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Microsoft unveils Surface tablet in Hollywood

Microsoft Surface

Microsoft

The new Microsoft Surface tablet PC was unveiled today in Hollywood. Should Apple and the iPad be worried?

As expected, Microsoft unveiled its new tablet, called "Surface," in Hollywood today. The device is designed to attack the market-leading iPad's only real weakness: the perception that it's a device for consumption rather than creation — for reading and watching rather than getting things done.

Unlike the iPad, Surface is less a pure tablet than a sort of collapsible PC. It runs Windows 8, the latest version of Microsoft's well-known operating system. There's an integrated stand and two covers that double as full keyboards, one of which provides a more conventional, tactile typing experience. The whole thing weighs in at about a pound and a half. It's sleek and black and has a ultrabook-esque selection of ports. (Covers come in a range of colors.)

A relatively subdued but kind of intense Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, called the tablet "a tool to surface you passions, ideas and creativity." He also stressed that it's all about Windows 8, a piece of software that "deserved its own hardware innovation."

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Is Elon Musk the new Steve Jobs? Not according to Musk

Tesla Worldwide Debut of Model X

Jordan Strauss/Getty Images for Tesla

SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaks onstage during the debut of the Model X electric vehicle in Los Angeles. Steve Jobs had the black turtleneck. Musk has the black velvet dinner jacket.

SpaceX and its CEO, Elon Musk, hit a home run last week by launching the first commercial mission to service the International Space Station. This has led some to ask if Musk might be the "next Steve Jobs" — a technological and cultural visionary who unites people across a wide range of experiences and backgrounds. 

It's a tempting question to ask. I've seen it pop up on Quora, the startup question-and-answer site where I've been spending a lot of time lately hanging out and...well, answering questions (just not yet ones about whether Musk is the new Jobs). It's cropped up since Jobs' death last year and has been discussed more recently in the context of what the two men have in common. 

A few months back, in connection with an article I wrote for Pasadena magazine about Musk's other company, Tesla Motors, I asked him what he thought. He was gracious, praising Jobs, but also careful to make a distinction about what he does (sorry, no link):

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Debate hath ended: iTV coming from Apple this year

Apple's New iPhone 4s Goes On Sale

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Coming soon to an Apple Store near you: iTV?

Will they or won't they? That's been the burning debate in tech/Appleology circles over whether Cupertino will roll out a high-end, thoroughly Apple-ized high-def TV. I've been pondering this question pretty regularly, given that I think Apple is at the tail end of an innovation cycle that started with the iPod (reinvented music), then moved on to the iPhone (an iPod with a phone, re-invented mobile), and then brought out the iPad (a big iPod, poised to decimate the low-cost PC market). What's next?

A TV set — versus the current AppleTV box — seems obvious. The reinvention factor will be the delivery of TV content. And therein lies the challenge: Apple has put, in sequence, the music industry, the wireless industry, and the publishing industry at its feet. Will Hollywood and the cable companies agree to play by Apple's terms?

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Apple collapse? What Apple collapse? Company beats earnings expectations

Customers test new IPad, on April 4, 201

JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images

Customers test new the IPad at an Apple store. Apple beat quarterly earnings expectations today by a very decent margin.

If you've been hiding in your bomb shelter, you probably missed Apple's precipitous stock-price drop last week and this, bottoming at $560 per share today and giving up, like, $100 billion in market cap. But then the magic of shattered earnings expectations hit and hit HARD. The company made $11.6 billion in its second fiscal quarter and earned $12.30 per share. That killed the expectation of $10.06 per share, according to Business Insider.

More importantly, the "weakness" in iPhone sales didn't materialize — Apple sold 35.1 million, nearly five million more than expected. This was one of the possible negatives driving Apple share price down, as analysts speculated on what remains the core of Apple's business.

There is a hint of bad news amid all this boffo good news, which has pushed Apple right back up to $600 per share in after-hours trading (a whopping 7.35-percent increase). The theoretically revolutionary iPad sold "only" 11.8 million units, below the 13 million that were anticipated. 

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Microsoft won the AOL patent bidding and is now selling to...Facebook

CeBIT 2012 Technology Trade Fair

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Visitors watch a presentaiton of fetaures of the new Windows 8 operating system at the Microsoft stand on the first day of the CeBIT 2012 technology trade fair in Hanover, Germany. Microsoft announced that its selling $550-million worth of former AOL patents to Facebook.

Microsoft recently beat out Facebook for the right to purchase 925 patents and patent applications from AOL. The winning bid? $1.6 billion. But now Microsoft has turned around and essentially flipped a large portion of that patent portfolio, and the buyer is...Facebook!

In the context of a declining stock market and problems in Europe, Facebook — and more accurately, Facebook's investors — has to be getting worried about its upcoming IPO, which is supposed to be able to value the company at $100 billion. The Instagram purchase was stage one. Now comes this big patent buy, with Facebook paying for $550-million worth of patents that Microsoft evidently doesn't really need.

That said, you could argue — as CNET's Paul Sloan implies — that Microsoft was just doing Facebook a nice, big favor by leveraging its balance sheet to vacuum up the AOL patents, sparing Facebook the need to spend any of its own cash. Microsoft is nowhere in social media, so a "long-standing alliance" with Facebook makes sense, as both companies pitch in to weaken Google. 

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