Elsewhere

Facebook, Still Dominant, Strives to Keep Cachet - Jenna Wortham, Vindu Goel, and Nicole Perlroth - NYTimes.com

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/18/technology/facebook-strives-to-keep-its-cachet.html?pagewanted=2&ref=todayspaper

The authors of this NY Times piece ask an interesting question about the compatibility of Snapchat’s imagined world and Facebook’s:

excerpt

As for Snapchat, its compatibility with Facebook is unclear. Snapchat is centered on impermanence and offers privacy and anonymity. Facebook constantly pushes users to share more and is rooted in real-world identities and creating a permanent, largely public record of people’s daily lives and interactions.

Given these differences, the Snapchat bid looks like an attempt to corral back some of the cool factor in the form of young eyeballs. Three years ago, Snapchat did not even exist, and Facebook, with a valuation of $100 billion before its public offering, was the hot company. Now with younger users preferring Snapchat — which says it processes nearly as many photos as Facebook each day — Snapchat may well have the upper hand.

“It’s head-scratching,” said Christopher Poole, 25, the founder of 4chan, the message board. “From a business perspective, I understand it. But from a cultural perspective, it’s like, ‘Wait, what?’ ”

Mr. Poole said Facebook’s aggressive pursuit of Snapchat may point to an identity crisis of sorts.

“Does that mean that they’re willing to embrace an alternative to Facebook identity, or does it mean that they feel that threatened by it that they’d leave their own wheelhouse?”

But what of the larger question: is society (starting with the Snapchatting young) rejecting the Facebook notion of a single, unchanging identity and a global social network based on publicy? Yes. The fall of Facebook has started. Peak Facebook has already passed or will soon. Why?

The Benthamite underpinnings of Facebook are becoming unpopular. Young people in particular don’t want their teachers, parents, employers, and even all their friends to know everything going on in their lives. Oh, and the government. People want to have multiple, contextually defined identities, different circles of knowing, different non-overlapping rules of attraction. Everything is not everything.

Google is involved in a huge brouhaha now about imposing Google+ ‘real identities’ on YouTube commenting, which is an echo of the same shout for identity freedom.

My bet for the next answer is on social operating systems, although Google is moving down a dark road with Google+ identities, and Apple seems oddly reluctant to do anything social, natively. Perhaps the failure of Apple’s Ping has frightened them off it.

Maybe we should be on the lookout for some crazy developers that build streaming at the OS level, or near to it. Dropbox and other virtual distributed file systems are close enough to do something like that, constantly syncing in the background, and implementing a distributed model of sharing. Imagine if Dropbox supported plugins to provide the equivalent of Snapchat, or Facebook-like sharing of updates with friends, but where the user can define the visibility of interactions, not Facebook. And — if they want — users could opt to share some things in closed contexts, like private accounts on Twitter, and others in more open settings. People are after a spectrum of identity sharing, and Facebook just won’t go there.

PC Makers's Forecasts Dim as Mobile Pressure Weighs on Profitability - Eva Dou via WSJ.com

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323977304579002032128991584.html?mod=WSJ_Tech_LEFTTopNews

Hardly any touch screen PCs are being bought, so the world is breaking into a small number of successes: growing number of touch-oriented smartphones and tablets, stable numbers of keyboard + touchpad laptops, and a falling number of keyboard + mouse desktops. Strangely, PC manufacturers continue to over estimate people’s desire for oddball hybrids and touch laptops.

from the article

Acer and Asustek this week said touchscreen laptops championed by Microsoft Corp. haven’t made as a big a splash with consumers as previously estimated.

"Our first wave of Vivobooks was not a success," said Asustek CEO Jerry Shen at an investor conference Friday, referring to the company’s line of touch notebooks. "We are working very closely with Microsoft and Intelin an effort develop game-changing devices to launch in September.”

Mr. Shen said Asustek also plans to “attack” the nontouch notebook segment in coming months, as many customers still aren’t willing to pay extra for a touchscreen.

Acer and Asustek have pushed heavily into the low-cost tablet market this year to try to counteract the consumer preference shift away from laptops, but so far it isn’t clear whether sales of their Android tablets, which sell for less than $200, can offset the sales decline of more-expensive laptops.

Acer Chairman J.T. Wang said the company is shifting its product mix away from the traditional Windows system “as soon as possible,” with its percentage of devices running Google Inc.’s Android or Chrome operating systems to grow from about 10% this year to as much as 30% next year.

Asustek, which sells under the brand Asus, had up until this spring managed a better performance than many PC industry peers, partly because of a partnership with Google to make the popular Nexus 7 tablet. The sales helped boost Asustek ahead of Kindle-maker Amazon.com to become the No. 3 tablet maker behind Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.

But even with the success of the Nexus 7, Asustek is now struggling. After the release of the second-generation Nexus tablet, Asustek was hit by a crush of inventory of the first generation, as well as poorer-than-expected sales of Windows RT tablets, analysts said. Windows RT is a version of Windows 8 geared to work with ARM mobile-device processors.

Touchscreen laptops, which PC makers initially saw as their defense against threat from the mobile advance, haven’t taken off.

I expect that we’ll see a huge surge in Android and Chrome laptops, and the near-term collapse of Windows. It will be Apple OS X and iOS v Google Chrome and Android, and maybe Ubuntu as a distant third, starting with smartphones.

I think the Google TV team have a huge opportunity with the new Chromecast device. Despite all of the previous awful efforts at Google to get into the living room, Chromecast is really different. It’s simple — a wireless dongle that plugs into the back of the TV, no wires, and a wireless connection to the internet that allows control of the TV as a video streaming device from smartphones, tablets, and PCs. It especially does not require a remote.

Google has blindsided Apple with what I think will be the TV device of the decade.

The escalating three-way war between Google, Facebook, and Twitter — by far the three most important web players today — is accumulating new casualties every day at our expense.

Google Reader is just the latest casualty of the war that Facebook started, seemingly accidentally: the battle to own everything. While Google did technically “own” Reader and could make some use of the huge amount of news and attention data flowing through it, it conflicted with their far more important Google+ strategy: they need everyone reading and sharing everything through Google+ so they can compete with Facebook for ad-targeting data, ad dollars, growth, and relevance.

RSS represents the antithesis of this new world: it’s completely open, decentralized, and owned by nobody, just like the web itself. It allows anyone, large or small, to build something new and disrupt anyone else they’d like because nobody has to fly six salespeople out first to work out a partnership with anyone else’s salespeople.

That world formed the web’s foundations — without that world to build on, Google, Facebook, and Twitter couldn’t exist. But they’ve now grown so large that everything from that web-native world is now a threat to them, and they want to shut it down. “Sunset” it. “Clean it up.” “Retire” it. Get it out of the way so they can get even bigger and build even bigger proprietary barriers to anyone trying to claim their territory.

Well, fuck them, and fuck that.

We need to keep pushing forward without them, and do what we’ve always done before: route around the obstructions and maintain what’s great about the web. Keep building and supporting new tools, technologies, and platforms to empower independence, interoperability, and web property ownership.

Marco Arment, Lockdown

Android invades the desktop - John Morris

http://www.zdnet.com/android-invades-the-desktop-7000017286/

Morris gives a quick summary of some Android ‘desktop’ machines — mostly tablets that can dock with a keyboard, like HP’s Slate 21, various Acer products, and Samsung’s ATIV Q — but misses the point completely, sounding almost  apologetic for suggesting these things might have utility.

I’ll go strongly in the opposite direction. Windows is (nearly) dead, especially on smartphones and tablets. Android will soon be the largest OS in the world. Inevitably, Android will become the largest player in the shrinking laptop/desktop market. Mac OS X and Android are the one-two punch for Windows, and that includes the desktop/laptop market, too.

There used to be all sorts of criticisms of the old “culture industries” like Hollywood and the top 40, which entertained us with stories or songs that always ended on an upbeat note, no matter how false. But at least the culture industries went to the bother of entertaining us. Their replacements don’t even bother. They expect us to entertain each other, and pay a tax for it. Facebook or Google’s YouTube are not the culture industries so much as the vulture industries, taking an information surcharge from us while we amuse each other, and selling us to advertisers. Like do-it-yourself commercial TV.

These are all elements of what I call the “spectacle of disintegration”. The old spectacle of television and radio papered the world with images of what the lovely soul of the commodity was supposed to look like. We were at least still free to daydream while we sat idly watching.

But in the spectacle of disintegration, all that breaks apart. The big screen decays into so many little screens. Our leisure time is now to be spent producing information for the vulture industries of Google and co, in an unequal exchange of information. In exchange for the poll tax of personal data, we get to watch each other’s cat videos, while Google becomes some new version of the state, presiding over all our bitty lives, master of all our data, in aggregate.

Like any state, Google has its patriots. But there are also those who think this latest version of the spectacle offers some quirky avenues for having fun at its expense. Its time for a certain opacity, a certain glamour of obscurity. Not all the information we offer up has to be even remotely true.

Mackenzie Wark, Who dares to dodge Google’s information tax?

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