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Wearing rebeccapurple

You might notice a bit of a change to our background. It is in tribute to a little girl taken too soon —the daughter of noted tech author/CSS expert Eric Meyer. Rebecca passed away at the age of six. Today, the co-chair of the CSS Working Group announced the recognition of #663399 in the CSS Color List as “rebeccapurple” in her honor. Her story touched my heart, so we’re going to wear Rebecca’s color for awhile. I expect you’ll see a lot of it on the web in the next few days.

The Ebert Connection

Forgive me for sounding like a squealing little girl (which is what I *do* sound like right now), but OMGOMGOMGOMG!

I am a big fan of the immortal (I don’t want to hear anything else) Roger Ebert and of Chaz Ebert and the crew that are carrying on for him in his unfortunate absence. Some time back, Chaz posted the beginning of “The Thinking Molecules of Titan”, a science fiction story that Ebert began and did not complete. She challenged his fans to write an ending for the story.

Ebert’s writing always inspires me, but this story I found resonating in my head as soon as I read it. Though I know such thoughts are hubris in the most extreme fashion, I could not resist seeing if I could get the ending that immediately presented itself in the back of my mind onto paper. What resulted was something I desperately hoped was something I would not be totally ashamed to appear with both my and Roger Ebert’s name on it, so I submitted it.

This morning, I found out that my story ending has been selected as one of the finalists in the competition! (Thus, the squealing like a little girl.)

You can find Roger’s incomplete story here:

http://www.rogerebert.com/chazs-blog/molecules-of-titan

and links to all of the eight finalists here:

http://www.rogerebert.com/chazs-blog/the-thinking-molecules-second-group-of-four-endings

with my ending here:

http://www.rogerebert.com/chazs-blog/the-thinking-molecules-of-titan-ending-by-guy-mclimore


“Collaborating” with Roger Ebert… Man, is that ever one checked off my bucket list in a most unexpected way! The thought that this might have been something Ebert would have liked — well, that will sustain my ego for a long while!


If you like my ending, won’t you please vote for it?

http://www.rogerebert.com/chazs-blog/the-thinking-molecules-second-group-of-four-endings

I’d be very grateful!

Meanwhile, back to squealing!

Welcome to the pre-digital era!

This past week, I’ve been preparing a new web-based venture involving discussions of digital commerce. For the purpose, I needed a bit of inexpensive web hosting space.

Web hosting — you’d think providers of that particular commodity would understand Our Digital Life. As it turns out, not so much.

After selecting a hosting company and making payment digitally (via PayPal) I spent the day trying to get authorization to use what I’d just paid for. When the company’s SMS-based authorization failed, I downloaded their PDF authorization form, signed it on my iPad, and used an app-based fax system to send it. A few hours later, I emailed the same form, as suggested by their support site.

This morning, I got an email replay saying my form was unacceptable without “a hand-written signature and date”.

Really.

This was my reply.

*****

The signature IS handwritten. It has been through the electronic process of rendering it as part of the PDF I sent to you, both by fax and email, as you indicated would be acceptable. Such a signature has been good enough for my real estate agent, my mortgage company, my insurance company, and the Federal government. The date is indeed keyboarded — you got me there. Mea culpa.

The fact that a digitally-reproduced signature stands between me and the company to whom I am attempting to entrust my digital life is ironic to the point of absurdity. I’ll be 59 years old in one week. If an old codger like me is more digitally focused than my prospective web hosting company, I’m seriously concerned.

I should have been tipped off when you required me to provide a mobile phone number so you could send a text message. Does anyone above the age of 25 still TEXT? I don’t bother with an SMS plan on my own mobile phone — not when I carry TWO devices on my person that send and receive email, fax, voice and video. They do this as well or better than my increasingly dusty desktop computer. In fact, I chose <WEB HOST NAME REDACTED> as the host for this site because I am building and maintaining my new site 100% from my mobile devices — and the developer of the app I am primarily using recommended you as being friendly to that app-centric process.

I could have printed and MAILED the document back, I suppose. But who uses mail — physical mail — for anything important any more? My God, who PRINTS? My color laser printer is dustier than my desktop computer!

But I played along and provided an SMS-capable mobile number — my “home phone”, which is a mobile usually carried by my wife. I made two attempts to authorize in that manner without a response. Your system wouldn’t allow a third try. I paid as a digital transaction (PayPal) for a service rendered digitally. I’ve now responded to your authorization requirement digitally by TWO different methods, both suggested by you. I have yet to be provided as much as a byte of hosting space.

This is a sign that I’ve chosen the wrong web host for this particular experiment. I am invoking your 90 day money-back guarantee on Day Zero. Please refund my remittance in full to my PayPal account at . I will look elsewhere for my hosting.

Guy McLimore

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Revisited: The “Color Kindle Killer”

The post reblogged below first appeared here exactly a year ago yesterday. The “color Kindle touchscreen device” was the Kindle Fire. Apparently, Apple wasn’t ready to pull the trigger then. But, in the next two months, they will. It’s not much of an ambush, though. More like Amazon hearing the footsteps behind them getting closer… and closer… Still, not a bad call.

I love Amazon. I think the Kindle is very cool. I really think Amazon is the only company capable of leveraging something that could successfully compete with the iPad.


MG Siegler just revealed that he has seen and touched and used a device intended for that purpose – a color Kindle touchscreen device with a 7 inch screen running an Amazon-developed fork of Android. It won’t support the existing Android marketplace – it is rather designed to be primarily a reading/media/web device, leveraging Amazon’s book, music and video sales engines.

…and they plan to sell it for $250, starting in November.

This fits right into my idea of what might be a credible iPad competitor. (Not an “iPad Killer”. Unless someone can compete with the mighty iOS software library, there can be no such thing. Period.) They could do what everyone else has failed to do – create a real tablet market as opposed to an iPad market.

And yet…

I almost hate myself for thinking of this, but…

Do y’all remember back before the iPad was released and rumors floated around about a 7 inch screen device in the works at Apple? Even after the iPad came out, there were persistent stories about prototypes with a smaller form factor. I even vaguely recall some half-believable stories about Apple lining up a supply of such screens. Nothing ever surfaced, however.

But we know Apple can build such a device. That’s pretty much a lead-pipe cinch. I’d give good odds that a prototype exists of a 7 inch iPad. Of course, they have no reason to release such a device as long as they can already sell every iPad they can make. Unless a viable alternative appears at the lower end. Like, say, now.

Suppose… suppose they built it. In fact, suppose they are ready to build it now.

What price point could Apple hit with a device equivalent to an iPad 1 (equivalent processor, no camera, no GPS, wi-fi only, 16 GB flash memory) sporting a 7 inch screen? Could they hit a $250 price to match the new Amazon Color Kindle? Almost certainly.

In truth, they wouldn’t have to hit a $250 price point at all. The added value of a full-fledged iOS device that would run all existing iOS software (possible on a 7 inch device if the screen resolution matched the iPad 1 in a smaller form factor) would make the iPad Mini a no-brainer purchase over a Kindle Color even at $300.

The question is not “Could they do it?” – the question is “Would they do it?”. It might even be “Have they already done it and just not pulled the trigger?”.

Yews, I know it is positively paranoid of me to think of such a thing – Machiavellian McLimore, I am. But still…

Could they…? Would they…? Will they…? HAVE they…?

Isn’t there an Apple event coming up real soon…?

Taking the long view… and the longer view… of Samsung v Apple

As I’ve often said, when Andy Ihnatko talks about Apple or the technology industry in general, I’m listening. Unlike so many so-called “journalists” or “pundits” who have earned neither of those designations, Ihnatko speaks without hidden agendas. He isn’t there to tell you how to think. He’s there to call your attention to things you might be wanting to think about, and to make sure you have enough info to consider them intelligently. The fact that he can do so while still being one of the most entertaining writers around is a bonus.

So when Ihnatko offers guidance about what the verdict in Samsung vs. Apple could mean for the future of the phone & tablet market, it is good idea for you (and me) to know that.

If you haven’t read the Ihnatko piece yet… well, what the heck are you doing listening to me first? Click on the link above and hear his first reaction to the verdict. I have, and while I have to — reluctantly — agree with much of it in the short term, I think the long term effect will be quite different.

Ihnatko says “If the decision stands, it’ll make it far, far more difficult, expensive, and risky to be a company that designs phones and tablets.” I think he’s right as far as that goes. He also says “If the verdict stands, then the costs of the judgment will be reflected in the cost of mobile devices. Furthermore, other manufacturers will feel the need to buy Apple’s official permission to build useful phones, passing down the possible $20-per-handset fee.” He’s right about that, too. Anyone who buys a non-Apple smartphone is going to pay more for it.

Where I don’t agree is with this: “The biggest losers here are consumers.” And with this: “Friday’s verdict doesn’t feel like justice. It feels like the day when Apple lost a hunk of its public persona as sweet hippies motivated by excellence and freedom, who win by making the best products.”

Consumers will take a hit, assuredly, in the short term. But they were already being short-changed by an industry that would very much like to return to the pre-iPhone days. In those days everyone took the easy route and made phones that satisfied the industry as a way to milk their customers endlessly with virtually no real use of technology to improve their customer’s experience. Consumers hated their phones, but since everyone was making essentially the same thing, no one cared about what consumers wanted, let alone about what they needed but didn’t know was something they could ask to have.

Apple changed that by making the first real improvements in the cell phone experience in years. They spent a lot of money to do it. More importantly, a lot of good people who took pride in their work and their visions spent long days and nights away from their families and their other pursuits. They were motivated by more than money. They were motivated by pride and by a personal vision they shared with Steve Jobs and the rest of their Apple colleagues.

I’m no Pollyanna. Money drives Apple. It must — they have stockholders who are never satisfied, no matter how good the company’s growth and performance. But what made Apple different was a constant belief that vision attracted money, rather than money being something that could buy vision. Time has proven them right.

Even so, Steve Jobs was more than once bitterly disappointed by people who thought the process of creation could be furthered with a shortcut, taking the vision of someone else and using it without doing the work and putting in the thought — instead just pretending you understood what it meant. Microsoft did that with Windows, Google did that with Android. Jobs never understood this mindset, and never forgave it.

Where someone sees a vision, embraces it, is inspired by it, and wants to be a part of it, you get innovation on top of innovation. When someone copies the trappings of a vision just to say “Me, too!” in hopes of profitting from the spread of that vision and without really sharing it or understanding it — that does not promote growth or innovation or anything other than stagnation. It takes bread out of the mouths of the real innovators without contributing anything.

Google was slavishly copying Blackberry with their early work on a Google phone, even though Blackberry had long since gone stagnant. Later, Google took advantage of their open partnership with Apple to switch gears and do the same to them when it became clear that people were responding to Apple’s direction. Again, they largely did this with no direction or vision of their own except a desire to have the same level of success as Apple without really knowing how to get there.

The Samsung case shows the end result of that kind of “innovation”. The evidence gathered undisputedly showed that Samsung was happy to offer customers no more than the same old crap that allowed the wireless companies that were their only really valued “customers” to bleed consumers without caring about improving their lot. When Apple outsold them in droves, giving those coinsumers a new alternative, they looked at their products in comparison and, rather than working to make their products better for the consumer, they deliberately chose to take the easy way by just copying Apple’s look without understanding the philosophy behind it in the least.

Samsung’s own documents conclusively show their mindset. “We can see our products are perceived as being less desirable than Apple’s products. We don’t know why (and don’t care to really make the effort to determine why) Apple’s work is superior. So we will set out to just make our products more like Apple’s products to siphon off some of their success.” Steve Jobs was fed up with that kind of thinking. Samsung hoped that Jobs’ death would find Tim Cook more willing to accept this. They were wrong.

The Apple v Samsung verdict will cripple the “smartphone” industry only because so much of that “industry” only consists of companies trying to make a fast buck copying what Apple accomplished. As soon as some company combines real vision with a willingness to embrace risk in the pursuit of a move forward, it may be Apple that finds itself needing to catch up. I look forward to that day, but it isn’t likely to come soon. Inertia paralyzed the phone industry for years, and for the most part contines to do so.

If the Apple v Samsung verdict has a chilling effect on “copycat innovation”, the consumer will take a hit in the short term but in the long view it will promote real innovation by forcing companies to actually attempt to seek better ways to serve their customers instead of just trailing along behind the crowd without knowing why. Technology companies and the public are better served by anticipating what customers will want tomorrow and using technology to fill needs that the public does not yet know they have — as Apple has done.

Apple v Samsung’s legacy may be to force a “smartphone” industry hat rose on the backs of first Blackberry, then Apple, to stop tweaking the smartphone and start designing the devices that will supplant it. If they can do a better job of that than Apple itself, great! Sooner or later, someone will. But they won’t do it while whining about Apple suppressing their “rights” to share the success that the whiners didn’t earn.

Luna City Bound

When I am gone from this oppressive planet

My spirit will to Luna City fly,

Where disappointment no longer can hurt me

And gravity at last I can defy.

I’ll finally give thanks to Neil and Robert,

Then join the countless others in that place

To wait for Humankind to come and seek us,

And take our race, at last, out into space.

  
— Guy McLimore
for RAH, Neil, and everyone else who shared the dream.
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