Home Depot and the smoking zip-zap machine

VigodaI was at Home Depot on Sunday, buying flower pots and some lumber to repair the fence where Sadie the Dog has been plotting her escape. Checking-out of the Garden Department I handed my credit card to the cashier, who promptly dragged out an old zip-zap machine (that’s the technical term coined by BankAmeriCard 50 years ago) and took an impression of my card.

“You’ve been hacked,” I said.

“No, it’s just that my terminal is down so I have to do it the old fashion way,” said the cheery cashier.

“Don’t give me that, you’ve been hacked,” I said.

The lady behind me with fertilizer and a Jack Russell Terrier began to […]

For future computing, look (as always) to Star Trek

retinal scan“The step after ubiquity is invisibility,” Al Mandel used to say and it’s true. To see what might be The Next Big Thing in personal computing technology, then, let’s try applying that idea to mobile. How do we make mobile technology invisible?

Google is invisible and while the mobile Internet consists of far more than Google it’s a pretty good proxy for back-end processing and data services in general. Google would love for us all to interface completely through their servers for everything. That’s their goal. Given their determination and deep pockets, I’d say Google — or something like it — will be a major part of the invisible mobile Internet.

The […]

The Fed suckered IBM into a failing cloud strategy?

Ginni_RomettyEconomist David Stockman, who is probably best known for being President Reagan’s budget director back in the era of voodoo economics, has been particularly outspoken about IBM as a poster child for bad policy on the part of the U.S. Federal Reserve. How this would be isn’t immediately obvious but I think is worth exploring because IBM is far from the only company so afflicted. There’s an important effect here to be understood about corporate motivations and their consequences.

So I’ll begin with a story. Almost 40 years ago there was a study I worked on at Stanford’s Institute for Communication Research having to do with helping farmers in Kentucky be […]

IBM and Apple just not that big a deal

apple-ibmGiven that I used to work for Apple and have lately been quite critical of IBM, readers are wondering what I think of Tuesday’s announcement of an iOS partnership of sorts between Apple and IBM. I think it makes good sense for both companies but isn’t a slam dunk for either.

There are three aspects to this deal — hardware, apps, and cloud services. For Apple the deal presents primarily a new distribution channel for iPhones and iPads. Apple can always use new channels, especially if they hold inventory and support customers who aren’t price-sensitive. Apple’s primary goal is to simply get more devices inside Big Business and this is a good way […]

The Coming Microsoft Cultural Revolution

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.34.41 AMLast week Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took another step in redefining his company for the post-Gates/Ballmer era, sending a 3100-word positioning memo to every Microsoft employee and to the world in general. I found it a fascinating document for many reasons, some of them even intended by Nadella, who still has quite a ways to go to legitimately turn Microsoft in the right direction.

We’re seeing a lot of this — companies trying to talk their way into continued technology leadership. Well talk is cheap, and sometimes that’s the major point: it can be far easier to temporarily move customers and markets through the art of […]