January 13, 2005
Pundits on parade, take 2
It's pretty clear reading the linked article that the author is working from Kahney's book (which I got for Christmas. I wasn't going to buy it, since I follow the website, but it's worth it for all the photos, which Wired's website doesn't handle well).
Pundits on parade
"Where, in other words, is the BMW strategy? It is as if BMW suddenly tried to undercut Honda's Accord or Toyota's Camry. While there's no denying there is a large market for value-priced cars, by competing directly against those products BMW would be putting its margins at risk. More importantly, it would be ample reason for investors to wonder whether BMW executives had lost their minds. Why would they suddenly abandon what they did best -- engineering interesting products -- and start trying to sell family econo-boxes?"
Perhaps BMW could create (or purchase) a second brand that sold cars that were not quite so expensive. Maybe comparable in price to other cars, but maybe a little smaller, and fun. Maybe they wouldn't use quite the same high-performance motor, tires, and other parts, so they could maintain reasonable margins even at a lower price, while providing a stair-step into the BMW family of brands.
Maybe they would be highly customizable, with users adding options that reflect their own needs and desires, building their car to order and tracking it all the way to delivery through the web.
But what could BMW possibly call such a company?
January 12, 2005
Never mind the pundits, here come the Mac minis
I'm pulling the trigger as we speak. I'll save $100 by taking the "low-end" processor. I'll save the $50 on the bigger internal drive, since I have a 200-gig FireWire drive currently looking for work. I'll save the $100 on Airport, but they got me on Bluetooth -- ding! Fifty bucks. I'll pay the $75 for the 512-meg DIMM, since they're about $80 at Crucial, so I'm looking at $624.
Christy is a true saint -- she mentioned we could almost pay for this from our "big box of change", and buying a new Mac for change is certainly appealing.
First blush suggests Apple has a hit on its hands: Yesterday, the minis were listed as shipping "for delivery by January 22nd", and tonight, they're listed as 3-4 weeks. Some things at Apple apparently never change.
The prize-winning screed on the Mac mini has got to be Bill Palmer (no surprise), who I'm guessing, well, won't be buying one. Other folks I'm putting down for a "no, thank you" include E. (for Enigmatic, perhaps?) Schwartz over at InfoWorld, and a couple of "industry analysts" quoted over at TheStreet.com, one of whom notes:
But it's still less robust -- though at a fraction of the price -- of Media Center PCs, which offer spruced-up applications to manage digital photos, play music and record television shows. Promisel said the Mac mini would need more ports, a TV tuner and stronger wireless support to offer the same experience as the Media Center PC.
Unless I'm reading wrong, the mini comes with iTunes and iPhoto, and has Airport Extreme available, with the same speed as anybody else's wireless solutions.
I just saw HP's Home Entertainment Center PC advertised on TV for $1300. Pair a Mac mini with the newly released EyeTV Wonder USB 2.0 (or their pricier EyeTV 200) and an external FW hard drive, and you're looking at maybe $800-$900, and you've got one kick-ass little home entertainment system.
Least I hope so, since that's what I just ordered.
Added a Mac mini category. I'll probably move some of the iServe stories over there, and chronicle my experiences with the new box there.
January 11, 2005
Dawn of a new Apple
So Steve Jobs has finished the big keynote at Macworld '05, and the Apple website has been updated with the new products he announced. If you haven't been following along, feel free to go take a look.
Wow. This is the beginning of a whole new era for Apple. No longer do I have to grit my teeth and say, "Well, you could buy a white-box PC," when somebody says they only want to spend $500 on their new computer.
This is beginning to smell like a no-excuses Apple. We only have five percent of the market? What the hell are we going to do about it? Asked and answered. We're dominating the hard drive music player market, but people are still buying smaller and cheaper flash players? What the hell are we going to do about it? Asked and answered.
It's great to see Apple leveraging their superior product design skills to bring out some low-end products. As of today, you can actually take home a useful piece of Apple hardware for $99. The iPod shuffle looks like exactly what I was talking about in December, the iPod cheapy tiny sport. My only problem is that it doesn't have FireWire support, so it would/will be very slow with Sophie's TiBook (which is still USB 1.1, of course).
As for the Mac mini, that's every bit as nice as the G4 iMac I'm writing this on, for $599. The $499 model will probably do very nicely as the replacement for my home web server, and somebody on my tech team pointed out almost immediately that the new mini is essentially the same size as the mini PC we're planning to deploy to field locations where space is tight.
I expect both of these new products to sell like crazy.
January 10, 2005
CNN goes RSS. Finally.
Only 5-6 years after some of us started using RSS inside the organization, CNN has launched public RSS feeds. Here's a page with all the CNN feeds, one with all the CNNSI.com feeds, and one for CNN/Money.
Why did it take so long? No one still at CNN is likely to say so, but for a long time, CNN.com made a lot of money from an affiliates program, where local TV stations could use CNN.com content on their website (and CNN.com would direct users looking for local news to their website). CNN's fear was that making the same content available "for free" would mean no one would pay to be an affiliate.
I can't speak to the current health of that program, since I can't find any sign of it on CNN.com today. Meantime, other news providers are providing RSS feeds that serve dual functions: free to end users, commercial to resellers. Reuters, for instance, offers 17 different news feeds, and my company is one of the commercial customers (would that all our content partners had RSS feeds; sometimes we have to screen-scrape to get their content).
The feeds that CNN does provide look terrific. It's going to be interesting to watch their "most popular" feeds updating in real-time, like a single-site Blogdex or Daypop's Top 40. They're slightly limited because they can't re-syndicate wire content, which makes up a significant chunk of their news. The only other news provider offering the variety of feeds CNN is publishing is The New York Times, with 30 feeds, including a dedicated feed just for David Pogue.
I'm really looking forward to spending some time with CNN.com again. One of my old co-workers had asked me about RSS, and some suggestions on setting up these official feeds, and I told him:
... CNN has almost vanished from my browsing world. Some of that is from the site changes when editorial functions moved back to the networks, but largely it's because I can use the newsreader as a newsfilter; Paul Beard and I used to debate whether that possibility was a net good or bad thing, since it means I don't get exposed to some news that's probably "good for me" in a nagging Mom sort of way. Whether it's good or bad, it's happening, and for CNN to ignore it would be like saying 'We're good with cable -- we don't want to be on satellite TV.'
One other note: If you've been pulling CNN from one of the several services (or through server scripts) that have been manually building feeds, you should probably switch over to these new feeds. They're guaranteed to work going forward, while some of the services scrape some fairly non-standard pages that might not survive for much longer.
Update: On my first trip through the new feeds, I found a story on Walgreen's (a stock we hold), a story on Macworld tomorrow, a story on a "little medieval armor shop" I forwarded directly to Shane, and two (2!!!) cycling stories.