Oct 262010
 

Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie is Microsoft’s latest senior-level vacancy in a year that saw J Allard and Robbie Bach hit the bricks. I suppose “vacancy” is a poor word choice, since Ballmer has stated publicly that Ozzie’s position will not be filled. In the great tradition of senior people leaving technology companies, he wrote an open letter thanking the people he worked with and giving his view on the future of computing.

The entry in Ozzie’s blog is dated October 28, 2010. If you read the rest of it, this will probably strike you as the only forward-thinking thing about it. It’s long. It’s random. It’s opaque with corpspeak to the point of hilarity. Take this sample paragraph:

In the realm of the service-centric ‘seamless OS’ we’re well on the path to having Windows Live serve as an optional yet natural services complement to the Windows and Office software.  In the realm of ‘seamless productivity’, Office 365 and our 2010 Office, SharePoint and Live deliverables have shifted Office from being PC-centric toward now also robustly spanning the web and mobile.  In ‘seamless entertainment’, Xbox Live has transformed Xbox into a real-time, social, media-rich TV experience.

You could win a dozen games of “buzzword bingo” from that paragraph alone. And there’s 50+ more where that came from, broken up into little 2 and 3 sentence gems. Ozzie’s other notable work, “The Internet Services Disruption”, warned Microsoft that quick, decisive action was required in 2005 to seize the upper hand in the age of the cloud. That didn’t work out too well either. Maybe it was that 5,000 word barrier.

Particularly telling is Ozzie’s reference to the 1939 World’s Fair. With the theme “Dawn of a New Day” (which is also the title of his farewell entry), the fair sparked the “leap from such a dark time (the Great Depression) to such a potentially wonderful future (which) meant having an attitude, individually and collectively, that we could achieve whatever we set our minds to.” He goes on to equate today’s economic climate with the climate in 1939, a course that can be reversed with the right measure of hope and optimism.

And a World War. Actually, he only tangentially refers to World War II, which is fitting for a company that is constantly reframing historical context. The problem for Microsoft is that Ozzie’s 1939 isn’t today. It was 2006. The war for mindshare has raged and the tide has turned. Microsoft has lost. And with every senior position fleeing, every earnings call disappointment, and every cubic yard of gas belched from Ballmer’s disingenuous yap that fails to make a difference in the market, more people are realizing it.

 Posted by at 3:13 pm  Tagged with:
Oct 252010
 
Desperate to try and disassociate itself with its network’s bad rap, AT&T announced that it was moving away from its historic “swirly globe” icon and towards an icon that its customers were more familiar with.
Out:

In:
A spokesperson for AT&T stated that the new logo – nicknamed “pokey” – tested especially well with focus groups in New York and San Francisco, where users cited a high degree of familiarity with the new icon.
 Posted by at 3:28 pm  Tagged with:
Oct 222010
 

Man, I love me some Archer. I re-watched the entire first season this past week on Hulu, pausing only to change out pee-stained shorts periodically. Purchasers of GoogleTV devices like Sony’s Internet TV and the any-day-now Logitech Revue could have done the same, except that just about every network but Fox promptly stamped their 404s on the foreheads of Google’s early adopters, just like they did with Boxee and any other company that offered set-top devices with “internet content” as part of their feature set. It would have made sense to maybe talk to the networks prior to releasing the device, but at my country club they call this level of preparation before launching products “par for the course” for Google. Maybe that’s why they adore that beta tag.

Wah-wah

On a related topic, I really love the new iMovie ’11 instant replay effect.

Update (11/11): Looks like Fox has slammed the door on Google too. I can almost picture the looks of astonishment in Mountain View. Anyone familiar with Google’s MO of serving up possibility and letting other parties botch the execution (Android OTA updates, app store, pre-installed carrier crapware, handset manufacturer UI overlays, etc., etc.) aren’t surprised in the least.

Update 2 (11/22): Add Viacom to the list, including obscure channels such as MTV and Comedy Central. But hey: for $300, you can IMDB the show you’re watching right on the screen.

 Posted by at 4:35 pm  Tagged with:
Oct 222010
 

The way products are packaged simultaneously fascinates and frustrates me. Like a lot of you, my Amazon.com order box is filled with memories of wrestling, gnawing, hacking and basically destroying the container just to get at the thing inside. They even make a special tool for some of the more infuriating packaging, very helpful for those products that are entombed in some kind of plastic carbonite. There are plenty of good companies that make great products with lousy packaging; it’s truly a neglected art form in consumer electronics.

One of Apple’s defining characteristics as a company is their attention to detail, a vein that runs all the way through their production ecosystem: from the design of their products to how they’re retailed and marketed to their customer service. It’s not surprising that they have some of the best packaging in the industry. The Apple Remote is a good example:

1. Yes, this is a packaged product.

2. Hmmm…where should I pull?

3. A continuous thread of adhesive plastic holds the clamshell together.

4. Two pieces of hard plastic, backed by a product manual with a single thread holding it together.

This is the kind of thinking that extends through all of Apple’s products and it’s the reason I’m unapologetic about using them.

 Posted by at 11:10 am
Oct 192010
 

Both people who read TMA understand how much I love the tech press, whose thorough and groundbreaking reporting provides an evergreen opportunities for  snark. One of my favorite MOs is the “Ridiculous Hypothesis Phrased as a Question” headline. This vehicle allows the tech writer to assert something brain-dead retarded in the headline – assuring that some suckers will actually click through to their tripe and grant them the ever-valuable pageview – and then spend the body of the article disclaiming the inflammatory headline. As a service to the tech media, I’ve decided to take it upon myself to answer some of the question mark headlines taken from the aggregator that I can’t seem to get listed on: Apple Enthusiast.

The IPad Really the Savior Of the Newspaper Industry? -Mashable

Not as long as the newspaper industry doesn’t realize it needs to be saved.

Is Apple Running Scared of the 7″ Tablet?-VNU

Yes, They’re absolutely petrified that after 2 quarters of not being able to make enough iPads, a form factor that’s too small to be a tablet and too large to be a phone, which will be running some bastardized version of Android that Google wants nothing to do with will run them out of business. Idiot.

What Will Apple Announced Next?-Forbes.com

A new MacBook Air and a preview of OS X 10.7 Lion. Tomorrow.

Costco Dropping iPods after Tiff with Apple? -CrunchGear

74.5 million people streamed through 317 (and counting) Apple stores last year. Target and Walmart are selling them. Put succinctly: Who cares?

Is the New MacBook Air the First Apple Netbook? -Technologizer

If by “netbook” you mean underpowered, underspecced, sub-$300 piece of shit, no (even though it has been fun to put “Apple” and “netbook” in the same headline since the build-up over the iPad).

If by “netbook” you mean the smallest laptop Apple has ever made, then quite possibly.

Apple in the Enterprise: Do the Extra Costs Justify the Value? -ZDNet (shudder)

I guess “value” is a matter of perspective. Even though end-users that, you know, actually use the products would doubtless find a lot of value in bringing Apple to the enterprise, I don’t think the drones that read your spray would think that being unemployed represents “value”.

Flush With Cash, Will Apple Go Shopping? – NY Times – Business

They are as likely to go shopping as they have been for the last 9 quarters that analysts have been 1. Noticing that Apple has a large amount of cash on hand and 2. Incorrectly speculating about what Apple should do with it. Stop trying.

Oct 192010
 

When people like me claim that Apple is a company that “gets it” or “is UI obsessed”, it may seems like esoteric fan-talk. Explaining how a Mac streamlines my workflow can quickly get a bit abstract, but there are plenty of real world examples of how Apple sweats the details of smart industrial design in ways that other companies don’t. An example:

The Magic Mouse

Why do so many consumer electronics makers force their batteries to fit ass-to-nose? How about those coiled spring contacts that are constantly bending and have to be cajoled into place?

When you spend more on an Apple product, there are paybacks – some more tangible than others. This is one of several examples of a company that really cares about how people use their hardware and software.

Oct 182010
 

That explosion you heard at approximately 2:04 PM Pacific was Cupertino dropping an absolute bomb on analysts’ estimates for Apple’s 4th quarter financials. Some tasty bits:

  • Fourteen. Million. iPhones. That’s an increase of over 60% from the 2nd most successful quarter (8.7M in Q1 ’10) and beating out RIM’s 12.1 M units.
  • Revenue clobbered Apple’s previous record by almost $5 billion as the company recorded its first $20B quarter.
  • Mac unit sales were over 400,000 more than the previous record quarter, growing 27% YOY.

Put simply, the only number that didn’t set a record this quarter was the number of iPods sold, which should surprise exactly no one, yet will likely be the fixation of freetards and stock manipulators.

 Posted by at 5:24 pm  Tagged with:
Oct 142010
 

Yesterday, Apple announced an event that will provide a sneak peek at its newest operating system, which may or may not be named “Lion”. With the downplayed and down-priced release of Snow Leopard in 2009, Apple has raised popular expectations regarding what new features will appear in 10.7. Sure, there will be the usual complement of eye candy improvements and maybe some marginal workflow streamlining, but the marquee feature has to be something big. Based on the pace of Apple’s proliferation as the digital media company of record, the scheduled construction of its North Carolina server farm and the likely release date of 10.7 (I’m guessing middle of 2011), Lion – or whatever its actually named – will decisively position OS X as the standard for digital content management.

In a nutshell, Apple will make iTunes the center of users’ media universes. Whatever content is purchased through Apple will be available to be streamed to any Apple device – maybe even any browser. So whether you’re streaming locally through Airplay or remotely through Apple’s servers, your media is always accessible. The capacity for ubiquity could extend far beyond iTunes. You can already sync things such as Notes and Dock Items via MobileMe; think about being able to sync all your application preferences, preference panes – even the contents of your Home folder – instantly. As I pointed out a while ago, Apple already has a number of the components in place necessary to realize this digital content ascension. By baking universal media availability into its operating system, Apple will fully realize of the original “digital hub” vision Steve Jobs alluded to when introducing the original iMac.

Oct 132010
 

What would happen if a sociologist conducted a survey whose results stood to benefit him, his department or his institution? He’d probably be laughed out of academia.

What happens when a company that sells warrantees for iPhones finds that the iPhone 4 “is significantly more prone to physical damage than its predecessor”? It gets scooped up by the usual mongoloids whoring for pageviews. Here’s the article’s only relevant sentence:

Overall, the iPhone is still a very well constructed device, with a non-accident malfunction rate much lower than most other consumer electronics.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m in the middle of conducting a survey of my mother, daughter and some homeless guy I gave money to this morning about how big a raise I deserve.

Oct 062010
 

It’s not like Logitech didn’t have the benefit of seeing Apple’s media event, where the latest version of its AppleTV was announced for $99. So one wonders what features their new Google TV appliance, the Revue, can offer to justify its $200 premium over the AppleTV.

The ability to do an internet search on your TV? Not really, but integrating current TV listings into your search results does have some appeal. How will this be done? The Logitech site videos depicting the Revue “in use” is a little vague. You can see what appear to be TV shows in the search results, but they’re generic, reflecting neither network nor show affiliation (unless “In Regina’s Kitchen” on station KLON is a new hit Food Network show I’m not aware of). I get the DISH Network implementation – they already have a tuner with which to integrate. And on that topic, who will want to buy into DISH’s offering if they can have the same thing without being married to DISH?

So for $299, you get the Revue box and a keyboard (no, not a remote) to help you watch TV. I don’t know anyone who can resist hitting the couch or recliner with a full size keyboard in tow. There is a trackpad integrated into the keyboard, so I guess you don’t have to bring the mouse too. If you want the HD camera or the mini-keyboard, Logitech offers them as options.

Bottom line: the Revue costs 3 times more than an Apple product in the same space and as much as a dedicated HTPC, which has more flexibility and the same requirement for peripherals. Unless this thing does something it’s not advertising, Google’s first foray into the living room is going to be a laugher.

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