Five easy tech pieces

Once again, we survey the tech landscape to see what’s afoot.

Turns out, as usual, that there are some interesting stories unfolding—stories of an unexpected pairing; Internet upheaval; companies that have your back; cloud uncertainty; and rotting CDs.

Curious? Read on…

What’s it all about, Apple?

In the tech industry, innovation is the minimum daily requirement of a successful business. On the other hand, disruption, the life blood of technology development, only happens once in a blue moon.Apple_Beats

Any technology company would be happy to disrupt an industry once. Google with search and Facebook with social networking became multi-billion dollar companies by disrupting their respective industries.

It could be argued that Apple has developed and marketed disrupting technologies four times—the personal computer, portable music with iPod and iTunes, mobile computing with iPhone, and the post-PC industry with iPad.

Apple’s track record has made the company phenomenally rich. It also has fueled enormously unrealistic expectations for the company, as industry pundits, analysts, and customers impatiently await the next big thing.

In that context, the rumor this week that Apple was buying Beats for $3.2 billion was met with a variety of reactions. The deal seems somewhat out of character for the company, but who knows what Tim Cook and company have up their sleeves?

While, surely, Apple has purchased technology companies and merged those technologies into Apple-branded products, the Beats deal appears to be a horse of a different color. The deal hasn’t closed yet, so it’s somewhat premature to speculate just how Beats will be integrated into the Apple universe. It’s most definitely premature to speculate whether the deal is a brilliant move by Tim Cook, or a bust.

My take: Apple’s music business, while still hugely successful, is maturing. Tim Cook and his management team went looking for able stewards of the business, while they focus on the next big thing.

What better stewards than Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, heavyweight music-industry insiders, to take Apple’s music business forward? The fact that Beats has a billion dollar a year headphone business and a well-regarded, if fledgling, music streaming service is extra gravy.

Don’t mess with my Internet

fcc-logoWe’ve written about net neutrality in these pages before, but that dog continues to hunt. This week, as the FCC floated a new proposal for governing the Web and maintaining net neutrality, voices in protest sounded across the landscape.

The main issue of contention centers around the FCC’s proposal to allow Internet “fast lanes,” through which companies could pay extra to ensure that their content receives priority. As data is delivered through pipes owned by Comcast, Verizon, and other Internet service providers, will paying customers (the “haves”) squeeze out mom and pop websites, blogs, forums, and other non-paying sites (the “have-nots)?

The very essence of net neutrality is that all bits of data should be treated equally and delivered just as quickly as the pipes will allow.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that we have an entire generation of young people who have grown up with the Internet, and have come to expect the knowledge, pleasure, and power it has engendered as basic human rights. Many of this generation are now beginning to take notice that these seemingly fundamental capabilities might be disrupted by greedy corporate interests.

Rather than the FCC coming to some resolution with their latest proposal, this could be just the beginning of a lengthy battle between consumers (citizens) and the powers that be.

My advice: become informed and let your voice be heard.

Who has your back?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has long been an advocate for online privacy, Internet freedom, and other digital rights issues. The non-profit organization’s tag line is “defending your rights in a digital world.” The group has been a watchdog of sorts, and calls out government institutions and corporations when they step on freedoms we should be able to take for granted.EFF

Recently, the EFF announced its fourth annual Who has your back report, including the companies that “fight the hardest to protect your privacy from government data requests.”

Rating companies up to a possible six stars, the report looks at a number of objective criteria such as requiring authorities to produce a warrant before user data is divulged.

Among the companies receiving six out of a possible six stars were Apple, Credo Mobile, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Sonic and Yahoo.

Rely on cloud computing at your own peril

Lcd tv monitor on white background.We’ve extolled the virtues of cloud computing in these pages for functions like backup and syncing photos, contacts, bookmarks and other data. But should you rely on cloud computing for mission critical applications that must be available 24/7/365?

Well…maybe not.

Case in point, Adobe’s Creative Cloud, which provides cloud-based versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, and other software apps for graphic designers, artists, and other creative professionals. Because of a database issue, subscribers were locked out of the site for almost two days, unable to access and work on projects stored in the cloud.

In business, two days of downtime is an eternity and can result in missed deadlines and lost revenue. Perhaps, the cloud is just not fully ready for prime time.

Is vinyl better than plastic?

Remember compact discs, better known as CDs? If like me you’ve built up a collection over the years, there’s evidence from the Library of Congress to suggest your CDs may be rotting away, and could eventually fail to play.500px-Compact_disc.svg

CDs from major music labels are manufactured using a physical stamping on the plastic which is then given a metallic coating to reflect the laser light. Problems can emerge such as edge rot, where oxygen permeates the plastic and reacts with the metal layer; and corrosion caused by pollutants in the air.

If you haven’t ripped your CDs to your computer, there is no time like the present. Wait and you could be sitting on a lot of useless plastic.

On the other hand, if you never made the leap to CDs and are still enjoying your vinyl records on a good old-fashioned turntable, well maybe you really were smarter than us all along.

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