Jim’s and Nick’s Week in Tech: Smoldering Phones, the Yahoo Markdown and Amazon Music

Each Saturday, Farhad Manjoo and Mike Isaac, technology reporters at The New York Times, review the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry. Jim Kerstetter, the deputy technology editor in San Francisco, and Nick Wingfield, technology reporter in Seattle, are filling in for Farhad and Mike this week.



Jim: Hi, everyone. Apologies in advance to the people who came here expecting Mike and Farhad and their witty, bromantic discussion of the week’s tech news. They are, sadly, out of the office this week. But don’t worry! As your one-week-only fill-ins, you’ll have two middle-aged guys discussing the finer points of progressive lenses, teen parenting and why Subarus are terrific in the snow.

But before our Click and Clack impression — tech news! Nick, you’ve been covering consumer electronics since the “laptop” computer came in a wheeled suitcase. Have you ever seen something like Samsung’s problems with burning Galaxy Note 7 phones?

Nick: There have certainly been recalls of overheating and exploding laptops, including one by Dell a decade ago that involved defective batteries made by Sony. Samsung’s problems are of a different order, though. The company is such a high-profile player in a market that is so much bigger than laptops ever were and they’re just yanking the Note 7, their flagship phone, off the market completely.

Beyond the direct sales losses from this model, how badly damaged will the sales of future models be? It’s not hard to imagine Samsung-inclined customers buying iPhones because they feel like Apple’s devices aren’t going to, you know, blow up on them.

Jim: See, that’s just it. The phones are nice and all, but that whole “it’ll blow up on you” would keep me from buying it — if I could. A friend told me the story of a college professor with a student who had the latest take on “the dog ate my homework”: My phone torched my homework. He even had a burn on his leg to prove it.

Bad as this is for Samsung, I don’t see anyone other than Apple capitalizing on it in the high-end of the smartphone business. At least not right away. This is a gift for Apple: Wacky wireless earbuds or not, they’re going to have the most profitable part of the smartphone business pretty much to themselves.

Samsung has problems. But what about a company that can’t seem to do anything right? I speak, of course, of Yahoo. It looks like Verizon, which announced plans to buy Yahoo for $4.8 billion in July, is doing some saber-rattling about that gigantic hack that Yahoo disclosed a few weeks back. Looks like they may want a discount. So here’s my question: Do you think Verizon bought themselves a pig in a poke?

Nick: Verizon is like the person who buys a used car only to find out it needs a new transmission a week later. For now, the public rhetoric is pretty cordial between the companies, which suggests that they still want to find a way to work this out. Do you think any concession Verizon ends up getting on price is in the billions or millions?

Jim: It’s hard to say until the forensic investigation of the hack is finished. There was one report that they were looking for a $1 billion price cut. But it’s hard for me to imagine Yahoo would go along with that.

What about companies that aren’t dying? Amazon has had a lot going on this week.

Nick: That’s right. Amazon finally launched its much-anticipated subscription music service and, as they usually do, they want to use price to shake up the market. They are masters of the upsell. They got a lot of attention for offering a music subscription plan for $4 a month, well below the $10 that Spotify and Apple charge. But you can only get that plan if you get their $99 Prime membership and you can only listen to it on one of their Echo devices, not on your mobile phone. It’s like the food samples they hand out at the supermarket — tasty, but you’re going to need to pay more if you want a real meal.

Jim: So instead of asking “Would you like fries with that?” They say, “Would you like a burger with your fries?” Clever! Maybe not as clever as coming out with an artificially intelligent home appliance a few years before their competitors, like they did with the Echo. But pretty sharp.

Well, that does it for us for this week. Sorry we didn’t get into that Subaru discussion!

Resource : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/16/technology/jims-and-nicks-week-in-tech-smoldering-phones-the-yahoo-markdown-and-amazon-music.html

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