Tag Archives | The New York Times

The Case for CES

Over at the New York Times, Nick Wingfield has a story on CES 2012 with the gloomy title “A Tech Show Loses Clout as Industry Shifts.” He makes some good points. I’m not a CES apologist–in fact, I recently broached the question of whether Microsoft’s decision to pull out of the show after this year could conceivably be the beginning of the end, and wrote about some of its problems for Slate back in 2008.

Still, I came away from Wingfield’s piece unconvinced that there’s a new sea change going on in the industry that’s rendering CES less relevant than it has been in recent years.

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Why WebOS Failed

From the start, lot of people (me included) loved a lot of things about WebOS, the mobile operating system that debuted on Palm’s Pre smartphone in 2009. We thought it had a shot at being serious competition for Apple–or at least we hoped it might. But my friend Brian X. Chen of The New York Times has a smart piece that makes the case that WebOS was doomed to disappoint, because its technical underpinnings and use of Web technologies made for a slow and generally disappointing experience:

“Palm was ahead of its time in trying to build a phone software platform using Web technology, and we just weren’t able to execute such an ambitious and breakthrough design,” said Paul Mercer, former senior director of software at Palm, who oversaw the interface design of WebOS and recruited crucial members of the team. “Perhaps it never could have been executed because the technology wasn’t there yet.”

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Too Many BlackBerries

In a New York Times story by Ian Austen, RIM says it’s not sure how many different BlackBerry models it sells:

Features have proliferated on BlackBerrys as part of RIM’s move to the broader consumer market, and so have the number of models. Since 2007, RIM has introduced 37 models. The company, in a statement, said it did not know how many models were on the market.

The company with the most phones doesn’t win; the ones with the best phones do.

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Steve Jobs and Edwin Land

Over at the New York Times, Christopher Bonanos has a nice piece comparing Steve Jobs to the entrepreneur/technologist he resembles most by far: Polaroid’s Edwin Land. Bonanos says that virtually none of the Jobs obituaries mentioned Land, but I remembered to do so in my piece for TIME–in the third paragraph, in fact. And last June, when I wrote about Polaroid’s SX-70 camera, I found the Land/Jobs parallels so compelling that they threatened to take over the article.


Remembering 9/11, on the iPad and on the Web

Steve Rosenbaum's The 9/11 Memorial: Past, Present, and Future

On September 11th, 2001, the Web basically consisted of words, images, murky RealAudio sound, and a smattering of video that was a hassle to deal with, especially if you were still on dial-up. And tablets, in their modern, iPad-era form, didn’t exist at all. But a lot has happened in the past decade–and the tenth-anniversary coverage of the attacks and subsequent events include some remarkable creations which make use of today’s technology to do things that TV, books, magazines, and newspapers can’t.

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Pioneering Videogame Journalist Passes On

I haven’t thought about Bill Kunkel, Arnie Katz, or Electronic Games magazine in years, but I loved it back in the day and was saddened to hear of Kunkel’s death in this New York Times obituary:

Mr. Kunkel and his friend Arnie Katz are widely credited with starting the first published gaming column, called “Arcade Alley,” which began appearing in Video magazine in 1978.

The column, a monthly look at new video game hardware and software, drew more readers as home gaming systems became popular in the in the late 1970s and early 1980s. By 1981, around two million home systems were in use in the United States.

To cater to those new consumers, Mr. Kunkel and Mr. Katz teamed up with Joyce Worley to start a monthly magazine, Electronic Games, which had a circulation of more than 250,000 at its peak. The magazine coined descriptive terms like “screenshot,” for a still image of a game, and “play mechanics,” for the way a game is played.

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The Demise of “Ten Blue Links:” Greatly Exaggerated

The New York Times’ Steve Lohr has an interesting post on Oren Etzioni, a University of Washington researcher who’s published a paper calling for greater innovation in search. He calls for new approaches to search user interfaces–especially on phones, which are fundamentally different from PCs and used for different sorts of searches.

Etzioni speaks disparagingly of search results in the form of “ten blue links,” and says “they don’t cut it any more.” “Ten blue links” is a code-word for “Google-style search,” and people–especially people who work for Google rivals–are always disparaging it. Yet nobody’s come up with anything radically different that consumers seem to like a hundredth as much as they like Google’s ten blue link.

I vote for lots of experimentation with new kinds of search myself. (Siri, the iPhone app that Apple bought last year, uses voice recognition and semantic parsing of your input to do something that’s very little like Google, and very cool.) But for now, to riff on a famous Churchill quote, it’s possible that ten blue links are the worst interface for search–except for all the other ones.



Maybe Bill Keller is Just Doing Twitter Wrong

So help me, I’m not the kind of person who insists that anyone who doesn’t like the things that I like is a dolt. Reasonable people can come to different conclusions; not everything that’s appealing to me is interesting to everybody. That’s fine. Makes the world a more interesting place, in fact.

But I’m still fascinated by New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller’s latest New York Times Magazine column. Keller isn’t a Twitter fan. Actually, he thinks that it–and Facebook–may be bad for humanity. A few tidbits from his piece:

But my inner worrywart wonders whether the new technologies overtaking us may be eroding characteristics that are essentially human: our ability to reflect, our pursuit of meaning, genuine empathy, a sense of community connected by something deeper than snark or political affinity.

My mistrust of social media is intensified by the ephemeral nature of these communications. They are the epitome of in-one-ear-and-out-the-other, which was my mother’s trope for a failure to connect.

Following an argument among the Twits is like listening to preschoolers quarreling: You did! Did not! Did too! Did not!

I buy the idea that Keller is describing the Twitter he experiences. One of the defining things about the service is that it’s all kinds of things to all kinds of people. It all depends on who you follow and how you follow them.

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