In October 2013 I made 12 anti-predictions about what wouldn’t happen in 2014.  What did or did not happen?  Let’s see.

(1) No big mobile payments solution.

Right.  Apple has tried to solve this problem with Apple Pay, but this is still rolling out and has hit some bumps with Rite Aid and CVS disabling Apple Pay from working in their stores.  Whether these are minor setbacks or indications of a patchwork payment system emerging is unclear now.

(2) No carrier consolidation.

Right.  Sprint wanted to buy T-Mobile, and still would like to.  AT&T also wanted to take over T-Mobile, but the Obama Justice Department torpedoed that merger (a bad decision in my judgement).  Right now the landscape is frozen waiting for a Republican President in 2016 who will be hands off and therefore merger friendly.

(3) No iOS smartphone marketshare gain.

Right.  As the smartphone OS marketshare table at this link shows, Apple is now at about 12% smartphone marketshare.  The lack of a big screen really hurt the iPhone and let Samsung grow huge by filling that market gap.  The question now is whether iOS can hang on to even a 12% marketshare.  There is a school of thought that Windows Phone marketshare growth will come at Apple’s expense disproportionately and I tend to agree with this analysis.  Google’s cloud services are so seductive it’s hard to switch away from Android where you have the best Google experience, but you might ditch Apple since you’re only invested in an iPhone or iPad device.

(4) No big HTML5 adoption.

Right.  Mozilla is trying to pivot from making the most open web browser to making the most open smartphone operating system.  Considering the vast difference between those two tasks, Mozilla is actually making decent progress with its Flame smartphone for $170.  However there’s also a vast difference with creating something technically and getting a large segment of the market to adopt it.  Just ask Microsoft.

(5) No big new social network to rival Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.

Right.  The big boys have gotten bigger, Snapchat is still playing hard-to-get and may get a comeuppance if the text messaging bubble pops.  Text messaging apps have been dis-intermediating carriers, who charge for text messages while the apps generally don’t.  Facebook is solidifying its position as the text messaging leader with the $19 billion buyout of WhatsApp and its own Messenger app.  Facebook text messaging now reaches over A BILLION users.

Ello is the new social network to watch, seeing a niche in an ad-free version of Facebook.  Facebook is now very polluted with ads, but it is also polluted with all the status updates we want to see too.  How Ello will make money without ads IF it gets traction is still unanswered.

(6) No let-up in technology patent lawsuits.

Right.  Nothing but good news for lawyers and bad news here for you and me.

(7) No Amazon or Google bricks and mortar stores.

Right.  There are rumors of bricks and mortar stores for both tech giants, but none as of yet.

(8) No Yahoo big win.

Right.  The only thing approaching a big win was Yahoo buying out Tumblr for $1.1 billion, but that’s still shoring up the weaknesses Yahoo has more than winning in the market.  CEO Marissa Mayer has been taking a very Google-like approach of buying small fries for engineering talent and polishing up some existing assets like Flickr.  Investors want to know how she will spend the $9 billion in cash from the Alibaba IPO (which Yahoo had a big ownership stake in).   The word was to return $5 billion in either stock buybacks or outright dividends.  That still leaves a pile to spend.  I see Mayer swinging for the fences and wanting to try something big, but there was no big win in the 2014 acquisitions.  Yahoo is still treading water in the new mobile world.

(9) No 5G technology in sight.

Right.  The Artemis pWave antenna is interesting, but not available yet and the increasing ubiquity of WiFi begs for some innovation to speed up all our downloads.

(10) No smartphone from Amazon.

Wrong.  Amazon is still experimenting and its Fire smartphone was something I did not see.  It’s not faring well in the market now, but I expect Amazon will stick with it a few years so we’ll be checking in on new versions of it for some time to come.

(11) No buyout for Foursquare.

Right.  No one has really figured out how to handle the social aspect of location.  There has been Loopt and Gowalla, both bought out and engineering talent repurposed to other tasks, so the question is if Foursquare was heading down the same dead-end road.

Foursquare must know its just burning venture capital cash with that strategy and it spun out the check-in functionality to an app named Swarm.  Foursquare itself is trying to use its database to become another version of Yelp, to have user ratings on places of interest, presumably with ads.

Foursquare is looking like one company where venture capitalists will take it on the chin and lose the bulk of their investment.  I just don’t see a big player buying them out.  The feeling is that Foursquare and its game mechanics for location announcements (mayorships of venues) was just a fad.  There still some unsolved business out there for location smartphone use, but Foursquare like Loopt and Gowalla before them, isn’t finding it.

(12) No new chairman for Microsoft.

Wrong.  Bill Gates did step aside, at least a small step aside.  Microsoft got a new CEO which was widely predicted given their late migration to a mobile strategy and actually the mobile traction Microsoft does have is due to buying out the Nokia phone division which was the brainchild of former CEO Steve Ballmer.

Of course Chairmen of the Board don’t matter.  Their new CEO Satya Nadella came from Microsoft’s own cloud services which indicates the direction Microsoft sees things going and probably the emphasis for their company going forward.

So the total was 10 rights and 2 wrongs or an 83% correct anti-prediction score.  If only my own personal investing was so good.

Check in to PDXmobile soon for next year’s anti-predictions.

 

For the past six months there has been a public relations tug of war going on reflecting a serious business negotiation.

Hachette Book Group (HBG)  has been trying to negotiate a higher price for e-books on Amazon.  HBG is owned by Hachette Livre the largest French publisher and third largest in the world.  This is no small matter for the consumers of e-books everywhere.

Publishers have been grumbling about Amazon having a maximum $9.99 e-book price for some time.  In 2012 publishers worked with Apple to try to make the iPad a favored delivery vehicle for their premium e-books.  The U.S. Justice Department accused publishers and Apple of an illegal price fixing scheme.  My own opinion at the time (and still is) that the Justice Department action was premature.  E-books are still an infant industry, growing wildly yes, but I believe it would have been better to let the business world sort out pricing and distribution on its own.

The upshot of the 2012 Justice Department action was to make Amazon a defacto monopoly for e-books.  E-books make up about 30% of all book sales and Amazon has two-thirds of the e-book market.

About six months ago Hachette decided to publicize its disagreement with Amazon to generate market sympathy for its position of wanting to charge more for e-books on Amazon.  Certainly I don’t sympathize with Hachette wanting to charge a higher price for e-books and I support Amazon as a retailer seeking the best deal possible for its own customers.  Of course I believe the government should stay out of this business too and this is just classical buyer and supply chain haggling.

There have been a number of competing press releases between Hachette and Amazon on who’s right in this e-book pricing tug-of-war.  The New York Times has reported on this public relations war, in fact over-reported on it, but today there was an interesting tidbit in their article.

The disclosure was that 80% of Hachette e-book titles are already at the $9.99 price.

These are likely the backlist titles and that means that Hachette is seeking a premium price for 20% of its e-books, no doubt the recent and better selling titles.  Why fight so hard to push up price on 20% of your titles?  Especially when a higher e-book price means you will sell fewer e-books?

I believe Hachette is worried about e-books cannibalizing their paper printed book sales and so wants to ensure they get an equivalent amount of revenue from e-books.  While e-book sales have grown to 30% of overall book sales, printed book sales are in decline.

So for Hachette this is about the existence of their business model as customers switch to e-book purchases.  For Amazon this is about getting the best deal possible for their customers.  Amazon has stuck to its guns and held firm in the public relations battle.  I only see two possible outcomes here.

(1) Hachette caves and agrees to the $9.99 pricing for e-book versions of its hot sellers.  This will cause cannibalization and ultimately revenue decline for Hachette.  It’s not quite slow death, but Hachette Book Group will have to become a smaller organization.

(2) Hachette rejects Amazon and does not distribute its e-books with Amazon.  This will prevent e-books that cannibalize its print books, but will also lock Hachette out of two thirds of the only growing area in books.  This might be slow death.

What hasn’t been discussed very much is that publishers are becoming disintermediated in the new e-book model.  The distributors of e-readers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple) are very much in charge of what is available for potential readers and all of them let authors submit e-books directly to them.  We’re in a new age of independent author as publisher and old time publishers will find their businesses just plain difficult.

Where O where art thou Microsoft?

On Thursday July 17, 2014 Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced layoffs of 18,000 workers or 14% of Microsoft’s 128,000 workforce.  Most of those layoffs, 12,500 of them, were in the recently acquired Nokia phone division.

Well mergers mean layoffs due to “synergy” which is management buzzspeak for layoffs.  However many are pouring over these numbers to try to understand where Microsoft is going.  Here are my thoughts on that subject.

(1) Microsoft is abandoning non-Windows devices.
Goodby Nokia Asha and Nokia X Android devices.  Another way to say this is that Microsoft is focusing more on Windows devices.

(2) Microsoft is shutting down manufacturing sites.
This means the acquired Nokia group can only make a few devices now.  This rules out a Samsung-like strategy of proliferating lots of different devices, say with different screen sizes, to see what sticks.

(3) Really this is a prune-the-deadwood layoff.
Outside of the Nokia group, the 5,500 person layoff was actually fewer than the former CEO Steve Ballmer layoff in 2009 of 5,800 workers.  So this looks like more trimming around the edges with a 5%-ish layoff for core Microsoft employees.

(4) Google is the enemy, so do what they’re doing.
Google has more market cap and less than half the employees of Microsoft.  Google is the enemy via a process of elimination: (a) Apple is big and will always command a 10% impossibly loyal fanbase, so no point in assailing that.  (b) Facebook is big, but not really an enterprise business.  (c) Amazon is mooning us locally in Seattle, but only interesting as far as AWS and S3 are concerned.

(5) Grow the cloud and let 1000 clients bloom.
Nadella was chosen from cloud services and I’m sure understands Microsoft’s strengths and weaknesses there.  From the cloud’s point-of-view everything’s a client and it almost doesn’t matter what the client is.  There’s a connection at a certain bandwidth and you serve up what you can given the throughput you have.  Clients don’t matter individually, only collectively so that they are sucking and supplying data from and to the cloud.

Actually I’m not sure there’s much difference with what former CEO Steve Ballmer would be doing either, despite the “devices and services” strategy he outlined.  Sure Ballmer acquired the Nokia phone division, but I’m sure he’d gut them too.  Microsoft is about devices, but it’s always been about someone ELSE building and selling them.

Nadella’s memo on the layoff has the line: “We will build tools to be more predictive, personal and helpful.”  Generic, throwaway, but pretty much an indication of making your data available to you (stored conveniently in the cloud) and some kind of logic on patterns in it.  Perhaps Ballmer would care more about the devices, but I’m not so sure.

The difference I see between Microsoft and Google is that Google always tries to do as much in the cloud as possible before relenting to client-side computing.  I kind of see Android as a last resort that the browser was just not capable enough and creating Chrome to grow the browser where needed.  Microsoft started with languages and then operating environment (DOS) before operating system (Windows).  Microsoft has a history of rich client computing.  Google seems to come to that grudgingly.

So where are we?

I think Microsoft is going to replay the Windows vs. OS/2 strategy.  Back in the day OS/2 was very advanced, but pretty much closely held by one vendor (IBM of course).  Microsoft got competing PC makers to adopt Windows and avoid OS/2.  From Microsoft’s playbook, 2014 is 1984 all over again.  What’s 30 years between tech friends?

Today I think Microsoft sees Google in the IBM role and wants to isolate Android as much as possible and compete with Google in seducing OEM manufacturers to adopt Windows Phone.  Well why didn’t they do that already, you ask?  Nokia was the only vendor to choose Windows Phone enthusiastically and that was because a former Microsoft executive became CEO of Nokia.  Windows Phone was waaaay behind Android technologically when Stephen Elop took over Nokia.  Today Windows Phone is much closer in capability to Android.  Yes there’s still an “app gap”, but it has closed sufficiently not to be a marketing problem to OEMs.

Why would an OEM choose Windows Phone when the market hasn’t?  Well it’s about beating up Google.  Yes you can get Android for free, the Android AOSP (Android Open Source Project) code, but you don’t get the Google goodies like the Play Store, Maps and the Chrome browser.  Those must be licensed from Google separately.  OEMs would like better terms from Google on licensing that code.  That’s where Microsoft comes in.

Microsoft can offer Windows Phone on more generous licensing terms than Google Android.  That accomplishes several things: (1) Microsoft gets a notch for Windows Phone, (2) Google loses one, (3) a Windows Phone device gets built.

The last point is key.  Microsoft can undercut Google with OEMs and get Windows Phone devices into the wild.  Then it’s all a matter of user adoption, will users choose Windows Phone?  If so, Microsoft is back in the OEM software business.

So look for the Microsoft full court press on Windows Phone and Windows devices.  First Microsoft must sell OEMs, but they will get devices built by them, especially now that they’ve reduced the Nokia division structurally.  I think the Nokia group in Microsoft will emulate the Nexus device strategy of Google and make some reference devices, but the OEMs will be allowed more experimentation than Windows PC makers were allowed in the past.

The good news for Microsoft is that users tend to replace their smartphones every two years when their contract is up.  Since there’s still high smartphone turnover, there’s a chance to get that consumer to pick you and Microsoft is still betting on that chance.

Last October I made my predictions for what would happen with mobile technology in 2014.   You can find them here.  How have those been panning out?  Let’s see.

(1) Blackberry spins off QNX.

In-play.  Hasn’t happened yet and there has been news about Blackberry remaining in the auto industry last February when Ford announced they were choosing Blackberry (really QNX) over Microsoft for their in-car tech.  Still when Blackberry needs to raise cash, they haven’t yet, expect QNX to go back into the business wilderness.

(2) Chinese tech firm buys wreckage of Blackberry.

In-play.  Kind of related to (1) Blackberry is still in its death spiral and needs a larger sugar daddy to recycle its technology.  There is some security play with email they can try for the enterprise with their BBN mail servers, but I don’t think that’s enough.  I think the Chinese would be interested in getting some western legal protection with Blackberry’s patent trove so we could still see this by year’s end.

(3a) You’ll see an Android tablet at the supermarket checkout.

In-play.  I haven’t yet, but I did buy an Android tablet for my daughter off a Facebook ad for $59.  For all its cheapness this tablet was great for playing YouTube videos, my daughter’s favorite app, and has let me pry my Nexus 7 out of her hands.  $59 is still too high for the supermarket checkout, but there’s the holiday shopping season coming and more cheaper tech should arrive then.

(3b) Emerging cheap single purpose screens show up in stores.

In-play.  Yes I had to buy House of Cards season two on DVDs, but I would of rather paid the same price for a knock-off Android tablet with a license key inside so I could stream death and politics to my couch.

(4) WiFi-only phones emerge.

Doubtful.  We’re seeing the growth of WiFi devices with Google’s Chromecast and other TV add-ons, but smartphones seem stuck in incremental software updateland.

(5) nVidia exits mobile CPU market.

Doubtful.  nVidia is doing well this year, but on the strength of its core competence graphics chips for gaming and surprisingly the mobile Tegra chip has found some traction in automotive electronics.  All this bodes for a longer lifespan for their processor line, even as non-gaming mobile devices shrink in their customer portfolio.  So it’s looking like their market exit from mobile will be delayed, but I still expect it.

(6) Intel beefing up on LTE will hurt Qualcomm.

In-play.  QCOM is up less than 10% for the year, but still up, so no real harm yet.  Intel expects to ship 40 million chips for tablets in 2014 for 15% to 20% of that market which would have certainly been mostly Qualcomm’s except for Intel.  INTC has gone up over 10% for the year thus far, reflecting some of this optimism that Intel is finally finding footing in mobile devices.

While Intel and Qualcomm duke it out for cellular customers, really Qualcomm just dominating and beating up Intel somewhat less, the next big thing coming down the pike is the Internet of Things.  The wireless secret of the Internet of Things is that things will be connected by WiFi, not cellular and WiFi is a much more open and competitive hardware landscape than the over-IPed and over-litigated bandwidths of cellular.

This means both Qualcomm and Intel will suffer from the migration away from cellular towards WiFi technologies.  As for this prediction, it is definitely in-play.  Frankly Intel had nowhere to go but up in mobile and Qualcomm being so dominant had no other place to go than down, considering a major competitor arrived in the space.

(7) Wearables will be worn by early adopters but shunned by consumers.

In-play.  You can now buy Google Glass $1500, but you won’t want to.  For that amount of cash get a real camera, like the Sony a6000, and use the rest of the loot to run off on vacation to take photos.  Wearables are still a technology in search of a mass market.

(8) Personal life-logging will start a new trend.

Yep.  One place wearable tech has landed is in tracking your fitness or lack thereof.  Apple launched HealthKit at WWDC this year, Google launched Google Fit, Samsung launched the Gear Fit wearable.  This prediction has already come true and it has started with your health.

(9) States will start designating texting areas on roads (a la New York).

Doubtful.  I thought other states would follow New York’s lead, prodded by the insurance industry, but I just misunderestimated how slow state governments move.

(10) Smartphones evolve towards always-on, always-recording (voice, photos, location).

Yep.  More and more Runkeeper-style apps are recording everything about us.  Google Photos is backing up all your photos, recording every photo and video you shoot, heck even making up stories about you using them.

(11) HTC put on life support by market and Taiwanese government.

In-play.  Last May HTC reported a 27% drop in revenue, still in the black, still treading water, still in trouble.  In the early days of Android HTC made Google’s first Android phones (G1 and G2) and things looked rosy, but Samsung’s ascendancy came at the price of crushing HTC.  LG too is now rising in Android and HTC is getting the brunt of this brutal competition.  Rumors are that HTC is making a new Google Nexus device.  This is sorely needed by a great tech company that is losing in the market now, but even if it does go into the red, I expect the government in Taipei to prop up this jewel of Taiwan technology.

(12) Debut of disposable feature phones introduces disposable tech that is coming.

Doubtful.  The trend has been to migrate older smartphone designs down to become the user uberfeaturephone.  So instead of a cheap and dumb, thus cost-reduced, featurephone, you’re getting a cheap, smart and subsidized featurephone.  Charging for data is just too lucrative and who really wants to talk to anyone anymore?  I still see more disposable tech coming, but not in featurephones this year.

(13) Samsung does not have the top selling smartphone in 2014.

In-play.  The Samsung Galaxy S5 is King of Smartphones today, but the iPhone 6 is yet to be heard from.

To recap for my 2014 Mobile Predictions mid-year review that’s:

In-play, In-play, In-play, In-play, Doubtful, Doubtful, In-play, In-play, Yep, Doubtful, Yep,  In-play, Doubtful, In-play.

So 2 Yep, 4 Doubtful and 8 In-Play.

Check back at year’s end when PDXmobile will have the final tally on how predictions for this year fared.

Last October I made 12 anti-predictions about what wouldn’t happen in 2014.  How have those panned out?  Let’s take them one at a time.

(1) No big mobile payments solution.

In-play.  So far, so broke.  There is no really big, one smartphone fits all, solution for the mobile payments problem.  I can’t buy at a bricks and mortar store with my phone, though I’m sure someday I will.

(2) No carrier consolidation.

In-play.  With Verizon and AT&T duking it out for number one, the question is would any of the other players, meaning Sprint and T-Mobile, consolidate to compete?  Well with the money of Japan’s Softbank, who now owns Sprint, there is an attempt to buy T-Mobile and consolidate the number 3 and 4 carriers.  This MIGHT happen, but only if the Obama administration FCC allows it and that is not a done deal.  This one could go either way.

(3) No iOS smartphone marketshare gain.

In-play.  As the smartphone OS marketshare table at this link shows, Apple was at 21% marketshare in 2012-Q4 and dropped to 18% marketshare in 2013-Q4.  iOS is sinking in worldwide marketshare, although treading water in the Apple-loyal US market.  The lack of a big screen has really hurt the iPhone and analysts are predicting Apple will provide one this year, but that’s just a prediction and not mine.  iOS is not going away, but it’s not winning either.

(4) No big HTML5 adoption.

In-play.  Mozilla is trying to push HTML5 into the mobile world with it’s new Firefox OS smartphone, but their organization got derailed this year by the Brendan Eich controversy.  The problem remains: will there be an open source winner in the mobile world?  HTML5 holds the most promise, but it’s still a promise not a reality as we all move from the browser to apps.

(5) No big new social network to rival Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.

In-play.  Snapchat was the darling of last year, spurning a big Facebook $2 billion buyout bid.  Snapchat is approaching 30 million users and is riding the text messaging wave that is dis-intermediating carriers.  Carriers charge for text messages, but apps do not and that has pushed Snapchat and WhatsApp to valuable heights.  Facebook bought WhatsApp, and it hopes the nearly half billion users of it, for $19 billion.  So outside of Snapchat we’re seeing consolidation.  Snapchat is holding out, but will it rival Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp or will it fold?   This prediction is still in-play.

(6) No let-up in technology patent lawsuits.

Yep, but Apple and Google agreed not to sue each other in an effort to fend off patent trolls, but the lawsuit follies continue.

(7) No Amazon or Google bricks and mortar stores.

In-play.  No stores for either yet.

(8) No Yahoo big win.

In-play.  Yahoo has been making the right small moves.  Flickr was updated and even blogging site Tumblr was acquired for $1.1 billion.  A recent partnership with Yelp, who spurned a Google buyout offer, may also help Yahoo, but there’s no big win yet.  Yahoo still awaits the fruits of the Alibaba IPO which will net Yahoo billions of dollars, perhaps tens of billions of dollars.  That will be a big win, depending on what they do with the money.  Will the billions be returned to shareholders as dividends?  Perhaps some, but I’m sensing CEO Marissa Mayer will hoard some cash to keep playing buyout bingo and that means an uncertain bet on acquisitions.

(9) No 5G technology in sight.

In-play.  The closest thing to poke up here was the Artemis pWave antenna, but there aren’t enough details on that yet to know if it’s serious.

(10) No smartphone from Amazon.

Doubtful.  My prediction here is doubtful because the New York Times ran a story on Sunday that Amazon will introduce a smartphone THIS WEEK.  I saw plenty of tablet, but no phone in Amazon so we’ll see if this one holds up or if Amazon does enter the smartphone fray.

(11) No buyout for Foursquare.

In-play.  None of the big players have stepped up to buy Foursquare yet.  Foursquare has taken nearly nine figures of venture capital making them an expensive purchase, one that only Google, Microsoft, Facebook or perhaps Yahoo could consider.  Foursquare itself is trying to figure out a way to earn money through advertising and has broken out the check-in aspect of its app to another app called Swarm.  I doubt Foursquare will transform itself into another version of Yelp successfully, but it is trying.

(12) No new chairman for Microsoft.

Doubtful.  This is a tricky one to call.  Microsoft did name a new CEO as expected, but both Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates remain on the board of directors.  Gates did step down as Chairman, but not off the board.  So on that level this prediction is wrong, but did Gates step down TEMPORARILY while he micromanages new CEO Satya Nadella or is he really putting one foot out the door?  I think I’ll have to cave on this prediction, but the year’s not over yet.

So there you have it, out of my dozen won’ts only two are suspected of becoming wills at this mid-year review.  10 out of 12 is not a bad batting average if that’s how this pans out.  Check in to PDXmobile at year’s end for another review and next year’s anti-predictions.

 

 

Wearable technology is still in its infancy, but the folks over at GetNarrative.com came up with an interesting device.  To fund their idea of a wearable camera, they started out on Kickstarter and delivered the product.  Their product is a small camera you clip onto your shirt, or in my case a lanyard that I wear around my neck.  Then wherever you go and at the rate of one photo per 30 seconds, a photographic record of your travels is recorded into the clip.

To keep costs minimal the clip has no wireless connectivity.  That means you have to sync it to a PC to remove the photos using a USB cable.  There’s enough memory to take about 8000 photos.  Since a photo is taken every 30 seconds that means about 4000 minutes of photo-taking is available, or roughly 60 hours.  The clip doesn’t take photos if you place it face down onto a flat surface.  So if you don’t want to take your computer on the trip, how do you bring your Narrative Clip along  and take only relevant photos?

The missing ingredient for me was a way to transport the clip to my desired destination.  I decided to spend $1.49 to build a travel kit for the clip.  Here are the materials I used to build a Clip travel kit.

I spent $1.00 at a Dollar Tree store buying a small portrait photo frame.  I spent $0.49 at an art shop buying black construction paper.

Instead of putting a pocket portrait of my sweetheart into the frame, I cut a rectangle of black paper and inserted it into the frame.

This leaves a small photo frame with a black flat surface, perfect for placing the Narrative Clip onto.  Just use a few rubber bands and…

Voila!  An instant travel kit for the Narrative Clip at the price of $1.49.  By placing the Clip face down onto the smooth flat glass surface of the photo frame and onto a black dark image, the Clip won’t take photos of the airplane tray in front of you on your long flight.  Just pack the Clip in your luggage and take it out when you reach your destination.  By not taking photos you also won’t be draining the Clip’s battery, but I do recommend taking the USB cable and a charger with you to keep the Clip fully charged before you wear it.

I just backed a Kickstarter project for a camera that will produce animated GIF file output.  It’s called OTTO and the link is here.

Earlier I had backed the Memeto, now called Narrative, Clip.  The Narrative Clip is a life-logging wearable that takes a photo every 30 seconds.  The link to the Narrative Clip is here.

There is even a DoorBot for smartphones.  You attach the DoorBot to your door and connect to it over WiFi with your smartphone, even if you’re not at home.  Anyone who approaches your door you can see and talk to on your smartphone.  The link to the DoorBot is here.

Big things have been going on with cameras and photos everywhere and not just on smartphones.   The word of the year is #selfie.  What does all of this pervasive photo-snapping mean?

(1) Everyone and I do mean everyone, has a camera and is using it.
If you own a smartphone it has a camera and you are using it.  Even feature phones had cameras, but the data connection on smartphones means cameras are capturing all and exporting it.

(2) The cloud is more than just the global photo archivist, it is now the memory of mankind.
Photos from smartphones are being stored in the cloud and these photos are logging every aspect of our lives and every detail of an event, all events.

(3) We have moved forward from Time Zero of no photographic history or mankind memory.
Now that all things are imaged and stored as data and timestamped, images of all things will be retrievable in any particular chronological ordering.  In a visual sense, mankind’s memory has moved from the subconscious of artistic rendering and sporadic photos to detailed descriptive photos of everything.  Mankind has moved from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age to the Iron Age to the Photo Age.  The Information Age was just a blip along the way.

(4) As the visual becomes eternal, we will visualize the non-visual more.
Since seeing will be recorded, remembered and retrieved, the way we will seek to make the non-perceptible real will be to cause it to be seen.  This has long been a scientific tact of producing experiments that leave visual residue, for instance cloud chambers that produced tracks from highly charged particles.  The visible mist produced by particles was indirect evidence of particle existence.

Where pervasive photography is different is that we’ll now want to see a photo or video clip of whatever it is we’re looking for: a ghost, an alien, a new life form.

(5) Writing is a blip on the human path.
We write to communicate where we cannot speak.  As we move to pervasive photographic images we will be left with only speech and pictures.  All text will fall asunder.  That’s hard to imagine today.  Certainly text can convey with brevity what speech requires time and patience.   However it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words and images convey more information than text and even more than most speech.  The future will be humans talking and seeing, but not writing.

So Google Glass is showing us the way of our technological and social evolution.  We will have photos everywhere, taken from everywhere and everytime from Time Zero forward.   We will speak to interact, even with computers.  We will receive information more and more by imagery which transcends language.

It’s not the e-reader that is the death of books.  It’s the camera, the ubiquitous camera.  We want to see all the images.  They tell us so much more. 

It’s no doubt we’re in a big new era where everyone is carrying a smartphone, most of us are using tablets at home and our laptops are mostly gathering dust in the closet.

As we move more and more into this mobile lifestyle what we are not doing is as important as what we are doing.  We are NOT using browsers on our mobile devices.  The average user launches the browser on their smartphone once per day while launching apps at least 15 time more often.  What does this decline in browser usage mean?

There is a one-for-one trade-off between the decline of the browser and the rise of apps.  We are now using the Facebook app, the Twitter app, Google Maps app, Gmail app, Angry Birds app, Instagram app, WhatsApp app, YouTube app, appcetera, appcetera, appcetera.

The upside of the browser, as originally envisioned by the Mosaic browser in 1993, was an open platform to view all web content.  You would use one tool to see everything, everywhere.

Apps are the opposite extreme.  Apps are single-purpose engines for focused niches of data.  You need many apps where before you only needed one browser.

The browser took advantage of the HyperText Transport Protocol invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 which defined an open standard for everyone to publish their data.  Apps are by nature native creatures, tied and locked down to the platforms they run on.

Right now there are three app platforms that seem to be winning: Android of course, way out in front of all others, iOS much father back after inventing the app category and Windows Phone which is stubbornly carving out a small niche.  The more “open” app platform is HTML5, a descendant in some ways of Tim Berners-Lee’s work, but HTML5 has failed to get market traction.  HTML5 apps are few and far between.  As of now you can run Android apps, iPhone and iPad apps and Windows Phone apps on hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of devices.  HTML5 has been relegated to a mere handful of sub-million units of devices.

What’s striking to me is how proprietary apps are and what a new tech world we are in.  The WorldWide Web was open and more standard.  Browsers differed on features and competed, but also supported open international standards for publishing data.  Native apps have torn this all asunder.

Are we losing the openness of the Internet?  Are we in danger of becoming a series of big three walled garden networks?

Right now, it’s looking this way.  The only way to prevent such an app-tastrophe is for apps to be mere clients, thin shells of functionality, with all their data in the cloud.

The cloud is the ultimate in the proprietary lock-down of data.  We’re losing the open fields of the web to the closed space of the cloud.

So smartphones are being reduced to the dumbest of clients.  The Internet is being divided into three walled gardens (Android, iOS and Windows).  You will have to pay to access this new clouded network through the vendor you select be it Google, Apple or Microsoft.

We have lost the commons, the public space.


Brendan Eich is a middle-aged technologist who worked his way up at Silicon Graphics, Netscape and Mozilla along the way helping create the JavaScript language.  No one knows why he was selected to be CEO of Mozilla last month, but he was.  Brendan was CTO of Mozilla since 2005 so perhaps in a time of challenges, where browsers are losing out to apps for user’s eyeballs on mobile devices, the organization decided to turn to a technologist for a new direction.

Very shortly after his appointment it was disclosed that Eich made a $1,000 contribution in 2008 to the campaign for California Proposition 8 which was a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Well things went south from there extremely quickly.  Two days ago OKCupid.com, a dating website, put code in their home page to detect Firefox browsers which redirected them to a page saying Mozilla’s new CEO is against equal rights for gay couples, so please use another browser to visit the site.

Naturally this got written up by the BBC and others.  Rarebit withdrew their app from Mozilla’s app store.  Today Rarebit called this “A Sad Victory”.

What do we make of this fast and furious reaction, both by the web community and by Mozilla?

First I think Americans generally believe in the freedom of expression.  There’s no denying Brendan Eich has the right to be politically active and I think no disagreement there.

Second I think Americans as consumers want full disclosure.  It’s hard to imagine keeping secrets in today’s pretty open world, but we did want to know whether a CEO believed in gay marriage or not.  We did not consider this an irrelevant detail.

Third I think Americans want to be free to choose, as Milton Friedman put it.  Free to choose whom to associate with and who to associate our dollars to.  That freedom can also extend to boycotting products of organizations that have leaders we disagree with.  This has been an organizing principle for civil rights activists for years.

In the end Eich had to step down.  The controversy about his views was becoming a controversy for Mozilla.  Does this mean we’ll only support corporate leaders who (1) aren’t politically active or (2) aren’t outed for being politically active in some cause?  I think the unfortunate answer is yes.  The late great Johnny Carson knew this and kept his politics out of the Tonight Show.  He believed if he put them into it he would alienate half his audience.

What impressed me the most about this was not that Eich had to resign, I suspected eventually he would have to.  It’s the speed with which it happened.  In a funny way it reminds me of John Thompson’s resignation as CEO of Yahoo in 2012 just four months after taking the job.  Thompson had lied on his resume about having a degree from a school.  This was uncovered and he was out.

Eich made no ethical lapse, none whatsoever.  However the judgement, by the board or by him or both, that the difficulty of defending himself would just be too much distraction.  Everything in the information age is faster, but although I think it’s a better thing for Mozilla that Eich goes, I also think it was a digital lynch flash mob that got him.

There’s a big trend brewing, no surprise but larger that I realized until I thought about it.

1. Nokia just put out their Nokia X line of Android phones.
While these will not be marketed in the United States — YET — there’s something very significant this product line shows us.  The Nokia X line uses Microsoft Outlook, Skype, OneDrive, HERE Maps and Bing search.  So the Microsoft cloud was pushed onto an Android device with a Windows Tile look and feel.  In fact what you can do on a Windows Phone Lumia device you can now do on a Nokia X ANDROID device.  What’s the difference?

2. What we see with these new Nokia X devices is that the client hardware is not so important.
Your data, your preferences, your content, heck even your identity is stored in the cloud.  Devices merely surface what’s stored in the cloud.  Yes devices also push data up to the cloud, but you’re no longer dependent on one specific type of device or operating system of device.  The cloud is what’s common and devices can and will vary in your usage.

3. Three cloud silos have emerged as the dominant players: Google, Apple and Microsoft.
These players staked out their territory on mobile devices, started by the Apple iPhone, now dominated by Android with Microsoft arriving late to the party.

Increasingly users are being siloed into one of these Big 3 cloud providers.

4. Amazon also its own cloud for its quite lovely and popular Kindle devices, BUT…
BUT their maps solution has lagged Android new map features and there is no contact database per se.  Amazon has its own Silk browser and app store to help you find content, but Amazon is clearly behind the Big 3 in number of users.

5. Yahoo has email, maps (from Mapquest), contacts in email, search obviously, but NO client devices.
The lack of owning a mobile experience has put the whole Yahoo franchise in question.  As our mobile devices now drive us to a specific cloud, one of the Big 3 generally, where does Yahoo fit?  Yahoo needs a total client experience badly or users will lock into other cloud silos and that is what is happening today.

6. As more of your data is siloed, it is harder to switch cloud services.
Google put its apps on iPhone to pull users into their cloud, but once you buy apps or content,  you can’t take it with you.

7. Siloed clouds can frustrate users with apps and content.
I want iTunes music, Google email, Amazon books, Yahoo search and Microsoft maps.  I’m screwed.  Apps are pretty much the domain of the Big 3 and to a lesser extent Amazon, though I doubt most Kindle owners use their wonder tablets for apps.  I certainly use mine as an excellent e-reader.

8. Cloud lock-in makes for sticky customers.
Now that I’m siloed in to a particular mobile provider I’m very reticent to move.  Would my email be accessible?  Would I get a notification when a new email arrives like I do now?  Would I have to really learn how to use a new maps app?

9. Smartphone market maturity means users will switch less.
Most people have a smartphone now and the smartphone featureset is not improving much.  There are marginal speed improvements, waterproofing, varying lifespans of battery, an assortment of screen sizes, but no new killer feature.  Technically we’re done.  That means we’re less likely to upgrade our smartphones and thus even less likely to switch clouds.

10. This is bad news for Microsoft who is late to mobile market.
As the mobile-come-lately and smallest marketshare player of the Big 3, Microsoft needs unsettled users who will consider switching.  While there is some loyalty to Apple and Samsung devices, most users will switch devices without much consideration, but most users won’t switch clouds without knowing there is unnecessary pain.  Pain where you can’t access all of your past data or bring all your apps with you or having to learn new user interfaces.

11. Facebook is cross-cutting and will grow to eclipse small cloud players.
Some app makers are big enough to provide a common experience across cloud platforms and Facebook is one of those Big Kahunas.

12. Yahoo needs a client experience badly or users will lock into other cloud silos.
Without a mobile device user interface to own and direct that user to their cloud, Yahoo still relies on manual app installation by users, which can drag some of their existing users along, but won’t get them any newbies.  Without the preference that comes by being the Default on a device, Yahoo is hurtling towards oblivion and while CEO Marissa Mayer has made all the right acquisitions and moves, the lack of presence on mobile devices still dooms her company.

13. Amazon has unique content and opportunity to be everyone’s second device.
Although the Kindle was reported to be the number two tablet used at work by employees, no doubt this is not a corporate device, but users bringing their home devices to work.  The Kindle as an e-reader and perhaps movie viewer isn’t going away, but it’s not the app platform most of us will be using.

14. Amazon rising will hurt rival eBay by limiting eBay’s growth.
Amazon is a player in the cloud and mobile and the King of Content Providers.  eBay has done well in transitioning to mobile, but it’s still a distant second fiddle.  There’s no eBay mobile devices and there won’t be.

15. Here comes the Internet of Things.
It’s getting harder to switch among clouds.  So the mature tech industry will move to more consumer products like Nest (smart thermostats), smart TVs, and automotive tie-ins.  Each of these will be their own silo of data, but out of necessity exportable to the Big 3 clouds to integrate with your smartphone apps.

16. The Internet of Things implies the all-knowing cloud.
As the Big 3 clouds collect all this data users will more and more locked-in.  The sensor-nature of most smart devices will store their output into the cloud.  If you switch among the Big 3 do you really want to lose all your data history and start over?  Do you want your house to relearn when you’re there and how to adjust the thermostat?  Do you want your car to relearn the routes you travel and not suggest alternatives to traffic until it’s too late?  Do you want to rebuy all the content you bought with one cloud provider?

It’s already too late.  We’re locked into the cloud and into one cloud provider.  You’ve made your choice.  Either erase and go forward or stay locked-in and enjoy the data you have.

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