Are Silicon Valley companies only making products for people in Silicon Valley?

I have some issues with this piece by Nick Bilton for The New York Times:

Belshe and Bill Lee were continually running late for meetings and texting each other: “I’ll be there in 5 mins!” So they created Twist, a 10-person start-up in the city’s South of Market neighborhood. The company’s first product is a smartphone app that helps you tell someone you’re late by showing your location on a map. Investors liked the idea enough to give Twist $6 million in venture financing last year.

“We thought there had to be something better than sending a text message,” Mr. Belshe said in a phone interview. “We were trying to tackle that problem of meeting up and making it easier.”

Is Twist a great idea, or are Mr. Belshe and Mr. Lee falling into a local propensity for creating a product for technophile friends rather than the public?

Bilton’s point is that this seems like it would only benefit techie types. But who wouldn’t benefit from an app that can tell that you’re running late and messages those you have an appointment with? Seems like the kind of thing that could curb texting and driving.

That’s not to say there aren’t still people thinking about big markets. Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, which sells electric cars that can cost more than $100,000, said last week at the D: All Things Digital conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., that he hoped to offer a $30,000 version of the car in the next five years.

No, that’s not what Musk is proposing. He’s not going to bring the Model S to market for 33-50% of the current price. Tesla’s going to introduce a new model in 2015 that will compete with the likes of BMW’s 3-Series, which is a totally different market and price category.

But besides these minor gripes, my main issue with the article is that as a society, the general trend is everyone becoming more technologically savvy over time. Someone has to lead that push, and it might as well be the people making the technology.

Imagine if Nick’s argument had been applied to smartphones: “People don’t need apps and mobile Internet and video cameras in their phones. They just want to make phone calls.” Where would we be if Silicon Valley thought like that?

Rather than increasing focus on technology, states are removing computer requirements altogether

Tech industry gender gap: Closing it starts in the classroom:

Take Kansas, where the education establishment thought it already had computing covered through vocational courses in typing and Microsoft Office. When the state’s Board of Regents realized that most kids learn basic computer skills through other courses, it cut the “computer technology” requirement altogether, instead of updating it to include actual code. (What the board didn’t realize is that many high schools, realizing its students were literate with computers, used the requirement to develop courses involving computer science.) 

“Most people think that our kids are coming out of childhood with computer skills that are relevant and useful,” says Tabitha Hogan, who teaches in a district an hour south of Wichita, Kansas and leads the state’s Computer Science Teachers Association chapter. “That’s what’s hurting us. They might be savvy enough to do something quickly with their friends in social media, but not to really develop their own ideas.”

Introductory computer science courses should be mandatory in every high school in this country. Having a surface-level grasp on programming – even just knowing what can be realistically be done with code – is going to be just as important to workers in the future as knowing proper grammar and basic math is today. 

The fact that Kansas removed the technology requirement altogether is despicable and an embarrassment for everyone in the state.

Journalists leaving media to work for start-ups

The Journalist’s New Escape Plan: Start-Ups:

Others, like former Wired editor Evan Hansen, who recently joined Ev Williams’ blogging start-up Medium as an editor, dismiss the idea that the switch has anything to do with job security. “This is not about finding a safe place to keep doing the same old same old, but about inventing something new and having a place at the table with tech innovators who have the capacity to actually build it,” he said.

And then there’s the money. While leaving a traditional newsroom for a younger tech company is still risky, there’s at least the promise of stock options and the lure of a grand exit, which are both exciting as well as rare opportunities in media, a field not known for its exorbitant salaries. In the not-so-distant past, a successful tenure as a reporter or editor could mean a corner office or a cushy columnist job at an elite publication — or perhaps an offer to “sell out” to a more lucrative job at a codependent PR firm. Today, it could very well mean a modest buyout as the company clears room for younger reporters with lower salaries.

I think that in the next five-to-ten years the news media is going to reach some kind of equilibrium, either through the use of paywalls or through better forms of advertising. What I’m hoping – for my own career’s sake – is that once that point is reached, sites will be able to slowly expand and we can go back to the days of stable careers at institutions that aren’t on the verge of failing.

Mostly because freelancing sounds incredibly stressful. 

What will we do when all the jobs are gone?

After Your Job Is Gone:

Do you have a job? Do you like having a job? Then I have some bad news for you. The Guardian is worried “today’s technologies are going to remove people from economic activity completely.” Techonomy says “America’s real worker crisis is not immigration, it is jobs.” Om Malik asks: “People talk about robot-helpers and an army of drones, but…what is going to happen to millions of people who will be replaced by those drones and robots?”

Wrong tense: the right question is what is happening.

An excellent article by Jon Evans for TechCrunch.

Machines and the software that runs them are going to make most workers completely unnecessary over the next few decades. So what will we do?

It’s not like everyone can be a programmer or an engineer – hell, even those can be automated to a degree. Are we going to have a moderately-taxed classed of super-rich that finances a “basic income” (or in libertarian terms, “negative income tax”) for everyone else?

Or are we going to let millions struggle for the few jobs that are left until we go through some kind of global revolution that sends us back to the Dark Ages?

CNET puts words in the mouth of Intel CEO, then hides it

CNET, yesterday:

Intel CEO Paul Otellini last week said touchscreen PCs could debut at prices as low as $200 in the coming months. At the time, he didn’t specify what operating system those products would run.

But Dadi Perlmutter, Intel executive vice president and chief product officer, told CNET on Wednesday that notebooks priced at the $200 level will predominantly be Android products running on Intel’s Atom mobile processor. Whether Windows 8 PCs hit that price largely depends on Microsoft, he said.

CNET last week, originally:

Windows 8 touch laptop prices are headed south. Way south, according to Intel executives.

The price of Windows 8 touch devices, including laptops, will sink to price points that penetrate inexpensive tablet territory. These new “innovative” designs will be based on Intel’s upcoming quad-core “Bay Trail” chip, Intel executives said today during the company’s first-quarter earnings conference call.

CNET last week, updated:

Touch laptop prices are headed south. Way south, according to Intel executives.

The price of Intel-based touch devices, including laptops, will sink to price points that penetrate inexpensive tablet territory. These new “innovative” designs will be based on Intel’s Atom chip, Intel executives said today during the company’s first-quarter earnings conference call.

CNET’s update note on that article:

Updated on April 19 at 1:05 p.m. PST: adds discussion about inexpensive Android devices. Updated throughout.

The editors at CNET did a pretty good job of covering up that fact that their writer basically quoted the CEO of Intel saying something he totally didn’t say.

How Internet Detectives Got It Very Wrong

Dave Lee, Technology reporter for BBC News:

For the past 48 hours, internet users have been working with each other to piece together clues about the culprits of the Boston bombings. The result? They got it wrong – and left innocent people fearing for their safety. Many are now asking: should “crowd-sourced investigations” be stopped?

Thousands have been tirelessly picking through the evidence – every piece of video footage, every photo, every eyewitness account they can get their hands on.

But this investigation wasn’t within the confidential confines of the FBI or local police.

This disaster has shown a few darker sides to the internet. One is the “RT for support” profiteering missions on Twitter, another is the “share if you care for the Boston victims” idiotic attention-seeking posts on Facebook but the one that trumps all is the crazy “crowd-sourced” crime busting we’ve seen on Reddit or 4Chan.

My personal view is that this is incredibly dangerous. We’ve already seen a witch hunt for innocent people already, courtesy of the New York Post. The image they used for their front page were popularised and publicised through online communities such as Reddit.

This has harmed actual people’s lives. It’s easy for people to forget that while they’re busy being fake investigators, they are dealing with real people in the photos and are meddling with the fact that on the internet it’s uncontrollably easy for something to go viral. What these people are doing by taking the law into their own, under-qualified, hands is playing with both the integrity of the law enforcement investigation, as well as makein people potentially fear for their lives. Witch hunts were bad in the real analogue world anyway. When you add in the explosive nature of the internet, shit can hit the fan at one hundred times the speed.

Despite personal opinion however, this incident marks a new era of private investigation (or vigilantism, depending on your outlook on life). The article linked provides a good summary of events and opinions from both side of the argument. Check it out.

Intel brags that next generation of Windows 8 devices will cost $200

Windows 8 touch devices to drop to $200, says Intel CEO | Business Tech – CNET News:

Windows 8 touch laptop prices are headed south. Way south, according to Intel executives.

The price of Windows 8 touch devices, including laptops, will sink to price points that penetrate inexpensive tablet territory. These new “innovative” designs will be based on Intel’s upcoming quad-core “Bay Trail” chip, Intel executives said today during the company’s first-quarter earnings conference call.

“If you look at touch-enabled Intel-based notebooks that are ultrathin using [Bay Trail] processors. Those prices are going to be down to as low as $200,” said Intel CEO Paul Otellini.

It would be awesome if Intel would stop spouting bullshit and deliver. Every quarter of every year, it’s “this new Atom processor is going to give you infinite battery life and super fast performance and hey look you can play Crysis on low at native resolution on this netbook!”

Enough already.

I’m going to go ahead and call this: if a device comes out this year running Windows 8 and it’s priced at $200 and it’s a notebook, no one will buy it. Why? Because no one wants a shitty plastic netbook anymore. If there were a market for netbooks, companies would be still making them. Which they aren’t. 

Plus, there’s no way that manufacturers could hit that $200 price point without compromising on literally everything – screen resolution, viewing angles, the amount of RAM, battery life, keyboard, all craptastic. Yet these companies act like the key to bringing back PC sales is more of this race to the bottom that has been going on  (outside of Apple) for the last two decade.

“Would You Tweet This Article if It Earned You Points?”

Would You Tweet This Article if It Earned You Points?:

Content, available in English, will initially be free. When readers log on to the site for the first time, they’ll receive a certain number of points—Chang calls them “karma points”—which will slowly be depleted as they click through articles. To restock on points and maintain access, they will have to share the site’s stories through social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. It’s a bit like multilevel marketing—the more readers spread articles, the greater their access. Those who bristle at being asked to share content can buy points; five points will cost 99¢. “I’m sort of riding off of a gaming model where, instead of pay to play, you can share to play,” Chang says.

Chang plans to pay contributors a competitive up-front fee but also give them a percentage of revenue generated by their articles. “We’ll know the click-through rates for every single article, so we can actually give you a cut for the advertising that goes through,” she says. “You won’t get paid once; you’ll get paid continuously.” Chang plans to bring in revenue by running the site as a data platform—a way of collecting reader data that can be shared with third parties—and deploying targeted advertising.

Take two things I hate: free-to-play gaming with in-app purchases/DLC and page view blogging that promotes eye-catching headlines and controversial stances. Mash them together. Congratulations, you have the first issue of Sasangge.

Gamification is a neat concept, but just because you can apply it to something doesn’t mean you should.

PC Shipments Post the Steepest Decline Ever in a Single Quarter

PC Shipments Post the Steepest Decline Ever in a Single Quarter, According to IDC:

Despite some mild improvement in the economic environment and some new PC models offering Windows 8, PC shipments were down significantly across all regions compared to a year ago. Fading Mini Notebook shipments have taken a big chunk out of the low-end market while tablets and smartphones continue to divert consumer spending. PC industry efforts to offer touch capabilities and ultraslim systems have been hampered by traditional barriers of price and component supply, as well as a weak reception for Windows 8. The PC industry is struggling to identify innovations that differentiate PCs from other products and inspire consumers to buy, and instead is meeting significant resistance to changes perceived as cumbersome or costly.

Ouch.

Apple fared better than the overall U.S. market, but still saw shipments decline as its own PCs also face competition from iPads.

Microsoft wishes it had that problem.

Samsung announces Megazord

Engadget: Samsung Galaxy Mega is official and comes in 6.3- and 5.8-inch sizes.

Neither of those is very big for a Megazord. What the hell Samsung, I thought you were leading the push for bigger electronics?

Oh, this isn’t a Megazord. It’s a phone with a name that would have been cool in the 90s.

Damn.

Anyways, Ubergizmo got a look at the phone. Here’s how they addressed where the Galaxy Mega fits in to Samsung’s lineup: 

The Galaxy Mega is not meant as being the new high-end specs performer. Instead, it is a smartphone that was designed to maximize the utilization comfort and the productivity of key visual apps that can run very well on a dual-core processor (like email, web pages, reading, typing, photos).

 You get worse performance in exchange for a bigger screen. Don’t think I could make that trade-off.