Profile of Jonathan Salem Baskin
News & Commentary Posts: 120
Articles by Jonathan Salem Baskin
This is my last essay for InformationWeek, as we're putting things on hiatus so I can focus on writing my next book in 2010. There are a few things I want to say before I go...
Two outages for BlackBerry users around Christmas prompted many complaints and threats from angry users via online forums, blog posts, and tweets. I'm not sure if there's really an issue here.
A good number of kids will go to bed tonight thinking at least two things about the traditions of Christmas: first, they'll consciously be thankful and thrilled about their presents and, unconsciously, they'll have been further indoctrinated into the miracles of technology.
I've been reminded recently that a few of the leading technology brands have added expert counsel -- lawyering and PR-ing up -- to deal with emerging public policy issues. I wonder why they don't just tell the truth.
After watching the news about climate change from Copenhagen last night, I turned off the lights and realized that all those glowing little red dots on our entertainment system meant we were doing our part to help destroy the planet.
A blogger who calls himself "Fake Steve Jobs" wants disgruntled iPhone users to organize into a flash mob to cripple AT&T's 3G network at noon on Friday. AT&T has responded. It's all much ado about nothing.
IBM has announced a new chip that could help a supercomputer achieve 10 petaflops, which is calculating power tantamount to the speeds Nature uses to form bubbles in sea foam and keep planets in orbit.
Vevo, a presumed successor to MTV, debuts today to much less fanfare than its progenitor, what with video having killed the radio star over 25 years ago. Do you think the world needs a for-profit web site that plays music videos?
Apple's new 21-inch iMac was October's best-selling desktop computer, according to retail analyst firm NPD. While sexy, the sales success was partially due to a slowdown in sales of competing PCs prior to the launch of Windows 7.
I am still dumbfounded by Comcast's decision to buy NBC, and I'm not sure it's because I know too much about the past...or have to little faith in the future. Or both.
As families and friends gathered across our great country yesterday, we were celebrating the merits of low tech. I think it should teach us something about how we conceive, build, and deliver any tech.
AOL is offering up a tantalizing taste of its post-Time Warner business strategy: a new brand identity, which it plans to formally introduce when it lists on the NYSE on December 10.
CERN's Large Hadron Collider ("LHC") restarted this morning without a hitch, after a year of kludgy delays and nutty rumors that time travelers had sabotaged it. It's time to ratchet up the quack science.
Atari and Cryptic Studios are going to launch a MMORPG based on the Star Trek universe in early February, and reading about it has made me rather teary-eyed for the old days of Empire.
HP announced its takeover of 3Com Corp this week, and the media covered it as 1) a battle in the war with Cisco Systems, and 2) further evidence that tech giants are consolidating to provide "one stop shops" for corporate clients. Are you buying it?
In perhaps unwitting participation in the publicity campaign for Columbia Pictures' upcoming doomsday flick "2012," NASA has posted a promise on its web site that "nothing bad will happen to the Earth." Gulp.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt is out making the media rounds in support of the Android launch, and during a Fox Business interview he touched on the issue of data privacy and control. It got me thinking that the subject was the real reason he's out and about.
Ever since Avis made it respectable for a brand to be #2, there have been many really good examples of trailing entrants into product markets that achieve success, especially in the technology world. Is Motorola's new Droid the latest example?
The Internet turned 40 yesterday, and it got me thinking about its relationship to the time and place in which it was invented. The happenstance of its first message belies why it wasn't just an innovation or improvement, but a truly disruptive technology.
I've read that most of the plug-in electric vehicles under development have been designed to mimic the "feel" of driving a combustion engine car. I'm not sure that's even possible, and I don't know why they'd try.
This week's O'Reilly Web 2.0 Summit yielded the usual detritus about technology reinventing the laws that govern time and space, but Facebook's revelation that people spend 8 billion minutes a day on its service really cut through the clutter for me.
Barnes & Noble has unveiled "Nook," its own proprietary electronic reader, and the headlines breathlessly wonder if it's a Kindle killer or whether Apple is about to announce its own. I'm still wondering if anybody wants an e-reader to begin with.
Yesterday, Facebook said 90% of the ad demand market not served by Google was ripe for its profits, and Sony debuted a PlayStation 3 with twice the storage previously available. There's a common theme to both news stories:
Users of Sidekick mobile phones have had their first bad weather experience: Microsoft's Danger subsidiary has lost all of the customer data stored on its servers.
FCC Chair Julius Genachowski told a wireless industry conference this week that "the biggest threat to the future of mobile in America is the looming spectrum crisis." We're running out of airwaves.
Rumors have been rampant that Apple Computer is poised to introduce a new tablet computer, thereby reinventing the way consumers experience books and newspapers. My bet is that a device won't do the reinventing.
Wikipedia is changing the way it updates entries on living people, and will require an "experienced volunteer" to review and approve information before posting. I'm not surprised by the decision, and I suspect there are more changes coming.
The Zipcar iPhone app announced about a week ago is a great example of how to merge technology and marketing in order to deliver branding. More business would do well to follow the lead.
Steve Jobs and Michael Dell both abdicated from the big companies they'd founded, watched the businesses stumble, and then returned to their old jobs. It's at that point that the similarities between the two stories ends.
SGI is retailing what looks like the first "personal supercomputer," and the $7,000 or so price tag isn't too much to pay for the power to warp space-time from the comfort of your desk, it is?
Blockbuster's slow, painful stroll into a digital sunset continued yesterday with an announcement it will close more than a third of its stores, proving yet again that the company's confused vision is its most intractable foe.
Yesterday, Google announced that it has a small team of engineers working in Chicago to make it easier for users to quit its various services. This is a novel and smart approach to building its brand.
Motorola's new Google Android-powered Cliq smartphone (called Dext everywhere else in the world) will offer intriguing new social media tools. I think it should go to town with the new utility.
The merger between the UK's Orange and T-Mobile mobile carriers was touted this week with the usual promises about benefits for customers. I can't figure out how the equation adds up.
IBM is building technology systems to help utilities and municipalities better manage resources. It thinks the water business could be worth $20 billion in five years, yet it has been running ads to make sure that nobody knows about it.
"These go to eleven," says Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel as he describes the added capability of his guitar amps to go "one louder" than ten. I was reminded of the quote when I thought about Opera 10, which was released this week.
Leading names in the entertainment and technology worlds met earlier this week to map out an immersive, intelligent, multimedia future for music. I'm not sure their visions are going to make it.
Nokia Corp. announced yesterday that it plans to retail a netbook, claiming that it would be "satisfying a need" among wireless carriers. I think the only need it'll satisfy is its desire to sell more stuff.
The CIO for the City of Los Angeles wants to migrate city workers to Google Apps, thereby sending many of the government's day-to-day functions into the cloud.
If you've run a corporate network of any sort, your relationship with your marketing department has been one of repeat battles over possibilities and priorities, right?
There's been a growing chorus of voices complaining that Apple doesn't communicate with developers and users either 1) openly, 2) collaboratively, and/or 3) often enough. A few hints suggest that the company might be listening.
HP is working with hip-hop artist Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, his record label chairman, on a program intended to "fix the entire chain" and thereby save digital music. The problem is that it isn't broken.
RadioShack wants consumers to call it "The Shack" and, starting today, will spend many millions on branding to associate its 4,450 stores with the idea of a cool and hip lean-to hovel. It makes no sense.
They flipped the "on" switch at the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva earlier this week, and the lights didn't even flicker. After 15 years and $9 billion, the thing might not work for years, if at all.
Verizon just reported a big profit dip for the last quarter, and plans to cut 8,000 jobs. It's no news that companies are suffering in this rotten economy of ours, but am I the only one who was surprised that Verizon's results had next to nothing to do with cell phones?
The Mozilla Foundation has revealed some possible interface changes that might come with Firefox 4.0. The fiddling with tab placement and button functionality is probably smart, but it certainly isn't visionary. I want to see the future.
Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal's gizmo guru, reviewed Windows 7 today and said it's the improvement over XP that Vista wasn't, and that it could be a dicey install for some consumers. Putting these two observations together could make for an opportunity.
The rate of venture capital investment in startups over the first three months of 2009 was down over 50% over the same period last year, according to stats released yesterday by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
NASA has announced that it has restored footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and I'm just waiting for the conspiracy nutcases to go to town with it. I wonder if the resulting noise might be a benefit to NASA's marketing?
Apple just plugged the software hole that let owners of the new Pre smart phone sync with iTunes, and Palm Inc. is crying foul. I'm siding with Apple on this one.
Buried in Google's announcement that it is developing an OS called "Chrome" was a brief mention that its go-back function would be an actual time travel app, raising issues far beyond a potential competitive threat to Microsoft.
I ask because Universal Studios recently beat out three other studio bids to win the rights to develop Atari's "Asteroids" arcade game into a movie. It hopes your dim memories will make you want to see the flick.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced a competition for developers to create apps out of 80 data sets from 32 city agencies. He wants to improve government transparency and accountability, and stimulate development of the digital media industry.
Later this year, Dell is reportedly going to sell a pocked-sized gizmo that can access the Internet, but won't offer telephony. In other words, it's working on inventing its own version of Apple's Newton.
With Microsoft's IE8 and Mozilla's Firefox 3.5 Release Candidate 2 both publicly available, there's been a fair amount of conversation about whether the functionality of these new versions will cause consumers to change browsers.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings believes his core business of DVD rentals is doomed, somewhere around four to nine years from now, so he wants to migrate his brand to the transmission of digital content. Is he right?
Did you know that NASA plans to launch two unmanned probes to the moon today, in preparation for the return of astronauts to its surface in a decade or so? Yup, I didn't either. How did the idea of exploring space get so uninteresting and irrelevant?
AT&T is responsible for the imperfections of iPhone user experiences, and has failed to take the steps to satisfy developers, according to recent news reports. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm not sure it's AT&T's fault.
News broke this week that Yahoo has hired a cost-cutting specialist as its new CFO, with references that he'll help "...weed out the bureaucracy that has been dragging down its profits." Is that what Yahoo needs to fix?
The Chinese government's recent requirement that its PC manufacturers add Internet filtering software to its machines has got free speech advocates pretty riled up, and with good reason. But I wonder if it matters, in the end.
Sony, UMG, and YouTube have announced plans for a music video site, called "Vevo." It's bringing back memories of how MTV "killed" the radio star.
Sony Ericsson has revealed its new luxury phone brand, Satio, which will go on sale for $800 or so later this year. I'm not at all clear on who is going to buy it.
There's been a lot of coverage exploring questions about the functionality of Bing, Microsoft's new search engine. Before the company blows $100 million trying to give consumers the answer, I thought I'd give it two branding ideas.
A company called Siri decloaked within sensor range earlier today, promising test drives of its intelligent virtual assistant as an iPhone app this summer, and predicting that most every Internet user will have something like it within five years or so.
Following AT&T's April announcement, Verizon debuted this week its own plans to sell deeply subsidized netbooks, thereby confirming that cell services will follow retail stores and the Internet as outlets for selling computers.
Yesterday, online music provider Napster slashed its streaming service from $12.95 to $5 a month. Now is the time for owner Best Buy to do something to support it...and help itself.
When should a baby get his or her own first computer? According to some marketers, it could be the perfect 1st birthday gift.
OK, not really. But after living through a customer service experience that closely resembled a staging of Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit, I think it's a killer idea for the company's branding.
Intel plans to launch a new, 3-year branding campaign next Monday, and I think the inadvertent message is that there's no reason to buy a gizmo powered by one of its products. The inanity of the campaign belies some serious decision-making dysfunction.
This month's issue of Psychological Science claims to reveal proof that almost 1 out of every 10 kids who play video games could be classified as an addict, to which I have two reactions: 1) yeah, sure, and 2) so what?
A long list of big brand names are outsourcing customer service to unpaid, voluntary enthusiast users who staff and sometimes manage online company forums. I'm just not getting it, and I thought you might help me out.
Researchers have sent a Twitter message by simply thinking it via a setup that read a user's thoughts, and then translated them into text. The folks at Twitter should embrace this experiment, and at least two of the wild possibilities it suggests.
I know I'm going to get a lot of flack for what I'm about to say, but when Oracle announced earlier this week that it would acquire Sun Microsystems, I immediately thought of Blockbuster Video.
Microsoft is reportedly taking a version of its XP OS intended for entry-level PCs, and repurposing its post-Vista incarnation to run netbooks. Its name and functionality do little good for the company's brand.
A company called doubleTwist offers a free, single media platform to support all of your music players, cell phones, cameras, mobile game devices, and any other transfer challenge of getting digital stuff onto or off of your computer. It's a big idea.
Machines have started making independent scientific discoveries, according to two reports made public a few weeks ago, perhaps heralding the start of true artificial intelligence. I think machines need to be dumb before they can ever be smart.
I wrote a few days ago that I think Twitter should accept pretty much any offer that comes from Google, presuming one comes at all. In other words, it should do what Sun failed to do.
The blogosphere was all atwitter over the weekend with news that Google is close to offering a lot of money for Twitter. I know I'm going to get dinged for saying it, but I think the company's founders should take the offer, whatever the price.
The Transport Workers Union of American ("TWU") has launched a playful-looking web site (http://americanexeccheck.com), in hopes of prompting outrage over executive pay generally...and, in particular, the potential bucks American Airlines' top execs might make.
Both Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 reached sales milestones in Japan last week -- 3 and 1 million units, respectively -- but I'm not sure I understand the long-term strategy for game consoles.
Digital conglomerate Comcast has pulled a page out of the branding textbook, and hopes to humanize itself by running its first "brand advertising" campaign. I think the spots are spooky...and pointless.
Word from an open source conference this week is that some key Linux proponents don't see the need for a desktop product. I'm not certain how it realizes its full potential without one.
Three cheers to the PR firm or freelancer behind the publicity for Kosmix, which is a startup company offering an alternative approach to aggregating Internet search results. One recent story asked that it not get compared to Google, and then compared it.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration kicked off a new labeling program yesterday, requiring fresh and frozen fruits, veggies, and meats to specify country of origin. It got me thinking about the utility of similar IDs on branded tech products.
People testing early versions of Microsoft's next OS report that they've discovered a way to turn various programs off. I'm still waiting for somebody to tell me what, or who, the next version of Windows turns on.
Apple introduced the third-generation iPod Shuffle yesterday, and it comes with a feature called "VoiceOver" that announces your song choices. I think I/O controls are the next great undiscovered country for mobile devices, don't you?
BT has started turning 200,000 of its business customers' Wi-Fi hubs into public hotspots in its OpenZone network. Only it hasn't overtly asked for their permission.
OK, I just read that a meteor the size of a 10-story building passed within cataclysm range of the Earth yesterday, and nobody told me about it!
The video game industry chalked up another victory recently when a federal appeals court struck down a California law meant to keep violent video games out of the hands of minors. I can't help but think of the NRA.
A company called Buzzwire unveiled yesterday a site that will aggregate user preferences to create a guide to the "best content" on the mobile Web. I'm not so sure it's what people are looking for on their phones.
Verizon Wireless is promoting its new "virtual communications center," which promises to manage all of your day-to-day communications activities, from Internet search and e-mail, to good, old-fashioned telephony. We've seen this concept before, haven't we?
Twitter, the micro-blogging service that lets users send impromptu 140-character messages to their "followers," just received $35 million, even though it has never generated any appreciable revenue, let alone profits, and has no known plan to do either.
I know that digital television transmission is sharper, clearer, richer, and offers oodles of other benefits that lame old rabbit-eared analog sets couldn't even, er, picture. But remind me again who asked for the improvement?
Now that the basics are out on the Kindle 2 bookreader from Amazon, there's a debate about it vs. the iPhone from Apple. Where do you stand? Do the differences even matter?
Lenovo has fired its American CEO, put a Chinese board member in charge, and plans to bring back a co-founder to help run the board and "refocus on China and other emerging markets." So what is it leaving behind?
As the sales results continue to tumble for the Detroit carmakers, I worry that they don't know how to fix their problems. Would they get different results if they approached their vehicles like IT projects?
There's lots of buzz about the Google cloud storage solution -- the GDrive -- as references to it continue to pop up in various programs. When it arrives, will consumers rush to give up their data to the ether?
Verizon's fourth-quarter 2008 sales and profit results benefited from its BlackBerry Storm product launch, but I'm not sure the long-term impact will be so kind.
As Conficker/Downadup worms its way into PCs, and the OSX.iWork trojan haunts pirated copies of Apple's updated work suite, I'm reminded that the technology of paper continues to find new uses.
Microsoft may be the next technology brand to announce layoffs "due to the terrible economy." I'd suggest its terrible branding is at least partly to blame.