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Peak iPad Pro: The end of major advances?

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So the new iPad Pro came out this week. And I subsequently spent over $1,200 for a new 12.9-inch 256GB WiFi model. Ouch.

I would have bought the 512GB version, but I’ve already spent enough money this year on the iPhone XS Max and the Apple Watch Series 4.

Look, I love Apple stuff, but I enjoy having a low credit card balance and a stress-free relationship with my wife. If I spend any more money on Apple this year she will almost certainly kick my ass.

I actually decided on the 256GB because I use the iPad primarily for apps and streaming at home as my main after-hours computing device; I don’t travel with the thing or load it up with music and other content. My iPhone XS Max is the 512GB version because it has my entire music library on it. It’s still probably overkill for my needs.

A number of the things I predicted about this crop of iPad Pros came true. But some important things did not.

For starters, I expected the CPU horsepower of the A12X SoC to be somewhat lower — it’s a 4X4 asymmetrical chip, rather than a 3X4 or a 3X6 in terms of core arrangement. It actually exceeded my lowest expectations in that respect; even the GPU is a 7-way versus a 6-way.

The actual real-world performance remains to be seen, and I am optimistic. With that much computing horsepower, you can absolutely drive a very high-resolution 4K or 5K display. It even can do it on an external monitor with the USB-C capability on this device and I can’t wait to test that out.

But on the 12.9-inch model, we didn’t get a built-in 4K display in the new iPad Pro, we got the same display resolution we got last year, and the year before that… and the year before that.

Look, 2,732 x 2,048-pixel resolution is nothing to scoff at; that’s a lot higher resolution than virtually all broadcast and subscription TV content, which is at 1080p or 720p in many cases. But it’s not 4K, which is 3840×2160.

I expected better for this year’s price bump. Sure, it’s an edge-to-edge display with the reduced form factor, and it has the FaceID stuff from the new iPhones. But I am not exactly a huge fan of FaceID because in real-world use, it’s less reliable and nowhere near as fast as the TouchID it’s replacing.

Granted, the new Apple Pencil is a huge improvement for creatives with the induction charging and magnetic connector to the iPad. But I don’t use an Apple Pencil — mine from 2015 is still sitting in the box, unopened. And apparently, I can’t use it on the new iPad Pro, so I guess I need to sell it or give it away.

The USB-C, however, I did not expect, given that the iPhones this year did not migrate to USB-C. So while I am overjoyed the iPad Pro has now joined the rest of the Apple MacBook family and the rest of the personal computing and mobile world, I am annoyed that we have to go through yet another year of charging cable insanity because my iPhone XS Max doesn’t match charge connectors now.

It means I need to have a dedicated charging area for my iPad Pro versus using the same ones I use for my iPhones. It was an ideal setup having the same USB-C to Lightning USB PD cables for my 2017 iPad Pro and my iPhone X. When one was done charging, I charged the other. With USB PD, it’s very fast, so it’s rare that one of the devices completely dies out while the other is charging up.

For my Android devices, I use a separate USB PD charging station, or I use USB-A to USB-C cables on the spare ports. It isn’t particularly fast, but it gets the job done.

Sure, I could just yank the USB PD to Lightning cable I use for my iPhones and switch out with a USB-C to USB-C cable when it needs to happen, but I absolutely hate pulling cables constantly. I buy cables and connect them to chargers and leave them there.

And forget the legacy ports on those chargers — you really don’t want to charge an iPad Pro with a USB-A to USB-C cable. It’s so ungodly slow at 2W. It takes forever.


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Okay, I admit that is a minor nitpick. I have my (arguably much slower) Qi charging pads I can use with my iPhones and Androids too when the iPad Pro is using up USB-C PD cords. I got multi-port wall chargers plugged into receptacles all over the house. I can make this work, right?

Ultimately, what disappoints me is the realization that — like the current crop of iPhones — iPad may have hit its “peak”.

We have reached a point in the development of these products where there are very few new features that can actually be improved upon without significant advances in the telecommunications infrastructure they actually run on.

The lack of a 4K display reflects a barrier that won’t be broken until we have ubiquitous 5G, gigabit-plus broadband and next-generation WiFi capabilities in the average residence.

I am probably one of the very few people that can actually reliably consume streamed 4K content because I have gigabit fiber to the home (FTTH) broadband and an 802.11ac 5Ghz WiFi network that an iPad Pro with its MIMO baseband transceiver can talk to in excess of 400Mbps. Most people do not have extreme connectivity setups like this, not even in the most connected areas of the country.

4K media files in high-quality — even when compressed in lossless formats — use up a lot of data and chew up a lot of bandwidth. With the rate caps and throttling that are likely going to come in place under the current FCC rules, few people are going to want to download that and wait that long to get it on their device before watching it.

And while I am hopeful that we will have nationwide 5G deployments in the next few years, the reality is very different from what is being promised to us.

Honestly, this may be one of the last new iPads I buy over the next few years. Even for someone who writes about technology and wants to keep up with things, it’s too expensive to do it each year along with all the other stuff that’s on an upgrade cycle, given the ever smaller incremental advances that are possible.

And that makes me sad.

Was the 2018 iPad Pro everything you thought it would be or hoped for? Or have we hit “Peak iPad?” Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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Cymulate snaps up $70M to help cybersecurity teams stress test their networks with attack simulations – TechCrunch

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The cost of cybercrime has been growing at an alarming rate of 15% per year, projected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025. To cope with the challenges that this poses, organizations are turning to a growing range of AI-powered tools to supplement their existing security software and the work of their security teams. Today, a startup called Cymulate — which has built a platform to help those teams automatically and continuously stress test their networks against potential attacks with simulations, and provide guidance on how to improve their systems to ward off real attacks — is announcing a significant round of growth funding after seeing strong demand for its tools.

The startup — founded in Tel Aviv, with a second base in New York — has raised $70 million, a Series D that it will be using to continue expanding globally and investing in expanding its technology (both organically and potentially through acquisitions).

Today, Cymulate’s platform covers both on-premise and cloud networks, providing breach and attack simulations for endpoints, email and web gateways and more; automated “red teaming”; and a “purple teaming” facility to create and launch different security breach scenarios for organizations that lack the resources to dedicate people to a live red team — in all, a “holistic” solution for companies looking to make sure they are getting the most out of the network security architecture that they already have in place, in the worlds of Eyal Wachsman, Cymulate’s CEO.

“We are providing our customers with a different approach for how to do cybersecurity and get insights [on]  all the products already implemented in a network,” he said in an interview. The resulting platform has found particular traction in the current market climate. Although companies continue to invest in their security architecture, security teams are also feeling the market squeeze, which is impacting IT budgets, and sometimes headcount in an industry that was already facing a shortage of expertise. (Cymulate cites figures from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology that estimate a shortfall of 2.72 million security professionals in the workforce globally.)

The idea with Cymulate is that it’s built something that helps organizations get the most out of what they already have. “And at the end, we provide our customers the ability to prioritize where they need to invest, in terms of closing gaps in their environment,” Wachsman said.

The round is being led by One Peak, with Susquehanna Growth Equity (SGE), Vertex Ventures Israel, Vertex Growth and strategic backer Dell Technologies Capital also participating. (All five also backed Cymulate in its $45 million Series C last year.) Relatively speaking, this is a big round for Cymulate, doubling its total raised to $141 million, and while the startup is not disclosing its valuation, I understand from sources that it is around the $500 million mark.

Wachsman noted that the funding is coming on the heels of a big year for the startup (the irony being that the constantly escalating issue of cybersecurity and growing threat landscape spells good news for companies built to combat that). Revenues have doubled, although it’s not disclosing any numbers today, and the company is now at over 200 employees and works with some 500 paying customers across the enterprise and mid-market, including NTT, Telit, and Euronext, up from 300 customers a year ago.

Wachsman, who co-founded the company with Avihai Ben-Yossef and Eyal Gruner, said he first thought of the idea of building a platform to continuously test an organization’s threat posture in 2016, after years of working in cybersecurity consulting for other companies. He found that no matter how much effort his customers and outside consultants put into architecting security solutions annually or semi-annually, those gains were potentially lost each time a malicious hacker made an unexpected move.

“If the bad guys decided to penetrate the organization, they could, so we needed to find a different approach,” he said. He looked to AI and machine learning for the solution, a complement to everything already in the organization, to build “a machine that allows you to test your security controls and security posture, continuously and on demand, and to get the results immediately… one step before the hackers.”

Last year, Wachsman described Cymulate’s approach to me as “the largest cybersecurity consulting firm without consultants,” but in reality the company does have its own large in-house team of cybersecurity researchers, white-hat hackers who are trying to find new holes — new bugs, zero days and other vulnerabilities — to develop the intelligence that powers Cymulate’s platform.

These insights are then combined with other assets, for example the MITRE ATT&CK framework, a knowledge base of threats, tactics and techniques used by a number of other cybersecurity services, including others building continuous validation services that compete with Cymulate. (Competitors include the likes of FireEye, Palo Alto Networks, Randori, AttackIQ and many more.)

Cymulate’s work comes in the form of network maps that detail a company’s threat profile, with technical recommendations for remediation and mitigations, as well as an executive summary that can be presented to financial teams and management who might be auditing security spend. It also has built tools for running security checks when integrating any services or IT with third parties, for instance in the event of an M&A process or when working in a supply chain.

Today the company focuses on network security, which is big enough in itself but also leaves the door open for Cymulate to acquire companies in other areas like application security — or to build that for itself. “This is something on our roadmap,” said Wachsman.

If potential M&A leads to more fundraising for Cymulate, it helps that the startup is in one of the handful of categories that are going to continue to see a lot of attention from investors.

“Cybersecurity is clearly an area that we think will benefit from the current macroeconomic environment, versus maybe some of the more capital-intensive businesses like consumer internet or food delivery,” said David Klein, a managing partner at One Peak. Within that, he added, “The best companies [are those] that are mission critical for their customers… Those will continue to attract very good multiples.”

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Open-source password manager Bitwarden raises $100M – TechCrunch

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Bitwarden, an open-source password manager for enterprises and consumers, has raised $100 million in a round of funding led by PSG, with participation form Battery Ventures.

Founded initially back in 2015, Santa Barbara, California-based Bitwarden operates in a space that includes well-known incumbents including 1Password, which recently hit a $6.8 billion valuation off the back of a $620 million fundraise, and Lastpass, which was recently spun out as an independent company again two years after landing in the hands of private equity firms.

In a nutshell, Bitwarden and its ilk make it easier for people to generate secure passwords automatically, and store all their unique passwords and sensitive information such as credit card data in a secure digital vault, saving them from reusing the same insecure password across all their online accounts.

Bitwarden’s big differentiator, of course, lies in the fact that it’s built atop an open-source codebase, which for super security-conscious individuals and businesses is a good thing — they can fully inspect the inner-workings of the platform. Moreover, people can contribute back to the codebase and expedite development of new features.

On top of a basic free service, Bitwarden ships a bunch of paid-for premium features and services, including advanced enterprise features like single sign-on (SSO) integrations and identity management.

Bitwarden

It’s worth noting that today’s “minority growth investment” represents Bitwarden’s first substantial external funding in its seven year history, though we’re told that it did raise a small undisclosed series A round back in 2019. Its latest cash injection is indicative of how the world has changed in the intervening years. The rise of remote work, with people increasingly meshing personal and work accounts on the same devices, means the same password is used across different services. And such poor password and credential hygiene puts businesses at great risk.

Additionally, growing competition and investments in the management space means that Bitwarden can’t rest on its laurels — it needs to expand, and that is what its funds will be used for. Indeed, Bitwarden has confirmed plans to extend its offering into several aligned security and privacy verticals, including secrets management — something that 1Password expanded into last year via its SecretHub acquisition.

“The timing of the investment is ideal, as we expand into opportunities in developer secrets, passwordless technologies, and authentication,” Bitwarden CEO Michael Crandell noted in a press release. “Most importantly, we aim to continue to serve all Bitwarden users for the long haul.”

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downgrade the ‘middle-men’ resellers – TechCrunch

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As well as the traditional carbon offset resellers and exchanges such as Climate Partner or Climate Impact X the tech space has also produced a few, including Patch (US-based, raised $26.5M) and Lune (UK-based, raised $4M).

Now, Ceezer, a B2B marketplace for carbon credits, has closed a €4.2M round, led by Carbon Removal Partners with participation of impact-VC Norrsken VC and with existing investor Picus Capital. 

Ceezer ’s pitch is that companies have to deal with a lot of complexity when considering how they address carbon removal and reduction associated with their businesses. Whie they can buy offsetting credits, the market remains pretty ‘wild-west’, and has multiple competing standards running in parallel. For instance, the price range of $5 to $500 per ton is clearly all over the place, and sometimes carbon offset resellers make buyers pay high prices for low-quality carbon credits, pulling in extra revenues from a very opaque market.

The startup’s offering is for corporates to integrate both carbon removal and avoidance credits in one package. It does this by mining the offsetting market for lots of data points, enabling carbon offset sellers to reach buyers without having to use these middle-men resellers.

The startup claims that sellers no longer waste time and money on bespoke contracts with corporates but instead use Ceezer’s legal framework for all transactions. Simultaneously, buyers can access credits at a primary market level, maximizing the effect of the dollars they spend on carbon offsets.

Ceezer says it now has over 50 corporate customers and has 200,000 tons of carbon credits to sell across a variety of categories.
 and will use the funds to expand its impact and sourcing team, the idea being to make carbon removal technologies more accessible to corporate buyers, plus widen the product offering for credit sellers and buyers.

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