Sunday, June 1, 2014
Beats is not about headphones or a cool service with licensing deals. Beats is all about one-to-one connection of a brand and subscription service that feeds a person's soul. Apple's acquisition of Beats Electronics is more about the acquisition of a kindred spirit than a new line of business. Sure, the executives from both companies walk entirely differently, but their cores are similar.
I get the sense that a good many Apple enthusiasts are confused by its acquisition of Beats Electronics. Sure, many are nodding their heads, saying that Beats is good for Apple and makes total sense. The headphones are selling well. With 250,000 paying subscribers, the Beats Music service is taking off fast, and it can only be elevated by Apple's global brand and infrastructure.
However, there's an undercurrent of concern, too -- a bit of head-scratching and scrambling to make sense of what this really means for Apple's future. After all, couldn't Apple have built everything that Beats offers, all by itself? (On the surface, yes.)
Does Apple really need to buy "cool" these days? (No.) More worrisome, is Apple becoming one of those big companies that starts buying other companies just to keep the parent conglomerate growing and expanding in order to confuse Wall Street and make lackluster executives feel like they're actually doing something important? (I sure hope not.)
So why Beats? Why now? What the heck is going on here? Is Apple going to start buying companies in order to attract new management talent, like Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre? After all, it's hard to make a traditional "hire" of an industry-leading professional with deep industry business connections. A simple hire seems like a step down, especially to pros who are running their own companies. A big acquisition, though, makes landing an Iovine or Dre possible.
Despite making sense on paper, the whole Beats acquisition still seems so anti-Apple that it's just damn unsettling.
Google is doing all that it can to take the fear factor out of driverless cars. It's new prototype -- it will test 100 or so of these cars this summer -- is as cute as a bug and likely to appeal to older folks who can no longer drive, as well as anyone who would rather be doing something else. Speed demons won't get much of a kick out of it though. The prototype can't move the needle past 25 mph.
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Google this week unveiled a prototype that it will test on California roads to learn more about how to make safe and efficient autonomous cars a mainstream reality.
For about four years, Google has been developing self-driving technology that could make the roads safer, and its newly revealed prototype is the latest step in the project.
The tiny vehicle is reminiscent of a Smart car, except for the sensors on top. They're designed to eliminate blind spots and provide a view of more than the length of two football fields in all directions.
Inside, there are two seats with seatbelts, a space for passenger belongings, and a screen displaying the car's route. Missing are a steering wheel and gas and brake pedals. There's a red button a passenger can press to make an emergency stop.
As of now, the vehicle's top speed is 25 mph. The company plans to build about 100 of the prototypes and start testing them later this summer. After running a small pilot program on California roads, Google expects to be able to offer its self-driving vehicle services more widely.
Good Head Start
Google's self-driving research and its prototype are a huge step forward for the industry, said Panagiotis Tsiotras, director of the Dynamics and Control Systems Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology. One of its biggest strengths is that a Google vehicle won't be held to the same constraints that a vehicle made by Ford, for instance, would be.
"The introduction of the prototype definitely puts Google ahead of the competition," he told TechNewsWorld. "Google has done a supreme job on integrating many technologies that are required to make a self-driving car a reality. Not being an automotive company, Google has the freedom to pursue untraditional solutions and create new opportunities that are brought about by the absence of a driver -- some of which more traditional car manufacturers would be most likely more reluctant to adopt."
Google's has a good understanding of the importance of self-driving technology, said Alain Kornhauser, professor of operations research and financial engineering, and director of the Transportation Program at Princeton University.
The company isn't trying to convince the masses that they need to run out and buy an autonomous car. Instead, it emphasizes the superior safety features of self-driving technology, all of which appeals to people who want to drive but no longer can, he pointed out.