Dirk Knemeyer

Future of Diagnostic Health Tools, February 26, 2015

Yeah, I mean it’s steps on the path. We’re seeing this technology continue to progress and evolve where our devices can take data from ourselves and interpret it in ways that used to be done in expensive labs and take a long time. It truly is just sort of one step closer to the Star Trek Tricorder, like that’s the endgame in a certain way. The technology of course will be different. There wasn’t technology in Star Trek. The manifestation will be different, but I mean we’re heading towards if you’re going to hook up with someone, you just have something that is not much more intrusive than a breath analyzer that gives you a very quick readout saying, “Yay, this person’s clean,” or, “boo, this person has XYZ.” I mean this is one step on that path, and it’s something that’s coming pretty soon.


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.


The state of mHealth, June 30, 2014

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I think with the software on these services, one of the big things that they missed, we’re nowhere near solving for this although I sure as hell wish we were is that we’re all different, that the [mHealth] software is not designed for different personality types. The way that someone would exploit this software who is a runner versus the way someone like me would exploit it who is a knowledge worker behind a desk for many, many hours a day are just radically different. Not just because of those tasks that we choose to do but because of the type of people that we are that lead us to spending our time in our lives doing the things that we do. We have this one homogeneous piece of software that’s just cranking out sort of the same data in the same way and come what may.

What we need are solutions that are designed for the lifestyle of individuals. I could tell you Google and Apple are going to be nowhere near getting us closer to that for a decade plus. That’s where the hard stuff is, that’s where the usefulness quotient also cranks up although I want to make sure we’re not, for our listeners, conflating the sort of quantified self devised daily monitoring stuff with the bigger vision of what Google and Apple are trying to do because what they’re trying to do as tendrils into how far beyond sort of the quantified self kicking us.


Google Fit better bet than Apple Health, June 26, 2014

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In April we wrote about why Apple’s Health(book) was a bad idea. Two of those reasons apply to Google Fit as well: health information should be universal and consistent, and the parochial interests of a massive computing superpower should not also be the keeper of our health data. However, with Apple and Google declaring this a key battleground, we must expect that one or both of them will prove successful. Given that, we should hope that there is just one winner and that the winner is Google, not Apple.

[…] Google is much better at software. I can’t name a single piece of software that Apple does better than Google: Drive beats Cloud and the Docs family beats the Pages family. iTunes is my music software of choice only because I’ve bought so much music there that I feel locked in. Google actually does software well. Their strategy of “keep it simple” precludes most of their software from being great but ensures that very little of it is actually bad. On the other hand, Apple should be embarrassed about the quality of their software compared to their lovely hardware. Even their vaunted operating system, held up as the standard for more than a decade, gets worse every day as they try to cross platforms while Google’s “keep it simple stupid” philosophy makes theirs better. So, let’s hope the winner of this battle is the one that actually knows how to do good software.

Google is far more open than Apple. Long-term I have my concerns about Google in this regard, but for now and into the immediate future Google pursues a relatively open strategy while Apple hunkers down within their decades-old walled garden. From a consumer electronics perspective I actually prefer the walled garden: Apple’s hardware is consistently excellent while the devices that serve up Google operating systems are a mixed bag. However, when you’re talking about health, you want openness and choices. Google Fit will be part of an infrastructure that fits into hardware made by dozens of companies and, taken together, clearly lead the device market. That’s what health needs: universality.

Google’s potential is massive. Apple’s best days are likely over. During its legendary 35-year-plus history, Apple has been great only when Steve Jobs was around. Since his death almost three years ago, Apple has not announced even a single truly interesting project. Google created a wave of nerd envy with Glass while perfecting their driverless fleet of automobiles and rolling out high-speed fiber in communities around the United States. In fact, Google does so many things that more of them ultimately fail than succeed. However, Google thinks big and acts big. They make a lot of interesting bets and within them are some of the key technologies of the future. Tim Cook may be a competent manager, but his Apple has proven bereft of genius or panache. God help me, they act more like Microsoft than Apple, while Google continues to reach for the stars.


The IT industry boom, December 30, 2011

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So my [prediction for 2012] is that the IT industry will keep booming, and we’ve seen—or at least I’ve seen over the last 12 months—we came out of that recession just firing as the economy got better, even on wobbly legs, the IT industry just, boom, it took off and I don’t think its going to stop. I still have some concerns about the macro economic situation, but I think that we, as an industry, are going to be in really good shape into the indefinite future, and if I had to credit something for it I think it’s all about the mobile and the tablets. Computing has moved from this thing that’s important to businesses in sort of a core infrastructure way and has a role in the home in terms of a corner of the home that people go and huddle in periodically to do things to being integrated into our every moment of every day lives.

It’s incredible to me as I drive down the road and—I’m not going to be hypocritical because I’m sometimes guilty of these things too—but virtually every freaking car I pass the person next to me is on a device. They’re like looking through it, glancing down, you can see them using it! And it’s gotten to the point where I always look because I’m really curious in sort of a sociological way, like, “how widespread is this”? Seemingly everyone is just locked and tethered to their device. Computing has become integral and central to most of the moments of all of our lives, not just in the industry but in a more mainstream way, and I think it’s that permeation that is going to result in our industry just booming and booming and booming. I think it’s a great time to be in hi-tech.


Research In Motion’s chair-sharing, July 26, 2011

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I’ve criticized Research In Motion, the maker of Blackberry devices before, but they have absolutely topped themselves now. As you may remember from previous episodes, RIM has two CEOs. They are co-CEOs of the company. They are also both chairman of the company. Those are two people sharing two roles, each of which should only have one occupant. But, alright, whatever, that’s old news. Now today RIM has announced that they are going to have, drumroll please, co-COOs. That’s right, not content with illogically bifurcating their most important corporate post, by god they’re going to do the same damn thing with the number two position as well. It’s like Joe Germaine and Stanley Jackson trying to share the starting quarterback job for the 1996 Ohio State Buckeyes and then crapping out in the Michigan game. It ain’t gonna work. RIM has become, frankly, sad. Even as I’ve criticized them I’ve been cheering them on privately, hoping they refocus on the enterprise and carve out a nice, protectable long-term niche for themselves. But these guys are morons. Co-CEOs, Co-chairmen and Co-COOs? I suspect even the Kardashians could puzzle out a better corporate structure than this disaster. It’s frankly embarrassing, and there’s no doubt that the seed of it is in some weird combination of power, ego, entitlement and dysfunctional corporate politics. Oh, and guess what? They’re now laying off 2,000 people even as they their obese executive suite. I find it even humiliating to talk about this stuff. Good luck with all that chair-sharing guys.


Microsoft Store, July 19, 2011

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On the other end of the spectrum, Microsoft announced plans to open at least 75 new retail stores over the next three years. Now, to be fair, I was very skeptical of Apple’s plans for retail stores ten years ago, and needless to say they’ve turned out to be a smash hit. But, Microsoft stores? Man, where is the juice there? Who is going to hang out somewhere looking at Acer computers? Or at Windows Phone 7 devices with dismal 3.8% marketshare? Maybe they’re hoping their Xbox platform and industry-leading Kinect user interface will put the asses in the seats? Or maybe they have some gnarly tech plan that will be a game-changer? Maybe Microsoft will surprise and impress me and other opinion makers who will be crucial to their success, but, based on the available data, I just ain’t seein’ it.


Amazon’s tablet device,

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

Amazon’s plan to release a color-screened Android tablet this October finally went mainstream. Amazon remains the clear leader in eBooks and eBook readers despite the excitement over Barnes & Noble’s Nook and its potential, first as a hacked Android tablet and more recently as a fully-designed tablet product. Amazon has the brand name, the marketshare, and dominates people’s mindshare when it comes to buying reading material online. While it would be the best if they could be the most innovative and progressive device supplier as well, all they really need to do is hold serve to win the category, at least against other book-related competitors. Anyway, the real virtue of Amazon’s new tablet is not improving their position relative to other book-related companies, but to better compete in all forms of content and distribution, with music, movies, their cloud storage service, among many others. Whether or not we should excited about this device will only be clear when we actually see what it has to offer. But ultimate is will prove essential to Amazon, if they want to compete Apple and Google, they really need to nail the device side of things or else abandon it and partner up with someone who can.


The Mobile OS wars, May 31, 2011

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The unknown, the big question is, what will the market look like in five or ten years? Will Apple again be relegated to a bit player while this time it is Google standing over this industry? It is likely that Android will continue increasing marketshare while Apple loses it. Further it is likely that viable alternate platforms—let’s just say Microsoft’s Windows Phone for now—make a meaningful dent in the market. But Apple’s not going away. Dusting off my crystal ball I’m going to predict that Apple will not drop below 20% marketshare in the next five years, while Android will not rise above 60%. Ok sure, that is a big difference. But is is large enough to make Android a better dev platform than iOS? Well, perhaps, but it remains no great mystery to this analyst why Apple remains the better bet, at least for now, for good developers to spend their time on.


Google’s Chromebook and the limitations of cloud computing, May 17, 2011

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

Last week we reported on the first day of Google IO conference, but that was just the beginning. They went on to announce improved Chromebook computers, a new and improved Google TV, and even some robots using the Android OS. The biggest of these stories is the Chromebook. While only an incremental improvement over the previous iteration, this time Google’s marketing messages and collateral are far more sophisticated, making a strong case that you don’t need anything more than a browser for a complete computing experience. For once, I’m not sure what to think. Yes, it is true that much of what we use the computer for is internet based, and yes, more and more apps are web-based and putting our data into the cloud. That is the trend, and there is a lot of influential momentum heading in that direction. But it remains, to this 37 year old, incomplete.

Here are my objections: first, there are some apps that would eat in a browser but are silky-moots on a desktop. Think Photoshop. Think the difference between Microsoft Office and Google’s still-hobbled Google Docs. Now, proponents of the Google strategy will say, correctly, that these gaps are closing every day. So, let’s for the moment stipulate that it is just a matter of time until, for the most part, the app experience difference between web apps and desktop will be solved.

My second objection has to do with connectivity. There isn’t ubiquitous connectivity. There are many places where, absent a web connection, I would be screwed. Such as the conference I was at just this past Saturday and Sunday. Such as the flight I was on Friday. In both of those contexts I got a lot of use out of my lappy despite the lack of connectivity. The necessity of it in Chromebook is a real problem. Now, again, they might just say it is a matter of time till this is solved. Perhaps, but it is still really precarious.

This relates to my third concern, which is all of my data being in the cloud. That just sucks. I want my data where I want it, when I want it, and not tethered to web services. We’ve seen some of the risks of cloud reliance over the last month with the myriad of security breaches and service outages. Again, that just sucks. Give me my stuff, let me work. It’s just some gigabytes, let me use them. So, while Google’s self-congratulatory marketing may turn out to be prescient, I suppose that I will show my age and continue to believe that “always on” computing devices simply are not, cannot be the future of computing. Am I incisive or an old fuddy-duddy? Check back in five years.