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Apple Watch: BikePlay


I am currently in a country teaming with millions of scooters and motorbikes weaving between far fewer (but still plentiful, and plenty-menacing) cars, trucks and buses. I went for a ride on the back of a motorbike, behind a typically insouciant Indonesian two-wheel rider, and while I held on for grim death, frankly, I noticed that not only did most Indonesian back-seat riders not hold on to anything at all, they also sometimes worked on, or otherwise used, iPads and iPhones.

And once I saw a woman texting on a smartphone while holding a sleeping baby between her and the woman piloting it (but sometimes you see four people on one bike), and another time it was the rider doing the texting ... as he zoomed blithely past into a crazy-busy intersection.

And people are, of course, using Android tablets, smartphones and phablets here, too.

Because they're using all these things over here as much as we are over there (or however that phrase should work, depending on where you are and I am).

I'm not trying to say it's a good idea to do these things. I was once horrified to see a young man zoom past me at 11Pm on the Auckland motorway. I was doing 100kph, he was doing more like 120, and he was texting maniacally as he drove. If ever I should have dobbed someone in ... Nor am I in Jakarta (and before that, Yogyakarta) to write about Apple. It's just that it's out on the teeming streets that I noticed the device use first, and then the people I met (I'm here with my partner, an academic, on her research trip) were using Apple stuff too. You know, 'creatives'.

You'd think there'd be far more Android devices here than Apple because they are often cheaper, since the sales model is entirely different. Prices aren't rigidly set and enforced by one parent company, and there are many device creators using the Android OS so competition is fierce - there's room to aggressively discount prices at times. And people here like to bargain. And while it's hardly scientific, I was surprised how often I saw iPhones and iPads instead of other devices. There is no Apple Store here - it's a similar reseller model we have in New Zealand: an official online Apple Store, but for bricks-and-mortar you rely on licensed third parties to provide the service.

By the way, a 16GB iPhone 5s will cost you big money over here: 10-million, 499 thousand Rupiahs. But before you cry out at the penurious horror of such a figure, this is one of those currencies crying out for a noughtotomy - it needs three noughts lopping off. Because that's equivalent to NZ$1007.89. Actually, that still is penurious horror, since that's a staggering amount in this country where you can get a fantastic meal including drinks for four people for about $18, and a 45 minute taxi ride for $20. Wages are low.

I could go on - suffice to say, this land is full of surprises. Apple has a great, powerful and invidious position, don't you think? Apple makes the operating system and designs the hardware and controls every step of the process that combines the two in your hands as much as possible. That means that a competing smartphone has, usually, at least two advocates: the company that makes the hardware (Samsung, or HTC or one of many others) and the company that makes the software (Google). In court, Apple has to fight both, or at least which one to direct its most critical and litigious gaze at.

Interestingly, a couple of weeks after WWDC, Google held its own I/O keynote in San Francisco's Moscone West.

The two companies were once friends working towards common goals. Now it's clear they have differences, but in many ways they're progressing along similar paths. For Google announced its next version of the Android OS (Android L), due out later this year, will have less disruptive notifications. Just as Apple announced for iOS 8.

I'm not saying who came up with this first - I'm saying they both want to do the same thing. Fine - no problem.

Both releases will focus on improved battery life, and better tools for monitoring energy consumption by individual apps. Both will feature technologies that seek to simplify your device while keeping it secure. With Apple that's Touch ID, opened up to third-party apps. Android L will allow your phone to be unlocked without a PIN when you're at home or when you have a known Bluetooth peripheral with you.

Both will support more powerful graphics: Apple announced its new Metal framework; Google waxed about its partnerships with Nvidia and others.

Google announced Android TV ...

I could go on - but Macworld's already done the spadework.

The bottom line is, Apple and Google will have scope to go head-to-head in, well, almost every other area you can think of. Lawyers will be rejoicing.

While I'm over here, I'm reading 'Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs' by Yukari Iwatani Kane. This got roundly panned by most Apple commentators, as you may know, and I've had people tell me it's crap then found out they haven't read it. Since often the most prejudiced statements are made about things known least about, I decided to read it myself. Ironically, I have it as an iBook on my iPhone (so Apple made 30 per cent of that sale). And ... it's very thoroughly researched. While I may not agree with the conclusion, once I get there (we'll see) it's the most thorough look at Apple's processes I've read so far, and includes a human and detailed look at the worker situation in the Asian assembly factories. I like knowing more about all this, so I'm consuming it avidly.
But not on the back of a motorbike.

'BikePlay', anyone?

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