Monthly Archives: August 2013

Yasiel Puig, Jack Clark, the new iPhone, Nissan Versa and other stuff on my mind

On weekends my mind’s real estate is more like an ancient city with its intractable alleys, and where I’m easily lost in forgotten crevices. On Sunday nights I always find myself returning home feeling as if I’ve left so much unexplored, but also satisfied by what I’ve done with the freedom time allots. Here are a few of the crevices I explored . . .

–> Who would you rather?

My friend Laurence Bekins showed me an article about SocialCrunch on PandoDaily, saying that it reminded him of a game called “Who would you rather” that was played at UBM, a company that once employed us both. I have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about, nor any recollection of what I did in the vast stupidity of my youth. (But if there was a game in which someone was forced to say if he or she would “rather” >insert lascivious action here< person X or person Y, I’m quite sure it was introduced into the company by a few people who came before me, and who will, for now, go unnamed . . . but they know who they are.)

–> Could you drive a Nissan Versa?

Certainly the Nissan Versa is a fine enough automobile, but on the west coast it surely must be designated as a kidnapper-mobile after its use in the tragic abduction of Hannah Anderson. Much as the Ford Bronco (unknown fact: I own one) is still associated with O.J. Simpson’s epic police chase, I’m not sure the Versa will ever overcome the assignation. Nissan should not only rename the car, it should issue a recall and slap a new label on every single one of them (or at least the blue ones). My suggestions for the new name: “The Nissan Hannah.” Or maybe call it “The Nissan Vice Versa.”

–> Food Hacks

These food hack videos are brilliant. They are short and useful and entertaining. The last two, especially the one on hiding your valuables at the beach, are great. The one on keeping your straw from floating out of the soda can is also good, but do people really use a straw in a soda can? Now if these guys can just come up with a hack for easily doing the dishes . . .

–> Where did Yasiel Puig come from?

The Los Angeles Dodgers have had quite a year, going from last to first, and there seems to be no end to the trajectory. The emergence of Yasiel Puig coincides with the period in which the Dodgers have been playing above .800 baseball, and while that time frame also includes many other great performances, like the unbelievable relief pitching and a scalding hot Hanley Ramirez, Puig has been the one dominating headlines. This phenom comes from Cuba, and his journey to the United States is still a mystery, and includes speculation that he came via Mexico, and that he was delivered through a network controlled by a Mexican drug cartel. In other words we may never know exactly how he got here, but if we did, maybe we could write it into the next immigration reform legislation.

Read this great Yahoo Sports story on part of Puig’s journey.

–> Does WGNU in St. Louis have any guts? Or is Jack Clark crazy?

Retired baseball player Jack Clark, in his first week co-hosting a sports talk radio show in St. Louis, accused (or perhaps inferred) Los Angeles Angels star Albert Pujols and Detroit Tiger pitcher Justin Verlander of using PEDs. WGNU fired Clark and Pujols is saying that he’s going to sue Jack Clark. In the case of Pujols, Clark claims that Chris Mihfield, Pujols’ personal trainer, told him that Pujols was using PEDs.

These are dangerous times, where players are frequently viewed as guilty due to drastic changes in performance, or appearance, or both. Pujols has long been the subject of PED speculation, and like every other player in his situation, he not only denies it vehemently, but attempts to ruin the lives of those making the insinuations. If he’s innocent, he has every right to contemplate a lawsuit (although if Mihfield is his source, he’s got a bit of protection there; Mihfield is also denying having told Clark that Pujols was juicing). If he’s guilty, he’ll become the next Lance Armtsrong or Ryan Braun.

The swiftness with which the St. Louis radio station fired Clark is mysterious. It wasn’t a suspension, followed by some fact-finding. Just a firing. Maybe Clark is crazy and half-cocked, and this was just far past what the station could accept, but if they’re simply tucking tail, shame on them.

–> The new iPhones are here!

Apple will unveil its next iPhone on September 10, according to AllThingsD, which rarely gets major news happenings wrong. Apple’s reputation has taken a beating lately, since the only real breakout smartphone news the company has had centers on a new look for iOS. The natives, as they say, are restless. Will Apple come out with something that is both new and affordable? Maybe something bigger? Maybe both?

For Apple to outdo expectations this time around, they’ll have to do something big, something surprising. We will likely see different form factors and price points, although Apple is loathe to go completely down market. Big deals would include something meaningful around commerce, or a TV or video subscription service (just a start here would be fine). But these things are mostly powered in software, or in the cloud, or through partnerships. The phone hardware hardly matters now. Give people better battery life (if they JUST fix this, they’ve won), a thinner and bigger phone, a few more colors, a better camera coupled with some fancy photo capabilities, maybe NFC and fingerprint authentication and you’ve done all you can.

–> TechCrunchy?

I haven’t read TechCrunch for a while. After all the principle players left, I found the writing and editing uneven or poor, and the stories were often of the “me too” variety. But this weekend, I did find one interesting article that delved into what Amazon and Zappos are doing in Las Vegas. A bit utopian, but it’s still a fun read.

–> One more thing

What I’m working on: For this week, I’ve got a story coming on why SAP mobile president Sanjay Poonen left his cushy post to go run end user computing at VMWare (not really VMWare’s sexiest place to be, it would seem to me). I’m also looking at SnapLogic, which makes technology that allows enterprise IT to connect cloud applications. Right now, it sounds too good to be true. We’ll see.

What I’m drinking: I continue to visit as many different coffee shops as I can. One of my favorites is Portola Coffee Lab in Costa Mesa. It’s crazy expensive, but you can get your coffee made just about as perfectly as it’s capable of being made. It also does food pairings, which you have to sign up for. It is insanely well staffed, has lots of choices, and a very palatable work environment . . . except that the WiFi is so poor that I suspect I could carry my bits out of the building faster. That pretty much prevents me from every working there, unless what I need to do doesn’t require the interwebs.

Another favorite is Kean Coffee in Newport Beach. It’s owned by Martin Diedrich, who makes a big deal about how he selects his beans. I’ve actually seen his team in the store doing tastings. When I really want to buy the best coffee to make at home, I go there. But I can’t work there: the place is absolutely packed, so it’s hard to find a table, and there’s no WiFi.

My other favorite place is in San Juan Capistrano, and it’s called Hidden House Cafe. It’s tucked away behind the train tracks in the historic Los Rios part of this great town. Like Kean and Portola, Hidden House roasts single origin coffees. It also has a killer carrot cake muffin and almond croissant.  I go to Hidden House most often because it’s close, it has great WiFi and it’s just a pleasant place to work; on the downside, it doesn’t have close to the variety of coffee that Kean and Portola Coffee Lab have. All of them, by the way, provide elegant latte art.

Now to the original question: I’m drinking either the El Salvador or the Ethiopian from Hidden House this week (I worked at Hidden House on Saturday morning). I bought a bit of both. French Press, of course. And black, since you asked.

What I’m listening to: Avicii’s Wake Me Up. I just can’t get enough of that haunting voice and that folk-meets-rave mix.

What I’m reading: This week I hope to finish John Banville’s Ancient Light.

Pole dancing, resistive RAM, SAP, mullets, startups galore; aka my eclectic reading habits today

My simple goal is that you’ll never figure me out: why I read what I read, why I write what I write, why I like to put the silky part of a blanket on my face like I did when I was three years old (I will later claim that the last part of that sentence was an iPhone auto-correct). So I offer you my daily intake for the past 24 hours.

–> SAP finishes hybris deal. (And a shameless plug.)

The acquisition spree of Oracle, Salesforce and SAP seems never ending. It’s even wearing me out a bit, and I was initially skeptical and lethargic about the SAP-hybris deal, but the more I dug into it, the more excited I got. hybris is the real deal, taking on the likes of IBM, Oracle and eBay, legitimately, in e-commerce. But e-commerce is so much more in this new world of customer experience. I published a piece on PandoDaily that goes into a bit more depth, and also gives my take on why the company spells its name with a lower case “h” (hint: it’s all about ee cummings). And Doug Henschen, my former InformationWeek colleague and perhaps the best enterprise software writer out there today, also published an excellent analysis.

Coverage: Here’s my piece, and here’s Doug’s.

–> What’s your next smart phone?

I’ve been thinking a great deal about what my next smartphone will be, given that my contract with AT&T was up, I moved to T-Mobile, and I still haven’t bought the newest phone. I have, on loan from Samsung, the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy Note II. The Note II is a little big for my taste and I force myself to use the pen just for testing purposes. With the new Motorola phone (nothing special on the hardware side, but a couple of interesting features on the software side, most notably the ability to “listen” for my commend), and LG’s new and gigantic G2, not to mention the waterproof Sony Xperia Z and the HTC One, the choice really comes down to more than just phone tech specs. The phone is a bit of a status item, so what it looks like matters, and how it feels (after all, you have to carry it around wherever you go), but things like how quickly you can take a picture, and the software features that make the phone a true digital assistant will become the crucial decision points for most people.

Coverage: See this excellent piece on ZDNet on why hardware specs will start to matter less. Also, read my friend Harry McCracken’s piece on Time on the Sony Xperia Z (by the way, you can get any smartphone waterproofed by companies like Liquipel). And finally, while I really like the new BlackBerry Z10, that company keeps coming up short — here’s a piece on ZDNet about more executive departures, and a piece on GigaOm about Microsoft making inroads on BlackBerry.

Bonus: What, you want my choice?! OK, I’d buy the Samsung Galaxy S4 if you put a gun to my head right now. I wrote about why I think the Galaxy S4  is THE ONE back in April, and not much has changed my mind.

–> Can’t we just get to the pole dancing? (aka “what some of my friends are doing”)

Some of my friends and former colleagues are up to some fun things lately. First, Georgina Burnett — on-camera superstar, life coach, director, producer — decided to take up pole dancing and produced a video (no! it’s not like that! it’s exercise, not stripping!). Second, my former boss Ed Grossman launched his new company Activate — I think it’s going to be very exciting. Third, Andie Rhyins, another former colleague from my UBM days has joined a new media company, called Ozy Media. And finally, my good friend and colleague David Berlind has taken the post of editor-in-chief for Programmable Web, one of my favorites.

Coverage: Here’s Georgina’s video, and Ed Grossman’s latest post, and a Fortune piece on Ozy Media, and finally the announcement about David.

–> OK, now you’re going to bore us with some techie thing on Resistive RAM?

Flash memory is all the rage. No, seriously, it is. OK, so don’t believe me, but one of the interesting new developments is around Resistive RAM and a company called Crossbar. The memory chips Crossbar is making hold a terabyte of data, are super fast and very efficient. HP apparently created the idea, using what it calls memristors (there’s also a company by that name, I’ve heard). Freescale spun out a company called Everyspin that makes magnetic RAM (MRAM). Bottom line: your computing devices are going to practically have the capacity of data center servers!

Coverage: Here’s VentureBeat’s piece on Crossbar.

–> Startups from New York City’s Dreamit.

I love startups. The demo day from Dreamit featured several interesting ones. My favorite, in reading the coverage, was Miner, which creates a virtual storefront on your mobile phone, based on your location. Also, TradeUp brings builds a connection between online courses and entry-level jobs.

Coverage: VentureBeat has a list of 15, BusinessInsider picked 5, and PandoDaily covered its favorite, TradeUp.

–> One more thing.

I’m always reading The New York Time’s Maureen Dowd.

Bonus: What I’m drinking. I love coffee, but I especially love the specialty roasters that are popping up everywhere and I like to try them all out. I recently visited Bird Rock in San Diego, and bought the Ethiopian Natural Yirgacheffe. It’s dry processed, and I really like the subtle flavors of blueberry and strawberry (yes, I’m one of >those< people, but I refuse to use words like “notes” (as in “notes of blueberry”) and “mouthfeel” (as in “chocolatey mouthfeel”).

What I’m reading & why: August 6, 2013

As a technology journalist, part of my job is to keep up on the industry beyond what I’m able to cover day-to-day. Occasionally I’ll share a list of pieces I’m reading and what strikes me about them, just briefly. I’ll also expand a bit beyond just technology when the mood incites me. You’ll find that my main sources of information don’t change that much, but I hope to evolve that in time (sometimes I just come to rely on certain brands for certain insights).

–> Media will never be the same.

Recent days have seen Newsweek, post-failure number 2, go to International Business Times, the Boston Globe extricating itself from the New York Times, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos making a personal purchase of The Washington Post, a newspaper I grew up with and am still very fond of.

Coverage: An excellent New York Times piece on Tina Brown (she tried to merge The Daily Beast and Newsweek into . . . something), The Wall Street Journal on the Bezos-WaPo hookup (I also liked this PandoDaily piece from Sarah Lacy), and just for fun GigaOm’s story on one of my new favorite web publications, Quartz, and its spin on incorporating reader engagement alongside the content. For a look at how Demand Media is evolving its business model, read PandoDaily’s analysis of eHow Now, a subscription service that matches experts with audience in near real time.

–> Fun Startups

For my money, PandoDaily and VentureBeat have been covering some really interesting startups lately. Here’s a PandoDaily piece on Food52, an interesting food recipe site with a slightly different model, and VentureBeat’s post on UrbanBound, an online relocation service;

–> FreedomPop expands its network offerings to Sprint LTE.

I’m not sure why MVNO (mobile virtual network operator: it’s not operating the network, but it’s acting as if it does) news like this is getting so much play today, especially when it involves Sprint LTE, but I suppose part of the appeal is that this growing service (it has 100,000 customers and growing) keeps adding to its lore. FreedomPop offers customers 500 MB of broadband service for free, and charges above that threshhold.

Coverage: On VentureBeat and GigaOm.

–> Misfit Shine sexy wearable tech (but what the f$#% does it do?!)

Wearable tech (gadget watches, health bands, Google Glass and other sensor-based technology) is all the rage, and everyone is looking for that first big hit. AllthingsD wrote about Shine, with backing from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Vinod Khosla’s Khosla Ventures, and co-founded by former Apple CEO John Sculley. The piece talks at length about how pretty and jewelry-like the device is, but never really quite explains what it does.

Coverage: On AllThingsD.

–> InfoSec bonanza

Information security continues to be a top concern at most companies, and new products and new approaches are always emerging, even during the summer; perhaps specifically during the summer, thanks to the annual summer gathering called Black Hat, a premier security industry conference in Las Vegas (disclosure: I led the acquisition of Black Hat by my former company, United Business Media).

Coverage: Here’s GigaOm’s piece on Defense.net, a DDOS-defender flush with $9.5 million in Series A funding. Also, here’s VentureBeat’s article on FireEye’s IPO (FireEye is one of a handful of startups in the active defense space, and its CEO is Dave DeWalt, former CEO of security giant, McAfee, which is now part of Intel). Also, my former colleague Tim Wilson, who heads up Dark Reading, wrote this post summarizing some of the Black Hat Conference themes. Finally, here is CRN’s list of 14 hot companies coming out of Black Hat.

–> That one more thing: SAP’s Sanjay Poonen to VMWare?!

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote in PandoDaily about all of the departures and re-shuffling that seemed to be happening in the industry, especially at VMWare, SAP, along with Microsoft, Google and Fusion-io. One of SAP’s departures was its mobile chief, Sanjay Poonen, who seems to have landed at VMWare.

Apple silence is deafening and even Obama can’t help

We’ve heard only whispers lately of the mobile patent wars of 2012, but this weekend President Obama vetoed an International Trade Commission import ban on older iPhones and iPads, which the agency had ruled were violating Samsung patents. At this point, Apple can use a little help, even from the White House. Indeed, at Apple’s new pace (read: slow) it’s unclear which iPhones and iPads don’t fall under the “older” label.

Samsung continues to flood the market with new phones, trying out every shape and size and name; I mean, honestly, “Mega”? What’s next, the Samsung Absurd? But the company has a couple of unmistakable hits with its Galaxy S line (now at S4) and it’s phabulous phablet, the Note (now at Note II). I have been using both, and while I prefer the S4, sometimes I find that I rarely have to use my iPad when I’ve got the Note II.

Meanwhile, in less than a month, Samsung will likely come out with the Note III, if the tea leaves are being read correctly. The company has invited the press to an announcement on September 4. The screen size is expected to bump up to 5.7 inches (from 5.5 inches), with a resolution of 1920×1280 (from 1280×800), and it is also rumored to have a 13 megapixel camera (the Note II has an 8 megapixel camera).

This follows the much-anticipated announcement of Motorola’s Moto X, the company’s first real flagship phone as part of Google. The Moto X was more modest in hardware features, but made up for it with some exciting software additions.

Meanwhile, HTC is rumored to be announcing its own phablet, the HTC Max, in September. (What comes after “Max”?)

All of which begs the question: how can Apple possibly keep up, introducing one device at a time? The company long ago ceded the smartphone category to Android, but now it seems to also be losing its edge in tablets: IDC’s latest numbers reveal the slippage, in the midst of a continued tablet boom.

A helping hand from the President isn’t going to help. Your move, Apple.

A night in suburbia with Styx and new memories

It has become suburban habit to gather in gated communities on a summer night, congregating in a park beneath stars and moon and the steady sedation of bottled cocktails, awash in anticipation of some forgotten musician bent on squeezing a few final pennies from the remnants of our memories. Saturday night in Mission Viejo, CA, it was Dennis DeYoung, the former lead singer and songwriter for Styx. He played mostly Styx music, the sole exception being “Desert Moon,” a hit from his days as a solo artist.

Here’s are seven things I learned that night:

1.) DeYoung, at 66, is still an incredible vocalist. He doesn’t have the strength and range to sing every song, but he comes through with surprising vocal polish in those classic ballads, like “Lady” and “Babe.”

2.) All of the big wind-up songs — “Grand Illusion,” “Come Sail Away,” “Best of Times” — sound formulaic by today’s standards: the heavy dose of synthesizer, the perfunctory pause for the obligatory guitar solo, and the slow build up from drippingly sweet ballad to all-out guitar rock-outs.

3.) Not that DeYoung and Styx were ever, you know, Ozzie and Black Sabbath, but it’s still difficult to see him prancing around in a white pants and a vest, telling corny jokes and, it must be said, seeming more like Barry Manilow than long-haired rock star. It makes me cringe to think that, 25 years from now, my kids will have to watch Billy Corgan croon “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” with kick-line dancers or something.

4.) Of all the Styx hits, who would have guessed that “Mr. Roboto” would be the most anticipated? For me, though, it was “Renegade,” and the memory of it caught me a little by surprise.

5.) DeYoung wrote “Babe” as a gift for his wife and recorded it as a simple demo. Styx producers heard it and thought it might make for a hit. DeYoung met his wife when he was 17, and she 15, at a high school dance. They’ve been married for 43 years. I’m unclear, but dazzled that his marriage lasted through a successful musical career. Bravo.

6.) Suburbia is an easy target. It is sport to identify the archetype. But there is an unabashed spirit there, too, one that champions love of family and friends, even if the chicken wings come from Costco.

7.) Children will always surpass your expectations, and in ways you hadn’t imagined. As I drove my 20-something daughter home at the end of the night, after another painful week of family implosion, she reminded me that despite what often feels like the defiant daily refrain of failure, our family had accomplished incredible success. I drove off renewed, and in my head I heard Dennis DeYoung’s words from “Lady” again: “your hands build me up when I’m sinking.”

Welcome

Welcome to my new home page. I will be updating my site in the coming day. In the mean time, enjoy this read:

My latest on PandoDaily, answering the question: Why do Salesforce and Oracle keep buying social and marketing companies?  http://ow.ly/ny0YO

This is a piece about the evolution of digital business, about a 360-degree view of the customer, the ability to listen to that customer by observing behavior and listening to social signals, and then delivering offers and opportunities at just the right time in the customer buying cycle. Oracle and Salesforce have spent billions of dollars on acquiring expertise in this digital marketing supply chain, and there are many other companies springing up to fulfill on this promise.