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It’s the Sci-Fi Disaster Scenario That Didn’t Happen — But Barely

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

STORM

From CNet.com:

A fascinating NASA presentation suggests that in July 2012 Earth was one week away from being struck by a massive solar storm that would have had devastating effects.

NASA’s own Science News describes this event as being “perilous.” Indeed, as perilous as “an asteroid big enough to knock modern civilization back to the 18th century.”

There are plenty of people here on Earth who are already machinating to send us back to the 18th century. Clearly, there’s something alluring about olden times.

In this case, however, it’s the coronal mass ejection that’s captivating minds. This solar storm “tore through Earth orbit in 2012,” says Science News. “Fortunately Earth wasn’t there.”

I just got back from three days in the woods, with no gadgets, no electricity, no nothin’. It’s fun to get away from all the glowing screens we spend so much of our modern lives staring into, but it’s also a lot of work. I had myself, my two boys, and my young niece to take care of, which meant that by the time I’d finished cleaning up from breakfast, it was nearly time to start on lunch. The afternoons were wet, the nights were cold. At the end of the day I was too tired to even bother with the Kindle I’d brought along. Last night before bed I liberated one of Melissa’s prescription-strength Ibuprofens, just to make sure my woodland collection of aches and pains wouldn’t keep me up. There were extra batteries for a couple of LED lanterns and various flashlights — but if those wore out, then what? Well, civilization was about 45 minutes away by way of an occasionally questionable gravel road.

And if something turned off the lights in town, too?

“Getting away from it all” presumes having something to get away from — and something to get back to, too.

I’ll take modern life, thanks.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The Next Big Player in the Drone Wars?

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

MR ROBOTO

Japan:

For decades Japan has been the world’s playground for design innovation. But now it may become ground zero for the future of something far more hostile: military drones.

The country has positioned itself as one of the unlikely players in the escalating global race for military drones, a move that’s controversial both at home and abroad.

Controversial? Sure, given Japan’s history and Article 9 of its constitution. Unlikely? Not really. Drones play on Japan’s strengths in aerospace and miniaturization, while sidestepping her major manpower weakness. I once had a daydream of a future Japan, barely populated by septuagenarians and up, protected by fully automated swarms of lightning fast and extremely deadly robots and missiles. Think of a retirement home in a dangerous neighborhood, defended by The Matrix.

Isn’t that the way Japan is already going?

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Microsoft’s Very Expensive Nokia Mistake

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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Microsoft announced its biggest layoffs ever, and the underlying message is that buying Nokia was a mistake. Workers at the formerly-independent phonemaker will take the brunt of the cuts.

Google tried to buy its way into relevance as a smartphone maker by buying Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. They sold it off barely more than two years later for less than $3 billion. Late last year Microsoft bought Nokia’s handset division for $7.2 billion, and that has already turned out not to be worth much more than the prices of several thousand pink slips and severance packages.

These troubles are nothing unique to Google or to Microsoft — mergers & acquisitions are hard, and rarely work out as planned. And that’s if they work out at all. Ford and GM went on a buying spree of foreign automakers (SAAB, Jaguar, Aston-Martin, etc) and proceeded very quickly to drive them all into the dirt. It’s very difficult for a company to buy its way into relevancy in new markets. Ford had about as much business building Jaguars as Google did building its own smartphones.

When buyouts do work, it tends to be when a much bigger company is the buyer of a much smaller company, to gain needed technology or desired expertise, and then impose its own corporate culture on the buy-ee. Marriages usually work best as a partnership of equals; buyouts usually work best when one company completely loses its identity.

It’s an expensive lesson, but business leaders never seem to tire of learning it.

****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit, image illustration via shutterstock / Ivan1981Roo

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What TV Shows Were the Most Ahead of Their Time?

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Also check out Monday’s question “Is The Prisoner Actually a Continuation of Secret Agent?,” Tuesday’s question: “Is The Prisoner TV’s Greatest Cult Classic?,” Wednesday’s question:What Are the Top 5 Episodes of The Prisoner? and Francis Poretto’s great essay. “Escaping The Village: Freedom And The Prisoner.”

Andrew X, yesterday:

You want “ahead-of-its-time”? “Ahead-of-its-time???

Take a look at this episode list for ‘Max Headroom’.

Max Headroom [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Headroom_(TV_series)]

When the show debuted in 1985 (UK), the computer mouse had been on market just one year. Windows, in so far as it existed, was a DOS interface. Few knew what a modem was, and a standard one would probably load this web page in about six hours. Cell phones for millionaires were the size of a brick. (Cue ‘Wall Street’ beach scene ref.) The Internet was eight years away.

Read that list, then let’s talk about “ahead-of-its-time”.

MaxHeadroom_Comp_anim

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Historic Apple/IBM Mobile Agreement

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

ibmpcvsappleiiSomething like 98% of Fortune 500 companies were already considering or had already deployed (with the accent on “deployed”) iOS devices with their employees. But now IT might not grumble so much about having to do it:

Apple has announced a strategic partnership with IBM that will see the enterprise giant transfer over 150 of their enterprise and IT apps and tools to Apple platforms natively, and will also have IBM selling Apple iPhones and iPads to its business clients all over the world. In an interview with CNBC, Apple CEO Tim Cook and IBM CEO Virginia Rometty both told the network that Apple and IBM are like “puzzle pieces” that fit perfectly together.

“We knew that we needed to have a partner that deeply understood each of the verticals,” Cook told CNBC. “That had scale, that had a lot of dirt under their fingernails so to speak from really understanding each of these verticals and we found a kindred spirit in IBM.”

Apple touts the access the partnership gives them to IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities, and talks about how the apps that it produces with IBM will be developed “from the ground up for iPhone and iPad.” These apps will supplement new cloud services aimed at iOS specifically, including security and analytics solutions, and device management tools for large-scale MDM deployments.

That’s big. How big? BlackBerry shares pretty much disintegrated in afterhours trading. IBM calls it “MobileFirst,” which should give you some indication of where Android ranks in their plans. Or as Larry Dignan reports:

The biggest challenge for team Android is that Google and Samsung, two partners with enterprise ambitions, will have to herd cats to reach corporations. Android will need channel, integration and services support and there are few players that can match IBM’s reach.

The irony is workstation-class. In 1981, Apple gently teased IBM [See print ad above] for being late to the personal computer revolution, when they introduced the IBM PC four years after the Apple II debuted. Behind the scenes Steve Jobs was deeply worried, and thought the Macintosh, then under top secret development, was the Rebel Alliance’s only hope for saving the galaxy from IBM — he could be a little dramatic sometimes. When the Mac debuted, it was to Ridley Scott’s famous “1984” Super Bowl ad, in which Big Blue was Big Brother.

Could this deal have happened under Jobs, or was Tim Cook a necessary ingredient? I don’t know; both companies are very different, and in very different positions, than they were 33 years ago. But in the Apple vs Android wars this is a typical Apple-like move. Instead of going against Android’s strengths by trying to sell cheaper iPhones and iPad, Apple is increasing the utility of their existing, premium devices with a strategic partnership.

Android won’t be going away, simply because it enjoys too much utility as a perfectly serviceable OS for OEMs who don’t want to (or can’t) spend much money on little things like the user experience. But Apple just got a huge leg up with the corporate buyers who place orders for thousands of devices at once.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The Time for Windows Is Closing

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

BROKEN WINDOWS

Ouch:

With Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella battling to shoehorn Windows into more and more devices, the OS behemoth is forecast to swell by – er – half a percentage point from close of last year to the end of next.

Folks at Gartner told us Windows accounted for 13.96 per cent of the 2.33 billion devices shipped globally in 2013, and that they expect a dip this year to 13.7 per cent of the 2.43 billion units that will find a home. The analyst house added that the operating system is projected to climb to 14.4 per cent of the 2.59 billion PCs, smartphones, tabs and Ultrabooks estimated to be flogged in 2015.

“Microsoft is still trying to transition beyond PCs into ultra mobile and phones,” said research director Ranjit Atwal. “They are not making inroads, the volumes are still pretty small relative to the overall market.”

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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5 Cool Tech Stories From This Week

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

1. J.K. Rowling almost broke the Internet. She published a Harry Potter short story and civilization nearly ended.

2. A Turkish student has come up with a 3D printed cast that supposedly heals bones as much as 80% faster than conventional casts.

It’s pretty cool-looking.

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14 Fascinating Inventors and Innovators from the South

Sunday, July 6th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Made in the South Pocket Tee  White Large

After my post a few weeks ago debunking myths about the South, the idea came to me to look into different inventors from Dixie.

I found that, as with many regions of the country, most Southern inventors came up with products we don’t use anymore or don’t really think about. But some really fascinating inventions and innovations originated in the minds of Southern men and women.

From agricultural advances to technological breakthroughs to revolutionary beverages, the South can claim quite a few innovations. Here are fourteen of them…

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BlackBerry’s Late, Great Hope

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 - by Stephen Green

PASSPORT

Longer version…

It’s big. Really big. CrackBerry got their hands on a preview copy, and it weighs almost twice as much as an iPhone 5S. The reviewer, who seems to love it, says ” it fits in your pocket… it fits and it’s snug.” This reminds me of when Ford bragged about the “road-hugging weight” of the Pinto, because that was the best thing they could think to say about their new pony car. The camera is nice, but takes three whole seconds to take a single HDR picture. My son’s hand-me-down iPhone 4S from 2011 does it in about one second, and my 2013-vintage 5S takes them nearly-instantaneously. The keyboard is excellent, and the predictive typing might just be the best in the business, but it’s impossible — even for CB’s large-handed review — to type with one hand. His thumb couldn’t even reach the entire screen.

Did I mention it weighs just shy of seven ounces? A full-size, 10-inch iPad Air only weighs 16 ounces; an iPad Mini just 11.

There’s probably a niche left for this monster, but it certainly isn’t going to win back any Android or iPhone users.

****

cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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65 Movies & Shows Come to Netflix in July. Here Are 10 You Should Watch

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

10. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

I suppose in one sense, Netflix serves the same purpose as Facebook: perpetual high school reunion and never-ending nostalgia fests, reminders of a time before adulthood and the weight of responsibilities.

Nowadays when I go back and watch some film that was fun or memorable from childhood or adolescence I tend to see it more from the parents’ perspective, relating to those characters, rather than the kids. I wonder how Honey, I Shrunk the Kids will hold up when rewatching it. Rather than experiencing it as a child wandering through the grass and inner-tubing in a cheerio, I’ll consider it as the father searching for his lost children…

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What Not to Wear

Monday, June 30th, 2014 - by Stephen Green
Not an actual smartwatch.

Not an actual smartwatch.

Who wears Android Wear? Not Steve Kovach:

I used one of the new Android Wear smartwatches, Samsung’s Gear Live, for several hours Thursday, and my wrist hasn’t stopped buzzing since I synced the device with my phone.

New email? Buzz. New text? Buzz. The thing won’t shut up. I’m one of those guys who obsessively checks his phone, but this is too much for me. Plus Android Wear ties in with Google’s digital assistant service Google Now, which attempts to help you out by notifying you about stuff it thinks you want to know about like upcoming flights or package deliveries.

So there are even more things to look at.

This isn’t the answer. Instead of solving the problem of whipping my phone out several times a day, Android Wear makes me nervous and anxious from all this hyper-connectivity. If I’m to ever go all in on a smartwatch it needs to be simpler than this.

The problem is that Gear Live is too simple — that is, nobody at Samsung put any effort into what a smartwatch should actually do, and what it shouldn’t. So instead of being a smart watch, it chirps at you with absolutely every little detail, like when my older son is showing off his latest LEGO scorpion creation.

That’s cute in an eight-year-old kid; less so in something you wear on your wrist during, say, a business meeting. Or when driving your car.

A smartwatch should be simpler, yes — but creating simplicity requires sweating out every detail and a lot of hard design choices by the manufacturer. So when Kovach says that the copycats at Samsung did neither of those things in their rush to bring a craptaculent product to market, I’m not at all surprised.

Supposedly Apple will introduce an iWatch this fall. Maybe once Samsung has somebody to crib off of, they’ll do a better job.

(H/T, Gruber.)

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The 10 Most Terrible, Overrated Shows on Netflix Streaming You Must Avoid

Saturday, June 28th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

10. Amish Mafia

I think it’s with Amish Mafia that the “reality TV” trend jumped the shark. It was at this point that premises for shows had to start becoming so outlandish and ridiculous that viewers could no longer be expected to put up with the charade that they’re watching something “real.” With Amish Mafia the show has to be upfront about the fact that the footage is all actually “reenactments.” It’s the TV version of non-alcoholic beer.

The show’s amusing novelty — hearing the Pennsylvania Dutch spoken by some Amish subtitled and saying thuggish things — wears off quick.

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This Is Not the Mac You’re Looking For

Thursday, June 26th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

iMac

Apple announced a new “budget” iMac last week, starting at $1099 for an Intel i5 machine with Apple’s gorgeous 21.5″ IPS display. But there’s a catch:

As you can read in our full benchmark report, there is now a wide performance gap between the low-end iMac and the next step up the product line. The new $1099 iMac was slower across the board, and 54 percent slower overall, than the $1299 21.5-inch system. One thing to note: We weren’t crazy about the $1299 model when it shipped. It offered just modest speed improvements over the October 2012 system and most of that was due to the $1299 iMac’s use of Iris Pro graphics—which are not included in the new $1099 system.

Back when I was buying bleeding-edge Windows machines from various vendors, the sweet spot on the price/performance curve was to buy Intel’s second-fastest CPU and match it with the second-fastest GPU from whoever was the hot name at the time. I always aimed above the sweet spot, which is how I ended up with a 200mhz Pentium Pro with a Number Nine video card (remember them?), which at the time was the absolute fastest all-SCSI beast you could buy.

Within months, Intel debuted MMX multimedia instructions on their regular Pentium chips, and GFX put Number Nine on the curb with affordable 3D graphics. Sometimes, top-end buyers get burned.

But bottom-end buyers always get burned, if they’re looking for any kind of performance. For about 17% more money, you can buy yourself more than 50% more performance. Maybe you don’t need a screaming gaming rig, but even just a little future-proofing can go a long way.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The 7 Revolutionary Silly Symphony Cartoons That Won Oscars In the 1930s

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

From 1929 through 1939 the Walt Disney studio released 75 short cartoons in the Silly Symphony series. Starting in March I began watching and featuring them all at PJ Lifestyle to learn more about the culture, history, and technology of the period. It’s really neat to see how the series evolved from beginning to end as Disney utilized it as a kind of experimental laboratory for testing new ideas that would later make it into the feature films. Fantasia – which has become one of my absolute favorite films in recent years, I’ll often have it on in the background while writing — can be understood as the ultimate Silly Symphony. So many of the themes and techniques developed over the decade would find their greatest expression there (a subject that I’ll write about more soon.)

I’ve scheduled the last two Silly Symphony cartoons for tomorrow and Friday. Now that I’ve seen them all I’ll be organizing them into a few lists and collections to highlight the good, the bad, the ugly, and the fascinating. And starting on Monday the PJ Lifestyle Cartoon at Noon feature will take a break from Disney and turn to another company and its standard bearer: Fleischer studios and Betty Boop.

But to start, so others can start to see the fascinating pattern of advancement over the decade, here’s a collection of the 7 Silly Symphony cartoons that won Oscars, along with some remarks on each. 

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Dr. Dre: The Next Steve Jobs?

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

The Wall Street Journal’s Apple reporting is generally so bad that I rarely bother reading their stories. The widely and thoroughly discredited book, Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs, was written by WSJ’s own Yukari Iwatani Kane, which was really the pinnacle of the kind of story WSJ routinely published about the company. So it was a bit of a shock over the weekend when just about every tech blog I read linked to this story comparing Steve Jobs with brand-new Apple employee Dr. Dre.

But there’s good stuff in there, including this:

Behind the scenes, Dr. Dre—whose real name is Andre Young —has quietly played an equally powerful role developing and protecting the Beats brand, eschewing market research for gut instinct at every turn. Though his main obsession is perfecting the sound of the company’s signature high-end headphones, the 49-year-old fitness-obsessed music producer weighs in decisively on everything from TV ads and font styles to the wordiness of descriptions on the Beats Music streaming service.

As one colleague says, Dr. Dre serves as Beats’ “cultural barometer” of what is cool.

But Dr. Dre’s process is mysterious, colleagues say: His assessments are usually immediate, personal and articulated sparely. He often dismisses ideas such as posing for clichéd photos in a recording studio as too “corny” or “cheesy.” Or he’ll wave them off with a terse “I’m not feeling that.”

The Beats acquisition is starting to make more and more sense.

It might still prove to be misguided or unprofitable, but I’m finally “feeling” what Tim Cook must have been when he decided to plunk down $3 billion for the company.

But then there’s another bit slightly further down:

Dr. Dre’s perfectionist impulse, coupled with his disregard for artificial deadlines, have meant that “he doesn’t put out a lot of material,” despite being a workaholic, said Paul Rosenberg, a lawyer and manager of one of Dr. Dre’s protégés, rapper Eminem.

That could portend friction at his new employer, Apple, which agreed to buy Beats for $3 billion last month. [Emphasis added]

Putting in tons of work on very few highly profitable products? Why, Dre sounds nothing at all like Apple, whose entire product line could fit comfortably on your kitchen table.

Isn’t there one damn reporter at that paper who understands Apple?

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Apple Going After Search?

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Well:

While users will still look to Google when searching in their web browser, the role of search in the modern operating system is more than the browser. It can be evoked in almost any application, and global search is generally a key-press or a touch gesture away.

For Apple this means Spotlight. In the new versions of their operating systems, Google results will be removed from Spotlight and replaced with Microsoft’s Bing. Of course Apple is going to offer searches through iTunes, the App Store, Apple Maps, iBooks, and more, but the prize of web searches in Spotlight now goes to Redmond.

One of the features of OS X Yosemite due out this fall is how much Spotlight has been moved front and center — literally — and how much more power it’s been given. I’ll likely be opening up far fewer search tabs in Safari, and I suspect that’s exactly the point.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Is Amazon’s New Music Streaming Scheme Aiming at the Fogies?

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 - by Stephen Green

shutterstock_118151752

Amazon bringing free music streaming to Prime customers, but there is a catch:

The company will expand its Prime membership offerings by adding a stockpile of old and newish music for subscribers to stream on demand. The Prime music service, which is scheduled to launch this June or July, will not include recent releases but instead restrict its catalog to songs and albums that are 6 months old and older, five music industry sources familiar with the company’s plans confirmed to BuzzFeed.

Fogies like myself are Amazon’s most-likely Prime customers, and also the customers least interested in the latest music — so the catch is far from a deal-breaker. But when you consider that Prime customers already pony up $99 a year (up from $79), Amazon’s new service makes it harder to justify the $500 million Apple paid for Beats Music as part of the Beats acquisition.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

image via shutterstock / Alexander Raths

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Censoring Google?

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 - by Stephen Green

shutterstock_143231788

Here’s the first result of that recent EU court decision on search engines:

Google is starting to accept requests from Europeans who want to erase unflattering information from the results produced by the world’s dominant search engine.

The demands can be submitted on a Web page that Google opened late Thursday in response to a landmark ruling issued two weeks ago by Europe’s highest court.

The decision gives Europeans the means to polish their online reputations by petitioning Google and other search engines to remove potentially damaging links to newspaper articles and other websites with embarrassing information about their past activities.

I’m not being facetious when I ask, “What’s a search engine for?” Embarrassing or not, we expect to get our search results, all the search results, and nothing but the search results. We don’t expect Google to deliver instead what amounts to hagiography of some politician best known for graft or having his pants around his ankles.

Government should have no authority over the web.

Zero.

None.

But that wouldn’t suit our betters now, would it?

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

image via shutterstock / Lightspring

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Haunting Melissa Wins Appy

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

Oh hey, this is really nice. Haunting Melissa, the unique serial ghost story movie told through an iOS app, has won the 2014 Appy Award for best entertainment app of last year. I wrote the script to the film based on a story by me and Neal Edelstein. Neal designed the app and directed the film. It’s extremely cool stuff, very spooky. New installments pop up on your iOS device when the spirit moves them, so to speak, and you’re alerted by creepy whispers. Watch the film with a headset to get the full effect.

Here’s a trailer:

YouTube Preview Image

Got an iPhone or iPad? You can download the app here. It’s free, though there’s a cost for content as you go along. Not much though compared to a movie — and you get a lot more hours of entertainment.

*****

Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

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Reports of the Death of the Tablet Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Friday, May 30th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Galen Gruman has a good Infoworld column on why Windows tablets aren’t selling, and why the new Surface Pro 3 is unlikely to do much better — although there’s nothing there that Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Readers™ haven’t known since the first model was introduced two years ago. But something still stood out:

The iPad is four years old this year, and in its short life it has taken the world by storm, creating a new class of computing device that has sold well over 200 million units. Everyone is trying to copy it, with many Android tablets and a bunch of Windows tablets all trying to ride the iPad’s coattails. Never mind that the iPad itself seems to be running out of gas, and it’s unclear whether Apple can refill the tank.

A big part of last quarter’s decline in iPad sales was nothing more than adjustment, not in sales, but in the sales channel. Tim Cook had overshot the year before, making the same quarter this year look worse than it actually was. But overall, sales were down slightly after a phenomenal Christmas quarter.

What it looks like from here is that the tablet market is already a mature one, after just three years. And just like the smartphone market, you have Apple sucking up most of the profits, Android generating tons of sales to people who don’t much use the things, and Windows in a distant third place wondering what the heck just happened.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Seeking Relevance, Networks Broadcast Live

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

David Bauder at the AP reports:

Networks are adjusting to the changed world of how people watch their programs: hours or weeks later on DVR, online or on-demand. But the industry’s financial structure hasn’t caught up yet, so viewers who watch when a program is first aired – once the only way to watch – are considered more valuable.

That’s why Fox is putting on a live production of “Grease” and NBC is remaking “The Music Man.” Fox is recreating an Evel Knievel motorcycle jump. ABC touts its Oscars telecast and other awards shows. NBC locked up Olympics rights through 2032, and CBS won a bidding war to show NFL football on Thursday night.

Sports usually gets little or no attention in network sales pitches to advertisers. Not this year. ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox all gave sports a starring role. Why? Very few people DVR sports events.

ABC made the point explicit with a message on a wide video screen: “Your DVR can’t handle live.”

“We’re obsessed with trying to eventize everything we can – even episodes of our scripted shows,” said Robert Greenblatt, NBC’s entertainment chief.

“It’s about the urgency to view,” said Fox’s Kevin Reilly.

When Lucy and Desi went live to tape in the 1950s, the audience revolved around the celebrity’s schedule. Now, with the power of recording in the hands of the viewers, the networks are scrambling to get their celebrities ready for something TV actors haven’t needed to do in a long time: Go live.

Reality TV changed the way networks styled television in the early 2000s. Now, social media is changing the way networks market their product. Being a part of the “cultural conversation” is paramount; unfortunately, it also means a steady diet of imitation and near-naked chicks, as Bauder’s quick quiz illustrates:

QUICK QUIZ

Which of the following lines was NOT uttered at a network presentation last week:

A) “A lot of people called `Battlestar Galactica’ one of the best shows ever.”

B) “This series is `Game of Thrones’ meets `The Borgias’ meets `The Bible.’”

C) “We have two hours of bloody, sexy drama.”

D) “Some of our new shows will disappear before you even realize they’re on the air.”

If you answered anything other than D, then you have something to learn about the atmosphere of hype and hope that accompanies this week every year.

Can the Big Three really compete with streaming services like Netflix who are willing to invest in original programming and dish it out in an a la carte fashion? Or, will the thrill and nostalgia of live television force even the most radical of new service providers to push the Internet to its streaming capacity?

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What Is ‘The Apple Experience’?

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

The first Apple Store opened 13 years ago yesterday in McLean, Virginia. What’s remarkable is how little Apple had to sell at first.

There was no iPad until 2010, no iPhone until 2007, and even the iPod didn’t debut until months later in October of 2001. Pretty much all Apple had at the time was the four Mac product lines — iMac, iBook, Power Mac and PowerBook. None sold in any great numbers.

Watch the video and you’ll see what Apple did have to sell — “the Apple experience,” for lack of a better phrase. Buy a Mac and you enter the world of the Mac as your digital hub, and the Apple Store was the place where they’d teach you how to put it all together. The hub is now cloud-based, but the experience customers buy into is the same — great gear which comes with well-trained “geniuses” to help you get the most out of it.

Other companies make great product — maybe not insanely great, but still — but they can’t duplicate Apple’s experience from purchase, through training, and, yes, through the inevitable problems and eventual upgrades.

Tech geeks who look at price and specs without ever actually shopping at an Apple Store, or talking to people about why they do, suffer from a very bad case of Just Not Getting It. And that’s OK, because price & specs is all that many people need when making a buying decision. But for millions more, there are now 424 stores in 16 countries — and they generate more profit per square foot than any other retail store anywhere, ever.

Not bad for a company which had no prior retail experience and had been weeks away from bankruptcy just four years before opening its first store.

******

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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You Would Never Guess Which Ancient Word Processor George R.R. Martin Uses To Write Game of Thrones

Monday, May 19th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

WORDSTAR 4.0

Old school:

The next time someone makes fun of you for never updating Microsoft Word or for still typing on an old iMac, consider yourself on the cutting edge compared to George R.R. Martin.

The “Game of Thrones” author confessed to late-night talk-show host Conan O’Brien that he prefers to write his popular books on a DOS word processor instead of the latest laptop.

“I actually have two computers,” Martin told Conan. “I have a computer I browse the Internet with and I get my email on, and I do my taxes on. And then I have my writing computer, which is a DOS machine, not connected to the Internet. I use WordStar 4.0 as my word processing system.”

Respect.

The last word processor I really loved was Word 95, which IIRC was just a 32-but recompile of the previous version to run on Windows 95. It was fast, stable, not wired into the internet in any way, and it didn’t try to do anything “for” me except to format my text the way I told it to.

But WordStar? Niiiiiiiiiiiice.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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A Hoverbike Built for Two

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

AERO-X HOVERBIKE

I’ll wait for a heavier-duty version capable of hauling my camping equipment.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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