Linked List: January 2012

Apple Hires Dixons CEO John Browett to Lead Retail 

James Davey and Poornima Gupta, reporting for Reuters:

Apple chief Tim Cook, making his first high-profile hire since taking the helm of the world’s largest technology company, lured the well-regarded industry executive to fill a critical post once held by Ron Johnson, another outsider who left Target Corp to join Apple in 2000. […]

Browett, Dixons’ CEO since 2007, was previously chief executive of Tesco Plc’s successful online shopping site. He will oversee Apple’s retail strategy and the expansion of its stores around the world, from the current total of around 300.

You don’t see many executives trading up from CEO of one company to senior vice president of another. That Browett is from Europe is a pretty good signal that international expansion is a top priority for Apple retail.

Tesla Motors Model S Options and Pricing 

Looks great, and less expensive than I expected. I like my friend Nat Irons’s quip that the $50,000 40kWh model is “the white plastic MacBook of the product line”.

Visualizing Apple’s Quarterly Results 

Fantastic tool by Francesco Schwarz for visualizing Apple unit sale and revenue growth over the past decade.

I stumbled across this earlier today when I asserted that the iPhone is now far more popular and profitable then the iPod ever was. Figured I should double check that, just to make sure. Not only is it true, but after last quarter it’s not even close. iPod unit sales followed a fairly regular pattern: about 10 million units sold per quarter for the first nine months of each calendar year, then a little over 20 million units sold each holiday quarter. Apple sold just under 23 million iPods in Q109 (the 2008 holiday quarter) — until this last quarter, that was the highest-ever quarterly unit sales number for an Apple product segment. Not only did the iPhone break the 30-million mark last quarter, but with a grand total of 37 million it came damn close to breaking the 40-million mark. Think about that: Apple had never sold 30 million of anything in a quarter and almost sold 40 million iPhones.

Now think about what happens if iPad sales continue to grow at their current trajectory.

RIM Creates Four Cartoon Characters to Spread ‘Be Bold’ Message 

Someone at RIM is even nuttier than those two guys who got drunk on that airplane and chewed their way out of their restraints.

Sony, Too 

Athima Chansanchai, reporting for Gadgetbox:

Sony’s Kate Dugan admitted that despite the natural disasters in Japan that affected production and shipment of its digital cameras, “true decline” has set in for digital cameras, in which sales are down 20 percent, the first time losses have hit in the double digits. The exodus is most pronounced amongst entry level users, who have turned to their phones as their all-in-one must-have gadget.

Dugan said that meant Sony has to focus on things phones can’t achieve, such as “high optical zoom, low light shooting, full HD video.” The way the company sees it, phones are fine to shoot food on the fly, but for “important moments should go to cameras.”

Compare and contrast Sony’s approach to dealing with the decline in point-and-shoot camera sales with Apple’s approach to the decline in iPod sales. Apple is skating to where the puck is heading; Sony is skating to where the puck is at the moment. Apple executives have long been on the record that the company is OK with iPod sales being cannibalized by smartphones — so long as they are Apple’s own smartphones. That’s worked out well for Apple, because the iPhone is now far more popular and profitable than the iPod ever was. They didn’t hesitate in 2007 to make the first iPhone, in Steve Jobs’s own words, “the best iPod ever” too.

Sony makes camera phones, too. But their phones are not as popular as their cameras were. (Could be worse. Consider, say, Canon and Nikon, whose point-and-shoot camera sales are in decline but neither of which even make smartphones.) Sony should no more abandon the point-and-shoot camera market than Apple should abandon the music-playing iPod market, but Sony has to recognize that it’s a business in decline and that the future is in putting better cameras into phones.

Canon Sales Slip, President to Step Down 

Mike Tomkins, Imaging Resource:

The company reported growing demand for single-lens reflex cameras globally in 2011, but demand for compact cameras was said to have been sluggish in all but emerging markets.

Is there any doubt why compact camera sales are down?

Y-Combinator Startup Caught Stealing From 37signals 

The funny thing isn’t that these Curebit guys shamelessly ripped off webpage designs from 37signals, but that they did it in such a stupid way. How did they not think they were going to be caught and come out of this looking foolish at best, dishonest at worst?

‘If You Do Things Well One at a Time, You End Up in a Really Good Place.’ 

Great interview with Ron Johnson by the AP:

Q. Who are you targeting?

A. We are going after all Americans. We would like to be the store for everyone.

‘Rave Reviews’ 

MacDailyNews calls foul on Seeking Alpha writer Cameron Kaine’s claim, regarding Amazon as a rival to Apple, that “last November the company launched an assault on Apple’s tablet reign with the unveiling of its Kindle Fire to rave reviews.”

Forrester: 20 Percent of Global Info Workers Use Apple Products for Work 

Strong showing for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac in this new report from Forrester.

How Amazon’s KDP Select Saved David Kazzie’s Book 

David Kazzie:

As I write this blog post, The Jackpot is No. 68 on Amazon’s Paid Bestseller list.

CUE FLASHBACK SOUND FROM LOST

One week ago, my book was dead in the water. And I mean dead. After a promising start last summer, sales crashed, completely, totally and spectacularly, despite wonderful reviews (from people who didn’t even know me!). From December 1 through January 24, I sold 21 copies on Amazon. One on BN.com. And that was it. Barely enough to fund a lunch date for me and my wife. The previous couple months hadn’t been much better. To be honest, I was trying to forget the book even existed as I worked on my new manuscript, my internal doomsayer wondering how badly I’d effed my career with a self-publishing disaster.

MindNode 

My thanks to MindNode for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. MindNode is an easy-to-use mind-mapping app, available for your Mac, iPad, and iPhone. With great features like Dropbox support and Wi-Fi sharing, the different versions work together cleverly, providing you with a system for organizing your ideas and plans wherever you are.

Motorola’s Buzzwords 

Seems like their caps lock key works.

New York Times Goes Deeper on Chinese Apple Factory Working Conditions 

Charles Duhigg and David Barboza, reporting for the New York Times:

“Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production cost,” said Li Mingqi, who until April worked in management at Foxconn Technology, one of Apple’s most important manufacturing partners. Mr. Li, who is suing Foxconn over his dismissal, helped manage the Chengdu factory where the explosion occurred.

“Workers’ welfare has nothing to do with their interests,” he said.

Tim Cook responded in a company-wide email.

Make That Two 

Analyst Ed Zabitsky sees AAPL shares falling to $270:

The reason for his bearish view of the company is that Zabitsky believes the competing Android mobile operating system from Google “will change the playing field entirely” with its latest 4.0 update, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich. He says the experience on the updated platform is on par with Apple’s iOS.

There’s Always One 

Thomas Kee is doubling down on his advice to sell Apple short:

My purpose here is NOT to suggest that sales of iPhones are going to decline aggressively, even though I firmly believe AAPL products do not carry with them the competitive advantages they once did. Instead, I am suggesting that sales growth like what we have been witness to will not continue at the same rate. This stall is coming, it is closer than most people think, and what we were just witness to is likely the peak in this growth cycle.

The State of Apple 

If you’re at Macworld Expo, come see Jason Snell, Andy Ihnatko, and yours truly on stage at 4pm speaking about the state of Apple. If you’re not at Macworld Expo, shame on you, but you can watch online at Macworld.com.

Nvidia and AMD Blame Hard Drive Shortages for Poor GPU Sales 

Sean Hollister, The Verge:

Yes, you read that headline right: despite the fact that neither AMD nor Nvidia manufacture a product that requires a magnetic drive, both claim that the hard drive shortages that resulted from the 2011 Thailand flood disaster impacted their ability to sell graphics processors, and ultimately their bottom line. Both AMD CEO Rory Read and Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang had said last quarter that they didn’t expect any impact at all from the floods — “it’s really a non-factor,” said Huang — but Nvidia just told the world that it may have earned roughly $116 million less revenue than the company originally expected due to the hard drive shortage (as well as Tegra 2 decline), and AMD told investors that it saw “a little bit of pressure in terms of hard disk” during its earnings call today.

Sure, that’s the explanation — not that demand for Windows PCs is drying up. I’m surprised Nvidia couldn’t make up the difference with Tegra 2 chipsets that powering all those best sellers on the “non-iPad tablets” list.

Con Artist Starred in Government Sting on Google 

Thomas Catania, reporting for the WSJ:

The government’s case also contained potentially embarrassing allegations that top Google executives, including co-founder Larry Page, were told about legal problems with the drug ads.

Mr. Page, now Google’s chief executive, knew about the illicit conduct, said Mr. Neronha, the U.S. attorney for Rhode Island who led the multiagency federal task force that conducted the sting. “We simply know from the documents we reviewed and witnesses we interviewed that Larry Page knew what was going on,” he said in an interview after the August settlement.

Everyone who’s surprised, raise your hand.

Crickets.

Zynga Shamelessly Rips Off Indie Game 

Eli Hodapp, writing for TouchArcade:

It doesn’t take more than a few quick glances at the screenshots and iTunes text to realize that Zynga has firmly focused their copy machines on NimbleBit’s Tiny Tower. It’s really incredibly just how blatant of a clone this is, as Zynga has gone far beyond just copying the premise of the game — they even directly lifted the restocking mechanics, elevator upgrades, UI elements, and more.

Looks like someone’s angling for an acquisition by Samsung.

Apple vs. PC Shipments: ‘PC’ Decline Worse Than Reported 

Tom Reestman on numbers from Gartner and IDC that show “PC” sales slipping but Mac sales growing:

It makes sense until you realize Apple’s (i.e., Mac) data is included in the same total to which it’s being compared. In other words, Apple’s stellar year is propping up the “PC” (i.e., non-Mac) numbers, making “PC” shipments look better than they really were. If you truly want to know how Apple did in the US on its own against “PCs”, you must subtract it from the latter’s numbers. […]

The originally reported dismal “PC” growth of -5.9% becomes an even more dismal -8.5% without Apple’s numbers propping it up. That -2.6% delta is not insignificant, it’s over 40% worse than what was reported.

Ding-dong, the Wintel witch is starting to slowly wither away.

Phone Size: Web-Based Phone Size Comparison 

Gives you a good sense of just how big phones like the Galaxy Nexus and HTC Titan are.

Picture of RIM Co-CEOs Resigning 

That’s about right.

‘Take Your Medicine’ 

Speaking of Kottke, I love this Gawker story by Adrian Chen he just linked to, about a freelance hacker who, among other things, sets up prepaid cell phone networks for criminal rings, a la The Wire:

With Martin’s system, each crewmember gets a cell phone that operates using a prepaid SIM card; they also get a two-week plastic pill organizer filled with 14 SIM cards where the pills should be. Each SIM card, loaded with $50 worth of airtime, is attached to a different phone number and stores all contacts, text messages and call histories associated with that number, like a removable hard drive. This makes a new SIM card effectively a new phone. Every morning, each crewmember swaps out his phone’s card for the card in next day’s compartment in the pill organizers. After all 14 cards are used, they start over at the first one.

Each day’s SIM is preprogrammed with the numbers for the other members’ phones for that day:

As long they all swap out their cards every day, the contacts in the phones stay in sync. (They never call anyone but each other on the phones.) Crewmembers will remind each other to “take their medicine,” Martin said.

Filters All the Way Down 

Jason Kottke, in an interview with Thomas Houston on The Verge:

It’s much easier to find interesting things to read and look at online than it used to be… the web is now largely filters on top of filters on top of filters. So I don’t have to sift through as much stuff as I used to. But also around the time I posted that link, I got much better at blogging. I don’t know if the 10,000 hours thing kicked in or what, but when used to take me 6-8 hours to do now takes me 2-3 hours.

Apple Would Be in Trouble, If Not for All Those Stupid iPad Buyers 

Rick Munarriz, writing about Apple’s blockbuster quarter for Motley Fool:

Still, would it have hurt these 15.4 million new iPad 2 owners to wait a couple of months for either a better price on their own gadget or at the very least a chance to spend the same amount on something better? I’m not asking iPad buyers to “think different” as much as “think,” period.

Translation: Munarriz’s jackasstic analysis of Apple’s prospects wasn’t wrong because he is stupid, it was because iPad buyers are so stupid.

Ron Johnson’s ‘Think Different’ Moment 

Ken Seggall:

Ron’s big day starts out with a two-page ad in major papers (above). This is his Think different moment, where he puts forth the philosophy that will guide JCPenney under his leadership.

The details will be revealed during a series of presentations today in New York. But from firsthand experience, I can testify that when Ron talks about what makes a great shopping experience, you start believing.

27,000 Google Chromebooks Headed to U.S. Schools 

Stephen Shankland, reporting for CNet:

“Students love the tablet. I am not going to hide that from you. They will bow down and kiss your feet,” said Diane Gilbert, an English teacher at Kelly Mill Middle School in Blythewood, S.C., who’s taught with tablets in her classroom. She said that Chromebooks, though, are better when it comes to typing and to letting students publish their work the way she wants it done.

She should be in IT.

High Schools Are Step One of Two 

McKay Thomas:

Apple, by going high school first, is applying the heat to university textbook publishers and bookstores. They are saying “Fine. If you won’t work with us, then we’ll empower a generation to change your industry for you.”

The Ron Johnson Era at JC Penney Has Begun 

Reuters:

In a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Penney said “we’re not interested in being the biggest store or the flashiest store. We want to be your favorite store.”

Google’s Broken Promise 

Mat Honan calls Google’s new privacy policy “the end of ‘Dont be evil’”:

In a privacy policy shift, Google announced today that it will begin tracking users universally across all its services — Gmail, Search, YouTube and more — and sharing data on user activity across all of them. So much for the Google we signed up for.

“Don’t be evil” has been over for a long time.

Too Soon 

Seth Weintraub:

We received word from a reliable source at Foxconn in China that the iPhone 5, as it is currently being called, is now gearing for production.

No it’s not.

No teardrop-shaped devices, as rumored in the lead up to the iPhone 4S. Samples so far have been symmetrical in thickness (also longer/wider).

Longer and wider? Sounds like bullshit. I can see Apple putting a bigger display on a device of the same size. I can’t see them making a bigger device.

Focus on the User for Safari 

Remember that “don’t be evil” bookmarklet the other day, for improving Google web search results by eliminating the special treatment of Google Plus pages? Here’s a free Safari extension that applies it automatically.

TechCrunch: ‘33Across Acquires Tynt to Become Social Data Powerhouse’ 

My suggested headline: “Company I’ve Never Heard of Acquires Copy and Paste Clipboard-Molesting Jerks to Create an Even Bigger Pile of Shit”.

Watching Apple Win the World 

David Heinemeier Hansson, on the satisfaction of being a long-time Mac user:

Macs were (and are) just better. Not just because they were better built or put together, but because Apple was a better company. A braver company. A company that stood for higher ideals. When compared to the empire of Microsoft and the Dells, Sonys of the time, it simply felt like they were more right.

For years, when Apple was down, they were held up as proof that making the best products didn’t matter. The Mac is better than Windows and look what happened was the refrain. You still hear it today, anytime Apple slips even a notch. Look no further than yesterday’s claim chowder of Henry Blodget. What’s satisfying about Apple’s current success is that it’s proof that you can succeed wildly by focusing first and foremost on making great products. That design does matter.

Living in Denial 

David Wilson, Writing for Bloomberg two months ago:

Anyone who expects Apple Inc.’s growth to rebound after sales and earnings shortfalls last quarter is “living in denial,” according to David Nelson, chief strategist at Belpointe Asset Management LLC. […]

“This is no longer a hyper-growth company,” Nelson said yesterday in a telephone interview. Apple’s products are now reaching customers who are less likely to upgrade as newer models are released, he added.

Cook on iCloud 

Transcript of Cook’s remark’s on today’s call. I point you to his remarks on iCloud:

I think Peter shared earlier the number of customers that had signed up for iCloud, and it’s already over 85 million, so it’s incredible that this has happened in just a few months’ period of time. We’re thrilled with it, and the response from customers has been incredible. It’s solved a lot of problems that customers were having and made their lives much much easier…. It was a fundamental shift recognizing that people had numerous devices and they wanted the bulk of their content in the cloud and easily accessible from all of their devices, and you know, I think we’re seeing the response from that. With 85 million customers in just three months, it is a very very important part — it’s not just a product, it’s a strategy for the next decade.

I saw Matt Deatherage from MacJournals flag this remark during Macworld’s live coverage of the call. iCloud is as central to Apple’s next 10 years as the digital hub strategy was to the previous 10 years — and financial analysts are likely to ignore it, just like they did Apple’s digital hub strategy. I think Steve Jobs had his fingers in as many projects as he could manage in his final year, but it’s no coincidence that his last product announcement was iCloud. Put another way, I don’t expect any new Apple products that aren’t related in some way to iCloud.

Ubuntu HUD to Replace Menu Bar 

Sort of like Quicksilver or LaunchBar, but for menu items instead of apps.

Claim Chowder: ‘The Apple Bubble Is Ready to Burst’ 

Leonid Kanopka, writing for Seeking Alpha in November, two months ago:

Apple is a great company with wonderful products, but its run is up. It seems to me that innovation is beginning to run dry, and the stock price is overinflated. The stock has begun to fall already dropping from its $426 high. If the economy does not pick up and the company does not cushion its freefall, we could see new lows into 2012 — maybe $85. Whatever the case, I see a rocky future and a new bubble about to burst. My recommendation: Sell.

Nailed it.

The Second-Most-Profitable Quarter in Any Company’s History 

Another interesting bit of perspective on Apple’s numbers, from CNN:

It was one of the most profitable quarters ever for any U.S. company, trailing only ExxonMobil’s record-setting $14.8 billion quarter from the fall of 2008, when oil prices were at an all-time high.

It wasn’t just a historic quarter for Apple, or for a tech company. It was a historic quarter, period.

‘I Clearly Believe That There Will Come a Day That the Tablet Market in Units Is Larger Than the PC Market.’ 

Tim Cook, as quoted in Macworld’s live transcript of Apple’s quarterly earnings call:

Last year was supposed to be the year of the tablet, and I think most people would agree it was the year of the iPad for the second year in a row. We’re going to continue to innovate like crazy in this area, and continue to compete with anyone that is currently shipping tablets, or that might enter in the future.

The iPhone is by far Apple’s biggest source of revenue and profit today. But if you’re thinking about future growth, keep in mind that the iPad is far ahead of where the iPhone was two years after its debut.

Also worth noting: Tim Cook says Apple sold 2.8 million Apple TVs in fiscal year 2011, and broke a record with 1.4 million in the just-ended quarter. They’re still calling it a hobby, and it’s only a $100 product, but in terms of units, it used to be that 1.4 million was a great number for Mac sales in a quarter.

Apple Added $38 Billion in Cash Last Year 

Another chart with an impressive slope.

Huffington Post Headline Two Days Ago: ‘Apple Q1 2012 Earnings Call Could Reveal Chinks in Armor’ 

Or maybe not.

Claim Chowder: ‘iPhone Dead in Water’ 

Henry Blodget, back in April:

Importantly, it’s not a question of which platform is “better.” (This is irrelevant.) It’s a question of which platform everyone else uses. And increasingly, in the smartphone market, barring a radical change in trend, that’s Android.

So that’s why Android’s gains matter. And, yes, Apple fans should be scared to death about them.

Actual result: Apple sold more iPhones in calendar 2011 than in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 combined; 55 percent of all smartphones sold by Verizon last quarter were iPhones.

Claim Chowder: ‘The iPad: In the Middle (of Nowhere)’ 

Marketing brainiac Mohan Sawhney, after the introduction of the original iPad two years ago:

What’s the outlook for the iPad? There will be long lines on the day it becomes available, because a million or so die-hard Apple fanatics will buy anything Apple puts out, even if it is a brick. Seduction and lust is a powerful emotion and it will drive sales for a while. Once the early adopters have forked over their money, the rest of us will start to ask difficult and inconvenient questions about the value relative to the price. And Apple will be forced to make some drastic adjustments to the pricing and the connectivity fees.

Actual result: 15 million iPads sold last quarter; same prices, same connectivity fees as when it debuted.

Claim Chowder: ‘iPad Demand Said to Be Fading as Competition Heats Up’ 

Zach Epstein, BGR, back on 15 November:

Demand for Apple’s iPad tablet is said to be in decline as competition finally heats up thanks to the $199 Kindle Fire from Amazon, and investors could be in for a disappointing fourth quarter as a result. In a recent research note, Goldman Sachs analyst Bill Shope suggested Apple’s firm grip on the global tablet market may finally loosen unless the Cupertino, California-based company lowers its pricing.

Actual results: 15.4 million iPads sold, a 111 percent increase over the year-ago quarter.

Perspective 

Farhad Manjoo:

Apple’s profits ($13 billion) exceeded Google’s entire revenue ($10.6 billion).

Matt Richman on Apple’s Results 

Matt Richman:

In 2009, Apple sold more iPhones than it did in 2007 and 2008 combined. In 2010, Apple sold more iPhones than it did in 2007, 2008, and 2009 combined. Last year, Apple sold 93.1 million iPhones, slightly more than it did in in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 combined. The pattern continued.

Imagine if that holds true for 2012 as well.

Richman also makes a strong case that Apple sold more iOS devices than all Android devices combined last quarter.

Charting Apple’s Revenue Growth 

Q1 is always a peak for Apple because it’s the holiday quarter, but still, the slope on this chart is simply breathtaking.

Apple’s Q1 Results: Record-Breaking Revenue and Profit 

Make that record-shattering:

The Company posted record quarterly revenue of $46.33 billion and record quarterly net profit of $13.06 billion, or $13.87 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $26.74 billion and net quarterly profit of $6 billion, or $6.43 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 44.7 percent compared to 38.5 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 58 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

The Company sold 37.04 million iPhones in the quarter, representing 128 percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter. Apple sold 15.43 million iPads during the quarter, a 111 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter. The Company sold 5.2 million Macs during the quarter, a 26 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter.

Apple broke its previous quarterly records for: revenue, profit, iPhones sold, iPads sold, and Macs sold. Their previous record for revenue was $28 billion; they almost hit 50.

So they’re doing OK.

Yankees Great Jorge Posada Retires After 17 Seasons 

Andrew Marchand, ESPN

Posada sat at a dais flanked by his wife and his children, Jorge Jr. and Paulina. To his right were the five world championship trophies that Posada helped the Yankees win. Jeter, closer Mariano Rivera, ace CC Sabathia and Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner were among those in attendance.

After Posada finished his opening statement, Diana Munson, the widow of Yankees great Thurman Munson, spoke. She credited Posada for inspiring her to watch baseball again. Posada had considered Thurman Munson, who died in 1979 when the plane he was piloting crashed in Ohio, a hero.

Diana Munson said she now has loved two Yankees catchers in her life.

One of the all-time greats, a class act, and one of the most emotional players I’ve ever seen.

iPhone Accounted for the Majority of Verizon Smartphone Sales Last Quarter 

Tom Krazit, PaidContent:

In the first quarter that Verizon Wireless was on board with Apple for an iPhone launch event, the company sold 4.2 million iPhones, accounting for more than half of the 7.7 million smartphones that its customers purchased in the fourth quarter.

File under “Android is winning”.

Facebook Coalition to Google: Don’t Be Evil, Focus on the User 

John Battelle has a nice look behind the scenes at the motivation behind and creation of the Focus on the User “don’t be evil” bookmarklet. See also: Danny Sullivan’s explanation of how it works.

The New Portal Strategy 

Sarah Lacy:

Here’s what Larry Page said in his Playboy interview before the company went public: “Most portals show their own content above content elsewhere on the web. We feel that’s a conflict of interest, analogous to taking money for search results. Their search engine doesn’t necessarily provide the best results; it provides the portal’s results. Google conscientiously tries to stay away from that. We want to get you out of Google and to the right place as fast as possible. It’s a very different model.”

Google’s Problem: Relevance 

MG Siegler on Google’s promotion of Google Plus pages in web search results:

I’m going to go ahead and make a prediction: this does not end well for Google. I’m not saying Google falls as a result of this mistake — that would be foolish, they’re too big to fail anytime soon — but I do think that over an extended period of time, whether users consciously realize it or not, they’ll start looking elsewhere for their information needs because Google has strayed from their foundation.

It’s a philosophical line they never should’ve crossed. What made Google Google is that their web search results were better than anyone else’s, and were ordered simply by their best guess as to relevancy. Even when they introduced ads, they did it in a way that was true to the same spirit: the ads most relevant to the search terms. They profit handsomely and deservedly from this.

I think their decision to artificially promote Google Plus pages above more relevant pages on competing social networks is the modern-day equivalent of the ’90s era search engines turning their homepages into “portals”. A search engine should be designed to send users quickly and accurately away to whatever sites on the Internet they’re looking for. The ’90s-era search engine portals blew this, because the whole portal idea was to keep users on their sites rather than send them away. This Google Plus integration is the same thing — an attempt to keep users on Google.com for another page view or two.

Speaking of EULA Restrictions on the Output of Apps (PDF) 

From page 6 of Microsoft’s EULA for Office 2010:

HOME AND STUDENT SOFTWARE. For software marked “Home and Student” edition, you may install one copy of the software on up to three licensed devices in your household for use by people for whom that is their primary residence. The software may not be used for commercial, non-profit, or revenue-generating activities.

I’m pretty sure Adobe has similar terms for the educational versions of their design apps. It’s not exactly analogous to Apple’s iBooks Author terms, because Microsoft and Adobe allows full free commercial use upon buying the full-priced editions of their apps. Apple has no commercial edition of iBooks Author. Adobe and Microsoft want you to buy their software; Apple wants you to sell your book through iBookstore.

Update: Via Twitter, several DF readers report that Adobe’s educational license (see section 16.3) does not place any restrictions on commercial use.

Update 2: Looks like I was right the first time. Also via Twitter, Weldon Dodd points to Adobe’s EULA web page, which states in Section 3(f), under “License Restrictions”:

(f) Education Versions may not be used for, or distributed to any party for, any commercial purpose.

30 Percent 

Microsoft’s Frank X. Shaw, in a series of three tweets regarding the iBooks Author licensing terms:

  1. If you write a novel in Word, we promise not to take a 30% cut.
  2. Likewise, if you deliver a speech in PowerPoint, we promise not to take 30% of your speaking fees.
  3. If you manage your finances in Excel, we promise not to take 30% of your income.

OK, but none of these things are true for users of Pages, Keynote, or Numbers. iBooks Author is not a new e-book editing component of the iWorks suite, regardless how many people wish that it were. It is a dedicated front-end to the iBookstore.

The only fair comparison would be to the licensing requirements of the e-book editing and layout app for Microsoft’s e-book store, neither of which exist. Microsoft could make a lot of friends if they released a free editing tool as polished as iBooks Author which places no restrictions upon its output. I’m not going to hold my breath on that.

(The fact that Shaw is able to even attempt to make hay on this point is yet another reason that I still consider it a mistake for Apple to assert the blanket “if you sell it, you must sell it through us” restriction.)

More Still From Dan Wineman on the iBooks Author EULA 

Dan Wineman:

Even if we’re right and Apple doesn’t care about PDFs or plain text files, that’s still the Apple of today. The Apple of 20 years from now might turn out to be a completely different company, and this EULA has no expiration date. That’s a dangerous situation for authors and publishers who care about long-term distribution rights. It would be best for Apple to clarify the terms now — and, I hope, loosen them — rather than prolong the uncertainty.

Completely agreed.

A Writer’s EULA 

Daniel Steinberg compares Apple’s iBooks Author EULA to the terms and conditions of a traditional publishers contract for authors:

I’ve been told by a publisher that they want a second edition of one of my books. Their conditions on me are that I drop this series of ebooks I’m working on because it might compete with the title. When I said no they responded that that’s ok they’ll just get someone else to revise my book.

My book.

It’s not really mine. Even though the copyright is in my name, that turns out not to mean very much.

So am I bothered by the iBooks Author EULA? No. But maybe that’s because I’ve been signing contracts with traditional publishers for so long.

More From Dan Wineman on the iBooks Author EULA 

Dan Wineman:

Yeah, but that only applies to .ibooks files. You can also export .pdf and .txt and those are unrestricted.

Not true. The license defines “Work” as “any book or other work you generate using this software.” That definitely includes PDF and plain text, and it could be construed to include the very words you type in. So if you use iBooks Author to write your novel, you might be legally barred from ever selling that novel in any format, not just as an iBook.

I think this is a gross misinterpretation of Apple’s license. I’m willing to bet cold hard cash that Apple has no intention to and never will try to stop a publisher or author from taking content written in iBooks Author and publishing it elsewhere in another format. No one will ever hear from Apple after exporting from iBooks Author to text or PDF.

But I think the license is crummily written, because it’s not precisely clear what Apple is saying. If Apple wants to make bold and far-reaching licensing restrictions, they should express them clearly and succinctly. Whereas I think, much like with the App Store, their lawyers seek to express the legal restrictions in terms far broader than what they actually seek to enforce. I’m willing to make the above bet based on my understanding of the company and the way Apple thinks, not the language of the EULA. (Although I do think the key word in the EULA’s definition of “work” is generate. I say it’s the .ibooks file you generate using iBooks Author upon which Apple is asserting restrictions.)

Focus on the User 

Open source “Don’t be evil” bookmarklet that uses Google’s own data to show social results ranked by relevance instead of promoting Google Plus above all others.

Meet Thorsten Heins, the New President and CEO of Research in Motion 

The implicit message from RIM is good news/bad news. The good news: we forced out our ineffective co-CEOs. The bad news: we’ve replaced them with an incoherent crazy person.

The iBooks 2.0 Built-in Widgets 

Baldur Bjarnason has a detailed look at Apple’s proprietary extensions in the new iBooks format:

As far as I can tell, after putting together a sample book with most of these widgets and then inspecting that book’s code in BBEdit, none of these widgets use javascript in any way. I couldn’t find a single line of javascript in anywhere in the ebook’s files.

Why is this important? Because javascript is the only cross-platform and standard method for delivering interactivity in hypertext files, such as HTML or ePub. The way Apple has implemented these interactive widgets is through object tags with custom types and data attributes. The type tells iBooks what sort of widget it is and the data attributes give it the parameters. The code to do this are iBooks-only extensions to the webkit rendering engine they are using.

This makes me think that the licensing restriction claiming you may only sell the output of iBooks author through Apple is really just about preventing you from circumventing the iTunes Store and selling directly to iPad users. I think I was wrong about Apple being concerned about iBooks Author being used to produce content for competing e-book platforms — I don’t see how they could parse any of this multimedia widget stuff without an awful lot of reverse engineering.

Do they need a licensing restriction to enforce this? Why not run the iBookstore the way they’re running the Mac App Store? The fact that Mac apps can be sold directly doesn’t seem to be slowing the growth of the Mac App Store.

Glazman Responds to My Response 

Daniel Glazman:

Daring Fireball posted a long reply to my article, but I think John Gruber just did not get my point: Apple started thinking about the features probably beginning of 2010 or even earlier. They started implementing the features second half of 2010. The standardization could have started on their proposals at beginning of 2010, and stabilize around them beginning of 2011. It means we could have obtained a Candidate Recommendation for these features in the course of 2011 and then Apple would be shipping today an application with a clear competitive advantage — being the only one on the market — conformant to future standards.

I think I understood Glazman’s point. What Glazman doesn’t seem to understand is that Apple had no interest in publicly sharing its specific plans for interactive book design two years ago. The new iBooks 2.0 and iBooks author are a typical Apple product — developed in secret, announced when ready.

On the contrary, Apple has implemented features that are now partly or largely incompatible with the future standards, and I am saying this is yet another burden on the Publishing industry that is fighting with already too many formats and too many bad quality conversions.

No argument there. But again, Apple’s not in this game to reduce the cross-platform burdens of the publishing industry. If the publishing industry wants to reduce the number of formats it supports and the hassles of converting from one format to another, Apple’s pitch would be to go exclusive to the iBookstore. This is another case of people acting surprised and/or disappointed that Apple, a for-profit company, is acting like a for-profit company.

Marco Arment on RIM Co-CEOs ‘Stepping Down’ 

I’d have gone with a post-iceberg Titanic, but same idea.

“Greatly Exaggerated”, All Right 

So last week the geniuses at iSuppli predicted that Windows Phone will surpass iOS for the second spot in smartphone market share by 2015. Let’s see what they were saying two years ago, in October 2009:

Despite intensifying competition and the loss of some high-profile licensees, the usage of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Mobile operating system in smart phones will nearly triple from 2009 to 2013, allowing it to reclaim the No.-2 position in the global market, according to iSuppli Corp.

In 2013, 67.9 million smart phones will use the Windows Mobile operating system, up from 27.7 million in 2009. This will give Windows Mobile a 15.3 percent share of the global market in 2013, second only to the Symbian operating system, which will control 47.6 percent.

Nailed it.

RIM CEOs Are Out 

Will Connors and Chip Cummins, reporting for the WSJ:

After 20 years together at the helm of Research In Motion Ltd., Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, the company’s co-chief executives, said they planned to turn over the top job early Monday to a little-known company insider as part of a board and management shuffle.

Finally.

iSuppli Projects Windows Phone to Surpass iPhone in Market Share by 2015 

At least seems more likely than Eric Schmidt’s claim that half our new TVs will be running Google TV in four months. Claim chowder file is getting fat.

Why Apple Products Are Manufactured in China 

Fascinating well-researched investigative report by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher for the New York Times, on the rise of China as a manufacturing power and the corresponding effect on middle class jobs in the U.S., with Apple as the case study. Includes this heretofore unknown (to me, at least) story on the original iPhone’s last-minute change from a plastic to glass display:

In 2007, a little over a month before the iPhone was scheduled to appear in stores, Mr. Jobs beckoned a handful of lieutenants into an office. For weeks, he had been carrying a prototype of the device in his pocket.

Mr. Jobs angrily held up his iPhone, angling it so everyone could see the dozens of tiny scratches marring its plastic screen, according to someone who attended the meeting. He then pulled his keys from his jeans.

People will carry this phone in their pocket, he said. People also carry their keys in their pocket. “I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,” he said tensely. The only solution was using unscratchable glass instead. “I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.”

After one executive left that meeting, he booked a flight to Shenzhen, China. If Mr. Jobs wanted perfect, there was nowhere else to go.

The Times has quotes from former and present (unnamed in the latter case, of course) executives who all paint the same picture: that Chinese manufacturing isn’t merely cheaper, but also perhaps even more importantly, nimbler, more flexible, and faster:

“They could hire 3,000 people overnight,” said Jennifer Rigoni, who was Apple’s worldwide supply demand manager until 2010, but declined to discuss specifics of her work. “What U.S. plant can find 3,000 people overnight and convince them to live in dorms?”

Nielsen U.S. Smartphone Numbers 

Nielsen: “Apple Closes the Gap on Android.” And the lights are going out for RIM.

As MG Siegler notes, imagine how well iOS would be doing if the iPhone 4S weren’t such a disappointment.

Y Combinator: Kill Hollywood 

Paul Graham’s Y Combinator is looking to fund entertainment startups:

The main reason we want to fund such startups is not to protect the world from more SOPAs, but because SOPA brought it to our attention that Hollywood is dying. They must be dying if they’re resorting to such tactics. If movies and TV were growing rapidly, that growth would take up all their attention. When a striker is fouled in the penalty area, he doesn’t stop as long as he still has control of the ball; it’s only when he’s beaten that he turns to appeal to the ref. SOPA shows Hollywood is beaten. And yet the audiences to be captured from movies and TV are still huge. There is a lot of potential energy to be liberated there.

Huge opportunity here. Forms of entertainment evolve and sometimes die, but the aggregate demand for entertainment is ever-growing.

BBEdit 10 

My thanks to Bare Bones Software for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote BBEdit 10, the newest version of the preeminent HTML and text editor for the Mac. I’ve used BBEdit every single day I’ve worked on a Mac since 1992. I expect to continue using it every day for the next 20 years, too.

BBEdit 10 has more than 100 new features. Download the demo and see for yourself.

Cameras on Japanese Phones Cannot Be Silenced 

Leander Kahney, back in 2008:

In Japan, upskirt and downblouse shots have become increasingly popular with the advent of high-resolution camera phones.

As a result, all cell phones sold in Japan make a conspicuous shutter sound, or say the word “cheese” when a snap is taken, according to Nobuyuki Hayashi, a tech reporter based in Tokyo.

In other strange-iPhone-camera-restrictions-in-Asia news, Singapore now has camera-less iPhone 4’s and 4S’s, because members of their military are not allowed to carry cameras.

The Effectiveness of iPad Textbooks 

Speaking of AppleInsider, this is promising:

On the heels of Apple’s e-textbook announcement in New York City this week, publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced the results of its “HMC Fuse: Algebra I” pilot program at Ameila Earhart Middle School in California’s Riverside Unified School District. The Algebra I digital textbook is touted as the world’s first full-curriculum algebra application developed exclusively for Apple’s iPad.

In its test run, the “HMH Fuse” application helped more than 78 percent of students score “Proficient” or “Advanced” on the spring 2011 California Standards Test. That was significantly higher than the 59 percent of peers who used traditional textbooks.

It would be pretty cool if digital textbooks aren’t just cheaper and more portable, but are actually more effective.

Push Pop Press vs. Apple 

Daniel Dilger, writing at AppleInsider:

According to an unverified report from a source who worked with Push Pop Press co-founder Mike Matas, Jobs met with the fledgling company and warned Matas that if he pursued building dynamic books targeted at the App Store he would risk intellectual property claims.

Matas, a former designer at Apple, reportedly used a variety of patented technologies developed at Apple to deliver his plans for Push Pop Press. His company intended to give publishers a way to develop smoothly interactive titles that blurred the line between book and app.

The story I’ve heard is a little different, and a lot less dramatic. What a well-informed little birdie told me is that it wasn’t a legal threat over patents or technology, but rather something more like Panic’s classic story about iTunes and Audion (or maybe you more like Jobs’s hint regarding the then-upcoming iPhoto at the end of that tale). I.e. that Jobs more or less warned Push Pop Press that Apple was going in the same direction, in a big way. A competitive warning, not a legal threat.

xScope 3.0 

Excellent update from The Iconfactory to this essential tool for designers and nitpickers. Lots of great new features, like mirroring a window on your Mac to an iPhone or iPad display, and simulating vision defects (e.g. colorblindness).

Video of Yesterday’s Apple Event in New York 

In case you haven’t seen it. Update: Or, subscribe to Apple’s HD keynotes podcast.

A Mute Point 

Speaking of The Talk Show, this week’s episode is out, featuring a detailed discussion of the iPhone’s ringer (a.k.a. mute) switch, and volume controls and hardware buttons on smartphones in general.

Brought to you by two excellent sponsors: Vidmeup and Stripe.

All the Way to Zero 

Dov Frankel, explaining something that confused me during the week’s episode of The Talk Show:

Basically, the iPhone has two different volume levels: your ringer volume, and your audio playback volume. When audio is playing, or when an audio-centric app is open, the hardware volume buttons change the volume of the audio. When at the home screen with no audio playing, the volume buttons change the ringer volume. The audio level can go to 0, but the ringer volume can only go to 1. To turn the ringer off, you have to use the hardware switch.

No Embedded Fonts in iBooks Author Output 

Apple:

For best results with iPad, use the Format bar to select fonts; the Format bar’s font list includes only fonts that are available on the iPad, so the book should look the same in iBooks Author and in iBooks on the iPad. If you use the Fonts window to select your fonts, all fonts available on your computer will be listed. Selecting a font that is unavailable on the iPad may have inconsistent results when you view the book in iBooks.

Regular books from the iBookstore support embedded custom fonts, so this is a little disappointing. Hopefully it’s just a didn’t-get-around-to-it-yet 1.0 limitation.

Unprecedented, That’s for Sure 

David Smith, on iBooks Author’s licensing terms:

If I create a textbook using iBooks Author and then decide to made it freely available to the world (à la Khan Academy) I can do that without any restriction. Simple click ‘Export’ within iBook Author and the resulting file can be distributed by any means I choose and then loaded in iBooks. The mind boggles at what things may come out of this.

All Apple is doing with this restriction is saying that if you directly profit from this free tool and platform that we have created, then we deserve our cut. Which seems entirely fair to me.

I’ve been pondering this, and I’m thinking Apple’s perspective is about two things. First, it’s about Smith’s argument above. You don’t get to use this free tool to produce books that you sell directly to customers, circumventing Apple’s store. Think about the textbook business, where a publisher might sell thousands of copies of the same book to each school district. This isn’t just about selling iPads — Apple wants its 30 percent.

Second, it’s about not wanting iBooks Author to serve as an authoring tool for competing bookstores like Amazon’s or Google’s. The output of iBooks Author is, as far as I can tell, HTML5 — pretty much ePub 3 with whatever nonstandard liberties Apple saw fit to take in order to achieve the results they wanted. It’s not a standard format in the sense of following a spec from a standards body like the W3C, but it’s just HTML5 rendered by WebKit — not a binary blob tied to iOS or Cocoa. It may not be easy, but I don’t think it would be that much work for anyone else with an ePub reader that’s based on WebKit to add support for these iBooks textbooks. Apple is saying, “Fuck that, unless you’re giving it away for free.”

With these licensing restrictions, Apple is attempting to get the lock-in benefits of a proprietary file format without the proprietary file format.

The Audacious iBooks Author EULA 

Dan Wineman:

Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. As far as I know, in the consumer software industry, this practice is unprecedented.

This is Apple at its worst. Let’s hope this is just the work of an overzealous lawyer, and not their actual intention.

Twitter Buys Summify, Gives Everyone a Reason to Use It 

I really like this idea from Mike Davidson:

As a closing thought, I’ve had this idea in my head for the last few years of what a perfect news site looks like, and it’s quite simple: a white screen with a list of 5 or 10 links that changes once a day. That’s it. Here’s the tricky part though: the 5 or 10 links need to be THE 5 or 10 links that are most useful to me on any given day.

It’s Both 

Peter Kafka, early this morning:

We’ll know shortly. As I mentioned yesterday, the key thing to watch at the Guggenheim is whether Cue brings up reps from the big textbook publishers like Pearson and McGraw-Hill onstage, or whether the focus is on letting educators and others build their own books, so they can bypass both the publishers and the antiquated textbook procurement system.

Ends up it was both. And I think both efforts revolve around iBooks Author.

AnandTech Reviews the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich 

Typically thorough and thoughtful:

I’ve said this before but I do believe that Apple is trying to deliver more of an appliance experience, whereas Google is providing you with a modern take on a traditional computing experience. If the appliance is a smartphone, then both approaches are equally capable — it’s just a matter of personal preference. […]

ICS is smoother, more polished and has its own set of new features that make it a significant step forward for Android. What ICS is not however is an outright clone of iOS. If you prefer the iOS experience to Android, ICS will do nothing to change your opinion. If all you were missing from Android was a smoother UI, then its fourth major release should be almost everything you could ask for.

I agree wholeheartedly. ICS is the first release of Android that feels like a true major upgrade. It hasn’t been changed so much as it’s been polished and refined.

Macworld Coverage of Today’s Apple Education Event 

Probably your best bet for live coverage.

Sony Ericsson Q4 2011 Results 

Xperia Blog:

Sony Ericsson calculates its own Android market share at 10% in volume and 7% in value during Q4. In the past, Sony Ericsson has always talked about aiming to be the number one Android vendor, however, there [were] no such targets mentioned in this morning’s conference call. Perhaps, these targets are being reassessed by Sony following the acquisition of the Sony Ericsson joint venture.

Perhaps.

Confessions of a Publisher: ‘We’re in Amazon’s Sights and They’re Going to Kill Us’ 

Fascinating email to Sarah Lacy from a book publishing insider, on Amazon’s upheaval of the industry.

It’s occurred to me that Apple’s stunning successes over the last decade could be a hindrance to its ongoing negotiations with content companies — movie studios, TV networks, book publishers, etc. Imagine a weekly poker game where, week after week, the same player wins. Every goddamn week. Pretty soon that player is going to stop being invited to play. That’s Apple.

Apple’s opportunity with books is that there’s already a dominant money-winning bully at the table: Amazon.

Google Web Fonts: Good-Natured Grifting 

Matthew Butterick:

In the design world, there’s a well-known swin­dle where a pres­ti­gious but stingy client says “I wish I could pay you, but I don’t have the bud­get. How about you let me use your work for free? I know it’ll be great expo­sure for you, and lead to pay­ing work.” In truth, it’s not, and it won’t. Designer Jes­sica His­che aptly calls this “the most toxic line of bull­shit any­one will ever feed you.” Why? Because it’s just good-natured grift­ing, an exploita­tion of the weaker by the stronger. Nev­er­the­less, it works, because there will always be design­ers hun­gry enough to believe that they don’t have other choices.

Google Web Fonts uses a vari­a­tion of this toxic line as part of its pitch to poten­tial open-source font con­trib­u­tors.

Color Hopes You’ll Want to Broadcast Your Makeout Sessions and Illegal Pool Parties to Facebook 

Someone should make a list of every jackass tech site that took these Color idiots seriously simply because they raised dickety million dollars in VC funding.

Heating Up 

Todd Haselton, BGR:

While the iPad’s lead in the tablet market is obvious, it’s becoming more clear there’s strong competition for market share below it. The Amazon Kindle Fire represented an average of 2.4 ad impressions on Chitikas network for every 100 iPad impressions, but RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook wasn’t far behind; it viewed an average of 1.8 ad impressions for every 100 iPad impressions on Chitika’s mobile ad network. That’s followed closely by the Samsung Galaxy with 1.6 ad impressions and the Motorola XOOM with 1.55 add impressions.

Impressions per hundred iPad impressions? What a great metric for the “non-iPad tablet” category.

DF reader Andrew Wood re-did BGR’s graph to include the iPad. Hot competition indeed.

Update: Here’s another graph that includes the iPad, by Greg Scown.

Agenda: iOS Calendar App 

I saw Ben Brooks recommend this iPhone/iPad calendaring app the other day, and I figured it was worth a shot, since I’ve never really been satisfied with Apple’s built-in calendar app. Glad I did, because Agenda is really neat. Thoughtful, clean, useful layout. The name “Agenda” really captures the appeal — the presentation is all about what you have scheduled today and over the next few days.

Plus, amazingly, it’s only $.99. With the trend toward free apps that either badger you up for in-app upgrades or take up useful screen space with advertising (or both) I’ve actually gotten to the point where I’m more willing to try a $.99 app than a free one.

‘Time to Sell Apple’ 

Thomas H. Kee Jr., giving investment advice at MarketWatch:

In the case of Apple, this is happening in front of our eyes, and the risks are therefore very high. Apple has stopped serving their customers well, and unless they start to serve their customers better the company will begin to lose more market share and revenue and earnings projections will come down aggressively.

Most people think Apple’s customers are the end user, but because Apple relies so heavily on third-party resellers like Verizon and Sprint, both of which are feeling margin contraction and negative effects on earnings because of the extremely high cost of iPhones, the real customers are third-party resellers, and Apple is not treating them right. As long as margins and earnings are negatively affected by sales of Apple’s products, those resellers will look for alternatives and eventually they will find them. Nothing could be clearer.

Let me get this straight. Apple entered the phone business five years ago with a strategy completely different than any other handset maker: treating the user as the customer, rather than the carriers. With this strategy, Apple has now captured two-thirds of the profit in the worldwide handset market. And but now, according to Kee, what Apple should do is start acting like all the other handset makers.

Where do they find these guys?

The Rise and Fall of Personal Computing 

Fascinating data visualizations, as usual, from Horace Dediu. Be sure to watch the video — that’s my favorite of the bunch. Dediu:

This last view corresponds to the data in the first graph (line chart). If iOS and Android are added as potential substitutions for personal computing, the share of PCs suddenly collapses to less than 50%. It also suggests much more collapse to come.

I will concede that this last view is extremist. It does not reflect a competition that exists in real life. However, I put this data together to show a historic pattern. Sometimes extremism is a better point of view than conservatism.

The graph in question — extreme though Dediu admits it is — should be terrifying to Microsoft and its shareholders. Maybe Intel too.

(See also: Dediu on Apple as the largest PC vendor if the iPad is included as a PC.)

App Store Economics 

David Barnard:

Ultimately, the users become the product, not the app. Selling users to advertisers and pushing in-app upgrades/consumables is a completely different game than carefully crafting apps to maximize user value/entertainment. It’d be a shame if the mobile software industry devolved into some horrific hybrid of Zynga and Facebook.

The MacBook Air Turns Four Years Old Today 

Kelly Hodgkins, writing for TUAW:

Four years ago today, Apple introduced the MacBook Air, then the world’s thinnest notebook. It was Steve Jobs’s last Macworld appearance and the next to last Macworld keynote for Apple.

From an intriguing but impractical high-end niche to the industry standard in just four years.

Headline of the Day, Heartless Edition 

MarketWatch: “Yang Resigns From Yahoo Board, Shares Up”.

I remember an Internet without Jerry Yang at Yahoo, but I don’t remember a World Wide Web without Jerry Yang at Yahoo.

iTunes Match Expands to 19 New Countries: Latin America, Baltics, Netherlands 

Looks like the rollout isn’t exactly smooth, though. (Among iTunes’s numerous deficiencies, what’s the deal with the continued use of cryptic numeric “error codes”? Error messages like this seem like a remnant from the ’90s.)

Headline of the Day, Like Something From The Onion Edition 

“Samsung Commits to Increasing Smartphone Battery Life in 2012, Hopes for All-Day Use.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

How Stanley Kubrick Invented the Modern Box-Office Report 

Mike Kaplan:

Word quickly spread that Stanley had a computerized system to track theaters and grosses based on technical information he had acquired while developing HAL 9000, the all-knowing computer in 2001. For months these stories persisted in the trades as the roster of Clockwork cinemas was refined. They were neither confirmed nor denied.

Sweating the details.

Google IP Addresses Used to Vandalize OpenStreetMap 

OpenStreetMap:

Preliminary results show users from Google IP address ranges in India deleting, moving and abusing OSM data including subtle edits like reversing one-way streets. Two OpenStreetMap accounts have been vandalizing OSM in London, New York and elsewhere from Google’s IP address, the same address in India reported by Mocality.

(Via Kontra, who observes that 2012 has been a rather scandal-heavy year for Google, and we’re only three weeks in.)

Update: ReadWriteWeb has a statement from Google:

Google sent the following statement to ReadWriteWeb on Tuesday morning. “The two people who made these changes were contractors acting on their own behalf while on the Google network. They are no longer working on Google projects.”

‘Hello’ 

“You know just what to say…”

Apps Are the New Apps 

Mark Damon Hughes:

This is why Windows Phone 7 is screwed. It needs apps. And to get apps, it has to compete for developer time and money with platforms that make money, either directly or by advertising. It has nothing to do with the carrier system. It has nothing to do with marketing. You have to convince developers to: Install Windows (which they won’t do), learn the Windows dev tools (which they won’t do), and then release on the Windows store, where it won’t make any money, because there’s no customers.

Put another way, the good news for Windows Phone 7 is that a platform doesn’t need the most apps merely to compete. The bad news is that a platform does need enough good apps and enough good developers — and ideally, some excellent titles exclusive to the platform — and Windows Phone doesn’t seem to have any of those things.

I also suspect, like Hughes, that it’s a big problem for Microsoft that developers need to use Windows to develop for Windows Phone. Sure, a majority of all “programmers” in the world may well still be using Windows, but because of iOS, an overwhelming majority of the best mobile app programmers in the world are on Mac OS X.

No, App Store Quantity Does Not Equal Success 

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:

A number of critics have highlighted flaws in Microsoft’s mobile strategy, some pointing to the number of apps available. Robert Scoble has been the most vocal recently, arguing that Windows Phone is missing 450,000 apps, and developers aren’t interested in focusing their resources on building apps for the platform. Business Insider responded and pointed to Windows Phone’s 50,000 apps, compared to iOS’ 500,000 and Android’s 400,000, noting that Windows Phone reached the 50K milestone faster than iOS and Android. The numbers game is irrelevant for the majority of smartphone users, they simply want “cool” apps, and ones that their friends have — something that Windows Phone lacks right now.

I’ve said this several times before, but quantity-of-apps is a terrible primary metric for the appeal of a platform. If the quantity of app titles were all that mattered, we’d all be using Windows, not Mac OS X, right? Having the most apps matters, but having the best apps matters too. The sweet spot for a platform is to do well in both regards.

Think about something like the Nintendo DS. If quantity were all that mattered, no one would buy the DS instead of something like the iPod Touch. The DS is popular not because of the quantity of titles, but because of the quality of the titles it does have.

Ars: Apple to Announce Authoring Tools for Textbook/E-Book Publishing 

Chris Foresman has a nice scoop at Ars:

Apple is slated to announce the fruits of its labor on improving the use of technology in education at its special media event on Thursday, January 19. While speculation has so far centered on digital textbooks, sources close to the matter have confirmed to Ars that Apple will announce tools to help create interactive e-books — the “GarageBand for e-books,” so to speak — and expand its current platform to distribute them to iPhone and iPad users.

Never underestimate the importance of good authoring tools. A good “GarageBand for e-books” could do for the iBooks platform what Xcode and the Cocoa Touch frameworks have done for the App Store.

Waterproof Smartphone Technology 

Sensitivity to moisture is a glaring shortcoming of today’s gadgetry. I have no idea whether this company’s technology is the real deal, but it’s inevitable that sooner or later waterproofing will become de rigueur.

TechCrunch Refugees 

Paul Carr, writing for the just-launched PandoDaily, which is to TechCrunch as The Verge is to Engadget:

In any case, the launch of PandoDaily (are we calling it just ‘Pando’ yet? ‘PD?’) is proof of the old maxim that everything happens for a reason. Without all the unpleasantness, how else could I have the unmitigated pleasure of working with my old friends Sarah, Mike and MG — plus a bunch of new ones — on a splendid new enterprise, free from the yoke of corporate ownership?

Gee, that’s a real head-scratcher. Wait, I’ve got it: how about if Mike Arrington had never sold TechCrunch to AOL in the first place?

Samsung to Merge Bada With Intel-Backed Tizen 

Reuters:

Samsung Electronics Co. said on Tuesday it planned to merge its ‘Bada’ mobile software with a platform backed by chipmaker Intel Corp in its latest push to diversify away from Google’s Android. […]

In September two Linux software groups, one backed by Samsung, and another by Intel, agreed to jointly develop Tizen, a new operating system for cellphones and other devices, by merging their LiMo and Meego platforms in a bid to gain wider industry and consumer support. “We have an effort that will merge Bada and Tizen,” a Samsung spokesman confirmed senior vice president Kang Tae-jin as telling Forbes magazine in an interview last week.

Sure, that’ll work. Just take them and smoosh them together. It’s easy to merge operating systems.

Making Love to WebKit 

Steven Wittens describes the technology and thinking behind his new site design, which features a 3D header and no images. WebKit only for now, but it works on the iPad, too. Alas, as a consequence of the way he built it, you lose momentum scrolling. Worth trying it out on the iPad just to see how essential momentum scrolling is to the touch experience.

(Via Andy Baio.)

The President’s Challenge 

Nat Torkington on President Obama’s request for the tech community to find some other anti-piracy technology as an alternative to SOPA:

Take the truck, the boat, the helicopter, that we’ve sent you. Don’t wait for the time machine, because we’re never going to invent something that returns you to 1965 when copying was hard and you could treat the customer’s convenience with contempt.

(Via Tim Bray.)

Lessons From the Worst Project Matt Haughey Ever Funded on Kickstarter 

Matt Haughey:

Again, I mention this entire project not to single out the creators as bad people but instead to show any and all past/current/future Kickstarter backers what not to do. When you are designing a product for Kickstarter and you show prototypes, backers will assume you have worked all the bugs out first. When things start to go wrong, it doesn’t help to discount the comments or question the motivation of backers giving critical feedback.

As Glenn Fleishman comments, Haughey’s story serves to demonstrate how well Kickstarter usually works.

Android’s Broken Software Buttons 

Speaking of reviews of Android from the perspective of expert users accustomed to other OSes, Alan Zeino has a terrifically-detailed scathing critique of Ice Cream Sandwich:

I’ve spent seven days with my Galaxy Nexus and I still find it hard to believe that Google ships a mobile operating system with such a broken navigation system, centered around that one back button. Let’s begin with the downright obscene. The back button never, ever tells you if you’ve gone ‘back’ as far as you can go. Tap on that button ad infinitum until every screen/app in the device’s history disappears and you’ll find yourself at the home screen. But the back button will not dim, nor will it disable. You can tap on it to your heart’s content, and you won’t move (though your device will vibrate and chime). The same applies for the home button, which surprisingly doesn’t dim when you’re already ‘home’ either.

This to me is the biggest mystery regarding Ice Cream Sandwich and the Galaxy Nexus. Why replace the system hardware buttons with touchscreen software buttons but not make the new software buttons contextually aware or contextually indicative in any way? They’ve replaced dumb hardware buttons with equally dumb software buttons. It’s endlessly frustrating for me as an iPhone user accustomed to on-screen back buttons that tell me exactly where I’ll be going back to.

Charlie Kindel Reviews the Samsung Galaxy S II 

Speaking of Charlie Kindel, I’ve been meaning to link to his review last month of the Samsung Galaxy S II. He’s approaching from the perspective of a Windows Phone user, and it’s interesting — but perhaps not surprising — how many of his severe complaints mirror those of iPhone users trying Android.

You might say it’s unfair to review a phone running Android 2.3, but that’s the version of Android running on the overwhelming majority of Android phones available for sale today. The truth is that Ice Cream Sandwich — which I believe is the first truly significant improvement to Android since it debuted — is effectively a preview of next year’s Android for the mass market.

Protect IP Act Breaks the Internet 

Terrific piece by Kirby Ferguson — explains clearly and succinctly why the proposed PIPA legislation will not only fail to achieve its intended purpose, but will outright harm the entire Internet.

Fragmentation Is Not the End of Android 

Astute analysis from former Windows Phone manager Charlie Kindel. Can’t really think of any part of it I disagree with.

Look Around You: Computer Games 

Stick with it for a minute or two, trust me.

(Thanks to my pal Daniel Bogan for the link.)

What if We Count the iPad as a Computer? 

Remember that spectacular “What if we count the iPad as a computer?” market share graph from a Deutsche Bank analyst last week? Sebastian Peitsch identified some serious problems with the methodology used to create it, and did the hard work to do this graph correctly.

The result is far less spectacular, but very impressive nonetheless.

Could Bing Seriously Challenge Google? 

Dave Winer, on the increased clutter in Google search results:

I wonder if Microsoft has ever done a study to see how many people switched from Windows to Mac because of all the shovelware and malware that was inundating Windows? I bet it was a lot of people. I promise you that’s why I switched. I don’t think the Mac is any easier to use. Except there are no viruses. My Windows machine was impossible to use because of all the crap.

Google is now in the same place. Enough is enough. Is anyone going to step up and take advantage of their mistake?

I’ve recently been using DuckDuckGo for many web searches, and I’ve been pleased with the accuracy and presentation of the results. My biggest beef is that DuckDuckGo feels a little slow compared to Google (whose web search results are famously optimized to return as close to instantaneously as is technically possible).

Is Too Much Plus a Minus for Google? 

Stephen Levy:

Search, in short, should appear to be like Caesar’s wife, above reproach. When using its algorithmic wizardry to deeply integrate social information into its search experience, it behooves Google to avoid even a whiff of bias. With SPYW, though, the odor is unmistakable. No matter how you cut it, the search engine now increases the value of participating in Google+. It may be Google’s right to do this. But it also may turn off a lot of users. And it also provides ammo for Google’s detractors, including those in Washington.

I see two risks in this regard. First, the trust issue that Levy outlines above. Second, visually, their results now look more cluttered.

The Dubious Assumption Underlying SOPA 

Tim O’Reilly:

In the entire discussion, I’ve seen no discussion of credible evidence of this economic harm. There’s no question in my mind that piracy exists, that people around the world are enjoying creative content without paying for it, and even that some criminals are profiting by redistributing it. But is there actual economic harm?

White House Joins SOPA Opposition 

It’s not over yet, though.

DF RSS Feed Sponsorships 

Speaking of DF RSS feed sponsorships, a bit of last-minute rescheduling has left next week’s spot open. The schedule is generally booked weeks or even months in advance, so if you have a product or service you’d like to promote now to DF’s good-looking, wealthy, spendthrift, thrill-seeking audience, get in touch.

Update: Next week’s spot is gone. April and May remain wide open, though, for those of you planning ahead.

Sparrow for Mac 

My thanks to Sparrow for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Sparrow is a terrific new e-mail client for Mac OS X. It’s elegant and fast, and improving quickly with frequent updates. Just one example of Sparrow’s cleverness: a new feature that lets you use Dropbox as a storage mechanism for large attachments.

Check it out and see for yourself. Sparrow is available right now on the Mac App Store for just $9.99.

Should Vanity Fair Be a Spelling Vigilante? 

Perfect.

Steve Ballmer Reboots 

Nice profile of Steve Ballmer by Ashlee Vance for BusinessWeek:

At present, Microsoft has 14 retail stores and plans to open up to 75 more over the next three years, usually placing them as close as possible to Apple outlets. “Well, the traffic is going to be there, and we’ve got to beat them anyway,” Ballmer says with a shrug.

Not a bad attitude. This attitude exemplifies the best of Ballmer: he’s not afraid to try.

Bloomberg on iPad 3 Details 

Tim Culpan, Peter Burrows, and Adam Satariano, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc.’s next iPad, expected to go on sale in March, will sport a high-definition screen, run a faster processor and work with next-generation wireless networks, according to three people familiar with the product.

Assuming this is right, it doesn’t guarantee the next iPhone will support LTE too, but it sure does make it more likely.

Customers Lining Up in China for the iPhone 4S 

Good thing the iPhone 4S is such a disappointment. Imagine how long the lines would’ve been (and how much worse the egg-throwing and rioting) otherwise.

Update: Samsung responds.

Snapshot of the Computer Market, When You Include the iPad 

Speaking of market share, this graph from Deutsche Bank’s Chris Whitmore is a real eye-opener. Correlation is not causation, but if you look at this and don’t see that the iPad is disrupting the entire computer industry, you’ve got your head in the sand (or some other hole).

Today’s Edition of ‘Don’t Be Evil’ 

Stefan Magdalinski, CEO of Mocality, a sort-of crowd-sourced Yellow Pages directory in Kenya:

Since October, Google’s GKBO appears to have been systematically accessing Mocality’s database and attempting to sell their competing product to our business owners. They have been telling untruths about their relationship with us, and about our business practices, in order to do so. As of January 11th, nearly 30% of our database has apparently been contacted.

Furthermore, they now seem to have outsourced this operation from Kenya to India.

Copiously documented and recorded. Just jaw-dropping. Boing Boing has a brief statement from Google. My question: Is Mocality the only company Google has done this to?

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter: Stop Acting Like ‘Idiots and Assholes’ 

I love this town.

NPD’s Three Top-Selling Smartphones Are iPhones 

Matt Drance:

What interests me much more is the by-model breakdown of sales according to NPD. There are currently three iPhone models available — iPhone 4S ($199), iPhone 4 ($99), and iPhone 3GS (free) — and they occupy the top three slots in that order. This may not be an entirely new phenomenon, particularly not for Apple products, but I still find it remarkable. It contradicts what most people keep insisting is conventional wisdom: that cheap and/or free models will always steal volume from premium models.

Looking at the other phones on the top 10 list from NPD, this might be true of the phone industry overall. It looks like NPD’s list is dominated by new high-end models. Spots four and five go to the Samsung Galaxy S 4G and Galaxy S II, for example.

And it shows that despite what many Apple observers like to say, Apple does in fact care about market share — at least for now.

It’s not that they don’t care about market share, it’s just that market share is not Apple’s top priority.

Rupert Murdoch on Twitter 

Speaking of major corporate executives letting it fly on Twitter, here’s Rupert Murdoch earlier today (original punctuation and capitalization in situ):

Many questions and jokes about My Space.simple answer - we screwed up in every way possible, learned lots of valuable expensive lessons.

(His Twitter client: Twitter for iPad.)

Brief Interpolation on the Contrasting Company Cultures of Microsoft and Apple 

Interesting to see Frank Shaw celebrating (or, if you prefer, gloating) about this deal on Twitter:

Hey Google – we are the 70% #anotherandroidlicense http://bit.ly/w32SIE

It’s hard to imagine an executive from Apple doing that regarding a legal agreement. I point this out not to pass judgment, but merely as an observation. Apple’s brand is cooler, friendlier, more consumer focused. Their executives appear onstage wearing jeans. Microsoft’s brand is more staid, more corporate focused. Their executives appear onstage wearing dress slacks. But in terms of things like using Twitter, Microsoft allows (encourages?) its executives to let it fly.

Actually, now that I think about it, I do want to pass judgment here. I like the way Microsoft allows this. This tweet from Frank Shaw is more honest, and a better reflection of how Microsoft really feels about this, than the PR. It’s an injection of real personality — a human voice rather than the corporate voice.

I understand why Apple is so tight-lipped, but it sure would be fun and revealing if, say, Phil Schiller used Twitter the way Frank Shaw does.

(On the other hand, Apple’s current use of social media like Twitter — to wit, almost not at all — is an accurate honest reflection of the company: secretive, cautious, reserved.)

Microsoft and LG Sign Patent Agreement 

Microsoft:

“Together with our 10 previous agreements with Android and Chrome OS device manufacturers, including HTC, Samsung and Acer, this agreement with LG means that more than 70 percent of all Android smartphones sold in the U.S. are now receiving coverage under Microsoft’s patent portfolio,” said Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel, Intellectual Property Group at Microsoft.

Put another way: Microsoft continues to profit from Android. The only remaining holdout among major Android handset makers is Motorola, whom Google is attempting to acquire.

Tim Cook on the Working Conditions at Apple Factories 

Jessica Vascellaro, reporting for the WSJ:

“I have spent a lot of time in factories over my lifetime and we are clearly leading in this area,” said Mr. Cook, previously Apple’s chief operating officer who oversaw its supply chain. “It is like innovating in products. You can focus on things that are barriers or you can focus on scaling the wall or redefining the problem.”

Example:

The report also found 24 facilities conducted pregnancy tests and 56 didn’t have procedures to prevent discrimination against pregnant workers. Apple said that at its direction, the suppliers have stopped discriminatory screenings for medical conditions or pregnancy.

Update: MacRumors has a copy of the company-wide email Tim Cook sent out about this.

Apple Joins Fair Labor Association 

The Fair Labor Association:

The Fair Labor Association today announced that Apple will join the FLA as a Participating Company, effective immediately. The FLA will independently assess facilities in Apple’s supply chain and report detailed findings on the FLA website. Apple becomes the first technology company to join the Association as a Participating Company.

Apple 2012 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report 

Apple’s own accounting of its environmental and labor practices — including, for the first time, a full list of the company’s suppliers (PDF).

‘Jiminy Cricket, He Flew the Coop’ 

Trailer for Wes Anderson’s new movie, Moonrise Kingdom.

Nokia N96 vs. Samsung Innov8 

I’ll bet even Samsung’s photocopiers are rip-offs of some other company’s photocopiers.

Microsoft’s ‘Smoked by a Windows Phone’ $100 Challenge 

Even in the one where Microsoft’s Ben Randolph loses, Windows Phone comes off looking good. It really excels at these sorts of sharing tasks.

Samsung Blade 

An even better example of Samsung ripping off the design and aping the product name of a best-selling competitor. It’s like coming out with a new diet cola named Kiet Doke.

Update: Here’s another side-by-side comparison, from Engadget.

Microsoft Says PCs May Have Missed Fourth-Quarter Estimates 

Dina Bass, reporting for Bloomberg:

Microsoft Corp. said industrywide sales of personal computers will probably be lower than analysts had projected in the fourth quarter because supply was hurt by flooding in Thailand.

Analysts have estimated that total PC shipments fell about 1 percent in the quarter, Tami Reller, chief financial officer of Microsoft’s Windows unit, said at an investment conference. The actual number is probably lower, she said. Bill Koefoed, Microsoft’s general manager of investor relations, echoed those remarks at a separate event.

This spin is a little too cute for my tastes. It seems like what Microsoft is trying to argue is that “PC sales” are down, and therefore Windows licensing sales are down, too. But sales of the Mac and iPad are up, not down, for the same quarter. It’s not “PC sales” that are down in the abstract, but Windows PC sales specifically.

This Week’s Edition of ‘Stupid Stuff Analysts Say About Apple’ 

Guggenheim Securities analyst Shing Yin:

We believe Apple may have decided not to release an LTE iPhone last year in part because it did not want to cede any leverage to Verizon, which had the clear lead in LTE deployment. We think Apple preferred to see AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint all offer essentially the same iPhone, so that it maximizes the role of the device (rather than the network) in consumers’ purchasing decisions.

This is not how Apple works. Apple will release an LTE iPhone when they can make one that meets Apple’s own standards for performance, battery life, price, and manufacturing scalability. It’s that simple. Tim Cook explained this a year ago, when the Verizon iPhone 4 was introduced.

The other thing that Yin’s analysis seemingly ignores is the rest of the world. Apple sells the same iPhone 4S everywhere. Verizon and AT&T do dominate the U.S. carrier market, but from a global perspective, they’re just two big carriers among dozens.

Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory 

Speaking of Foxconn, Ira Glass’s This American Life included an excerpt of Mike Daisey performing his one-man show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”, about his own research and findings into Apple’s factory conditions in China.

Hundreds Threaten Suicide at Foxconn Factory 

William McGuinness, reporting for CBS Seattle:

Some 300 Chinese Foxconn employees who manufacture X-box 360 machines said they would throw themselves from their Wuhan, China, plant if demands for lost wages were not met.

Should The New York Times Be a Truth Vigilante? 

New York Times public editor Arthur S. Brisbane:

I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.

That The Times, along with all other major US newspapers, doesn’t already do this is probably a surprise to most readers — those who haven’t really thought about how modern journalism works.

I’m glad to see Brisbane writing about this in public. But to me, once you spell it out as Brisbane has here, the answer is obvious: of course The Times should do this.

The Samsung BlackJack 

Speaking of The Talk Show, one of the topics this week was about Samsung’s design rip-offs. I mentioned that Samsung has a history of ripping off market leaders that predates the iPhone. Their 2007 BlackJack is a perfect example — even the name was shameless.

Don’t Hide the Apple Monkeys 

This week’s episode of America’s favorite do-it-yourself home improvement podcast. Topics include CES, Apple’s army of camera-wielding monkeys, some predictions for 2012, and a bit of speculation regarding next week’s education Apple event.

Brought to you by the fine folks at Rackspace and Harvest.

Gartner: Apple Maintains Third Place Ranking With 11.6 Percent of U.S. PC Shipments 

Eric Slivka, reporting for MacRumors:

With year-over-year unit growth of over 20%, Apple was the only one of the top five U.S. vendors to see an increase in shipments in an overall market that shrank by nearly 6%.

Keep in mind, this is without counting the iPad as a PC. Not sure how they’re going to justify that later this year if iPad-esque Windows 8 tablets hit the market on schedule.

And I Had Such High Hopes for the Naxa NID-7001 

Alexis Madrigal, “Why You Can Ignore CES”:

Well, here’s a test case. Let’s say you paid close attention last year to the tablets that were hyped at the show. How important have they turned out to be, one year on?

We broke down the trajectories of 17 tablets from CES 2011. In the final tally, I think you could say one is a qualified success (the Asus Eee Pad Transformer), one did OK (the Motorola XOOM), and several flopped (Dell Streak, RIM Playbook) or made no impact (Coby Kyrus, Cydle M7 Multipad, Naxa NID-7001). Nine never were heard from again.

Where by “qualified” he apparently means in the “non-iPad” category.

Forecasting Next Week’s Apple Education Event 

Astute speculation from Dan Moren and Lex Friedman.

The Dead Kindle and What Warren Ellis Learned About Amazon Customer Service 

This story exemplifies why I think Amazon is Apple’s best and strongest rival. They work hard so that their customers are happy and loyal.

Real-Life Examples of How Google’s “Search Plus” Pushes Google Plus Over Relevance 

Great explanation by Danny Sullivan:

The new Google “Search Plus Your World” feature — which I’m now simply calling “Search Plus” — has just gone live for me. Huge debate erupted yesterday over whether it somehow favors Google+. I can see now that it clearly does, even more than I thought. Here’s a closer look at the changes, including how they turn Google+ into an essential social network for any search marketer.

Another Amazing Samsung Design Coincidence 

The weather widget on Samsung’s new “Display Window” looks familiar. Can’t quite put my finger on it.

(Via Radar Design.)

CES Trailer 

Without question, my favorite ongoing CES coverage. Hilarious.

Misdirection, Doublespeak, Non-Answers, and Straight-Up Bad Decisions 

MG Siegler on Eric Schmidt’s bizarre interview with Danny Sullivan regarding the new Google Plus integration:

I give Google a lot of shit. Some think it’s justified, others don’t. But I honestly just don’t understand what they’re doing here. It’s like they’re suffering from brain diarrhea. They’re not handling this situation well.

It’s one thing for Google to tightly integrate their own social network with their web search results, using their monopoly (or, if you prefer, monopsony) to give Google Plus a significant competitive advantage over Facebook and Twitter. Some see this as anticompetitive behavior; others see this as good clean competitive hardball. Are they unfairly abusing a monopoly, or fairly using their best strength to their own advantage? That’s up for debate.

But to deny that they’re doing it at all? It defies belief.

I honestly don’t know what’s worse: if Google is so institutionally delusional that they actually believe this isn’t giving Google Plus a tremendous advantage (fair or unfair) over every other social network in the world, or if Google thinks so poorly of everyone outside the company that they think anyone is actually going to buy this line of bullshit. The best case scenario for Google is that Eric Schmidt, in his new role as chairman, has turned into a loose cannon who should just shut the fuck up.

Eric Schmidt: Google Plus Not Favored Over Twitter or Facebook in Search Results 

Danny Sullivan:

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt says Google+ content is not being favored over Twitter and Facebook by Google’s search engine. Rather, those companies can be treated the same if they grant Google the right permissions to access their content.

Does Google actually believe this? Do they expect anyone else to believe this? Serious questions. I don’t understand why they would say this.

Fever Dream of a Guilt-Ridden Gadget Reporter 

Mat Honan reports from CES.

Apple to Hold ‘Education Announcement’ in New York Next Thursday 

At the Guggenheim Museum.

U.S. Carriers Don’t Want Stock Android Phones 

Chris Ziegler, interviewing Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha for The Verge:

We also talked about OEMs’ perennial press to skin the operating system — a trend that looks poised to continue in Android 4.0 — which developed into a full-blown conversation about the conflict between the mythical “stock Android device” and the realities of business between manufacturers like Motorola and carriers. “Verizon and AT&T don’t want seven stock ICS devices on their shelves,” he said, insisting that he “has to make money” and that there simply isn’t a way to profit on a device that isn’t differentiated. “The vast majority of the changes we make to the OS are to meet the requirements that carriers have.”

Negotiations with the carriers:

Android handset makers: Here are our phones. How would you like us to change them so that you will sell them?

Microsoft: Here’s $200 million. Please sell our phones.

Apple: Here is our new phone. It comes in black or white. We will let you sell it.

Antitrust+ 

MG Siegler on Google’s announcement today that they’re going to begin integrating Google Plus with regular web search results:

But when they use that natural monopoly to start pushing into other verticals, things get gray. Travel, restaurant reviews, etc, etc. We see more of it each year.

But this, at first glance, seems decidedly worse. Google is using Search to propel their social network. They might say it’s “not a social network, it’s a part of Google”, but no one is going to buy that. They were late to the game in social and this is the best catchup strategy ever.

Count me in with MG here. This seems like textbook monopoly abuse: using a legal monopoly in one market (web search) to gain a competitive advantage in a different market (social networking) through bundling. The idea from the outset was to frame “Google+” as an extension of Google, not something new. Hence the name.

It also occurs to me that there’s no company in tech with as many enemies as Google. Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter — Google has taken the fight to all of them. In this sense they’re like Microsoft 15 years ago.

Sony Vaio Ultrabook Prototype Shown Behind Glass 

Might as well include a floppy drive if they’re going to include that ridiculous (and thick) VGA port.

Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Tim Cook’s 2011 Compensation 

Refuting sensational but misleading nonsense like this.

One Simple Test 

Watts Martin:

And if you don’t agree with Siegler’s assertion that Apple, for all their warts, has more of the end-user’s interest in mind than Google does, I’d just like you to do one simple test. Go into an AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint store and set out a few Android models along with an iPhone and maybe a couple “none of the above” smartphones they sell. One and only one of those phones is going to be entirely free of the carrier logo. Don’t be under the illusion that’s merely an aesthetic issue.

Dan Lyons Showing Self-Awareness? What Self-Awareness? 

Pitch-perfect riposte by Matt Deatherage.

TSA Defends Cupcake Confiscation 

First they came for your neighbor’s cupcake…

Speaking of Podcasts 

Guess who’s on Merlin Mann’s “Back to Work” show this week? Yeah, we’re talking about Star Wars and content management systems. Ladies.

‘Let’s Make Mistakes’ Moves to Mule Radio Syndicate 

A good show (featuring my pal Mike Monteiro) on what looks to be a great new podcast network.

The Wirecutter: A List of the Best Gadgets 

Unlike any other gadget site I’ve ever seen, The Wirecutter focuses on what’s best, not what’s new. Brian Lam’s best work.

Whose Problem Do Ultrabooks Solve? 

Kevin C. Tofel:

I’d argue smartphones and tablets currently meet most, if not all of those needs; therein lies the problem for Ultrabooks. It’s not a consumer problem; it’s an Intel problem, as sales of traditional computers are declining, while sales of tablets and smartphones are rising.

Samsung Copying Apple? What Copying? 

Dan Lyons:

The latest example is on Daring Fireball, a blog penned by John Gruber, a hardcore Apple fanboy. Responding to news that Samsung just turned in a barnburner fourth quarter, Gruber wrote:

So Jony Ive leads the design team at the two most-profitable phone makers. Impressive.

This is typical snarky Gruber stuff. But it’s so arrogant and patronizing that when I read it was brought up short. Because I realized, this guy isn’t joking. Gruber and people like him really believe that Samsung just sits around making copies of Apple products. In their view, Apple is the fountain from which all creativity flows, and Samsung just follows behind, stealing their ideas.

Really? This is where Dan Lyons wants to go? That Samsung doesn’t copy Apple? That “Apple fanboys” simply claim that they do as a knee-jerk response to Samsung’s undeniable success in the smartphone market? Never mind all these remarkable similarities in packaging and product design, or the Apple app icons Samsung put in a store kiosk — it’s all just a big coincidence? It boggles the mind.

Nobody is arguing that every aspect of every Samsung product is a rip-off of an Apple product. Nobody is arguing that Samsung doesn’t have some products that are utterly un-Apple-like. But this is the first time I’ve seen anyone argue that Samsung isn’t blatantly copying at least some things from Apple. I’ve also never made nor seen anyone else make the argument that Apple is the only company doing original work. This is just another case where the person wielding the word fanboy is the one making the over-the-top head-in-the-sand unreasonable argument.

If you want to defend Samsung, don’t do it by arguing that they don’t copy Apple. Go with the “good artists copy, great artists steal” argument. Argue that Samsung may be shameless but they’re not stupid; that it’s no coincidence that the Android handset maker that’s selling the most phones and growing the fastest is the one most closely mimicking Apple.

Intel Fakes Ivy Bridge Graphics on Stage at CES 

A graphically intense game purportedly playing on a laptop was actually just a movie.

James Bond Is a Prick 

I did not know the James Bond theme song has lyrics.

When Did Discover Get So Jackasstic? 

David Freedman, writing for Discover magazine on the top stories of 2011, “The Man Who Gave Us Less for More”:

But while Jobs has left most of the world with the impression that he was just so brilliantly right about what the world needed, I can’t help pointing out that Jobs actually got a lot of things wrong. Who remembers the Apple Lisa, a chunky desktop that sold for $9,995 in 1983, or the Newton, a $700 PDA/paperweight?

That’s quite a scathing critique of Jobs’s career: one failed machine from 30 years ago that was created by a team that he was effectively kicked off, at which point he took over the team that created the Macintosh; and, even better, a PDA that was created by Apple after Jobs was forced out of the company, and which he shut down soon after his return.

Then there was the next [sic] computer, to which Jobs devoted a decade of his life, believing that it would win over academia. It was well regarded, but with prices starting at $6,500, Jobs sold only 50,000 units ever, versus the 150,000 he had expected to sell annually.

Yeah, whatever happened to NeXT and that crazy operating system of theirs?

I used to see Apple’s devoted fans as cultish, but now I’m the one who’s left in a cult: the shrinking cult of technophiles who want stuff that above all works well, solves problems, and delivers real value, and the hell with look and feel.

“The hell with look and feel” says a lot more about Freedman than it does about Apple. 20 bucks says he spent the ’90s railing against GUIs, in favor of the DOS command-line interface.

OK, so Steve Jobs proved to be a brilliant visionary after all. But there will always be a part of me that resents the fact that he empowered the world to force me to endure prettier, more-expensive technology for what will most likely be the rest of my 150 years.

La, la, la, fingers in my ears, I can’t hear you, Apple’s kit is overpriced — always was, always will be.

Race to the Bottom, Eh? 

Aaron Ricadela, reporting for Bloomberg:

Personal-computer makers are counting on ultrabooks to challenge the MacBook Air, Apple’s best-selling laptop, which is less than an inch thick. Still, Hewlett-Packard isn’t trying to compete on price: The new Spectre is $100 more than a MacBook Air with a 13.3-inch screen. Hewlett-Packard is emphasizing the laptop’s premium features and design, a bid to reach the “savvy fashionista” market, said Page Murray, a vice president of marketing at the company.

“There’s always someone who wants to win the race to the bottom,” Murray said. “It usually ends with a splat.”

So, for the record, we now live in a world where HP criticizes Apple’s laptop pricing for leading a “race to the bottom”.

How to Use Services in Mac OS X 

Nice piece by Kirk McElhearn on one of Mac OS X’s best features.

iOS Multitasking in Detail 

Great follow-up piece from Fraser Speirs.

Smartphone Customer Satisfaction Survey 

The facts continue to show a decided pro-Apple bias.

Comments Commentary 

Matt Gemmell has assembled a thoughtful and extensive list of commentary on the pros and cons of allowing comments on a website.

Speaking of the Original iPhone Introduction Five Years Ago 

Jason Snell:

The memory that sticks with me, in fact, is that I was temporarily dumbstruck by the sheer feel of the device. I was testing it while sitting with a couple of Apple executives as well as an Apple PR handler. The idea was that I could try out the device while also asking them questions. As I used the iPhone, I found it very difficult to speak questions or even listen to the answers. The iPhone was so unlike anything I’d ever handled. The brightness of the screen and the density of its pixels were shocking; the weight of the small slab was strangely comforting.

It was all in shocking contrast to my phone at the time, a Palm Treo. I hated it. Every time I went somewhere, I asked myself, “Do I need to bring my phone with me?” If I could avoid it, I wouldn’t bring it along. The iPhone would be the first phone I’ve owned that I wanted to keep in my pocket at all times.

Here’s the phone that was in my pocket as I watched that keynote five years ago.

‘Five Years Ahead’ 

Dan Frommer on Steve Jobs’s claim five years ago today that the original iPhone software was five years ahead of the competition:

If anything, where Apple is the most ahead of Android today — perhaps even 5 years ahead — is on the business and customer experience sides.

Apple still seems to have the power in its relationships with carriers, demanding a clean user experience (no pre-installed crap), control over software updates and the length of its update path, a mostly-reliable App Store that makes a lot of money in app sales for developers, distribution through its own retail stores, tight integration with Macs and the iPad, and great devices at great prices. Not to mention an extremely profitable business model — selling tens of millions of iPhones per year for a big profit. These things seem to be more iffy in the Android camp.

I agree that these are the areas where Apple is most ahead today. But among the phones I’ve got here in my office right now are a Nexus Galaxy and a Lumia 800 — state-of-the-art phones representing two competing platforms. I also have an original iPhone running iOS 2.2. Web pages scroll the smoothest on the iPhone.

I’m not saying the original 2007 iPhone is a better overall device today than the Lumia or Galaxy. It has very little RAM and a much slower processor and you can feel it. But there are aspects of the original iPhone software — animation, scrolling, touch-tracking — that remain superior to any competition. Was everything about the original iPhone five years ahead of the competition? No, no way — especially in terms of hardware. But some aspects of its software were more than five years ahead.

Speaking of iPhone and Android Market Share Numbers 

Ryan Kim, reporting for GigaOM on the latest US smartphone market share numbers from the NPD Group:

In a CES telecom fact sheet, the research firm said that iOS has zoomed up to 43 percent of sales in October and November, compared with 26 percent in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Android’s share dropped from a high of 60 percent in the third quarter to 47 percent in October and November.

I’m chalking this report up as a statistical outlier for now, but maybe this is simply what happens when the iPhone is available on AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint.

Samsung AdHub 

What was it Jean-Louis Gassée said about Samsung versus Google?

Buying Love 

Greg Kumparak at AOL/TechCrunch, regarding the news that Microsoft will be offering $10-$15 bounties to retail salespeople to push Windows Phones:

In turn, John Gruber asks: “If this strategy was on the table, why didn’t Microsoft start this a year ago?

Here’s why: because it’s an admission of failure.

Microsoft’s obstacle isn’t an easy one. When people walk into a phone store in search of a new smartphone, the sales dude generally offers up two choices: iPhone or Android. Meanwhile, the only people being handed Windows Phones are the ones who asked for them right off the bat.

Now, why is this? Is it because Apple and Google are coughing up piles of cash to get the sales reps to push their phones? Nope — while carriers and specific OEMs might offer spiffs for the sales of certain handsets, I can’t find evidence that Apple or Google themselves ever have.

But who cares who is paying the spiffs? Saying that neither Apple nor Google pay them isn’t really a fair comparison if handset makers producing Android phones are. A better way to put it is that there are no spiffs for iPhones, but there are for Android phones. Maybe Microsoft was hoping that handset makers would do this sort of thing for them, but obviously they haven’t. What I’m saying is if they’re willing to do this now, they should have been willing to do it a year ago to gain a foothold in the market as soon as possible.

Obviously this isn’t sustainable in the long run, given that $10-$15 per phone is probably the most Microsoft could be making in licensing fees. But if they were ever willing to do it, it only makes sense to do it as early as possible.

Unfunny Republicans 

Interesting observation from Slate’s John Dickerson: none of the Republicans left in the 2012 campaign are funny.

Perhaps Instead of a Tablet Computer, They Should Have Made a Machine That Burns Money 

Matt Lynley, reporting for Business Insider on the demise of Fusion Garage, the company behind the CrunchPad:

An industry source just forwarded us the first page of a legal document showing Fusion Garage is done. According to our source, the company owes creditors around $40 million altogether.

As a point of comparison, that’s at least 40 percent of the money that Kickstarter has raised for all Kickstarter projects combined.

Samsung Will Not Upgrade Galaxy S Phones to Android 4.0 

This, despite Samsung’s inclusion in Google’s much-touted Android Update Alliance from last year’s I/O conference.

Five Minutes on the Verge: Sparrow’s Dom Leca 

Nice interview by Thomas Houston of Sparrow designer Dom Leca.

Samsung vs. Google 

Jean-Louis Gassée:

This leaves us with the potential for an interesting face-off. Not Samsung vs Motorola/HTC, but… Samsung vs. Google. As Erik Sherman observes in his CBS MoneyWatch post, since Samsung ships close to 55% of all Android phones, the company could be in a position to twist Google’s arm.

Has any single PC vendor ever controlled that much of the Windows market? I don’t think so.

AcerCloud 

Are they ripping off Apple, or are they ripping off Samsung’s strategy of ripping off Apple?

Amit Kumar: Samsung to Announce SwipeIt, an Apple AirPlay Competitor, at CES 

Best name for a Samsung product ever.

Microsoft to Offer Spiffs to Retail Salespeople Who Sell Windows Phones 

Paul Thurrott:

Included in the plan are sales incentives for retail workers, aimed at getting them to finally start recommending Windows Phone as an alternative to Android and iPhone. The amount of payments are $10 to $15 per handset sold, depending on the number sold, for some handset models.

If this strategy was on the table, why didn’t Microsoft start this a year ago?

The Restart Page 

Works best full-screen.

OLPC XO 3.0 Tablet 

Looks just like the concept they showed off two years ago. Maybe a little thicker.

Harvest 

My thanks to Harvest for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Harvest is a time-tracking system for the web, Mac, and iPhone — designed for ease-of-use and productivity.

Harvest is used and trusted by great firms like Happy Cog and Adaptive Path. See for yourself with a free 30 day trial.

Now I’ve Heard It All 

Karl Smith, in an “open letter from Apple” to its shareholders:

Paying a dividend and burning down our war chest would jeopardize all of that.

You see, one day a competitor will come along and cut our core product line out from underneath us. We will need all the cash we can muster to fend them off. When that cash is done, we will mortgage the company. The first several times we may be successful. However, as is always the case, eventually time will get the best of us and we will be unable to meet our creditors demands.

We will go bankrupt. Our creditors will seize the equity and the shareholders will be left with nothing and having made zero return on their investment.

Apple should pay its shareholders a dividend because it’s on a course for inevitable bankruptcy. OK. This is why I drink.

Motorola Mobility Issues Warning on Fourth-Quarter Earnings 

Starting to look like “Android growth” is really just Samsung growth.

Galaxy Tab USB and SD Connection Kit 

Looks familiar; can’t place where I’ve seen something like this before.

Sprint Clarifies That It Doesn’t Throttle Unlimited Data Users 

Ends up “unlimited” really does mean unlimited with Sprint.

2012 Predictions: Macworld’s Annual Forecast of the Year Ahead 

Speaking of 2012 Apple predictions, Macworld has some from Jacqui Cheng, Adam Engst, John Moltz, Andy Ihnatko, The Macalope, and yours truly. I did pretty well last year.

Vintage 2008 Cringely Claim Chowder 

Cringely, back in 2008, predicting an Apple acquisition of Adobe:

The major point here is that Adobe is in play, or at least Apple thinks so. The company has plenty of cash and stock to do the deal and plenty of incentive, too. Apple’s goal in acquiring Adobe would be to control first Flash and second Adobe’s emerging Air application platform. Adobe announced this week a broad industry initiative to extend Flash to mobile devices, but Apple wasn’t a participant. Why bother if you intend to shortly own Flash outright?

Funny thing is, Apple has a done a pretty good job controlling Flash, at least in mobile. Anyway, you could make a lot of money betting against Cringely’s predictions.

‘Head-Turningly Less’ 

Gina Trapani, in her list of “What Google Should Do in 2012”:

Release a killer tablet. Price this tablet head-turningly less than the iPad, make it run Ice Cream Sandwich flawlessly, and offer completely sandwiched-out apps that absolutely scream for the big screen. Forget trying too hard not to offend other Android device manufacturers. Googorola should get this tablet exactly right, down to every last ever-loving detail, with the hardware and the software teams living, breathing, eating, and sleeping together on it.

A fine suggestion. But: is there any evidence whatsoever that it’s even possible to make a tablet that is (a) killer, and (b) lower-priced than the iPad? Let’s define “killer” as “as good as or better than the iPad”. I think Google would do very well simply to produce a genuinely killer tablet that matches the iPad on price.

Tim Cook, in 2009 (regarding the iPhone, but I think it applies to the iPad as well): “One thing we’ll make sure is that we don’t leave a price umbrella for people.”

App Store Downgrade of the Week 

Apple’s blind spot:

Due to a notification from Apple, this version of Codea removes the project sharing feature.

This sucks, pure and simple.

Close Call 

Monica Chen and Steve Shen, “reporting” for DigiTimes:

Apple will ship the so-called “iPad 3” with a full HD display in March […]

Wait a minute. What’s going on here? A DigiTimes report about Apple and the iPad that’s completely accurate? No completely made-up nonsense? Is something wrong with me?

and then “iPad 4” — named so by its component suppliers — with killer applications in October, according to industry sources in Taiwan.

OK, phew, what a relief.

Eating a Sandroid 

Design innovation looks a lot easier in hindsight.

All Hype 

Panos Mourdoukoutas, writing for Forbes:

Siri is all hype. Just like every child gets excited over a new toy and soon forgets about it, Siri will soon be forgotten.

Siri, add this to my Claim Chowder file.

(Via Lee Hopkins.)

‘Inspired’ by Apple 

New site by Patrick Mason. He’s never going to run out of material.

Sprint Throttles Top One Percent of Data Users 

Yet another case where “unlimited” is limited.

Update: According to Greg Kumparak at AOL/TechCrunch, Sprint is only throttling users who are roaming off-network. That’s a big difference.

Android Developers Blog: Holo Everywhere 

Adam Powell, Android framework engineer at Google:

In Android 4.0, Holo is different. We’ve made the inclusion of the unmodified Holo theme family a compatibility requirement for devices running Android 4.0 and forward. If the device has Android Market it will have the Holo themes as they were originally designed.

Less “open” for handset makers and carriers, but better for developers and users. This should be a significant improvement for the platform in a year or two, when most Android phones in use are running 4.0 or later.

Yahoo Names PayPal Head Scott Thompson as New CEO 

Let’s hope he can make Yahoo as fun and beloved as PayPal is. Right?

Joseph Mathewson Reviews the Nokia Lumia 800 

Interesting review from the perspective of a guy upgrading from a Nokia E72.

‘A Donkey’s Got Nothing to Lose’ 

This week’s episode of America’s favorite electrical engineering podcast:

This week, John Gruber and Dan Benjamin discuss the TSA, Siracusa’s and The New York Times’ possessives, financial transaction processors, Apple Geniuses killing flies with flamethrowers, an Apple announcement in New York, coin-op arcade games, and bring the episode to a shocking conclusion.

Brought to you by the fine folks at MailChimp and Shopify.

Samsung Galaxy 3GS 

No shame whatsoever.

China Buys More Rolls-Royces Than the U.S. 

Economic sign of the times.

Google’s Chrome Page No Longer Ranks for ‘Browser’ After Sponsored Post Penalty 

Danny Sullivan:

To me, the bigger issue in this has always been the garbage content that was produced by the campaign, “thin” material that Google has fought to keep out of its own search results. I’m still trying to understand how Google failed to understand that the marketing companies it engaged with would produce this.

Given how much detail Google professes to put into its marketing, as I covered yesterday, it still remains amazing that the company found itself involved with this type of campaign.

Kudos to Google for applying the search results penalty. But what a weird story.

RIM Cuts BlackBerry PlayBook Price by as Much as $400 

Zach Epstein, BGR:

Research In Motion’s debut tablet has been something of a disappointment for the Waterloo, Ontario-based vendor.

Well, I suppose Napoleon’s invasion of Russia was “something of a disappointment” too.

Apple’s Upcoming January Event 

Clayton Morris:

This event will focus on iTunes University and Apple in education. […] Steve Jobs was intimately involved with this project before his passing. He gave a hat tip to the textbook side of this project in the Isaacson biography.

Larry Downes on Best Buy 

Larry Downes, in a piece for Forbes that’s shamelessly split across five “pages”:

But the numbers only scratch the surface. To discover the real reasons behind the company’s decline, just take this simple test. Walk into one of the company’s retail locations or shop online. And try, really try, not to lose your temper.

It really is that simple. I find shopping at Best Buy to be insulting and annoying.

Proposed Law Prohibits TSA Employees From Dressing Like Cops 

Cory Doctorow:

The STRIP Act, proposed in the US House of Reps, would require TSA employees to stop dressing like police officers, because they aren’t cops, and when they give orders to travellers, travellers assume that these are the orders of real law enforcement officers, rather than minor bureaucrats.

Let’s change their title from “officer” back to “screener”, too. (Via Ben Brooks.)

Nobody Understands Debt 

Paul Krugman:

But Washington isn’t just confused about the short run; it’s also confused about the long run. For while debt can be a problem, the way our politicians and pundits think about debt is all wrong, and exaggerates the problem’s size.

Deficit-worriers portray a future in which we’re impoverished by the need to pay back money we’ve been borrowing. They see America as being like a family that took out too large a mortgage, and will have a hard time making the monthly payments.

This is, however, a really bad analogy in at least two ways.

Glenn Fleishman on Roboto 

Good article — and, in a self-referential twist, it’s typeset using Roboto itself — but to me, Roboto is just the new Arial.

‘Liz Taylor Knows It, the President Knows It, the Bum Knows It, and You Know It.’ 

The whole idea of Vertu — a company (well, a Nokia subsidiary) that sells $6,000 cell phones that are nowhere near state-of-the-art in any regard other than in the use of leather, going into a market against a company like Apple that sells what’s widely held to be the best cell phone in the world starting at just $199 — reminds me of Andy Warhol’s great quote about Coke:

What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.

Speaking of Vertu 

Rob Beschizza, writing for BoingBoing on Vertu’s $200 USB cable. Not a bad price when you’ve already spent $6,000 on your Symbian phone.

Will Wright on TV Complexity 

Game designer Will Wright, in an interview with Reuters:

It’s kind of remarkable. I’ve set up a couple of PCs and a few TVs over the last couple of years. Buying a new television and setting it up is far more complicated now than buying a computer and setting it up.

Sounds like an opportunity.

‘Clopen’ Sounds Like Something You Treat With Antibiotics 

Speaking of Danny Sullivan, he wrote a good piece on Android’s “just buy a new device” software updates, calling it more “clopen” than open:

A big reason behind this mess is that Google doesn’t actually sell the Android operating system to consumers. If it did, it would probably care more about ensuring customers (because that’s what they would be) were covered from start to finish.

The Android 4 page from Google touts all the advantages that the new operating system offers. The page is written for consumers. But nothing on it explains how consumers can actually get the operating system.

It isn’t just that Google doesn’t sell the Android operating system to consumers. It is that the consumer is Google’s product. Android is a delivery system to serve the consumer to Google’s target market — the advertisers. So Google’s customer for Android is not the consumer (with the arguable exception of the Nexus phones), but rather the carriers.

Google’s ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Sponsored Post Campaign for Chrome 

Danny Sullivan:

Imagine you’re someone trying to understand the benefits to using Google Chrome versus other browsers. Out of 21 million possible matches, two of Google’s sponsored garbage posts make it into the top ten results. 

Google Chrome helped this small business in Vermont go global.

This seems to be in direct contradiction of Google’s own web spam policies.

Siri Rip-Offs in Android Market 

Nevermind the Siri rip-off, what makes this so very Android is all that junk in the status bar in the screenshots.

Tests Cast Doubt on FAA Restrictions on Kindle and iPad 

Nick Bilton:

The F.A.A. does allow some electronics during takeoff and landing. Portable voice recorders, hearing aids, heart pacemakers and electric shavers are permitted during all times of a flight.

I’ve sat next to and near some weird people on airplanes, but never anyone using an electric shaver during takeoff or landing.

The Android Surge 

Dan Lyons, writing for Newsweek 18 months ago:

Geeks can, and do, argue over the merits of these phones. But the fact that the two are close enough to be compared side by side is what should have Apple worried. And these are early days. My sense is that over the next 12 to 18 months, Android will surge past Apple the way Microsoft Windows surged past Apple in the 1990s.

Just give it another Friedman Unit or two, though. You’ll see.

NetApplications: Java ME Overtakes Android for Number Two Spot in Mobile Web Usage 

Interesting, if true.

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