Dirk Knemeyer

Does VR Live Up to the Hype?, June 18, 2015

Will this [virtual reality] wave live up to all the promise? No, it certainly won’t. It’s a cool gadget. Where the technology is now it’s something where you use it once and it’s sort of amazing. I use it twice or three times and it starts to get stale. There’s a novelty aspect to where the technology is now. It’s cool that they’ve got it where it is, but beyond that there’s not a whole lot of there there. We have in our five senses such high fidelity input devices, and the fidelity on these cutting edge virtual reality devices is just nowhere near that. It’s giving us a simulacra of something else in a way that is not at all maximizing the sensorial potential that we all have.

It’s interesting to a point and then at some point what’s the point? Because the technology can’t take us to places where the marketing would promise. Facebook’s big thing is that, oh they’re thinking way out. They’re way outside the box and these are teleportation devices. That is such hipster bullshit. I’m sorry. There might come a day when technology that’s down this kind of a path gets to a point where you could, it’s literally not a teleportation device, but you could market it that way because of the great high fidelity level that it brings two or more people together “in a virtual space,” but it’s nowhere near that now, nowhere near it at all. It’s interesting and I think there’s a place for it. There’s a product category for it, but it’s nowhere near where the hype and the marketing are whatsoever.

I think they’re far-flung fantasies right now. You talk about surgery for example. We want a surgeon with this big, ungainly, heavy, odd thing on their head and physically manipulating someone’s body? That’s crazy. That’s just, it doesn’t make any sense. Yeah, we can dream and say, “Oh, there’s all these interesting things,” but does it really make sense to do those things with this big awkward thing strapped to us? I don’t think so. We can have giant monitors that push the same visual content to us. We an have other input devices for the audio and for the other things and still have our full range of motion and still have our full sense of being.

I think the really exciting things will come farther in the future, but the generation that we’re at now, it’s going to live like a gaming console where it’s something you have at home, it’s something you have in a specific place. It’s going to be kind of geeky. I read one of the articles that you forwarded to me about this, they were talking about protocol for using this. Someone was saying, “Yeah, if you’re the one without the headset, don’t be surprised if you get punched.” It’s your fault, basically. What the hell is that? This device is such that if somebody’s using it, everybody’s got to clear way the hell away or they’re going to get punched or kicked? That’s dumb. We’re coming at a time where we’re living in increasingly smaller domiciles, increasingly smaller spaces. We’re going to put this things on and have us gesticulating around and meeting protocols where we need five feet in every direction. It’s really dumb.

The idea that we’re going to walk around on the street with them? That’s completely idiotic. Google Glass was one of the things that sort of sunk that notion, was having that on your head, and that was really not intrusive at all. These things are horrible. I read one guy was saying the big concern is you have to worry about it being stolen because you’re lumbering around not paying attention to what’s around you with this big expensive thing on your head. Somebody rips it off and runs away. It’s just dumb. At the level that they’re trying to market it and tout it as something like a gaming device. As something an experiential device that people use in a limited, private context, okay. I can see that. Probably not for me, but I grock it and the technology’s going to just get better and better, so the potential of it I don’t think is as grand as they make it seem, but I think it’s the start of something that’s at least interesting and worthy of experimenting with.

Apple Watch Will Be a Failure, June 11, 2015

Apple’s jumped the shark. The idea of these [release] events being memorable and interesting and giant buzz-worthy things are garbage. Apple has settled into the same kind of status that Microsoft has had for decades, of a company that has had it’s best acts in the past and is living off of those past glories and is trying to wrap shit with a bow and tell us it doesn’t stink. I don’t know why anyone cares about these announcements anymore. I certainly don’t.

Consistent with Apple’s vision-less execution, in recent years, they’ve taken [an event] that had real cache, that “one more thing” was exciting. It wasn’t necessarily every time, hint-hint. It was like, “We’ve got something special that we want to do and it’s really going to take your breath away.” They’ve totally piddled that away.

I think they’re just totally out of touch. If you go into Whole Foods in Cupertino, CA, you’re gong to find yourself surround by a lot of people who look like they could and would support the iPhone and the Apple watch. You’ll see a lot of those people. You’ll even see people using both of those devices. That’s the bubble that Apple lives in. I’ve been to that Whole Foods, I’m talking about a very specific place here.

If you go and randomly pick 100 towns in the United States. If you had a random generator and you went into whatever is the closest thing to a Whole Foods in those towns. Most certainly wouldn’t have Whole Foods, right? You’re probably going to end up in more mass market supermarkets and if you observe the people in those places you will immediately realize that there is no market for this beyond the very small-high percent.

Again, what are you creating? The iPhone has penetrated into those markets. You’ll see people who, from a socioeconomic perspective, look like they probably couldn’t or shouldn’t be spending money on that kind of thing, but they are armed with their smartphone. Adding an expensive watch into that ecosystem is just stupid.

Apple’s Watch Signals Decay of the Company, March 10, 2015

More than anything, [the watch] signals the demise of Apple from the standpoint of being a real innovator. Of offering a trailblazing sort of unique solution in the personal computing space. The iWatch is their biggest announcement, the thing they’ve beaten the drum on the hardest since the iPad. What was the iPad, 2010? It’s been five years. They basically had no big announcements.

This one, this is the product that they’re really hanging their hat on. All of the hierarchy is genuflecting and acting like this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s a really bad sign.

Again, I’m sure from a financial perspective, they’re still going to keep selling products hand-over-fist, but what we’re seeing is the real erosion of their position as the leader. Five to ten years ago whenever I would be in a meeting with a potential client, not everyone but most of them ostensibly, they’d say, “We want to be like Apple. We want our stuff to be like Apple stuff.”

Those days are going fast and there’s no sign of them coming back. At the same time, we’re seeing really interesting new things from Amazon, from Google, from some other companies. The things that are more likely to draw attention aren’t coming from Apple. They’re coming from other places which is concerning.

I expect the next big thing to come from, frankly, Amazon or Google. I think those are the two big ones.

Another problem with it too which flows out of what you just said is that the average person can afford it. One thing that, in the past, I liked about being an Apple user along with their great innovation was not everybody have their stuff. I’m increasingly shocked as I go through the world how so many people of all income brackets, of all levels of the socioeconomic strata are carrying around iPhones despite the expense of the device and/or despite the expense of the carrier plan.

That’s not going to be the case with the iWatch and the problem that they have is now they’re catering to presumably just more wealthy people. Watches like that market has a lot of really gorgeous high end well designed stuff. By comparison that the iWatch is a really clumsy, hacky thing.

I guess maybe they can hope that wealthy people want to differentiate themselves against the masses by being the once who are mobile computing with an iWatch as oppose to an iPhone, but if that’s the bet they’re taking, that’s a long one indeed.

Mainstreaming Self-Driving Cars, January 15, 2015

Yeah, you’re right in a lot of ways. First of all – and I’ll make this prediction today – in the 2020s, all cars will be self-guided, or the majority of cars traveling on the roads will be self-guided. That is happening. That’s not a “will it?” It’s a will. I think that’s the time frame.

It does change us from the mechanical horse model, which goes back to something that’s 19th Century and previous technology to what I’ll call a mobile room model, where suddenly we are behaving and acting and doing the same things we would do in our home, but, oh, yeah, now we’re getting from point A to point B at the same time.
That is a huge shift in context and much closer to the reality, not just of how we live and function in general today, but how we treat our cars today. It’s pretty insane. As I drive down the road – and I’m guilty of this as well – I look over and everybody’s on their God-damned devices. They’re not 2 hands, 10 and 2, and looking forward.
They have removed themselves from the physicality of trying to move this vehicle forward to take them where they’re going. They’re doing the minimum they possibly can to keep the vehicle in progress, and the rest of it they’re retreating into how they would operate normally around their technology.

It’s all been already asked-and-answered. The only issue now is to get the cars to take care of themselves so we’re not dangerously driving, half-paying attention down the road.

The Next Lifestyle Brand Leader, December 28, 2014

I think that in 2015 that some other company will replace Apple as the preferred, trendy lifestyle brand. Apple, ever since the death of Steve Jobs, they really haven’t launched even one exciting product. The most exciting launch was the iWatch, but to me, there’s not a whole lot exciting about the iWatch. It may be a good product. I may end up getting it, even, if the utility seems to be there, but God, it’s not the sort of thing that an iPod or an iPhone or an iPad can do. It was only in that innovation, in that redefinition of categories that Apple was able to really hold that sweet, trendy position. It’s been weakening ever since Steve Jobs died. I’ve talked many times, I’m no big fan of Steve Jobs, but you just can’t deny the impact and the success that he had in leading Apple to the vanguard of innovation, success, and leadership.

Since then, again, Apple has released nothing exciting. The stuff they do is shoddy. The software is crap. The new iPhone with the ridiculous camera that sticks out, it’s not all soft edges. Steve never would have shipped that. The cracks are showing all over the place, and it’s further been complicated by … Since the iPad or even I’d go back farther and say since the iPhone, Apple went from being this thing that just the cool kids knew about and had this cliquey-ness to it, to something that’s just mainstream. The people who are walking around now with iPhones, I’m just shocked. “Wow, that person would never have had an Apple device before.” That contributes to it, too, where now it’s more like Walmart, where before, it was more boutique-ish. There’s all of this erosion on the foundation of Apple.

Because it’s gotten so big from a financial perspective, it’s still going to be the biggest or second biggest or top five or whatever in terms of market cap in the world for awhile, but I think we’ll be able to palpably see some company from a cool perspective replace Apple, whether it be Google or Amazon, those would be some of the two, I think, most obvious candidates. One of those type of companies who are one of the second tier behind Apple right now, from a coolness, from sort of like the best lifestyle brand, the best computing lifestyle brand perspective, it’s going to have a great release. It’s going to string some things together, and the tide is going to change. Momentum is going to shift and we’ll be able to say, “hey, it’s not Apple anymore, it’s this company.” I don’t know what company that will be, but I think the time is right. I think the time is now for that change to happen.