Posts Tagged ‘ Technology ’

Tech Deals

Whenever people see my collection of technology, they either get the impression that I’m rich or I squander away my fortunes. But having technology isn’t as expensive as you may think and I’ll show you in this new segment. Let’s start with basics that even grandma can get in on. You may be bumming out on that missed chance over black Friday and maybe cyber Monday didn’t rack in the treasure trove you expected to but don’t fret, it’s not over yet. This season is ripe with deals from online retailers; Chiefly Amazon.com. Just watch the hourly deals ticker and you’ll be sure to find yourself a steal. Last year during this post black Friday/pre Christmas sale I was able to snag a pair Monster Turbines for $54.99, these things retail for 129+ regularly so that’s a pretty steep mark down. If you’re looking for a phone, get a new line of service and you’ve got yourself a free high-end smartphone (I’m talking Galaxy, Droid and all of HTC’s offerings, not the cheap stuff) for a penny shipped! Also, if you got that great deal on the TV or Monitor or speaker system, don’t buy the cables in-store! Store often mark up these products to make up for the lowered price on the real tech. And no matter how many BestBuy employees tell you that you need gold plated connections, don’t buy it. If you go to Amazon you can have a brand new pair shipped the next day for 5 bucks or less (assuming that you have Prime, which you should). Newegg, TigerDirect and other retailers also blow out their inventories around this time so if you’re at a desk job or have access to the internet otherwise, it can’t hurt to check out these and other top sites once every hour or two. That’s it for now but there’s definitely more to come!

 

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Kindle Fire Reviewed

Hey folks, good news! Reviews for the highly anticipated Kindle Fire are finally out and they’ve kinda been what I expected at first but didn’t want to accept. When it was announced, the price and visual appeal were enough to make me think of it as the ultimate tablet. I completely overlooked the smartphone level specs and small screen size and how they would inhibit the device’s operations but that becomes apparent the moment you try to load websites, pinch to zoom or view magazines. But, thanks to Amazon’s Silk browser, this tablet is actually still competing with the new 7-inch Galaxy Tab. The fact that a $200 tablet was able to beat a tablet twice it’s price at all deserves huge praise. So, if you go in expecting something on par with the iPad, of course you’re gonna be disappointed and that’s not Amazon’s fault. But if you’re looking at other sub $300 tablets, Amazon’s offering is sleeker, faster and has a much better UI and app selection. There just isn’t any competition here. A solid 3.5 out of 5 (or 4 if you’re going in with the right expectations) is very well deserved.

Google VS. Apple

Google’s been on a tear lately with its Android operating system. It has become the most popular phone operating system, commanding 40% of the smart phone market, and still expanding at an incredible rate. It’s hard to imagine that the adorable little green android’s humble beginnings on the bulky, sluggish, and unpromising T-Mobile G1. From there came a torrential downpour of phones, each better than the last until finally we had a true iPhone competitor with the HTC Incredible (Verizon’s rendition of the first Google Nexus phone). From then on it has been a chase, every year Apple would announce a new phone that would blow all the current Android phones out of the water and the enclave of Android would continue to push back until a clear competitor would arise and the cycle continues. But, while this trend is what makes Android profitable, it is also a huge crutch moving forward. Android is the bestselling OS by far but three major aspects of its growth keep it far behind Apple’s throne:

  1. In all its growth, the Android OS has managed to completely avoid Apple’s market share. Apple has been growing steadily and untouched since the first iPhone came out. Every year they break records (4 million in the first weekend this year) and every year they mint more and more income. Android has actually planted itself in the lush soil left behind by decaying giants Nokia, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry.                     
  2. Android also isn’t that profitable once you break it down. Google actually makes little or no money on the operating system itself, it just gives it away and profits on the tail end with the search engine, baked in services and (mainly) Android Market… That’s how it’s supposed to work at least. In reality the Android Appstore isn’t even as profitable as Blackberry App World even though it commands more than twice the market share. The companies are also not touching Apple’s numbers individually.      
  3. And the biggest reason, like it or not, is that they’re just not Apple. Before you light your torches, let me explain myself. An Apple product just has an air of prestige and class that no Android phone has matched to date. Even six months after the iPhone 4 was announced, it was still outselling the latest and greatest of the Androids even with their dual-core, LTE, massive screen and all that. No Android has ever been a heavy hitter after more than three months of shelf life.
               

And I shouldn’t forget to mention Apple’s earnings on the iPhone. No phone comes close to having the same market dominance as the iPhone. In fact, carriers pay top dollar just to have the iPhone in their line up just because it brings that many customers. Sprint’s deal to get the iPhone on their shelves is losing them money and they won’t start making returns on profit until 2015! That just shows you how strong a presence the iPhone has. Add to that the amount of capital Apple has to put towards R&D for new devices and their complete control of hardware and software and it doesn’t look like they’re being dethroned any time soon.

Amazon’s Long Game (and Wall Street’s Woes)

 

Q3 earnings calls came out last week and they had Wall Street worried about Amazon’s prospects. The problem is that Amazon has been losing money even with its incredible, record-breaking sales volumes and income. But, this doesn’t mean that you should throw your Amazon shares out the window just yet. As much as analysts hate the idea, Amazon’s actually taking a loss now in order to gain more in the long run. Case in point, the new Kindles. The new Kindles with ads aren’t making strong returns on sales right away and the Kindle Fire is actually costing Amazon about $10 a piece, with pre-sales already in the millions. What’s harder to see in these numbers is the future return on the investment. With the Kindle readers, Amazon just has to sit back and watch the money roll in from ads throughout the device’s life span. But the Kindle Fire is a trickier beast. With the Fire, Amazon is deploying a number of tactics to make sure it gets returns on its investment: Operating system, Amazon’s Ecosystem and the Silk Browser.

 

Operating System:

 

The Fire isn’t running vanilla Android, far from it. The Operating system has been heavily coated and tied down with Amazon services. You can’t even access Google’s Android Market from the device. While this might sound like a negative, it’s actually almost necessary for Amazon to turn a profit on its tablet business. Android apps are notoriously easy to download and play for free from the device’s browser, and when the plan is to make a profit on the tail end… that can really be a problem. Instead, Amazon has its own Appstore on the device and the version of Android is different enough that you can’t just download pirated apps. The lack of an SD card also closes a lot of leaks such as side-loading illegally. And the ties to Amazon services aren’t exactly hurting the company either, which takes us to our next topic….

 

Amazon’s Ecosystem:

A major fact we shouldn’t forget about the Fire, it’s basically a glorified Amazon storefront. All the Amazon services are riding on board so you have access to the app store, kindle store, music/video stores and let’s not forget Amazon.com in its entirety. Everything you could ever want you can purchase straight from the device anywhere, any time. And just to get you hooked, Amazon has the one-click purchase so you can spend without realizing it and throws in a free month of Amazon Prime. After just a month of access to the thousands of videos on demand and free second day shipping, most people will probably find it in their hearts to pay the yearly fee. And because of the device’s ridiculously low price, people will definitely be coming back to buy. This factor alone will probably assure a tidy return.

 

Silk Browser:

 

To squeeze even more money out of the device, Amazon played a dirty little trick on us with Silk. The Silk browser (developed in-house by Amazon) actually runs most of the tasks on Amazon’s servers, making for a faster browsing experience… but that’s only a front. On the backend, the browser funnels user information straight to Amazon. Just imagine how powerful that information is. The device has your name and account information tied to it and added to that they also know what you’re interested in from your searches, what you watch, what you listen to, what you read and what you’ve bough. And they have access to the rest of your information through other web services you use… talk about a gold mine. That information could be used to make extremely targeted ads or sold to third party companies who’ve only seen such user information in their wet dreams. I’m not saying that there is no end-user benefit to Silk (in fact, first reactions have been quite positive) but I’m just saying that Amazon was looking pretty closely at its bottom line when it came out with the feature.

 

And, there is another reason for biting the bullet that isn’t so strictly monetary: customer relations. Amazon has always tried to get prices as low as possible for its customers and keep them coming back. The Kindle Fire is literally too good a deal to be true, and that sentiment will not be lost on customers. So, even though Amazon’s Q3 spread sheets aren’t glittering, they’re making wise investments on something that will definitely pay off in the long run (and they definitely have the capital to start investing). In fact, they’ve already started manufacturing millions more devices than they originally anticipated. So don’t go worrying about Amazon, they’re gonna be just fine.

Top 5 Assets of Windows 8

Over the last week I’ve been giving Windows 8 Developer’s edition a test drive and I wanted to share my experience so far. This post is written with the fact that this is only a developer’s preview. Not all features are working yet, there are some bugs and implementation needs work but let’s keep in mind that Microsoft has at least a year (based on previous dev. editions) to get everything fixed and polished. So, without further ado, here are the top 5 reasons Microsoft could hit a home run with Windows 8.

1) It’s gorgeous!

Let”s face it, Microsoft hasn’t had the best track record for making beautiful products but with 8, they’ve come a long long way towards that goal. From the moment you turn it on, you get his beautiful splash screen that shows the time and your choice of background. Once you get into Metro UI, that’s when 8 really shines. I’ve always been a fan of windows 7 tile theme and to see it on the big laptop screen just makes it look all the better. It’s minimalistic, breathtaking and functional all at once. If you need to know the weather, check your emails and notifications or any other information, you just need to glance at the tiles. But the appeal isn’t just skin deep, even the oldest and most utilitarian of windows programs (I’m looking at you Task Bar) gets a makeover. This deep integration of Metro UI into Windows 8 is gonna be paramount to 8’s success.

2) Tablets!

Another area apple has taken the lead over Microsoft in. The only response windows has had so far was to put windows 7 on tablets but, as we’ve learned time and time again, it just doesn’t work. A tablet isn’t even at half the power of laptops and desktops yet so everything runs slowly or not at all. With tablet ownership is growing at a faster rate than all other PC’s, you can’t consider a tablet UI as secondary. And 8 definitely gets that right. Metro UI is beautiful, finger friendly and easy to learn. Even in it’s beta, I’d put it head and shoulders above Honeycomb (based solely on looks and implementation since 8 obviously doesn’t have the same selection of apps available as android).

3) Integrated

This is what 8 is all about. Microsoft doesn’t want two separate UI’s for it’s big screen products but wants to unify both under one roof. The outcome looks good so far and if they can make sure that both Metro UI and the traditional desktop get the attention they need, They’ll do just fine.

4) Apps (programs for the windows user of all of us)

The iPad’s monopoly is based almost entirely on the app selection that you just can’t get elsewhere. But this tactic is taken straight out of Microsoft’s playbook. Because of the integration, and he fact that 8 will have  a built in base of 400 million plus users, there’s gonna be a large incentive for developers to build for windows instead of Honeycomb (or ice cream) and maybe even iOS.

5) It’s unique

This is the reason that I’ve always been a fan of windows phone 7. If you’ve payed any attention to the big Apple/Samsung wars, you’ll have realized that iOS and Android have a lot of similarities (I’m not saying I agree with apple or that they should win, especially in light of the recent discovery that apple Photoshopped Samsung’s devices to look more similar to theirs.. but more on that later). Metro UI’s tile layout is unlike anything else out there and it’s still beautiful and functional. But that wasn’t enough to help Windows Phone 7 so Microsoft doesn’t exactly have an easy home run on its hands. But 8 amends some of Windows Phone 7’s woes with it’s built in library of programs (and shorter name).

Although, from what I’ve seen, Windows 8 isn’t perfect, It’s definitely the best update from either Microsoft or Apple in years (I’m looking at you Lion). It’s combination of sex appeal, performance and programs/app selection make for a winning OS that’s definitely worth following (and eventually purchasing