Explaining Southern California's economy

LA Auto Show: It's a rolling world of consumer electronics!

The 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show begins two days of press previews on Wednesday. The DeBord Report is there!

Toyota's Entune system fights distracted driving and keeps drivers connected via their smartphones.

Intel is just one of mant technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, that plan to join the automakers in transforming car into rolling consumer electronics platforms.

Wireless providers are also getting in on the act. Sprint has a booth at the L.A. Auto Show to display what it can do for drivers.

Don't be a dummy and drive while distracted!


The Los Angeles Auto Show has in recent years defined itself as the "green" car show. California has the largest auto market in the U.S., as well as the most environmentally preoccupied. But the most dramatic auto debuts during car show season, running through next spring, are traditionally reserved for Detroit, the auto industry's spiritual home. So L.A. has had to kick off car show season with its own  attention-getting twist.

The L.A. Auto Show focuses on the dream machines, the future of transportation and, over the past decade, on electric cars, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, alternative fuel vehicles — in short, things with wheels that aren't total slaves to gas. But this year, it's different.

The new story is technology. Specifically, how cars will soon become platforms for various consumer electronics, mainly smartphones. In the past, automakers have preferred to design and build their own in-vehicle infotainment systems or partner with tech companies. The most prominent of these has been Ford and its relationship with Microsoft;  Ford's CEO, Alan Mullaly, has also made regular pilgrimages to the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. General Motors has had a loose association with Google (and Google itself is the the auto game, with its driverless car). No one has yet broken through with Apple.

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BlackBerry Friday? Research in Motion is surging in post-Thanksgiving trading

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DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images

Don't write this company off just yet. As BlackBerry maker Research in Motion nears the release of BlackBerry 10 and new phones, the stock is getting some respect.

It would difficult to find a better example of near-total meltdown in the tech economy that Canada's Research in Motion, maker of the once-iconic but now nearly irrelevant BlackBerry smartphone. The stock traded at nearly $150 a share at its peak in 2008. 

It's now barely above $11.

But that in itself is the story this Black Friday as all of Canada rejoices! Well, maybe not. But RIM is showing its first signs of life in months, up a whopping 13-plus percent in trading Friday.

What's driving this is growing optimism that the company's new BlackBerry 10 operating system and and new lineup of touchscreen phones (better than some of its previous, much-derided touchscreen phones) will enable the company to get back into the smartphone wars, duking it out with Apple and Samsung to retake some of its lost market share.

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FAQ: What is 'skeuomorphic design' and the executive shakeup at Apple

Apple Unveils Updated iPad In San Francisco

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 07: Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple product launch event. The successor to Steve Jobs is enduring his first major leadership challenge.

Superstorm Sandy ravaged the East Coast this week, but another storm blew through the West Coast, and it was centered in Cupertino, California, at Apple headquarters.

Two Apple high ranking Apple executives, Scott Forstall and John Browett, were shown the door. In both cases, it wasn't really a surprise. But it was clear evidence that, a year removed from Steve Jobs' death and with the company's stock price sliding by more than 100 points in less than two months, CEO Tim Cook is experiencing his first major leadership challenge.

Q: Why were Forstall and Browett asked to leave?

A: Browett is an easier departure to explain. He ran Apple's retail operations and had instituted some bizarre strategies since his arrival at Apple little more than six months ago. As Tim Worstall points out at Forbes, his background in British retail didn't fit with Apple's brand goals for its stores. Furthermore, he created a near revolt among the Apple Store's blue-shirted staffers. A lot of Apple observers were actively questioning why he was hired in the first place.

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Why the pressure is on Apple to have a big holiday season

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Apple's stock has been declining. Will the holiday shopping season bring it back?

What’s wrong with Apple? That’s what folks may be asking as the California technology giant’s stock price continues to slide. The company introduces a new iPhone and a new iPad Mini — and sees its shares hammered down by 100 points, from a high of more than $700?

What gives?

Wall Street is getting nervous about Apple’s ability to — essentially — continue printing money with its popular smartphones and tablets. The company reported disappointing earnings last week, the result of having spent a lot to revamp its product lines in time for the holiday season.

Apple also cautioned that it might not make as much money this holiday season — but some analysts think the company may be playing possum, underpromising in order to overdeliver.

Still, competition is heating up in the markets that Apple has owned. Microsoft and Amazon have introduced new tablets to rival the iPad, and Android-powered smartphones continue to gain customers.

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3 reasons the Apple iPad Mini won't fail

Apple Introduces Latest iPad

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

SAN JOSE, CA - OCTOBER 23: Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller announces the new iPad Mini. It's smaller and lighter and $329 for a 16GB WiFi-only version. And it arrives just in time for the holidays!

Apple is currently rolling out some new products in San Francisco. So far, we've seen a new MacBook Pro and a thinner and sexier iteration of the iMac, which is just another word for "planned obsolescence" in Apple-land. 

But the main event is yet to come: A smaller iPad, about 8 inches in size, called "iPad Mini."

Unlike the iPhone 5, which prior to launch I argued was doomed — DOOMED! — the iPad Mini/Air/Junior/Deuce/Whatever could succeed wildly. Here's why...

Apple owns the tablet market, so it's no big deal to steal share from itself. Apple has sold 100 million iPads in the two years since its introduction. As I and others have pointed out, there is no tablet market. There's an iPad market. However, since the arrival of the Kindle Fire and now the Microsoft Surface, there is some pressure on Cupertino. iPad Mini naysayers argue that a smaller, cheaper tablet will cannibalize the Big Boy. Probably true. But the thing is, Apple can afford to cannibalize the iPad, with a base iPad Mini that's $329 in the 16 GB WiFi-only version. And if it steals some lower-end market share from Amazon ... well, there's nothing wrong with that.

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