Rest in peace, iPad mini. Google killed you. The question then: Is it murder or manslaughter -- or justified homicide, putting the Apple tablet out of our misery?
Three days using the new Nexus 7, I can't imagine why Apple let Google, and partner ASUS, seize back-to-school buying with the tablet. I don't refer just to the instrument of destruction but the means. The 2013 edition is widely available through major US retailers, including Amazon and Best Buy. By all indications there is inventory to meet demand, not the typical supply shortages, although the 32GB WiFi model is unavailable this weekend from many retailers -- but Google Play is stocked.
The magic is gone. As recently as mid-2012, rumors of a new iPhone was command performance -- bloggers and social networkers rushed every little bit of spec speculation to the web. A year later, has-beens are kings. Buzz belongs to the once high and mighty: HTC, Motorola, Nokia and Sony, each a former market-share commander. These companies are all something Apple, and even Samsung, is not: Hungry. Pride goes before the fall, they say. Pride brought down the big four (five, including BlackBerry), as their execs laughed off iPhone's launch in June 2007. They laugh again, as their companies bring truly innovative mobiles to market and Apple acts much as they did six years ago.
The fruit-logo company has a huge problem that is core to future competition. For nearly a decade, Apple benefitted from free-marketing, as enthusiast tech bloggers and reporters and over-eager Wall Street analysts and investors fanned the smallest flicker of rumor into raging fire. Now Android rises, like one of those robots in "Pacific Rim", to crush the iPhone monster. Meanwhile, Apple's humbled stock price gets less bang from rumors. CEO Tim Cook signaled three months ago that new "innovations" won't come until autumn -- and there are no leaks to rally the faithful against the horde of Android and Windows Phone infidels. The problem isn't bleeding market share -- a circumstance in most every market outside the United States -- but one of bleeding mindshare.
The apartment was strangely silent last night and darker than usual. Gone was the flickering light filling the center room as one of us scanned the program guide. A year later than planned, we dismantled the TV shrine and took back the living room from the false idol. Henceforth, we will worship at a different altar. Finally, I cut cable's cord -- IPTV, really, but we all call it the other, eh?
I feel anxiety and elation at the dramatic change, which allowed us to rearrange the furniture such that the living room is more open, more inviting and more suited to entertaining real people. The television now resides in the bedroom, more for the benefit of my wife's sleepless nights (the thing is narcotic). We'll stream from Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix primarily -- haha, maybe even iTunes. I had planned Google Play by way of Nexus Q, but the search giant nixes that option.
On June 30, the day after my most recent one-year contract expires with AT&T U-verse, I will cancel the service and cut the cord. Last night, while I watched some last-minute Prime Time before it's gone, Apple commercial "Our Signature" aired. The ad is a concise, tweet-like mission statement that encapsulates all of what the company's product design is about. The spot sums up all anyone need know about the fruit-logo company in 60 seconds.
"This is what matters. The experience of a product. How it makes someone feel. Will it make life better", the commercial begins. Yes. Yes. Yes. This is what I have written about Apple for a decade -- that the company's products and marketing are aspirational. That the design goal simply is to make people feel good, to inspire life will be better for choosing the Apple way.
Seven months ago, when rumors burned hot, I explained why "Microsoft Office for Android and iOS is a Trojan Horse" -- that any mobile suite would be all about the cloud service. Sure enough, today Microsoft released the strangely named "Office Mobile for Office 365 Subscribers" to the App Store.
Office 365 is the productivity suite's future. Microsoft now claims to be a "devices and services" company. Smartphones are devices, Office 365 is a service and required for the iOS app. What more reasoning is needed? The Redmond, Wash.-based company provides more functionality than I predicted, but does so strictly in mobile context that doesn't diminish the PC product. That said, what Microsoft gives to iOS should be withheld from Android.
What a strange coincidence: Earlier this week, Smithsonian Channel's "Air Disasters" broadcast an episode about the downing of Korean Airlines flight 007 in 1983 -- at the height of the Cold War. Turns out the Soviet Union recovered the black boxes and hid them for a decade. I'm old enough to remember the Cold War and what the United States fought against. I told my wife: "Sometimes I really wish the Soviet empire still existed, so Americans had a measure for government bad behavior". A day later, the Guardian and Washington Post broke what likely is the biggest story about U.S. surveillance since the Watergate break in. The activity stinks of behavior opposed decades ago.
The National Security Agency spies on you, in secret, something many people suspected. The NSA monitors Internet servers, without warrants. In a Google+ comment today, Joe Betsill brilliantly and succinctly captures what changed: "There's a difference between suspicion and evidence". He links to an Electronic Frontier Foundation "Timeline to NSA domestic spying". I strongly suggest reading the EFF material, in addition to the Guardian and Washington Post investigative reports -- so that you are informed.
Today, over at all AllThingsD, Kara Swisher reports that a major Microsoft makeover is imminent. Reorganization is bloody well overdue, and timing makes sense. The company's fiscal year closes June 30, and the final quarter is when employees, product groups and future plans are evaluated and rewarded and when internal changes occur.
I strongly expect the new structure to mesh with CEO Steve Ballmer's mandate Microsoft is now a "devices and services" company. His larger challenge is surmountable: Enabling a stronger siloed Microsoft that disables a power structure that resembles "A Game of Thrones" -- too many fiefdoms fighting cross-purposes to the kingdom Bill Gates created. Under the current structure, Ballmer deals with only five kingdoms, rather than book and HBO series' seven.
My oldest email address, circa 1996, is with Yahoo -- just three letters. I joined Flickr in October 2005 and Tumblr in May 2008. Three years ago, I stopped paying for Yahoo Mail, mostly abandoned the photo-sharing site and essentially stopped blogging at the social network. But I'm psyched now. Maybe former Googler Marissa Mayer can save the grandpa dot-com after all.
Today colleague Wayne Williams asks: "What will it take for people to care about Yahoo again?" "May 20th" is my answer. On the same day that Yahoo bought Tumblr for a cool $1.1 billion cash, the rickety dot-com gave Flickr the biggest makeover ever. Subscribers get 1TB of storage, on a site suddenly beautifully modern and supported by a hot, Android app. Google CEO Larry Page, Mayer just thumbed her nose at you.
Seventh in a series. When I reported the original iPhone launch in June 2007, there was sense of history among the people waiting to buy. Several shared similar sentiment: That we would all look back in five or 10 years and see the mobile as a defining moment in computing. They were absolutely right. I feel similarly about Chromebook Pixel, not that as many people appreciate what it represents compared to the larger number of folks rushing to purchase Apple's smartphone.
Google's computer is an acquired taste, and so delish you don't easily go back. But there's a Vegemite quality. Most people wouldn't eat the spread, but ask those who do -- they can't live without it. Likewise, Chromebook Pixel isn't for everyone, but is for me and possibly could be for you, if given a chance.
More than two weeks ago I asked: "Will you buy HTC One?" Preliminary results are in, and many of you express intentions to get the smartphone. Last week, I expressed how much more I like the One than iPhone 5.
The unlocked One is backordered at HTC.com, while T-Mobile can't meet demand. Someone wants this smartphone, and it might just be you. Forty-five percent of respondents say they will get the handset "as soon as available", while another 11.5 percent "within 3 months". Buying polls like this one, and that includes those conducted by outfits like ChangeWave, only measure sentiment -- what people would like to do. What they actually do often varies for lots of reasons. Clearly there is lots of interest in HTC One.
May 9 was a big day for Flipboard. The personal news app launched a new version on Android, bringing feature parity with iOS, and the Financial Times debuted as a content provider. FT is unique among magazine news publications, by making people pay. Free rides are short lived; the newspaper lets registered users view a limited number of stories per month. More than that, requires a subscription.
Many people look at Flipboard as a pretty news aggregator -- a smorgasbord of valuable content served up for free; eat as much as you like. Financial Times brings the pay model with it. You still need a FT account. Registered users are limited to blogs and video, while subscribers get access to everything. I wonder if personal paper apps like Flipboard aren't the future news, with some -- even more -- content behind the paywall.
Today, another Galaxy S4 variant goes on sale at AT&T -- 32GB and yours for $249.99 with two-year contract. Buyers looking for commitment-freedom pay $669.99. The S4 joins HTC One as hottest smartphone of the season. Both pack gorgeous 1080p displays. The One is my choice for design; other benefits include booming front-facing speakers and low-light photography. Samsung packs in larger screen and loads more software capabilities.
For the US carrier selling more iPhones than any other, AT&T makes Galaxy S4 quite the priority, jumping ahead of competitors selling the 16GB model and carrying its larger-capacity cousin. Preorders started April 16, with the 16GB phone in stores two weeks later.
YouTube opened to the public in November 2005, and Google paid $1.6 billion for the service 11 months later. The video-sharing site is the quintessential freebee. No longer. Today Google announced the launch of the first pay-for channels, which is rather strange coming from the company which business model is about profiting from valuable content given away free wrapped with search keywords and advertising. Welcome to the new Internet, with paywalls rising everywhere. To play, you must pay.
In a statement Google says there are "1 million channels generating revenue on YouTube, and one of the most frequent requests we hear from these creators behind them is for more flexibility in monetizing and distributing content". That revenue largely comes from the in-video advertisements. Now you'll pay, too -- as little as 99 cents per month. Here's something: From the sampling I made today, subscription liberates you from advertising, which is something to cheer about.
During last month's fiscal third quarter 2013 earnings call, Microsoft revealed that Peter Klein would step down as chief financial officer. Today, the company announced his replacement: Amy Hood, who currently is CFO of the Business division. She assumed that role in January 2010.
CEO Steve Ballmer describes Hood as an "instrumental leader" who helped "lead the transition to services with Office 365" and to bring strong financial results.
If Linux is good enough for the International Space Station, why not your school computers? The developers over at openSUSE must think so, today releasing Li-f-e (Linux for Education) 12.3-1.
I confess to not being familiar enough with Linux (go ahead, beat me with a stick -- or with words in comments). But a reader complained this week about BetaNews' rather absent coverage of the open-source operating system. He's absolutely right about that. Reporters here tend to write about what they use, and we don't have a Linux lover currently on staff. Please pardon my light treatment of the news, in place of someone more qualified.