By Greg Mills
I bet that headline woke up some of my readers who hadn't had their coffee yet. I read yesterday, with amazement, that the high tech buffoon CEO of Microsoft made a good decision a few years back and invested in Facebook, before it become so popular.
Investing about US$240 million in Facebook in 2007, Ballmer bought a 1.5% stake in the company, which then soared to about four times the valuation we see today. See http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2011/01/05/lets-give-steve-ballmer-some-c... . While Ballmer's leadership of Microsoft has largely been a "follow the leader" sort of management style, doing as many things as Microsoft does will, by default, include some good moves.
I don't know if it is the economy or just stingy Mac fans, but the donations I have been collecting for Ballmer's tongue reduction surgery have been very disappointing. If you run the term "Steve Ballmer" on the BIng search engine photo setting, I estimate half of the pictures posted show that his tongue is simply too large to fit in his mouth. The same charitable fund also sought to provide iPads for Gate's 2 kids to alleviate the "Zune embarrassment" they suffer at the hands of the other kids sporting iOS devices at school. Again, very little funding has occurred. Gee, you try to do something nice for people and don't get any support.
Ballmer did a keynote at the CES that continued the same old story, Windows everywhere on every device. Pass the Dramamine, I think I am getting sick. The keynote was mostly about the Kinect interactive device that hooks up to XBox. With Kinect selling like hotcakes, there is hope Microsoft will be able to climb out of the red ink X-Box has generated over the years. While touting Kinect, virtually nothing was mentioned about the lackluster Mobile Vista 7 Phone. Not mentioning something is a reason to think phone sales have not been up to expectations. Smart phones flying off the shelf are not going to be given away with a buy one get one free deal, as AT&T recently offered.
CES is about slate format devices this year. The count is over 100 prototypes from various companies. Prototypes are far from production devices that can be sold at a profit. Some experts think most of the slate commuters show will never get past the prototype stage. Microsoft swiftly killed their slate computer under development as soon as iPad was launched. Prototypes shown at CES are a lightning rod to get feedback and help companies understand the market. Putting all that horsepower into the slim package that is the iPad experience sets the bar so high, few competitors have a chance to compete. Then, Apple has bought up so much of the world supply of flash memory and touch screens, even with a great design, finding the parts is no easy task.
Apple has opened its Mac App Store. This move was very predictable and is just one more step towards the full implementation of Apple's "download digital content of all kinds" plan. We have become used to downloading updates to the Mac OS and downloading apps for iOS devices, the Mac platform was sure to follow. The package deals such as iWork and iLife are being broken up to reduce the price of the various components. I like that approach. It will be interesting to see if the coming Mac OS X Lion will be available for download. The problem with downloading the OS for a personal commuter is that you sometimes need to startup from the physical DVD to fix disk problems. While this is rare in the Apple experience, our unfortunate friends, stuck with Microsoft Windows have to do that a lot more than we do.
The iMove Mac app was updated yesterday and Keynote for iOS devices was also updated. I have been looking forward to an update of iWeb, which was rumored to be in the wings months ago.
Eye-Fi has been working on SD Memory cards that also have a WI-Fi chip in them. They are slick; the cards look like a conventional SD memory card used in digital cameras and camcorders. They are able to hook up to your computer, if they are in range of a Wi-Fi network and automatically download pictures and video. That means just coming home and having your camera with you downloads your data in the background.
An interesting continuation of this is to allow camcorders to stream live video and sound to a computer. If you had software that would allow you to switch between cameras you could edit video live from multiple camera all hooked up wirelessly. This is closer to reality than one might think, as it is technically possible with some tweaking here and there in the software. The current Wi-Fi enabled DS cards may be somewhat limited in range as the power levels in some cameras are not up to the industry standard set by the DS card manufactures. This limits the WiFi to about 50 feet.
Dull Computer, not to be left out of the slate computer rage, launched a tablet device recently called "Streak." My wife laughed when she heard the name, as at the nursing home where she works, that is what some of the old folks do in their pants. Michael Dell, the "on again off" again CEO of that company, has tried everything to revive his company but put out quality products. They even put out a smart phone.
The name of things matter. I recall hearing the story about the dismal sales of the Chevy Nova in Mexico, some years back. The leadership of Chevrolet didn't know the word "Nova" had a connotation in Spanish that might be translated "no go." One of Microsoft's problems is that they sometimes have a hard time settling on a name for products you can hang your hat on. The Mobile Vista 7 Windows phone for example has been ill defined. Apple is as crisp with names as the products themselves. You would think the industry would figure it out. RIM launches the "PlayBook" which is a strictly business slate computer. I suspect putting the "business" label on such products is to prepare the world for a device so expensive no one but a business could afford one.
That's Greg's bite for today.
(Greg Mills, is a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup, www.CottageIndustrySolar.com using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg's art web site at www.gregmills.info ; his email is firstname.lastname@example.org )