Posted tagged ‘Microsoft’

Bad Technology

12-13-07

Popular Mechanics has released its 10 Worst Gadgets of 2007. I don’t think everything on the list belongs there (like, why is everybody picking on Pleo, that cute lil’ robot dinosaur?), but some of them make you wonder — who is running these companies?

nabaztag-470-1207.jpgTake, for example, #6, the Violet Nabaztag:

Meet Nabaztag, perhaps the world’s first toy that purports to be a Wi-Fi-enabled rabbit that beeps, moves its ears, reads your e-mails, says snarky stuff and responds to voice commands. Of course, when we say “rabbit,” we mean a white plastic cone with plastic oblong ears that tend to fall off a lot. So if your idea of what a hare should look like comes from watching animals in the park, or even watching old Bugs Bunny cartoons, you will be sorely disappointed. Also, it often ignores your requests and kind of doesn’t work.

Nabaztag is essentially France’s answer to Japan’s alchemical ability to turn cute into cash. It costs $165, and getting it to actually read our e-mails was more harrowing than setting up a wireless network (our old Teddy Ruckspin could have done a better job). We’re honestly stumped why anybody would ever want a device like this to read their e-mail out loud. Most of our messages are along the lines of “Vi@Gra 4 Cheap!” and “Sounds good, see you at 7”—not exactly the kind of thing that needs to be spoken aloud by a frightening doll.

Or how ’bout Microsoft’s new version of the Zune music player, which comes in at #8: (more…)

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MSN Bets on Laziness

11-29-07

At the Consumer Technology Innovations conference in San Francisco yesterday, Joanne Bradford, Corporate Vice President & Chief Media Officer of Microsoft’s MSN, said the popularity of Facebook, MySpace and YouTube proves that web portals continue to be viable, despite the trend toward extreme individualism encapsulated in the expression “long tail.”

From CNET’s post about the conference:

For Bradford, who was interviewed on-stage at the conference by Wall Street Journal reporter Kevin Delaney, we’re in a new era where Web users want data and information filtered for them.

“People want you to do it for them,” she said. “They’re lazy. It’s a society of convenience.”

Fortunately, she suggested, MSN is here to help.

And in doing so, Bradford seemed to suggest, MSN is helping to create a dynamic where the most important and relevant information is presented to users, rather than relying on the long-tail to satisfy large numbers of users who want less popular information.

And by presenting the most important information in a way that is accessible and relevant, MSN is hoping it can benefit by similarly attracting top advertisers.

“The growth is still there,” she said. “Advertisers want the head. Advertisers will still pay 10x for the head instead of the tail.”

And from internetnews.com:

Asked if portals were “dying a slow death,” Bradford said quite the opposite. “Everything is looking more like a portal these days if you look at Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. I think there’s a reverse portal phenomenon going on where you stuff the tail back in the head and make it mean something.”

In other words, while a lot of social networking sites carry more personalized, user-generated and long tail content (referring to the theory of niche sites creating their own markets), they’re all trying to organize content like a portal does.

“People want things filtered for them and put together in a way that’s meaningful to their life, whether that’s around friends or items you want to buy,” said Bradford. “We really think people want you to do it [organize content] for them.” Bradford further claimed that most consumers don’t want to set up home pages, such as iGoogle, myYahoo or even feeds on Facebook. “There’s a great unanswered consumer need there,” she said, to automate the process of giving users the content they’re looking for.

To which I observe: Boy, that Microsoft culture sticks to its people like lint! Bradford’s head shot makes her look young and perky, but she already talks like an old-timer.

People are lazy?

People want things filtered for them?

MSN knows what’s “meaningful to (my) life?”

Really? (more…)

Verizon’s “Berlin Wall Moment”

11-28-07

In what was regarded as a surprise move, Verizon announced Tuesday it would give consumers more choice in what phones they can use on its network, perhaps hastening the day when Americans can buy the mobile device they want, then choose a carrier instead of having it chosen for them.

In its press release, Verizon said the “new choice” would not be available until the end of 2008, and described the process between now and then:

In early 2008, the company will publish the technical standards the development community will need to design products to interface with the Verizon Wireless network. Any device that meets the minimum technical standard will be activated on the network. Devices will be tested and approved in a $20 million state-of-the-art testing lab which received an additional investment this year to gear up for the anticipated new demand. Any application the customer chooses will be allowed on these devices.

The news has got everyone thinking about two companies not mentioned in the press release, Apple and Google. Apple, because the iPhone is such a sexy product but its appeal is weighed down by the required two-year AT&T/Cingular contract that comes with it; and Google because of its recent announcement of plans to create an open platform for a Linux phone that can run Google applications.

The commentary on Verizon’s move comes in two flavors: Laudatory, and intrigued conjecture. If anyone really doesn’t like it, they’re keeping it to themselves. Here are lots of samples:

“We’re seeing a sea change here. If you go back a year ago, there was absolutely no sign anyone was interested in pushing opening wireless networks,” said Harold Feld, senior vice president of the Media Access Project, a nonprofit telecommunications law firm. “This is like a Berlin Wall moment, where the pressure is too much for these guys.” (SF Chronicle)

Atlantic Monthly blogger Megan McArdle, a libertarian-leaning economist, agrees: (more…)