind a password and there may be a separate password for your NFC app and. It's much better to be using your credit card. Merchants hate NFC. They don't want new, fancy, complicated, expensive, systems to read that. Plus it's actually post-purchase, unlike Square. When I walk in, we can have a conversation as I am approaching the counter and placing my order, and before I have actually checked out you can say "you know what goes well with that Diet Coke Cherry Zero? French fries. Would you like to order fries?" And a lot of people will say yes and I have not closed that transaction because you haven't checked me out yet. It's sort of like what Amazon does with recommended books once you have started a cart. We are allowing that Amazon experience in the real world across all merchants which has never been done before. BI: What kind of information does a merchant get about me when I walk in?KR: [With the Pay With Square app], when you have favorited a merchant, there is a geographic trigger — there are actually two. Within a certain proximity it alerts them on the register that so and so has walked into your store. Then when you're within 10 meters, you're ready to check out, so you authenticate the face, name, click, checkout. If you want more information about that person, it will show you their last visit and their visit frequency, as well as in the future what the most likely orders are.BI: So you are building that kind of Amazon recommendation engine, where people who buy french fries also like cherry Cokes.KR: Absolutely, recommended items are basically suggestions. McDonald's has perfected this. They know to offer fries. I am using that as a common phrase, I am using that as an example. I don't order coffee, so for example if I was ordering a sandwich for lunch, asking me if I want coffee is just going to infuriate me. If you said "would you like a Diet Coke with that?" I am like addicted, I am ready, I'm wired for it. Please follow SAI on Twitter and Facebook.Join the conversation about this story »See Also:PayPal Just Fired A HUGE Broadside At SquareIf This Rumor Is True, Then PayPal Is About To Take Aim At SquareSquare Is Reinventing The Cash Register With Its New App
Apple's 2013 13-Inch MacBook Air Sweetens The Deal For One Of The Best Available ComputersThe MacBook Air was the only new Apple hardware to be announced and launched at WWDC this year (besides the new AirPort Extreme), and while it isn’t a big change from the previous version, it packs some crucial improvements that really cater to the Air’s existing strengths. The 2013 Air is really Apple pushing the envelope with its ultraportable, and that has helped make one of the best computers in the world even better.
Apple hasn’t changed the MacBook Air’s physical design since its last major update a few years ago, but the sleek, aluminum chassis isn’t showing its age. Sure, thinner computers have emerged (though the Air is still thinner at its tapered end) but the fact that PC form factors are really only just now catching up speaks volumes to the quality of the Air’s industrial design.
Apart from overall good looks, the Air has a tremendous leg up on most computers in terms of size, weight and portability. If you haven’t yet used one for any sustained period of time, you’ll be absolutely blown away. Going from the 13-inch MacBook Pro to the 13-inch Air is like leaving the past behind and joining the future; big leaps in computing design are seldom so observable, and so noticeable in terms of your daily usage.
A concern with many who aren’t familiar with the Air is that the thin and light chassis won’t be durable, but having used both the 11- and 13-inch as my daily working computer for months at a time, while jumping from desks to various remote working locations, I can attest to those fears being unsubstantiated. The Air may not feel quite as rock solid as the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, for instance, but it isn’t fragile by any means.
Apple has improved the Air in key areas with this redesign, and that’s where it makes sense to focus, based on the understanding that the previous version was already one of our favourite computers. Apple has focused on changes that should have the biggest impact, like the new Intel Haswell processors, the much speedier flash storage, a near doubling of battery life, and networking speeds that embrace 802.11ac, a tech on the verge of becoming conspicuous in consumer goods.
Of these changes, the one with the greatest impact for the average user will be the new, all-day battery life afforded by the 12-hour capacity built-in pack (on the 13-inch Air; the 11-inch also gets a boost, but should afford you 9 hours, not 12). Apple is also testing battery life under more demanding conditions now, which suggests that if people go to extreme measures to conserve juice they might be able to get past that 12 hour mark. And indeed, I was able to eke out around 13 hours at least once, with screen brightness dialed down and other battery drains like Bluetooth disabled.
The battery is truly remarkable. In standby mode, I haven’t yet even begun to scratch the surface of how long it can last after a week of usage. It really sips power when managing background tasks, and that should improve even further under OS X 10.9 Mavericks, which adds even more battery-conserving features to Apple’s desktop OS. The Air still ships with Mountain Lion, but you can bet Apple’s engineers were working on the upcoming OS X release when they were developing the new Air hardware.
Even without the extreme measures, this is a computer that you can forget is unplugged without fear of running into dire problems. If you’ve got a charge in the morning, and provided you aren’t doing anything too demanding that’s burning CPU cycles, you should have enough to get you through a reasonable mobile workday. Which is to say, we’re nearly at the point most people really badly want to be in terms of their MacBook’s battery life (short of limitless, endlessly clean and cool energy).
And the other upgrades help as well; the MacBook Air I reviewed was the 13-inch base model version, which retails for $1,099, but it come with double the internal storage standard vs. the 2012 model (128GB vs. 64GB), and Apple says that its new type of flash is a better performer, beating the previous generation’s storage performance speed by up to 45 percent. Certainly in testing the Air near-instantly recovered from sleep, and side-by-side with my top-end 2011 model, was snappier with nearly every task – likely also helped by the next-generation Intel Haswell processor.
Some nice new features on the MacBook Air that add to the computer in small ways are the addition of dual mics, which greatly improves call quality for things like FaceTime when you aren’t using headphones, and the new Intel HD Graphics 5000, which gives you around a 25 percent bump in performance over the Intel HD 4000 graphics chipset used in previous generations.
The other big new step-up in terms of features is the 802.11ac Wi-Fi networking card, which is complemented by the new AirPort Extreme router that offers the same. It’s a technology that’s becoming more and more commonly available on other routers, too, so it’s a very nice-to-have feature on the new Air, even if you can’t take advantage of it just yet. Still, in my brief tests with LAN performance over 802.11ac, I found that transfer times for files between computer and network-attached storage on the new router were just about halved vs. 802.11n speeds, though still lagged far behind wired Ethernet transfer times of course.
The new MacBook Air isn’t a dramatic change, but it is a very good one. I’ve fallen in love with Apple’s Retina displays, so if I have one complaint about the computer it’s that there’s no ultra-high resolution display, but incorporating that kind of screen in this generation would’ve likely meant trading a big chunk of that new battery life away, and also increasing the price tag by around $400-500. For those who value the portability, flexibility and economy of the Air above all, the 2013 edition definitely hits all the right notes.