2013 iPad Air

While it’s impossible to top John Gruber’s written review, or Walt Mossberg’s video review, or Farhad Manjoo’s written/video review, I’m adding my initial impressions into the all-star tech punditry mix.

If my Father-in-law, who I had great respect for, had read one or more of those reviews he wouldn’t have ruined his life with his Google/Nexus tablet purchase. He was always so rational and all for a few “C-notes”. Father-in-law’s grade, F.

My 32GB wireless/cellular Air was pricey, especially since the GalPal wanted my old one. I already had an inquiry from a Craigslist reader for it when I said to LALOA, the Latest Adapting Luddite Of All, “You don’t want my old iPad do you?” When she said “yes,” I thought I was hearing things. Add in the smart cover for $39 and the WaterField iPad Smart Case for $69 and I may be going back to full time work next academic year.

The best word for it is sleek. So damn light and thin. A sensuous wafer of electronic goodness. The rock skipper in me wants to just grab it by the corner with my thumb and index finger and fling it across Ward Lake, just to see how many times I could get it to skip. But then I remember what I paid for it. Note to Jonathan Ive, make the next gen waterproof.

I have mixed feelings about the Apple smart cover. When using it as a stand, the pad is a wee bit vertical for my taste. Also light and sleek, it’s definitely in keeping with my minimalist design preferences, but my old wooden stand (carved by a Canadian entrepreneur) had two settings both which provided more tilt. Also, it could be user error, but when folded for typing purposes, meaning nearly flat, I have to reverse the Pad altogether and toggle it to get the top and bottom oriented correctly. On the plus side, I discovered the flannel-like back of the smart cover adheres to my blue jeans. So when I’m sitting on the floor against our couch with my knees up, I can set it on my rippling quads and it stays there, in perfect reading position. Apple smart cover grade, B+.

Granted, maybe the Waterfield Smart Case is overkill, but given the investment, it will earn its keep when I take it on the road. Note that I didn’t coordinate the colors. Another reason why, if you’re of the male persuasion, it’s dangerous to cybershop alone. Waterfield smart cover grade, A. My personal color faux pas adjusted final grade, B.

The retina screen resolution is stupendous as is the speed, the camera, the video camera, and the battery life. My life is way better now. And remember, just because I’m an AAPL shareholder, it doesn’t mean I’m biased. Go buy one. Or two. iPad Air grade, A.

I went white because one of my nicknames is Wonderbread

I went white because one of my nicknames is Wonderbread

Color coordination fail

Color coordination fail

I keep a dust cloth handy for when my editor gets a little overzealous and licks my screen

I keep a dust cloth handy for when my editor gets a little overzealous and licks my screen

A few more angles of tilt por favor

A few more angles of tilt por favor

Too cool for school

Too cool for school

My editor watching intently

My editor

Why I’m Not Selling Apple

A friend, who has made it a point to resist Apple’s takeover of the personal tech world, emailed yesterday. The subject heading was “Time to Sell”. There was a link to an “Apple’s in decline” article and a follow up with an ominous excerpt. Full disclosure: this post doesn’t relate closely enough to the blog’s stated purpose, but I have to do something to stem the tide of anti-Apple email gloating.

Apple investors have to expect blowback when the stock slides. It just comes with the territory. Anti-Apples get more and more annoyed with every $100 rise in its share price. There’s probably just a touch of envy involved.

Late summer Apple hit $705, today it closed at $450. So the haters are slapping themselves on their backs in glee.

My email “friend” got his Masters in Business Administration at the University of Washington, not the Anderson School, so some remediation is in order.

Principle 1) Buy low and sell high. Apple’s on sale. Compared to the recent high, $255 off per share. In the next year or two, is it more likely to fall another $250 to $200 or rise $250 to $700? I’m betting on the later.

Principle 2) Never invest more than 5% of your total portfolio in a single stock. Apple’s sell-off hasn’t bothered me as much as UCLA’s inability to rebound the basketball because it’s 1/20th of the pie. Imagine having 20 children, one who goes off the rails. By the time you notice, she’d be halfway back to the straight and narrow (especially if she produced a less expensive iPhone for China).

Principle 3) When it comes to equities, be sure to take a medium or long-term perspective. If, for any reason, you might need to cash in your stock investments in a few months or years, avoid stocks, especially those of individual companies. I’m not selling because I don’t need to. I can wait on that 5% of my portfolio. Indefinitely really. That’s why I rolled a portion of my AAPL investment into a family charitable fund mid-summer. When it comes to our equity investments, VTI is the apple pie, VEU is the scoop of vanilla ice cream, and AAPL is the whip cream.

Principle 4) Have realistic expectations. In other words, don’t be ahistorical. Understand the “law of large numbers” and don’t get overly excited on run-ups. What did a lot of investors do in Las Vegas, California, and Florida when real estate prices exploded in the early 2000’s? They extrapolated. “Oh, I can easily earn 20% next year too.” After yesterday’s sell-off of $63, Apple is up 8.13% over twelve months. That’s only disappointing if you assumed it would return 30% annually. Maybe it’s turning into a single’s hitter. Which is fine for me because I’m a Mariners fan.

 

 

Apple Inc. and the Betrayal of the American Dream

Big week for Apple fanboys and girls. New iPhone. You better keep up with all the cool people and buy one. It will change your life. Well, maybe not, but you’ll be the envy of all those iPhone 4 losers. “Wow dude,” you can say to them, “that’s one short, thick, throwback phone.”

A recent book by two Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporters titled, “The Betrayal of the American Dream,” criticizes Apple for outsourcing too many of its jobs. Here’s a National Public Radio story on the authors and their book.

Even though I’m an Apple fanboy and investor, I believe the bigger the company and the greater its influence in the world, the more we should hold it accountable for being transparent, honoring workers’ rights, and protecting the environment. Apple’s marketing, products, and momentum can bedazzle at the expense of critical inquiry.

I’ve been swapping emails with my friend—Dan, Dan, the Transportation Man—about driverless cars. The last one I sent him linked to an article that suggested, initially at least, driverless cars will cost around $300k. “Just do what Apple does” he wrote back sarcastically, “and outsource it (the manufacturing of the driverless car) to China.”

In the United States, especially during election season, knee-jerk criticism of outsourcing is legion. Few of the critics take any time to consider how much more they’d have to pay for their toothbrushes, clothes, iPads, bicycles, and cars if they were all completely manufactured in the United States. Heaven for bid if we connected a few dots.

In their critique of Apple, I wonder whether the “Betrayal” authors factor in the daily benefits of its products to users around the world. I made light of the newest iPhone, but you’d have to pry my MacBook Pro from my cold dead fingers.

Also, outsourcing is an abomination only when economic nationalism prevails. It’s possible, theoretically at least, to think more globally without sacrificing love of country, and therefore, to cheer job growth irrespective of political borders. Especially given global economic interconnectedness and the fact that most of Apple’s foreign-based employees buy some U.S. imports.

The authors would chuckle at my naivete. They’d point out we continue to run a tremendous trade deficit with China because international trade is conducted on a grossly uneven playing field. China has far fewer labor and environmental regulations, pays workers far less (even when adjusted for cost of living), and places protective tariffs on our imports. The uneven nature of the international trade playing field is a pressing problem.

But I wonder what the authors would say about the charitable giving the GalPal and I will be doing the next few years as a result of recently selling some Apple shares that had quadrupled over the last four years.

For me, the jury is still out on what kind of corporate citizen Apple is. I value critical analyses, but at present, I will continue to use its products and invest in it. I am not a model to follow. Apple’s fate will be determined by the individual and collective decision-making of technology users around the world.

For cutting edgers like me, there’s just one decision left. A black or white iPhone 5?

The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

I wish I had written this insightful post on decluttering not just our closets and garages, but our lives.

Here’s an example of the ideas in action via John Gruber and Kottke:

I like this as a basic theory for understanding Apple’s exceptional success. Steve Jobs was famous for his pride in saying “no”. At All Things D in 2004, asked about an Apple PDA: “I’m as proud of the products that we have not done as I am of the products we have done.” (Other examples here and here.)

Tim Cook, at the 2010 Goldman Sachs technology conference:

We can put all of our products on the table you’re sitting at. Those products together sell $40 billion per year. No other company can make that claim except perhaps an oil company. We are the most focused company that I know of, or have read of, or have any knowledge of.

We say no to good ideas every day; we say no to great ideas; to keep the number of things we focus on small in number.

The Life Changing iPhone 4S

The earliest adaptors, the tech glitterati, have determined that the iPhone 4S, or the phone’s Siri voice recognition feature more specifically, is a life changer. John Gruber said he “could live without it, but wouldn’t want to.”

Funny how one day life is rolling pretty darn well without voice recognition on phones and the next a few peeps start asking, “How did we ever live without it?” And before long, we’re wondering how did we ever get off the couch to change the television channel and how did we ever use our phones just to talk to people.

Walt Mossberg provided this life-changing Siri voice recognition example. WM, “Find a French restaurant.” 4S, “I found 13 French restaurants, 7 in Bethesda.” WM, “Remind me to call my wife when I get home.” 4S, “Okay, I will remind you.”

I’m not anti-tech, but the hyperbole in the reviews helps distinguish between those earliest adaptors and the much later ones like me. As an AAPL investor I follow the phone releases, and I’m glad when they’re successful, but my heart rate doesn’t quicken at the thought of standing in line to purchase one.

Call me crazy, but the life-changing bar is a little low if it hinges on finding a French restaurant or receiving a reminder to call someone.

Wake me when an iPhone can accurately fulfill these types of requests:

• Find a nearby, inexpensive restaurant on the water with great vegetarian dishes, quick service, and a table near a television programmed to the game.

• Alert me 30 seconds before my wife is about to ask me a “how do you feel about” question.

• Whenever my wife asks a “how do you feel about” question, provide me the optimal answer.

• Show me AAPL’s closing price for next Friday.

• Alert me 30 days before the UCLA basketball team’s next National Championship.

• Tell me if it will rain next Saturday afternoon anywhere in Thurston County between noon and 3p.m.

• On the first day of every month, please remind me how much time I have to live.

Be still my beating heart

Postscript.

Steve Jobs

John Gruber of Daring Fireball quotes Steve from his 2005 Stanford commencement address:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Puts the negative press coverage of the iPhone 4S in perspective. We forget we’ll be dead soon and lose sight on what is truly important and instead focus on the status phones provide, stock prices, and market share.

[Besides the commencement address, fav read from last night—The Steve Jobs I Knew by Walt Mossberg]

iPad 2

I’m an AAPL investor and admitted fanboy, but the most concise and sober review I heard Wednesday (didn’t catch the BBC tech reporter’s name) went as follows:

“Not that impressed. It’s faster, but no-one has complained about the speed. It’s thinner, but no one has complained it’s too thick. It takes pictures, but cell phones have been doing that for years. It comes in black and white.”

The most obvious sign it’s an incremental improvement—some of the most closely listened to reviewers are most impressed with the “Smart Cover”.

AAPL marketing is a sight to behold though. If they wanted to, they could get me elected president of the U.S. They make it sound as if we should measure time in pre and post-iPad terms. You think it’s 2011 A.D. when in actuality it’s 2 iPad.

I’m a little hurt they haven’t capitalized on my story yet. My iPad use varies depending upon whether I’m reading an e-book on it and or not. Normally, when I’m not, I use it between 5:30 and 5:35a.m. to check the weather, local news headlines, blog stats, and email before popping in the contacts and pounding the pavement.

Slick and convenient. Hardly life changing.

 

Tech Notes

Personal record for links in this post.

By the time you read this, I hope Steve Jobs will have changed personal computing again with Apple’s long awaited tablet. I invest in vanilla bond and stock index funds, except for one stock, AAPL. Wednesday night, I expect the value of my AAPL shares to be flat or slightly down due to the Obama-effect, unrealistic, unmeetable expectations. More importantly, I’m hoping the tablet makes reading even easier and more enjoyable, makes flying more tolerable (via a mobile library or t.v./movie viewing), is as simple as a toaster to use, and enables me to reduce my personal tech footprint. Bonus points if it drags me into the 21st Century cell-phoning, texting world.

I recently purchased a desktop computer which, four or five years ago, I swore I’d never do again. At that time, I didn’t factor in my worsening vision. One complication is keeping the university’s laptop and my personal desktop in sync. Apple’s MobileMe program was okay, but I didn’t want to pay $100/year for it. So I resorted to thumbdriving, which is a hassle. Then I read this. Love it. Hard to believe the Late Adaptor is cloud computing. Check it out if you’re digital life is out of sync.

I also joined the DVR-world recently, Tivo more specifically. What was I thinking trying to watch t.v. without Netflix and Tivo? To quote my previously brilliant/illuminating review, “love it.” One unintended benefit. Fourteen is watching a lot more t.v. That translates into worse grades, which translates into a less expensive college. Genius. Sometimes I amaze myself.

The New York Times has announced plans to charge nonsubscribers for some content in about a year. Others have tried this unsuccessfully and I predict this effort will fail too. There’s simply too much competition, meaning substitutes. Tonight in the tub I’ll read an article from GQ and the Atlantic Monthly. That reminds me, I also hope the tablet is water proof.

Lastly, if you fancy yourself a runner, swimmer, or cyclist, check this blog post out. The triathlete author is a blogging and technology savant.

Dear Steve Jobs

Dear Jobster,

Took a look at Time magazines top ten iPhone apps the other day. Given there’s 300,000 apps, I assumed there had to be some in the top ten that I couldn’t live without. I thought these “gotta have” apps would be just the excuse I need to buy myself an iPhone for Christmas.

1—Tweetie 2. Surprisingly, too few Positive Momentum readers have begged me to begin tweeting and I don’t read others’ tweets, so the number one app creates zero “gotta have” juice.

2—Yelp. Finds restaurants, bars, and other businesses and provides reviews. I like the potential, but the problem with most review services is the anonymity and mismatched subjectivity. Anonymity means it’s impossible to tell whether company shills are praising products in an attempt to increase sales. And subjectivity is fine if you know the reviewer and he/she has similar interests/tastes, but that’s hardly ever the case. Of more value than Tweetie 2, but hardly a “gotta have”.

3—Slacker. Sounds like a more robust version of Pandora, which I like. Custom playlists, no commercials, nice. I’d use it on occasion, but out of 300,000, the bronze medal?

4—Flight track pro. Don’t fly nearly enough for this to create any excitement.

5—Mint. Money and budgeting program. I’m not a budgeter. I can see why some people would like this app, but of little value to me.

6—Sling player mobile. Remote t.v. Cool, and I’d use it on occasion, but watching t.v. on the iPhone screen doesn’t seem too appealing. As you know, I’m waiting for the tablet. Tablet in hand, I’ll purchase this one.

7—The small chair. Stories, short films, readings, interviews, art. Exclusive content. Hard to say not knowing what the quality of the content is. Again, the screen size is a limiter and maybe I’d give it a go with tablet in hand. At the same time, I try to keep up with too many periodicals already, so this one doesn’t get generate much juice either.

8—Runkeeper. Basically a Garmin with one important advantage, much easier to read. Obviously, most personal technologies are made for people far younger than me with much better vision. Love the screen shot of this app. No more huddling in the laundry room trying to see if that was a 4:55 or 5:05 mile I just ran. :) First “gotta have” deserving of top ten status. But wait, my  iPod nano and Garmin easily slip into my back running short pockets, but the iPhone is too big (and heavier too). I’m not an arm strap guy so this complicates things.

9—Photoshop.com. Mobile photo editing. I don’t take a lot of pics and prefer working with those I do take on a much larger screen. Detecting a pattern? Tangent. I just got my first pair of bifocal contacts. Utterly amazing. I can read tiny footnotes, I can see Oregon and Canada clearly, and I’ve retained my boyish good looks. The optometry trifecta.

10—Locavore. Find locally grown, in-season foods. That’s the galpal’s job and she knows exactly where the food-coop is. Another one that doesn’t move the needle.

So SJ, that’s all you got?  Makes me wonder how most consumers adapt personal technology. Instead of consciously concluding this device is going to improve the quality of their lives, I suspect they feel a need to conform. There’s a tipping point (that would make a good book) where holding out translates to a loss of social standing. Since I’m not much of a social standing guy, I want to know the new device is going to make a positive difference in the quality of my life.

My final verdict? Not nearly enough juice to get me to iTouch or IPhone up.

Peace Out,

Ron

More Design Genius

Life-changing leak proofness

Leak-proof goodness

Genius genius

Genius genius

Eclectic, not girly

Eclectic, not girly

Behold more 21st century genius design work. There should be a Nobel Prize for Consumer Genius for the Camelback employees (no way an individual could have come up with something this brilliant by him/herself unless it was Obama) that came up with the new leak proof top. To borrow from Chinese history, this bottle top represents a great leap forward. Only bummer of course is you can’t use the fancy new tops on your old bottles. I purposely toss these new and improved bottles in my gym bag upside down just to revel in the fact that they’re leakproof. A few years ago I discovered shortly before arriving at the base of Mount Saint Helen’s that a water bottle had leaked all over my cycling clothing. I held my shorts and jersey out the window for the last few miles in a vain effort to blow dry them. Lovely starting out soggy. Now, I laugh at the memory thanks to the Camelback geniuses (0r Obama).

Of course you’re used to Apple’s genius by now, but how cool is it that they have algorithms that create excellent playlists all by themselves. My personal mobile Pandora. The second pic of my nano is probably too small to pick up on the featured artists–Sara McLachlan, Maroon 5, and Natalie Merchant. I don’t understand why my sister says I like girly music? :) My fourth genius playlist is much more macho sis, lots of Led Zep.