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Monthly Archives: June 2014

23
Jun
2014

The New Amazon Fire Phone is a Stealth Market Disruptor

by Bill

Stealth phoneSpeculation has been long been rampant regarding Amazon’s entry into the smartphone business, expectations being that the phone would be a major disruptor, including speculation that it would be given away for free.

Amazon pulled the wraps of their new phone recently, and the device, dubbed the Amazon Fire Phone was revealed to be, contrary to the speculation, yet another high-end entry into an already crowded space. Also contrary to the speculation by industry watchers, the phone’s pricing and marketing plan is anything but disruptive, being offered exclusively by AT&T with pricing in line with other smartphones, ranging from $199 to $299 depending on storage capacity, with a two-year contract, with unlocked phones selling for $649 and $749.

Amazon’s business model has long been to significantly undercut its competitor’s pricing, whether it’s in books or dish detergent, or with its Kindle line of tablets, offering a simple, yet compelling reason for consumers to use the online retail giant. With this phone, Amazon appears to be offering something that is not that different than competing products, for more or less the same price as their competitors. Sure there are some unique features, such as their trick 3D display technology, 13 megapixel cameras, both front and back, and unlimited cloud storage, as well as an interesting product support feature, Mayday, which provides instantaneous tech support. However their “killer app,” and seemingly the whole point of the device is Firefly, their exclusive shopping application that will allow users to point and click and nearly anything in the real world, from a TV in your local Best Buy to groceries in your supermarket, which will instantly tell you if the item is available on Amazon, and if it’s cheaper, which in many cases it is, you can make your purchase directly from the phone.

Coupled with the purchase of the Amazon Fire, owners receive a free year’s subscription to Amazon Prime, which usually costs $99, softening the phone’s pricing blow, and bringing with it all of the popular goodies that membership brings, from streaming music and movies, to crucially, free two-day shipping on purchases at Amazon.

Firefly currently recognizes over 70 million products, and with a dedicated button on the side of the phone, it promises to make “showrooming,” visiting brick and mortar stores to see a product, then buying it cheaper online, as convenient as possible for consumers, however it should be noted that there are existing apps available for Apple and Android devices that already do just that, though obviously, Firefly is much more tightly integrated into the smartphone experience than the other platforms’ standalone apps.

Amazon’s operating system for the Fire phone, Fire OS, while based on the Android operating system, is so heavily modified that it has been denied access to the Google Play store, the primary source of approved apps for Android devices, but Amazon is predicting that developers will provide versions of their apps for this new platform, though that remains to be seen. More importantly it remains to be seen how much additional revenue Amazon can reap from users of the Fire Phone from selling them products and services, and if those numbers make the business case for it, the much-hyped “free” smartphone from Amazon may just yet come to pass. In the meantime, Amazon faces a battle as it tries to shoulder its way into an already-saturated smartphone market.

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12
Jun
2014

HP Sets Out to Reinvent the Computer

by Bill

our data center cabinetsHewlett Packard has recently unveiled a project, dubbed somewhat ominously “The Machine,” which if it pans out, could replace an entire data center’s worth of equipment with a single cabinet the size of a household refrigerator and connect 100 terabytes of memory to your smartphone. While we’re no strangers to hyperbolic claims being put out by tech companies, HP appears to truly believe that it is capable of bringing this fantasy to fruition, and had reportedly devoted 75% of HP Labs’ personnel to this project.

HP has been working on The Machine for two years now, and to call the project ambitious is the ultimate in understatement. Computer and software design has long been based upon a slow disk / fast memory paradigm. A computer’s central processor issues orders to copy the program and the data set that is to be manipulated from your data storage device to it’s local high-speed memory, or DRAM, which is located near the processor.

The problem with this architecture has become increasingly apparent as programs become more complex and sophisticated. The volume of data continues to increase exponentially while experts warn of the end of “Moore’s Law,” that computer processors would double in power every 18 to 24 months. As current-technology computer hardware bumps up against limits imposed by physics, there is a race to develop new technologies that are fundamentally different from the architecture that governs today’s computing frameworks.

From quantum computing to nanowire transistors, some of the brightest minds on Earth are working feverishly to develop a better mechanical mind quickly.

HP’s gambit is based around the concept of the memristor, an atomic-scale transistor that can store information, “remembering” its state even after electrical current has been removed. The Machine’s prodigious memristor memory banks are planned to be placed on The Machine’s motherboards in close proximity to its processors, providing more or less instantaneous access to any and all data. The components would then be linked via silicon photonics, rather than copper, increasing throughput and lessening power consumption or heat dissipation requirements inherent in metallic conductors due to electrical resistance.

Of course, this paradigm shift in the very nature of what a computer is as a machine will also requires a completely new operating system, for which HP is developing an open-source Machine OS, to take advantage of The Machine’s always-available vast memory store. HP says that this system will be able to deal with massive data sets, ingest, store and manipulate them with orders of magnitude less energy consumed.

HP CEO Meg Whitman envisions: “a dashboard capable of displaying every aspect of the your [corporate] enterprise operations in real time,” or being able to have, “a doctor compare your symptoms and genomics with every other patient in the world instantly without language barriers and privacy breaches.” HP says that these technologies will be on market by the close of this decade, and they do appear to be doing all they can to be the ones who bring them to fruition.

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04
Jun
2014

The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection

by Bill

SEO While as a tagline, “the relentless pursuit of perfection” is most associated with a certain Japanese automaker, the philosophy long predates their founding. Obsessive attention to detail is often a marker of the most successful endeavors, whether it’s a making a luxury car or a producing a web site.

Recently, Google made news for changing its logo, though it’s somewhat surprising that anyone even noticed. In fact most of the news stories covering Google’s logo revision concentrate on how imperceptibly it changed. The sum total of the revision amounted to moving the lower-case ‘g’ slightly rightwards, and the ‘l’ slightly rightwards and slightly lower, and when we say slightly, we’re talking about a single pixel move at most resolutions.

Now even at the world’s most popular website, which accommodates, on average, nearly 6 billion searches a day, adjusting the spacing of a couple of letters in the logo by a pixel is unlikely to have a measurable effect on traffic. Undoubtedly changing Google’s logo, even infinitesimally, doesn’t just happen, someone, we suspect a designer noticed that the kerning on the typeface could be improved, making it just a little bit better and more visually harmonious.

The adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is all well and good, but sweating the details, no matter how minute, when designing your site, from fonts and kerning, to colors and layout, can make a difference in how your users and customers experience, even if they are not consciously aware of it, but even with the best design, if your site is offline or slow it’s all for naught. At NationalNet, we sweat the technological details for you, whether it’s collocation, managed hosting or dedicated hosting, you’ll have a dedicated team of professionals on your side, and at your service 24/7/365, sweating the tech on your behalf, so you can concentrate on what you know best, your business.

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