Total Cost of Ownership

Posted in Spritely by Dimitri on March 17, 2010
According to this article, IT departments are discovering that it costs less to keep Macs running than Windows.
A friend of mine, Kai Rasmussen, had the following to say regarding his company’s experience with it.

I was just talking to our Operations/IT guy and he is trying to get our SMT to sign off on dumping Dell for Apple laptops exclusively for development. It turns out that the Apple laptops are hundreds of dollars cheaper, have better warrantees and support, and have overall better specs then the HP or Dell enterprise/development laptops.

I’ve noticed something similar, even in the consumer laptops. Once you consider the cost of the upgrades that most users take anyway, most of the time I advise people on a computer purchase they end up spending around $1000 for a laptop anyway.
Even if a machine with a similar spec to a Macbook has a base price of $700, adding “the usual” to it brings it up to $1000.
Let’s take a Dell Studio as an example. To get it to be similar to the base MacBook (added bluetooth, a better battery, a 3 year warranty, etc).
Before Office, the price came to $900.
Office Home (no Outlook) brings the price to $1012.
If you want Outlook the price goes to $1170.
Add MacAffee (stupid, I know, but assuming you just want your PC to work without viruses) brings the total to $1261.
A MacBook with AppleCare and iWork comes to $1291.
So just getting it home, the price typically comes within 10% – 15% of the purchase price. Just considering the cost of Spyware/Adware/Virus removal, plus the cost of “my Windows stopped booting, let me get the neighborhood kid in here to fix it” you can easily rack up more than that cost in the next 3 years.
Of course, the big exceptions come when you look at the low-end and high-end of the PC selection. Without software, you can buy a PC laptop for $400. It’s not a good laptop, but it does exist. On the high-end, configuring a PC to match the 17″ MacBook Pro is likely going to cost half what that premium product does.
As an aside, my experience in living near an Apple store has been amazing. Something breaks in software, just bring in your computer and they fix it on the spot, for free. If something breaks in hardware, they ship it off for you and ship it back to your house within the week. It’s free if you are in the first year or have Apple Care. A friend of mine recently got her MacBook Pro fixed for free (motherboard replaced) even though she had been out of AppleCare for over a year. Either the Apple employee was breaking the rules, or she was under some sort of Apple recall. Either way, the experience was fairly painless.
And with her Time Machine backup, she was able to restore her computer right back to where she was when she got the repaired one home. Ask an everyday computer user how to do that with a PC, and you’ll likely get a blank stare.

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Hulu vs. The Daily Show

Posted in Spritely by Dimitri on March 3, 2010

Viacom has announced that they will be removing 2 of Hulu’s top watched shows from the service. The shows will be able to be seen on the Comedy Central website, not Hulu.

The reason that they made this change was that Hulu’s model of monetization is that Hulu sells ads for it’s media partners, and splits the revenue with the media partners. Since Viacom feels that their Comedy Central programs will draw a similar audience when siloed away in their backyard, they have simply decided to cut out Hulu’s share of the ad dollar pie, and sell their own ads.

Meanwhile, it’s STILL Hulu’s policy not to allow it’s content to be shown outside of it’s own players. So brilliant startups like Boxee have to fight Hulu every step of the way to make the process work.

Now here’s what I don’t get. It’s clear to me that the only people in this whole equation that “get it” are the people at Boxee. They realized that people want their video in one place. Whether that video is supported by ads doesn’t matter to Boxee, since Boxee will faithfully show ads for any of the services that they tap into. If you go watch a Fox TV show on Boxee, you will see Fox ads. If you watch a Hulu show, you will see Hulu ads.

Wasn’t this the original purpose of Hulu? To bring our content all together in one place?

Clearly everyone needs to get paid. Content creators need to get paid to make the content. Distributors/aggregators need to get paid to run their services too. But since the people of Earth have long been happy to loan out their eyeballs to advertisers for a few minutes each hour of content, doesn’t this provide a rather easy solution?

I think content providers need to start providing their shows to anyone who wants to rebroadcast them, for free. But the catch is, they should be able to embed the very same ads that they would have otherwise shown.

A show distributor (Hulu, Apple, whoever) would then take this feed, with ads, and display it. They could get paid by using ads on the service (video overlays, text ads around the video) or by embedding an additional ad in the stream. Content owners could then set restrictions on the ads that could be embedded in their content (how many, what kind, no porn, etc.)

This model would be similar to the way that national TV and radio stations give up some of their advertising time to local outlets. It’s basically the same exact model. But for some reason, since the TV companies feel that they don’t have control over those rebroadcasting their content, they all feel the need to handle it themselves, which hurts the experience of watching TV for everyone.

For one second, content providers need to put themselves into their customer’s shoes. We’re not watching TV just on TV’s anymore. And as time goes on, people are no longer thinking of a TV as a TV, but rather as just another screen with an internet connection attached. It’s the future. We’re still willing to watch ads. But at this point, changing over to comedycentral.com takes as much time as getting up and adjusting the rabbit ears on the TV in order to pick up CBS instead of NBC. It’s unwieldy and unnecessary.

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Android’s Version Problem

Posted in Spritely by Dimitri on February 25, 2010

One of the problems with Android’s explosive growth is that the best Android phone out there is unlikely to hold that title for more than a few months.

The droid was the best of the best in November, then the Nexus One made droid buyers look silly in January. There will be a better Nexus One that starts to hit next month, and something better than THAT will come by Summer.

This can’t be helped. But the pain could be lessened by Google.

Let’s look at Apple’s model. Apple releases one iPhone per year. Stuck in 2 year contracts, iPhone users pine over the new model released a few months after their purchase. Most won’t choose to upgrade early due to the cost (a non-subsidized iPhone is $600). The early adopter crowd (I’m in that crowd) could easily get frustrated with this pace of one device per year.

But Apple gives a little gift to ALL existing iPhone users in the form of a free software update that comes out right around the time of the new phone. This causes early adopters to get something totally new to play with, and it brings their phones halfway to the features of the newly released phones. In the case of the 3GS, I would even argue that the 3.0 software update had a greater impact on the usability of the phone then the faster processor and better camera did in the 3GS. Once the 2 year contract is up, these happy customers run out and buy the latest model of iPhone.

So Apple pleases it’s existing customers with software. What does Google/HTC/Motorola do? They release a ton of new devices. Each of these appears either incapable of running the new OS, or the device manufacturers simply choose not to upgrade it. So now, a month after the Nexus One and Android 2.1 releases, the droid is still on version 2.0. All the previous android phones (some released as late as November 2009) are running either Android 1.5 or Android 1.6.

I think Google and device manufacturers should work more closely together. It’s hard to blame Google if Motorola is dragging it’s feet, but the device manufacturers need to realize that their old phones need updating. What if Google, HTC, and Motorola entered into an agreement where they made a commitment to release all devices with at least the next 2 major versions of the OS within, say, 2 weeks of the release date of the OS? They would also have to agree to not use the version of the base OS as a differentiator against their competition. They won’t do something like this, but something like this needs to be done to give users the best picture of Android that they can.

If I bought an Android phone in October, 2009, running Android 1.6, it’s likely that I would be unable to get it past version 1.6 or 2.0, even 2 years later when my contract is up. It’s basically the same phone as the day I bought it. However, if I bought an iPhone on that same day, at the end of my contract it would have gone from 3.0 to 4.0 to 5.0 of the iPhone OS. Even if they don’t keep up this rate of major releases, it would certainly be running the latest version of the OS. And it’s more than likely that iPhone OS 4.x or 5.x will be far superior to Android OS 2.0 or 1.6.

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Flash on the Nexus One

Posted in Spritely by Dimitri on February 23, 2010

Michael Chaize has a video up of Flash running on the Google Nexus One. It all looks fairly good, albeit a bit jerky due to some dropped frames, but definitely usable.

The only problem is, this version appears to take about a quarter of the phone’s battery life in under 10 minutes. Now, this is an early version, and let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and say that it can run Flash content for 1 hour. That’s pretty pathetic, and something you are going to want to stay away from in general if you want to use your phone away from a charging station. What’s more concerning is that since Flash runs on many web pages to provide ads it could be possible to take this battery hit even when you weren’t actively trying to view flash content. So it’s not 1 hour of video watching or game playing, it’s 1 hour of web browsing to sites that provide flash ads. Combine that with the fact that Android allows the browser to keep running in the background, and you have a serious battery life issue on your hands.
I personally wish that Google would stand with Apple to stand up to Adobe. I would have no problems with Flash as a runtime if it’s performance was acceptable. If Adobe made improvements to flash to increase it’s performance, then I would see no problem allowing it to run on mobile devices.

At the moment, Apple has the best web browsing experience on a mobile phone, but it’s competitors are quickly catching up. They are now attempting to leap ahead of Apple by adding Flash which will allow for a more “complete” web experience. This tactic may work well on a device spec sheet, but in the real world users will be far more unhappy that they have a phone that runs out of juice before lunch.

(via Daring Fireball)

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Ribbon Hero

Posted in Spritely by Dimitri on February 16, 2010

Microsoft has made a game out of learning their wacky office ribbons:

Wouldn’t it just make more sense to design a user interface and help system that helps the user through the tasks through intuitive UI, rather than awarding them for memorization?

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Xbox Live Anywhere

Posted in Spritely by Dimitri on February 16, 2010

Almost 4 years ago, Microsoft demoed a new feature of Windows Mobile which would allow Xbox Live integration. Engadget said:

Microsoft’s new Live Anywhere that they announced at today’s E3 keynote takes their Xbox Live concept and extends it to the PC, Windows Mobile and even Java-enabled phones. Whether you’re at your PC or rocking a mobile, you’ll be able to track your gamer tag, message friends, purchase content for that device or set it to download to another device, and of course compare rankings with your buddies on various gaming titles. Halo isn’t going to run so well on your RAZR, so for actual cross platform titles, Microsoft is sticking with XBLA-esque games that can translate easily to different platform, such as Bejeweled.

This system never appeared.

Yesterday, they revealed the same feature, but this time integrated into Windows Phone 7. From Gizmodo’s rave review of WP7S:

I’ll admit, I very nearly needed to change my pants when I saw the Xbox tile on the phone for the first time. Obviously, you’re not going to be playing Halo 3 on your smartphone (at least not this year), but yes, Xbox Live on a phone! It’s tied to your Live profile, and there are achievements and gamer points for the games you can play on your phone, which will be tied to games back on your Xbox 360.
If Microsoft’s got an ace-in-hole with Windows Phone 7, it’s Xbox Live.

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Managing Expectations

Posted in Spritely by Dimitri on February 16, 2010

The tech press is gushing about Windows Phone 7 Series. To paraphrase nearly every review I’ve read so far:

Microsoft, whose Windows Mobile OS is the flaming bag on the doorstep that the company refuses to stomp out, wowed everyone today by showing a demo of something that didn’t totally suck.

The bar is currently set so low for Microsoft that anything new and different gets a huge reaction out of the press. It was the same with Windows 7 (Vista sucked, 7 didn’t suck as much, hooray Microsoft).

Remember, Microsoft is the largest, wealthiest software developer in the world. Why are they getting the underdog treatment?

Now compare that sentiment to the tepid reaction to the iPad by those same journalists. For Apple, whose track record is in creating amazing products, putting out another solid product that didn’t reinvent the wheel was considered a negative.

For Microsoft, simply not tripping over their own shoelaces is seen as a major win.

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My Take on Windows Phone 7 Series

Posted in Spritely by Dimitri on February 15, 2010

Today Microsoft announced Windows Phone 7 Series, the complete overhaul (replacement) of the dying Windows Mobile platform.
It will be out at the end of 2010, and will attempt to take on Apple, RIM, Android and Palm.

Let me get this out of the way first: this is the best thing that Microsoft could have done to stay relevant in this space. Clearly Windows Mobile wasn’t going to be competitive, and this new product shows promise. Although they are advertising it as something new and better than the iPhone, what they have essentially done is to duplicate the iPhone, and it’s what they have copied that will be their only chance at being competitive.


Do I think it will be a huge winner, an iPhone and Android “killer”? Not a chance. It likely won’t be a flop, with Microsoft putting it’s weight behind it, but I very much doubt it will put a big dent in Apple’s dominance in the space.

Microsoft is extremely late to this party. It’s 2010. The iPhone was released in 2007, and apps came to it in 2008. If the Microsoft phone was here NOW, this would be a different story, but it’s at least 7-9 months away. If there is one thing Apple has shown it doesn’t do is rest on it’s laurels: iPhone OS 3.0 brought some major improvements to the platform, as will iPhone OS 4.0 which will likely appear this summer. So by the time Microsoft’s platform launches, Apple will have over 200,000 apps on the App Store, and around 100 million devices (iPhones and iPod touches) sold.

Where Microsoft didn’t copy the iPhone and chose to go it’s own way was with the home screen (“Start” screen). It runs these little boxes that can be fed from data services, and they are used to launch a more full-featured app. As I predicted in my Widgets post, Apple is VERY likely to do something like this themselves.

So when Christmas rolls around, where will be the Microsoft advantage? Nerds and power-users will likely choose Android for it’s flexibility and multi-tasking. Business users will still be using their trusty Blackberries. And iPhone owners will likely stick with the iPhone, since it has the highest customer satisfaction rating out of any phone. So that leaves new users, who have a choice to go with the raved about iPhone, or this new “Windows Phone thing”. My guess is that in general, the Windows name doesn’t instill a tremendous amount of trust, but perhaps I am wrong. Even though the most recent Zune HD was a critical darling, it hasn’t put a dent in iPod market share.

Without having played with one (nor have I used a Zune HD), the interface does look beautiful, if a bit cluttered. I wonder how usable it will be. From the videos I watched today, it seems somewhat cumbersome to navigate the home screen, and even one of the Microsoft presenters had a hard time finding his contacts (rather than having a standard icon for contacts, it had been changed to a picture of one of his contacts).

Oh, and the name is horrible. “Windows Phone 7 Series” is a mouthful, as is it’s official domain: http://www.windowsphone7series.com. Can’t someone at Microsoft realize that branding is important? Call it the Zune phone. Call it the Windows phone. But don’t roll out a whole new product, and stick the number 7 on it like that means something to us.

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Google gets into the broadband business

Posted in Spritely by Dimitri on February 10, 2010

Google announced today that they are going to start offering 1Gbps broadband to select (50,000 to 500,000) homes in select spots in the country.

Just how fast is 1Gbps? It’s 100 times faster than a cable modem. 50 times faster than the usual fiber offering in the US, and 20,000 times faster than a 56k modem.

More importantly, it’s twice as fast as desktop hard drives, and is only slower than the fastest of solid state disks. In other words, storing something in the cloud becomes the same as storing something locally, with no need to download, preload, or buffer anything. Even a blu-ray movie can stream across the network, with plenty of headroom to spare.

This is where Google wants the world to be in 10 years. With a connection this fast and a very capable browser, each screen that runs the internet becomes simply a terminal into the applications of the web.

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New Internet Explorer Security Flaw

Posted in Spritely by Dimitri on February 4, 2010

Today, Microsoft announced that there is a security hole in Internet Explorer that can share your personal files with the entire internet. Ars Technica has a writeup, and notes the 5 recommended actions suggested by Microsoft to limit it’s impact:

Protected Mode in IE7/IE8 on Windows Vista and later limits the impact of the vulnerability.

In a Web-based attack scenario, an attacker could host a webpage that is used to exploit this vulnerability or do so via a webpage that accepts or hosts user-provided content or advertisements. In all cases, however, an attacker would have no way to force users to visit these websites and would have to convince them to do so, which is typically achieved via an e-mail or instant message.

An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the local user. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less affected than users who operate with administrative user rights.

There’s a much simpler solution: never use Internet Explorer.

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