iPHONE ECONOMICS


Greetings,

This has been a busy week. Meetings, birthday coming up on Saturday, getting ready for a weekend away, lots on – still, there’s a lot of tech news going on this week.

iPHONE: The blogosphere has been going nuts over this gadget and probably with good reason – Apple’s got a potential winner here. Albeit a potential winner. Unlike the iPod (which is still going strong), the iPhone (although it might not be the iPhone after Cisco takes Apple on in court) has some significant potential drawbacks that could make it harder for non-gadget freaks and early adopters to splurge.

First off, it’s obvious what Apple’s strategy is here. While it’s a bit counter-intuitive for Apple, a very youth-oriented company, to put out a fixed mobile convergence product that few young people need or can afford ($599 for the 8 GB model is borderline highway robbery guys, even for Apple’s higher-than-average prices – superior quality of product notwithstanding), the logic goes that only three groups of people will bother to buy this product when it debuts in June in the U.S.: Apple fetishists gadget freaks that can’t bear not to be with latest shiny toy from Apple, the early adopters along the same lines as those who bought the iPod when it debuted in 2001, and the obscenely rich, wealthy sometimes-and-often celebrities who can afford these devices as if they were nothing but merely a drop in the proverbial trust fund/picture deal bucket.

Now, Steve Jobs is a very smart dude. He and Apple’s marketing mafia are smart enough to know that by pushing this product as a status symbol (and really, did anyone who reads this blog and owns an iPod buy an overpriced MP3 player like it just because it plays music well?) and using the blogosphere, celebrity gossip rags and trickle-down buzz from payouts celebrity gift bags at major award shows, the marketing writes itself – who needs to launch a major advertising blitz when you’ve got legions of true believers doing the marketing for you?

With a very old economic model in play, Jobs and Apple have to be banking on these factors to make the iPhone work:

1) Get the iPhone into the media with rich celebrities as an object of envy, which gets some of the younger set and hipster set on board;

2) Push the product via the “cool, young and hip” factor onto the next obvious target, the business class, which will in turn employ all the iPhone’s data transmission capabilities, thus eventually bringing the prices of data transfers like web pages or email down to the price of voice so behold: Apple has cornered the market on not just Smart Phones, but cheaper Smart Phones;

3) All the while this is happening, as more people adopt newer and better versions of the iPhone (guaranteed it will be a few generations of the iPhone before it “miraculously” reaches the storage capacity of the 80 GB iPod) it becomes cheaper, has better battery life and voice-and-data plans go down across the board in an effort to compete with Apple’s sudden dominance of the Smart Phone market;

4) Finally, the price reaches a sweet spot where it becomes both reasonable and even desirable for the average man on the street to have an iPhone because, at, say, $459, you get the product Apple has released now, but with a better battery life, more memory and minor tweaks the company can already do now in 2007: they just don’t want to because it will harm their profit margins. Also, cell phone carriers will offer voice-and-data plans at much cheaper rates than today because it powers forward market adoption and they have no choice left.

Voila. Apple controls the Smart Phone market. Can you imagine how nervous these guys must be feeling today?

NEW COLUMN: Here’s my latest column from the Toronto Business Times. Do check it out.

Advertisements

TO SEE AND BELIEVE

Greetings,

Couple of items on the agenda today.

First off, I think I betrayed my own ideological viewpoint when I wrote this post last week in the wake of Saddam’s execution. Sure, it may offend my moral sensibilities to see anyone—even a war criminal—be executed like that. But at the same time, in this extremely murky moral climate we’re in nowadays, was showing the full measure of Saddam’s execution via a cell phone camera a morally incorrect decision or merely exposing what this conflict in Iraq is really about? In other words, are we offended at the idea of seeing Saddam executed violently or merely how painfully aware we’ve become of the raw hate that infects Iraq?

I can recall back at j-school a class in which a video of a woman screaming loudly was shown to us. She was taped screaming after she found out her daughter had been killed on Pan Am Flight 103 (that infamous bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland) and it was genuinely horrific to see and hear her scream. Of course, class opinion was radically divided on whether it was “moral” or “right” to broadcast footage of a mother screaming in raw agony, but the message was fairly clear: people have no problem seeing fake horror in films or television, but seem to have a lot of trouble dealing with horror that speaks to our everyday reality. The Internet has changed all that, though (whether or not you consider the web’s freeing of information a good or bad thing seems to depend a lot on how much you value privacy, or rather, how much money you have to go to court to defend your “privacy rights” but that’s an entirely different post).

Consider David Olive’s article on the execution. His piece is terrific and very clearly points out that really, Saddam’s video speaks less about our horror at a man’s death and more about ethnic hatred than any essay ever could. It may be horrific stuff, but really, maybe it comes down to “why” we’re alarmed by it. Aside from the obvious reason of seeing a man die brutally by the gallows, are we more disturbed by the taunting of vengeful Iraqis or the act itself?

POMEGRANATE: I know this may seem like going from the super-serious to mildly hippie, but apparently this fruit (and ostensibly, juice) has got some really good health properties to it and I never knew. Going to pick some up to beat down those pesky free radicals in the blood.

BOOK REVIEW AND CABINET SHUFFLE

Greetings,

Given that this blog was, at one point, offering up MP3 files for download but was simply neglected due to getting too busy last year, I’m trying to offer up more of a “value proposition” to this blog. MP3 files will be returning shortly.

Still, one thing I’m super-passionate about is books (anyone who has seen my book shelf can testify to this) and I think the site could use some book reviews.

Digital Shock: Confronting the New Reality, by Hervé Fischer

I picked up this book in Montreal last week and I’ve been unable to put it down. Quite simply, anyone who is even remotely interested in the effects of digital culture on us should pick this up. It’s a great read. It’s also an English translation from the title Le Choc du numérique: Á l’aube d’une nouvelle civilization, le triomphe des cyberprimitifs.

Basically, Fischer’s argument boils down to the notion that if we’re not careful, we’re entering an era of cyberprimitivism, a time in which the concepts of space, time and other normally constricting elements on human behaviour are being compressed and altered. Our more animalistic characteristics—violence, ahistorical viewpoints to name a few—are becoming more pronounced in the digital age as geography and history become less relevant when you see yourself as part of a broader network that extends across the globe.

Why is this interesting? Well, this book is a kind of confirmation of McLuhan’s Four Governing Principles of media: any technological advance in the mass media Enhances, Obsolesces, Reverses and Retrieves aspects of our human behaviour and changes it accordingly, for better or worse (example: has one of humanity’s more dark behaviours, voyuerism, gotten more prevelant with digital technology spreading content once held in private into the public view?)

Books like these are only demonstrating more and more that McLuhan was so far ahead of his time when his laws debuted that he’s more relevant now than ever before.

In short, if you’re into this sort of thing, please go grab this book.

CABINET SHUFFLE: Interesting choices made by the Prime Minister today, although one in particular sticks out – Jason Kenney as Secretary of State for Multiculturalism? This has got to be a joke. No really.

Strange though how Rona Ambrose got a much better series of jobs than the very tough Environmental portfolio – John Baird should be able to handle this position, although when the Liberals win the next election most likely, that short-sighted and deceptive Clean Air Act will be repealed and Kyoto returns. So you know, whatever happens here is kind of moot.

Also, wishing my buddy Neate a happy birthday. He’s turning the Big 3-0 today.

THE ETHICS OF EXECUTION VIDEOS


Greetings,

I’m a keen supporter of digital technology in all its forms. I think the Digital Age has ushered in a time in which information is becoming abundant and free, a milieu that encourages the spread of timely and fast communications and data exchange.

This being said, technology has no ideological value in itself. It is largely how people use technology that creates a value to these tools. People being people, our base instincts still remain very visible and apparent in today’s world. Digital is only making it faster and easier to disseminate our darkest actions.

Take Saddam Hussein’s execution video, which, while taped via a camera phone, has now spread across the internet and even onto mainstream television networks. Arrests are now forthcoming on the taping, thankfully. But what’s really disturbing about this whole ugly incident is how something so incredibly private – the last moments of life for a human being being executed – is now so easy to record on video thanks to camera phones. Still, that’s not the worst of it – it is becoming socially acceptable to distribute these kinds of videos into the public domain. Let’s face it, when Google Video has this video available for watching (and Google searches aren’t that hard) and the MSM is posting photos from the gallows, doesn’t that strike you as creepy and voyeuristic in the worst way?

Is this what the West is coming to? Gawking at a man being hanged in the name of justice just because the technology is available to make stuff like this readily accessible?

I’ll say it again: just because we can do it doesn’t mean we should do it. Even a cruel war criminal like Hussein deserved some privacy in his death.

TECH TRENDS IN ’07?

Greetings,

Wired has posted some “wild” predictions for what will be coming down the pipe this year in the world of technology. Some are interesting, some sound a bit, well, out there (not sure this is tongue-in-cheek on their part, but whatever).

First off, Google stock hitting $1000 per share? This is possible, albeit dependant on a lot of things, including Google’s debuting of its own proprietary OS and more technical infrastructure in major U.S. cities for its free wireless plans. This is possible, but it will take some significant moves by Google for it to happen first. The natural growth of Google stock needs some uptick now.

Internet traffic doubling to 5,000 petabits per day sounds reasonably possible with more video being available for sharing via BitTorrent. There’s always room for data traffic numbers to grow, but doubling? I think that’s probably more likely closer to the very end of this year or in 2008, not anytime in the forseeable future.

Spam doubles? Yup, that’s a given.

Second Life ends a life? Not so sure here. MySpace has had issues with “offline” crimes being committed via social networking, but this sounds a tad far-fetched thus far. There’s only about 1.5 million people on Second Life at the moment; I don’t think a real-world murder is imminent via Second Life.

Year of the Laptop? This seems a touch late to the screening, doesn’t it? Wasn’t 2005 the year of the laptop? By 2010, computer prices will likely halve once again to make desktop computers about the same price as a Nintendo Wii is today; laptops are still pretty pricey for them to completely overtake desktops anytime soon. We’ve been hearing so much hype over them for so long now any prediction about laptops seems like a lot of smoke-and-mirrors.

Print to web? This is becoming more and more of a potential reality as the years go by, although I’m not sure any major market newspaper would make such a bold leap as abandoning print altogether. The newspaper market is still very much in a transition period, trying to shake out how to make big revenues from online forums, so if a major market paper did something like this, it wouldn’t be pretty from a revenue point of view. People still love their print newspapers.

Apple goes Apple? Probably – The Beatles can’t hold out of such a marketing coup like iTunes forever. It’s inevitable that pesky White Album will be available for download this year via Apple Computers.

HD-DVD wins – it looks like this is going to happen. The main power behind Blu-Ray discs, Sony, has hit a major bump in the road over the Playstation 3. The Ps3 was supposed to be the driver of Blu-Ray adoption among consumers; combined with a jaw-dropping price of nearly $700 and a horrendous launch best described as “clumsy” on Sony’s part, the Ps3 may have already lost this console war (I was at Best Buy today; while the Wii is nowhere to be found, there were over 10 Ps3 units sitting by themselves and no one buying them to be found – not a good sign).

After that, the rest of the “predictions” kind of turn ironic and crazy. Yes yes Wired, I get the joke.

BACK IN ’07 & CHILDREN OF MEN

Greetings,

It’s been a very busy but restful holiday for me. Montreal was quite nice – lots of time about town, movies, checked out McGill, had a few laughs, had some fun.

So, welcome to my first post of 2007. Wow, can’t believe how time passes. Plans for 2007: new athletic program to begin and to finish off my outstanding obligations. So far, the horoscopes have said this coming year is a positive turning point year for me, so you know, whatever.

CHILDREN OF MEN: Today I saw a movie I’ve greatly anticipated for months now, Children of Men. Quite simply, this is the best movie of the past year for me. It blows the rest away completely. It’s a riveting, stunning effort that will blow your mind and scare the crap out of you at the same time.

I don’t need to go into the plot again, given you can find a bunch of solid reviews online at Rotten Tomatoes. But rest assured, you’ll probably find them useful up to a point: this is the kind of film that has to be seen to be believed.

Director Alfonso Cuaron (Y tu mama tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) has constructed a true masterpiece. Shot with a hand-held camera and completely unrelenting in representing the true horror of humanity’s two most toxic and evil movements (fascism and terrorism). It’s a terrible future, twenty years from now, but there’s always hope and shot-for-shot, this film screams white-knuckled amazement.

Clive Owen (does this guy ever pick a bad movie? Seriously, he’s got immaculate judgment in films… okay, Derailed, not so much) is terrific in this as Theo, a former radical activist defeated by losing his child in the flu pandemic of 2008 and cruel chance, as is Michael Caine in an unconventionally gentle, slightly morose portrait of a pothead former editorial cartoonist.

The battle scenes in urban combat scenarios are so hard-core it’s almost hard to believe what you’re seeing is fictional. It’s intense stuff.

In other words, go see this movie. It’s easily one of the year’s best and well-deserving of more than just a sci-fi label. It’s bloody terrific.