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Comment Consumer Confusion (Score 4, Insightful) 712

This is a terrible move by Microsoft. The two tablets look too similar and yet are so different--especially in terms of processor power and what software they will run. Imagine the surprise that Joe Consumer will have when his "Windows tablet" does not run Windows software.

ComputerWorld did a great article that talks about this:

On Monday afternoon, Microsoft executives, including CEO Steve Ballmer and Steven Sinofsky, chief of the Windows division, introduced the not-yet-available Surface tablet, which will be sold in two flavors. One, tagged the Windows RT Surface, runs Windows RT, the new edition that works only on devices powered by ARM-licensed processors. ARM CPUs drive virtually every mobile device, from smartphones to tablets, including Apple's iconic iPad.

**** Note that the ARM processor-powered device is NOT backward compatible with ALL of the current DOS/Windows software that has been released up to now. The ARM processor-powered device will only run Windows RT and Metro applications.*****

Windows RT, a major departure for Microsoft in more ways than one, is the company's attempt to break into the lucrative consumer-oriented media tablet market.

But Microsoft will also sell the Windows 8 Pro Surface, a tablet that, while identical at first glance to its Windows RT sibling, runs the more traditional Windows 8 on hardware powered by Intel processors.

Because that second Surface relies on an Intel chip -- a quad-core i5 from the just-released "Ivy Bridge" architecture, the same used in Windows laptops and as of last week, the one packed into Apple's MacBook Air and the least-expensive MacBook Pro -- will run all legacy Windows applications as well as the newer Metro apps that Microsoft and others are developing. It will also be heavier -- by half a pound -- and slightly thicker than the Windows RT tablet, although by other external appearances it will be identical.

Comment Re:More power (Score 3, Informative) 99

You are correct.

"It's basically a micro-sandwich -- a high-efficiency filter and heat-exchange system. The skin-contact layer's porous. Perspiration passes through it, having cooled the body ... near-normal evaporation process. The next two layers . . . include heat exchange filaments and salt precipitators. Salt's reclaimed. Motions of the body, especially breathing and some osmotic action provide the pumping force. Reclaimed water circulates to catchpockets from which you draw it through this tube in the clip at your neck... Urine and feces are processed in the thigh pads. In the open desert, you wear this filter across your face, this tube in the nostrils with these plugs to ensure a tight fit. Breathe in through the mouth filter, out through the nose tube. With a Fremen suit in good working order, you won't lose more than a thimbleful of moisture a day..."

Comment Space travel is next big step (Score 2) 94

Space travel, real space travel not jaunts into earth orbit, is the most-challenging problem of our lifetimes.

If you like sci-fi, the Manifold series by Stephen Baxter (not a referrer link) makes a great argument about space travel and how "big dumb" technology from the past can be harnessed smartly to lower the costs.

We certainly will need more than reuse of old technology, but it is a start.

Comment Re:Sinking below Windows Phone (Score 3, Insightful) 164


Just wanted to clarify what I meant by "the field is still changing".

I think that Apple will not increase much further in smartphone market share because Steve Jobs is no longer leading the company. The last time that Steve left Apple things did not go well and the company nearly went under. I don't think Apple is headed downhill yet, but without the visionary man who made the company in the driver's seat, it will be run differently, and I believe, not for the better.

Android is constantly changing, partly because there are so many players, but also because Microsoft and Apple are applying pressure to most of the Android players through patent lawsuits and license agreements. I expect that Android will continue to hold significant market share because Google wants it to succeed and several of the OEMs have already had success with it.

With these two dynamics in play, the smartphone market is still changing.

Comment Re:Sinking below Windows Phone (Score 1) 164

I think that Windows Phone will slowly improve in market share using the same strategy that the Xbox did: pushing enough money into it until it eventually works. Whether it will actually take off to the same success as the Xbox remains to be seen. If they get a few killer apps (e.g. Halo for Windows Phone), then who knows what might be possible.

It will be a money sink for a while, but Microsoft can afford to continue to pump money and work into it. They know that they have to since phones and tablets are stealing some of the usual PC sales. They want to steal some of the market from Apple and Android and they certainly have the opportunity since the field is still changing.

Comment The Agency Model is a racket! (Score 3, Informative) 99

The Agency Model is a racket that takes away a seller's ability to price ebooks how they see fit.

This is bad for the consumer since it means that market forces have less sway and there is little to distinguish one store from another. You will not find ebooks on sale and there is no point in "shopping around" since the price is the same everywhere.

If similar agreements were in place for other products, it would cause lawsuits. Imagine if all of the oil products sold by Shell or BP were given fixed prices. Media companies would love to have their own profit-guaranteed cartel and will push for illegal agreements to defend their aging business model.

Comment Re:DRM (Score 1) 123

I never said that DRM and the agency model were related. I was merely pointing out that Apple's entry into the ebook market removed seller freedom and empowered publishers. This was in contrast to the parent post which stated that Steve Jobs brought freedom to music by removing DRM from music formats.

I personally think that Apple was afraid of losing too much of the ebook market to Amazon so they made a behind-the-scenes push for publishers to adopt the agency model to thwart Amazon's price advantage. This enabled them to enter the ebook market using their shiny iDevices and sell content at the same price as Amazon. Apple's policy change to require a 30% cut of in-app purchases further pushed their advantage and forced the Kindle app (as well as other ebook apps) to remove their "Store" button that launched Mobile Safari to the Kindle web store.

As to whether the agency model is better for consumers is arguable. It is good that there are more choices in the market. Having an Amazon monopoly on ebooks would be bad, but Apple's tactics to bully their way into the ebook market are pretty ruthless. Such ruthlessness can only be attributable to Steve Jobs' desire to have Apple control all consumer content on iDevices. iBooks is still somewhat of an afterthought compared to iTunes' offerings in terms of music and video. For example, why can't I read iBooks on my MacBook Air? Why can't I access my iBooks by a web browser (ala Kindle Cloud Reader).

I'm not an Apple hater. I own a MacBook Air and an iPhone. I think iDevices are very nice, but I don't think that the agency model is good for the consumer. It drives prices up and reduces the ability for ebook vendors to compete in the market.

Comment Re:DRM (Score 1) 123

Hmm. It seems that O'Reilly has two types of ebooks:

1) Ebooks obtained through their Safari Books Online website (using download tokens) are marked with email address and account name as I described in my above post.

2) Ebooks purchased through their website,, are not marked this way.

Comment Re:DRM (Score 3, Informative) 123

Yes, I too think that DRM-free ebooks are a good thing.

If you read technical books, O'Reilly offers DRM-free ebooks from their website in several formats, including PDF, ePUB, and MOBI (Kindle-compatible).

They do this by marking your ebook: "Prepared for [your_email_address], [Your Name]" on the bottom of the pages. I think this is okay since it discourages piracy and marks the book as yours the same as if your wrote your name in the front cover of a paper book.

I hope that other publishers will adopt this practice or something similar.

Comment Re:DRM (Score 4, Informative) 123

You can thank Steve Jobs for the fully locked-down and now ubiquitous agency model that practically all publishers use.

"In the agency model, publishers set the price and designate an agent--in this case the bookseller--who will sell the book and receive the 30% commission. Adopting the model for e-books tends to mean e-book prices will rise, something both publishers and independent retailers applaud. Publishers believe low e-book prices devalue their books and cannibalize hardcover sales. Under the agency model once a price has been set it cannot be changed or discounted by the retailer and independent e-book retailers believe the higher prices of the agency model allow them to compete with big e-book vendors. " (from this article)

At least Amazon was selling ebooks for reasonable prices and encouraging competition in the market. Now we have a racket that is enforced on all sellers. Neither he nor Amazon have been able to dissuade publishers from using DRM.


Submission + - The (Big) Problem with RIM

An anonymous reader writes: Research in Motion, by all accounts, had a terrible week. But things might get even worse.
The Canadian technology company posted dismal quarterly earnings numbers, missing revenue and sales targets, while margins continued to shrink.
Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis conceded the PlayBook had been thwarted by a lack of apps and content, not necessarily by a weak platform. Like Apple with its iOS, and Microsoft with Windows, creating a successful platform will be dependent on the eco-system it supports, but RIM hasn't shown ability to foster that.

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