Explaining Southern California's economy

Smartphones: Can they catch on in the developing world?

Jerome Favre/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A member of the media examines the Samsung Electronics Co. Galaxy Nexus smartphone, running Google Inc.'s Ice Cream Sandwich Android operating, system in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011. Samsung will begin selling the first mobile phone run on Google's new operating system next month, counting on facial-recognition security to help challenge Apple Inc.'s iPhone.

At Slate, Matt Yglesias rolls out a chart that shows the astonishing adoption rates of both Apple's iOS and Google's Android. So yes, both mobile operating systems have done more than caught on — they've taken over the world.

The developed world, that is. And this is where I think Yglesias overreaches:

In terms of adoption rates, iOS blew the previous entrants out of the water and now Android is setting a new even more amazing record-breaking pace. This is going to be an especially important development in relatively poor countries while mobile connectivity is generally better than wireline, so the availability of relatively cheap relatively powerful mobile devices is a total gamechanger. 

He's making the healthy assumption that these operating systems are going to be adopted in the developing world. iOS runs on only Apple devices — and Apple devices are very expensive, even by developed-world standards. 

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Apple vaporizes estimates for first quarter earnings

Mercer 19876

Shereen Meraji/KPCC

The new Apple store at the Americana in Glendale.

Any questions? The consensus on Wall Street was that Apple would earn $10.14 a share and record $39 billion in sales for its first fiscal quarter, according to Bloomberg. Instead, it did $13.87 a share on $463 billion in sales. Eyes are still being put back in their sockets:

"Those numbers are just unimaginable," said Michael Obuchowski, chief investment officer at First Empire Asset Management, which has $4 billion under management, including Apple shares. "It’s still an extremely well-managed company and they are showing that the product pipeline is sufficient even now to generate growth rates that are unrivaled."

Apple is now pretty darn close to being a $400 billion company, by market capitalization. It currently has two major things going for it: it's vacuuming up more and more market share for smartphones, as these devices become much more popular and begin to define the future of mobile computing; and it's ideally positioned to thrive in the post-PC age, as consumers shift away from old-school laptops and desktops and move to ultrabooks and tablets.

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CES: Will 2012 be the Year of the Windows Phone?

2012 Consumer Electronics Show Showcases Latest Technology Innovations

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 10: The Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone is displayed at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center January 10, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs through January 13 and is expected to feature 2,700 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to about 140,000 attendees. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

You can feel it in the air. Or just read about it on various websites and blogs. Microsoft, long considered a bit of an also-ran in the wild new world of mobile computing and devices, is setting up for an great 2012.

At the core of the enthusiasm is the Windows Phone, which is evidently blowing everyone away at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. There are two smartphone producers who are rolling out Windows Phones in conjunction with Microsoft: Nokia and HTC. Hopes are high, but this is Microsoft. But it's not exactly springtime in Redmond just yet.

Wired offers this roadmap:

Critics may be smitten, but Microsoft still has work ahead in winning the hearts of consumers.

[An analyst who follows Microsoft say] there are four main things Microsoft needs to tackle to ensure that Windows Phone builds momentum in 2012: significant investments in quality marketing efforts; winning “flagship” positioning with carriers for several devices over the course of the year; offering a range of devices on each carrier network; and convincing salespeople that Windows Phone is just as good as iOS and Android.

It looks like Nokia, at least, plans to instigate a heavy marketing campaign to make sure the 900 gets time in the spotlight.

CES has never been a completely accurate indicator of what’s going to succeed in the year to come. What journalists and bloggers fawn over, consumers may end up shunning in favor of something else.

However, with smartphones in recent years, the “most hyped-about” phones have generally ended up faring well with mobile phone buyers. And if that’s any indication, Windows Phone stands a good chance of fulfilling our expectations.

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The Trouble with Triblets: Why Tribune's proprietary tablet is a bad idea

I don't know how I missed this, but I did. One of the things I learned after Russ Stanton stepped down as editor of the Los Angeles Times is that the paper's parent company, Tribune Co., is developing its own tablet — not a new and special app for the tablet market, but an actual proprietary tablet — and, from what I gather, it intends to give it away to subscribers. Presumably, the glorious Tribune content on this tablet won't be paywalled, although to Web users the paper will. Who knows, there may even be be content that's exclusive to the tablet.

The Tribune tablet — the Triblet? — is not a good business idea. It's worse than New Coke. Worse that Qwikster. Worse the the DeLorean. Worse than the Edsel. I'd have to stretch to find a more foolhardy concept, far back beyond the meager parameters of my own lifetime. Napoleon's invasion of Russia leaps to mind...

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It's Black Friday versus the eurozone crisis

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Black Friday at Macy's in Manhattan: Shoppers lined up.

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. In fact, it appears as though many of you did enjoy the holiday — enough to hit the malls in force on Black Friday. According to the LA Times, retail activity was up 16 percent over last year. And the markets are responding: all the major stock indexes have climbed this morning. 

Meanwhile, the neverending eurozone crisis appears to have entered a new phase. We keep waiting for an endgame here, with the likely demise of the euro single currency. But then Germany and France get together to pull the eurozone back from the brink. This dynamic has caused predictable volatility in world markets for months now. But in the U.S., there's at least some improving news, giving markets the chance to rally on their own and somewhat ignore Europe.

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