Joe Wilcox

Netflix, please stop telling me what to watch

TV cat Netflix

Netflix and I go way back -- to February 1999, when renting my first-ever DVD. I am a streaming customer now and increasingly dissatisfied. Netflix is the overly friendly store clerk -- the kind you never find in retail -- persistently making suggestions for stuff I wouldn't ever want. "Excuse me, because you bought toilet paper last time, lookee here! Beano gas-relief pills and Febreze air freshener are on sale this week". Yeah, right. Let me soak your hoity-toity head in the toidy bowl, bud.

Online retailers like Netflix (yeah, you too, Amazon) attempt to improve service by tracking what you consume and helpfully suggesting something like it. Last decade, analysts labeled the process "personalization". But they frequently invent or change labels to sell new services, and I don't rightly know what the thing is called now. I call it goddamn annoying and limiting. The more I watch, the less often compelling content comes my way.

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How I write about Chromebook

Chromebook Pixel dreamy

Over the weekend, I got email from developer Jeff Nelson referencing his blog response to my BetaNews story: "Chromebook belongs to computing's past, not its future". He is among a majority of responders who disagree with my assessments about the future of PCs depending on keyboard and mouse.

Today's Android Wear platform announcement foreshadows exactly where computing is headed. For longer perspective, please see my book The Principles of Disruptive Design. But suffice to say that Google champions "Star Trek"-like computing, where you—by sight, sound, touch, and voice—are the user interface.

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Google Drive price cut gives a little and takes a lot

cloud money dollars

This week, World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee calls for a "bill of rights" for the Internet. Much of the media coverage focuses on governments, but I see corporations as greater concerns. Who has more direct access to your stuff? Google is front and center, but by no means alone, profiting from your content.

Today's big Google Drive price cut -- $1.99 and $9.99 monthly down from $4.99 and $49.99 for 100GB and 1TB, respectively -- makes me wonder. The search and information giant offers more value for less money. The question: Who benefits more? Customers paying less, or Google getting their business? I have to wonder when, if not already, the company will use contextual data gathered from your Drive for targeted everything, from Now to ads and more.

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Hey, Amazon, reward Kindle Fire owners with lower Prime pricing

kindle fire hdx large

Catalog this post in the "Stories I meant to Write Dept." On February 1, when rumors circulated about Amazon price increases, I conveyed to colleague Alan Buckingham in chat: "If I were Amazon, Prime would stay same for Fire users but go up for everyone else. Reward customers and drive sales". Today's price increase announcement is reason to formally suggest what I should have six weeks ago.

Amazon tablet shipments dipped during fourth quarter -- from 5.9 million to 5.8 million units -- year over year, according to IDC. Global market share fell to 7.6 percent from 9.9 percent. The other top-5 manufacturers all posted healthy growth gains, although Apple also lost market share. Amazon should use lower Prime pricing to encourage new Kindle Fire sales and to reward existing owners. Keep the price $79 for these customers and hike the rest to $99. To be clear: Referring to Kindle Fire means all models, including HD and HDX.

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Qplay is the Devil in my living room

QPlay

So I received Qplay last week, but only set up the thing today. Definitely I won't ever spend cash on preview programs again. Mother of God. Sweet Jesus. Someone save me from the choppy performance controlling the streaming box from iPad Air.

Did these guys grow up before multitasking? If I'm watching a video and want to scan the thumbnail strip for something else, Holy Moly, the vid stops and waits for me to tap the next thing.

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Chromebook belongs to computing's past, not its future

Chromebook Pixel keyboard

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.

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Why Chromebook is good for students

school students Chromebook

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.

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Apple shouldn't be the next Microsoft

man binoculars distance

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.

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Radio Search Engine rocks

grundig satellit 800

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.

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Microsoft makes Windows 8 worse

Windows 8 Microsoft Store

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".

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Apple succeeds where Sony couldn't

sony laptop

There are OMG events, and Sony's selling its PC business surely is one of them.

"It's an historic moment", Roger Kay, Endpoint president, says. "The company Steve Jobs looked up to as the paragon of style leaves the industry he helped found, driven off, at least in part, by him".

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Google's Motorola sale is more about Nest than Samsung

secrets shock surprise man woman

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.

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Apple serves a feast but Wall Street complains there's no ketchup

Apple Store London

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.

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My Mac Moment

Bondi Blue iMac

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.

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Microsoft Q2 2014 by the numbers: Surface sales soar

Surface Pro 2

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.

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