Smarterbits

"BJs Lacked Enthousiasm"

Episode numéro 20 of Movie Talk FM is out and the movie review this week is The Weather Man, starring Nicholas Cage sporting yet another revolting haircut. Luckily the movie is fantastic, unlike other bad hair Nicholas Cage movies. There’s also a sneak peek into Food Talk FM and tales of our fond movie makeout memories.

Extra Credit: Movie Talk FM finally, after much pleading on my part, has a twitter account and of course, I encourage you to follow our antics on there.

    The Allure of the Galaxy Note

    While everyone’s response to the Samsung Galaxy Note has been a resounding “no thanks” combined with a healthy dose of absurdity and skepticism regarding the device1, something inside me keeps coming back to the idea that its existence isn’t entirely unwarranted.

    Thing is, there’s a certain allure to the idea of a 5-8 inch phone or tablet. I’d venture many people with smartphones or iPads have wondered at some time or another how certain apps could be improved if only they were on a device slightly larger or smaller. Indeed, I often wish for ever so slightly more screen real-estate as I’m writing on my iPhone, but yet can find no place for an iPad in my life. Between those two form factors, there seems to be a yet undiscovered middle ground. Hence why the Note exists, why HP nearly got a smaller TouchPad out the door, and why it’s plausible Apple is doing exploring of its own on the subject.

    Allure however, is but the distinction between our own personal concepts of this in-betweener device and the physical experience of one you buy in a store. Even Jonathan Geller’s scathing review of the device acknowledges that, at the very least, the device hits the right marks2 on paper:

    The Galaxy Note essentially has everything you’d want in a smartphone: a great dual-core processor, a solid camera, a beautiful display and good build quality, and it runs on AT&T’s new 4G LTE network that delivers incredibly fast downloads speeds. Plus the battery seems actually decent so far, which is a triumph for modern smartphones.

    But in real world use, whatever illusions convince us to purchase something like the Note are shattered with unambiguous finality.

    Perhaps allure alone is enough for Samsung to decide it’s worth jumping feet first into creating these increasingly expansive phones. They may be hoping to capitalize on the Note’s allure and be the only offering in some pre-determined “market”, even if that market ultimately rejects the Note and devices of its ilk. Maybe it’s the case that Samsung doesn’t care to distinguish between sales that make happy customers and sales that make them miserable, as long as money is coming in somewhere. A less cynical person might say that Samsung is just throwing devices out there, hoping one form factor will stick. At best, it could be construed as some blindfolded, caution to the wind attempt to get lucky. At worst it’s a pathetic, abusive, and frankly pitiful exercise in pandering to whatever the fleeting “market” trend of the hour might be. 3

    Forgetting Samsung’s business practices for a moment, maybe the issue is simply that 5-8 inch devices like the Note live in some kind of nightmare no man’s land of personal computers: constantly in an existential crisis over whether it wants to be phone or tablet and destined to follow the UI paradigms of its smaller and larger siblings when it so evidently needs software tweaked ever so slightly in its favour.

    I’m not quite ready to believe those are impossible obstacles to overcome. Neither is Samsung apparently, despite constantly falling flat on its face trying to do so.


    1. My favourite take on the Note comes curtesy of The Tech Block, my rookie of the year tech blog that’s come out of left field in recent weeks with a host of fantastic articles. How soon are these guys hiring? I want in. 

    2. Part of me wonders how reviewers approach to the Note might have changed if Samsung had removed the telephony component altogether. I get the feeling the “Who the fuck wants take a call with this thing to their ear?” colours reviewers’ impressions of the device in a way it may not have otherwise. 

    3. Here’s where I would contrast Samsung’s method of product development to the inception of any Apple product, but that chorus gets more airtime than Adele on the radio. 

      Tim Cook on the Apple TV

      Tim Cook, speaking about the Apple TV at the Goldman Sachs Technology Conference:

      So, with Apple TV however, despite the barriers in that market, for those of us who use it, we’ve always thought there was something there. If we kept following our intuition and kept pulling the string, we might find something that was larger. For those people that have it right now, the customer satisfaction is off the chart. We need something that could go more main-market for it to be a serious category.

      Nothing new to learn here. Indeed, my Apple TV is probably second only to my iPhone in satisfaction and enjoyment of an product I own.1

      Cook again, on preserving Apple’s culture:

      We should stay extremely focused on a few things, rather than try to do so many that we did nothing well. We should only go into markets where we can make a significant contribution to society, not just sell a lot of products.

      I don’t want to run wild with Apple Television (iTV?) rumours, but something stood out for me reading this article. First, it’s all too easy to read the first quote and decide that the iTV is in fact the main-market product that could turn Apple’s television business into a stool as large as iOS and the Mac. Too easy.

      But reading the second quote and thinking about both together, it seems that an Apple Television set has no role in what makes the Apple TV great and has no relevance to Apple’s culture. Even in our wildest fantasies about an iTV, the revolutionary part isn’t the display or even the display in conjunction with the Apple TV software. It’s just the software.

      So if I play ball with Apple’s philosophy of wanting only to make significant contributions to society through their products, it would seem that focusing on growing the Apple TV’s content library and developing relations with distributors will make much more of an impact than some expensive LED display ever could.2 Access to better, cheaper and more diverse ways of enjoying their favourite content is what’s truly going to stoke the fires of the main market crowd and draw them away from cable providers.

      That’s the significant part. 3


      1. Though my Blue Microphone Yeti is getting up there. Is this where I’m supposed to stick an affiliate link? 

      2. And for what it’s worth (not much), I think a $100 stone sized box you can stick on any HD capable display is the way to go to reach the broadest audience. But I’m biased because I love my $100 stone. 

      3. I think I made it through this without making a prediction. Whew. Ok fine, the title is pure SEO. Stone me I guess. 

        Breaking Away From the Bullshit

        MG Siegler blows up at Nick Bilton. Dan Lyons blows up at Siegler1. Everyone in-between tosses their two cents in about the state of tech journalism.

        A sad affair, if only because it’s like any other day in the tech news circle.

        Siegler’s pessimism is justified, even if he attempts to pass off his hypocrisy as “hindsight”. Tech blogging really does seem at times like an overwhelming circle jerk, an echo chamber of people passing off anything as news, cross linking back and forth between each other and framing every product release through the prism of which company won or lost, mostly so we can gloat and point fingers at each other. Worse still, we’ve created from it some sort of meta-linkbait muckraking, where writers point readers towards stupid linkbait articles only to poke fun at it, thereby ensuring those kinds of article never disappear thanks to the traffic they send its way.2

        The problem is indeed systemic. Siegler and Lyons are of the same cloth. The only difference between them being who gets to play hero and villain. They’re representative of another generation, one that embraced writing on the internet only as an means to an end. Lyons got a book deal, Siegler gets to bathe in VC money. I’m come to accept their part of the territory.

        But there’s another generation of writers obtaining their comeuppance, who see the internet not as a pay check but an outlet they otherwise may not have had. Writers3 like Shawn Blanc, Patrick Rhone, David Caolo and Stephen Hackett. They’ve eschewed pumping pageviews and embraced the long tail as a viable mean to earn a living. In the past year, all have started offering ways to pay directly for their content, paving the way for independence4 from ad revenue. You’d be a fool to bet against this trend growing more popular in the future.

        I can hear you squealing before the sounds escape your lips: Yes they’re a small- even tiny proportion or the tech writing scene and the larger writing scene. Yes, small monthly stipends will (may) never be as profitable as ad revenue. And I know link baiting is a vicious, vicious hydra that may never be overcome. So what? The very existence of those other guys proves Siegler is wrong when he thinks we’ll all eventually have to “break towards the bullshit”. Theirs is a clear path away from the bullshit, one aspiring writers like myself can look towards building our futures on. One that maybe some day will become viable enough for a group of writers to get together and create something on the scale of The Verge, minus the bullshit aspect.5 Promise of the web fulfilled ya di ya di ya…

        And if bullshit is what tickles your fancy, well, I guess Siegler, Lyons, 9to5 Mac and Business Insider will have eyeball to keep the lights on for years to come. Lucky for both you and them, they’ve got it in spades.


        1. And Siegler ripostes in kind. See how well they both play the game? 

        2. Ed Bott’s delusions must look great on a ZD Net accounting spreadsheet. His job security must be iron clad. Also, linking to an article only to denigrate its author as a moron or idiot and otherwise deconstruct its already barely plausible arguments is in itself lazy, disengaged writing. It’s insulting because it insinuates we should devote our time to this pointlessness. 

        3. I’d love to lump John Gruber in with these guys, but something about those $6500 weekly sponsorships and his insistence on spending so much time berating his “Claim Chowder” victims rubs me the wrong way. Ditto for Mat Honan if he would simply leave Gizmodo already. 

        4. Ok, maybe semi independence. 

        5. See The Classical, Kill Screen Daily or Put This On for blueprints on how to do just that. 

          I Don't Care If You Like Your Dock

          Challenges abound for the Impromptu cast this week! Dan is stuck in traffic and is M.I.A while Adam can’t find help for his obscure Mac OS X file system issues. Will Dan make it in time? Will the gang find a way to sound smart discussing iPad 3 rumors? Did Steve enjoy Star Wars? All that and more on this week’s episode of the Impromptu!

            On the Discomforting Nature of Ecosystems

            Lately, I’ve been kicking around the idea of owning a smartphone whose name doesn’t begin with and i. I know, earth shattering isn’t it? But inso far as one can have feelings towards inanimate pieces of plastic and metal, it did take me by surprise to think there’d be something another company could create that I would enjoy.1

            To be clear, it’s not that the iPhone has problems I’m itching to solve. Still the best computer I’ve ever owned, there isn’t a day I don’t make extensive use of it. However, I’m starting to wonder whether there might be something out there even better, something that - gasp, isn’t designed and conceived in Cupertino. Maybe it’s just the natural lull that comes with being in the same relationship the last 4 years. Maybe I’m just craving a change2, the allure of the greener side of things. So my mind wanders elsewhere, starting to wonder how another phone might feel held up to my hear and under the stroke of my fingers. But there’s something keeping me from ever turning these thoughts into action. Every time I’m about to jump ship, doubt creeps in, making me second guess myself. Like a real relationship, I’ve become too invested, too entrenched with my smartphone and the technological life I’ve built around it to simply walk away. I’ve built my digital life inside an ecosystem.

            We always some natural aversion to change, and the case is no different here. Will a non iOS smartphone have the same apps I enjoy? Is there something remotely equivalent? Can I adapt if there isn’t? In my case, most of the answers are yes. Combined with its qualities I see as advantages, the other smartphone catching my eye can make a solid case for its usefulness in my life. Except things aren’t so simple. I realized I wouldn’t simply be trading one smartphone for another: I’d be redefining the way I use my notebook, my iPods. Even a future tablet I might call my own. What’s causing my doubt is wondering how all these devices will work in conjunction with each other?3

            Apple’s done an incredible job creating a fantastic ecosystem around its product, one that’s both enjoyable and practical to live in. Beginning from the subtle design consistencies between product lines and the familiar interfaces and UI experiences, both iOS and Mac OS X coalesce into a parallel experiences through services like iCloud, AirPlay and the plethora of multi-platform applications and services ensuring continuity as one moves from iMac to iPhone to iPad and back again. The combination is both empowering and satisfying, until you want to introduce a third party. That’s when the sandbox begins to leak. If I did want to leave my iPhone for a Lumia 800 or trade in my MacBook for a Chromebook, I’d be giving up a lot from my investment in Apple’s ecosystem: my iTunes Match subscription becomes nearly useless, synching personal information (email, calendars) becomes something I have to think about, even if only peripherally. I’d be giving up on the savings4 earned from using iMessage and FaceTime, not to mention the community of friends using those services that certainly wouldn’t leave, even for my sake. And perhaps most importantly, introducing a non-iOS device in an increasingly iCloud dependent workflow would be akin to constantly throwing wrenches into the gears of a well oiled machine.

            I’m not suggesting it would be impossible to use a Windows 7 notebook with an iPad or a Nexus S in conjunction with my MacBook, far from it.5 Web services have been bridging the gap between hardware platforms and operating systems for years now. Barring a few file compatibility issues, serving up a consistent experience various devices is completely within the realm of possibilities nowadays.6 The problem is that while web services have been building longer and stronger bridges between various platforms, the latter have simultaneously been offering better and better amenities for customers willing to stay within their confines. The reward for staying within a particular ecosystem, Apple or otherwise, may in fact outweigh the potential benefits of mixing and matching devices from a variety of platforms. And the deeper your level of commitment, the more difficult it becomes to perceive the greener side of things, even when it isn’t an illusion. There’s a discomforting feeling to confronting the sway ecosystems hold over us. For me, that discomfort hit when I realized that it isn’t the technical hurdles holding me back from taking the plunge on my first non Apple product in years, but simply the mere inconvenience resulting from having to take a few extra steps to complete tasks Apple has by and large automated for me. For someone less technically savvy, the thought alone of using products from different platforms must be overwhelming.7

            Are ecosystems inherently bad? A cynic might play up the economic opportunities that come from encouraging ecosystems, but what company doesn’t want to build a loyal consumer base dedicated to its products? I don’t think Apple, Google or Microsoft encourage the benefits of their own ecosystems with malicious intent. They likely really believe it’s the best solution for their customers. And there’d be plenty of evidence to defend those claims.

            Still, I’m beginning to wonder if ecosystems don’t hurt the overall progress of the industry altogether. Because when better solutions present themselves - say a potentially more interesting mobile operating system, our attachment to ecosystems make it more difficult to make changes even beyond our own natural aversions. And if you’re a new company attempting to affect positive change, simply getting customers to give your product a chance can seem like an impossibly steep hill to climb.8 So even though I might want to use a Windows Phone 7 device, and encourage its development, that nagging doubt about breaking my walled garden is enough to keep from opening up my wallet. Even though I can rationally understand that I won’t suffer in the least by using products from two different companies. Again, the sway of ecosystems is what’s most unsettling, and even more disconcerting is that they’re becoming more and more convincing, further eroding our resolve to leave them.9

            It’s a tradeoff that’s becoming more and more unavoidable. As software and hardware alike begin to pursue their own ecosystems, there’s less options for those of us wanting to look elsewhere. There are certainly advantages unique to ecosystems, but the potential for abuse lurks when all your eggs are in one basket.10 The problem is that every computing platform wants to be a basket. Even if I switched to another another vendor’s smartphone, I’d still be encouraged - likely with good reason, to switch into their ecosystem11. But who can, or wants, to keep re-committing their digital lives in that fashion whenever they buy a new computer?

            So here I am, contemplating what should be a simple purchase (at least for a geek such as myself) and instead of feeling excitement, I’m feeling like I’m standing at the edge of deep, murky precipice. I’m filled with self-doubt and fear of regret, despite knowing better. Sure, I’ll be ok whether I step off the ledge or not - we’re talking about pieces of plastic and metal after all. But that’s just it: why am I feeling this way when I’m just pursuing a hobby, a passion? Why wasn’t this ever explained in the marketing material? Why didn’t anyone ever tell me I could become so attached to plastic and metal? What am I supposed to do now that my affections lie elsewhere?

            When did using my computer actually start feeling like a relationship?


            1. Blasphemy! I’ll be turning in my Apple Fan badge. 

            2. The home screen is starting to feel more and more dated by the minute. 

            3. And if I’m being honest, I’m really worried about breaking my continuity of white polycarbonate and glass forming the aesthetic glue of all my devices. 

            4. No kidding I’ve shaved about $30 off my phone bill each month by reducing my minute and text plan to the bare minimum required and putting my data to good instead. 

            5. That variety of user exists somewhere I’m sure, rare creature he may be. 

            6. Ever wonder where we would be if Dropbox didn’t exist? 

            7. In fact, the convenience of them is probably what makes ecosystems seem so alluring in the first place. 

            8. I’d argue this is what’s happening to Dropbox as iCloud and other integrated cloud solutions become popular. Apple’s own reader services are also what sparked the same fears with Instapaper. Both will nevertheless continue to be successful, but I wonder if their growth potential is capped by the presence of an equivalent “ecosystem’d” service. It’s enough to spark a few “what ifs?”. In Dropbox’s case especially, there’s a legitimate case to be made that Dropbox being successful could be more significant to the industry as a whole than iCloud being successful. 

            9. Again, I’m not supposing malicious intent. But as services like iCloud become more and more effective, reliable and productive, it becomes harder and harder to detach oneself from that, even if you have legitimate reasons to do so. Imagine how if all your data became stored in the cloud rather than locally could be problematic, even if it is completely awesome in practice. 

            10. Go search “Google and your privacy” in Duck Duck Go. 

            11. Skydrive anyone? 

              On the Fascination with the iPad’s PC-Ness

              Since the iPad’s announcement, its equivalence to the PC has been in question. Two years later, it seems this particular debate is far from settled. The topic has resurfaced recently in light of Apple’s wild success with the device, prompting many to wonder how to interpret one computing device’s accomplishments in the face of an industry that seems to be in free fall. Yet for all the yes it is, no it isn’t arguments revolving around the iPad’s PC-ness, no one has elucidated the reason why the iPad must be categorized one way or the other. Or why it even matters. 1

              The obsession with the PC2 moniker itself is interesting, so much its definition is open to interpretation. Is a PC strictly defined as a Personal Computer? Computers have been steadily becoming more and more personal since the term was coined that the only thing we mightn’t call PCs are the numerous server farms powering corporations and our favourite web services. Neither are we defining PC as the distinction between Justin Long and John Hodgeman.3 And it’d be nearly impossible to draw a line at the distinction of what is or isn’t a PC based on it’s internal components, its operating system, or whether it has a physical keyboard or not. Eric Grevstad describes this slippery slope:

              But is everything with a chip in it a PC? Surely not, or we’re embracing embedded systems and appliances that have one or two applications at most. A digital camera isn’t a PC any more than a digital picture frame is, even though it may offer simple in-camera image editing.

              What people are likely trying to define is whether the iPad is as productive as its PC counterparts, where “PC” in this instance is verbiage for a desktop or laptop. Which reveals the “is it a PC?” debate for what it truly is: the “content consumption vs creation” debate in another candy wrapper.4 Grevstad thinks the answer lies in the anecdotal experiment of watching people use iPads:

              But of all the iPads (and infrequent Android tablets) I see day to day, virtually none are running those [productivity] apps. People are using tablets for e-reading, Web surfing, and movie viewing. And—at least for now, at least if you focus on real-world usage patterns—I say Canalys is wrong to count tablets as PCs.

              Apparently, it seems Grevstad has never5 seen the real-world usage of PCs in person outside of the workplace, since it’d be safe to assume most people are using PCs at home to browse the web, update their Facebook accounts, and torrent a screener of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. Otherwise known as consuming. Nevertheless, it would be as easy to name examples of people using iPads in a variety of productive ways. Which brings us back to square one.

              Perhaps we want to measure whether the iPad is as capable as a PC. If the iPad can do every task a PC can accomplish, then perhaps indeed it could be considered one. And while it would be a simple argument to prove the iPad isn’t a PC (say, you can’t program and build an iOS application on an iOS device), it’s a stretch to claim that all PCs themselves are all equally capable. If no one is using the iPad for serious professional film editing, neither is anyone using a netbook or consumer desktop with integrated graphics. Once again, it’s impossible to draw a line based on capabilities alone.

              In some ways, it’s curious why anyone would want to equate an iPad to a PC in the first place. Chuck Skoda establishes good reasons why an iPad is actually quite different from whatever we call a PC. The debate frames the iPad’s inability to be a PC an inferiority, while in actuality it is those very differences that make it more desirable. Couldn’t you attribute the iPad’s success to the fact that it eschews old computer interaction paradigms, that it facilitates content consumption enjoyment, or that it feels infinitely more personal than any PC before it? If anything, doesn’t the iPad demonstrate a market demand for something that isn’t only post-PC, but something un-PC? If so, why are tech writers trying to prove the iPad is something it so clearly isn’t?

              Ok so who’s right?

              The answer to this debate is immaterial, having nothing to do with the iPad itself and everything to do with legitimizing and justifying its existence ourselves, whatever side of the coin we happen to fall on. No one seriously disputes that the iPad isn’t a computer in some form, from which point it becomes moot whether it’s equivalent to notebook or a desktop tower: both arrive at similar results and similar experiences. The difference is only in implementation. So what’s to gain in proving it can be as useful as a notebook or that it is more useful than a smartphone beyond self-satisfaction?6 Is the twisted logic that if we can somehow prove the iPad is a PC, and PCs are generally accepted as practical tools in modern society, that the iPad must then be more than the luxury item some claim it is? Problem is, this argument only works as a riposte to detractors who make the iPad out to be a toy. It is sufficiently clear to any reasonable person that the iPad can be practical in the modern world, if only by mere virtue of its popularity. But if you’re repeatedly engaging in such convoluted justifications for your own sake, then perhaps you didn’t need it in the first place.7

              And what if you oppose the iPad’s PC-ness? Perhaps you’re simply scared of the inevitable sea change computing is undergoing. You want to believe in the the PC’s continued relevance, that’s its implementation methods are still valuable and needed. Acknowledging the iPad as a peer to the PC would be admitting defeat. Maybe you’re scared of losing the status conferred by understanding the complexity of desktop operating systems and computers with removable parts.8

              Or maybe at its essence, the whole debate is another example of the sports fan, “I’m right your wrong” mentality the tech community is often prone of expressing. Sides are picked, allegiances are made, and the fires of rivalry are stoked.

              But is the iPad reeeaaally a PC?

              Shawn Blanc makes the best effort to sort through the naysaying to understand what it is that is actually driving this forum on the iPad’s PC-ness. He describes the cause…

              There will come a time when the majority of consumers who are in the market for a new personal computer will consider (and buy) an iPad or other tablet rather than a laptop or desktop computer. And when that time comes, the debate about the iPad being a PC or not will be over.

              The market will decide that the iPad is a PC by buying them instead of laptops and desktops.

              And effect…

              The fact that: (a) such a young device could be such a smashing success; and that (b) it could disrupt the decades-old PC market, are both interesting topics for discussion. And that discussion is manifesting itself as: “is the iPad a PC or not?”

              In the end, Shawn comes around to a similar conclusion as the one I’m presenting: that the discussion says more about us than it does the iPad.

              It seems that those arguing against the iPad being called a PC are really trying to make their own point that, for them, an iPad could not replace their PC. When they say the iPad is not a PC what they mean is that either: (a) there’s no way I would or could give up my PC and use an iPad instead; or (b) the iPad is not yet a PC, but it probably will be soon.

              His focus is on those arguing against the iPad’s PC-ness, but similar points could be raised for people arguing for it: that they’ve simply arrived to early at the party and aren’t ready to admit they still do need their PCs.

              The answer Blanc arrives to is as such: that what we are attempting to determine through this debate is the precise moment in time when our primary computing paradigms shift from those proposed by traditional PCs to those from modern, touch based systems like the iPad. Denying that the iPad is a PC becomes an attempt to delay that moment, to push it back to some later date, in the hope it may never come. Meanwhile, those claiming it is a PC have simply acknowledged that the shift is occurring as we speak.

              So in the end, even if there is no definite answer, we may be able to come to some understanding as to why we are so eager to discuss the iPad’s PC-ness. One thing is for sure: the arrival of the iPad has and will continue to simultaneously massage the ego of some while unquestionably deflating those of others.9 Which ego you end up as is all a matter of your ability to deal with future-shock.


              1. Except maybe for analysts. Determining whether the iPad is a PC or not changes whether their reports can claim “skyrocketing PC sales” or “PC market free fall”. I suppose the distinction matters is you’re trying to defend investments in HP and Dell stocks. 

              2. The debate to define post-PC is even more absurd. Can someone please define post-personal? What comes after personal? 

              3. In which case the iPad is unequivocally not a PC. 

              4. Presumably to fool those who’ve already tuned out of that debate. 

              5. Grevstad’s example of productivity apps? The laudable DataViz’s Documents To Go, which still thinks Palm and S60 are platforms. 

              6. Something I’ve personally been unable able to justify, resulting in returning both my iPad purchases shortly after owning them. 

              7. See 6. above. 

              8. Which would go a long way towards explaining why every argument against the iPad being a PC is the lack of some form of complexity only a small or particular group of people care about. 

              9. Persons and corporations alike. 

                On Square and Campaign Funding

                Nick Bilton, reporting for the New York Times:

                On Monday, President Obama’s re-election campaign announced that it would immediately begin using Square, a mobile payments start-up company based in San Francisco, with campaign staffers and some approved volunteers. “Squares are being sent to our campaign offices across the country,” said Katie Hogan, a spokeswoman for Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign. Mitt Romney’s campaign plans to announced a similar Republican-themed Square application on Tuesday that will allow campaign officials to collect donations on a smartphone.

                Hard to imagine a better way to gain visibility than by becoming the de-facto fundraising tool for both major parties during election season. It’s also hard to understate how success here could propel Square from tech startup darling to mainstream payment system in little less than a year. We might not know exact figures until after the dust settles, but we can make a semi educated guess that the number of Square transactions made during the campaign could total somewhere in the millions. Even if that figure overreaches, it’s guaranteed to be the best street marketing campaign ever seen.

                Square has already proven itself incredibly useful within the small business community and if it can demonstrate an ability to scale to the demands of a National Campaign, detractors will begin having a tougher time than they already are proving Square can’t work beyond independent workers and trendy cafes and restaurants. Beyond it’s simplicity and ease of use, Square also presents a unique advantage to campaign fundraisers: immediacy. Online fundraising played a major role in the 2008 campaign, but a lot of its success rested on the willingness of contributors to make the conscious effort to get themselves to a computer and donate. Square erodes some of that effort required to collect donations. Donations can be collected on site at rallies and events, while emotions run high and wallets are heavy. Catching potential donors at their most vulnerable has its value. Better yet, if Square can leverage some it’s Card Case technology into the services they are building for the Obama specific application, it could be possible to eschew the physical Square transaction altogether: donors would simply have to check in with a nearby collection agent to make a donation.

                If the repercussions are huge for political fundraising, they may be even bigger for Square. So far, Square’s biggest rivals have been NFC technologies (Think Google Wallet) and other chip based mobile payment systems, solutions supported not by market adoption and use but rather by contractual agreements by banks and credit companies looking for new interchange fee revenue and electronics manufacturers worried about being obsoleted by software solutions.1 Up to this point, the confrontation had been relatively equal: the support of NFC’s prominent supporters holding back the actual growing success of Square. However, success with the fundraising program could turn the tides, in so far as it may turn on many corporate lightbulbs onto the viability of software driven mobile payment solutions. So that by the time CES rolls around next year, instead of being deluged by XYZ NFC enable smartphones, floor space will be wasted in an effort to promote circle mobile payments and host of other geometric derivatives. In which case Square wins by being having both turned interest away from its previous competition and being first to a market it created in the first place.

                Voters might be asking “What is Square?” this year but it mightn’t be long till the consumer chorus becomes “Isn’t that like Square?” twelve months from now. Change we can believe in, no?


                1. And rightly so. 

                  Thunderbolt No Show at MacWorld

                  Sean Hollister, reporting for the Verge:

                  What you won’t buy, or really see, is anything with Apple’s latest, perhaps greatest accessory technology. It’s been nearly a full year since Intel’s Thunderbolt port was integrated into the MacBook Pro, and yet we didn’t see a single creative Thunderbolt add-on even in the supposed cornucopia of accessories at the show. (Western Digital’s My Book Thunderbolt Duo did appear, but no price or release date were revealed.)

                  Unsurprising. I had my own crackpot theories about Thunderbolt’s penetration, before iCloud blew them out of the water. If I had to throw out a post iCloud theory on Thunderbolt’s irrelevance outside the pro market, here it is: Thunderbolt is a technology that’s out of step - even outdated, with the way consumers use computers. And it’s consumers that really drive adoption, not professionals. Thunderbolt would have been revolutionary in 2005, when loading 16GB of music onto your iPod over USB was a chore, even more so with that handful of SD cards filled with pictures from your last vacation you keep forgetting to import into iPhoto.

                  There’s no denying that Thunderbolts transfer speeds are unmatched. The problem is that we’ve long since found solutions that are:

                  1. Fast enough for most every regular task.
                  2. Infinitely more convenient i.e, wireless

                  Today, we stream music on Pandora, Rdio or iTunes Match. The iPhone has become one of, if not the, most popular handheld camera on the market and pictures taken with it go straight to Facebook, Instagram, Flickr or Photo Stream. Even iOS devices - which I thought Thunderbolt could benefit most from, don’t need to be tethered to a computer anymore. We’ve simply moved on for the era of cables; everything is uploaded and synchronized to a web service. Even in tasks where Thunderbolt would still seem useful, like data backups, current solution are already perfectly suitable. Blame Time Machine for that. Beyond the first backup, Time Machine is seamless and nearly incognito. Does the average Mac owner even pay attention to it? If not, what’s the impetus for the desire to make those backups faster with a Thunderbolt connection? It doesn’t even need to be so specific. The two most popular computers for sale today don’t even have Thunderbolt ports. That says it all right there.

                  Hence making Thunderbolt’s absence from MacWorld utterly unsurprising.

                    Dogtooth

                    Yet another week, yet another episode of Movie Talk FM guest-starring yours truly. I should probably start petitioning to upgrade my title from guest to recurring. This week’s movie review is 2010 Greek drama Dogtooth. We also go over my Wes Anderson Phase Theory™.

                    If it seems like I’m on every other podcast you listen to nowadays, just know this: I really, I mean really, enjoy my Yeti microphone.