MS Surface Pricing • Passwords are Weak Security • Anarchist Hacker • Not Mobile First • Video Release Dates • Google App$ • S.E.C is Old-school • 60 Tech Briefs • Just 3 More
Microsoft Surface Pro Positioning Drives Pricing
I was asked to comment on Microsoft’s pricing of the Surface Pro over at Quibb.com. My comment was up-voted by some thought leaders in that forum so I thought I’d share it with other audiences:
I believe Microsoft is positioning the Surface RT against the iPad and other “traditional” tablets and the Pro against the MacBook Air and top of the line Ultrabooks and as such Microsoft believes that the pricing is appropriate. In fact, the Pro is cheaper than the Air.
Compare the specs of the MacBook Air and the Surface Pro:
Compared to the Air, the Pro has higher resolution, is lighter, has pen input and two cameras. From what we know from reputable sites like iFixit.com, the Pro and Air have similar build quality.
Speaking of build quality, have you had a chance to try out a Surface RT? If you put it side by side with other manufacturers’ Windows 8 tablets and low-cost laptops, the Surface stands out in the same way the iPad does against most Android tablets.
From my perspective, the biggest drawback of the Pro is the reported 5 hour battery life, not the price.
I don’t think the Surface RT stacks up against the iPad as well as the Pro does against the Air, so I can see why people want to compare the iPad and the Pro. However, the Pro and the iPad really seem to be different product categories. The iPad is a polished device that is great for content consumption and a variety of vertical applications enabled by its large app library. The Surface Pro is a super-portable general purpose computer that can run the huge range of legacy Windows applications, including Office, as well as new Windows 8 apps.
Finally, regardless of Microsoft’s intended positioning, if consumers perceive the Pro as a direct iPad competitor I think they’ll choose the iPad, which costs less, weighs less, has longer battery life and a friendlier (but more limited) user experience.
- Microsoft CEO: Push Into Tablets Maybe Should Have Happened Sooner. Wall Street Journal Blogs
- Is Microsoft’s Surface Pro Tablet DOA on Price? Wired
- Microsoft Surface Pro to get half the battery life of Surface RT. CNET
- Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro. CNET
- Microsoft confirms Surfaces coming to non-Microsoft retail outlets. ZDNet
Passwords are Weak Security
Several issues contribute to the inadequacy of password security today. Here are just a few:
- Reliance on challenge questions: Many if not most internet sites and service allow the use of challenge questions to authorize password resets. You should avoid supplying real-life answers for these questions. If I’m targeting you, it’s not hard for me to figure out where you went to elementary school.
- Password re-use: Earlier this year, a large number of LinkedIn passwords were cracked. Users who used the same password on LinkedIn and other accounts multiplied the scope of the compromise for themselves.
- Computer hardware advances are rapidly weakening passwords as a sole form of computer security.
- Despite his use of strong passwords, hackers destroyed Wired senior writer Mat Honan’s digital life in the span of an hour. He explains common vulnerabilities and recommends safeguards in terms in layman’s terms.
- This article explains how a relatively low-cost 25-GPU cluster can crack a strong Windows XP passwords in six minutes.
I’m glad that my credit union (First Tech Federal) supports two factor authentication, which is markedly more secure than a password by itself. Specifically, First Tech uses VeriSign Identity Protection, a technology that was used in a couple of places I’ve worked during my career. In one case it was for classified military projects and in the other, to protect university students’ personal details. In those places, users had to carry around a small calculator-size key generator and enter a code from it whenever they logged in to their systems. (The key changes every 30 seconds.) The cool thing about the latest iteration of this technology is that it’s now available in a smartphone app, making it available to millions of additional users.
Jeremy Hammond and Anonymous Hacker Culture
Rolling Stone has a long insightful article and interview with Jeremy Hammond, a deep insider in the Anonymous hacker collective who is now in jail for his high-profile breach of security consultancy Stratfor. The background on Hammand, a self-professed anarchist-communist, is useful for anyone seeking to understand the culture and motivations of Anonymous and like-minded hacker communities.
“Mobile-first” no Longer this Entrepreneur’s Mantra
Given the growing user adoption of mobile it’s currently fashionable for software companies to develop for mobile first and only later for the web. After trying the mobile-first approach entrepreneur Vibhu Norby explains why his next product will instead target the web first. (To be clear, when Norby says “mobile,” he means mobile apps, not the mobile web).
One of the problems with mobile is the steep drop-off through the user lifecycle. One high volume app maker reports that 50% of people who download its app never open it. Norby says that at best, only 5% of his users made it through the entire onboarding process:
“All in all, mobile service apps turn out to be a horrible place to close viral loops and win at the retention game. Only a handful of apps have succeeded mobile-first: Instagram, Tango, Shazam, maybe 2 or 3 others…”
On the other hand, on the web:
“You have an entirely different onboarding story… You can test easily, cheaply, and fast enough to make a difference on the web [e.g., A/B testing]. You can fix a critical bug that crashes your app on load 15 minutes after discovery… You can show 10 different landing pages and decide in real-time which one is working the best for a particular user. You can also close a viral loop: A user can click an email and immediately be using your app with you.”
Here’s Norby’s post in it’s entirety:
Fred Wilson, known as much for his popular blog as his high profile venture capital operation, concedes Norby’s points, saying that it’s a
“…paradox that mobile is where the growth is right now and that mobile is very very hard to build a large user base on. Everything that Vibhu says in his post is right.”
Even so, Wilson goes on to say:
“But just because something is hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to do it. I am convinced the next set of large and valuable consumer facing services will be built with mobile as the primary user interface… And if you don’t design your products and services for what is rapidly becoming the dominant UI, you will not maximize the success of your business in the long run.”
And here’s a link to Wilson’s entire post:
Is the Process for Setting Video Release Dates Out of Date?
Jean-Louis Gassée and Frédéric Filloux write that the entertainment industry’s process for releasing movies and TV shows to video is outdated and doesn’t work. Designed in the analog era to protect revenue of successive distribution channels, they argue that it now lowers profits and increases piracy. For example they question why viewers cannot pay to view some TV shows 24 hours after they air instead of waiting for months. In that situation, eager viewers who would normally be willing to pay have an incentive to turn to piracy.
Google Ends Free Apps Option
Google has ended its free Apps service, which workgroups could use for custom domain email accounts, calendar, cloud storage and a basic office suite. Prices now start at $50 per user per year for Premium Apps. I can’t fault Google for ending a free service—they are a for-profit company and I guess the cost/benefit value of the data they mine from Apps users doesn’t justify giving it away for free. I’m happy that current free users are grandfathered in—I use the free Apps service for my TCTReview.com domain email accounts.
The S.E.C Doesn’t “Get” Facebook
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is dinging Netflix CEO for sharing company performance data in a non-public forum: a Facebook post. I agree with this writer that the S.E.C. has it all wrong. Facebook is a more public forum than an old-school press release.
- Amazon’s Maps API now available to all developers, becomes part of Mobile App SDK. The Next Web
- Amazon Web Services cuts S3 prices, knocks old guard rivals. ZDNet
- Amazon Web Services launches Redshift, datawarehousing as a service. ZDNet
- Tim Cook hints that Apple plans to redefine the television set. AppleInsider
- Apple’s Soft Core Is Its Strength. Wall Street Journal
- Why Apple Got a ‘Made in U.S.A.’ Bug. NYTimes Bits Blog
- The real threat that Samsung poses to Apple: interesting article and comments. Asymco
- Australian Police Warn Against Using Apple’s iOS 6 Maps. AllThingsD
- Apple Fires a Manager Over Its Misfire on Maps. NYTimes Bits Blog
- The enduring Apple TV Fantasy. Monday Note
- Another Apple touch-screen patent in trouble. CNET
- Legacy iPhones and Cannibalization. AllThingsD
- Facebook Gift Store Urges Users to Shop While They Share. New York Times
- How Families Interact on Facebook. Facebook
- Yelp CEO: Yep, Google can be pretty evil. CNET
- Great Article: Google’s Driver-less Car and Morality. The New Yorker
- Google Chief Page Said to Meet FTC Over Antitrust Probe – Bloomberg. Bloomberg
- Researchers find Android 4.2′s app verification detects only 15% of known malware. The Next Web
- Google Revenues Sheltered in No-Tax Bermuda Soar to $10 Billion. Bloomberg
- Google Fiber nationwide build out estimate: $140 billion. BGR
- The secrets of the Windows Phone 8 keyboard. Microsoft Windows Blogs
- Facebook data suggests Microsoft has sold 4.2 million Windows Phone handsets since October. The Next Web
- Walt Mossberg reviews the Nokia Lumia 920 smartphone, sort of likes it. AllThingsD
- Microsoft Sees Surge in Windows Phones. Bloomberg
- Techies will be interested in this: Inside Windows 8 Thread pools. Channel 9
- Microsoft’s battle for consumers: it’s time to drop the Windows name. The Verge
- Windows Blue is Microsoft’s future low-cost OS with yearly updates. The Verge
- Ballmer says Windows 8 users ‘get it, and like it’. GeekWire
- A Review of Microsoft’s new Outlook.com. AllThingsD
- Microsoft launches ‘Scroogled’ anti-Google Shopping website. The Verge
- Who Is Scroogling Who? Bing’s Shopping Results Aren’t All That Clean, Either. TechCrunch
- Facebook in Talks to Buy Microsoft’s Atlas Ad Platform. AllThingsD
- Exclusive: Microsoft Pressing Apple to Take a Smaller Cut on Sales. AllThingsD
- Lars Ulrich, The Notorious Napster Destroyer, Announces His Band Metallica’s Music Is Now On Spotify. TechCrunch
- Spotify announces 5M+ paid subscribers globally, 1M paid in US, 20M total active users, 1B playlists. The Next Web
- No More Instagram Photos Inside of Twitter. AllThingsD
- As of February, you’ll have two fewer characters to tweet with when you share a link on Twitter. The Next Web
- Twitter’s photo filters may already be live, as employees test them in new iOS and Android apps. The Next Web
- The New Slingboxes Turn Thermodynamics Into Stunning Design. Co.DESIGN
- How Google’s Designers Are Quietly Overhauling Search. Co.DESIGN
Online Business Intelligence
- Who Do Online Advertisers Think You Are? New York Times
- They Know What You’re Shopping For. Wall Street Journal
- BlackBerry maker RIM loses patent dispute with Nokia. Reuters
- Facebook, Google, Zynga Ask Courts To Reject Patents On Abstract Ideas That Plague Tech Innovation. TechCrunch
- The Meteoric Ascent of the Patent Troll and the Devastating Consequences for Innovation. Scientific American Blogs
- Online Learning Marketplace Udemy Lands $12M To Expand Its Course Catalog, Go Cross-Platform. TechCrunch
- Colleges Turn to Crowd-Sourcing Courses. New York Times
Security and Privacy
- FTC: Most mobile apps for kids secretly collect and share information. Los Angeles Times
- Taliban Accidentally Leaks Their Email List. Fast Company
- Deep Learning Neural Nets drive Apple’s Siri, Google Street View, drug design, image recognition and Microsoft’s Star Trek-like verbal translator . New York Times
- Plotting a BI coup, Hadoop startup Platfora raises $20M. GigaOM
- Steam’s Gabe Newell: Living Room PCs Will Compete With Next-Gen Consoles. Kotaku
- Wireless HDMI. If this works well, it’s a Big Deal. Silicon Image reveals UltraGig 6400 output for next-gen phones and tablets. Engadget
- iPad And Android Tablet Market Share Margin Narrows Much Faster Than Originally Predicted. TechCrunch
- Time Spent In Mobile Apps Is Starting To Challenge Television, Flurry Says. TechCrunch
- BlackBerry 10 teaser: RIM posts image of new BlackBerry 10 smartphone. BGR
- Richard Stallman slams Ubuntu as spyware, prompting Canonical’s Jono Bacon to call FUD. The Next Web
- Yelp review lawsuit: customer ordered to change negative comments about business. Daily Mail
- The White House joins Pinterest, invites users to holiday social. digiphile
- Air Force Stumbles Over Software Modernization Project. New York Times
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