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Comment Just accounting anyway (Score 1) 100

Bingo. This "writeoff" is goodwill, which it just a way of accounting for why you're paying more for a company than appeared on its balance sheets. That includes a lot of things like "the experience of the employees", which is often what you're really buying when you purchase a company, and "expected future growth". Microsoft itself has only $61B in assets, but $380B in market cap. If you could buy it, the extra $320B would all be "goodwill".

You have to put it on your balance sheet to make the books balance, but there's no reason to keep it there forever. You used to just depreciate it; now it just gets "reevaluated" under various accounting rules. That's all MSFT has done.

It's not saying much about what Nokia has meant to Microsoft. It's just accountants trying to track where the value goes for the purposes of comparing one company to another. It doesn't indicate one way or the other on whether the Nokia deal was a good one, or whether Microsoft has managed it well.

Comment Re:Next moon landing? (Score 1) 79

Russia got out of the moon-race business once it lost. "Yay, we spent billions to come in second" would not have really worked for them. They've specialized in near-earth activities, and it's turned out really well.

China is still talking about it, and just might. They've landed a probe, have put people in orbit, and are working for real on a space station. They're not in a rush to get to the moon, since they'll need to do more than just plant a flag to make it seem like an achievement to rival America's, but the odds are good that the next feet on the moon will be Chinese.

Comment Re:exactly this. (Score 1) 254

I'm not sure it's necessary to have all your friends on the same service, but the more services they're spread across, the more accounts you have to create and maintain, the more places you have to check, the more sites you have to log into, and the more mobile apps you need to install if you want to stay on top of everything.

Comment Re:I don't get it,... five a day? (Score 1) 352

$2.42 per 400-calorie bottle so $12.08 a day,... cooking my self I can manage a (I hope) tastier alternative for less,... What is the gain in using this?

Well, you don't have to cook a meal yourself, so that's one benefit. Also, if we can assume that it is actually a "balanced meal" it does mean that you don't have to figure out or plan a balanced diet. The fact that it's liquid means that you can just gulp it down-- no need to silverware, no crumbs, no need to chew even. The fact that it is in an individual bottle that doesn't need refrigeration means that you don't have to mix it, and you can just grab a bottle, throw it in a bag, and go.

In short, it's very convenient. It's not the cheapest option or the tastiest option. But if you're someone who doesn't have the time or inclination to think about meals, and just wants balanced nutrition without spending any time or energy on it, then you're the target audience.

Comment Re:Answering calls? (Score 2) 69

Then there are the speech patterns advertisers and political wheedlers commonly use. Siri could even feed you through a "translucent" piece of the caller's spiel overlaid by its own "Shall I take this call?"

This reminds me of Grand Central, the service that eventually became Google Voice. It had features where you could say, for example, "Right now, if someone in my family calls, route them them directly to my cell phone. If one of my work contacts calls, route them to my work voicemail. If an unknown number calls, ask them to leave a voicemail, but let me listen into the the voicemail and I'll decide whether to take the call."

I think it was a great feature set, but it was probably too complicated to be workable for most people. It'd be nice if Apple (or someone else) could work out a way to do this in a naturalistic way.

Comment Re:exactly this. (Score 1) 254

And wouldn't app interoperabiility would probably make your privacy "the weakest in the chain"/"the weakest installed"?

Potentially, yes, in much the same way that your email is only as secure as the least secure recipient. I'd count that as "an issue to be worked out" rather than "an unavoidable problem that makes the idea inherently unworkable."

Also, doesn't that make it where every single feature needs to hit critical mass independently... after all, how do I see your pictures if I need to install an app to do so? What about dueling options fragmenting the market?

There are already dualing options fragmenting the market. You have Google+, Facebook status feeds, and Twitter all serving roughly the same purpose, though with no interoperability. If you want to post something so all of your friends can see it, you'll probable need to set up accounts on each of these services, and repost it for each service. You may be able to find an app that would do it for you. What I'm suggesting is that it would be better if you could choose to use Twitter or Facebook or Google for that purpose, based on features, security, or other benefits of that service, rather than having the service tied to a particular userbase (e.g. choose twitter because you think it works better rather than having to use Facebook because you want to reach Facebook users.)

You bring up apps, but ideally you'd have an API/protocol that separates the apps from the service. I can access Gmail using Google's Gmailapp, or using any other app that supports IMAP. I'm suggesting that there should be a standard set of IM/Messaging protocols, for example, so that instead of being forced to use Facebook's Messenger app for Facebook's Messenger service and Google's Hangouts app for their Hangouts IM/Messaging, you should be able to use the app that you like best with the service that you like best.

Comment Re:exactly this. (Score 1) 254

Or they should have done what I'd still like to see them do: Build a series of stand-alone web applications with open APIs that interact well together, but can be mixed-and-matched with different services.

Google is one of the few companies with the clout and resources to open the web back up again. We've been moving more and more toward closed/proprietary interactions. Compare Twitter with email, for example. I don't need a Gmail account to email with Gmail users, because email is an open system and other people can set up their own email servers that can communicate with email. Twitter, on the other hand, for whatever APIs it offers, does not allow you to set up your own Twitter server, creating your own Twitter accounts that Twitter (the company) does not control. If you want to participate in Twitter, you need a Twitter account with the original Twitter service.

So with this contrast in mind, I think we need someone to develop protocols, APIs, standards, encoding formats, and whatever is involved to make these services more like email. I think Google should make identity management services, status update services, messaging services, photo sharing services, etc., all of which are open in the way that email is open, instead of closed in the way that Facebook and Twitter are closed. They should all work well together, but give you the option of using an alternative for any one of the services without everything breaking, (e.g. use Google status updates and identity management, set up your own server for messaging, and use Instagram for photo sharing in a way that they can all inter-operate well).

If Google could do this, they could position themselves as a way to exit the bullshit of our current social media infrastructure without losing the functionality you've relied on. I think it could be a good strategy at this point.

Comment Answering calls? (Score 3, Interesting) 69

It sounds like they're really just talking about transcribing voicemails, but by saying that Siri will "answer calls", it made me wonder if there might be a future in Siri (or something like it) replacing phone tree systems with something a little more intelligent. For example, could you have a system that didn't just look for certain keywords, but ask the caller what kind of issue they're calling about, and then route the call appropriately. In some cases, Siri might route it to a live phone operator, in others she might automatically transcribe the caller's statements and route it to the right person's email, or attach it to the correct trouble-ticket. Maybe if the system were smart enough, it could even prioritize incoming calls, or interrupt current phone calls, (e.g. "Excuse me Mr. Nine-Times, but there is an urgent phone call from one of your most important clients. Can you take the phone call right now?")

I hadn't really thought about that before, but it seems like a market that could really use a better solution. Phone trees suck.

Comment Re:exactly this. (Score 2) 254

You mean like Facebook and Orkut did?

Facebook didn't have to compete with Facebook. I mean, Friendster and MySpace existed already by the time Facebook opened up, but they were crap. There wasn't a huge, successful, entrenched player already holding most of the market. Plus, Facebook started by targeting a specific market (colleges), so while it was limited at first, it was still capturing huge numbers of young people.

Orkut? Well, it never seemed to really catch on here in the states anyway, and it's shut down now, so whatever they did, it didn't really work out. Still, launching an invite-only social network in 2004 was a far different beast than launching one in 2011.

But seriously, those were due to scaling concerns.

Even if that was genuinely the reason they did that, which I somewhat doubt, it was still a stupid marketing decision. It would have been better for the story to be, "People are so excited about Google+ that the service is crashing under the load of so many users," instead of "Google+ really performs well when I load the page and look at... an empty page because nobody is on Google+."

Comment It was about identity, not social networking (Score 3, Insightful) 254

You don't need social networking for your apps, but you do need identity management. You have to log in.

That login is incredibly important. It's a pain in the ass for every site to implement their own identity management. It's really hard to do well, and developers would rather focus on the site/app's usage after the user has logged in.

So there's a weird overlap between Facebook and Google, even though they serve very different purposes. Both have become practically universal, and increasingly, sites are leveraging their identity management platforms. Facebook's ubiquity meant that Google risked losing their edge there. Can you imagine the point where Google says, "Screw it, we're just going to let people link their Google Docs to their Facebook account"?

Privacy advocates go nuts about that, of course, but a large swath of users are perfectly content to have the improved simplicity of just pressing a button to sign in to something once they've verified their identity to the device. It enables all kinds of evils, since your eggs are now all in one basket, and even a company without evil intentions is going to profit off being able to peek in the basket. The right tech can limit what information you're sharing, but Google and Facebook knew all.

Both Facebook accounts and Google accounts are ubiquitous, and if anybody could dislodge Facebook, it was Google. Facebook took it seriously, and they really upped their game to prevent G+ from taking over. The advantages G+ offered were slim. They tried to market it with better privacy, but few people want to work that hard. It attracted a bunch of privacy nerds, and nobody wants to be social with them but other techies.

Google wasn't ready to manage identity. They didn't offer any real advantages for it. People seem to be content to manage two identity management platforms when needed; we've been trained to think that having dozens of passwords is reasonable. I believe they could have succeeded if they'd gone to the next level, making Google Wallet really ubiquitous. Facebook's feature is rudimentary. Pay systems on the Internet still suck. But Google wasn't ready to pull that feat off, and people just didn't need a second social network when they had one they were happy with.

Comment Re:exactly this. (Score 5, Insightful) 254

There was never any room for Plus. instead of recognizing a subset of users who enjoy social media and offering a better product, Plus focused on offering the same product. Then, when it didnt become an instant sensation, they threw a tantrum and made all users social media users by embedding Plus into everything that google did.

I actually think a big part of the failure of Google+ was something that, in hindsight, looks so small that a lot of people forget about it: When Google+ launched, it was a limited invite-only service.

Google had previously had good experiences with that sort of limited/phased rollout, particularly with Gmail. The fact that it was hard to get an invite helped generate hype for Gmail, and I suspect they were hoping that creating the same kind of artificial scarcity would help Google+ accounts to become equally sought-after. And it worked, for a little while. There was a brief period of time where lots of people wanted account, and they were nearly impossible to come by.

However, whereas Gmail users can continue to communicate with people who use other Email providers, the utility of having a Google+ account is directly related to having all of your friend on the same social network. Because of this, in hyping the service by limiting the availability of accounts, Google was shooting themselves in the foot. At the time of greatest hype, right when the early adopters and people who are social networking hubs would be most eager to try the service, they either weren't able to get an account, or else they got an account only to find that their friends couldn't get an account. In the very important window of time between when Google+ was launched and when people had made up their minds about it, it had already earned a reputation as being "possibly potentially good, but useless because no one is on it."

And that narrative just stuck. A social network with nobody on it is of no use to anyone, so the narrative became a self-fulfilling prophesy. Nobody ever bothered using Google+ because everyone already knew that nobody used it. As Google started to realize it was a failure, they then tried to force people to use it by linking it with all of their other services, but they should have known better. The harder they tried to push people to use it, the more of a backlash it created.

Remembering back to the time, there were a lot of people who had become frustrated with Facebook, and I think that it would have been possible to get a substantial user base simply by offering a viable alternative. Unfortunately, Google tried the wrong marketing strategy, generating hype by limiting availability, and it backfired spectacularly.

Comment Re:Not sure I understand.... (Score 1) 170

If you argue that something is useless or inferior to an alternative, then you need to prove that it is that for everybody, not just for some people.

No I don't. I don't have to prove anything in this discussion, because I'm posting on an Internet message board and voicing my opinion. When I'm trying to get published in scientific journals, or if I'm on trial for something, those are the times I need to prove something.

And in this case, I'm not even arguing that nobody should buy an XBox. I don't care what people do, and if the XBox is, for whatever reason, more convenient, by all means go buy one. I don't care very much what some random asshole on the Internet buys. You could go buy yourself an XBox for every room of the house, and hey, it's your money, you can do that. I'm still aloud to post on the Internet that it seems excessive and stupid.

As far as whether streaming PC games to your XBox is a good idea, my guess is that the experience won't be great for twitch games, but if it's a good enough experience for you, then again, by all means, have at it. I'm not going to be an asshole and claim that you have to prove that's the best choice for everybody.

At the same time, if what you really want is a method to stream your Steam games to your TV over your home network through a set-top box, I would guess that there are cheaper solutions than the XBox. You don't even need something with much 3D rendering performance to stream video.

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