Category Archives: Tech

These are technology related posts.

My thoughts on Apple’s iOS 7

Apple unveiled their new operating system. Click here to check out the video and learn all about it. I love all the new features like app previews when you double click the home button.

iTunes radio is something I’m definitely interested in. It’s ad supported and built right into the Music app. If you dig a song so much, you have the option to purchase the song immediately right there from iTunes. Smart? You bet! Pandora recently started limiting their users to 40 hours of mobile listening a month and that’s just not enough for me! I play Pandora in the car, gym, and around the house. (Ain’t nobody got money to buy Pandora One, but you’re welcomed to buy it for me. Or Spotify premium for that matter ha.) Spotify’s radio just doesn’t compare to the quality of music played by Pandora so I have high hopes that iTunes radio will be a great alternative.

The calendar got an extreme makeover so you can quickly see what your tasks are for the day. Messages got a makeover, basically removing the glossy look of the messages but keeping the gray and blue. It has a quick control center where you’re able to change settings like turn off wifi or quickly enable airplane mode. Siri can also do much more like turn on/off bluetooth. Airdrop allows you to share files with other apps or iPhone users around you. Very convenient especially since bluetooth almost never works. Camera app got smarter and automatically puts photos into “moments” when taking several pics at the same time or place. So overall, the new features are great.

However, the other major overhaul is the user interface. I don’t like it. I feel like it looks too much like the windows phone interface. Something about it just rubs me the wrong way but maybe it’ll grow on me. It’s available now for app developers and everyone else in the fall. Who else is excited? What do you think about the new interface?

The death of cash? Not so fast!

The cover story on Fortune’s current issue is titled “The death of cash.” Read the article here. The author, senior writer Miguel Helft, has to be completely delusional. He seems to think that these new start ups like Square will eliminate the need for cash. I couldn’t disagree more.

Let’s start with the simple fact that not everyone has a smartphone. According to comScore, back in January there were 101 million smartphones in the US. According to the 2010 US Census, there is over 308 million people living in the United States. So, Square is already alienating more than 1/3rd of the population.

Now another problem is getting those users to trust companies like Square to use their phone as their payment. A lot of young people, including myself, are intrigued by technology. I want to be the first to try a new service out. I got an invite to Google Wave, Google Plus, and other products still in beta because I’m interested in that type of stuff. It’s an easy sell when you’re dealing with younger generations and especially technologically inclined people. However, if you’re going to try to eliminate cash completely, you’re going to need a lot more than just smartphone users.

You’re really disenfranchising a lot of people. You can’t just assume everyone will adapt to the times and get smart phones sooner or later. Maybe with time when all generations alive have had some experience with computers and cellphones. Many people simply have no interest in adapting new technology and this is the problem facing tech companies. I feel this is why Apple has been so successful because they make it so dead simple that anyone, even young children, can just pick up an iPad and figure out their way around.

People have many reasons not to trust using their phone as a wallet. What if my phone gets stolen and people go around town tapping away, completely screwing up my financial assets? Of course my bank would protect me and recover my money in a few business days, but what am I to do in the interim? I would still have bills and other stuff to pay. Losing your phone is one thing, but losing your wallet is a completely different thing.

It wasn’t too long ago that banks ran out of cash during the great depression. People still remember that. This is why many people don’t even have bank accounts. Many people have a genuine distrust for banks and the recent bank failures aren’t helping to gain consumer confidence. Think about how long credit cards have been around for. Many people don’t like them. Not only because they can lead to credit card debt but because they can be stolen. Getting your wallet stolen with $40 bucks inside is one thing, but losing your credit card and having someone rake up thousands of dollars worth of charges in your name is a whole other thing.

How long have debit cards been around for? Many people don’t have those either. They’ve been around for so long and many stores accept them so why doesn’t everyone have one if the technology is there? Again, because of people’s distrust. There’s a lot of companies who make it easy for merchants to accept credit cards in their business but a lot of local places don’t accept credit cards.

My family owns a restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles that is cash only. I’ve asked my mom why doesn’t she join the 21st century and accept credit cards. She says that it’s too much of a hassle having to deal with potential fraud and the need to wait until the money is deposited into your bank a few days later. Her logic is that it’s much easier and safer to have customers run to the ATM down the street and have the cash in hand instantly. As much as I prefer using my debit card, I had to agree with that.

Large corporations can handle the risks, but small mom and pop shops really can’t afford to take that risk. What if there is a banking problem and their money is tied up for whatever reason? If businesses are dependent on that money to purchase necessary supplies, you better make sure you have it on hand.

A lot of places it just makes sense to use cash. Think of your local ice cream truck. Sure he can get a smartphone and Square but are you going to give the kids your debit card or smartphone to go buy a ice cream cone? I wouldn’t be shocked if you said no. You would instead, hand the kid a dollar and send them to get their ice cream. Not get too much into the underground economy, which is in the billions, but they also don’t want a paper trail so they depend on a cash only model.

I won’t dispute that our currency system is broken. It has been well documented that it costs 2.41 cents to make a penny. Canada has even been experimenting with digital currency.

There is no question that a cashless system is where the world is moving. However, there’s a lot more to it than just technological advances as Helft leads you to believe. You can have the best product in the world but if people don’t want to use it then it’s pretty much useless. A lot has to do with psychology and getting people to trust your company enough to use your service. I don’t believe the death of cash is anywhere in our near future, but it’s a definitely something we will be talking about in the distant future.

Microsoft’s Woes are Far From Over

It’s not much of a secret that Microsoft has been going through a tough patch lately. The once thought untouchable technology company is on a slippery slope. Much of their ventures have been failing. Bing, which as much as they try to push with national campaigns, hasn’t gained much popularity. They promote it as a decision engine, whatever that even means. I will add that I’ve never actually used the site and don’t intend to because I’ve very satisfied with Google.

Every quarter Bing has been bleeding millions without much to show for it. Google still holds most of the search market share. However, Bing isn’t the only problem facing Microsoft. They’re late in the game with Surface as their iPad competitor. Their Windows phones aren’t attracting many consumers which discourages developers from creating apps for their phones.

Then yesterday came the news that Microsoft was charging off $6.2 billion from the acquisition of aQuantative which is an Internet advertising firm. They acquired aQuantative because they wanted to beef up their online advertising efforts and expected growth to accelerate which it didn’t live up to.

It’s also not a secret that the department at Microsoft making the most money is the licensing of Microsoft Office and all of their operating systems, including XP, Vista, and Windows 7 which brings in billions each year. But for how long can you sustain trying to build all of these other products and services on the back of their licensing? Is it Microsoft’s plan to just throw as much crap at the wall and see what sticks and turns a profit? It sure seems like it.

All of these things point to bad management decisions but it wasn’t only under current CEO Steve Ballmer’s watch it also happened under Bill Gates. It’s no secret that Microsoft’s corporate culture is horrible. I recently spoke with someone at a tech festival who described working for Microsoft as Social Darwinism. It’s survival of the fittest where only those who stand out of the bunch make it. You can see how that would make working in groups difficult because everyone is trying to stand out individually instead of working together.

Today Vanity Fair posted a preview to an article in their August issue titled Microsoft’s Downfall: Inside the Executive E-mails and Cannibalistic Culture That Felled a Tech Giant. As the title suggests, the author Kurt Eichenwald has dozens of interviews and internal records. He goes on to state that the last decade of Microsoft could serve as a business school case study which resonates with me because I’ve done several of these recently in school and I could see how many of their problems ultimately point to bad management.

I understand the need to diversify. I understand the need to create the Surface as tablets and PCs become more interconnected. But there’s a problem with spreading yourself too thin. Microsoft is a great software company so maybe they should focus on creating great software. I’d prefer to have a business that is great at a few things than being mediocre at a lot of things. I just wish Microsoft would’ve realized this sooner. Microsoft is launching Windows 8 soon which they have priced very competitively at $39.99 for people who already have XP, Vista, or Windows 7. I haven’t tried the beta but from what I hear it’s very light weight and could be a viable competitor for OS X.

I said in my previous post and I don’t mean to beat a dead horse but I really like when companies are competing because it makes them more innovative and in the end we all win. I’m rooting for Microsoft because for a long time I was a Windows guy. I hope they’re able to overcome all these setbacks in recent years and get back to being the leading company they once were. I can’t wait to see the final Windows 8 OS. I can’t wait to read Eichenwald’s article. Look out for it in the August issue of Vanity Fair. What are your thoughts on all their recent news? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.