Early this evening, I exchanged emails with someone writing a blog post about Chromebook. He seeks sales numbers that I doubt are available. Success is a difficult measure despite the hype. In January post "The trouble with new Chromebooks" here and "Twenty-Fourteen isn't Year of the Chromebook" on my personal site, I raise questions about the computer's future.
I extend reservations in the text of my email reply, which follows.
Today, at ZDNET, James Kendrick's commentary "Chromebooks and students: Long term trouble for Microsoft" adds to a growing meme. With a few schools deploying Chromebooks (emphasis few) and rumors Microsoft has slashed Windows licensing fees (remember unconfirmed), recurring theme "2014 is year of the Chromebook and Windows is in deep dodo because of it" isn't surprising. But just because bloggers say something's true often enough, doesn't make it that way. Twenty fourteen isn't year of the Chromebook, nor is its utility to the education market guaranteed.
That said, Kendrick makes some good points about why Chromebook appeals to students. I won't recap them. This isn't an aggregated synopsis. You can read his fine points. My post adds to them, from experience. I am a long-time Chromebook user.
In a long, thoughtful post today, Mark Rogowsky writes for Forbes: "No, Apple Is Not Like Microsoft". He responds to arguments put forth by Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes, which Steven Russolillo summarizes in Wall Street Journal post "Four Reasons Apple is the New Microsoft".
I disagree with the original argument and its rebuttal. I encourage you to read both posts. The answer to why one stock soars while another sunders has little to do with market caps, P/E ratios, and other math metrics analysts crunch like gerbils with a new stick. People generally make decisions for emotional reasons -- what feels right to them. As I so often say, in business perception is everything.
Growing up in Northern Maine, where the winters are long and the nights bitterly cold, I obsessively listened to the radio. During darkness, AM signals skip hundreds, sometimes thousands, of kilometers. WRKO in Boston, 650 km south, back when the station played music, was a fav -- and WKBW in Buffalo, N.Y. My passion for radio led me to hitchhike, at 17, with a friend to the Federal Communications Commission office in Boston to test for a Third Class license. I would need one to be a radio disc jockey. I flunked, so we hitchhiked a second time. Success!
My radio passion remains. Before the Internet, I used a Grundig Shortwave receiver to listen to news and cultural programs from around the world. Many worldband stations are silent now, choosing to stream on the Internet instead. Domestic radio remains popular, however. For example, according to new Nielsen data released last week, 242 million Americans listen to radio, which reaches more than 90 percent of every age group. Sixty-five-million Americans 18-34 years old listen to radio, spending an average 11.5 hours each week. That's right. The Pandora generation.
On Sunday, Paul Thurrott asked (geez does this guy ever sleep) the question: "What the Heck is Happening to Windows?" The answer is hugely pertinent to the BetaNews reader community. Thurrott refers specially to Windows 8.1 development, and colleague Wayne Williams gives great overview of what to expect in Update 1, today.
The problem: What Windows is becoming, as Microsoft tries to satisfy its legacy customers while embracing future devices, particularly those using so-called NUIs, or new user interfaces, like touch and voice. Wayne smartly observes: "Maybe I’m just being overly negative here but with all the changes Microsoft has made along the way, Windows 8.x feels like it’s becoming a Frankenstein product stitched together with compromises".
Like lots of other people, overnight I pondered Google's surprise sale of Motorola to Lenovo. The timing sure seems odd. Conspiracy theories abound. Among tech bloggers, Samsung ranks as top reason, given the timing, just days after the American and South Korean companies cut a lofty cross-patent deal that also turns way down the extent of Android customization. Certainly the latter agreement is important to Google, for reasons I laid out two years ago in post "Google has lost control of Android".
Some conspiracy theorists contend that Google always planned to sell Motorola and rebuilt the brand only to gain leverage against Samsung, which arguably exercises more direct influence over Android than does Google -- at least from a user experience perspective. But I disagree. The Motorola unloading is a lot more about the search and information giant's acquisition of Nest than anything Samsung does. My reasoning follows.
You would think that after Apple delivered fiscal first quarter record results -- we're talking $57.6 billion revenue and $13.1 billion net profit -- that investors would be happy. But, no-o-o! Apple shares sank more than 8.5 percent in after-hours trading last night. They are down about 8 percent in midday trading. That's what happens when perceptions about the future, rather than present performance, define a company.
But the problem is bigger than just Wall Street analyst or investor fear frenzy. There's an echo chamber bellowing this fine Tuesday, as bloggers and journalists stumble over one another to sound the loudest alarm. After seeing the headlines on Yahoo Finance -- like "New Apple looks like the old Microsoft", "Cure to what ails Apple can be found in the margins", or "How does Apple get its mojo back?" -- I realize someone needs to do a reality check. Geez Louise, Apple had a fantastic quarter. The apocalyptic reaction is nothing less than insanity.
Macintosh is 30 years old. If this were "Logan's Run", January 24 would be Last Day. Or the 1960s, time to ditch the computer because, you know, don't trust anyone (or anything) over 30. Declaration: I am a Mac user, which surely surprises the long line of people accusing me of being anti-Apple. My Mac sojourn started on a Winter's day in December 1998. I've abandoned Apple a few times since, even briefly boycotting, but always come back.
My first Macintosh sighting was August 1984. I spent the summer in Chapel Hill, N.C. and often hung out on the University of North Carolina campus. The college book store displayed the Apple, which I found remarkable. I wasn't a computer geek, nor am I one now, but nevertheless found the device charming. A decade later, I started using a Windows PC and for a while was a Macintosh bigot. I particularly enjoyed ribbing the graphic designers with whom my wife worked when their Macs crashed, wiping out hours of Photoshop or QuarkXpress work. "Get a PC!" was my common retort.
Outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer got a vote of confidence from customers today, if Surface's sales surge is any indication. In October 2012, he refocused the company on "devices and services", something reflected in the Windows 8.1 tablet and also Xbox One, which launched during fiscal second quarter 2014.
After the closing bell today, Microsoft released long-anticipated Surface sales with its quarterly earnings report. Wall Street analysts and investors also eagerly wondered about Windows 8.1, which revenues looked to be brutally beaten back by historic declines in PC shipments. Surface revenue reached $893 million, up from $400 million during fiscal first quarter. Meanwhile, Windows OEM license sales declined by 3 percent, year over year.
Brilliant is the only way to describe the Uncarrier's sudden and unexpected move into personal financial services, with today's launch of Mobile Money. T-Mobile effectively acts as your bank, providing consumers with prepaid visa cards, issued in cooperation with Bancorp, and no-fee access to about 42,000 ATMs nationwide.
But T-Mobile isn't strictly a bank but more of a cash dispensary and payments provider, an approach taken by mobile money services across Africa and Asia. Your money goes in -- whether by check, direct deposit or transfer by way of another Mobile Money account -- and is available to spend. T-Mobile promises no hidden activation, maintenance, or other fees.
Not all tech news is about Consumer Electronics Show 2014 this week. Today, Vimeo unveiled a new video player that puts preference on HTML5 streaming and provides content creators with fresh tools. Alongside the default codec choice, two benefits stand out: Improved performance, with videos loading claimed 50-percent faster, and support for in-app transactions.
The latter feature extends video-on-demand capabilities. "The addition of in-player transaction support allows creators even further control, by making any embedded Vimeo player a point of sale -- be it on a creator's own website or any page across the web", Kerry Taylor, Vimeo CEO, explains. "Since launching the Vimeo On Demand platform last year, we've continued to add new features that empower filmmakers to sell directly to their audiences on their own terms".
I would dump DSL tomorrow and switch the family to cellular data, if not for cost. Downstream wireless is faster than my home Internet and would always be there -- wherever the phone goes; use it as personal hotspot for PC or tablet. But pesky, expensive data caps hold me back.
So I'm intrigued by one of the oddest and most provocative announcements coming on Consumer Electronics Show 2014 Day 0: AT&T "Sponsored Data". The carrier turns around the Net Neutrality debate by encouraging data gluttons to pay up so that cellular customers can consume more while paying less. It's a novel concept, and I like it. Netflix, this is for you, baby. You might resist, but I'll love you forever if you sponsor me. Surely, I'm not alone.
It's Consumer Electronics Show 2014 Day 0, and we have hands-on with new Acer and Toshiba Chromebooks -- and both share the same flaw: Yes, flaw. Not enough memory, like HP Chromebook 11, among other newer models. I know margins are tight on these things, but how much more costly really would be 4GB? I can say from absolute experience that 2GB simply isn't enough, particularly if the objective is Chromebook replacing Mac or Windows PC.
Shared memory takes a good chunk out of that 2GB, let alone Chrome running atop Linux. What are these manufacturers thinking? One foot in the Chrome OS outdoors, but rest of body inside Windows? Because Chromebook with 2GB of RAM, even running a Haswell processor, stretches to replace a Windows PC. Make that 4 gigs, and the experience can be as good or better. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, you can stop laughing now. I can hear you all the way down in San Diego.
Consumer Electronics Show 2014 starts next week, and that means tech companies tripping over one another to get the goods front and center early. No one really waits for Day One anymore, and Acer picks Day -4 to announce another touchscreen Chromebook -- this one in Moonstone White. Moonstone? Does it light up the Google cloud at night?
The white C720P joins the darker sibling launched in late November. Touch is the C720P's defining characteristic for the price. Google is the only other company selling a touchscreen Chromebook, and it starts much higher -- $1,299. Anyone looking for the feature on a budget laptop running Chrome OS, Acer C720P is it.