Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Forget Gold or Bitcoin: Cronut Futures Are The Future

I've never had a cronut, to begin with. Full disclosure: I'm pretty pissed off about this. But no matter. The cronut might be delicious, but that's incidental. There's money in cronuts, and not in the paltry, $5 over-the-counter price. Like any rare commodity, the cronut is ripe for speculation, and I want in.

The cronut, for the uninitiated, is the bakery industry's version of the iPhone: nothing looked anything like it before, and now everyone wants to get into the act. To aficionados, the cronut is nothing less than the perfect union of a croissant and a donut and — based on drooling reviews — quite a bit more.

If only there were more.

(Read the full post on LinkedIn)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Netbook Envy: Getting Down With Downgrading

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted a "better" computer — smaller, more powerful, better features, etc. And it's been easy to chase improvements because tech tends to decline in price, year over year. Two decades ago my first home desktop computer "system" (yes, it was a "system") set me back about $2,200 and was probably less powerful (and certainly less portable) than my iPhone.

Two months ago my daughter and I built a high-end gaming PC for about $1,300 -- and that tower can launch missiles. Maybe it's part of the maturation process (mine, not technology) or maybe it's because I've become a cheapskate, or maybe because it's clearer now after years of using computers that I actually know what I do 90% of the time and am not as motivated by pay for cachet over function (this might be the time to mention that my newest car is 13 years old).

Whatever the reasons, these days I think less is more.

(Read the full post at LinkedIn)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Real 'Story' of the Fiscal Cliff

The Fiscal Cliff story has been a thriller, every bit as dramatic as those Cold War spy stories sadly nobody can get away with anymore. Stop me if you've heard this before: The players are polar opposites, circling each other nervously in a delicate balance of terror — and yet they must work (or at least live) together to save the world! Things are always coming down to the wire. The political angles are so numerous and acute you actually believe up is down and black is white.

If the stakes weren't so high (and the apparent outcome of what is now Phase I of this particular sage so unsatisfactory) it would be a great story. But we are so addicted to "great" stories — stories that have familiar touchstones — that sometimes the real story gets ignored. You know, the one that could have changed everything.

The Fiscal Cliff story was an unnecessary story — a sideshow. I don't think the media machine is ginning up the prospect of economic disasters just to sell newspapers in the grand tradition of Joseph Pulitzer, Rupert Murdoch and Charles Foster Kane. But I do think our eyes are on the wrong ball.

It's hardly the first time. Even in the last few months.

(Full Post)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

This Week in Instagram


I've done a couple of posts this week on Instagram, and one TV appearance, on CNBC's "Closing Bell" (clip above).

In my weekly Reuters column I argue that Instagram has to reverse course, and quickly.

In a blog post on LinkedIn, I describe the controversy as big messaging blunder who's best (and least likely) explanation is that it was rookie mistake.

Monday, December 3, 2012

What We Can't Learn from The Daily's Demise

I come to neither praise nor bury The Daily, News Corp's iPad-only news app experiment that will end with a whimper in two weeks. But let's be clear on what went wrong — and what didn't. 

As Wired's business editor at the time The Daily was announced I decided to cover it as a big event — the coming out party literally was a big event for News Corp, which threw a press conference that seemed to try too hard anoint it as a golden child from inception. When you use phrases like "digital renaissance” and assert that "We believe The Daily will be the model for the way stories are told and consumed,” you are setting yourself up for quite a fall.

My own initial impression, for a formal Wired review, was that The Daily was "very good" — 7/10. I admired the "cover flow" approach to displaying content and likened the publication to a "re-imagined digital magazine that is updated every day."

I praised the content: "The Daily looks like it may be onto something editorially, even if the economics are a challenge." But I also hedged: "Content will make or break this app, and it’s too early to judge the quality of The Daily‘s journalism — though nothing we read in the inaugural edition disqualifies it."

That assessment changed quickly for me.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Surface 'Pro' Sheds The Tablet Pretense

Back in June, when Microsoft's Surface was announced, I wrote a Reuters MediaFile column arguing that it really wasn't a tablet at all. It was a hybrid at best, I said, really going after a piece of the the ultralight market. The target wasn't Apple's iPad — but its MacBook Air.

An ARM-based version of the Surface has been out for about a month. It goes for $500 — same as an entry-level iPad. It's really more like $630 because you do want that cover/keyboard, and the cheaper "touch" one looks cheap compared to the "type" version, and it's only $10 less. While Apple shows people touching the iPad screen Surface's print and TV ads for all tout the cover and the kickstand — terrestrial, not mobile features.

Five weeks after launch Surface hasn't made a dent in iPad sales. CEO Ballmer said earlier this month that sales were modest, and that was on purpose.

But the big shoe drop was always going to be how much Microsoft would charge for the Surface with Windows 8 Pro. This one was going to be more expensive, we all knew. But was it going to carve out a niche for tablet/PC hybrids in the way Apple invented demand for tablets?