Depends what you think a tablet is.

The hot quote of the day is definitely this one from Thorsten Heins, CEO of BlackBerry:

In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore,” Heins said in an interview yesterday at the Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles. “Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.

So my first question is “what does he think a tablet is”?

Apple created the current table market a couple of years ago and now both they Samsung are doing quite well. For them, a tablet is really just a device with a different form factor. An iPad is pretty much an iPhone or iPod with a bigger screen. It connects via WiFi, 3G, or LTE, just like a phone does. Android tablets are pretty much the same idea. As GigaOM notes, tablets seem like a pretty good business model for now.

Contrast that with BlackBerry, whose PlayBook tablet was really essentially a screen that needed a BlackBerry device to do things like read email or communicate. It was basically just a mobile web browsing device and little else.

So in that context, his comment makes sense. It’s likely that nobody wants a special purpose device that just browses the web unless it is connected to another better networked device.

As for a tablet though, people well always have differing needs for screen sizes on their devices depending on what they use them for, so a “tablet as varied form factor device” market probably isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

I would prefer a different idea though. Right now my iPhone and iPad are just pretty conduits to web-based data. I enter my food data in LoseIt. I track steps and sleep with Jawbone’s UP. I read email from Gmail and other services. Twitter, Facebook and other social services just provide information to my device. Or my devices.

I’d like to expand that. I’ll carry the size of device I need at the time. Ideally it will let me push that information to a larger screen or external audio system when I need to. AirPlay lets me show photos and video on my television when I want to. I play music to my Jambox when I’m outside. Or use a Bluetooth keyboard for intensive tasks. I do see current tablets as consumption devices rather than creation devices though.

Everything to me is just an interchangeable output device for a little processor that lets me access my data. In the foreseeable future I’m still going to want apps though because they package the data nicely and optimize its transfer. But as HTML5 support improves that could change too.

But the market for varying form factors isn’t going away.

I think I need an agent.

The hottest Silicon Valley programmers now have agents:

A San Francisco-based agency called 10x Management is among the first to bring a Hollywood agency model to the tech industry. The agency carefully vets its engineers and designers, and it connects them with high-paying, short-term opportunities at The White House as well as companies like Google and Mozilla.

This might work well in a culture where companies are willing to pay to talent. Perhaps not so much in the rest of the world where programming costs are in a race to the bottom, outsourcing to the lowest bidder.

While some countries have extremely low costs of living, making it inexpensive for programmers to live and work there, I wonder what you can seriously expect from the lowest cost bidder?

I think it’s time for me to get an agent. Would you give up 15% for a plum freelance gig?

And why don’t more companies use contract resources to get the job done? Do you really want to hire full time staff for short term jobs?

The not-so-secret dirty little secret.

Guess what? Tech companies don’t want to hire older people. Surprised?

I’m not.

An article today by Vivek Wadhwa revisits the idea:

They don’t prepare you for this in college or admit it in job interviews. The harsh reality is that if you are middle-aged, write computer code for a living, and earn a six-figure salary, you’re headed for the unemployment lines. Your market value declines as you age and it becomes harder and harder to get a job.

I know this post will provoke anger, outrage, and denial. But, sadly, this is the way things are in the tech world. It’s an “up or out” profession — like the military. And it’s as competitive as professional sports. Engineers need to be prepared.

I detest the word “revisit”, but in this case it makes good sense; this is certainly not a new topic – it’s discussed here and Google provides many more. But it is one that does need to be aired out.

Full disclosure: I’m 52 so I would clearly be affected by this. Yes, many older tech employees may have let the skills get old, and may not be easily employable in today’s world. But that’s not me. I stay on the bleeding edge of tech; if it’s happening I’m doing it. I was building Facebook apps before you probably heard of Facebook. I’ve been building mobile apps since before most people knew what a smartphone was.

And I’m certainly not the only person my age – or older – who is doing that. And I, like many others, don’t sleep that much and have no problem working around the clock on a project. I’m building a startup right now with a couple of partners. The iPhone app is almost complete, done in a very short time, and I’m now looking at the Android build. And that is only one of the may things I’m working on.

In my case, in addition to writing code, I’ve done sales, marketing, support, and I’m a fairly competent writer as well. Feel free to Google me and read some of my magazine articles or other writing. And I’ve been through all kinds of customer situations over 30 years or so, and I bring that experience as well.

If companies are looking to save money then, yes, hiring a young inexperienced engineer will achieve that goal. And they’ll make a bunch of mistakes learning what we already know, but they will get the job done. And once you train them, they’ll leave you for another company for more money and you’ll start all over again.

It just seems odd to me that you wouldn’t want to benefit from experience. That nobody seems to ascribe a value to all that was learned.

It’s ok though. The companies that I work with do benefit from the experience I bring, coupled with my constant need to learn new stuff. Some people, regardless of age, never lose that desire.

The Wii Generation.

Over the years we’ve bought pretty much every game console for the kids, but we never really used them ourselves. A couple of days ago we bought a Wii – just for us. Yes, we’ve joined – or perhaps expanded – the Wii Generation.

Though I’m comfortable with every kind of technology, I sort of generationally missed video games, so it’s kind of a new thing for me. Hand-eye coordination has never been my strong suit either. But we’re having a blast just playing with Wii Sports.

I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks. :)

Every moment. Captured for posterity.


An otherwise quiet regular trip to the St. Jacobs Farmers Market this morning for breakfast was interrupted by a car on fire today, spouting flames and thick black smoke billowing into the sky. At this point we’re just seeing the aftermath.

The market hosted a huge livestock auction today, which explains the crowd of Mennonites in front of me watching the excitement.

The most noticeable thing about the entire event was the number of people, phones held aloft, capturing the event in pictures and video. I joked that it probably already had a million hits on YouTube. And sure enough, hardly a million views, but you can see the fire on YouTube right here and here.

I wonder. Are we reaching the point where every moment of our lives is captured for posterity?

We may disagree about “smaller”.

The Senate is about to end tax free online shopping. The Marketplace Fairness Act would allow states to require online sellers earning over $1,000,000 to collect sales tax from their residents.

eBay is lobbying for a higher threshold – $10,000,000:

Chief Executive John Donahoe sent out millions of emails over the weekend seeking to enlist eBay users in his fight to raise that bar to $10 million. Though the company says it doesn’t have a tally of how many of its sellers would be affected by a $1 million threshold, it is presumably fighting for the lion’s share.

Mr. Donahoe has said the bill would damage smaller retailers by treating them the same way it treats large merchants that have sophisticated tax-collection capabilities.

I’m not sure about Mr. Donahoe, but I find it kind of hard to think of sellers on an auction site who make up to $10 million annually as “smaller”.

It’s the little things that matter.

You can quote phone features and specifications all day but they really don’t matter. What matters is little things like being able to pull my phone out of my pocket and capture *that* moment. The real joy of carrying the phone is never missing the amazing moments in your life.

Apple always seems to capture that kind of feeling better than anyone else.

Via The Verge.

The revolution will not be televised.

That’s because television is fading fast. According to Netflix (via VentureBeat):

But people don’t love the linear TV experience where channels present programs at particular times on non-portable screens with complicated remote controls. Consumers click through a grid to choose something to watch. DVRs and VOD add an on-demand layer at the cost of storage and increased complexity. Finding good things to watch isn’t easy or enjoyable. While hugely popular, the linear TV channel model is ripe for replacement.

Indeed. To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, there’s 1057 channels and nothing on. We’ve been TiVo users for years and though we do occasionally sit down to watch live tv we certainly don’t depend on it. We watch what we want when we want. But we still do pay for cable, even though we have Netflix and AppleTV. Unfortunately, Canadian cable provides do not support CableCard, so it may be impossible to use TiVo soon.

But that’s just a generational thing. My kids don’t have cable. They watch tv via the internet and Netflix in a completely non-linear fashion.

The Netflix idea of burst mode viewing of an entire season of a show like House of Cards isn’t new to us either. When there just wasn’t anything on we would peruse Netflix for a series that looked good that we hadn’t seen yet, and then watched the whole season or two in a few sittings. For example, we found Running Wilde (with Will Arnett or Arrested Development) that way. If you like Arrested Development you’ll love it. And yes, we’re waiting anxiously for the next season of that.

There are a couple of shows I watch on broadcast tv – The Big Bang Theory and Glee – but there isn’t that much more that really catches my attention. But there are so many commercial-free alternatives, not that commercials bother me all that terribly. But watching what I want when I want is something I enjoy.

Unfortunately, most Canadians will be far behind the revolution given the typical hard bandwidth cap of 60 GB per month, or approximately 2 hours of standard definition broadcast per day, compared with the typical American soft bandwidth cap of 250 GB.

Sadly, that means the average Canadian won’t even be able to watch one three hour hockey game per night in a typical month. If you put it to them that way, maybe Canadians would actually understand how poor their internet service really is.

That’s ok. You can still watch the game on tv whenever Rogers and Bell let you.

2000 years of weather climate.

A new paper published in Nature Geoscience uses proxy data to establish an approximate temperature record for the last 200o years. Here it is graphically:

You can find supplemental information and more graphs in this PDF.

There’s a lot of information to take in here, and I won’t pretend to be able to interpret it all. But at a quick glance, especially in the case of Europe, it sure looks cyclical to me. In fact Europe looks to be running on nearly a 2000 year cycle. Really warm at 0-100 years, and really warm again at 1950-2000. What information there is from Asia seems similar. However, North America seems to lag that cycle somewhat.

Via the New York Times with a tip of the hat to Enchantment who provided the link.