Jun 032014

Did you see the WWDC keynote yesterday? Such a disappointment. No new hardware – Apple’s presentation even had a guy onstage coding. The market took notice too, shaving a total of $7 off the share price by the time the yawning stopped.

Above is the impression you’d get about the presentation from much of the mainstream tech press. Those people are idiots. Yesterday’s announcements, in my opinion, mark the most important in WWDC’s history. I’d further argue that this keynote was one of the most important Apple has ever put out. My reasons, in order of increasing importance:

1. Apple totally rewrote their development language.  Objective-C, the language that launched millions of apps in iOS, has been replaced. Apple took the bedrock of its mobile device success and detonated it, replacing it with the faster, simplified Swift. That this announcement is the lowest rung on this list should tell you how paradigm-shifting the sum of them are.

2. Apple announced updates to the Mac OS and iOS that answer the question of how the Mac OS would become iOS: it won’t. Continuity shows us that the experience of each OS, while individually different, will be seamless when used together. Start an email on your iPhone, finish it on your Mac. Answer a call on your iPhone from your iPad. Steve Jobs’s “car” was never intended to replace the “truck” in one step. Yesterday Apple announced how it would transition from the desktop environment to the mobile environment.

3. Apple just took all the significant chains restricting mobile app interplay and broke them – all of them. Third party developers will now have access to iCloud, Notification Center, Documents, Custom Actions, Touch ID, Sharing Options – even the iOS keyboard can be opted-out. Apps will still have the security of their original sandboxed environment, unlike some mobile OS’s.

Screeny Shot Jun 3, 2014, 10.49.37 AM

In the same vein, Apple also announced the ability to consolidate health metrics through HealthKit and the Health app and partnerships to control home automation devices through HomeKit. These 2 footnotes constituted entire presentations for Samsung (multiple times) and Google at I/O in 2011.

With its keynote, Apple extinguished all the reasons neckbeards use to praise Android and laid groundwork for the transition from OS X to iOS – basically the next decade of computing.

That’s nothing short of incredible.

 Posted by at 10:58 am
May 302014

So the other night I was pretty bummed about blowing the whole Beats acquisition thing. One of my good friends, @lophan, shot me a text to try and put it in perspective:

IMG_5178Slowly I realized: that was exactly it. Despite my disproportionately-high 4-letter word count, I do some serious legwork before releasing a post (spelling and grammar notwithstanding). Over the 5 years (!) I’ve been pushing this rock now, most of that time has been spent with Steve Jobs leading Apple, so I grew to look at the company the way Steve would. I make no claims about being able to channel the decision-making of the most influential tech CEO of all time, but the point is when you observe the world through a particular lens, sometimes when what you see isn’t what you expect, it might be time to change the lens. There’s a lot of anecdotal data about the kind of CEO Tim Cook is, and most of this data is qualitative and usually juxtaposed against “how Steve would do it.” Cook is accessible and level as a manager and steely and silent when faced with underperformance; Steve was mercurial 24/7. Cook is more responsive to media pressure than Jobs ever was. Cook made public some of Apple’s charitable endeavors, something Jobs would never do.

Now we know another major difference between the two: their attitude toward acquisitions.

Jobs was a legendary grass roots leader – his goal was to develop all the things that Apple did organically. I’m sure a large part of this was due to his history with “less than responsive” business partners like Microsoft and Adobe or companies that were have perceived to have slighted Apple – like Google. This complete control gave Jobs the advantage of having almost all of the user’s experience with Apple’s products succeed or fail because of what he could influence directly. It was also a decided advantage in leak control, lending that much more gravitas once the inevitable “one more thing” was announced.

Cook appears to have an opposite approach, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say I don’t mind it. He cited the 27 acquisitions Apple made in the last year when defending the Beats deal, which according to Wikipedia’s count, is about 50% of all the acquisitions Apple has made in its history. Whereas Jobs had a laser focus that allowed him to do everything within Apple, it appears as though Cook has a slightly wider focus that includes more acquired help. Jobs was (until shortly before his passing) always the one voice of Apple; Cook’s model gives as much if not more stage and press time to Schiller, Ive and Cue – and rising stars like Federighi. This democratization of success in an environment where every tech maker in the Valley is looking to snipe the hot company is much more healthy for Apple. Cook isn’t shy about cycling back and purging either – witness the Browett debacle or the Forstall ouster.

I’ve admitted I don’t understand the Beats deal, but I realize it may be because I was looking at it through a sentimentally clouded lens.

 Posted by at 2:27 pm
May 282014

I guess Apple bought a certain company, one which I had insisted it wouldn’t buy. I wrote 2 posts about it; I talked a lot of shit on Twitter. I was poised to take my victory lap once this week passed without an announcement.

Then it happened. I guess that does it for my career as an analyst.

Why would Apple do something for which several analysts had no explanation? The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter. This is obviously Tim Cook’s Apple. As for my poo-pooing the acquisition using the “Apple-has-the-best-designers-and-engineers-in-the-world-they-can-do-anything” logic, Cook spoke directly to that in an interview with the New York Times:

“Could Eddy’s team have built a subscription service? Of course. We could’ve built those 27 other things [Apple’s acquisitions in the last year] since ourselves, too. You don’t build everything yourself. It’s not one thing that excites us here. It’s the people. It’s the service.”

So there you have it. Instead of their usual chumming of the pageview waters, the speculators finally turned in a big scoop.

 Posted by at 8:42 pm
May 132014

I admit that when I first saw the rumors swirling about Apple buying Beats Electronics, I was behind the news by about 8 hours. I took to my keyboard immediately and banged out some thoughts, and not all of them received the benefit of reflection. In what I’ve come to expect from the tech press, this speculation – sourced by 2 dudes at The Financial Times –  has taken on an air of completion that belies its absolutely unknown status. Since the deal has yet to be announced (although FT says it could both happen as soon as this week and that the talks could still derail – nice out, guys), I thought I’d expand on some of the points made in my post on Friday.

  • About the quality of Beats hardware – I called it shit, and I stand by it. It’s certainly not best-in-class and I’d argue it’s not in the top 20%, but then again Apple’s own kit is mediocre at best. Still, hardware is what Apple does and if Apple wanted to do better audio hardware, it certainly has the chops. Even though Beats kit sells at a decent clip, and one can assume its margins are on the high end, this “deal” certainly isn’t about their headphones.
  • About the quality of the Beats brand – I may have been a bit rash about calling it “shit”, and maybe I was associating the brand a little too synonymously with the merchandise they sell. Beats does have some cache as a brand and they have made a push to get their headphones on many entertainers – especially if they appear in front of a camera. I recently saw a UFC card where every fighter had a pair of their cans on. They’ve certainly gotten their name out there.
  • About Apple acquiring them for Beats Music – Still don’t see it – at all. Apple has the most talented designers and engineers on the planet. Apple has access to the largest collection of music on the planet. Apple has iTunes Match, which I am convinced is bashed by the same people who slag the iPhone 5C. Like I said, it isn’t Spotify, but Beats Music isn’t going to make Apple Spotify either.
  • About Apple wanting Beats Music subscribers – I think I made more of a deal out of this than the tech press did, so you know it’s a non-issue.
  • About the $3.2 billion price tag – The price is the ribbon of retardery that bundles a bunch of disperate, piss-poor reasons not to do something into a tidy package of reasons to definitely not do something. In addition to the fact that it’s likely more than what was spent on every other Apple acquisition in the company’s history combined, how do we even know what Beats Electronics is worth? The conventional method of valuation requires financial reporting data, the kind that isn’t required to be provided by an LLC, which Beats is. Sure we get some tasty sound bytes from the company like “Annual sales revenue is estimated at $1.5 billion,” but those statements mean jack shit. What were expenses? How much debt, if any, is being carried? In short, until Beats decides it wants to open its books like a grown-up company, knowing if $3.2 billion is a fair approximation of its value is impossible, which, like saying a deal is “almost closed but could still fall through” is just the kind of positioning that the rumor-mongors who sell Apple-based copy like to assume.

One thing that hasn’t changed for me is how I feel about the deal’s validity: I don’t think it’s going to happen. In a sea of tech reporters trying to disappear into their own assholes contorting a narrative that justifies the details leaked by The Financial Times, I’m still calling bullshit.

 Posted by at 10:11 am
May 092014

So I woke up this morning to some disturbing headlines about Apple being rumored to buy Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion. I’ve been wrong about Apple’s moves before, and the 70+ news outlets that don’t seem to mind fluffing this flaccid cock of a rumor don’t make me feel any better about saying this, but the proposition is fucking absurd.

Beats hardware is shit. I’m no audiophile dickhead, but even I can tell that when you strap one of this ludicrously-colored, overpriced shitboxes to your head, the only thing you’re doing is turning the bass up to 12. They make Handel sound like dubstep. If you’re considering buying some of their cans from the Apple Store (for whatever reason they can’t seem to get enough of them there), do yourself a favor and hire someone to kick you in the face when you listen to music instead. You’ll achieve the same effect and you deserve to be kicked in the face repeatedly for thinking about buying anything with a Beats label.

Beats as a brand is shit, although mysteriously few people have told them yet. Want to know who played up a Beats Audio presence in their kit? Companies like HTC and HP. Guess how much those pronouncements helped their hardware sales? Ever hear of the HTC Incredible and HP ENVY Rove²º Mobile All-in-One Desktop? Exactly.

The idea that Apple is acquiring Beats for their streaming audio service is shit. There’s approximately 1.5 metric shittons of streaming audio services that Apple could acquire if for some reason it wanted to be Spotify. iTunes Radio is a slightly-shittier Spotify now. How does Beats get them any closer?

The notion that Beats subscribers mean anything to Apple is shit. Apple already has close to a billion iTunes users. I’m going to go out on a limb and say they’re probably more well-heeled than Beats Audio service users. Apple doesn’t need the people rocking HTC Incredibles as customers.

And the candy coating on the creamy turd filling is that Apple would buy Beats for $3.2 billion. Google makes these kind of purchases – and people laugh at them. Facebook makes those kind of purchases – and everyone cites their value in the distant future. Apple doesn’t purchase companies for $3.2 billion – period. And buying Beats for that? Let me just say that whoever affiliated with Beats that got this bacon strip of stupidity to go viral is either a genius or was dealing with an idiot.

In a nutshell, this rumor stinks like the iPad HD rumors. It makes zero sense. I only wish there were more dissenting opinions on the matter from analysts I respect…

Will Apple buy Beats for $3.2 billion? Munster is skeptical


 Posted by at 9:03 am
May 082014

Time’s Phil Harry McCracken has a timeline of ridiculousness that are the rumors surrounding Apple making a television. Highlighting the list of who’s who in asinine prognostication are several entries by dueling Piper Jaffray idiots Gene Munster and Peter Misek, who since 2010 have been the cornerstone of speculation about that thing that will never be. Fortunately for them and their families, they both presumably remain employed for reasons I assume have nothing to do with predicting trends in technology.

McCracken makes some good generalizations about the veracity of Apple rumors at the end of the piece, to which I’d add one: rumors that have no photos of alleged components have no basis in reality. Think about it: since Jizzmodo bought a stolen iPhone 4 prototype in April of 2010, there has been a shit-ton of leaks that have ramped up to the introduction of every iPhone since. Individually none of them were 100% correct, but taken as a composite, they formed a pretty good preview of what the next Apple device was going to look like. For the Apple television? Nothing. Not one decent-looking mock-up or a single blurry component photo. If the laundry list of reasons that Apple shouldn’t release a television weren’t long enough for anyone not looking to making a buck off of making shit up, there wasn’t a single shred of evidence to corroborate this wet dream.

You want to know what the next Apple television product will look like? Take a look at Amazon’s Fire TV: it’ll be a souped-up version of the device Apple already produces, complete with a slick new remote. Because content always has and always will be the cornerstone of the experience, that’s all it needs to be. Check back here in 6 months and watch me brag about how right I was – or watch me stop writing altogether. At this point, they’re both equally likely.

 Posted by at 3:08 pm
May 062014

Excellent article in Vanity Fair recounting the history of the Apple-Samsung patent dispute. Here’s Samsung’s take on intellectual property from the mouth of a lawyer who used to represent them:

“They never met a patent they didn’t think they might like to use, no matter who it belongs to,” says Sam Baxter, a patent lawyer who once handled a case for Samsung. “I represented [the Swedish telecommunications company] Ericsson, and they couldn’t lie if their lives depended on it, and I represented Samsung and they couldn’t tell the truth if their lives depended on it.”

 Posted by at 12:56 pm
Apr 302014

I’ve made no bones about Florian Mueller being a major source for my posts about Apple’s legal wrangling with Android OEMs. His FOSS Patents posts was the basis of no fewer than six of my own posts. I’ve always liked his writing style, which breaks down the thoroughly complex and tedious issues related to patent law in technology and makes them easy to understand. It also helped that his posts reflected my own personal bias that Apple’s fight to defend its iOS intellectual property was, for lack of a better word, noble.

Then something strange happened, but I don’t know exactly when it did.

The klaxon was when Daniel Eran Dilger, an Apple beat writer who I respect greatly, went after him for his take on Apple’s damages claim in the most recent Apple-Samsung trial (a Twitter exchange about which led Mueller to block Dilger). Before that, I had noticed a couple one-off Apple takes in Mueller’s Twitter feed, but I wrote that off as part of the limitation of a 140-character medium. It was the AppleInsider piece that served as confirmation that Mueller had crossed a track with which he had always run parallel. I hadn’t linked to him for awhile, so I started looking back at his more recent FOSS Patent posts – and one of the first that caught my eye was somewhat disappointing.



Florian Mueller was endorsing a book that was universally panned by the Mac community – and not just the lunatics.  The book’s premise is stated hilariously clearly in the title itself. From what I’ve read, the book is basically one long BusinessInsider post. Philip Elmer-DeWitt summarized the shortcomings of Kane’s work nicely. Nevermind that Mueller never reviewed a book in his blog before; he was recommending an absolute dog. Something had changed. The tone of the FOSS entries had started their ascent to their current level of anti-Apple bombast around January of this year. And it wasn’t just his blog that flipped; his Twitter account had taken an unusual pro-Samsung turn. On the day Apple smashed the 2Q earnings estimates laid out by analysts, Mueller’s tweets focused on iPad sales coming up short in the eyes of some analysts, which was literally the only thing that might be construed as negative in an otherwise lights-out quarter for Apple. When Samsung announced its second consecutive decline in YoY earnings, Mueller was decidedly upbeat.

Screeny Shot Apr 30, 2014, 2.34.12 PM

The closest thing I could come up to an explanation appears in a FOSS Patents post Mueller wrote in earlier this month in which he shows his fatigue at the seemingly unending nature of the Apple-Samsung litigation. Apparently, Mueller feels that the following is the case:

1. Apple has nothing to show for its legal assault on Samsung

2. Neither Apple nor Samsung show any sign of relenting their legal battle

To resolve the issue, Apple and Samsung should agree to pay each other $1 and $3/unit, respectively for use of the other party’s IP (with Apple getting $750 million additional compensation for its first California verdict).

Now I admit a certain fatigue with Apple having to plow millions into its IP defense with zero to show for it, but this to me doesn’t fully explain Mueller’s about-face. Some speculate that he may have taken on Samsung as a client, which would be disappointing but not unprecedented. As several of his historical detractors pointed out during the Oracle/Google trial, Mueller was a paid consultant to Oracle.

The reasons behind Mueller’s change of heart may never be known, but it’s clear to me that one has taken place. The change in the focus of his content and, even more so, the tone of his writing is black and white to my eyes. Despite my disappointment with his new attitude, I agree with him about the patent war being one of eternal attrition that is begging for an end. Barring radical reform, I don’t see that changing, which is unfortunate. I still view him as one of the more articulate voices in the tech patent universe. I just wish he’d come back to center.

 Posted by at 2:58 pm
Apr 082014

We probably won’t get a better look into how Apple operates than through the filings submitted as part of the company’s legal battles against Android OEMs. One of the latest windows is a Jobs draft itinerary for Apple’s super-secret 2011 Top 100 meeting strategy retreat. I found the part about the Magic Wand particularly interesting, especially since I think they already have the template for a product.

 Posted by at 11:09 am
Mar 212014

Google Glass has been taking quite the beating lately, and if you’re an obnoxious bar-goer wearing a pair in the Bay Area, chances are you’ve recently taken a literal beating. The reason underscores the fundamental problem with Glass – and Google more broadly: they just don’t grok social boundaries. So what does a company having a perception problem with one of their products do? Why post a list of 10 misconceptions about Glass and call them “Urban Myths”, as in “you obviously don’t understand our product, let us explain why you’re wrong.” Google’s attempt to dispel these “myths” does nothing but mischaracterize the actual concerns in an attempt to mollify an increasingly-sour public perception. Let’s take a look.

Myth 1 – Glass is the ultimate distraction from the real world
Instead of looking down at your computer, phone or tablet while life happens around you, Glass allows you to look up and engage with the world. Big moments in life — concerts, your kid’s performances, an amazing view — shouldn’t be experienced through the screen you’re trying to capture them on. That’s why Glass is off by default and only on when you want it to be. It’s designed to get you a bit of what you need just when you need it and then get you back to the people and things in life you care about.

First of all, Glass sits on the bridge of your fucking nose. If you don’t already wear glasses, this is already a distraction. Secondly, the screen is well within your peripheral vision. Maybe Google needs a word other than “distraction” to focus on, because the placement of a device on your face and the presence of the device’s screen within your field of view qualifies it as a distraction. Insisting that Glass is less distracting than a smartphone makes Google sound more willfully ignorant every time the byte squirts out of its PR’s backside.

Myth 2: Glass is always on and recording everything
Just like your cell phone, the Glass screen is off by default. Video recording on Glass is set to last 10 seconds. People can record for longer, but Glass isn’t designed for or even capable of always-on recording (the battery won’t last longer than 45 minutes before it needs to be charged). So next time you’re tempted to ask an Explorer if he’s recording you, ask yourself if you’d be doing the same with your phone. Chances are your answers will be the same.

No shit. No one thought these nerdvision goggles would be 24/7 surveillance devices. Thanks for clarifying. The problem, as I’ve discussed before, is that you can be recording at any time, so in the mind of the average person, that’s all the time.

Myth 3 – Glass Explorers are technology-worshipping geeks

I wonder where people got that impression

I wonder where people got that impression

Our Explorers come from all walks of life. They include parents, firefighters, zookeepers, brewmasters, film students, reporters, and doctors. The one thing they have in common is that they see the potential for people to use technology in a way that helps them engage more with the world around them, rather than distract them from it. In fact, many Explorers say because of Glass they use technology less, because they’re using it much more efficiently. We know what you’re thinking: “I’m not distracted by technology”. But the next time you’re on the subway, or, sitting on a bench, or in a coffee shop, just look at the people around you. You might be surprised at what you see.

The part that begins “We know what you’re thinking…” is a perfect encapsulation of the condescending “you just dont understand” tone Google has adopted with Glass. They’re saying “You say this, but if you were really observant, you’d realize you were wrong” No, Google, we wouldn’t. We wouldn’t be surprised. We’re not going to have some heaven-splitting epiphany the next time we take in a scene of people checking their smartphones and tablets in a Starbucks. We’re already familiar with that scene. And we’re not fucking idiots.

Myth 4 – Glass is ready for prime time
Glass is a prototype, and our Explorers and the broader public are playing a critical role in how it’s developed. In the last 11 months, we’ve had nine software updates and three hardware updates based, in part, on feedback from people like you. Ultimately, we hope even more feedback gets baked into a polished consumer product ahead of being released. And, in the future, today’s prototype may look as funny to us as that mobile phone from the mid 80s.

No shit. It’s a Google product, isn’t it? Our Lady of Perpetual Beta?

Myth 5: Glass does facial recognition (and other dodgy things)
Nope. That’s not true. As we’ve said before, regardless of technological feasibility, we made the decision based on feedback not to release or even distribute facial recognition Glassware unless we could properly address the many issues raised by that kind of feature. And just because a weird application is created, doesn’t mean it’ll get distributed in our MyGlass store. We manually approve all the apps that appear there and have several measures in place (from developer policies and screenlocks to warning interstitials) to help protect people’s security on the device.

Because google would never include anything dodgy – like allowing a Glasshole to activate the camera on the device remotely from their Android phone, until they decide to do it.  MyGlass is a Google-made app, mind you. And even though Google may not be implement a certain function, you can bet the intrepid community of hackers will find a way to incorporate it. It’s already been jailbroken, which will allow a user to bypass any privacy feature that Google doesn’t eventually strip out itself. Stay tuned for the pivoting of bullshit platitudes like these “myths” to statements like “we designed it to be free and open” once the device is exploited to its full creepy potential. No one pulls off the Pontius Pilate hand wash as cleanly as the folks in Mountain View.

Myth 6: Glass covers your eye(s)
“I can’t imagine having a screen over one eye…” one expert said in a recent article. Before jumping to conclusions about Glass, have you actually tried it? The Glass screen is deliberately above the right eye, not in front or over it. It was designed this way because we understand the importance of making eye contact and looking up and engaging with the world, rather than down at your phone.

Whoever said “a screen over one eye…” is an idiot, not an expert. Google understands the importance of social interactions so deeply that they built a device that sits on your face and is capable of surreptitious recording of your interactions. But it doesn’t “cover” your eye – that would be a distraction for the person you’re talking to!

Myth 7 – Glass is the perfect surveillance device
If a company sought to design a secret spy device, they could do a better job than Glass! Let’s be honest: if someone wants to secretly record you, there are much, much better cameras out there than one you wear conspicuously on your face and that lights up every time you give a voice command, or press a button.

Once again, Google caricatures a rational concern about privacy to make it easier to defend. Yes, there are more capable surveillance devices on the market, but they’re not being billed as a mainstream piece of consumer electronics. And the bit about “lighting up every time you give a voice command?” You might think that means Glass has a recording indicator light, but that’s not what they said! There is no indicator light for recording; Google claims that the illumination of the screen should serve as ample enough warning to bystanders. But that person could be doing something else besides taking a photo or shooting video. That’s the point of a big red fucking light. And as I mentioned above, Google bypassed the “voice command/button press” necessity themselves when it allowed Glass to be controlled via smartphone.

Myth 8 – Glass is only for those privileged enough to afford it
The current prototype costs $1500 and we realize that is out of the range of many people. But that doesn’t mean the people who have it are wealthy and entitled. In some cases, their work has paid for it. Others have raised money on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. And for some, it’s been a gift.

In some cases, user’s wealthy or entitled employer has given them a pair. Three other people on the planet have somehow convinced others to pay for theirs. And still others have received them from other wealthy people, probably because they successfully expressed their entitlement to them. This myth is basically saying “People who own Glass aren’t necessarily the 1%ers making people in San Francisco homeless, so please don’t punch them in the face on sight.”

Myth 9 – Glass is banned… EVERYWHERE
Since cell phones came onto the scene, folks have been pretty good at creating etiquette and the requisite (and often necessary) bans around where someone can record (locker rooms, casino floors, etc.). Since Glass functionality mirrors the cell phones (“down to the screen being off by default), the same rules apply. Just bear in mind, would-be banners: Glass can be attached to prescription lenses, so requiring Glass to be turned off is probably a lot safer than insisting people stumble about blindly in a locker room.

Wow-either we’re getting to the end of a too-long list or Google are absolutely shitting themselves by putting this one in there. Once again, Google wants to draw a comparison to cell [sic] phones that does not apply. It is obvious when you’re using a smartphone for nefariuos purposes. IT IS NOT THE CASE WITH GLASS. And invoking a threat to safety by banning Glass in locker rooms? The stench of desperation could knock out a fucking horse.

Myth 10 – Glass marks the end of privacy
When cameras first hit the consumer market in the late 19th century, people declared an end to privacy. Cameras were banned in parks, at national monuments and on beaches. People feared the same when the first cell phone cameras came out. Today, there are more cameras than ever before. In ten years there will be even more cameras, with or without Glass. 150+ years of cameras and eight years of YouTube are a good indicator of the kinds of photos and videos people capture–from our favorite cat videos to dramatic, perspective-changing looks at environmental destruction, government crackdowns, and everyday human miracles.

What a bunch of drama queens. No one thinks Glass “marks the end of privacy”. Anyone claiming that probably also said “but they cover one eye!” Besides, you fuckers cornered the market on that era when you introduced Gmail. What Glass is is the ever-present possibility of imposition on personal space in a way that a smartphone can’t achieve. It’s a device that by its presence makes the social interactions that people currently engage in – rare as they are these days – awkward. That may change, but we’re not close to there yet. That’s the reaction people are having to Glass. It’s not an overreaction and it’s not a lack of understanding. Google needs to get over themselves and stop trying to explain itself to the general population like its talking to a 5 year-old.

 Posted by at 10:23 am
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