Posts by Aaron Pressman

  • Why Apple's latest antitrust woes are a good thing

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 10 days ago

    Apple's (AAPL) efforts to break into the streaming music business have attracted considerable attention from fans, investors, analysts and even a few lawyers in Washington, D.C. But while Apple obviously shouldn't get tangled up in another antitrust lawsuit, the company's aggressive negotiations and strategies are actually positive signs of a market leader still fighting for more growth. The latest controversy emanates from the company's talks with record labels, which started out last year, seeking lower prices for consumers only to end up more recently allegedly looking for ways to limit or eliminate free, ad-supported services from Spotify and other streaming competitors. The Verge and Bloomberg reported last month that antitrust regulators at the Federal Trade Commission were checking into the matter. An FTC spokesman declined to comment to Yahoo Finance. Some smaller labels have also been complaining about Apple pressuring them to forgo royalties for songs played during three-month free trials of the new music service. But the attention from regulators -- as well as the difficult negotiations themselves -- point to a larger truth about Apple that should reassure fans and investors alike. Despite the death of Steve Jobs and the embarrassing (and likely expensive) loss in the 2012 ebook price fixing lawsuit, Apple is still striving to push the boundaries of competition and innovation.

  • Fitbit's the new Kleenex, and that's good

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 13 days ago

    (Update: Fitbit priced its IPO shares at $20 and they opened for trading on June 18 at $30.40. The stock looks a lot less appealing with a $6.2 billion market valuation.)

    There are certainly some risks to consider. Private competitor Jawbone filed a lawsuit last month alleging Fitbit tried to steal its intellectual property. And Fitbit suffered an embarrassing and expensive recall of its Force wristband last year after some users suffered an allergic reaction to an adhesive used in the device. Meanwhile, Apple, Jawbone, Garmin (GRMN) and other competitors are taking aim at the market leader. But despite the longer-term competition, Fitbit's strengths should be more than enough to get the IPO off the ground this week.

  • Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel shows how to sell ads without being creepy

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 13 days ago

    Evan Spiegel, the 25-year-old co-founder and CEO of Snapchat, has suddenly become one of the most sought after minds in marketing and advertising, the guru of getting through to the elusive millennial generation. He's one of the headline speakers at next week's massive ad conference in Cannes, France, he's on the cover of Ad Week, and a few weeks before that got major profile treatment in Bloomberg Businessweek. On several levels, it seems incredibly unlikely that Spiegel is being taken so seriously as a next-generation marketing genius. Sure, Snapchat and its disappearing messages and photos are popular with teens, with probably close to 200 million users. But just a year or two ago the app was mainly seen as a teen cesspool of sexting and dirty pictures. And then there were Spiegel's own emails from college that surfaced last year showing an immature, sexist frat boy-type. Snapchat also had to battle and eventually settle the same kind of lawsuit as Facebook over who really had the idea for the popular service. Finally, Spiegel consistently has been disdainful of the kinds of creepy, intrusive data collection that Madison Avenue loves and that has made Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOGL) so popular with advertisers. But all that noise obscured what was actually going on with Snapchat. The model appealed to millennials' view of privacy protection: Don't give me weird options or promises about limited sharing or other complex trade-offs. Just don't collect any data on me in the first place. That policy has helped make the app a place where teens give huge amounts of their time and attention, just what advertisers are seeking at a time when traditional TV viewership among this demographic is plunging (and what they do watch often has no ads).

  • Dorsey to take reins at Twitter as Costolo steps down as CEO

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 18 days ago

    Embattled Twitter (TWTR) CEO Dick Costolo decided it was time for a change, agreeing to step down as head of the famed social sharing service. Twitter shares, which have lost 31% since late April, immediately jumped 8% in afterhours trading. Costolo, who has served as CEO since 2010, will be replaced by co-founder and chairman Jack Dorsey effective on July 1. But Dorsey is CEO of mobile payments startup Square, so he's taking the top role at Twitter only on an interim basis until a permanent replacement can be found, the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    "The Board is fully committed to running a thorough process to identify the right CEO to lead Twitter into its next phase of growth," lead director Peter Currie said in a statement. "In the meantime, we are fortunate to have Jack – one of our founders – step back into a management role and help lead Twitter as we continue executing on our strategic priorities."

  • The FBI wants cracked encryption but Congress won't go along

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 20 days ago

    The FBI is warning Congress that terrorists and other bad guys are keeping secrets using common messaging programs. Some members of Congress are calling on the app makers to deliver a back door for law enforcers to decode all the messages. And the tech industry is pushing back, saying back doors compromise security for all the good people trying to keep out hackers and thieves. That script is playing out in Washington, D.C. right now but it's a repeat, a sequel, or at least deja vu all over again. And the end result is probably the same as well -- industry prevails and law enforcers find other ways to keep tabs on the terrorists. Back in the early 1990s, the Clinton administration favored putting a special chip inside computers, the infamous Clipper Chip, to let law enforcers crack any code. A decade or so later, it was encrypted email programs that law enforcers feared. And now it's popular messaging apps like Facebook's (FB) WhatsApp, Kik and Wickr, not to mention the built-in messaging app on hundreds of millions of Apple (AAPL) iPhones.

  • Apple's music play should surpass most of the competition

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 20 days ago

    Amazon (AMZN), Google (GOOGL) and Microsoft (MSFT) have all tried to copy mobile music king Spotify, but none have come close to unseating the streaming market leader. Now it's Apple's (AAPL) turn, with a new service, dubbed Apple Music, based on the foundation of the Beats app it bought for $3 billion last year. At the start, Apple Music largely matches the competition with all-you-want access to a huge library of songs for the industry-standard price of $10 a month. With hundreds of millions of loyal iPhone users as potential customers, that should be enough to avoid the fate of Jay Z's over-hyped, under-delivering Tidal service and surpass most of the competition. But it's probably not enough to do much harm to Spotify, the music-label-backed upstart out of Sweden that has attracted 15 million paying subscribers and counting. Without any uniquely compelling new features, Apple Music looks like a strong runner-up in the streaming music sweepstakes. Or as Spotify CEO and founder Daniel Ek tweeted after Apple's announcement: "Oh ok" (though Ek later deleted the snarky quip). Apple probably didn't help itself with a disjointed and rambling presentation of Apple Music. Longtime music industry executive Jimmy Iovine, who joined Apple as part of the Beats acquisition, sounded wooden and unconvincing as he explained why the company created yet another music service. Popular musician Drake rambled seemingly without a script or much rehearsal time as he tried to explain the appeal of Apple Music from his point of view. And all the many leaks ahead of time drained much of the drama and excitement from the announcement. The reliance on human-created, or curated, playlists, just like Beats had, was expected. And Apple's new Internet radio station called Beats 1 served mostly to prompt jokes on Twitter about the buffoonish, fictional billionaire Russ Hanneman from the HBO show "Silicon Valley" who made his fortune putting radio on the Internet. Apple's one small surprise -- a family plan for up to six people costing just $15 a month -- will be quickly matched by Spotify, The Verge reported.

  • Apple seizing big opportunities, even if music appears confused

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 21 days ago

    Apple (AAPL) on Monday laid out its software road map for the next year across its computers, phones and watches. Highlighted by a new subscription music service, the occasionally uneven 2-1/2 hour presentation lacked the big bang of some of Apple's new product announcements and more focused keynotes of the Steve Jobs era. None of the features or products announced had much immediate impact on investors' views of the company. Apple shares, which have been stuck in a narrow trading range for months, were down 0.5% to $128.02 as the keynote presentation in San Francisco ended. That's not surprising. Improving the virtual digital assistant Siri, adding mass transit directions to the Maps app and creating a split screen view to see two apps at once on an iPad screen are all the kinds of small improvements that delight users, but don't change Apple's bottom line much right away. Some resembled copies of great features from Google (GOOGL) or Microsoft (MSFT) but those tweaks, and many others discussed, demonstrate that Apple is still iterating to improve its products, a key strength in its decade-long run of success. Amid all of the many, many tweaks and minor improvements, several larger points should also emerge as the keynote fog clears. 1. Big opportunities Two of Apple's newest and most promising products, Apple Pay and the Apple Watch, got major improvements likely to attract more users and expand the company's ecosystem in years to come. Both the watch and the payments service have the potential to make a significant impact even on Apple's already massive bottom line. That's because even if only 10% or 20% of iPhone users buy a watch or use Apple Pay, the dollars will add up quickly. With some 500 million or more iPhones in use, 50 million watches could bring in $25 billion of high-margin sales. And 50 million people using Apple Pay would cement Apple's lead in the fast-growing mobile payments market that could reach $700 billion by 2018, according to Juniper Research. For the watch, Apple as expected announced a major improvement for third-party apps. Outside developers will soon be able to create apps that actually run on the watch (not just on a linked iPhone) and access the watch's sensors. That should make apps much faster and more capable, helping kick off the kind of positive feedback loop that boosted the iPhone -- better apps bring more users, who attract even more developers and so on. For Apple Pay, Apple agreed to allow retailers like Kohl's (KSS) or Starbucks (SBUX) to integrate their loyalty rewards programs into the iPhone's mobile payments app. That will give customers a much bigger incentive to pay with Apple's service than before. Earning, tracking and spending rewards points can be tedious and complicated, but with Apple Pay the programs automatically just work with each transaction.

  • Apple WWDC may be a letdown for investors

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 22 days ago

    Apple (AAPL) opens its annual developer conference on Monday with a keynote address headlined by CEO Tim Cook. For people who love Apple gadgets or write apps for Apple software, it's an important occasion. For people who invest in Apple shares, not so much -- at least in the short-term. That's in part because the announcements expected at this year's Worldwide Developer Conference, or WWDC, have been widely leaked. Reporter Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac.com has been in the lead with assists from various other Apple beat reporters. The past two WWDC keynotes have barely budged Apple's shares -- the stock lost 0.7% on the day of the address in both 2014 and 2013. And over the past three months, Apple shares have done little, gaining just 1.6%. Barring any Steve Jobs-style "one more thing," that won't change on Monday. Here is a summary of the major announcements expected: Music Apple has long known to be interested in offering a subscription music service similar to Spotify, especially after it paid $3 billion for Beats last year. At WWDC, the company is expected to unveil the long-awaited service, though with few original features. For $10 a month, the industry-standard price, subscribers will be able to access a vast library of music, just like on Spotify.

  • Yahoo Finance exclusive: IBM banned Uber for employees, but quickly reversed course

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 27 days ago

    IBM (IBM) is a century-old tech giant with almost 400,000 employees, still struggling to find growth in an increasingly mobile and online business environment. Though the company's transformation is ongoing, signs of agility more befitting a tiny startup are beginning to emerge. Both IBMs were on display in an incident earlier this year involving the hottest of hot startups, Uber. At the end of March, IBM's accounting department issued a new edict banning reimbursement for use of Uber and other ride-sharing services over safety and security concerns, Yahoo Finance has learned. But the decision was almost immediately reversed after a single 20-something IBM employee took to the company's internal social network, Connections, to petition for a change. That employee -- Max Black, a 26-year-old global business consultant based in New York City -- may have been one of the earliest adopters of Uber at IBM. When he first started submitting expenses for using the smartphone-on-call car service more than a year ago, the accounting department asked for proof that the company existed. He satisfied the bean counters and went on using Uber as he traveled across the country doing consulting work. The trouble started in April, when a colleague reading through an expense policy updated March 26 came across a troubling passage. Without any notice to employees, the obscure policy update said IBM would no longer reimburse employees for Uber and its competitors. "Real-time ridesharing (such as Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and Haxi) is non-reimbursable and strongly discouraged by IBM for business travel due to safety considerations," the policy noted. Such services might carry inadequate insurance, fail to conduct background checks on drivers and were even illegal in some locations, the policy explained. [Get the Latest Market Data and News with the Yahoo Finance App] Black says he couldn't believe what he was reading. And he knew the explanation for the ban wasn't accurate. "I don't think anyone even knew to stop expensing it," Black recalls. The policy was buried so deeply in the expense reporting system "it was like looking it up in the tax code," he says. Unsure whether he could have any influence, Black decided to write a detailed blog post refuting the policy's justification and arguing that ordinary taxi services were even worse. He also deployed a consultant's favorite tactic: a concise, bulleted list of reasons backing his preferred approach, which included saving money, improving accountability and enhancing safety. "We are being hypocritical," he wrote as his final point. "IBM is in the business of preaching mobility transformation to its clients, but we are effectively outlawing for our employees one of the best examples of mobile innovation out there."

  • Google copies Apple, Apple copies Google

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 27 days ago

    Apple (AAPL) fans spent much of last week accusing Google of copying features from the iPhone. Next week, the tables turn and Apple will face accusations of copying from Google's (GOOGL) Android phones. It's become an annual ritual. The two giants of the smartphone era hold their spring developers conferences seeking to both differentiate and blur the differentiation between their two platforms. The goal is to convince app writers and consumers alike that there's no need to defect: Everything you want is on our phone. Google's Android additions at its i/o conference last week included many Apple-like features such as wireless mobile payments, fingerprint security, per-app privacy controls and even a copy and paste interface that resembled the iPhone's. At its June 8 World Wide Developers Conference, or WWDC, Apple is expected to beef up its Maps app to close the gap with Google Maps. Digital assistant Siri is likely getting more contextual awareness to compete with Google Now. Apple Pay is expected to add loyalty rewards like Android Pay. And Apple could  improve its photo storage deal, which currently includes only 5 GB free, after Google announced free, unlimited storage. The back and forth competition ultimately is a win for consumers and developers. It keeps the pressure on both platforms to improve and innovate. Microsoft (MSFT) didn't face that pressure once its Windows monopoly was established in the 1990s and innovation suffered dramatically.