Jun 302010

Microsoft sure is getting good at killing products. Last month it was the non-product Courier, which got some significant starring roles in animations that were leaked to the tech press around the time of the iPad’s launch.

This month Redmond is putting its recently-released Kin phones out to pasture – less than 2 months after a marketing blitz of a release that featured impeccably-dressed angsty tweens and continued a Microsoft tradition of top-notch advertising. The company says it will integrate the Kin group, led by Sidekick data-killer Roz Ho, with the Windows Phone Series 7 Series Phone Thingy team.

It’s refreshing to see Microsoft being able to pull the plug not just on products they had no intention of releasing anyway, but on things that actually ship. This level of discipline and self-awareness bodes well for them, even if the 48 day flameout of a major product line is – how can one put this gently – a fucking abomination? If realizing no one wants your consumer electronics offerings is the prerequisite for getting axed, one wonders if Microsoft will even have a Entertainment and Devices division in the near term.

Jun 302010

After much speculation, Hulu announced Hulu Plus – its pay service that will run on multiple platforms, including the iPad, iPhone 4 and iPhone3GS. For $9.99/month, you get a deeper reservoir of TV show content, both current and past as well as access to a limited (as in, “High Fidelity” is the only movie I recognized at a glance) pool of movies.

The good:

-It runs on all current Apple devices. As a bonus, it tweaks Adobe, who is constantly dropping the Hulu name as the major reason iOS devices need Flash. Suck it, Narayen.

-Most content is in 720p

-There’s a lot of network TV to watch?

The bad:

-Still has ads. Seriously.

-It’s a little less than a basic cable subscription and $9.99/month more than over-the-air HD. A basic Netflix account will give you streaming access to one metric buttload of movies (as current as the “Surrogates” vintage) and season after season of TV shows (including BBC content) for a buck less a month. It’ll also give you access to first-run DVD titles by mail.

Now you may have guessed that I’m not a huge network TV guy. Maybe it’s because I like swearing too much. Maybe it’s because seeing Meredith Grey’s terrible complexion in HD combined with her incessant on-screen whining is a recipe for an instant aneurism. I also understand that this is the Future of Television (bold to denote major scary paradigm shift) and therefore the networks have to price this as aggressively as they can get away with before they back down to something that a rational person would pay. But $9.99 ain’t it. Also, with regard to including advertising in your pay service model: get fucked.

I do appreciate your tweaking Adobe, however. So there’s that.

Jun 292010

Congratulations to Cupertino on the most successful product launch in Apple’s – and unless there’s some contradictory data that I’m missing – mobile phone history. Almost 2 million phones with no pre-launch TV advertising. Stick that in your creepy CGI eye, Motorola.

Did I mention the iPhone 4 is only available in 5 countries?

It looks like the stock market has responded to the news! Apple is…down $11 as of 11 am EST. What I wouldn’t give for some disposable income.

In other news, Nokia tried a clever riff on the issues with the new iPhone’s antennas, only to get their shit served by customers having the exact same issues with Nokia phones. Fire your writers and go back to making shitastic hardware.

 Posted by at 11:00 am
Jun 282010

Are you one of those people who pick apart the glaring inconsistencies in political ads and hour-long network dramas? No? Then you’re probably stupid. Pop the blue pill, click ‘back’ on your browser and go back to your daytime TV.

I would say that Microsoft is the master of cherry-picked factual support for advertising, but “mastery” would imply that they do it well. I guess “most egregiously bad abuser” is more the term I’m looking for.

Last week, Microsoft got a little testy about constantly getting kicked around by everyone in the tech media for being the visionless re-hasher of decade-old technology they are. So did they make some earth-shattering announcement that would change the face of computing as we know it? Of course not. They sent out a reminder about how much money they make. In classic Redmond form, this handpicked collection of numbers by Frank X. Shaw, Corporate VP of Corporate Communications (Redundancy Division) is missing a little bit of context. Let’s see if we can add some, shall we?

Number of Windows 7 licenses sold, making Windows 7 by far the fastest growing operating system in history.

Fastest growing? By growth, you’re saying that every new license sold represents a new user. That’s not the case.

Actually interesting questions that won’t be answered: How many of these are actually new users and not people who took Vista off because it sucked so hard? And how many of these licenses are not pre-installed on computers. You know – licenses with an actual margin. I’d bet money it’s less than 10% of those 150 million.

7.1 million – Projected iPad sales for 2010.

58 million – Projected netbook sales in 2010

355 millionProjected PC sales in 2010

So you’re going to sell almost three times as many Windows 7 licenses in 2010 as you did in 2009? Fascinating optimism. Or absolute horseshit – one of the two.

Actually interesting questions that won’t be answered: How many PCs and netbooks end up getting sold in 2010? How much coin does 413 million Windows 7 licenses translate into versus the 7.1 million (LOL@that estimate, by the way) iPads being sold in 2010? Betcha it’s pretty close.

<10 Percentage of US netbooks running Windows in 2008.

96 – Percentage of US netbooks running Windows in 2009.

This year represents the time between when Microsoft thought netbooks would go nowhere (classic prescience on Redmond’s part) and the time it took for them to muscle PC makers into letting them give away XP for nothing. Another shovel-full of cash into the fire in the race to the bottom. Well played, Frank.

Actually interesting questions that won’t be answered: How much revenue was generated from netbooks Windows licensing?

0 – Number of paying customers running on Windows Azure in November 2009.

10,000 – Number of paying customers running on Windows Azure in June 2010.

700,000 – Number of students, teachers and staff using Microsoft’s cloud productivity tools in Kentucky public schools, the largest cloud deployment in the US.

I have no clue what Azure is, so I had to look it up: “Windows Azure™ is a cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform.” OK – that clears nothing up. Here’s what I do know: 0 -10,000 customers in 7 months? Killer launch, guys.

And the 700,000 Kentucky public school users of Microsoft’s cloud productivity tools? You mean the state that has an adult illiteracy rate of 40% and ranks 47th in the nation for percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree? Congratulations on that accomplishment. I can see the wall plaque in Redmond now.

Actually interesting questions that won’t be answered: What the fuck is Azure?

16 million Total subscribers to largest 25 US daily newspapers.

14 Million Total number of Netflix subscribers.

23 million Total number of Xbox Live subscribers.

Let’s start with the first number. I’ve played “which of these things is not like the others?” on Sesame Street for years and my record is flawless. What this number has to do with the other two is beyond my skill set. Is this supposed to be total number of people who…subscribe? to? stuff? Or something?

The real comparison, I assume, is between the second and third numbers, which is indeed interesting. It’s interesting that they compare the number of subscriptions for a U.S.-only video streaming service with the global subscriptions for Microsoft’s 6 year-old online gaming platform – that also recently added Netflix as one of its services.

Actually interesting question that won’t be answered: How many times has the fighter-jet-loud XBox 360 been used to access Netflix streaming content vs. the number of times someone has just fired up a browser – or even the Netflix iPad app – to do the same thing?

21.4 million Number of new Bing search users in one year.

You mean people who used Bing to search once? This is a year?

Actually interesting question that won’t be answered: How hilariously insignificant that number is compared to Google’s. I’d also like to know Microsoft’s “new user” to “dollars invested” ratio.

24% Linux Server market share in 2005.

33% Predicted Linux Server market share for 2007 (made in 2005).

21.2% Actual Linux Server market share, Q4 2009.

Let me see if I can get this straight: you like this number because in 2005 Linux extrapolated growth to go from 24 to 33% and their market share has actually fallen 3%. Golf clap? And your sources for the 2009 data are IDC, as reported by Preston Gralla at Computerworld. If there are any 2 entities in the Windows Shillaverse who have fellated Microsoft any harder, I have yet to find them. And I look.

8.8 million Global iPhone sales in Q1 2010.

21.5 million Nokia smartphone sales in Q1 2010.

55 million Total smartphone sales globally in Q1 2010.

439 million Projected global smartphone sales in 2014.

So this is the extent to which you’ve pissed away any market share you had in smartphones? No? Oh, I get it: this is the market you’re going to totally own once the Windows Phone 7 Series 7 Phone OSey Thing comes out. We’re all holding our breaths – honest.

Actually interesting question that won’t be answered: The number of Windows Mobile device sales in 2010.

$5.7 Billion – Apple Net income for fiscal year ending Sep 2009.

$6.5 Billion – Google Net income for fiscal year ending Dec 2009.

$14.5 Billion – Microsoft Net Income for fiscal year ending June 2009.

The Apple number is linked to Hoover’s. I don’t see $5.7 billion anywhere for Apple. I do see $8.235 billion listed for net income. How can this be?

Anyone who wanted to thoroughly report a comparison of net income – as opposed to a lazy, half-assed comparison designed to make their company look better – would know that on January 25, 2010, Apple filed a Form 10-K/A to amend its Form 10-K for the year ended September 26, 2009 to reflect the retrospective adoption of the new accounting principles. The $5.7 billion number, I assume, was the originally-reported number. I say “assume” because the number was actually corrected in the Hoover’s link given by Shaw, but somehow misreported by him. Amazing how that happened.

$23.0 billion – Total Microsoft revenue, FY2000.

$58.4 billion – Total Microsoft revenue, FY2009.

$7.98 billion – Total Apple revenue, FY2000

$42.9 billion – Total Apple revenue, FY2009

I like the slope of my graph better.

And then there’s the whole market cap thingy. I heard that means something. Apple’s now worth more than you and Dell combined. Some advice for Frank X. Shaw: 1. putting the X in your name makes you look like a pretentious tool. Get fucked with that middle initial shit. 2. Instead of selecting numbers that still get it up for you and don’t fool anyone but the most naive investor, maybe try looking at some numbers that are actually relevant to your “competitive” position?

Jun 112010

Apple is a company that brings out the worst in some people.  Whether they be fanboy-bashers or CEOs of bloated software juggernauts, there’s something about Steve’s condescending little smirk that drives people absolutely batshit.  I get it.  I really do.  For most of these individuals, the knowledge that I work with a superior OS is satisfaction enough.  But for a select few, the magnitude of their assholery cannot be dismissed by that melodic C Major chord.  These are the members of Douchebag’s Row.  This series is designed to honor those who, through word and/or deed, have distinguished themselves as something more than mere assholes.

Once upon a time, a writer started a blog satirizing the life and business decisions of Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs. In the early days of the blog, you could actually picture the opinionated and sometimes-vulgar head of Apple saying some of the things that the blog – Fake Steve Jobs – attributed to him. As Apple’s stock ascended, the mystery writer who penned the site’s entries gained quite a following.

But the laughs could not go on forever. The first blow came when a New York Times writer discovered that Fake Steve was actually some tech editor at Forbes named Dan Lyons. Then, after announcing that he was leaving the personna of FSJ behind because he was so distraught over Steve Jobs’s poor health, many of his snarky followers lamented their loss – for the 5 minutes it took Lyons to realize that he couldn’t produce anything that anyone gave a shit about but Fake Steve. Of course, Lyons spun Jobs’s return to Apple as the reason for his return to FSJ.

With this return, no doubt fueled by the certitude that aping someone else’s success was the only gig that was going to put food on his table, the darkness descended. Dan’s resentment of the role he chose for himself as Fake Steve began to boil. FSJ began manifesting his hatred of Jobs and Apple in less and less satirical ways. Lyons penned an unflattering recounting of the “backdating scandal” called iCon. Trying desperately to make something more of his career than jetwash recycler for Apple’s CEO, Lyons took a job at Newsweek as a writer on their tech beat, where he got several additional opportunities to snipe at Apple while continuing to bare his teeth as FSJ.  The infectious disease known as hitwhoria, which had plagued Lyons his entire career, became chronic. His entries for both Newsweek and FSJ, now devoid of facts, logic and humor, are now strictly a repository for the self-loathing he feels having dedicated his best years siphoning real accomplishments from someone else – like some tech laureate lamprey. Most recently, examples of Lyons’s shark jumping include “screw the iPhone, I’m with Android!” and “the Macintosh is dead”.

If you look at Fake Steve Jobs now, you’ll see some of the most bitter, contrived and vacant writing of his career, designed only to pull in eyeballs. Some of TMA’s favorites:

Mocking Jobs’s comment at D8 defending the work environment at Foxconn, which include restaurants and a movie theater, playing a role in a series of suicides there: “Obviously we feel terrible about this but it’s important to keep things like this in perspective. Foxconn has restaurants and swimming pools. It’s a pretty nice place.” Stay classy.

Trying to make fun of Jobs’s habit of responding to emails he receives directly by “responding” to a writer’s question about why Macs cost more than PCs (wasn’t that the theme of a couple of commercials a while back?): “The times they are a changing, and very soon the all-purpose computer, where you can buy and run any software you want, will be obsolete, replaced by the iPad, which costs more and does less and only runs software made by Apple or approved by Apple and sold through Apple’s store. This is the future and it will be way better than what we’ve had so far…” This hits the Lyons trifecta of “bash Apple’s closed ecosystem”, “bash Apple’s price premium” and “bash Apple’s limited functionality”. A drinking game based on spotting these themes from the last month on FSJ is guaranteed to send you to the emergency room.

I could continue citing Lyons for pages but frankly every other sentence is laced with this kind of venom, as unfunny as it is accuracy-free.

So at long last, TMA has added another bust to the 2 man menagerie that is Douchebag’s Row. Daniel Lyons. Once an occasional provider of crafted snark, he has joined the other red-faced tantrum throwers who envy success – especially because his meager spoils came exclusively from being the jizzmopper of an icon.

Jun 102010

With Monday’s WWDC keynote, Jobs and Co. put considerable distance between the iPhone and its competitors on 2 fronts simultaneously.

iPhone 4
Back in the heyday of the PC-Mac platform wars, when Microsoft was still trying to capture some semblance of mindshare on the desktop, a favorite tactic of pundits/Windows consultants when comparing their inferior offerings with Apple’s was to talk about all of the hardware features Apple didn’t have – as if the company hadn’t thought their customers would benefit from their inclusion. That’s where we got the always-entertaining “megahertz myth” plotline.

History does love to repeat itself, so when an equally inferior user experience in the smartphone arena – Android – compares itself to the iPhone, the GHz of the processor, the megapixels of the camera sensor, the pixel density of the displays and the option of a removable battery has become the modern-day equivalent of the megahertz comparison. The response from Apple users – then and now – is to cite the superior user experience with the knowledge that, even when these spec deltas did mean anything, the whole far outweighed the sum of any other platform’s parts.

As of Monday’s introduction of iPhone 4, the spectards in the Android community who had pleasured themselves by comparing their phones with Apple’s year-old 3GS, just lost a little bit of their mojo.

The iPhone’s processor is now the iPad’s smoking A4 chip. The chip is designed by Apple specifically to work with its mobile devices, as opposed to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, which has to work with a number of different devices. You can bet the combination of the A4 and iOS 4 blows away any performance advantage Froyo may have had over the 3GS.

The displays of Android handsets like the Incredible and the EVO were also sharper, which was achieved through increasing the pixel density to an average of about 250 ppi across the most current Android handsets. The iPhone’s Retina display packs 350 ppi, resulting in rendered text free of pixelation and images that are crisper than anything preceding it.

Lastly among freetard bragging rights was the camera. The 3GS’s starting point was a 3MP sensor, which many tester noted actually took better pictures that competing handsets with a much higher pixel count. That’s because, as a rule, Apple fundamentally focuses on the experience over the specs. The iPhone 4 will have a 5MP camera that, while still inferior to the 8MP sensors in some Android phones, will benefit from the same kind of “quality over quantity” thinking that made the 3GS competitive with these devices. There’s also a front-facing camera, a feature popping up on recent devices like HTC’s EVO.

iOS 4
A funny thing happened between April, when Apple announced the features of its latest iPhone operating system, and the keynote on Monday. People in the Android camp conveniently forgot that Cupertino, unlike Redmond, actually delivers the features it announces. As if a new device wasn’t bad enough for Android, the iOS4 (formerly iPhone OS 4) offerings were repeated at WWDC.

In addition to the feature that everyone in the Android camp were talking about as a “catch-up” feature – multitasking – were the features that form the choking cloud of exhaust on which Android phone owner will suck: folders, a unified email inbox, faces and places in photos, iBooks, improved exchange support, universal spellcheck and keyboard support – just to name a few. Of course, the “one more thing” feature, FaceTime, a videochat client for the iPhone that revolutionize the term for mobile devices, presents a feature for which Android has nothing in the pipeline (although you can rest assured the photocopier is now running).

Unlike Google’s policy of having mobile carriers decide when, if at all, customers get their Froyo, iOS 4 will be available to all iPhone 4, 3GS and 3G users – as well as the growing army of 3rd generation iPod Touches – this month.

It was fun watching Android grow a couple of chin hairs and talk tough about competing with Apple at Google I/O – like how you can appreciate the moxie of the young upstart landing a couple of punches against the heavyweight champ right before he gets destroyed in the 2nd round. For Google, the bell for round 2 rang Monday.

 Posted by at 2:16 pm
Jun 052010

So AT&T has killed off the unlimited bandwidth plan for new subscribers. TUAW has a nice summary of the changes. While it’s usually safe to assume the most evil of intentions when it comes to AT&T, and the bitchier strata of the blogosphere are wringing the tears out of their boxer briefs, the net net of it isn’t horrible.

Except for the $20 tethering tax – on data that’s capped – is a given. I chalk this up to the singularity of ignorance that is AT&T.

On a more granular level, there are 2 related points that I’d like to call bullshit on:

-The timing of AT&T’s message sucks. They announce a network partnership with Apple for a device that’s bound to make the iPhone’s data consumption look like grandpa’s urine stream. But lo and behold, the data’s still unlimited – and you can turn it on and shut it off any month you want! Man, that’s groundbreaking. Well, now it’s more like: enjoy the month of unlimited data, jagoffs. After June 7, if you’re not already enrolled in the $30 monthly unlimited data plan – and keep it in perpetuity – your data options are capped at 2GB a month. This cuts a lot of the “gee, that was pretty cool of them” factor out of the opt-in/out feature and replaces it with more of a “wow, you guys are fucking dickheads” feel. Which brings me to the related point…

-I know from my iPhone’s use – and reading about a lot of other people’s use – that a 2GB cap won’t be a problem. However, when Jason Snell at Macworld (a staff writer, not one of the asshats from PC World) did his original review of the 3G iPad, the longevity of AT&T’s 250Mb plan was not encouraging:

Streaming video, in particular, is hugely intensive: using the Netflix application can easily rack up in excess of 100MB in an hour. One feature-length movie can put you within spitting distance of your bandwidth cap.

So that’s 20 hours of streaming video before you break your cap, assuming no other 3G use. What wasn’t a concern for the iPhone may well be a concern for the iPad.

So yea, if you discount the disingenuous introduction of the opt in/out “feature” and if you don’t mind having your consumption capped at what may not be a reasonable ceiling, you might end up saving $5 a month on your cellphone bill.

 Posted by at 8:07 am  Tagged with:
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