Find out why

The world of business is changing. There is a growing trend toward more honesty, more generosity, more just plain human behaviour. And I like it.

My mad friend Joel D Canfield would like to lead the charge toward something totally different. Today, he's shifting his focus from his various businesses to a philosophy he thinks will change the world. In his words: "Too many people spend life stuck, going through the motions; believing they know what to do and how to do it, but never really clear on why. Finding 'why' makes 'what' and 'how' become clear. I want to help folks who are stuck being what the world expected to find their why, to find meaning and joy in life, and show the world who they really are."

Visit his brand new website http://FindingWhy.com/ and see what you think. As expected, there's honesty, generosity, just plain human-ness. 10,000 words already written and hundreds of thousands to come. Free downloads. Room for conversation. A little insanity.

Joel's putting out the welcome mat right now.


AT&T is not evil... just a little stupid.

Lots of flack has been generated of late regarding AT&T's recent announcement to enable iPhone tethering by eliminating the unlimited data plan option for those customers that want it. What this essentially means is, in the future unlimited data plans will probably go away. Initially, it will happen for new iPhone customers after June 7, but eventually everybody will probably be in that same boat.

For those too embarrassed to ask, "tethering" refers to the process of using your iPhone as a wireless modem. This means you can associate your iPhone [ostensibly through wired or wireless connection] with another computing device [laptop, iPad, what have you] and use the iPhone's 3G cellular connection to connect to the Internet with the other computing device. Since many folks who own an iPhone also use other devices on the road, this could be a boon to people on the go.

Another note, by "jailbreaking" your iPhone [which essentially means running a program that enables you to load apps that are NOT obtained from the Apple App Store] tethering is available right now for most iPhone customers. Problem is this practice is not sanctioned by Apple and there is a real danger you could mess up your iPhone at least temporarily and lose data. Many people don't want to take that chance.

So, for most of us, we have been stuck waiting for AT&T to provide some sort of iPhone tethering options. Most people in the press and blogosphere don't like what AT&T has come up with, but I think the proposed plans, while not optimum, are not all that bad. Before you kill me, let me explain.

AT&T is primarily in business to make money. I know that might come as a shock to the media, uber-geeks [besides me], and bloggers out there who think everything should be free for everybody and all corporations are evil. And, as such, companies are always striving [or should be] to strike a delicate balance between losing their asses and gouging their customers.

At first, an unlimited data plan for iPhone users probably sounded like a good idea to AT&T. Easier to manage, simple to explain, provides a constant revenue stream, etc. Besides, when there was a small number of iPhone customers, who cared? Well, times have certainly changed. People for the most part understand smartphones, data plans, and the difference between megabytes and M&Ms. And there are TONS of iPhone users, constantly slamming AT&Ts famously fragile and barely-capable network. This situation is clearly unsustainable for AT&T cause it simply cannot scale.

According to AT&T, 98% of all iPhone users currently use less than 2GB/mo of data. IF this is true, then I think they are being quite reasonable with the new plans. Here's why:

- It currently costs an iPhone user an extra $30/mo for an unlimited data plan.

- The new "Data Pro" data plan will cost $25/mo for a max of 2GB of data per month. If 98% of all current customers won't use more than this amount, then that means, if we don't change what we do [big if] then we all save 5 bucks a month.

- IF you want tethering, you need to add another $20/mo. Note this will NOT increase your data limit, just allow you to use that data limit differently. Chances are, if you are a heavy user, you'll use more data.

So it seems AT&T has given us all the option to move to a reasonable data plan for a little less money and, for the power and data-hungry users to get what's coming to them - a BILL. I'm sorry, but bandwidth is not free, and I for one don't feel like subsidizing all the hackers out there hosting websites from their iPads. I'm fine with this new setup. But I'm not abusing the current situation nor do I wish to.

What would have made the deal better? AT&T should have included tethering FREE with all limited data plans. That way, everybody could experiment with tethering. The way I look at it, bits are bits, and it should not matter to AT&T what you use those bits for, voice, phone data, or other device data. You would still be limited to the same number of bits in each plan, so all adding tethering would do is give you more ways to use those bits. If successful, all customers would quickly run over their data limits, giving AT&T the opportunity to make even more money charging exorbitant overage fees. With this approach, we all win.

But no, they had to take the stance that to even TRY tethering you must commit to pay an extra $20/mo for TWO YEARS, and still get NO MORE data allocation in your plan. That's ridiculous, and should not have been done.

So for that, AT&T, you get a solid C-...when you could have easily gotten the A.


3D with no glasses?

As I have said in my previous posts, unless 3D TV can be delivered with no requirement for glasses, it will never achieve mass-market consumer success in the home. Well, it seems someone heard me. A group in Singapore is claiming to have achieved a workable 3D system that does not require the use of glasses. In fact, they claim that the system will be demoed live at CeBit, the European tech-fest that occurs yearly in Hanover, Germany.

Cebit has been called the largest electronics show in the world. Some folks think that CES in Las Vegas is the biggest show. Lately I'm not sure. But in any case, this sucker is big. If you have the privilege to attend, try to find these guys and see their demo. And please let me know how it looks!

Naturally, I am skeptical that practical 3D can be delivered at any price without the aid of glasses or some special equipment. Other companies have claimed to have achieved this capability before. The "demo" usually consists of a large, glass-like box the observer needs to look into. The box has multiple panes of glass and/or mirrors that images can bounce off of.

3D? Possibly. Kind of. Sort of. But who cares? Is that what you want in your house? A huge, glass cube in the middle of your room? Think about it, the whole family sitting around this large obelisk, their heads bobbing to and fro, oohing and ahhing at the wonderful, 3D goodness? I don't think so.

The problem is, we consumers want it ALL. We want Avatar-quality 3D, in our homes, for no more than a 10-30% premium over what we pay now, with NO glasses, boxes, or other strange, room-encroaching apparati required.

Sorry, guys, but you may be able to demo something, and even get some press, but my prediction is that this is all you will get.

Let's wait and see. I'm always willing to be proven wrong.


What is Apple's next play?

I was asked by John McCoy, a friend of mine from Kodak, what "the hard call" was I referred to in my last post about the Apple iPad announcement. What was hard to call was the price. Most folks had it much higher...starting at around $1000. I knew Stevie-boy was too shrewd for that jazz. I had it nailed over a month ago.

Besides, he wants to KILL the Kindle. This will do that...in about 2 years. Another prediction for you to all write down and keep score with.

John also asked me what I thought Apple's next move may be. He thinks it might be a new gaming machine.

My take: Apple's next product? Who knows! Seems like, wherever there is a revenue stream to be capitalized upon, they will be there. But dedicated game machine? I don't think so. I think Steve is making a broad platform...and ALL of them will play great games!

What do you guys think?

Apple iPad - I told you so!

Apple just announced their fabled "iPad" and it looks like a winner to me. 

Of course, if you refer back to my previous posts, you'll see that the most important aspects were covered nicely:

1. Price - without 3G the price range is between $499 and $699 - EXACTLY what I predicted in December.

Also, what Apple SHOULD do - but probably can't, is offer a tethering option for iPhone users just like I wrote about months ago, that would allow them to use their phone data plans with the wifi-only version for no extra charge. Think about it - why should I have to pay for a data plan for both my iPad and my iPhone, when we all know I can't possibly use these suckers at the same time. It would be a great offering.

2. Text input - UX - Apple appears to have addressed the input and user experience questions extremely well. Only time will tell, but with a great onscreen keyboard, gesture-based UI to the max, as well as accessories like the Kickstand, and Aux BT keyboard in place, I think this thing will FLY off the shelves.

3. Actually, there were no surprises after all. We've all talked about and known what was needed to make a compelling tablet - low price, great UX, deal with issues like text input and data plans. So the real event here was that Steve Jobs could get us all worked up about making an obvious product, and doing it right!

Get ready for a wild ride once developers start cranking out iPad apps!


Apple tablet announcement is not about the tablet

If anyone, anywhere, thinks the upcoming announcement by Steve Jobs and Apple this Wednesday is really about the new Apple tablet / iSlate / iPad or whatever you want to call it, or even about any other product that might or might not be announced, then I've got a news flash for you all.

You are dead wrong.

Yep. You heard it here first.

Sure. Apple and my buddy Steve might very well announce some new, cool product. Given all the "leaks", I expect it will probably be some sort of tablet form-factor portable computing device [how's that for geek-speak to suck the life out of a phrase?].

But what if a new tablet was not announced? What if the announcement was not much at all? Like last year, when the Hype Engine was again at Full Military Thrust in June, all guns blaring at the possibility of a new iPhone with, remember, things like:
  • Front-facing camera
  • OLED screen
  • Removable battery
  • Built-in videoconferencing
  • Automatic Save the Whales
  • Full Checkbook-balancing
Ok...but you get my point I hope. None of these things happened. In fact, the announcement was rather boring. But only Steve Jobs could do the following:

  1. Spin up an entire industry, whipping them up into a journalistic frenzy, spurring speculation upon speculation about what "might be coming next". 
  2. Garner TONS of free and extremely valuable PR for his company, with very little actual investment on his part.
  3. Get TONS of free and extremely valuable product advice, with very little actual investment on his part.
In fact, what are the three most difficult things for a company to get for little investment? They are:

A. To GET PEOPLE INTERESTED IN WHAT YOU DO. The struggle for relevancy in a sea of Internet sound bytes and techno-journalistic-babble is overwhelming. Yet Stevie-boy cuts through this crap with devastating ease. With something as simple as sending out an understated Press Invite to a "limited audience" [yeah, right, limited to the entire world], he turns the entire industry on its head, and turns the media into an extension of his PR team. Steve Jobs does this better than anybody else. He does it so well, he can actually create a new category without actually announcing a product. Think about it. Has Steve or Apple actually announced anything? Have they mentioned the word "tablet"? Nope. Yet several other companies have announced tablets, and many more have announced they are working on tablets. Yet, way before Apple makes any formal announcements, Steve can rest assured that there will be a nice, soft landing place for his new baby. Everybody else has made sure of this for him.

B. To GET PEOPLE TO NOTICE YOU. Now that he has manipulated the entire industry to create a new category for him, Steve has made damn sure that Apple is being discussed in every breath. Apple's new tablet is already the standard which all others are being measured by - yet it does not even exist! Apple already has the high ground, without firing a shot! By saying nothing, Steve Jobs has made the shrewdest of PR moves; he has won the hearts and minds of not only potential customers, but the journalists who write for them. And when you do this, you win.

C. To GET RELEVANT FEEDBACK ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTS. And, finally, after creating the category, and getting everybody to think that your product is the best in that category, what do you do? Well, if you are Steve Jobs, you get the entire industry to tell you what to build! Tons of stories, concepts, even mockups of what the ideal Apple tablet should be have already inundated the web-verse. Now, Apple may choose to ignore all this free product advice [because we all know they know best], but think about it. If it were your company, wouldn't you prefer to have the option of knowing what all your potential customers WANTED in a new product, in a new category, BEFORE you actually announced anything?

So my friends, when we all huddle around our computers on Wednesday, to hear the latest Sermon from the Mount Apple; as Steve comes down from the mountain with perhaps, not two, but hopefully at least one tablet in his hands, remember this:

It's not about the product - it's about how we are all dancing to Apple's tune!

And loving it in the process!


CES 2010 Epilogue

OK, after way too much walking, talking, schmoozing, eating crappy trade show hotdogs, walking, swilling old coffee, pitching ideas, ignoring slot machines, avoiding cabs, walking, looking at booths and wondering "what were they thinking..." all the while wishing I had one-tenth of their booth-babe budget, we are finally done with CES 2010. And here are my concluding thoughts.

Reflections on predictions

Last week I made several not-so-bold predictions, and now [unlike anybody else who makes predictions] I'm going to actually discuss what I predicted after the fact. Yep, it's now time to fess up and see how the predictions actually fared. Here goes:

1. "3DTV will flop just like the videophone." We will have to wait until the jury ultimately comes in on this one, but after actually being able to view the demos, talk to folks, and more fully consider the issue, my opinion on this one still stands firm. I don't see 3DTV making serious inroads into the living room of the everyday consumer any time soon, even if the price drops. Sure, the demos were impressive. Great eye candy. But the truth is most folks simply don't care that much about the fidelity of their TV viewing experience at home. I do, however, feel that 3D will have a somewhat positive future in the gaming niche. I can see gamers with headsets and glasses enjoying this technology immensely.

2. "Nexus One ... may prove to put a serious leaker in the venerable Apple frontrunner". Nexus One was nowhere to be found at CES. Upon further reflection this makes perfect sense. Google is equally arrogant about trade shows as Apple, so they would not be caught dead there. They did try to upstage the show by announcing [in true Steve Jobs fashion] the day before it opened. Nexus One will be a significant phone this year [perhaps the most significant given the Android platform and Google's marketing muscle]. But it was a non-issue at CES. 

3. "Tablets: The hype will seriously lead the reality". Except for Ballmer's completely underwhelming HP slate demo at the Microsoft CES keynote, tablets were nowhere to be found at CES, practically speaking. 

4. "Anything Android [will be hot]". Again, looks like Android is not ready for prime time either, as the platform for mobile devices was seriously under-represented at CES 2010. I can hear the "Wait till next year!" cries from Android enthusiasts already.

5. "eBook readers [will be hot if they can get below $199]". I stand by this prediction, and again only time will tell. But if things pan out as I think they will, eBook readers will only be successful in numbers other than niche applications if they can get below $199, and do it quickly [like in the next year or so]. Otherwise, the broader tablet category has a better chance of some success.

6. "Blu-ray players [will not be hot]". I got this one nailed. Blu-ray was at best an afterthought at CES 2010.

7. "Digital cameras [will not be hot]". Again, score. Digcams WERE an afterthought.

8. "Attendance will be around 120,000".  We'll have to wait for the official show attendance numbers, but it was clear to me from talking with others that attendance was way above that of 2009 levels. 

General CES 2010 impressions

In general, CES 2010 was a good show. Lots of positive energy. interesting tech, and an air of dealmaking and optimism long-missed and overdue. The vector is definitely in the right direction for 2010 and I hope it continues. Unfortunately, there were no "showstopper" announcements or eye-opening tech demos, but there rarely is anymore. It's just way too hard to come up with something so new and different that it's a surprise any more. The only surprise that can happen, given our penchant for new tech, is that one of these products actually works as advertised. But that's a detail left up to the engineers to work out long after the popcorn and booth babes have dried up. In general, I'm really glad I went, but I'm pretty sure my feet disagree.


CES Day Three

CES day three was a short one for me...I did not have much time before my flight, so I flew through the LVCC South Hall as fast as I could, trying to see something interesting [not an easy feat after three days of gadget and hype overload] before I bolted for McCarran.

Here are the winners of my totally unofficial and unscientific survey:

Winner of the Best Technology Award for Day Three goes to:

Blue Ant. Just another Bluetooth headset? Not quite. It boasts complete voice control. If it works that would be great. You know what would even be greater? A BT headset that even approached the performance of....copper wire.

Winner of the most Hyped technology in Day Three is:

Plastic Logic's Que eReader. Sure eInk is cool, and putting it on a plastic substrate instead of glass is even cooler, and it will happen. But my sources tell me this technology is not quite ready for prime time. Question is: when it is ready, will anybody care?

Winner of the most Practical Day Three technology goes to:

Twist tie's, beware! This is the patented Cable Clamp. This sucker is easy, cheap and...wait for it...reusable!! Yep no cutting those ties off when you realize you need to add "just one more wire" to that bundle. Great, practical solution!

Winner of the Most Fun Day Three tech is:

Forget those DOD-class hovercrafts.... check out the latest offerings from VRC! These toys are cool and they work great! Grab one...if not for a Christmas present, for the heck of it!

And...[FINALLY]...last but not least, the winner of the most NECESSARY CES Day Three tech goes to:

OK...ok...crappy picture. But I wanted to get the company's name in the shot. The NEOX TS 5000 massage chair is the absolute best thing in the world! At $5k each, not cheap, but when you think about the aggravation and doctor's bills they might avoid, it could be a real bargain in the long run. My back may never walk again.

That's it...hope you enjoyed reading about CES as much as I enjoyed attending...or perhaps, if you listen to your feet...you even enjoyed it more!

CES Day Two

Well it's day two and my feet are screaming.

Here are the highlights:

NVidia had one of the most impressive 3D displays at CES. The necessary glasses, although cumbersome and stupid, will be perfectly acceptable for gamers so 3D gaming is probably what will drive this category no matter what anybody tells you. Pretty impressive.

Asus now has a fantastic array of cute, small, practical, cheap, and robust netbooks and netbook-like products. The one pictured here boasts an awesome 14 hour battery life, enough to fly from Las Vegas to Taipei. Road warriors rejoice!

Check out this awesome super small video camera from AEE. You can record while mobile, then connect via USB and upload your videos. Pretty cool.

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, Panasonic is making serious inroads in residential power storage, the last link in the chain for personal energy independence in the home. With one of these lithium-ion [or the alternative Fuel-Cell model!!] storage units, you can store juice from your solar cells during the day, and then party all night. We are really close to making this stuff functional, at least in areas where there is a lot of sun. Now it just has to get cheaper.

You are looking at the future of trade shows IMHO. This is the Photosimlie 360-degree light box from Ortery. With one of these rotating photo booths, you can scan most any object and show it online in immersive 3D. Now, given the horrible costs of trade shows, terrorism making travel dangerous and expensive, and the emergence of ubiquitous 3D viewing technology shown at the show this year, I predict it won't be long before we are working, collaborating, and even shopping more than ever before without leaving home. What a wonderful future that will be!

Now for some more...uh...interesting stuff:

Look closely. Click on the picture to enlarge it, and zoom way in. This is the Parrot AR.Drone Quadricoptor. This is a fully independent hovercraft being demoed. It worked great. It could hover near silently at most any height. Great for tracking those pesky terrorists, or tailing that unfaithful spouse. Little details like price, availability, and necessary security clearances were unavailable at press time.

One of the most popular items at the show were new WII peripherals, like this sub-machine gun shown here. Lots of fun, and practical too!

And last but not least...this guy. The company's product is actually very cool. It allows you to wage SMS marketing campaigns, which will probably be the bane of our existence in the coming years. But the maskot....ugh.

That's it...on to Day Three...