The Meh-Too Crowd

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It’s been a while since I came to Google’s defense but I think it’s time to talk about what an absolute downer it is to dig through a lot of tech commentary these days. The most recent example came after the launch of Google’s Glass project, a HUD for future travelers that will let us connect to our world in a fairly non-obtrusive way. Arguably, the product is pretty pie-in-the-sky, but all things being equal, the potential device, even if it includes a small subset of the features we saw in the video, is pretty cool.

Instead of oohing and guffawing and going back to, you know, living his life, Old Man Gruber took some time out to dump three links to examples of the potential problems Glass faces. He noted, quite rightly, that only the worst companies created flashy videos of non-existent tech.

But this is Google. They have a lot of money. Even if they create a HUD display that doesn’t suck and that can connect to your Android phone, they could have something relatively cool on the market. I’m not saying they’ll sell a million (they probably will) and I’m not saying they’ll make a product as cool as it appears in the video (they probably won’t) but can’t the geek in us be happy that they’re actually trying? We’ve been promised this for years, and suddenly it’s here.

I usually grunt along with Gruber and MG and the rest of the Meh-Too crowd when it comes to the hot-button fanboy issues. Android vs. iPhone? I’ll snort in derision with the best of them. Windows 8 being the next big thing? I’ll shrug my shoulders alongside the greats. But for the love of Pete, we’re in technology. We love technology. That we would wish Google to fail in this next generation of interface and user experience is akin to hoping Jeremy Lin loses a leg to gangrene because we don’t like the Knicks. It’s mean.

Here’s Gruber (and trust me, I think Gruber is one of the best talkers on tech out there so I don’t even want to call him out on this but I feel I must, at least for my own sanity):

Google’s transition into the new Microsoft is now complete: fancy-pants sci-fi concept video to promote stunningly awkward augmented reality glasses.

Sure it’s fancy-pants and it’s sci-fi and it’s a concept – but it’s a concept that can easily move from drawing board to street. There are already plenty of HUD glasses – none of them are any good – and there are already plenty of concepts for interacting with the world a la Glass that look far more sci-fi than anything in Google’s video. Google’s concept is actually fairly staid, the company is pretty solid and it can usually push its brainstorms to market – witness Google TV and Android. Say what you want about the aforementioned products. If Google can do one thing consistently, it’s ship.

If Microsoft brought this video out and said Windows 8 would have a special Windows Vision mode, I’d be less inclined to believe that it would ship. Microsoft is no good at getting hardware out the door. Software, sure. But they don’t have a good track record when it comes to changing what chips we buy. Google, on the other hand, can probably pull it off.

So what’s with accusing them of pre-crime? Let them try. See it fail or see it change the mobile landscape or see it become a useful and interesting new branch of UX. In any case, admit that it’s pretty cool.

What did Kurt Vonnegut say? “At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

We can disagree over politics, we can disagree over corporate directions, and we can disagree over platforms. But you can’t disagree that sometimes it’s just about wonder, whimsy, and the future we’re bequeathing to ourselves and our babies.

Lack of Hardware Updates Leading to Lighter-Than-Expected Quarterly Mac Sales

Previously-released data from NPD on U.S. Mac sales for January and February have demonstrated relatively anemic year-over-year growth, with January sales tracking only 1% above the previous January’s performance and February sales coming in 4% higher. Still, analysts have suggested that ongoing growth in international markets could compensate for stagnation in the U.S. market as consumers continue to wait for product updates. Consequently, analysts have generally been holding firm on their predictions of 15-20% Mac unit growth on a worldwide year-over-year basis for the full quarter.

Some analysts had also held out hope that Apple could sneak in at least one update to its Mac lineup before the end of the quarter to provide a spark for Mac sales, but with the first group of Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors not launching until the end of the month, Apple was unable to update its main Mac models within the first three months of the year.



Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty is out with a new research note today incorporating NPD’s data on U.S. Mac sales for March, and as might be expected given the lack of hardware updates, Apple continues to fall short of analyst expectations, with Mac shipments down 4% year-over-year for the first calendar quarter.

Huberty continues to believe that international growth will offset at least some of the flat performance in U.S. sales for the quarter, although she appears somewhat pessimistic that it will be able to reach her 15% growth target on a global basis. Nevertheless, Huberty seems optimistic that booming iPhone and iPad sales will make up for any shortfall on the Mac side due to the balance of profits among the segments.

Although the US retail market improved in March, Apple shipment growth decelerated as the company faced much tougher Y/Y comparisons due to a notebook refresh this time last year. US retail data suggest Apple shipments fell 4% Y/Y in C1Q12 compared to our estimate of 15% global Mac unit growth. We expect faster international growth to offset some of the deceleration in the US. In fact, the divergence between international and US growth has accelerated from about four points in prior quarters to 15 points in C4Q11. More importantly, we expect demand upside from iPhone and iPad (83% of gross profit) to more than offset any Mac downside (9% of gross profit).

On a broader basis, the PC market is seeing even more substantial declines in sales, with U.S. PC sales tracking for declines of 10-15% year-over-year for the quarter. That performance is, however, better than Huberty had been modeling for, and major PC manufacturers such as HP and Dell could see some upside if their final results fall in line with data released so far.


Closing Bell: TSX declines for sixth straight week

Canada’s benchmark stock index fell 2.3% in a shortened trading week ahead of the Good Friday holiday, extending its string of declines to six consecutive weeks

Oil hedge fund BlueGold to liquidate

(Reuters) – BlueGold Capital, an oil-focused fund that made headlines in 2008 by calling the peak of the market, is liquidating after four years of trading — the last of which put it at the bottom…

Ukrainian billionaire takes over 14 Wall Street: source

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Ukrainian billionaire Alex Rovt has stepped in to pay off the loans on landmark office building 14 Wall Street, leaving former co-owner Capstone Equities as manager and leasing…

Papandreou Warns Of ‘Vicious Circle’ Of Austerity And Recession

NEW YORK — Europe’s austerity fever is creating a “vicious circle” of economic pain, former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said on Thursday — though he still wants Greece to stay in the eurozone.

Papandreou, leader of the socialist PASOK party in Greece, told The Huffington Post that the European Union is being driven by a “dogma” of belt-tightening that he describes as “too mechanistic.”

“The European Union is very conservative now,” he said, noting that the vast majority of governments in the EU are conservative governments, adhering to what he called a “dogma” of austerity in their approach to solving Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.

According to this dogma, he said, “If you put your house in order and your cut your debts and deficits, everything will go fine, the markets will be happy, and so on. But in fact, that’s too mechanistic. It’s creating … a sort of vicious circle … of further recession because as you’re cutting, you have less revenue, and you cut more, and there’s slow growth.”

Though Papandreou wouldn’t go so far as to say he regretted Greece joining the EU in the first place, he said that countries joining the union generally should be better prepared than Greece was when it joined.

He also said he thought the EU should have been created with better tools to handle economic crises. Some of those tools are available now, he noted, including bailout funds like the European Financial Stability Fund. But he said more changes are necessary, including the ability of Europe to borrow collectively in the form of “euro bonds.”

Germany, one of those conservative governments Papandreou mentioned, has vehemently opposed issuing euro bonds, while also pushing austerity for Greece and other troubled nations.

Papandreou stepped down as prime minister during last fall’s nasty flare-up of the European debt crisis, making way for an unelected national unity government.

Despite his differences with other European governments and the pain austerity has caused and is causing to Greece’s economy, Papandreou said it would be even more painful for Greece to leave the euro zone.

“You can’t push a button and change currencies,” he said. Dropping the euro would lead to a run on Greece’s banks and a collapse in foreign investment, he warned, making Greece’s position in international markets even worse than it is now.

Papandreou also wanted to talk about “lots of spots of light” in the pitch darkness of the Greek economy, including the reforms Greece has made and Greek entrepreneurs like the makers of Lambda olive oil, sold at Harrods and other luxury outlets as the world’s most expensive olive oil.

Deals of the day — mergers and acquisitions

April 5 (Reuters) – The following bids, mergers,
acquisitions and disposals involving European, U.S. and Asian
companies were reported by 2000 GMT on Thursday.