Microsoft Surface sales well below shipments, says iSuppli

Microsoft Surface sales well below shipments, says iSuppli | Microsoft – CNET News:

“Shipments of the Surface RT device, which debuted last quarter, into the channel were about 1.25 million, but sales out of the channel ‘were significantly lower, maybe on the order of 55 to 60 percent of that figure,’ said Rhoda Alexander, an analyst at iSuppli, citing the market research firm’s estimates. That would put sales in the range of between roughly 680,000 and 750,000 based on those percentages.”

Ouch. This needed to be big for Microsoft, and it just wasn’t. I think people who are predicting that the Surface Pro will be a success are fooling themselves.

Research In Motion rebrands itself as BlackBerry

Research In Motion rebrands itself as BlackBerry | The Verge:

“At today’s BlackBerry 10 event, CEO Thorsten Heins announced that his company will no longer be known as Research In Motion. As of today, RIM is being rebranded as BlackBerry. ‘We have reinvented the company, and we want to represent this in our brand,’ Heins said. ‘One brand. One promise. Our customers use a BlackBerry, our employees work for BlackBerry, and our shareholders are owners of BlackBerry.'”

 About time. No average person had any idea that Research in Motion was the company that made BlackBerries. I’d be willing to bet that most people already thought the company was called BlackBerry.

Wind energy top source for new generation in 2012

American Wind Energy Association:

“The U.S. wind energy industry had its strongest year ever in 2012, the American Wind Energy Association announced today, installing a record 13,124 megawatts (MW) of electric generating capacity, leveraging $25 billion in private investment,and achieving over 60,000 MW of cumulative wind capacity.  

The milestone of 60,000 MW (60 gigawatts) was reached just five months after AWEA announced last August that the U.S. industry had 50,000 MW installed. Today’s 60,007 MW is enough clean, affordable, American wind power to power the equivalent of almost 15 million homes, or the number in Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, and Ohio combined.”

Nearly one fourth of all wind capacity in one year. One fifth of all wind capacity in the last five months. Definitely a good trend. 

Prices are higher in small towns than in big cities (also, a tutorial for R)

So I’ve decided to start learning about statistical computing ahead of the harder stats classes that I’ll be taking this fall (my subfield within the political science major is Empirical Theory and Quantitative Methods) and as my first little project to teach myself the basics of the R language/environment I decided to take a look at the consumer price index in small cities (population less than 50,000) versus large cities (population greater than 1,500,000). To do that, I needed to get that data, format it in a way that was R-friendly, and then present it in a way that makes sense. Since I noticed that many of the R tutorials out there aren’t very clear on some things, I decided to document my steps as I figured out what worked.

Getting data

The Bureau of Labor Statistics gives anyone access to their consumer price index database, and lets you see the information for specific regions. The two pieces of data I chose were Size Class A (over 1,500,000) and Size Class D (under 50,000) for 1993 to 2012. Retrieving the data as tables, I pasted each into a separate Numbers spreadsheet (this is on my MacBook Air) and exported them to my Downloads as “cpibig19932012.csv” and “cpi19932012.csv”, respectively. 

Getting it into R

Working in RStudio, I clicked on the Files tab in the bottom right window, clicked Home, clicked Downloads (or wherever you decided to save the .csv files), clicked More, then Set As Working Directory. This lets us access the .csv files in the R environment.

In a new script in the top left window, I import the data into variables cpi and cpiBig for the small cities and big cities, respectively:

cpi <- read.csv(file=”cpi19932012.csv”,head=TRUE,sep=”,”)
cpiBig <- read.csv(file=”cpibig19932012.csv”,head=TRUE,sep=”,”)

Making a graph

I decided that the best way to represent the data over time would be a line chart showing both data sets on the same graph. I start by deciding on a heading, “Consumer Price Index in small vs. large cities 1993-2012”:

heading = “Consumer Price Index in small vs. large cities 1993-2012”

Next, I had to set up the axes of the graph:

xlab = “Year”,
ylab = “Average Annual CPI”)

This line:

  • sets the x-axis as the years from the small cities dataset, 
  • sets the y-axis as the Average Annual consumer price index from the small cities data set,
  • tells R not to also show the data points as a scatter plot on the graph,
  • labels the x-axis as Year,
  • labels the y-axis as Average Annual CPI 

Note that to see all of your options for data to assign to axes for a dataset, you can type the following into the Console in the bottom left window:


Where you can replace “cpi” with whatever variable you’re interested in.

Then we graph the data as lines, with small cities colored red and large cities colored blue:

lines(cpi$Year, cpi$Annual, type=”l”, col=”red”)
lines(cpiBig$Year, cpiBig$Annual, type=”l”, col=”blue”)

Finally, we give the chart a legend:

legend(“topleft” , title=”City Size”, cex=0.75, pch=16,
col=c(“red”, “blue”), legend=c(“Pop. < 50,000”, “Pop. > 1,500,000”), ncol=2)

This tells R to put the legend in the top left of the chart, title it City Size, colors the lines the correct color values, and gives them the correct label for each line.

To see the output of your script, click Source and then Run in the top left window. You should have something like this show up in the bottom right window:

Plot of CPI in small and big cities

So what’s happening?

The line for small cities is consistently higher than the line for big cities. How does that make sense? Aren’t small towns full of poor rednecks, and cities full of wealthy-ish hipster urbanites? 

I asked my friend Jason Zeng, an economic analyst friend here in Berkeley about it and he gave the following explanation: it comes down to rich suburbanites and urban squalor. The poor in big cities can’t buy the quality goods that the wealthier commuters in suburbs do, so their prices are lower. There are more poor in the cities than in the suburbs, so the CPI for cities is dragged lower than the CPI for suburbs.

Valve and Xi3 unveil ‘Piston’ game console

From Polygon:

Xi3 brought an early version of Piston to CES, but was tight lipped on details about the hardware currently in development with Valve. Xi3 chief marketing officer David Politis told Polygon that Piston will offer up to 1 TB of interal storage and offer modular component updates, including the option to upgrade the PC’s CPU and RAM.

Xi3 wouldn’t discuss price for Piston, but commented that the Steam Box is based on its “performance level” X7A offering, which is priced at $999. Xi3 declined to comment on what would differentiate Piston hardware-wise from a standard X7A.

Xi3 also offers the entry level X5A, which is priced at $499 with a Linux operating system.

Unfortunately it appears that the announcement brought down the Xi3 homepage for now. A quick Google search found this PR release from a few months back detailing the specs of the X7A, which the Piston will be based on:

A quad-core 64-bit, x86-based 32nm processor running at up to 3.2GHz (with 4MB of Level2 Cache),
* An integrated graphics processor (GPU) containing up to 384 programmable graphics cores (or shaders),
* 4GB-8GB of DDR3 RAM,
* 64GB-1TB of internal solid-state SSD storage (with up to 12Gbps throughput speeds),
Three display ports providing maximum resolution of 4096×2160 (including 1 DisplayPort v1.2 and * 2 Mini-DisplayPorts v1.2),
* Four eSATAp 3.0 ports,
* Four USB 3.0 ports,
* Four USB 2.0 ports,
* 1Gb Ethernet port, and
* Three audio ports (1 input and 2 outputs: 1 copper and 1 optical).

By the time this comes out, better-looking Mac Minis equipped with Haswell quad-cores will be out and selling for $800 and have greater compatibility with games on Steam. I don’t see how this thing does well.

Speaking of the Chinese iPhone 5 launch

So we know that on a “per 3G user basis,” the iPhone 5 did better in China than in the US. So why did everybody spin the story so negatively?

Brad Reed at BGR starts off with a jab at Apple fans’s self-esteems in a post titled “CHINA GIVES THE IPHONE 5 A CHILLY RECEPTION“:

Chinese consumers must not need self-esteem boosts, because they don’t seem interested in lining up overnight outside Apple (AAPL) stores for the launch of the iPhone 5. The Wall Street Journal reports that the iPhone 5′s launch in China has received a surprisingly muted response so far, as only two Apple fans had lined up outside Beijing’s flagship Apple store on Friday morning to buy the device.

Charles Arthur, “iPhone 5 launch fails to excite China“:

Apple shares fell 3.9% in early trading on Friday after the launch of its iPhone 5 received a frosty reception in China, and two analysts cut shipment forecasts.

Paul Mozur’s post for the Wall Street Journal is titled “A Frigid Launch for iPhone 5 in Beijing,” yet contains this interesting tidbit:

Tian Jisheng, one of the two waiting in the cold when the store opened, said the lottery was competitive. He said he used four identities to apply for phones, but was only given an appointment for one. “I thought I didn’t get it, but then after 8 pm I received a notice I had gotten one,” he said.

Two of these sources only had the Wall Street Journal’s information to go by, so they a) made up some smarmy shit about Apple fans waiting in line and b) totally ripped off the WSJ’s cold adjective thing. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal didn’t have much information to go by, so they came up with a sensationalist headline to get page views. This is tech “journalism” at its finest.

iPhone 5 twice as popular on launch in China than in the US

Horace Dediu:

It’s a lot less than what we saw with the iPhone in the US and the first tranche of launch countries. But it’s not far from the 2.6 achieved by the iPhone 4. The pricing and 3G penetration in China are far less favorable making this even more impressive.

According to ISI’s Brian Marshall, the iPhone achieved 1.5% penetration of the 3G subscriber base or 15 iPhones per 1000 3G subscribers. If we assumed the same basis (3G subs) that would make the iPhone 5 twice as popular on launch in China than in the US.

This is without even being available on China’s largest carrier, China Mobile.

Thoughts on the Nexus 7, two months in

In early November I made the decision to send my iPad 2 and Kindle home as presents to my younger sister and mom, respectively. I decided that I would replace both with one device, something with a 7- or 8-inch form factor. After being disappointed with the availability of the iPad Mini, I decided that I would give the Android ecosystem a shot and purchased a Nexus 7 at the Berkeley school store.

Rather than post my initial impressions of the device, I decided to get a few months of actual use out of it in order to give a better idea of what it’s like to use it on a regular basis. Two months in, I’ve done everything on it that I used to do my iPad. Here’s a list of what stuck out most to me from my time with Google’s first tablet:

  • Widgets, while cool in theory, really don’t serve much purpose in my use case. Out of the five home pages available, I use three – one for my most used apps and music controls, one for browser bookmarks and email, and one with a large widget of the albums I recently listened to. Besides the first page, which basically acts as my first page of apps on the iPad, the others are barely more useful than simply opening the apps. The bookmarks are convenient, but I could always not swipe over to the page and just tap on the Chrome icon to get to the bookmarks. The same can be said for email, and that requires less scrolling to see more of my inbox. The album widget is pretty nifty, but I don’t listen to music on my tablet as often as I do on my phone anyway.
  • Project Butter and quad-core processor be damned, this thing still stutters. Not in graphics-intense games, mind you – on small tasks, and in scrolling in the web browser. This happened occasionally on my iPad as well, but the increased frequency after switching is noticeable.
  • I haven’t found a suitable replacement for Reeder yet. This may simply be because of not enough searching on my part, but I miss the design and functionality of my go-to RSS reader.
  • Instapaper is worse on Android. Marco Arment didn’t develop this version, so I’m not putting the blame on him. With that said, not having The Feature available makes finding new things to read a bit of a pain in the ass, and articles that are formatted properly on the iOS version were so bad on Android that I would generally end up reading them in Chrome. Many of these were from the New York Times, so that might be an issue.
  • Google Music Manager is pretty nifty. I buy all my music from iTunes, and by having Music Manager installed on my laptop I automatically have all of the music available on the tablet as well.
  • It is incredibly nice being able to buy books from Amazon from within the Kindle app. I understand why Apple doesn’t allow it on iOS, but I still don’t like it.
  • Reading books on the Nexus 7 is much more comfortable than on the full-sized iPad. I can hold it in one hand for extended periods of time with no problem.
  • With that said, reading comics on the Nexus is not as enjoyable as on the iPad. Text is generally just a bit too small, and I found myself zooming in more than I liked and experiencing eye strain during and after reading.
  • Facebook on Android sucks. Even with the recent move to a native app, it’s slower and doesn’t work as well as on iOS.
  • Wi-Fi reception is worse than it was on my iPad. In my house in Berkeley, my iPad generally had access anywhere in the house. On the Nexus, I have to be sitting on the side of my room closest to the router, which is across a hallway from the router. Unacceptable.

Overall, would I recommend the Nexus 7 to a friend? That depends. If you’re adamant about only wanting to spend $200 for a tablet, then yeah, this is probably your best option. But if you’re willing to spend the money to have a better overall experience, the iPad Mini is the best you can buy. User interface preferences aside, it has better performance, better wireless access, 4G as an option, a bigger screen, and weighs less. While I don’t mind sticking with the Nexus for now, you can be sure I’ll be selling this to a friend and moving to an iPad Mini as soon as the next revision of it is available.

The Magazine, from the creator of Instapaper

The Magazine is for people who love technology, especially the internet, mobile, truly great personal computers, and related fields influenced by technology such as photography, publishing, music, and even coffee.

Rather than telling readers everything that happens in technology, we deliver meaningful editorial and big-picture articles.

I’ve only had the time to read the foreword and Guy English’s article, but I really like the idea of this. ​The interface is even simpler than Instapaper’s, the business model should be profitable from the beginning, and it even looks like it’s going to be a good deal for the writers:

If a good portion of today’s free-trial subscribers let their subscriptions continue into the paid period next week, it will be profitable then, just one week after launch. And I’m hoping they will, because not only will The Magazine be able to continue indefinitely, but I’ll be able to raise the author payment rates sooner than I expected

At only $2 per month, The Magazine is cheaper than even my subscriptions to individual bloggers’s sites. With two issues containing four articles each per month, that puts the cost of each article at a quarter (you like how I do that basic math for you? Yeah, you’re welcome.). If three out of four articles in each issue are at as great as Guy English’s piece in the first, I am totally fine paying for this in the foreseeable future.

With that said, I have to wonder where Marco is going to take this as it becomes a success, as I’m sure it will. It seems that his first priority is paying the writers well – something I appreciate as a blogger who would like to make some kind of living from this one day, but have mixed feelings about as a reader. My hope is that the magazine is a profitable as Marco says and that he can quickly raise the pay rates to levels competitive with major publications.

This would enable him to draw in some very talented people on a regular basis – this might be wrong, but I have a feeling that the first issues are all going to feature work by Marco’s friends in the blogosphere. Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing, as he’s friends with some very talented people – it’s just that people that read Marco’s blog also tend to read Gruber, Dalrymple, and the rest of the top Apple bloggers. It’d be nice to be exposed to some other voices.

Once he’s able to pay the writers more competitively, I’d also like to see more content per issue. With Marco’s reputation for the quality of his work and the publicity The Magazine is getting around the blogosphere, there is going to be a fucking ton of submissions by people who want their work so prominently featured. I’d love to have four articles a week by the established writers we know and trust and another two to four by writers who have yet to really be “discovered.” The Magazine could be the publication that puts the next generation of geek writers on the map.

On that note, time to think of something to submit.