Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good riddance...

2009 has been one of those years.  And how.  The first three months of 2009 I spent wondering first if I'd have to let people go, and second if I'd have to close the doors and look for a real job elsewhere.  The six after that was treading water business-wise - only the last few months have seen anything resembling growth or security.  I'm not where I was in 2008, but I'm still open for business and that's a Win.

The rest of life this year wasn't nearly as bad, but still a challenge.  Our beloved son has been a handful all year - I think instead of seeing Jane's being home with him as a blessing he sees it as an entitlement.  He was sick during our vacation (and it rained all week).  We had to throw a lot of money at upgrading/replacing the HVAC in our house - stuff that'll pay off in time but not for a while.  It was just that kind of year.

All that negativity aside, we survived intact, mostly healthy, and without losing our shirts or going into debt.  My business is positioned well for 2010.  Difficult as our son can be, he's still bright and personable (most of the time!).  We've got the big expenses out of the way now in our home, and we've lived here long enough that there's not too many surprises left.  And all three humans (and one cat) in our home will see the sun come up tomorrow on a world that is hopefully a little better than it was when the sun set before.

Paul Krugman called the decade just past the "zeros".  I'm not with him for the decade, but the year 2009?  I'll go with that.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The next netbook

I'm still using an Eee 901 I bought last year, upgraded with a 16GB SSD and 2GB of RAM.  It is running Windows 7 Professional and does a perfectly adequate job for me when I need cheap, light, and long-lasting.  I didn't replace it this year for a few reasons - first, I'm watching the company expenses as carefully as I can, but more importantly there's nothing really new or worthy this year in the netbook category.  Except that everyone got into it.

2010 will change that some with the nVidia Ion platform and Intel's Pine Trail Atom.  Now, performance is just on the edge of low-end laptops (enough for HD video) and battery life is 20+ percent better.  It's viable to get 10 hours of life from a 6-cell battery.  The 9" form factor I have in my 901 turned out to be kind of a dead-end (as did the 7" before) - what's making the platform now are the 10" and 12" screens.  They allow space for keyboards that are much more usable (the letter keys are within a couple percent of full-size and the other keys are a little shrunken to make up for it - 12" models usually have a real keyboard).  The only other dead-end in most models was the use of SSD - I for one will miss that a lot since it made them more rugged.

The model I consider next year will have a 1366x768 screen (the one I have now is 1024x600), likely a 160 or 250GB hard drive, 1GB of RAM standard, and it'll probably include Windows 7 Starter.  Not bad for a netbook.  Double the RAM and upgrade to Windows 7 Pro, and we're looking at a real laptop for under $400 that'll run for a full work day and then some on batteries.

And you wonder why Apple's pretty much the only PC maker making big profits.  All that margin the other companies used to have vanished in the netbook frenzy.  Which, by the way, is also why Apple doesn't play in that segment.

Latest iPhone nonsense

There's a post today on TUAW that breathlessly speculates that Apple's WWDC has booked Moscone from 6/28 through 7/2 (likely - they always book dates anonymously until it's actually announcement time) because that way they can announce an iPhone for Verizon and/or other US carriers (not likely).

Let me repeat myself one more time: Until the move to 4G (which may begin this coming year), Apple is highly unlikely to ever produce a version of the iPhone for CDMA carriers.  And by "highly unlikely" I mean "no chance in hell".  Now, let me remind you all as to why:

- The GSM 3G standard is what is used in virtually all of the world
- CDMA is entering its final run, 4G will replace it
- CDMA data networks cannot handle simultaneous voice and data
- All Apple gets from Verizon or Sprint is a small portion of their market, max
- Right now Apple makes one iPhone (yes, they still produce the older 3G as the entry model, and yes they make one without wifi for China - but it's still the same base phone and the chipsets are GSM-only), not two

In essence, Apple makes an iPhone for almost all of world + dog, excepting two US carriers and part of South Korea.  And they have the largest US GSM carrier in the fold.  The two US carriers they don't support are migrating to newer 4G technologies over the next year, and the largest CDMA carrier (Verizon) is migrating to LTE for 4G - same as AT&T.  CDMA is a dead end.  Why support it now?

Not that folks wouldn't buy a Verizon iPhone, even with the limitations that Verizon's network put on it.  They would.  But the reason I say "no way" is because Apple just is too smart to throw the engineering resources at a product with a very limited shelf life when they can get a lot better return by being on top of 4G.

And that day - Verizon'll be first in line, I bet.