Kindle Pimpin’

Amazon just made life difficult for several competitors, but not Apple. Sorry, anyone looking for the iPad Killer, a 7″ tablet just isn’t the same category.

But, Barnes & Noble – you’ve been served notice now, beyotches. The cheapest Kindle is on sale right now, today, for $79. Cheapest Nook? $139. Oh, that’s gotta hurt. Coming in a month, the Kindle Fire competes directly with the Nook Color. Fire costs $200, or $50 less than the less-powerful Nook Color. There’s another stinging sensation right there.

Meanwhile, the ereader vendors who come out with alternatives, such as the ECTaco, Pandigital, and even venerable Sony brands are going to have a hard time finding buyers when they compete against a $79 Kindle backed by the Amazon bookstore, or the $99 Kindle Touch edition. Heck, the new top of the line e-ink Kindle is only $189 with 3G and wifi (save forty bucks if you don’t mind ads when the screen is “off”). None of the new models from the Amazon competitors include 3G free, and the “but I like to borrow from the library” folks got that problem answered last week when Overdrive’s Kindle support finally went live.

It’s really hard to believe that in November of 2007, $400 bought one of these ugly things, with 250MB of memory:

And in 2011, you can get this for only $79, with 2GB of memory:

I can’t imagine what magic Sony and B&N will have to pull out of their hats to have a chance of competing with Bezos’ latest babies.

Oh, and if you really want a Kindle with a keyboard, the Kindle 3 with Special Offers just got dropped 15 bucks to $99.

Zoomie Acronyms

The Air Force loves acronyms. They love them so much, it doesn’t matter if they make things more confusing, or not even any shorter than an equivalent English word – they’ll use an acronym wherever possible.

I finally found out what “SMU” means in zoomie speak: Small Marching Unit. This was quite a surprise to me, as every email I get on-base that uses the acronym uses it as a verb. Here’s one from this week:

Please have all “A” shift ITP/ATP Airmen SMU to the parade field…

So, to expand the acronym (and no, I don’t know what ITP and ATP mean either):

Please have all “A” shift ITP/ATP Airmen Small Marching Unit to the parade field…

Notice that there is no verb after Airmen now, and yet they are to DO something to the parade field. This would normally require an “action word” as we were taught back in elementary school. This requirement oviously does not apply to Air Farce English.

The mystery of “SMU” has now been solved, and it is stupid. Not as stupid as when they use “ATT” instead of “now” but still pretty stupid.

Windows 8 – The Onslaught Begins

To read the tech press the past couple weeks, you’d think Microsoft had created some sort of magical portal to a realm of unicorns and rainbows and cakes with zero calories, rather than a dual-mode operating system.

Even when reviewers and developers talk about traditional desktop/laptop computing in regards to Windows 8, they somehow miss some of the more glaring questions that power users may have. For instance, why in the world would I want a full-screen Facebook application on a 24″ monitor? How does the ludicrous number of icons installed in a typical Windows machine’s start menu align with the new “start page” model? They say there are groups of panels, which would be somewhat analogous to the folders of icons in the hierarchical menu, I presume. But, there are several dozen icons in about 15 folders on my work computer, which has not much installed on it.  On my home computer, I have literally hundreds of icons in the start menu. I have at least 20 games; if each one takes a bloody giant panel on the start page, it will take ages to scroll through.

This bizarre start page debacle is partially ameliorated, to be sure, by the ability to search easily within those icons. This is an ability carried over from Windows Vista and Windows 7, and is certainly something I use quite regularly, when I know the name of the program I want to launch. But, when I am looking for something, it’s a great deal more convenient to have 30-pixel high rows of icons to scroll through instead of 300-pixel blocks. I realize that the strangely non-flyout default start menu in Windows 7 only shows about 20 programs at a time, and the Windows 8 start page also can show approximately 20 programs at a time. But, the overall effect of the hierarchical model in the start menu means that I don’t scroll through EVERY icon to get to one at the bottom of the list. I scroll through twenty folders, and then open one folder and then maybe scroll through twenty icons to find the one I want – this is TWO scrolls. From what I can tell of the Windows 8 Metro model, I could be swiping left-to-right dozens more times to get to one particular program, if I didn’t remember its name. This is better?

And don’t even get me started on the Metro business model, where every single program available for the new interface must be sold only through Microsoft’s store. I know Microsoft envies Apple’s deathgrip on its market, but one reason why Apple only has 10% of the desktop and laptop business might be due to that deathgrip. Paying Microsoft 30% of the retail cost of a program might not be a business model that some developers can swallow. How do freeware programs and shareware programs fit into this model? Is there any room in Microsoft’s brave new world for anyone who can’t pay to play?

Another fun fact – Metro applications are not supposed to run in the background. If they get minimized, they go dormant. So much for powerful multitasking 8-core processors – we only need the one core, thanks.

HP Repeats Palm History

Way back in 2002, Palm was the #1 PDA and smartphone OS in the USA. They decided to split their company into a hardware and a software company, and then licensed their own OS from themselves in 2003. It’s all very weird and confusing, and would seem to serve well as a warning to future generations of geeks how not to run a company.

Now that HP has fully digested their Palm acquisition, they are repeating this move. They intend to spin off their personal systems group into a separate company (or just sell it, depending on the rumor). Meanwhile, they are holding onto WebOS (what might be considered PalmOS V7), perhaps intending to license it to their spunoff hardware division at a later date. That worked so well ten years ago, why not?

Further Amazon Tablet Clues

Amazon is going to release a color ereader in the next couple months. Everyone says so, and they may have the best chance to be a #2 Android tablet of any manufacturer due to their content store already in place. Some folks really dig the iPad’s application market system, and Amazon probably already has your credit card information on file, so they’re ready to go.

This week, they’re rolling out a new version of their Kindle PC and Mac software, which adds support for a book file format that is incompatible with their existing Kindle hardware ereaders. If that’s not a giant clue they’re planning new hardware, I don’t know what is.