Monday, January 24, 2011

Where's The Beef! And Other Slogans/Jingles

Gap headquarters in San Francisco, California.
You hear a lot about branding when you get an MBA.  It's one of those key concepts that encompasses a lot of ground.  To quote Wikipedia...

Brand is the personality that identifies a product, service or company (name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or combination of them) and how it relates to key constituencies: Customers, Staff, Partners, Investors etc.

Some people distinguish the psychological aspect, brand associations like thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, experiences, beliefs, attitudes, and so on that become linked to the brand, of a brand from the experiential aspect.

The experiential aspect consists of the sum of all points of contact with the brand and is known as the brand experience. The psychological aspect, sometimes referred to as the brand image, is a symbolic construct created within the minds of people, consisting of all the information and expectations associated with a product, service or the company(ies) providing them.

That’s kind of wordy, but it describes the gist of the concept nicely.  One of the ways that companies have built awareness and influenced perceptions of brands is through slogans and jingles.

Unless you’re fairly young you’ll recognize at least a couple of those.  I know I’m devoting far too many brain cells to those and similar jingles.

The cool and/or scary thing about branding is that companies sometimes do very non intuitive things.  Anyone who has ever tried to eat rice with chop sticks knows that the fact that it is sticky is a good thing.  Yet Minute Rice which is not sticky ran commercials in the 1970’s showing frustrated house wives who were upset because their rice stuck together.  Enter minute rice with a solution.  Of course most Americans outside of the west coast had never tried to eat with chopsticks at that point.  I don’t watch TV much but I doubt Minute Rice would use a similar approach today.

Here are a couple more…

Really good jingles and slogans stay with us for a long time, as do the brand images they help create.

Image via Wikipedia
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Vacation Time

For twenty two of the next twenty three days I'll be honing my skills as a maker of acoustic guitars.  These skills are fairly meager right now.  I've completed one ukulele and am partially done with two guitars. to be clear, this is a hobby. Some day I'll hopefully be able to retire and I want to have a vocation that will challenge me and keep me busy.  This is the one I've chosen.

In some ways it's a little surprising to me that I've decided to make this investment in myself.  For every one day of enjoyment I've gotten out of this hobby I've had at least two days of frustration and months sometimes pass between sessions out in the garage. When I thought about it though I realized that the long periods of inactivity were always preceded by an especially frustrating experience trying to accomplish some task.  I've written mostly about the good times and occasionally about the bad times on my other BLOG.  To be fair, long periods of low humidity (Which are lousy times to be working wood) and the pursuit of my MBA a few years back played a part as well.

This is a big investment in money and time but it will accelerate my learning greatly. Having a firm foundation to build on is extremely important no matter what you are trying to accomplish.

So here I am, just a day away from two very busy weeks.  The course I'm taking is hands on, I'll end up with both a head full of new knowledge and a guitar at the end.

I've been very active on this BLOG for the past few weeks.  There is a very good possibility I'll be silent here for at least the next few, we'll see.  I'll almost certainly be posting about my adventure on my other BLOG, so please check things out there if you are interested.

Image via Wikipedia
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Who Google Should Fear (Short Take)

Groupon MyCityDeal
In my previous posting I did a quick evaluation of how serious a threat Facebook is to Google.  In summary, I don't see a lot over overlap in the value they create.  This could change if Facebook continues to add services such as Email but for now I don't think Google has a lot to worry about.

A much more serious and emerging threat is coming from companies like Groupon and Living Social.  Rumored revenue numbers for Groupon have been all over the place with $500 million to $2 billion being the range late last year.  The number I find most credible is $800 million.  Even the low water number is very impressive for a company that celebrated its second birthday in November of 2010.  Facebook was launched in 2004 and has seen much slower revenue growth.  In light of these numbers I don't think it's surprising that Google tried to buy Groupon and is apparently planning a very similar offering of its own called Google Offers.

The reason Google is worried about Groupon is that both companies provide advertisers with an opportunity to deliver highly targeted offers.  Groupon has the additional advantage of actually getting customers to commit by way of the special offers that they enable companies to deliver.  So in effect, the groupon experience is a much more immersive and valuable one for both customers and businesses.

Facebook may have even more to fear since much of their ad revenue comes from small to medium sized businesses that will likely see much more value from using Groupon or a similar service.

Image via Wikipedia
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Should Google Be Worried About Facebook?

This is a simple diagram known as a Business O...
With the recently announced shakeup in leadership at Google there has been a lot of speculation on the underlying cause.  Some of that speculation has centered on the threat of Facebook and other social media sites to Google's current dominance in the ad revenue space.  It's always wise to keep an eye on your competitors but I don't think the overlap between these two companies is as large as most people seem to assume.

From my perspective Facebook is like a never ending party while Google is the 21st century equivalent of the phone book.  I don't go to Facebook to find stuff to buy, I go there to hang out with my friends and find out what they are up to.  If somebody in my friends network recommends a product then yes, I might check it out but it's difficult to see how Facebook is going to be able to derive revenue from that other than indirectly through page impressions on their ads.

It is true that there are only a limited number of on line advertising dollars out there and both companies bottom lines derive substantially or exclusively from that pool.  Over the past couple of years I've spent much more time on Facebook than Google and have never once clicked on a Facebook delivered ad.  I have been known to tell them that an ad doesn't interest me but they are still doing a lousy job of figuring out what to try to sell me.  Google has had a much better track record and while I don't make it a regular habit I do occasionally end up buying something as a result of seeing one of the ads they deliver.

In theory both companies have a lot of useful data about me and should be able to do a great job of targeting their pool of ads to maximize the chances of me clicking through.  Again though we get back to the fact that when I'm using Google I'm searching for something, and therefore receptive to offers which is not the frame of mind I'm in when I frequent Facebook.

Where Facebook excels is in situations where I have an established relationship with a product or company.  Through the "like" mechanism on Facebook I have a way of both showing my interest and "keeping in touch".  I don't believe Facebook charges companies for providing this conduit.  If I'm correct then again, Facebook isn't deriving any revenues directly from that interaction.

So, in summary Google appears to be a much better advertising channel when a company is looking for motivated buyers with specific needs and Facebook is a superior venue for maintaining and building existing customer relationships.  Google has a well established and lucrative business model while Facebook may be vulnerable as they don't appear to be deriving revenues directly from the things they do that create the most value (customer recommendations and enabling companies to build communities around their products).

I haven't given this topic a lot of thought and would be very interested in what others think.

Image via Wikipedia
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Apple iPad 2 Rumors Continued (Short Take)

Comparison of video resolutions. White backgro...
The free buzz Apple gets on future products is in large part a result of their secretive ways. The recent rumors of a 4x improvement in the screen resolution (from 1024x768 to 2048x1536) certainly sounded good but now the counter rumors have begun.

An upgraded processor and graphics processing unit are almost a given. Those items alone aren't very exciting as they wouldn't substantially differentiate the iPad 2 from the original iPad.  We humans like visual cues and packaging changes or much nicer displays are more likely to catch the eye than under the hood upgrades to parts of a product that aren't currently viewed as lacking. Tech savvy people may get excited about such things, but that only goes so far.

Having said that, Apple is in a place right now where they almost can't do any wrong.  A less than obviously spectacular upgrade to the iPad wouldn't hurt sales in the short to mid term (think about the iPhone 4 grip of death debacle) but this early in the iPad's history it would risk starting Apple down the path of mediocrity and that would be potentially problematic given the importance that is being placed on the mobile computing space.

It's not outside the realm of possibility that Apple is in to some extent responsible for the rumors and counter rumors.  They do love their secrecy and it has to be increasingly difficult to keep things under cover as they continue to gain market share on almost every front. Literally thousands of people are involved in bringing something like the iPad 2 to market. One way for Apple to gain some control is to become involved in the process.  There have been claims to this effect before from informed sources.

Image via Wikipedia
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Monday, January 17, 2011

Steve Jobs, iPad 2 Screen Rumor (Short Take)

Comparison between the iPad and iPod Touch's K...
I wrote the second half of this post last night before the news that Steve Jobs is taking a second leave of absence from Apple for health reasons broke. It would be difficult to overstate Job's impact on Apple.  As in the past details as to why he is taking time off are intentionally sparse. Apple did fine when Jobs took his previous leave. Rumors will emerge over the next few weeks as to how he is doing and what his prognosis is.  I hope he's back soon.

When Jobs failed to show up for the Verizon iPhone announcement the assumption was that his absence was prompted by a lack of new features in the Verizon iPhone. Given this development it may simply have been the case that he wasn't feeling healthy enough to make an appearance.

I wrote the rest of this last night.

In my year 2010 wrap-up I predicted that we would see only a modest improvement in the screen resolution on the iPad 2.  If the rumors are true I was way off on that one. Not even one month into the year and already my odds of batting a thousand prediction wise are dropping fast.

An increase in resolution to 2048x1536 would be significant, and not only from a technical perspective.  With the deluge of tablets coming to market Apple is almost certainly looking to maintain their edge as the premium provider in the tablet space.

Another iPad 2 related prediction I made was a modest drop in price.  I'd likely be wrong on that one as well if this scenario plays out.  In fact, a modest increase in price wouldn't surprise me.

While I could claim that making predictions is difficult, the truth of the matter is I didn't really think this one through very well.  If you're Apple you always want to stay ahead of the competition.  Modest improvements aren't likely to to keep the public excited about a new product line. You're going to want to deliver a significant upgrade every year for at least the first few years. The benefit of this approach is that Apple not only improves their chances of maintaining share, they also establish themselves as the company that defines tablet computing.  Everyone else will be viewed as playing catch up.

We didn't buy a first generation iPad. We will almost certainly purchase one of the second generation devices.  If rumors and the past are to be trusted Apple has taken an already excellent product and managed to yet again jump well ahead of their competition.

Image via Wikipedia
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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Starbucks Logo, Short Take

Starbucks logo
I've touched on Starbucks upcoming logo change before. I opined that removing both "Starbucks" and "Coffee"  seemed excessive and that if Starbucks was trying to broaden their brand perception they could take off "Coffee" and leave the "Starbucks". Apparently my take on things was very positive in comparison to those expressed by others.

The Economist has a great article that talks about the change and consumer reactions. One of the points they discuss is the fact that Starbucks wants to  join the ranks of McDonalds, Nike & Apple who all have logo's with no words. There is of course one significant difference between the logos of those three companies and what Starbucks is proposing.  The arches, swoosh & apple are all very simple designs.  The Starbucks Mermaid is not.  It takes a second or two for the eye to resolve what is going on with something that complex. That is unless of course you anchor it with words. Which is why the current Starbucks logo has had such a long and successful run.

I still think they can lose the word "Coffee" if they want to and come up with a logo that is attractive and memorable.  Removing "Starbucks" isn't going to broaden their brand perception in any way. When I see the Nike swoosh I don't think "shoes", I think "Nike", followed by "shoes". When I see the apple, I don't think "Great consumer electronic items", I think... well, I think of Apple which in turn brings to mind great consumer electronic items.

If Starbucks wants to broaden their brand they need to do it the way Apple has, by bringing out new product lines that people fall in love with and remember.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

AMD, ARM, NVidia & The Mobile Space

AMD Markham Canada
I've been following AMD for awhile now. They've been a fascinating company to watch. It's not easy being Intel's only real competition in the processor space and while AMD has never made it look easy, they have managed to survive and even thrive at times.

The recent ouster of CEO Dirk Meyer was a surprise to most people. Meyer was instrumental in turning AMD around over the past few years and boards don't generally fire CEO's with that kind of track record.  If news reports can be believed the issue of contention was one I've discussed here in the past, mobile computing. Apparently AMD's board was not happy with Meyer's lack of enthusiasm to invest effort in this area.

Even relatively large businesses such as AMD have limited resources. Figuring out how to allocate those resources to best position a company for the future is the CEO's most important job. Intel is large and rich enough that they can afford to make a few mistakes and focus on more than one area. AMD doesn't have that kind of flexibility. Meyer apparently felt that their best bet for the foreseeable future was to focus on the server and desktop space. Mobile devices are showing signs of eating away at that space but nobody believes the market for 64bit X86 compatible processors is going dry up any time soon. It's easy to see why Meyer felt the way he did. AMD has been locked in a life or death battle with Intel for decades and diverting resources from that effort apparently seemed like a bad idea to him. Continuing to focus there was also smart given AMD's poor cash position and their success in the high end server market where margins are much higher.

At some point AMD was going to need to devote resources to the mobile space. Meyer wasn't ready, AMD's board was, Meyer is now out of work. On the one hand it's kind of impressive that a board would take this active a role in the running of a company. More often than not corporate boards seem to be content rubber stamping whatever the CEO wants to do. On the other hand though this may make it difficult for AMD to hire a CEO capable of leading the company through what will be a challenging transition.

It's likely that the Intel/NVidia settlement played a part in the boards decision as well.

Intel, with far superior resources has found it difficult to create a processor that can compete with the plethora of ARM variants out there in the mobile space so it's difficult to believe that AMD will do any better if they decide to go it alone.  One advantage AMD does over Intel is a superior GPU.  AMD could go the route that NVidia is with Denver and couple a licensed ARM processor core with their GPU technology. This would be a relatively quick way to get into the mobile space. That market isn't short on existing competition and NVidia already has a head start in this direction so the road in that direction is unlikely to be smooth or easy.

Ironically AMD had a product line called Imageon that they sold to Qualcomm in 2009 that paired an ATI GPU with an ARP processor.

Ideally AMD is going to need to bring additional resources into the picture through hiring of acquisition if they are serious about competing in the mobile space. The time will come when it makes sense to shift existing resources away from their traditional desktop and server markets but I don't think that time has come yet.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

TRON, What's In A Name?

A picture resembling a screenshot from the Tro...
First of all, be aware that there are spoilers ahead.  If you like to be surprised and haven't seen both TRON movies stop reading now.

My wife and I recently re-watched the original TRON in preparation for seeing the sequel, TRON Legacy.  It had been several years since I last saw TRON so I'd forgotten a lot of the details.  The story in the original was a flimsy pretext to get Kevin Flynn, the Jeff Bridges character into the computer world.  While it was certainly a revolutionary movie for its time, and one I recall fondly; it was not great cinema.  Finding a copy to view was difficult as it is currently out of print for some odd reason.  Possibly somebody at Disney thought it would be counter productive for people to see the original.  We weren't going to see the sequel until we saw the original though and I kind of doubt we were alone in feeling that way.  Disney likely lost an opportunity to sell a bunch of TRON DVD's and Blue-Rays.  Taking into account the age of the original it's possible that they are working on cleaning it up in preparation for a 30th anniversary HD release next year.  I guess we'll have to wait and see.

The title of the original is odd in that the character of TRON, played by Bruce Boxleitner was not the lead.  This left the people who made the sequel with a problem.  It would have been difficult to call it "Flynn: Legacy" as many non fans would have had trouble connecting the two movies.  This meant that they had to somehow include the character of TRON in the sequel.  The real world analog of TRON, Alan Bradley was easily and effectively worked into the opening and closing sequences but his inclusion in the computer world portion was perfunctory and confusing.  It didn't help that so far as I recall he was masked the whole time.  They could have dropped the whole TRON sub plot and I would have been happier and marginally less confused.  Likely they would have also had people complaining that the namesake of the film wasn't even in it.

The story the producers chose to tell exacerbated the problem in that not only wasn't TRON the secondary character, he was behind Flynn's son Sam and Quorra as well.

My business related point is that mistakes in branding can stick around for a long time.  The naming of the first film was an odd choice which in turn led to an even odder naming for the sequel.  Based on the box office results for TL it's kind of questionable that there will be another sequel but if there is, are they going to retain the TRON name?

OK, yes; weird and esoteric things pique my interest.

Image via Wikipedia
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

ARM, NVidia, Intel & Microsoft

Larrabee block diagram (Total pic. and CPU cor...
I'm rushing this one out because the news is timely and I'm pushing myself to become a better writer.  As I start this I have thirty minutes before I need to be at work.  Luckily I have a five minute commute, so at least I get to use most of that time.

I've been expecting some sort of settlement between NVidia & Intel for awhile now.  I was fairly sure it would involve Intel paying NVidia a large chunk of money (it did) but the rest of this deal is a surprise to me, but not in a bad way.

In addition to $1.5 billion over the next six years NVidia & Intel have also entered into a cross licensing agreement that gives Intel access to IP that NVidia has developed for their GPU's while in turn giving NVidia access to IP that Intel has created in the processor space.  This might seem like a one sided deal in Intel's favor if not for the fact that NVidia is working on integrated ARM/GPU based chips.  With this settlement behind them NVidia should have much smoother sailing in implementing both their discreet graphics solutions and project Denver, the already mentioned ARM/GPU project.

It's no accident that the duration of this agreement is six years.  In August of last year Intel settled with NVidia & AMD over numerous other complaints.  One of the technical requirements was that Intel provide a high speed PCI based solution for the next six years.  NVidia needed this to keep their discreet GPU business viable.  What has essentially happened with these two agreements is that Intel has provided itself six years of reduced legal wrangling and access to patents that should help it's always lagging GPU development efforts.  AMD is the big loser here as their main edge has been the fact that they have both a very competitive GPU and processor and were thus ahead of Intel in the race to integrate these two components into a package that is both fast and cost effective.  In fact, Intel could potentially partner with NVidia to integrate an NVidia GPU & Intel CPU onto the same packaging, and perhaps even the same wafer in the next few years.  That would be a killer combination as NVidia GPU's have double precision floating point and error correcting memory to go along with excellent performance. AMD has double precision floating point but no Error correcting memory. Essentially you would have the best of both Intel & NVidia in that scenario and AMD would be sorely tested.

One little factoid I missed when talking about CES last time was the fact that Microsoft has announced that they'll be supporting the low power ARM CPU architecture in Windows 8.  This should make NVidia happy as it means they'll be able to provide their partners with chips(assuming Denver is a success) that run Windows.  I'm not a Windows fan boy and I tend to think that the importance of platforms, particularly Windows is going to continue to decrease in the future but it's hard to see this announcement as anything other than a win for ARM.  What this means is that NVidia & Intel will likely be competing across the entire spectrum of devices in about three years.  Intel has the advantage of size and money.  NVidia has the advantage of starting with a CPU architecture that is much more power efficient than Intel and a clear head start on the GPU side of things.  Plus Intel will be making annual payments of $250 million to them for the next six years.

OK, ten minutes to go and I need to fix my links so I'll wrap things up here by saying that Intel & NVidia both appear to have done well for themselves here.  It's going to come down to which side executes best on the technical, operational and marketing fronts.  Great technology by itself has never been enough.  History is littered with companies that came out with technically superior products that failed the test of the market and/or their competition.

At the end of this six year window we'll either see Intel & NVidia working very closely together or at each others throats.  I don't see a lot of room for anything in between.
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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lego's, Minecraft, Garry's Mod & The Joy of Building

LEGO and DUPLO bricks with a 1 EURO coin for scale
I've mentioned Minecraft before in this BLOG.  This time I'm going to discuss it in depth. Minecraft is a relatively new independently produced "game" that recently moved to the beta stage.  In spite of not being deemed release quality nearly a million people have bought it at at a discounted price of around $20 per person.  To be clear, the game is actually priced in Euros.  When I bought it a few weeks back the price in Euros was about $20.  $15 - $20 million in revenue for a game that isn't complete is a pretty impressive feat.

I put the word game in quotes above when I initially used it because Minecraft, at least at this point isn't really a game in the traditional video game sense.  It does have a rudimentary "survival" mode where you can run, hide from or attempt to kill various bad guys but so far as I can tell that isn't the way most people are using it, myself included. Minecraft is what is referred to as a "sandbox" game.  This means that it provides an environment and tools to create landscapes, buildings, devices, etc.  In the current version you start with a randomly generated world that you can explore, gather resources in and modify.  Here's a look out the window of my comfy little hideaway.

Those are trees in the distance outside my window and I'm holding a pick ax.  Yes, the graphics are primitive.  Minecraft has a Lego like aesthetic that actually works well.  The success and continued popularity of Lego's long ago proved that we love to build stuff and that we are willing to accept simplified abstractions to get our fix.  Like Lego's Minecraft is block based.  Each block is a one meter cube.  There are objects in the game that are smaller than this, but those are limited and tend to react in ways that are true to the cube paradigm.  If this sounds like a limitation, well it is; but it is a useful one.  This model simplifies things to the point where it is relatively easy to understand how to build stuff. Much like Lego's, there are a nearly limitless number of projects you can do if you have the time and interest.  Here's an impressive example of what I'm talking about that was created using a version of the code that is well over a year old at this point.

In addition to building Minecraft also has some basic physics built in.  Other than being smothered by falling sand when I removed a block I shouldn't have I haven't spent any time exploring this aspect of the game.  My general impression is that this area is still underdeveloped though people are already doing some very interesting things.  Roller Coasters & explosions are popular examples.

Garry's Mod is another sandbox themed game that has been around about twice as long as Minecraft and takes a very different approach on the technical side while leveraging a similar business model.  It's built using Valve's source engine and is thus  more realistic looking.  The physics model in GMod is  richer as well.  You can build rocketsfireworksa plane and just about anything else you can imagine.  Personally I find the building tools kind of cumbersome and complicated in GMod which is why I haven't spent a lot of time on it but it has a rabid fan base and if you have time and patience you can do some really amazing things with it.

GMOD is available through the Steam online store.  It sells for between $5 & $10.  I read an article recently that said the author receives 50% of the unit price, so $5 if it is being sold at the regular price and $2.50 when on sale.  Based on the following articles...

Garry's Mod Sells 310,000 units on Steam through November of 2008
Garry's Mod Sales Increase > 30% Per Year Over Past Three Years

I estimate the following sales figures.

2007: 134,000
2008: 174,200
2009: 228,202
2010: 303,509
2011: 410,000

With approximate revenues of

2007: $670,000
2008: $871,000
2009: $912,000
2010: $1,214,035
2011: $1,638,947

Estimated revenues scale more slowly than units sold because starting in 2009 GMOD was offered for sale periodically at 50% off.  The sales figure estimates are supported by another article that I link below in the "Related Articles" section.

Keep in mind that the initial work on both of these products was done by a single programmer.  I think most of us dream of winning the lottery but Garry Newman & Markus Persson both created their own single ticket lotteries.

Online sales channels provide a tremendous opportunity for even niche product such as these to shine.

If you're looking for casual fun I recommend Minecraft.  If you want to create highly complex environments and are willing to deal with a somewhat steep learning curve I recommend Garry's Mod.

Top Image via Wikipedia
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Saturday, January 8, 2011

CES, Pastrami & Starbucks

Consumer Electronics Show
I'd love to say something clever and/or insightful about the Consumer Electronics Show but I've never actually been to it and this year was not an exception.  Given that I'm going to limit myself to a few observations.

Before I do that I'm posting a link to a BLOG entry that I really enjoyed.  The BLOG is called "The Daring Novelist" and the title is "Books Are Note Commodities! They're ... Pastrami On Rye!". In addition to being enjoyable to read the author makes a great point about specialization and differentiation and how important they are not only for writers, but for business that don't want to compete on price alone as well.

On to CES related topics.  I have a general sense of blah at this point as in general there hasn't been a lot of exciting news.  There are dozens, if not hundreds of Android based tablets coming.   Android 3.0 was demoed and while video of it looked very nice it doesn't seem like "Honeycomb" is going to be earth shattering, though the fact that it is aimed specifically at tablets is interesting.  In reality though the Android platform already provides significant functionality and a fairly good overall experience.  Where it falls short of Apple is in the applications space.  Android does have one advantage in that Google's various applications always debut and get updates on it first.  This is not enough to offset Apple's iPhone application ecosystem but it shouldn't be dismissed either.  Highly popular 3rd party apps do show up on Apple products first, but it is increasingly common to see them appear on Android.  Angry Birds and Pocket God are two examples.  Recently published data shows that Android has surpassed Apple in share of total smart phone subscriptions.  This is a compelling reason to conclude that most publishers are going to port at least their more popular applications to Android.

With the latest rumors claiming that the Verizon iPhone will be announced as early as next week the tables could very quickly be turned with Apple once again moving ahead in terms of total subscribers.  It's hard to see how a Verizon iPhone won't hurt Android some. It's not tragic for Apple even if Android stays in the lead. Apple sold less than half the computers that Dell & HP did last year but given Apple's far superior margins I suspect that either company would gladly switch places; particularly Dell given their declining market share.

One other CES related topic is the MakerBot Thing-O-Matic Kit.  Apparently MakerBot had some of the assembled kits at CES and they were very impressive.  I've been casually interested in CNC for a while now. The Thing-O-Matic looks like a nice/interesting tool, though with my sub standard mechanical skills I'd much prefer something that came already assembled.  Pricing seems reasonable given the capabilities.  Having one would be  like having your own little desktop factory.

One last item, apparently Starbucks is going to have a new logo soon. I've been thinking about this for a couple of days, and my first, second and third reactions aren't positive.  I understand the desire to remove the word Coffee from the logo given the direction the company is going in but I don't see the wisdom in removing "Starbucks".  It seems a bit arrogant and honestly the logo looks kind of naked and ugly with no text.  I don't think it is anywhere near as bad as the recent Gap logo debacle, but I will be curious to see how people react as they role this one out.

I added the following an hour or so after posting the rest.

A CES related event that I should have mentioned was Microsoft's announcement of support for ARM based CPU's.  This is another indicator that they are adjusting to the fact that monolithic PC's and operating systems are going to be a much smaller percentage of the total market in the future.  Smart phones and Tablets are increasingly powerful and with the addition of external displays and input devices when at home or work they are rapidly approaching the point where they could be most people's universal computing device of choice.  This is particularly true if you throw in the development of cloud based storage and application solutions as the risk of losing data declines significantly.

IT has oscillated between highly centralized and highly distributed models numerous times over the past four decades. With cloud based computing and highly mobile devices it looks like we're going to settle some place in between those two extremes.

Image via Wikipedia
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