An untouched window into early 2000’s computing. In a lonely strip mall in Norman, OK (home of the University of Oklahoma) is a long shuttered computer store called Computer Factory Outlet. The beauty of this situation is that the store is still completely filled with untouched merchandise from the day the store closed. A beautiful time capsule of computing from the early 2000s, although I have to say that the photos sure make it feel like the store and it’s merch is from the late 1980s or 1990s. It reminds me of my trip to San Francisco in 2017 when we stopped by the Weird Stuff warehouse in Mountain View, which sadly shut down soon after we visited to make way for a new addition to the Googleplex.
There are some more great photos via the Tweet below.
In an age when companies can create robots that can open doors and jump with perfect balance, where we can target individuals on their phones within a couple of yards, and where we can send rockets into space and then have them nail re-entry and stick the landing, we incomprehensibly are not able to create a reasonable tracking system to pinpoint the location of a freaking airplane? And in order to find out what happened when an accident or crash happens, we have to search the wreckage site for the infamous “black box” (which is not even black) that records the conversations and dialogue on the plane. What a collective embarrassment. This is an industry that is critical to global commerce and global life, and it still relies on technology, processes, and infrastructure from the 1950s. How is it possible that I can get on my iPhone and stream practically any movie I want in a matter of seconds yet the airlines are not able to use the same methodology to stream the cockpit audio to a central server farm that can be accessed and recovered irrespective of what happens to the plane itself?
I feel so bad for the families of those that were lost in the Malaysia Airlines crash. Or, maybe they did not crash. Maybe the pilot nailed an ocean landing like Sully did on the Hudson and they are living it up on a deserted island in the South Pacific, where they don’t have to concern themselves with anything other then when it is high tide.
Watching the Apple MacBookPro (MBP) announcement the other day, I could not help but get the feeling of a struggling, quiet desperation coming from the Apple leadership team making the presentation. I wasn’t in the room but the vibe of the room and the presentation felt desperate and flat to me. The details and advancements that were discussed during the presentation seemed like natural, next-level evolutions of the Apple product lines – the only thing that was really interesting was the TouchBar on the MBP – everything else…meh. Maybe the industry is so used to Apple’s high standards that it is taken for granted. Maybe we need to look past the giddy Apple fanboys vigorously defending Apple’s decisions and take a really critical look at the shit show that is all the different dongles and cables that are needed across the product lines and how they are expecting Apple customers to adjust and adapt to the confusion. Here is a quick hot take on different items that were announced.
They integrated Minecraft. Sure, Minecraft is still a thing, but is it really? Wasn’t that relevant like 3 years ago?
Steve Jobs said before he died that he had ‘solved’ TV. Granted that’s a bold statement – that is now 4 years old – and all they could deliver is an app called TV that enables universal search. And don’t get me started on Siri – Google Assistant anyone? 5 year head start and they’ve been lapped by Amazon and Google? You could tell that the woman doing the demo was speaking in a deliberate tone, praying that Siri understood what she said. Having the TV app on other iOS devices is definitely a good addition and that is an interesting addition and opportunity for TV viewers.
For context, the day before this event, Microsoft announced the stunningly cool looking Surface Studio desktop computer. The human interaction of the Surface Dial on the ultra thin and gorgeous screen looks fantastic. Apple countered that with “the thinnest MBP EVER” – gee what a surprise. And it has an all metal design! It has the “best and biggest track pad that [Apple] has ever made.” None of this is a big deal. It is bordering on technology and change for change’s sake.
The TouchBar at the top of the keyboard is a really interesting feature however to me, it seems to be something that will take people a long time to adapt to. I think it’s potential is high – especially in terms of security and it’s ability to read fingerprints. But hey, at least it organizes my Emoji.
The MBP looks like a gorgeous machine and I am taking absolutely nothing away from the brilliant Engineering and design that went into it. Yet, as Apple was explaining the capabilities of the TouchBar, speaking with quiet reverence of how you can use both hands when using the MBP, all I thought about was how quaint the Apple demo was compared to the amazing interaction of Microsoft’s Surface Dial.
Dongles & Wires
So let me get this straight – Apple gets rid of the headphone jack in the iPhone for an accelerometer, so the customer has to buy and use unique headphones that ONLY work with the iPhone (because of the Lightning connector). Then Apple doesn’t include the Lightning port on the MBP, but DOES include a headphone jack. So the customer has to use a different set of headphones or the dreaded ‘dongle’ to listen to music on the MBP. In fact, it looks like the customer will need to purchase several dongles to adapt to the different connectors you could be using.
It is unrealistic to expect a company – yes, even Apple – to develop a groundbreaking product, on the scale of the iPhone, every year (or even every two years for that matter). There are only so many opportunities that present themselves like what was in front of Apple in 2005-7 when they developed iPhone. It is, however, realistic to expect the same level of innovation that they believe they are delivering, and I’m starting to feel that the gulf is widening between the innovation Apple believes it is delivering compared to that of their competition.
In case anyone is questioning Pixar’s position as the undisputed leader in digital animation, they have gone ahead and released for free another digital animation application, this one called the Universal Scene Description tool. It is basically a method for pulling together different assets from different animation applications in a seamless manner.
What makes this interesting to me is that back in July during a trip to Boston, I went to see the amazing “The Science Behind Pixar” exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Science. It was a very hands on demonstration of how Pixar develops it’s amazing digital animation movies. What was exceedingly clear from the exhibit was the painstakingly detailed production process that Pixar applies to each and every one of it’s movies – from the tiniest short to the most epic long form movie. The rigor and attention to detail that was demonstrated in the exhibit was stunning – I can only imagine how it works within the overall Pixar operation – but what was more impressive was the way they made the exhibit so easy to understand and consume, whether you were 14 or 41 years old. They easily demonstrated all the steps that Pixar goes through to produce their movies – from Modeling, Creating Realistic Surfaces, Animation, Simulation, Lighting and Rendering the Imagery. To say that they have the animation production process down to a science is a gross understatement.
By releasing this as ‘open source’, they are doing their best to bring some standardization and rigor to the industry they work in, a subtle dig on the fact that there are so many apps, processes and standards that don’t fit into how they produce their products.
So many folks in the media and around the world talk about Steve Jobs’ influence on the technology industry from his time at Apple (which I am not at all questioning), but after seeing the Pixar exhibit at the Museum of Science, and watching the multitude of movies that Pixar has produced, you can’t help but wonder if what he created at Pixar has been more transformative in the movie and entertainment industry.
In a lot of ways, this is exactly what tablets are meant for: easy access to data via wireless networks, high-quality photos, and portability. And from a coach’s or player’s perspective, imagine being able to quickly sort through a large set of plays, look at them in a stylish graphical presentation, see animations of them in action, and more–or to download a photo of the last play seconds later.
From a geek perspective, I think this is a super cool idea and could really be beneficial to teams – consider when they need to look up plays quickly, or check out a photo of a formation the opposition just ran. I think the hang up is that athletes and coaches are supremely superstitious animals. They like their routines, they find comfort in knowing their system so they don’t have to worry about anything else other than the game and its elements. I think there is a place for tablets on the NFL sideline, and other pro sports sidelines for that matter, but I think its going to be a bigger U/X transition than is anticipated. And thats saying nothing about the security issues that need to be factored in and managed.
Over at Mediapost, a spot on article about how the advertising and ad agency world is lagging behind from a technology and measurement perspective. The article is basically saying that the elevator is going to the top floor, but no one is home. They understand what needs to be done but have zero idea of how to get there. And if they don’t know, someone else will walk in (i.e Google), figure it out, and put them out of their misery.
As much as the industry sees this exciting vision, there are fundamental steps the industry needs to take to get there. Last year the steps required the industry to create open platforms to connect a fragmented industry.
Future steps include:
1) Measurements must align in display ads against consumer behavior such as dwell time or passive or active engagement.
2) Make processes within agencies quicker and easier through technology.
3) One system for all inventory processes.
Agency reps have been spending too much time cutting and pasting into and out of Microsoft Excel. So, MediaMind created a dashboard to centralize all information for media buyers. It aims to simplify the process of managing ad campaigns across Facebook, mobile, display and email. It also helps buyers find audiences.
The MediaMind version 2.0 product launch this week focuses on tackling the immediate tasks at hand, which Donaldson will address at Digital Experience Day (DED). He says it’s necessary for agencies to embrace this concept now to manage any kind of future change as digital and traditional media converge, and look at “smarter’ ways of engaging consumers.” But that’s really only the beginning.
The advertising industry will face serious issues if technologists don’t step up to nurture this transition.
This is hardly a revelation to me since the advertising and marketing world still relies on the dinosaur aged Neilsen Rating system to measure TV audience…a measurement system derived in the 1960’s and 1970’s that is the biggest joke and the industry’s dirty little secret. It still baffles me that an entire multi-billion dollar industry is based completely on a panel based model who’s methodology has not changed much in 25 years.
An interesting article from Nokia on how their industrial designers are incorporating human gestures into their mobile product/device design. They are basically tapping into the “relationship” that everyone has with their mobile device these days, and are using human gestures as a new dialect of interaction and communication with the phone. I’m sure we’ve all looked at our phone with one of those WTF expressions. It appears that in the future, there will be an app for that. :-)
I think I could use this in my basement. The fiasco of wires under my desk is beyond repair. With all the technical advances in our lives, is there no way for all these device manufacturers to figure out a way to reduce the number of wires that we have to deal with?
The Obama team started off their first week of his Presidency with the harsh realization that they have moved into the dark ages from a technological and communications perspective.
It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari. Two years after launching the most technologically savvy presidential campaign in history, Obama officials ran smack into the constraints of the federal bureaucracy yesterday, encountering a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts.What does that mean in 21st-century terms? No Facebook to communicate with supporters. No outside e-mail log-ins. No instant messaging. Hard adjustments for a staff that helped sweep Obama to power through, among other things, relentless online social networking.
It appears they will be working on beige computer boxes with Windows 2000 on them. I realize that the Federal Government is quite a large organization and upgrading the systems is not a simple task, but you would have to think that the staff at the White House of all places would have an IT system and infrastructure that employs standards and technology from this decade.
I read an interesting article in the NYTimes “Circuits” section yesterday about a company called Teleflip (although I don’t know how much of a company it is since its service is free). Essentially they enable you to send an email to any mobile phone in the US, no matter the carrier, by sending an email to [any-mobile-phone-number]@teleflip.com. Its really a pretty simple concept – the email is sent to their server, they associate the number with the right carrier, and then re-route it to the appropriate domain. So check it out by clicking on the email link above.