Broadcasters descending into madness, says CEA president

23 May 2014 by Steve Blum
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Gary Shapiro, the president of the Consumer Electronics Association, has published a blistering attack on U.S. broadcasters, characterising their rear-guard opposition to new technology as the madness and nonsense of Alice’s Wonderland and urging congress to yank the licenses of television stations that act against the public interest. Not just in what they put on the air, but also their business practices. Shapiro points to a decision by CBS executives to suppress a news story that didn’t fall in line with their business goals…

Last year, CBS leadership reversed a decision by 40 CNET editors who voted the DISH Hopper Sling the best innovation at the 2013 International CES®.


FCC chair Wheeler relies on clairvoyance to police innovation

2 May 2014 by Steve Blum
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Survival in Washington means keeping a firm hand on your ball.

Earlier this week, I asked whether FCC chair Tom Wheeler is dumb enough to think we’re dumb enough to believe that network neutrality means something other than Internet service that doesn’t discriminate amongst content providers on the basis of who is writing the bigger check to your ISP. Wheeler’s answer appears to be a resounding yes.

In a new blog post, the freshman chairman confirmed that ISPs will be allowed to sell pay-for-play fast lanes to content and service companies, so long as it’s “commercially reasonable”, a vague term that guarantees nothing except mountains of billable hours for lobbyists and lawyers.… More

Commuter survey finds tech talent bonanza in Santa Cruz

15 April 2014 by Steve Blum
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Not worth the money.

Ditching a two hour commute and working in Santa Cruz is worth a 9% cut in pay, according to a survey by Civinomics, commissioned by South Swell Ventures. Most of those surveyed – 61% – said they had technical jobs, with software engineers predominating. The most commonly reported commute time was 2 hours (28%), with 80% saying they traveled at least an hour and a half a day. The sample was specifically targeted rather than random…

The survey was conducted in two parts, with half of respondents being randomly selected while boarding company buses at multiple stops, and the other half being referred through a verified link via email.


Sony picks in-house OS for wearables and survival

Used to be staying alive was innovation enough.

Google’s try at adapting its Android operating system to specifically support wearable devices isn’t getting much love from manufacturers. Following Samsung’s lead, Sony has decided to make its own Android mod for wearable products, instead of using Google’s Wear platform. It’s a necessary gamble if Sony still wants to be Sony.

The company is trying to remake itself into a mobile-oriented, innovative brand. Like it used to be when Sony launched the Walkman 35 years ago.… More

Online ride sharing companies adapting to Californian rules

If Lyft’s customers were this happy before there were rules, just think how they must feel now.

California’s pioneering attempt to regulate online ride sharing services such as Lyft and Uber seems to be going as smoothly anyone could expect. The California Public Utilities Commission was briefed this morning on progress made since it adopted rules setting safety, training, insurance and other operational standards for transportation network companies, as it now calls them, including…

Obtain a permit from the [CPUC]…require criminal background checks for each driver, establish a driver training program, implement a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol, and require insurance coverage.


Santa Cruz entrepreneurs plot disruption with DNA and bicycles

Daylight cruise, night time workout.

“I look for transitions in markets”, said Neal Saiki, the founder of NTS Works as he explained why he’s designing and building high tech, electric bicycles. The market for traditional human powered bicycles is stagnant, but e-bike sales are rocketing. He plans to match his patented e-bike technology with existing bicycle industry distribution channels to ride that transition to success. His new products include a solar cargo bicycle that he says can run at 10 miles per hour on level ground powered just by sunlight.… More

New CEO seems unlikely to win Microsoft's test

8 February 2014 by Steve Blum
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Sometimes the best you can do is watch the stumps.

Instead of seeking fresh leadership, Microsoft’s board of directors has opted to double down on the status quo as the company struggles to regain relevance in a world that’s moved away from the personal computer and toward mobile devices and cloud services.

The choice of Satya Nadella as Microsoft’s CEO was an exercise least-worse decision making. His most recent assignment in his 22 year career at Microsoft was running cloud and enterprise services, where he produced mediocre results.… More

Sony axes legacy PCs, TVs to focus on mobile

7 February 2014 by Steve Blum
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Innovation deficit.

Sony is distancing itself from the soon-to-be-legacy television and personal computer markets, in a effort to play catch up in the mobile device game. The company that redefined color quality in the 1970s is spinning its television business off into a separate subsidiary, and is selling its Vaio computer brand to a Japanese corporate restructuring specialist. It’s a response to what it calls “drastic changes” in the global PC industry…

Sony has determined that the optimal solution is to concentrate its mobile product lineup on smartphones and tablets and to transfer its PC business to a new company.


Sustainable economic growth on California's central coast demands cooperation

Yearning creativity seeks willing opportunity.

The economic drivers in California’s central coast region are agriculture and tourism, which account for just about half of private sector jobs in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

But the region also has a well educated workforce that commutes to Silicon Valley and beyond – 24% of Santa Cruz residents, according to Bud Colligan, CEO of South Swell Ventures, who spoke at a regional economic development forum in Seaside. He talked about building a regional high tech economy by creating opportunities for people to work where they live…

The usual narrative about tech on the Central Coast is about companies that have left or missed opportunities (Seagate, Digital Research, Borland, SCO, etc.)


Smart home business models proliferate despite need to consolidate

19 January 2014 by Steve Blum
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Smart homes need a platform, not a box.

Google’s purchase of Nest, a smart thermostat maker, adds one more contender for king of the home automation business models. The prospect – and it’s only that – of a free, ad-supported smart home web portal is attractive, because the growth of home automation products and services depends on an easy and easily understood selling proposition.

It was clear at CES that the home automation market is still fragmented beyond consumer comprehension.… More