Let's Be Real About Consumer 📧

The recent reports that BeReal is struggling with either a fundraise or growth or both, is a bummer. I have no actual information about the round or company – nor am I even a regular user (I had sort of been there/done that with Front/Back back in the day!). But assuming the report is even just directionally accurate (and if my wife's own usage is any indication, I believe it may be – our family is no longer being asked to stop what we're doing once a day to pose), it's yet another data point for how hard it is to truly break out as a consumer service in this day and age. Things blow up for a time, BeReal being a prime recent example (but hardly the only one), then quietly but quickly fade away.

I feel like everyone overthinks why this is the case, when it really just boils down to time. We all have the apps and services we use on a daily basis. Once one is lodged in that cycle, it's extremely hard to dislodge both because of habits and for social apps, network effects. And whereas 10 to 15 years ago, everyone was gung-ho to try new apps to see what might stick, we're all now stuck with what we have. Yes, some of these newer ones can pop into existence and some people will give them a shot. But not to the same extent as in years past. Only some subset of your network will give it that shot. And so it's an uphill battle from day one.

When VCs and entrepreneurs talk about waiting for the "next platform" what they're really asking for is simply a new entry point to peoples' time. New devices unlock time because the novelty yields more experimentation time. Not just using the same old apps and services. But the Apple Watch didn't truly unlock that time. And it already seems clear that the Vision Pro won't either. Neither had enough scale within networks to change any of the above dynamics.

Crypto was compelling to some for a hot second because it didn't necessarily require new devices. But that also meant those services had to be so much better than what they would be replacing on "old" devices. Yet at best, they were roughly the same as what they were trying to replace, just on the blockchain. At worst, they were far worse! And now AI. There are a lot of fun things to play with in this world. And ChatGPT obviously has real consumer scale now. But it also doesn't seem like the app store model is working for them, at least right now. It's a service without network effects (but some real advantages of scale) that is relying on a combination of technical advantage and early mover brand recognition. And so it's going to need to keep iterating fast on the core service to keep those users – and to their credit, they have been, to date. But you also have to wonder how long chat itself is going to be the core component of ChatGPT...

But, but, but TikTok. Yes, you too can build TikTok, all it takes is algorithms trained over time on millions of users in China, acquiring another company which was already operating in the US market, and then spending billions of dollars to market it on Meta properties to siphon off users to your network. And even then, it won't work unless your product is actually great. Those millions of users will just churn. TikTok worked because Douyin worked. And even if it all that works, you might get banned. Good luck.

🌍
Sent from London, England

Briefly...

Vision Pro is an Over-Engineered “Devkit” – As nearly 12,000 words can attest, Hugo Barra, who used to run Oculus for Meta, has a lot of thoughts about the Vision Pro. I certainly don't agree with everything he says – I tend to think the entertainment use case will win the early days if Apple makes bespoke quality content, quickly, which they haven't been doing so far (and Barra agrees with this in the form of immersive video and sports in particular, I just wouldn't discount 3D so heavily, that content is great too, better than in a cinema) – but he has many good thoughts on the directions taken and those to come. One idea Apple needs to implement tomorrow: fast mirroring the iPhone at a literal glance into the Vision Pro. I'm still constantly looking at my iPhone (or Apple Watch) while "in" the device because it doesn't get all the push notifications I do on those other devices (in fact it gets like 1/10th of them thanks to so little app support). 🥽

8 Google Employees Invented Modern AI – Steven Levy dives into the creation of transformers within Google and the story behind the Attention Is All You Need paper – the two main ingredients that led to today's AI revolution. The former, yes, is in part a reference to the toys of our youth. The latter is a reference to The Beatles. The original design doc for transformers started out strong: “We are awesome.” 🤖

Condé Nast’s Owners Set to Reap Billions Windfall From Reddit – The publication acquired Reddit $10 million in 2006. They spun it back out in 2011 and turned that into a 30% holding. With Reddit's large "pop" upon opening up trading on the NYSE yesterday, that stake is worth nearly $2.5B. You almost never hear about such transactions actually working out. That is quite the return! 👽

Apple's iPhone is Not a Monopoly Like Windows was a Monopoly – Matt Rosoff covered Microsoft's antitrust case and points out just a few of the ways this is obviously a very different situation, despite the DoJ themselves trying to connect the two. As a reminder, monopolies themselves are not illegal, it's what you do with them. But it's not clear cut that this is even a monopoly at all. Technically, it could be, but even the DoJ isn't clear on this point! Regardless, no one would say that it is in the same way Windows had a monopoly. Except maybe the DoJ, using made-up-for-marketing market definitions like "premium smartphones"? Even if you metaphorically buy that, consumers have a choice not to literally buy an expensive smartphone! More in my link below... ⚖️


My Missives...

Quick Thoughts on DoJ v. Apple
U.S. Sues Apple, Alleges Tech Giant Exploits Illegal Monopoly The US DOJ sues Apple, alleging the company blocked its competitors from accessing iPhone features, made switching to non-Apple devices more difficult, and more... Techmeme Various Headlines With the very large caveats that I’m not a lawyer – let alone an

The fight is on. The stage is set. Is the iPhone an monopoly?

What Is Twitter? 2024 Edition
X’s New Video Strategy Is a Pivot to NowhereThe social-media platform is going video-first by posting every other platform’s videos last.IntelligencerJohn Herrman I had been saving a bunch of articles to put together a “What is Twitter?” type post for 2024. But then John Herrman wrote this

Xitter's "pivot to video" (and everything else)

Tik-for-Tok
Once More With Feeling: Banning TikTok Is Unconstitutional & Won’t Do Shit To Deal With Any Actual ThreatsOver the last few days, we’ve had a few posts about the latest attempt to ban TikTok in the US (and to people who say it’s only a divestiture bill: there

The potential TikTok ban is a specific action

What Was the Point of Inflection?
Microsoft Hires DeepMind Co-founder Mustafa Suleyman from Inflection to Run Consumer AI He’s reporting to Satya Nadella and bringing on most staff from his Inflection AI startup... Techmeme Various Headlines So many questions about this Microsoft/Inflection deal. Wait a minute, strike that. There is no deal. Well, there may

Absolutely not an acquisition, no, not at all...

Maybe Not Everything Needs an App Store
OpenAI’s Chatbot App Store Is Off to a Slow Start Last fall, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman sought to capitalize on the raging success of ChatGPT by launching an app store... The Information Stephanie Palazzolo You get why everyone wants to build an “app store” – everyone wants to be a

What worked in the past isn't necessarily going to work here...

ESPN’s Spaghetti-to-Wall Streaming Strategy
ESPN Boss Jimmy Pitaro’s Chaotic Race to Remake the Sports Giant Cable TV’s collapse is forcing the Disney property out of its comfort zone, from hiring risky talent to a streaming gambit that ticked off the NFL Isabella Simonetti & Robbie Whelan Just in case you were wondering when

What is ESPN's plan in streaming?...

Always the Low Price, Always. Even with Apple.
Walmart Brings the Popular MacBook Air With the M1 Chip to Its Shelves Available for only $699, Walmart will begin offering the MacBook Air with the M1 chip at an amazing value that combines performance, battery life and portability Walmart News Walmart Probably not something you were expecting to casually

The Apple/Walmart Macbook deal makes a lot of sense...

Outsourcing the aiPhone – At Least to Start...
Apple Is in Talks to Let Google Gemini Power iPhone AI FeaturesApple Inc. is in talks to build Google’s Gemini artificial intelligence engine into the iPhone, according to people familiar with the situation, setting the stage for a blockbuster agreement that would shake up the AI industry.BloombergMark Gurman

The (rumored) Apple/Google Gemini AI deal makes a lot of sense...


Quoteable...

“Some people call it a windfall, we just call it God smiling down on us.”

Anguilla’s premier, Ellis Webster, talking about their country's literal good fortune in controlling the .ai domain, which means they're bringing in major money while riding the AI boom (and seemingly putting it to good use).


Some Thoughts On...

🚙 The design of the Rivian R2 (versus Tesla)

🍪 NVIDIA's "Blackwell" bonanza

🤵 Aaron Taylor-Johnson may or may not be the next James Bond

🍎 It sure feels like the EU isn't feeling those Apple DMA changes...

📺 Will 'The Acolyte' be any good, or too deep in the forests of Endor?...

💰 The reported terms of the Microsoft/Inflection deal


Quickly...


One More Thing...

It's happening as was foretold. Break out those Power Gloves...