The Post Where We Say Goodbye to Blackberry?

blackberry stock slideI’ve been staving off writing this for some time now. Even among all the reports of potential buyouts, I kept hoping the company would start to turn itself around, find some momentum. It looks like that wont be happening.

Blackberry is warning investors ahead of their official call on September 27th that revenue will be more than a billion dollars below expectations. Yup. Expectations were hovering around $3 Billion, and BB will be reporting $1.6 Billion. Ouch.

Of course these are analyst predictions, and analysts are notoriously bad at predicting the future, but this will obviously hurt BB’s image (under-producing) more than it’ll hit any market watching “guru”.

Reactions to the news has caused a stock slide of almost 20 percent. Another blow to the company, and now CEO Thorsten Heins is announcing the first measure to be taken will be a round of layoffs to the tune of 4,500 axed jobs. They’ll also be streamlining future handset launches. Instead of the six phones they were planning on introducing over the next year, they’ll be dropping down to four, two high-end and two entry-level.

blackberry os 10 handsets z10 q10 smartphonesIt’s this combination of expectations and time which is going to put a hurt on upstarts and smaller companies moving forward. Yes, BB once ruled the smartphone landscape, but they didn’t properly focus on the consumer experience. Sure they have great mind-share and brand recognition, but they are also creating a new product line from scratch. New OS. New devices. Customers are wary of “new” right now.

Apple found success in smartphones based on years of consumer trust built on iPods. Android needed about three major revisions before it started gaining traction outside low cost, entry-level gear. HP bailed on Palm before it had a shot when it wasn’t immediately successful out of the gate (they’re currently floundering with half-way attempts at Android, with rumors pointing to a possible Windows Phone in the works). Microsoft is just now starting to be taken seriously in mobile, now that we’re looking at a third generation of Windows Phone hardware about to hit the market.

BB is on that “new” list. The bummer is, BB OS10 is pretty great. It’s a refreshing spin on a mobile UI. Gestures are clean. It looks good. It’s a nice experience. This means almost nothing right now. Customers don’t want “new”, they want an established ecosystem. They want to trust that their devices will get updates and that they’ll see new devices in the future. They want apps, and they want to see cases they’ll never buy at Mall kiosks. Those things only come with time and sales. Those early sales are going to be harder and harder to come by as every player that fails in this market will only reinforce why consumers should only buy something established. Why they shouldn’t take a risk.

Years. Blackberry needs years.

GTA 5: Chatting Violence in Media and Breaking Sales Records – Arlene Bynon SiriusXM Radio appearance

ArleneBynonI always enjoy my appearances on the Arlene Bynon show. She’s a savvy business commentator, and she had me on for a segment covering the release of Grand Theft Auto 5.

We discussed the popularity of the game, its passionate following among gamers, the business impact of breaking $800 million in one day, and some of the controversy surrounding violence in media.

Originally Aired September 18, 2013.
Arlene Bynon: SiriusXM radio ch. 167, weekdays 4-6pm ET.

Pick Your Poison: OS Fragmentation or Feature Fragmentation?

One of the most impressive aspects of owning an Apple phone or tablet is how good Apple is at rolling out OS updates. With very few meltdowns, MILLIONS of devices are updated on launch day, and the entire ecosystem moves forward very quickly. Early estimates point to almost 30% of iOS users are now on iOS7. By controlling the hardware and software environment, Apple has created a process Google will probably never be able to approximate.

TheAppleLounge iOS-7-Comparison-ChartWhile even older devices will get these OS updates, iDevices like the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 wont be getting all of the new features of the OS. This makes sense as it’s older, under-powered hardware, and Apple is ruthless about protecting the user experience. However, as what we get excited about during an OS update are new features, claiming the iPhone 4 “also gets iOS7” is a very small touch disingenuous. It does get iOS7, just not ALL of it.

The Apple Lounge built this great graphic detailing which devices would be getting new features, and which would be left out. On the whole Apple has done a terrific job of moving things like Control Center and Multi-tasking forward, but some lost features might be a touch frustrating.Things like panorama photos and in-camera filters might be kind of a bummer for folks who prized the iPhone’s camera. Also, for as frustrating as it can be to transfer files on and off iDevices, the lack of AirDrop on older hardware might be frustrating for some.

This also brings up weird splits in product lines. The iPad Mini is largely the same internal hardware as the iPad 2, but the iPad 2 will not be receiving Air Drop support while the iPad Mini will. Ditto the “iPad with Retina Display”. If you have the iPad 3, no Air Drop for you, but the iPad 4 is good to go. Definitely a bummer as we would imagine the hardware in the iPad 3 is probably more robust than in the iPad Mini.

Contrast that with the scattered OS update path on Android, and Apple still has the cleaner process, but Google is taking steps to improve the Android ecosystem. They wont be able to corral all of the various manufacturers, they’ve been trying to do that for a while now, but they can go around them to a degree. Over the last several months we’ve been watching Google slice pieces off of Android and putting those pieces up as stand alone apps. While it might seem like a small thing, it shouldn’t require a full new OS update to install a small improvement to something like the keyboard, and now Android users can install the stock Nexus keyboard as a separate app.

google settings app screenshot somegadgetguyTaking that idea a step further, the new Google Settings app shows up in your app drawer now and gives you a lot of control over gaming, Google+, and remote device management (like tracking your phone if it gets stolen). Google Play Services is also updated through the Google Play app store. Rather than waiting out full OS updates, all of the peripheral services and controls, things that developers interact with for instance, can all be updated independently of the OS.

While most services like G+, Play Music, and Maps have always been this way, and people are somewhat used to them being one part hardware and one part cloud, I hope this idea extends soon to other features on our phones like the camera. Taking a cue from the Nexus Keyboard app, it would be a nice way to unify the camera experience on Android handsets, that there would be one simple Android camera experience if people want something simple and familiar. Ditto the photo Gallery, as it can be jarring moving to a new phone and having a completely different experience for organizing and sharing photos and videos.

This solution isn’t perfect either, as some improvements will still require that full OS iteration, and things like hardware controls have to be buttoned down (hello Bluetooth funkiness), but as Google implements more individual component updates, fewer and fewer Android users will be left out in the cold as app developers and services move forward.

I’ve come to the opinion that there really isn’t a “best” phone, tablet, or ecosystem anymore. For a couple years now, the question you have to ask yourself is: What compromises are you willing to live with? As even low end phones now can be surprisingly capable, I think service and support will become even more meaningful to the end user.

So pick your poison. What kinds of updates work better for you?

Live Ask Juan: Upgrades to help an older PC with Video Editing?

inside computer pc hardware upgrade videocard ram cables somegadgetguyGot another great reader question. Thought I’d take to the Youtube’s to answer it!

From Youtube viewer TableReadTheater:

Hey Juan,
I have an older PC, like 3 or 4 years. It still runs ok, but I want to start doing some video editing. I can’t buy a new system yet, but I can spend a little on a few parts. What kinds of upgrades can I do to help it run better for video?

Jon Rettinger from TechnoBuffalo back tracks on his original Surface Pro review in time for Surface Pro 2.

I wrote a longer maudlin article about agenda “journalism” and bias. I had no idea I’d be rewarded so soon with another perfect example of why we journalists need to take a more nuanced approach to reviewing, and at least try to overcome our natural personal bias.

Screenshot (91)Windows 8 has been incredibly divisive in the tech community. Most of the commentary surrounding MS’s new OS has been pretty negative, and there have been a number of criticisms regarding changes to the UI. See, when you change something as well established as Windows, a UI which hasn’t been significantly altered since Windows 95, people are going to freak out. For as much as we like to think we want “new” and “bleeding edge” we don’t weather actual change all that well. Windows 8 was a shock for me, but after a couple days on a touchscreen laptop, I came to not only really like the UI, but also appreciate the improvements to file management and hardware resource management.

That’s the kicker however. I had to take a couple days to get used to it. I didn’t write up reviews and thoughts during that time. I wanted to understand it before I shared my experiences with readers, even though I was hopelessly behind the tsunami of early angry reviews.

Windows 8 is far from “bad”, it’s actually quite good. If Microsoft is guilty of anything here, it’s not making a bad product, but doing a miserable job of communicating with consumers what the changes were going to be.

And now, in time for the Surface 2 launch, we’re seeing people “come to appreciate” the changes to the UI. Now Windows 8 is “elegant”. Those adorable scamps, they just had to “get used to it”, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s not really as bad as their initial reviews would have led MILLIONS of tech enthusiasts and blog readers to believe. It’s almost like you get more honest and accurate information when you don’t put an un-boxing and first impressions video up as your proper review of a product. Interesting.

Sorry to pick on you Jon, but welcome to the club. Glad you finally figured out how to use a product that most of us haven’t had any serious or significant issues with. I hope you enjoy the Surface Pro 2 even more. Maybe spend more than a day with it before you “review” it?

Hit the jump for Mr. Rettinger’s ACTUAL review of the Microsoft Surface and Windows 8.

Continue reading “Jon Rettinger from TechnoBuffalo back tracks on his original Surface Pro review in time for Surface Pro 2.”

Agenda “Journalism” and Waiting for “Perfection”

WP_20130728_004I think we’re at a tech crossroads. I’m not sure which road we’ll travel down.

There’s a problem with how we talk about news in this industry. I’m complicit in that problem to a degree, and around me I’m watching the foundation of this market start to crumble. At its core, we tech journalists are beholden to metrics like views and bounce rates. To satisfy those demands we have to get you, the reader, to actually engage. The most popular sites among us have developed a number of handy tricks to goose interactions from their subscribers. Tactics known so well that we’ve coined terms like “Flame Bait” to describe them. We all know what’s going on when we come across these types of tactics, and we know that the site using them is rolling in traffic.

As with political news delivery, the tech landscape is fragmented into reinforcing a reader’s previously held notions. We don’t strive to challenge anymore, to present the “new” in this industry. If your site starts to find some popularity among a certain niche of readership, that’s what you are. An Apple blog. An Android blog. A Microsoft blog. You’re done. Whatever commentary you can hope to offer beyond that branding, you’ll always be colored by that general perception. Your audience will take those things for granted, as they too are fans of the things you like, and hate the things you hate.

Moving beyond the natural biases an author holds, we all hold a certain bias regardless of our attempts at objectivity, we’re human, but beyond those biases I’m saddened to see once respected organizations catering to blatant agendas. Misrepresenting products for no other benefit than to increase site hits, start flame wars, and satisfy an audience who doesn’t want to see competition, but see their “side” win. Whatever that might mean… Continue reading “Agenda “Journalism” and Waiting for “Perfection””

I Ask YOU: Why Do We Need 64-Bit Processors in Phones?

apple a7 and m7 processors 64 bit somegadgetguyNo seriously folks. I don’t get it, and I need your help to understand.

Why do we need 64-bit processors in our phones?

First Apple announces 64-bit will be included in the iPhone 5s, and now Samsung says they’ll be getting in on the trick in 2014. As best as I could understand, one of the primary reasons we moved to 64-bit on desktops and laptops was to allow us to use more than 4GB of RAM.

Are there other advantages I’m not aware of? Might this be a preemptive move for some future technology? I’m nonplussed…

Drop me a comment. School me folks!

Apple’s Crisis of Confidence: Consumer Perception and Stock Market Response

tim cook apple logoBefore I dive into this, I need to make it clear that I don’t hate Apple. I used to be an Apple product specialist working a JIT contract for DOE facilities in New Mexico. This was during the dual socket days of the PowerMac G5. It was a glorious machine, and I used to adore Apple. As Apple walked away from markets and product lines that I cared about, that adoration became a loving competition. The recent glory days of the company provided me a terrific nemesis as I moved over to Windows 7 computers and Android Phones.

Following Tuesday’s unveiling of the iPhone 5C & 5S, I came to an unsettling realization: I’m worried about Apple.

See, my world as a tech enthusiast and writer just doesn’t make sense without a powerful Apple, and the company which was on display during this last keynote was anything but powerful.  Continue reading “Apple’s Crisis of Confidence: Consumer Perception and Stock Market Response”