April 25th & 26th
287 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Abstract Submission Deadline: January 19th
What does it mean that digital technologies are increasingly a part of...
Roger Cohen, The Quest to Belong
Next year’s Thanksgiving grace.
Rick Sherland of Nomura Holdings, cited by Ian King and Dina Bass in Microsoft’s Surface Tablet Is Said to Fall Short of Predictions
There is no going back for PC sales, and for the decreasing number of users that require a ‘real’ PC there are other solutions that are significantly better than Windows 8-based PCs, especially high-end, well-designed OS X-based laptops.
We are well past the time of Peak PCs, and Microsoft doesn’t really have a response. So far they have sold less that 1.5M Surface tablets since October’s launch. Apple sold over 22M iPads in the last quarter of 2012 alone.
Jun Dong-soo, president of Samsung’s memory chip division, doesn’t think much of Microsoft’s latest efforts:
John Paczkowski, Windows 8 No Better Than Vista, Says Samsung Exec
“The global PC industry is steadily shrinking despite the launch of Windows 8,” Jun said. “I think the Windows 8 system is no better than the previous Windows Vista platform.”
No better than Vista? Too cruel, too cruel.
And Jun was just getting started. That Vista quip was part of a one-two sucker punch that ended with a slag of another one of Microsoft’s big new efforts.
“[Microsoft’s] rollout of its Windows Surface tablet is seeing lackluster demand,” he said. “Meanwhile, previous vigorous pitches by Intel and MS for thinner ultra-books simply failed and I believe that’s mostly because of the less-competitive Windows platform.”
A brutal commentary on Windows 8, which has so far utterly failed to catalyze PC sales.
When will Microsoft’s board finally get rid of Ballmer?
Jennings pulls together many rumors pointing toward a touchscreen Chrome OS hybrid tablet/laptop designed and developed by Google.
If the Android/iOS one-two punch is a precedent, the emergence of a Chrome OS laptop/tablet is more of a threat to Microsoft’s push on Surface than Apple. And the Surface looks like it’s heading nowhere, according to Piper Jaffray’s Black Friday stats.
Gabe Newell, the force behind the gaming company Valve, has a head bursting with ideas that he doesn’t express very well, at all. But think about the vision behind these fragments.
Here are excerpts from the conversation that took place in a packed and noisy room with an under-powered speaker system:
On the future of videogame distribution
“Everything we are doing is not going to matter in the future.
[Because of a disruption that is so large that it erases what we are doing now?]
… We think about knitting together a platform for productivity, which sounds kind of weird, but what we are interested in is bringing together a platform where people’s actions create value for other people when they play. That’s the reason we hired an economist.
[Instead of ‘play’ people’s actions online can be thought of as equivalent to ‘work’? It’s an economy not a kindergarten?]
“We think the future is very different [from] successes we’ve had in the past. When you are playing a game, you are trying to think about creating value for other players, so the line between content player and creator is really fuzzy. We have a kid in Kansas making $150,000 a year making [virtual] hats. But that’s just a starting point.
“That causes us to have conversations with Adobe, and we say the next version of Photoshop should look like a free-to-play game, and they say, ‘We have absolutely no idea what you are talking about, but it sounds really bad.’ And, then we say, ‘No, no, no. We think you are going to increase the value being created to your users, and you will create a market for their goods on a worldwide basis.’ But that takes a longer sell.
[Trying to evangelize his vision to other companies isn’t going to work with this sort of verbal expression.]
“This isn’t about videogames; it’s about thinking about goods and services in a digital world.”
On closed versus open platforms
“In order for innovation to happen, a bunch of things that aren’t happening on closed platforms need to occur. Valve wouldn’t exist today without the PC, or Epic, or Zynga, or Google. They all wouldn’t have existed without the openness of the platform. There’s a strong temptation to close the platform, because they look at what they can accomplish when they limit the competitors’ access to the platform, and they say ‘That’s really exciting.’”
[I parse the sentence ‘Valve wouldn’t exist today without the PC, or Epic, or Zynga, or Google’ as meaning ‘Google, Zygna, Epic and Valve would not exist without the PC platform’.]
“We are looking at the platform and saying, ‘We’ve been a free rider, and we’ve been able to benefit from everything that went into PCs and the Internet, and we have to continue to figure out how there will be open platforms.’”
[So if Windows 8 and (presumably) Apple offerings are a problem, the answer is Linux?]
On Valve’s interest in Linux
“The big problem that is holding back Linux is games. People don’t realize how critical games are in driving consumer purchasing behavior.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for the 2,500 games on Steam to run on Linux as well. It’s a hedging strategy. I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space. I think we’ll lose some of the top-tier PC/OEMs, who will exit the market. I think margins will be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, then it will be good to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.”
[So, I expect Valve to invest i Linux as the future gaming platform. Maybe build their own open platform for productivity (gaming) and try to get folks to move onto it?]
On the evolution of touch
“We think touch is short-term. The mouse and keyboard were stable for 25 years, but I think touch will be stable for 10 years. Post-touch will be stable for a really long time, longer than 25 years.
“Post touch, depending on how sci-fi you want to get, is a couple of different technologies combined together. The two problems are input and output. I haven’t had to do any presentations on this because I’m not a public company, so I don’t have any pretty slides.
“There’s some crazy speculative stuff. This is super nerdy, and you can tease us years from now, but as it turns out, your tongue is one of the best mechanical systems to your brain, but it’s disconcerting to have the person sitting next you go blah, blah, blah, blah.
“I don’t think tongue input will happen, but I do think we will have bands on our wrists, and you’ll be doing something with your hands, which are really expressive.”
[Gestural interfaces, because hands can be enormously expressive, and instrumenting the tongue is messy.]
On wearable computers
“I can go into the room and put on the $70,000 system we’ve built, and I look around the room with the software they’ve written, and they can overlay information on objects regardless of what my head or eyes are doing. Your eyes are troublesome buggers.”
[You can ignore the eyes, and simply ID objects based on what the camera is looking at.]
An enormously uneven collection of unrefined ideas. The guy is fascinating. Imagine what a day at his office must be like.
Philip Elmer-Dewitt via Fortune
In a chart posted on Twitpic Monday, Asymco’s Horace Dediu shows that the multiple of PCs sold to Apple (AAPL) Macs sold has been falling steadily since it peaked in 2004 and is approaching the ratio of 1985. (via 2004: The year the Windows PC to Apple Mac sales ratio peaked - Apple 2.0 - Fortune Tech)
if you extrapolate, around 2016 the lines converge. Of course, that’s a linear sort of thinking. My bet is that iPad and soon iTV could accelerate the curve. Also, if Microsoft stumbles with its rollout of new Windows 8 phones, they could fall very very fast on the PC side.
Marco Arment doesn’t actually say that Microsoft Surface or Windows 8 smartphones are doomed, but he cuts to the chase pretty fast: Microsoft is in real trouble because they are starting with next to zero apps, and app developers — like Marco — have migrated off Windows onto Mac:
Marco Arment via Marco.org
By 2005 or so, most of those developers were working on web apps. The web was the platform for that kind of work for most of that decade.2
And during that decade, almost every such developer I knew switched to the Mac if they weren’t already there, partly because it was better for developing web apps.3
That’s one of the biggest reasons there was so much pent-up developer interest in the iPhone before the App Store opened: these consumer-product developers were all using Macs already. As the dominant consumer platform shifted from the web to apps over the last four years, most talented consumer-product developers built products for their app platform of choice during that time: the Apple ecosystem.
Many Windows developers were upset that iOS development had to be done on a Mac, but it didn’t hurt Apple: the most important developers for iOS apps were already using Macs.
But the success of Windows 8 and Windows Phone in the consumer space requires many of those consumer-product developers, now entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, to care so much about Windows development that they want to use Windows to develop for it.
How likely is that?
Anything’s possible, but that’s going to be an uphill battle.
Actually, I don’t think that anything’s possible. But Microsoft might be able sway some developers by subsidizing development of critical apps, as reported by Bijan Sabet. I don’t think that will be enough.
Meg Whitman is planning to fight the last war:
Bits via NY Times
Ms. Whitman said in the interview that there is no hit consumer product in the offing. Rather, she is making “a big bet” on corporate sales of laptops and personal computers when Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system comes out, probably around September. Looking further out in consumer devices, she said, “you’ll see a lot of new form factors that no one has contemplated yet.” She could not say, however, whether these would be available in time for the holidays, or a year from now.
This is a Maginot line strategy: she’s playing cautious and defensive, betting on doing what HP has already been doing.
Meanwhile, the business world is going 3D — distributed, decentralized, and discontinuous — which is all about mobile devices, tablets, and ultra laptops (Macbook Air, for example).
I’m betting against her bet. I think Windows 8 and Metro look good, but its too late for laptops and PCs to be an area of growth.
Neowin uncovered the first mockup of a real Windows 8 tablet. It’s called the HP Slate.
It’s a business computer, and the specs include an Intel(not ARM-based) processor, 10.1-inch touch screen, a promised 8 hours of battery life (Intel had been suggesting 9 hours as a minimum spec), and “multi-touch or digital pen” input. (Let the scoffing about digital pens begin.) It’s also supposed to be 9.2mm thick, which is a hair thinner than the latest iPad.(via Business Insider)
So, that’s what the next Nook will look like!
Microsoft settles some patent disputes with Barnes & Noble’s Nook division by investing $300M into the company. The market cheers. Am I missing something?
Microsoft’s Nook Deal, Aiming at Amazon, Sets Up Battle in E-Books - Michael De La Merced and Julie Bosman via NYTimes.com
Microsoft agreed to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Barnes & Noble’s Nook division on Monday, giving the bookstore chain stronger footing in the hotly contested electronic book market and creating an alliance that could intensify the fight over the future of digital reading.
The deal, which gives Microsoft a 17.6 percent stake, values the Nook unit at $1.7 billion — roughly double Barnes & Noble’s entire market value as of last Friday — and bolsters the bookseller’s efforts to make its digital business the linchpin of its future growth.
The announcement was the latest surprise in an unpredictable and rapidly shifting e-book market, which is crowded with technology giants trying to chip away at Amazon.com’s dominance. Amazon once had close to 90 percent of the e-book market, but since then, a handful of players, including Apple, Google and now Microsoft, have edged in.
So, B & N is a bookseller, with hundreds of stores. Remember when Borders went bankrupt? And Tower Records? The days of blazing a new trail in retail by undifferentiated sales are done.
Stowe Boyd via stoweboyd.com
Successful retail in the US is falling into two categories: companies selling their own products, like Apple, and focused specialty providers, like Trader Joe’s and Uniqlo. Otherwise: a wasteland. And soon we will be dismantling all the big box stores.
So, this is a bail out. B & N needs big cash to compete against Kindle, because Amazon is underpricing the device to hold onto the market in the face of growing market penetration of iPad and iPhone as better mobile reading devices. Microsoft, who completely missed the ereader market and who is fighting Apple and Google in the smart device marketplace, hope that a strategic partnership with B & N around the Nook can help, but how?
Unmentioned is the idea that some soon-to-market version of the Nook will be a Windows 8 device, instead of running Nook’s proprietary OS. And a spin-out of the Nook division into a new company, called Nook, with even more cash from Microsoft. Otherwise the whole thing makes no sense.
Mathew Ingram wonders — apparently based on some thoughts by Barry Ritholtz — whether Apple should spend $10B and buy Twitter:
Mathew Ingram, Should Apple buy Twitter?
Apple’s best effort by far at adding those kinds of social elements came when the company integrated Twitter at a deep — and for Apple, a fairly radical — level into the operating system on the iPhone and iPad (and even into its new desktop OS, OS-X Mountain Lion). Never before had Apple built support for a third-party service into its devices and software in such a fundamental way. This helped fuel rumors about an Apple acquisition, just as Ritholtz and others have used it to justify such a deal: if Apple wants to integrate Twitter so deeply, why not just acquire it so that it has full control?
The fact that Apple likes to control things from end-to-end is well known, which is just one of the reasons why the deep Twitter integration was a bit of a surprise. But does it really need to own Twitter in order to get the benefits of that integration? I don’t think so. It can get all the positive aspects of Twitter support without having to own the company — and it doesn’t have to worry about the hassle of maintaining a third-party service that is used for a wide variety of different purposes that Apple has no real interest in.
Not only that, but buying Twitter could actually harm Apple’s attempts to integrate more social aspects into its devices, because it would make it even less likely that the company would ever strike a similar deal with Facebook — something it has tried to do a number of times. It could be that Facebook has no intention of ever partnering with Apple, and the two may wind up becoming adversaries as their interests converge, but acquiring Twitter would likely remove any chance of the two ever working together in even a small way.
So, Mathew comes down pretty strongly on the negative side of a possible acquisition, but omits the long-range view: the next generation of operating systems will be social at the core.
Most of today’s operating systems are still based on 1990 thinking. They are based on WIMP (windows, icons, menus, pointer). They don’t know about the Web, so users have to move back and forth from their local store of docs and files to the cloud, a thousand times a day. And the biggest surprise of the Web has been the rise of social, which is supported on our computers through apps.
All of these limitations will be attacked in new operating systems, which will be web-aware, post-WIMP, and inherently social.
Apple is headed into a battle with Google, Facebook, and maybe Microsoft (Windows 8 looks pretty good), and one of the primary areas of contention will be building social primitives into the operating environment.
Google will build its social architecture in Android. Facebook will become more than just an app platform: it will become a mobile OS. Windows 9 or some future version will incorporate some approach to social. And iOS and Mac OS X have started to move this way by including Twitter in the mix, as a fundamental social protocol.
Apple should pay the $10B for Twitter, and make it into the social layer of its OSs, and as the social framework of its apps. For example, Ping in iTunes could be rewired to rely on Twitter, fixing its design as Barry Ritholz points out, and future social TV and second screen apps could be based on Twitter, as well, which makes sense because Twitter is the leading second screen app today. The coming battle for social TV will be hugely important, and Twitter really positions Apple in that space.
So, Mathew is being too conservative, because he thinks Apple may want to ‘work with’ Facebook in the future. But that can’t be where Apple is headed.