Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mashable: 5 Minute Guide to Social Media Job

Mashable: 5 Minute Guide to Social Media Job

Mashable posted an infographic: 5-Minute Guide to Getting a Job in Social Media. The most important recommendation is "Be Familiar With the Need-to-Know Programs", specifically a collection of the everyday tools required to create content. The ability to produce Social Media content from the ground up - actually creating a blog, editing content and images, and trouble shooting HTML cannot be underestimated. 

Example from Real-Life

One of the people I follow on Twitter had a WordPress problem. Text was displaying around the banner image, and it was unclear what was causing the problem. End users, those that blog via a GUI or other interface, may not be comfortable working directly with HTML. If you want to be the expert, you need to understand various GUIs and the underlying HTML. 

To solve the text problem - I navigated to the page, right-click, view page source and then scanned for problems. In this case and URL pointing to an image had wrapped and broken the ALT text. While it was obvious in the HTML, the GUI was probably not providing enough information. The hardest part of the solution was describing what actions the user needed to take in the GUI to resolve the problem in the HTML.

Bottom Line: 

The last recommendation in the Mashable article puts your best foot forward: "Help a Business Out Pro Bono". Share your knowledge skills and expertise with your friends, learn about engagement, negotiation and problem resolution. 

Technology will continue to change, managing relationships and meeting your commitments will set you apart.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Netbook is Dead... Long live the...

The Netbook is Dead... Long live the...

TechCrunch reports: Dell kills the mini-10.  
"Dell is reportedly shifting focus away from the inexpensive notebooks. A company spokesperson confirmed with The Verge that the product line is indeed finished and Dell doesn't have plans to release products on future Intel platforms. Instead, Dell will focus on “thin and powerful” notebooks, a not so subtle nod towards ultrabooks even though that description can fit a few of the company’s current notebook lines."

A Day (Year) Late and a Dollar Short

In September of 2010 I worked up a beautiful chapter arguing against the Netbook (of any flavor). The rest of the work was caught in turbulence as different free applications became paid applications and mergers and acquisitions clutched many good apps into the bosom of the tech emperors. Good ideas are few and far between - and are fleeting.

Bottom Line: 

The Netbook was destined to be squeezed out by the smart phone and cheaper laptops. The Mini-10 and the Streak suffered from excellent market differentiation - for a market that perished before the products could gain traction.

Now, let's see if Intel and the commodity (under $500) laptop producers can scale down to compete with the tablets. 


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Diffusion of Innovations - Social Media Impact

Diffusion of Innovations - Social Media Impact

New comments about Rogers' Diffusion of innovations (Wikipedia)
"Within the rate of adoption there is a point at which an innovation reaches critical mass. This is a point in time within the adoption curve that enough individuals have adopted an innovation in order that the continued adoption of the innovation is self-sustaining. In describing how an innovation reaches critical mass, Rogers outlines several strategies in order to help an innovation reach this stage. These strategies are: have an innovation adopted by a highly respected individual within a social network, creating an instinctive desire for a specific innovation. Inject an innovation into a group of individuals who would readily use an innovation, and provide positive reactions and benefits for early adopters of an innovation."
"The rate of adoption of interactive media such as email, telephones, fax, and teleconferenceing often displays a distinctive quality that we here call critical mass... The interactive quality of new communication technologies create interdependence among the adopters in a system." Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition By Everett M. Rogers (p.343)


Two Ideas Deserving Emphasis

  • Can innovation occur without the profit motive?
  • Can Social Media make and break the adoption cycle?

Communication is Key

First, rural sociology from 50 years ago is not a likely place to discover cutting edge discussions of change driven by technological innovation. But, with minor substitutions of SMS (texting), Blogging, and Social Networking (ie.  Facebook, Twitter, et. al.) the relevance of Rogers' observations is still true. Adoption is driven by communication from innovators to early adopters to the average user until critical mass is achieved.

Modern social media is touted as the fast lane to business success as product and service differentiation for the individual consumer takes focus. In fact, social media itself is migrating along its' own adoption curve with innovators and early adopters looking for the proper influence to push Social Media into critical mass. Advertising and marketing represent the displaced innovations - Social media proponents claiming that neither are able to effectively engage the customer.

But, what if...

But, what if the innovator is not profit motivated? 

Does the Rogers' Curve accurately represent adoption of free or very low cost (subsidized) goods and services? An example is the adoption of free internet based email services and free News via the internet. If there is no cost to adopt, does the curve apply?

Worse, what if profit is the only motivation? 

Does the Kim Kardashian narcissistic model of influence - driven solely by the need for profit and providing nothing of substance to society (beyond comic relief) break the Rogers' curve? Is there a nuance to the Kutcher model or the Oprah model?

Even worse, what if the modern consumer thinks everything should be free, that the producers of whatever product or service do not deserve compensation?

Do the recent examples of Netflix attempting to change their product offering and fees and the example of Bank of America changing the fee structure of debit card processing lend good examples for this discussion? Neither company provided an improvement in their offerings, only a change in pricing. Airlines charged for bags before (it was buried in the ticket price), but now catch scorn for being (more) transparent on their prices. Newspapers charged for their content, then gave it away for free, and are now faced with creating a pay model that will keep them from extinction.

How does business react when that same communication channel, that key group of influential early-adopters  turn against your product or service? Rogers' model is driven by farmers' economic choice to become more efficient and more profitable. Without that catalyst, the profit motive, why would anyone be concerned about crop-yields or delivering the news, or handling baggage? How do you take intellectual property and distribute it free without regard to the content creator?

How do companies avoid the social media firestorm when prices change from free to anything else? And, what happens when a company loses the ability to manage their margins and profits (like Netflix) due to consumer backlash, or government mandates? Is a hyper-efficient social media an ally? See Austin Business Journal for an example.

Bottom Line: More Questions Than Answers

  • If personal networks are powerful enough to drive adoption to critical mass, are they just as efficient at imploding the critical mass? 
  • Does the Government have a role in Innovation and driving adoption, or is it exempt from the curve? Does exemption create other problems?
  • Finally, does the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement as a leaderless and agenda-less entity create a new dynamic, or is it simply awaiting the evolution from the innovator category to early-adopter category? 

Rogers' Diffusion of Innovation creates a framework for discussion that is as relevant today  as it was 50 years ago. Now to find people with the motivation for exploration. 


Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Euthanasia of the Saver - More on Currency

Robert Hibbs chimes in with a timely review of Keynesian thought in The Euthanasia of the Saver | The Beacon:
"In chapter 24 of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, John Maynard Keynes laid out his screwball idea that capital might soon become, or be made to become, no longer scarce; hence no payment would have to be made to induce people to save, and that condition would be splendid inasmuch as it would entail the “euthanasia of the rentier.” This stuff really must be seen to be believed; here is the meat of Keynes’s discussion in his own words:"
Quoting Keynes:  
"Now, though this state of affairs would be quite compatible with some measure of individualism, yet it would mean the euthanasia of the rentier, and, consequently, the euthanasia of the cumulative oppressive power of the capitalist to exploit the scarcity-value of capital. Interest today rewards no genuine sacrifice, any more than does the rent of land. The owner of capital can obtain interest because capital is scarce, just as the owner of land can obtain rent because land is scarce. But whilst there may be intrinsic reasons for the scarcity of land, there are no intrinsic reasons for the scarcity of capital. An intrinsic reason for such scarcity, in the sense of a genuine sacrifice which could only be called forth by the offer of a reward in the shape of interest, would not exist, in the long run, except in the event of the individual propensity to consume proving to be of such a character that net saving in conditions of full employment comes to an end before capital has become sufficiently abundant. But even so, it will still be possible for communal saving through the agency of the State to be maintained at a level which will allow the growth of capital up to the point where it ceases to be scarce.
"I see, therefore, the rentier aspect of capitalism as a transitional phase which will disappear when it has done its work. And with the disappearance of its rentier aspect much else in it besides will suffer a sea-change. It will be, moreover, a great advantage of the order of events which I am advocating, that the euthanasia of the rentier, of the functionless investor, will be nothing sudden, merely a gradual but prolonged continuance of what we have seen recently in Great Britain, and will need no revolution. [pp. 375-76]"
Should we economically-bomb ourselves back to the stone age?
If currency (credit and capital) are the lifeblood of Capitalism - is currency needed when Capitalism dies? What is the next best economic model to follow (Euro-Socialism?)

What is the correct leadership framework for a data-centric economy and how would you recognize that leadership? 
"Influencers"? "Klout score"? "Followers"?  "Committee Meetings Decisions"? "Mash-Up output"? "Crowd-Sourced Imagineering" "Team Ideation"? 

Bottom Line: 
I do not want my surgeon to have a high Klout score, I want my surgeon to be an expert, with plenty of education and experience. I am willing to pay for those skills (assets).

I'm still not sold on the imminent demise of currency or capitalism or the ability of OWS to precipitate either. See: Minyanville article by Conor Sen   

Friday, October 21, 2011

Toshiba Thrive Road Trip

My recent road trip was the first where I left my Dell laptop at home and took my Toshiba Thrive instead.


The weight difference was amazing. Lighter than my Dell E6400, the Thrive also let me shed the laptop bag and all of the bits and pieces inside. The only accessories that made the trip were a power cord and a couple of stylus. It certainly made TSA screening, storage, and access better on the trip. The Thrive went everywhere with me... the laptop might have stayed in the hotel room on coffee runs and quick errands.

Disadvantages/User Error

The biggest problems were due to user error (that would be me). Since the Thrive offers easy access to data on SD cards I keep most of my music on a 2GB card. This keeps my drive space free and lets me manage my music from my home workstation. Multiple SD cards are simple and easy to use. 

Of course, if you leave your SD cards at home… (oops). 

I do have some music on the internal drive so all was not lost. And, as far as the cloud based Google and Amazon music solutions – they really don’t work without internet connectivity.

The second issue was my failure to carry an HDMI cable. My hotel room had a beautiful LCD TV with a perfectly accessible HDMI port. No cable – no big screen movies. The hotel did supply a standard VGA/VGA cable - but VGA is about the only adapter missing on the Thrive This is one of the few places where the laptop would have worked better.
Android has an irritating behavior when connecting to new Wi-Fi networks. The Thrive would see and connect to new networks, but would not allow data transfers. A simple reboot resolved the issue every single time, but who wants to reboot every time they add a new network? The good news is that it does “remember” networks very well, so the second and third re-connects do not require the reboot. 

The Thrive offers the ability to disconnect from Wi-Fi at the same interval as the sleep function for the screen saver (in my case – 2 minutes). I had a "Guest Login" that forced me to re-enter my password with each reconnect. It was one of those system generated, complex passwords like “G91xe47#9G” —which is the equivalent of the expletive I muttered each time I had to retype the password.

Finally, the Firefox browser for Android Gingerbread (3.x) does not allow the viewing of Amazon Prime movies. Ok, the base Android browser does, but why is the Flash plugin for Firefox so lame? And, until Wednesday the 19th, Netflix was not available for Gingerbread. I arrived home to Round Rock to find it in the Android Store… just  a couple of days late.

Lessons Learned

  1. Carry an HDMI cable (Amazon has a huge selection under $10).
  2. Make sure to have SD cards (music and/or videos) because Wi-Fi is not quite everywhere. Example: my hotel room charges for internet access were $14.95 a day. I could have skipped that charge entirely with a little more planning. Also, 2-3 hours on a plane is perfect A/V time.
  3. Make sure to download Kindle books, or other cloud based media that you want to read or access.
So, a little learning curve for the user… and the Thrive proved to be a great travel companion.


Praising the One Percent, 1%, OccupyWallStreet in Wrong Place

George Riesman writing in the Mises Daily,
"In Praise of the Capitalist 1 Percent
"...all of us, 100 percent of us, benefit from the wealth of the hated capitalists. We benefit without ourselves being capitalists, or being capitalists to any great extent. The protesters are literally kept alive on the foundation of the wealth of the capitalists they hate. As just indicated, the oil fields and pipelines of the hated Exxon corporation provide the fuel that powers the tractors and trucks that are essential to the production and delivery of the food the protesters eat. The protesters and all other haters of capitalists hate the foundations of their own existence."
He continues: 
"Capitalism — laissez-faire capitalism — is the ideal economic system. It is the embodiment of individual freedom and the pursuit of material self-interest. Its result is the progressive rise in the material well-being of all, manifested in lengthening life spans and ever-improving standards of living.
"The economic stagnation and decline, the problems of mass unemployment and growing poverty experienced in the United States in recent years, are the result of violations of individual freedom and the pursuit of material self-interest. The government has enmeshed the economic system in a growing web of paralyzing rules and regulations that prohibit the production of goods and services that people want, while compelling the production of goods and services they don't want, and making the production of virtually everything more and more expensive than it needs to be. For example, prohibitions on the production of atomic power, oil, coal, and natural gas, make the cost of energy higher and in the face of less energy available for use in production, require the performance of more human labor to produce any given quantity of goods. This results in fewer goods being available to remunerate the performance of any given quantity of labor.
"Uncontrolled government spending and its accompanying budget deficits and borrowing, along with the income, estate, and capital gains taxes, all levied on funds that otherwise would have been heavily saved and invested, drain capital from the economic system. They thus serve to prevent the increase in both the supply of goods and the demand for labor that more capital in the hands of business would have made possible. They have now gone far enough to have begun actually to reduce the supply of capital in the economic system in comparison with the past."
Bottom Line: 
The 1% is the US Government. The protesters like the media spotlight of New York. Rather than OccupyWallStreet they really should be OccupyWashingtonDC where a few hundred people wield significantly more power.

Yes, economics is hard. Being ignorant or stupid takes much less skill.

Friday, October 14, 2011

New Media Literacy Requires Critical Thought

Josh Cantone on Mashable discusses Why New Media Literacy Is Vital for Quality Journalism
"In today’s media-saturated world, the concept of literacy is again changing. According to [Nichole] Pinkard, kids in school today may not be considered literate in the future if they don’t fundamentally understand new forms of media — things like blogs, Twitter and streaming video.
"To be truly literate, though, you also need to be able to think critically about media, discern fact from fiction, news from opinion, trusted from untrustworthy. These issues have always been thorny, but the explosion of self-publishing has only made media literacy more vital to the preservation of our democratic society." 

New Media Literacy Requires Critical Thought

Salisbury University has a quick summary of "7 Critical Reading Strategies".

Of course, the Xolotech blog as part of the "new media" would be remiss if it didn't point the reader to:  

Adler, M. J., and; Van Doren, C. (1972). How to Read A Book (Revised Edition (August 15, 1972) ed.). Touchstone. The New Yorker

"It shows concretely how the serious work of proper reading may be accomplished and how much it may yield in the way of instruction and delight."

Bottom Line:

The availability of information, in whatever media format, does not relieve the reader or viewer from using their brain. 

Miles Monroe: "My brain! It's my second favorite organ." ~Woody Allen, Sleeper

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Freemium Games? How Much For Lawyer Upgrade?

Freemium Games - How Much For Lawyer Upgrade?

Who Spends The Most Money In Freemium Games? | TechCrunch
"At a quick glance: while you probably shouldn’t go all out and make the goriest, booty-filled freemium game the world has ever seen (if only because Apple would give it the boot in a heartbeat), it might not be as important to be as overly kid-friendly as smash hit freemium games like Smurfs’ Village might lead you to believe. If you focused on making a game that the 18-39 year old crowd would dig, there’s plenty of potential to walk away with quite the cash pile."
AppAdvice Reports "We Are in Love with Freemium Games":

"In the past 12 months, the majority of revenues from the App Store have shifted siginifcantly from premium to freemium apps. As such, there have now been 57 million purchase transactions across a set of freemium iOS and Android games that averages over 2 million daily active users.
"Most surprisingly, most of these purchases are for those items that are depleted when used, so called consumables. These in-app purchases include upgrades, add-ons, virtual goods, and the like."

How About Kids?

Apple learns their lessons quickly - the Smurf's Village Smurfberries fiasco was resolved and fixed. But GLUMobile (NASDAQ GM:GLUU) and the Android Marketplace was not paying attention. The Android Marketplace asks for the user to leave a credit card on file to facilitate purchases. That business practice allowed my six-year old to charge up several hundred dollars on "upgrades" for in app purchases within GLUMOBILE game.

So here are the (less than pretty) details. 

My credit card account has email notifications enabled for transactions. My email box started spinning as multiple purchases were made over a several minute period. Imagine your kid playing a game that rewards success with points and allows the points to be applied to upgrades... (practically every game they play). In this case the upgrades cost money, and my card was on file... so GLUMOBILE and/or the Android Marketplace rang up the charges

Apple and the Amazon Appstore for Android resolved this problem by forcing the user to enter a password to purchase, download or upgrade an app. 

No problem, right? 

Called home, got the kid off of the Android, then went to the GLUMOBILE website to locate customer service. Ummm, no. Their website clearly states that purchases are "confirmed" after a very short 15 minute period - nonrefundable, tough-luck. I'm not sure how that works since their app is free to download, offers no registration, and requires no login or password (authentication). I'm not exactly sure how they "know" who is playing their games or who is authorizing purchases. 

Ok, so called credit card company to contest charges. They took all of my details, no problem, it should be resolved in 6-8 weeks. BTW, the credit card company added cool feature to their dispute site. The customer can upload documents and attach them to the complaint. Very nice and very smart; why mail, scan and PDF when the customer can do the work?

Next, back to GLUMOBILE to try to work out the problem. We called the 800# several times and in addition to never getting to speak to a real person, we kept being dumped into voice mail purgatory. Since I'm not inept at Social Media I went to LinkedIn to find real people so that I could use the company directory at the 800# to locate a real person. No luck, tossed into purgatory once again. 

The good news is that Google Voice tracked all of the outbound calls (date, time, number called, length of call), and I pulled the card from the Android store. I suspect (deep in my heart I "know") that the forms submitted on their web site met a similar fate, probably assigned to a different bowge - specifically for email. 

So, the next step was "old-school" with a letter to customer service, explaining the issue and outlining the Apple experience - with a cc to the company lawyer (she was listed in LinkedIn). We just wanted a refund in a timely manner. 

Less than three weeks later our Credit Card company posted a "resolved" message online and stated that they would send us the details in the mail. I was able to confirm that the charges were removed from my account. A letter came in the mail a few days later.

So, What Actually Happened?

  1. GLUMOBILE customer service realized the problem and extended a refund.
  2. GLUMOBILE legal recognized a problem and extended a refund.
  3. The Android Marketplace realized the error and extended a refund.
  4. The credit card company reversed the charges since they were clearly unauthorized.
  5. None of the above. 

The Correct Answer is: 

5 - None of the Above!

Since the Android Marketplace and GLUMOBILE did not respond to the credit card company inquiry, the charges were "temporarily removed", pending a final resolution date in November.

I have no resolution right now, but the lessons outlined above should be shared, since the problem might apply to other in-app purchases from the Android appstore. 

In the meantime (for any GLUMOBILE employee that might read this blog), the law firm that handled the case against Apple was clearly identified in several articles - try Googling the term "Smurfberries". 

GLUMOBILE and the Android Marketplace may want to revisit the purchase, upgrade, enrollment and authentication processes, you may want to improve your customer service experience, and you may want to review your customer complaint process with your customer service team and your legal team. 

Bottom Line (for the companies): 

You should never blatantly copy the competition... nor should you ignore the important lessons that they learn. 

And, when a customer gives you a chance to do the right thing... you should try very hard to. 

Bottom Line (for the consumer):

If you really need to have a credit card number on file, consider the new American Express pre-paid card (Serve) with a very low balance. Exposing your bank debit card or your credit card is not a great idea. 

Also, the GLUMOBILE games are pretty solid, but this horrible experience overshadows the games. 


Friday, September 30, 2011

Amazon's Kindle Fire Being Sold at a Loss

Amazon's Kindle Fire Being Sold at a Loss

The Register: Amazon's Kindle Fire being sold at a loss
"But if IHS's preliminary analysis is correct, Amazon is more canny than that old thigh-slapper might suggest. IHS believes that Amazon is willing to make only a marginal profit on the Fire plus a relatively small amount of digital content that users will buy per tablet, because the online retailer is using it as a loss-leader to get customers into its online store where they'll pay good, high-margin money for gadgets, gizmos, and gewgaws.

A reasonable argument, but Amazon may have more than mere enticement in mind. Digital content – warning: prepare for a "well, duh!" statement – is the wave of the future."


Well, duh... indeed. 

All Nurses Central reports on the competition (which might explain just why HP is attempting to bail on hardware):
"I read an article back in August by Brooke Meyer titled “Who Made Your Notebook?” Mr. Meyer’s article so interested me that I wanted to share some of it with you today. You can keep up with Brooke Meyer’s reporting on technology by browsing to his website called Brooke's View.
According to Mr. Meyers, the answer to the question he posed is:

"Not the company whose name is on it. Why? “…competition for orders is also expected to further lower notebook makers’ gross margins in 2011 from 4% in 2010.”
  • After the OEM/ODM 4% profit, “manufacturers” like Dell make 5% and HP earns 9%.
  • Apple’s profit on each iPad ranges from 40 to 55%. (Who makes iPads? FoxConn.) Selling 2 million units each month, Apple wins.


If the Amazon Kindle Fire adds nothing to the bottom line... 

How much profit does Amazon make on a digital download of a $9.99 eBook or album?


Amazon Fire: Media Mis-Fires on Announcement (pt 2)

Amazon Fire: Media Mis-Fires on Announcement (Update: Part 2) 

My best ideas come to me at 1:47am. My previous post talks about media response to the Amazon Kindle Fire (Media Mis-Fires). 

Another key question: What about the impact on the Nintendo DS and other handheld players? 

On my personal blog, where all of my deep-inner thoughts and unprofessional rants are posted, I ask if the Amazon Kindle Fire is a better choice for the kids than an Apple iTouch.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Amazon Fire: Media Mis-Fires on Announcement

Amazon Fire: Media Mis-Fires on Announcement - Part 1

Here are early media themes about the Amazon Fire:

Yahoo News: Kindle Fire may force Android tablet makers to cut prices.
"The pricing is critical to gain traction in the tablet market... Rival manufacturers have failed to attract consumers as they have matched the iPad's price point without matching its content offering," said Adam Leach, an analyst at research firm Ovum. "Amazon's retail-based business model allows the company to subsidize the device on the premise that consumers will buy more from Amazon, be that physical goods or its digital content."
Yahoo Finance Can Amazon Really Bruise Apple?
"However, the main focus of the day is the Kindle Fire. At a price of $199, it could present a real challenge to the iPad, something that past companies such as Motorola and Research in Motion have been unable to do. Microsoft is also preparing to re-enter the tablet market (after past failures) with its Windows 8 in the near future. Analysts were expecting a price of about $250 for the Kindle Fire. At a price of $199, analysts are now expecting Amazon to subsidize the low price tag. However, Amazon has an advantage that past tablet challengers were lacking, a massive library of digital and physical goods. The Kindle Fire will make it easier to buy Amazon’s products, including everything from books and movies to sports equipment.
Simit Patel of Seeking Alpha: Amazon's Tablet Marks Start Of Media Companies Disrupting Hardware Businesses
"Amazon is blazing the trail here. To minimize its costs, the firm's tablets will be built atop a forked version of the Android operating system. Indeed, building off existing open source software as a foundation will be a key part of how media companies create hardware products at minimal cost. On top of this, though, is the fact that Amazon is pricing its tablet at below cost; rather, the company is expecting media sales to make the venture profitable for shareholders. "
Eric Schonfeld of TechCrunch: The Kindle Fire Will Have A Whole New “Cloud Accelerated” Mobile Browser Called Amazon Silk.
“The so-called split browser essentially has two homes: on the Kindle Fire itself, and in Amazon’s EC2. Basically, when a user pulls up a webpage on their Kindle Fire, EC2 handles all the rendering to optimize it for the Fire’s screen. Images are resized on the fly, and what’s more, it tracks user’s behavior. Users who visit TechCrunch all the time, will notice quicker load times because Silk detects that pattern of activity and pre-caches the site.”
Sarah Kessler has poll results from Mashable Readers (whom feel empowered to judge the Fire with little hands on experience. Amazon Kindle Fire: iPad Killer or Ereader Substitute? [Poll]

Mash Poll

Why are these themes misplaced?
  1. Apple’s price point is not remotely critical to the other Android tablets. Users want content, and Apple and the iTunes eco-system provide content. Apple enjoys huge double-digit margins while other manufacturers are scrapping by in the low single digits. The Amazon Fire comes with Amazon content, but conversion of the Amazon “reading” and catalog retail audience into movie streaming, music playing and (most important) paying customers is still an unknown.
  2. Margins are less important to Amazon Fire. The “razor and blades” model is well established at Amazon. A more interesting question is how the $100 HP and the $200 Fire will impact the low end readers and Android tablets. After all, those users will still need to collect content. This same dynamic is playing out in the Apple iPod product line as prices continue to fall on products with more features. I predict that the iTouch and a new sports-oriented Shuffle (water proof and shock resistant) will be the lone survivors.
  3. Amazon Fire will likely impact readers and low end Androids. But, the better question to ask: Is there a viable Android market that remains to be tapped? I posit that the Enterprise Android (see the excellent Toshiba Thrive) and the “rugged” tablets will continue to be profitable at the $500+ price range. The first Android to be picked up by a major Corporation will take on gravity. In my opinion this is where the Dell Streak was supposed to play. And, until Microsoft gains traction this area is still open territory for Android.
  4. Silk and the split browser. Very cool, very slick. I predict that Silk will get much more press after the end user community can validate the experience. Content distribution and caching built a company called Akamai. The ability to offload the wait time of the dozens of TCIP calls required to render a page may prove more significant than price or content. The X-ms response delays needed to collect data from different servers linger for all users. As more content is seeded into the cloud and spread across servers, datacenters, and continents, Silk might be the moat that Amazon needs for its’ cloud strategy. Silk, even without link pre-cache or pre-fetch, might be the big winner in this release. 
  5. 42% iPad fanboys responded to the poll to support what hypothesis, that they still love their iPad?


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

University of Texas - Tuition and Checked Luggage Fees

University of Texas - Tuition and Checked Luggage Fees

The Houston Chronicle reports: UT report says its grad rates among country's best - Houston Chronicle:
"AUSTIN - The University of Texas ranks among the best and most efficient public universities when it comes to graduating students in six years, but still must help them get their degrees faster, according to a school report released Thursday.

Texas graduates 81 percent of its students within a six-year window, 12th best out of the nation's 120 public research universities, according to the report. In Texas, that ranks second only to private school Rice University. Rice's graduation rate was not included in the report." 
The article cites "in-state tuition averaged $8,000 last year". 

Cough, cough, ahem... 

So, if my round trip airfare from Austin, Tx to San Jose, Ca is $238 on Continental, United or American... which airline has the lowest cost for the trip?

Answer: Trick Question

It depends on the number of pieces of luggage -- i.e. the FEES that they charge in addition to the airfare. 

Texas State is Not UT

The fee table above is from Texas State University. At 12 units, these fees represent a 29% premium over the tuition. Oops, the parking permit required to park on campus is not included - and neither are books, or housing, or food... or beer!

Reality vs. Talking Points 

The Star-Telegram reports, "Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday outlined a plan as part of his State of the State address that is challenging public universities to make that a reality. He says the key to making a university diploma more financially attainable is having public universities freeze tuition. He further challenged public universities to try to develop a bachelor's degree at a cost of $10,000, including books." 

How do you spend $100,000 on a 4-Year Degree 

Universities and airlines are "unbundling" prices in order to present the "lowest" tuition price (as determined by their marketing department). You might also say that they are trying to "hide" their total cost. 

6 years * ($8,000 + Fees + Books + Living Expenses) = Cha-ching.

Bottom Line 

Until you understand what the total COST is, comparisons between airlines and Universities will continue to be difficult to judge.


Bachelor's Degree in Sarcasm

Bachelor's Degree in Sarcasm

The Money Matters Column in Gawker has a beautiful chart from a report by Georgetown University in their post " College Is a Decent Bet (That You Might Lose)". Gawker cites a post by Motoko Rich in the NY Times Economix Blog that "The bachelor's degree holders most likely to be at a disadvantage, he said, are those with liberal arts degrees. "

 Gawker then posits (possibly in a sarcastic tone) 
"...the chart above shows you just how many people with a lower level of education than you will end up making more money than you. Not a ton, but just enough to make you question whether that art history degree was really worth it, or whether you would have been better off using that money to pay for plastic surgery to turn yourself into a white male. (Yes.) Haha, but seriously, no, overall, chances are you're better off going to school."
Kim Brooks of  Salon writes "Is it Time to Kill the Liberal Arts Degree?" and cites the same NY Times article. She then tries to chases down the obvious question from her Alma Mater the University of Virginia: 
"When I asked him how a 22-year-old with no job, no income, no health insurance and, in some cases, six figures of college debt to pay off is supposed to be a citizen of the world, he said he had no comment, that he was the wrong person to talk to, and he directed me to another dean, who was also unable to comment."

Issue 1 -- too much sarcasm is a bad thing:

I take issue with the Gawker post, because it is difficult to see their opinion - the sarcasm is a touch strong and it left me questioning their intent. The Georgetown report makes the same (devastating) statement about the liberal arts degree, without introducing sarcasm and with a clear opinions of pending failure.

Recommendation 1 -- Read the Salon article, skip the Gawker article:

The Brooks article was more specific to the question. I have to take issue with the two (2!) Deans from the University of Virginia that could not reply to the most basic question of why does your Liberal Arts program exist? How do you take tuition for a program that has no specific benefits (how did you even get your job)?

Disclaimer Time

I have a Liberal Arts degree (History) and an MBA, my brother has a Liberal Arts degree (Psychology) a professional degree (MD) which cost him 6 more years of school and hundreds of hours of internship. He is much smarter than the average bear and we are Hispanic. Face it, not everyone can be an MD, RN or Engineer. 

So let's review the rules:

  1. A college degree is not a guarantee of a job
  2. A college degree is not about a guarantee of success
  3. A college degree is not a guarantee of happiness, riches or satisfaction
  4. A college degree that that sinks you into $100,000 of debt does guarantee a long lasting relationship with the US Government
The Georgetown Report makes it crystal clear that "workers progress up an occupational hierarchy, not an industry-based one". Interesting that they provided no commentary on how this might manifest itself in unemployment - as it would appear to exacerbate structural unemployment.

Of course, a Liberals Art Major might prove to be flexible enough to leap over structural problems. 


Monday, September 12, 2011

The Zero Jobs Report - It's Cool to Stay in School

The Zero Jobs Report - It's Cool to Stay in School

Seeking Alpha comments on the The Zero Jobs Report:
"Once again we are seeing the real return of an educationally bifurcated economy, as those with either some college or a college degree gained (Household Survey numbers) 449,000 jobs last month, which was offset by losses of 581,000 jobs by those with just a high school diploma (all numbers are for ages 25+). The economy actually appears to be doing okay for those with a post-secondary education, but's still mired in losses for those without."
Even Salon.com was pessimistic: Jobs Report: A Big Fat Zero "...the report screamed stagnation, except where it documented decline." Michigan Live (mlive.com) cites a study by the Brookings Institute that reduces the problem to a very simple mathematical equation:

"According to Brookings, in the Detroit, Warren, Livonia Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), workers with bachelor's degrees had only a moderately high unemployment rate in 2009 of 6.8 percent, while 21.5 percent of those with a high school diploma or less were unemployed in 2009."
Again, the Xolotech position is that a College Education is critical for developing relationships and garnering critical "signaling" attributes. We just don't think you should go thousands of dollars into debt. After all, the survey does not quote schools attended or academic achievement - only Pass/Fail.

Bottom Line: 

You can pass, or you can fail.  


Friday, September 9, 2011

Google Music Beta on iOS - Early Results = Fail

Google Music Beta on iOS - Early Results = Fail

PC Magazine reports Google Music Beta Comes to iOS, Sort Of 

"It's still invite-only, and there's still no store, Google Music Beta is now accessible on iOS devices like the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. No, there's no app, but there is a new iOS-specific HTML5 Web interface that makes playing songs in your Google Music locker a snap. It's a very Google-like solution (Google's whole Chrome OS is based on the same approach), though, ironically, Google makes an Android app for the service. Unlike Apple iCloud's iTunes in the Cloud service, Google Music actually streams your music from the cloud. 

Apple's service works by on-demand downloading rather than streaming, so you need to have the full audio files stored on your device. A true cloud-based solution like Google Music doesn't require this. Where Apple wins this race, though, is with its enormous store of music available for purchase."

So the first three tries resulted in a Microsoft-esque error message. So I applied Microsoft-esque solution: Closed the browser window, opened iGoogle in another browser window (to confirm my login/identity) then navigated to music.google.com.

5 Minute Review: 

  • Album Art is still hideous
  • Duplicate songs still evident 
  • Streaming works just fine - so 6000+ songs on my phone with little impact to storage
[Edit: 15 minute update - Music was interrupted when Meeting Reminder Alert was triggered, but the Alert was never displayed. Google Music acted like it lost connection (3-4 seconds) then resumed.]

Bottom Line: 

Where Apple wins this race is that their applications work and work well. 

See our previous post: Google Music Beta - Designed by Experts

Also, I still have invites to give away... 


Thursday, September 1, 2011

University as a Social Networking Opportunity

University as a Social Networking Opportunity

The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses "Business Educators Struggle to Put Students to Put Students to Work". 
"Business education has come to be defined in the minds of students as a place for developing elite social networks and getting access to corporate recruiters," says Rakesh Khurana, a professor at Harvard Business School who is a prominent critic of the field. It's an attitude that he first saw in M.B.A. programs but has migrated, he says, to the undergraduate level."
So, is there any advantage to a pursuing a Liberal Arts Major? 
"A forthcoming report from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching praises 10 American colleges of business as models for integrating the liberal arts and practical training.
"One of the objects of praise is business-oriented Babson College. Its president, Leonard A. Schlesinger, says that concrete business skills tend to expire in five years or so, as technology and organizations change. History and philosophy, on the other hand, provide the kind of contextual knowledge and reasoning skills that are indispensable for business students."

The Bottom Line:

Success is about effort. Coasting, and networking is not a dependable strategy. 

Great (local) Reference: 
Dr. Katharine Brooks' "You Majored in What?". She is currently the Director of Liberal Arts Career Services for The University of Texas at Austin.