John C. Abell

Irene-ocalypse: not ‘Lord of the Flies’ quite yet

Aug 31, 2011 21:25 UTC

For the past few days I’ve been engaged in a social experiment, not of my choosing, and possible only in the digital age. Hurricane Irene knocked out power, and, more importantly, most Internet service in my modest corner of Westchester County, New York — rendering one of the most affluent parts of the country a backwoods, digital have-not.

Until today even Metro North couldn’t brave these climes. Yet life and work must go on. Stitching together solutions to do what has become as natural as breathing is now a challenge.

Welcome to Basecamp Starbucks.

As I wrote on Sunday (and published only when I could, on Monday, when some Internet returned to these parts here), I actually am thriving in this partial return to the dark ages. The peace and quiet that cannot be artificially introduced is intoxicating — an adopted child of the Internet age whose formative years were (ahem) somewhat pre-digital.

Although my 17-year-old daughter can’t take it. She’s almost prioritizing friendships based on who has power (i.e., Wi-Fi) and begging me to let her tether my phone to her computer when she deigns to come home. I can put up with a lot, but you can’t pry my iPhone from my cold dead hands. I also can’t cotton to draining precious battery life on Facebook when my power sources are a) a running car and b) a Starbucks that won’t open until morning.

Starbucks is an oasis, but not a full service one. Even under normal circumstances these locations are a magnet for connectivity addicts who may or may not do the right thing by buying a coffee every now and then. My own local place was shut down Sunday, flooded in front and back. But they were back on the power grid Monday and became my satellite office, along with many others who just needed to quickly check their e-mail or needed a power source during the time they would be spending underwater at home.

Facebook is facing the music — is Google calling the tune?

Aug 26, 2011 15:16 UTC

Pssssst — wanna know a secret? Facebook is feeling the heat from the surprisingly successful launch of Google+. There is vigorous competition from the search-and-advertising giant many assumed couldn’t shoot straight when it came to social media.

Some caveats: For one thing, I say “surprising” only because Google was arguably a three-time loser in the space. For another, it’s actually no secret that Facebook is, shall we say, finding it necessary to adapt to what might be a new world order. Third: Facebook still reigns supreme in membership and impact and pretty much every metric you (or they) would choose to use. Google+ hasn’t been with us even two months yet, for heaven’s sake, and while it’s amassed tens of millions of users there are no guarantees.

What I am talking about here is trajectory, and meme. You will pardon the pun, and excuse the mixed metaphor, but Google has finally caught a wave, and Facebook is hearing footsteps.

A world without Steve Jobs

Aug 25, 2011 14:59 UTC

By John Abell
The opinions expressed are his own.

In a way, Steve Jobs might have saved the best “One Last Thing” for last: The legendary and now former Apple CEO has left his company in fine hands and on a path of prospects as great as his final years at the helm have provided.

There is no question that the Man of the Hour is now Tim Cook — Apple’s man of the future. He and Jony Ive have been Jobs’ two right hands for ages. While Jobs himself is irreplaceable, nobody is indispensable. The lines of succession and responsibility have been carefully crafted and are as sleek as any piece of hardware Apple has ever designed.

Cook is no showman in the mold of Jobs, but that doesn’t matter. Jobs’ prime days were well behind him before his last two public appearances this year, at the WWDC and, serendipitously, at the Cupertino town council to pitch for Apple’s new headquarters.

Google dials it up by pocketing Motorola

Aug 15, 2011 23:15 UTC

For a company that is all about world domination via the hardware-agnostic cloud, Google sure seems fascinated with being in the computer game these days.

There are those Chromebook laptops, a partnership with Samsung and Acer that is primarily a means to extend the reach of Google’s cloud-based services courtesy of a delivery system of inexpensive computers that don’t do much of anything else. But that’s a play against Microsoft and its office software suite, not the world’s top computer makers.

And it makes core sense: Google still makes nearly 100 percent of its roughly $30 billion annual revenue from small text ads on web pages, and, to a much lesser extent, its cloud-based services. Anything that drives traffic to those pages is money in Google’s bank.

Please — let’s not call these the ‘BlackBerry riots’

Aug 9, 2011 18:30 UTC

Here we go again: Young people, rioting in the streets, railing against leadership, using their mobile phones to outsmart law enforcement caught off guard by the nimbleness of cool kids in what would be a B-movie script if it wasn’t unfolding in real time.

But this time it isn’t happening in some far off, ambiguously backward Middle Eastern place. No, this is happening in the homeland of Sir Thomas Moore, Winston Churchill and Kate Middleton.

And, for a pleasant change, the technology being blamed/credited for fueling the fire is neither Facebook nor Twitter, but BlackBerry Message Service — one of the oldest means of mobile-to-mobile text communication, better known among aficionados simply as BBM.

The Apple of Grand Central’s eye

Aug 3, 2011 18:16 UTC
The Big Apple is getting another … big apple. 

Just what Grand Central needs: more people. And it’s a sure thing that there will be many, many more people making their way through the main concourse when an Apple store opens up in a place that is already synonymous with large, bustling crowds.

A 23,000 square feet Apple store in Grand Central on the mezzanine level, which is currently occupied by a restaurant, would be the company’s fifth in New York City. Apple has opened more than 300 retail locations since it launched its first one in Virginia a decade ago.

Apple’s decision to open stores was distinctly against the tide by going all bricks and mortar as the world was beating a path to the virtual door of such e-tailers as Amazon.com. It was especially gutsy, too, as it came during the early stages of the dotcom bust and before Apple had become a mainstream high-tech company. This was months before the iPod was released, when Apple was still a niche player with a respectably large fan base but no clear way to capture the hearts and minds of the 97% or thereabouts general public which lived the Windows universe.