Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Massachusetts Senatorial Election - What is happening?

Needless to say, the entire country is focused on today's senatorial election. Out of no where the republican candidate has surged in the polls within the last two weeks and now its too close to predict who will win. How did this happen? How could it happen? This would be unimaginable months ago when Senator Kennedy passed away.

I see two significant factors. First, Martha Coakley, the democratic candidate lacks the X factor. She simply does not possess the dynamic personality usually required to win over people. I say usually because Representative Paul Tsongas certainly lack charisma and that didn't stop him from getting elected. However, it still can't be ignored that Ms. Coakley has not yet developed the necessary persona to convince the general public that this is the individual who will best represent them in Congress.

The second factor in Congress. Many say the factor for the negativity towards the democratic candidate is the Obama administration but I can't place the blame with them. I blame Congress. The House and Senate have democratic majority and have had the opportunity to show the country how their party can do what's right for America and yet their handling of health care shows the worst congressional behavior.

One of the founding principles of the Obama candidacy was transparency. Then comes the health care bill and leaders Representative Pelosi and Senator Reid. The House passes a bill that is over 1,000 pages in length and yet no one has had sufficient time to read and understand it. Then the Senate proceeds to draft its version of the bill. Except the drafting process is done behind closed doors. Republicans are not included in the process. The final straw is the negotiation to get Senator Ben Nelson's vote. Senator Nelson received a commitment from the federal government to fully fund his state's expanded Medicaid population. No other state would be fully funded. In my world this is called a bribe. The Senate then followed the House and passed a bill that was also over 1,000 pages in length before giving members of the Senate an opportunity to read the bill.

This congressional behavior demonstrates what is wrong with Congress. Pelosi and Reid had an opportunity to show the country the proper way to address the health care problem and instead they demonstrated the worse possible of traits of public office - secrecy and blind ambition. The voters clearly see that Congress did not step up and provide transparency or a proper opportunity for public debate of health care and all of its problems. The voters of Massachusetts are calling for a change. Whether or not the Scott Brown wins, a loud message has been sent to Washington. The wind of change is blowing towards Washington and the people will ultimately have their way - do what is right for this country or we will.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Can a tablet replace a laptop?

I just read a piece in MacWorld asking the question, "Can a tablet replace a notebook?". According to the article the answer is no. I propose that the question is invalid. A tablet and a notebook have different functionality and are not substitutes for one another. In fact, I believe that it is this type of thinking, i.e., one replacing the other, is responsible for the failure of tablets in the past.

You use a laptop to act as you portable desktop. Anything you can do on your desktop machine you should be able to do on your laptop. I personally have taken this concept further and simply use a laptop for everything. The only concession I make is that when I'm working at a desk I use an external keyboard and mouse. In addition, I use an external monitor in my home office.

So what is the purpose of the tablet? First consider the functionality found it today's smartphones, e.g., the iPhone. It can do email, surf the the web, manage your contacts, manage your calendar, act as your iPod, take photos, take video, do texting, and provide maps. If that isn't enough then all you need to do is visit the App Store and browse through the 100,000 apps.

What doesn't the iPhone do well? Two things come to mind - typing and surfing the web. The virtual keyboard works well but I wouldn't want to write a multiple page document with it. Common sense dictates that a laptop would serve that function much better. However, the vitual keyboard on the iPhone is great for short emails, texting and taking quick notes. That takes us to surfing the web. Now I use my iPhone constantly and I surf the web with it. However, once again, this task is better suited for a laptop because screen real estate matters. Surfing the web with the phone is great for quick inquiries but you wouldn't want to surf and read for hours.

So why should I need a device to fill the space between a laptop and a phone? Answer - You Don't. Each device serves a separate purpose and they serve them well.

Then what would a tablet do? As I have stated previously, it will act as a media pad. You will access the internet, read ebooks, read newspapers, read periodicals, look at photos and view videos. Can you do this with a laptop or an iPhone? Yes, but the form factor is wrong when you think of portability and functionality. The laptop is too big and the iPhone is to small. Hence, enters the tablet.

Will it run productivity applications, ala, iWork? I believe yes but it will run them in a cloud computing environment. The focus will be on accessing documents and making minor changes. It will not serve as your primary typing platform.

The only question is what will you use for a keyboard? I believe you will have the choice of using a virtual keyboard or a bluetooth keyboard. However, if you need a bluetooth keyboard then you are probably using the wrong device. Heavy keyboard activity should occur on a laptop.

Replacing a laptop with a tablet is like replacing your oven with a microwave. They both cook but each is suited for a particular type of cooking.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Additional thoughts about Apple's tablet (The iPad?)

Now that I have had a chance to think about the possible paradigm shift (see previous post) due to the upcoming Apple tablet, I believe the shift will go much further than ebooks. The shift will occur to the entire print media. Users will access all forms of print media, especially newspapers and magazines. iTunes would be expanded to have subscriptions to newspapers and magazines, much like podcasts. And while we are on the subject of podcasts, podcasts and video podcasts would also be accessible on the device.

What makes this device different from accessing the information on your Mac or iPhone? Simply put, form factor. All of us have read newspaper articles, etc. on our Macs and iPhones. But something was missing. Macs (OK, PCs for you non Mac people :-) ) are good for reading articles but they're not as portable as an iPhone. iPhones have great portability but the screens are small for reading articles and you are constantly flicking to the next page or resizing the screen.

Now imagine reading a magazine or newspaper on a portable device with a 10.7 inch screen. Its easy to hold, like a book or a small portfolio. The screen can easily hold a "page" worth of information - the newspaper page looks like a newspaper page, a magazine page looks like a magazine page. Its easy to use and easy on the eyes.

The big question is will it save the newspaper and magazine industry. Advertising revenue in printed media is dropping tremendously. Would the savings in physical printing and distribution costs make up for the loss of advertising revenue. Probably not for most publishers. I personally feel that the industry will downsize leaving a few major players but then will recover with new players entering the marketplace now that the entry cost would be so low.

Steve Jobs revolutionized the music industry. Can he do it again with printed media? Lets hope so.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Apple's next device? iPad?

Today the Wall Street Journal has an article about Steve Jobs and his focus on the new tablet. Following the article was a link to a discussion group addressing the question, "Would you buy Apple's tablet device?" The following is my posted response to the question:

Yes I would, however, I would try to wait for second or third version. Apple has a history of creating new paradigms - Macintosh, iPods, iTunes, iPhone. The question I keep asking myself is what would be the new paradigm for a successful tablet? I can only speculate that it would be a wifi internet device that would use "cloud computing", i.e., internet based applications. An existing example would be Google Docs. The goal would be to move the storage of apps and data out to the cloud. The primary cloud destination would be Apple's MobileMe subscription service. The next question is whether or the device would access data via a cellular network. Perhaps it would connect via a tether to an iPhone thereby eliminating the need for a second data plan. I don't see the tablet having voice telephony. The keyboard would be a larger implementation of the virtual keyboard, however, hard core typists could purchase an external bluetooth keyboard. The real hook, however, is ebooks. This device would be a Kindle killer. The ebook market would be broken into four segments - fiction/non-fiction books; newspapers, textbooks (college and grad students); professional references such as a law library (court cases), an accounting library (GAAP), a tax library (IRS code and Regulations) and a complete medical library (PDR, etc.). The fiction/non-fiction segment obviously competes with Kindle. The newspaper segment would now have a media pad the could resemble a newspaper metaphor. The textbook segment would be a hit with today's high tech device savvy students who are more comfortable with a browser than a pen or pencil. Finally, you would have the professional segment would be more than happy to pay for a portable casebook/reference book metaphor. Once again, I'm just speculating, but doesn't it sound like the next paradigm change would be the printed page?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Squirrels of the world Unite!

It began with a couple on vacation in Canada. They were taking a photo and a squirrel stopped by to participate. The photo was a hit on the internet and the couple was interviewed on the Today show. Next thing you know the little guy pops up during the broadcast.

Now, introducing The Squirrelizer...

Here's the handiwork -

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lack of Common Sense

On July 16th Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested for disorderly conduct. Today the charges were dropped. However, more importantly, the charges could have been avoided if Mr. Gates used some common sense.

On July 16th the police receive a call that someone is trying get into a house. The police respond and find no one outside. Mr. Gates answers the door and the police then question Mr. Gates. who refuses to show identification. The incident then moves to the porch outside the front door where Mr. Gates started yelling at the police which led to the arrest.

Let's see, hmmm, if Mr. Gates had simply shown the officer his driver's license and kept his mouth shut none of the would have occurred.

Here's a word of advice to the general public and Mr. Gates. If a police officer asks you a question, answer it politely and then shut up.