John C. Abell

IPad 2. Who’s Xooming who?

Feb 28, 2011 16:35 UTC

Screen shot 2011-02-27 at 6.34.24 PM

Tomorrow, Apple is expected to announce a next-generation iPad, an iterative upgrade of the breakthrough product whose radical original Steve Jobs described as “magical.”

Jobs may be excused his poetic license, but in the 11 short months since the first iPad was sold it’s pretty clear Apple’s tablet has changed our relationship with computing in big, noticeable ways. Once-hot netbooks suddenly aren’t selling, PC sales are flatlining and even hard drives are having a hard time.

The causal link is debatable, the observable facts are not. Apple sold nearly 15 million iPads through Christmas Day last year, nearly half of that in the final quarter alone. That’s more than 45,000 iPads a day for a device that had been tried before but never captivated buyers, doesn’t exactly do anything different and which everyone knew would be updated within the year.

Dozens of tablets were hyped at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show versus zero last year and a few have hit the market. Wired’s take on the 7-inch Galaxy Tab was “that it takes direct aim at iPad’s shortcomings and does a credible job at addressing nearly all of them.” But we called the JooJoo “a piece of DooDoo,” the Archos “a kid’s toy” and said the Dell Streak “strikes out.”

And then there is the Motorola Xoom, which runs a version of Google’s Android operating system designed specifically for tablets, not smaller-screen smartphones. Not only did Motorola choose to start selling the Xoom a few days before Apple’s headline-grabbing event, but they have the audacity to charge more than an entry-level iPad.

Watson’s a Kindle, humans are iPads

Feb 22, 2011 17:17 UTC

I missed the first and last days of IBM Watson’s assault on humanity, played out innocently on a game show. But Tuesday’s edition of Jeopardy alone was as demoralizing for me as a human as it exhilarated my android side.

Part of the fun is what the IBM Language Team came up with to make humans comfortable in Watson’s presence. The supercomputer had that tad of inflection and a tone of voice which put one in the mind of HAL 9000 before, well, you know. Watson mixed up the banter at least once with a “Let’s finish out … ,” instead of just naming the category and amount. Watson displayed some frailty on display by giving the same wrong answer human competitor Ken Jennings had just before — I have seen humans do this, so why not a supercomputer?

For many, though, Watson’s weakness wasn’t something with which to commiserate but a way to cling to a small hope that we weren’t sowing the seeds of our own destruction. As Wired put it on Twitter during day two’s massacre: “For those not watching @IBMWatson on Jeopardy, we won’t spoil it, but you might want to stock up on provisions. #skynet

Nokia and Microsoft? Just maybe

Feb 13, 2011 22:39 UTC
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop (left) and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer address the Senior Leadership Event before they announce plans for a broad strategic partnership to build a new global mobile ecosystem . Nokia and Microsoft plan to form a broad strategic partnership that would use their complementary strengths and expertise to create a new global mobile ecosystem.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop (left) and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Credit: HO

Before there were smartphones Nokia made smart phones. Sleek. Colorful. Attractive. Sporting a distinctive, trademarked ring that, because there are so many Nokia handsets in the world, may actually be heard 20,000 times a second.

Nokia’s phones never made a huge splash in the United States, but worldwide they are to this day the market leader with some 300 million in use. In Q4 of last year, Nokia’s flagship Symbian mobile phone operating system boasted more than a third of the world’s market share. At nearly 37 percent, that was 10 percent more than the range of devices running Google’s Android, and more than Apple’s iPhone and Rim’s Blackberry combined.

But Nokia is losing, by leaps and bounds. The handwriting is on the wall. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who joined the company only last September, minced no words last Wednesday when he said the company was standing on a “burning platform.”

The Daily, news by the numbers

Feb 7, 2011 18:12 UTC


By John Abell
The opinions expressed are his own.

It isn’t every day that a new “mainstream” news publication launches, so hurrah for News Corp and deep pockets and experimentation. The Daily is not only a new brand, but a brand new approach to publishing, tied to a specific device — just as ink + newsprint equalled a newspaper. The really radical notion is that people are going to have to pay to get it, making content the deciding factor over style, speed and even convenience.

The Daily is up against a number of things, not the least of which is the web and a link economy Rupert Murdoch has argued undermines the economics of news gathering. As an avowedly for-profit undertaking which burns through $500,000 a week, it has quite a bit to achieve.

Putting aside content for the moment, here is what The Daily does have going for it.