A couple of nice, pretty mid-life crisis things to possibly purchase at age 40 or 50 but mostly to look at and pine for considering it ain't ever gonna happen :-) These two things and that boat (ok, yacht) I posted last time.
I want a boat — Beneteau Oceanis 38.1. I don't really want one but since we already have a waffle maker…
Several years back, I got really tired of buying way too expensive Gillette razor blades, $35 for 8 cartridges or $4.38 per blade. The actual razor that you can buy from Gillette is cheap, $11.50 or less. This is of course the razor, razor blade model of pricing.
I got really sick of it so I flipped the model and I went and bought a $30 razor (the one pictured above) and nice razor blades that cost $0.32 each or 30 blades for $9.00. Yup, $0.32 per old school razor blade versus $4.38 per Gillette blade. That's kind of a big difference.
There is slightly more work since I need to use shave soap, 3 for $14. You can get away with not using shaving cream/soap with a Gillette razor/cartridge. Shaving cream or gel are fine too but shave soap is cheaper and lasts a really long time. With shave soap, I can rock out with a $12 badger shave brush to lather up the soap which is kind of a pleasant experience making it and applying the lather to my face. There's some cost savings down the road here but it's negligible.
I finish up my shave with a splash of Osage Rub, it's inexpensive and makes our bathroom smell like a barbershop for a hot second. I do get nicked sometimes and I'll use a styptic pencil to fix it when that happens.
So finally tally:
All those commercials for Dollar Shave Club had been bugging me. I don't get why you need to join a club to buy expensive razor blades at a slight discount. Get a decent razor and buy the old school razor blades for $0.32 and you won't need to join a club to shave your face. I've already been priced gouged by Gillette for over 20 years, I don't need to be slightly less gouged by some startup.
The new MacBook is nice but it's not the upgrade for my current setup. At this rate, I won't be upgrading from a MacBook Pro until 2016, darn. I'm hoping the next MacBook Pro has at least:
I'm still rocking a MacBook Pro from mid-2009 and it still feels more than fast enough. There isn't an OS upgrade or any specific apps that makes me feel like I'm slogging in mud. Minor nits are the effective 4 hour battery life and its weight of ~4.5lbs. That's about it though, can't really complain.
The new 13" Dell XPS also looks pretty good. Too bad it runs Windows and it would still be better to wait for a Skylake version of it.
Today's (2015) computing environment sure is exciting and confusing. Lots of different innovations coming all together with processors, display, storage, batteries, "form factors", platforms, and Internet speeds. It sure makes buying computing capabilities really tough and forces you into thinking what is it that you really need to do. Are you buying too much or too little in computing power? Here's where I think we are and where we might go.
With hardware we're looking at Broadwell and Skylake processors coming out this year, 128GB+ micro SDs, more and cheaper cloud storage, 4K and higher displays, alternative inputs Myo/Leap/Siri/Cortana, 2-in-1 computer/tablets, more tablets, phablets and chromebooks, smarter TVs or tv dongles, more of all sorts of "wearables", more of connected home devices like thermostats, cameras, irrigation control, lights, and better basic computing learning tools like updates to Raspberry Pi and Arduino kits. We'll also see more of 3D VR…and drones!!!
The most interesting to me is less emphasis on processing speed and more emphasis on different "form factors", battery life, and capabilities. We used to care about getting the fastest computer available. In a lot of instances, a Chromebook or a tablet might be all you need these days.
So, the big marketing push seems to be the 2-in-1s and cheaper laptops like Chromebooks. It's hard not to think that previous more powerful gen Windows laptops and MacBooks aren't anything more than glorified Chromebooks considering all the time we spend in a web browser for most things. Anyway, going to be quite a fight and I'll be interested to hear what China has to say.
The Web is still the platform to beat although Windows (Windows 10 in Jan), Mac OS X (10.11) Android (5.0 Lollipop), iOS (8.1) sure are pushing hard and there's really no marketing for the Web as a platform. It's a tough thing.
From a dev standpoint, you're building your app for iOS and then Android both with a web backend and a web frontend as fall back. You're no longer building a Windows or Mac OS X app unless you really have the time, money, and resources but knowing your app is accessible via Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Safari is enough.
HTML5 especially the video components should really start taking this year and maybe we'll see HTML5 videos on sites like ESPN.
From an app standpoint, more of the same in terms of people trying to regurgitate already popular apps. We'll see more ello, Strings (messaging app), more games, same stuff, same and new people, just with a little twist. It all still boils down to the quick, cheap app purchase or monetizing (via ads) of hosted content that people upload (posts, comments, videos, photos, documents, etc).
Bundling/Unbundling – the suites are the thing
The stack fight – Windows, Apple, Google, the rest continues to be fascinating. And marca and Jim Barksdale's theory of bundling/unbundling to make gobs of money still rings true.
The original productivity bundle Word, Excel, Powerpoint vs. Pages, Numbers, Keynote vs. Doc, Sheets, Slides vs. some random startup's app is quite the fight. You're adding Microsoft OneDrive vs. iCloud vs. Drive (and there's still Dropbox, Box, etc) makes you really wonder what you should use and where you should store your documents. The sleeper might be the note taking apps but I sure do love etherpads.
The creative bundle fight featuring photos, music, videos is even more fascinating (and probably more important/lucrative): iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie vs. Windows Music, Photos, Video vs. Google Play Music, Photos, YouTube vs. other web apps. This bundle seems to be more important because it's your photos and videos and it's personal. From a file management standpoint, it can't really get any more confusing especially when you add camera phones and auto upload features.
The final bundle features communication so email, text, phone/Internet phone/voice, social networking. Gmail, Hangouts, Voice, Google+ vs. Outlook, Skype, Socl? vs. Mail, Messages, FaceTime vs. Facebook, Twitter. The hidden fight within this bundle is single sign-on which comes with owning an ever improving profile boost. I don't know which among Facebook, Google, or Twitter is going to win this one.
The what's next bundle might revolve around health and fitness. It might be a general diagnostic app with health and medical records, a fitness app, and a diet app that all major players bundle together. A lot of signs are pointing to health and fitness as becoming the next bundle and of course there's also a lot of money available. There's also the trend that as tech folks age (Healtheon, WebMD, Revolution Health), we eventually turn our attention to health solutions. I'm interested to see if that trend holds up.
Wrap-up, Looking Forward to the Most
Gigabit Internet, Skylake processors, faster/better web browsers on multiple platforms, better recommendation engines, smoother integration/flows, and overall smarter web apps that will make life more enjoyable, help us spend more time with people we care about, and help us to make money are the innovations I care about the most. An 85" 4k, OLED, curved tv isn't really going to get me there but it's still nice to know they'll be a few of those at CES.
Being healthy, getting stronger/faster, hanging out with family and friends, eating great food are more interesting to me. How computing plays into that is the question.
Over the years, the tech industry has had some lovely tech themes: Killer Apps, the Web, Search, Portals and Vortals, Dynamic HTML, Personalization, Verticals, Everywhere, Web 2.0, Web services, mashups, Digital Divide, Mobile, Location, HTML5, the Cloud, Apps, and now we're looking at "Wearables" and "Contextual".
Mitch Kapor and seemingly the tech scene in Oakland are pushing for the tech theme of Inclusion and I'm right there with him. Doesn't have to replace our fascination with wearables or context (e.g. Siri or Google Now), but it should be one of the themes that we carry forward.
Who are we including as our customers, as part of our development team, as part of our projects, as part of our investors? Are we valuing diversity? Are we equipping minorities with the training, tools, access, opportunities, money/resources to thrive or lean in? The truth is we're missing out on a lot when we're not being inclusive.
(what diversity in tech should/could look like)
Look for "Inclusion" or #Inclusion or include or inclusivity, etc. Inclusion is a tech theme you can be proud to be associated with, to be thinking about, and a nice theme to move forward.
In the next 5 to 10 years or so, we'll have a "home monitor" or "home computer" and a home storage device as a part of our homes much like a thermostat, heater, A/C, etc.
Home energy storage is an easy concept — big battery is charged from the electrical grid or solar panels on the home and essentially runs the electricity for the house and helps keep the home off the grid or helps a home be more efficient by powering it up during peak hours. This is one of the reasons why Tesla seems to be more than just an electric car company. A Tesla battery in every home and business? Sounds pretty cool to me.
The home monitor/computer (needs a better name) is going to be a little bit harder to define and it can go a couple ways. The first way is as an extension of the NEST and becomes that connected device that monitors *everything* about a house, temperature, water usage, water quality, air quality, security, and electrical usage. The next is the ability to manage each (automatic turn on/off/regulate) for appliances and lighting, temperature, etc. But how great would it be to know air quality and water quality in your house at all times. I'd love that, I'm sure others would too.
We're moving into the phase where there are connected devices doing that one thing and doing it really well like a NEST thermostat or smoke detector, or one of those smartphone door locks, or one of many connected security systems. There are devices that exist that already do some of the "smart home" functions — pricey though. And then you could even plug your car into the home monitor to make sure everything is running smoothly. Lots of possibilities.
The other way this could go is the home computer/home server where a home server manages all the computers and data for the home, all the photos, music, videos, documents, online accounts and entertainment that serves as the method to keep the main files, serve as a backup, and also as the intermediary to a cloud back up service. Some of this is available now but haven't seen a clean Apple-like solution.
The home server feels like one of the cleaner ways to manage a household where everyone (2+ people) has a computer and a smartphone and possibly another device like a tablet and then another couple of tvs in the home and a few music devices. In a shared household environment, where's the main file (that photo, that music file, that video, that contract) that everyone can use? Alternatively, those files could be all on Dropbox, Google Cloud, iCloud, SkyDrive, somewhere else in the sky?
Where's the primary file? What device can I access it from? Can I cache/store it on that device? Is that file backed up? Is that file backed up to the cloud? Digital hoarding at it's finest or just where we are these days with tech assets.
Going through the user experience is best when considering the most important files you own/store, so likely photos, music, videos, and certain documents.
I was going to write this last week but it looks like the concept might be coming up again given this article per Mozilla's new hire and the concept of smart agent.
Basically the idea is this: the web is moving towards becomes a better agent. It takes the concept of the web browser as "user-agent" and really becoming an agent that works for you much like a real estate agent, travel agent, concierge, financial adviser, etc. In order for this to happen though, there needs to be a deeper relationship, the agent needs to know you better in order to give better advice and ultimately act for you.
Google Now, Siri, Pandora's results matching, Amazon's recommendations are all early implementations in the realm of personal assistant. Motorola Assist is another example as it knows when you're driving, having a meeting, or going to sleep in order to make recommendations for you. The initial phase is gathering the information, finding out what people are doing, and then building services around those actions. When the agent can actually act for you, buy that product for you, book that flight for you, make the reservation for your wedding anniversary dinner at your favorite restaurant, that's when we might have something.
Where is this evolving from? The concepts are "personalization" which we've seen with My Yahoo!, iGoogle, NetVibes; recommendation engines from services like Pandora, Amazon, and loads of other web sites; the notion of likes and having a "likes" database that could power better recommendations; avatars and the creation of mini-me type experiences on the web; if this then that type of services; identity, signing into a web browser and knowing history and bookmarks; and, web services in general that are talking to each other and they're letting us be our own real estate agents and travel agents. The next step is better recommendations, actual transactions, and then our interaction with our agent is maybe just the confirmation of the transaction.
tbd…and that's why the concept of a "real" agent is hard. But a real agency works when you have a deep relationship with your agent and he/she knows you. Can you take that to browsers, the web, and do you want Google, Apple, or somebody else developing the agent that's really going to work for you?
And ultimately, I'd love to be able to give my "agent" $1,000 and have it make me some money (should've bought some bitcoins)…
Thinking about a Veblen Index, companies that maximize the theory of the leisure class such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, eBay etc. In essence, these companies are middlemen, they don't really make anything (physical goods), they don't have any inventory, but they facilitate transactions like nobody else.
Companies that maximize middleman transactions.
The alternative is a Veblen Index that looks at companies that make "Veblen goods" or luxury goods.
"Better with use" should be a bigger theme and a greater emphasis/focus within the tech industry. The components of "better with use" are there with the concepts of personalization, history, recommendation engines, identity/single sign-on, "sticky" features like bookmarks but the feeling of better with use hasn't crystallized. Part of the issue is the need for the industry to innovate and to show newness (to sell more stuff and to IPO/flip and IPO again) and it's hard to show age and wear with software when you're continually redesigning and introducing new features at a rapid rate. It's also just hard to show age/wear with software in general.
Products that are Better with Use
There are lots of products that become better with use such as: cast iron skillets/cookware, woks, leather saddles (other leather products like bags, baseball mitts), denim jeans, suits and other clothes, shoes, linen sheets, musical instruments, and cars.
Some products need to be "broken in", some build a patina that can help protect the product and give it some character, other products when used look better than new. And sometimes new products are created to look used and worn because the worn/used look is valued more like designer jeans.
Software that's Better with Use
Installing the Concept