Tom Friedman discovers the cloud

Tom Friedman is usually very good at explaining the disruptive influence of new technology and the implications for the global economy, even if he isn’t the first (or second) to notice something.

The latest phase in the I.T. revolution is being driven by the convergence of social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Groupon, Zynga — with the proliferation of cheap wireless connectivity and Web-enabled smartphones and “the cloud” — those enormous server farms that hold and constantly update thousands of software applications, which are then downloaded (as if from a cloud) by users on their smartphones, making them into incredibly powerful devices that can perform myriad tasks.

The emergence of the cloud, explained Alan Cohen, a vice president of Nicira, a new networking company, “means than anyone can have the computing resources of Google and rent it by the hour.” This is speeding up everything — innovation, product cycles and competition.

The October issue of Fast Company has an article about the designer Scott Wilson, who thought of grafting the body of an iPod Nano onto colorful wristbands, turning them into watchlike devices that could wake you up and play your music. He had no money, though, to bring his concept to market, so he turned to Kickstarter, the Web-based funding platform for independent creative projects. He posted his idea on Nov. 16, 2010, reported Fast Company, and “within a month, 13,500 people from 50 countries had ponied up nearly $1 million.” Apple soon picked up the product for its stores. Said Alexis Ringwald, 28, who recently founded an education start-up, her second Silicon Valley venture: “I have many friends — they introduce themselves as ‘reformed’ Wall St. bankers and lawyers — who have abandoned conventional careers and are now launching start-ups.”

Some like Rich Kaarlgard have been describing this as the “cheap revolution” for years. Friedman is explaining the new developments in that area. We now have it all at our fingertips all the time. It’s a powerful and exciting development. Kickstarter is a great crowdsourcing example that thrives in this environment.

Friedman uses the column to contrast Wall Street and Silicon Valley. It’s a good read.


From 1G to 4G- Cell Phones Making Moves

The famous Grateful Dead lyric is, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” While those words were describing the drug-fueled events of the 1960s, they could easily be attributed to the evolution of the cell phone. For one, the size of cell phones has changed dramatically with each generation.

They were first manufactured in a size similar to a brick (think Zack Morris in Saved by the Bell) and then shrunk to the scale of a cracker. And then there is a cell phone’s capability—at their inception they could only make static-filled phone calls, while today we use them for anything but calls.

However, the advancements of cell phones themselves are only half the story. Their popularity helped revolutionize data and communication networks; like the latest satellite technology from wildbluedeals and wireless communications. So from 1G to 4G, here is a recount of the trip travelled thus far, and where the journey may be taking us next. 


In the 1980s, man made the first cell phone network for mass consumers, and it was fairly decent. The first generation of wireless telephony was completely analog based, unlike its progeny that runs on digital systems.

In the U.S., cell phones operated on the AMPS (Advanced Mobile Phone System) network (TACS and NMT in Europe), which basically modulated calls to a higher frequency around 150MHz or more. Hardly what one would call advanced; it was as if your cell phone was just as powerful as your ham radio.

Meanwhile, the phones themselves were bulky and had nearly no data capability whatsoever. That meant no texting, no cameras and no apps. Teenyboppers in the 80s sure had it rough. 


The digital age finally arrived in the second generation. In the early 1990s, digital TDMA-based systems were introduced—GSM first in Europe and D-AMPS in the U.S. With digital technology, voice quality improved, security was stronger and power was increased, while equipment became less expensive and more refined (i.e. phones that could really be considered hand-held). Read the rest of this entry »


Jeff Morgan examines Cisco’s decision to kill the Flip

Cisco took the embarrassing step of killing the Flip camera last week. Jeff Morgan digs into the entire episode and he isn’t very impressed with how the tech behemoth handled the entire affair.

To say that Cisco misunderstands the consumer tech market would be like saying NBA players misunderstand what constitutes consent. The company decided just over a week ago to kill off the Flip video, a line of consumer camcorders that Cisco purchased for some $590 million. The key word there is kill, as in kaput – no more Flip. Cisco isn’t even going to try to sell the camcorder line to another company, and probably for good reason – there isn’t a company on the planet that would buy it. Instead, Cisco is simply throwing it away, along with 550 jobs as part of an attempt to refocus the company.

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Cisco should have known better, too. For a company that has dealt with some level of consumer tech for more than 15 years (Linksys was founded in 1995), the Flip move was remarkably dumb. I would have loved to sit in on the meeting in which Cisco offered nearly $600 million for a product that had a very obvious expiration date in the very near future. How do you look at a company that keeps buying up smaller and smaller sensors and not think, ‘Gee, do you think some one will put this in a phone one day, fellas?’ As a matter of fact, let me lay this out for the neanderthals Cisco has running its investments – if you want to buy a piece of tech today, ask yourself whether or not it’s feasible to put that feature into a phone in the near future.


AT&T will buy T-Mobile for $39 billion

girl with cell phone

I wonder how the regulators will justify letting this transaction go through. AT&T wants to buy T-Mobile for $39 billion, so we would be down to just three major carriers in the United States. AT&T will become the largest carrier in the US, surpassing Verizon, but now consumers will have far fewer choices.


Avoiding financial scams

Here’s a good video about financial scams, which are now going beyond the Internet to the mobile world as well. Be careful of smishing, which is a new scam where you get a text and a prompt to call. Don’t follow the link!


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