Interview With Senate Candidate Carly Fiorina: “The Nation With The Best Brain Power Wins”

This post is by Erick Schonfeld from TechCrunch

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

On Friday, I caught up with Carly Fiorina by phone for 30 minutes while she was in between stump speeches in her campaign for U.S. Senate for the state of California. We covered a lot of ground, including the new competition in the Republican primary from Tom Campbell who recently bowed out of the governor’s race, the need to cut spending, grow the economy, rethink government contracting, China, H1B visas, the burdens of Sarbanes-Oxley on small companies, and how technology can help women in the workforce. “In this day and age where it’s all about brain power,” says Fiorina, “the nation with the best brain power wins.”

The last time we interviewed her, she was John McCain’s “Victory Chairman” (a prematurely presumptuous title). Even though she is behind in the polls right now, she is very confident she can win the primary and ultimately knock Democrat Barbara Boxer out of the Senate. She talks a lot about cutting government spending. One good idea she proposes: “Let’s put every agency budget up on the internet for everybody to see. People would be outraged at how their money is being spent.”

Fiorina also thinks the Sarbanes-Oxley financial rules for publicly traded companies need to be revisited: “I think Sarbanes-Oxley is an example of the dangers of a rush to legislation in an emotional moment. . . . I absolutely believe that new businesses, smaller businesses shouldn’t have to comply with the full scope of Sarbanes-Oxley, and I think there’s no question that Sarbanes-Oxley has had a chilling effect on companies’ decisions to list here as opposed to perhaps listing on other exchanges around the world

You can listen to the entire interview or read the transcript below:

Transcript courtesy of PhoneTag

Mr. ERICK SCHONFELD (Co-editor, TechCrunch): OK, great. Erick Schonfeld with TechCrunch and I’m speaking with Carly Fiorina, who is running for Senate in the State of California. And as many of our readers know, she was also the CEO of Hewlett-Packard for a long time. Carly, welcome to TechCrunch.

Ms. CARLY FIORINA (Former CEO, Hewlett-Packard): Thank you, Erick. It’s great to be with you.

Mr. SCHONFELD: So, let’s just talk a little bit about what’s been happening in the race just the past few days. A new entrant has come in, Tom Campbell, who was running for governor, decided not to run for governor, and now he’s running against you for the Republican primary in the Senate. How is that shaking things up?

Ms. FIORINA: Well, it certainly doesn’t change our strategy. We’re going to continue to talk to the voters of California about the issues they care about most, which are jobs and out of control federal spending, and stay focused on Barbara Boxer’s record. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m the strongest candidate who can win both the primary and the general. Tom Campbell certainly has high name ID because he’s run for so many offices so many times. And I think, you know, Republican primary voters will be interested to learn some of his positions like, for example, the fact that he believes the way to close the California budget deficit is to raise the gasoline tax by 32 cents a gallon.

Mr. SCHONFELD: And the way that you believe to close the budget deficit is what?

Ms. FIORINA: Cut spending. You know, government bureaucrats and professional career politicians always believe that the way to close a budget deficit is to tax more. And they come up with these terribly difficult choices like, if we don’t tax people more, we have to cut teachers or cut firemen. The truth is the one thing they will never consider is actually cutting spending. And there’s plenty of spending to be cut. I think it’s what voters are angry about because businesses and families cut their spending all the time in tough times.

Mr. SCHONFELD: Mm hmm.
Ms. FIORINA: So, the way to get the deficit under control at a national level is to do two things: grow the economy and cut spending.

Mr. SCHONFELD: OK. Let’s deal with those one at a time. How do you propose to do both of those things maybe in a way that the career politicians haven’t thought about or it’s in their DNA to do?

Ms. FIORINA: Well, let’s start with cutting spending. Let me just give you a very common sense argument. If you have a line of business – I know this as a CEO – or if you have a teenager – I know this as a parent – who have a spending problem, what do you do? You quit giving them money. So, the first thing we need to do is stop raising taxes, whatever they are. And that’s why I signed the taxpayer protection pledge the day I announced my candidacy. We have to have the discipline to say “No” and “No” seems to be a word that professional politicians don’t use very often. No, you don’t get any more of our money.

Secondly, you have to begin to look deeply at how the money is currently being spent. Again, what I know from the real world, a world that maybe professional politicians have forgotten, in the real world, if there’s a billion dollars worth of spending that no one is accountable for, no one scrutinizes, that no one is responsible for ensuring that every dollar is spent wisely and well, then there’s hundreds of millions of dollars of waste. And so, we have to have the courage, the political courage and the will to say, we’re going to look at every dollar. And we’re going to determine whether that dollar is being spent wisely and well, and in fact, there’s half a trillion dollars worth of well-documented waste and abuse in the federal budget right now that no one is going after. In a way, I guess, I would say, a freeze that starts next year on a very tiny portion of the budget, which President Obama announced the other night, simply isn’t a serious effort. We ought to declare that federal spending and federal budgets need to be reduced, not we’re just going to freeze them in place after a historic increase was instituted in 2009.

Mr. SCHONFELD: Right. Well, let me throw out an idea at you. You know, one of the issues of spending is just the way the government contracts are given out and the whole process that’s around that. We recently ran an op-ed by a business school professor who suggested that just in the State of California, a lot of the IT projects could be done in a fraction of the cost if it was opened up to, you know, web entrepreneurs as opposed to some of the more traditional contractors that do government IT. And that same idea could be applied to the federal government as well. I was wondering, what do you think about this? You know, for instance, the State of California, I think, has a payment processing system that they put out the contract for $50 million and we had founders and CEOs in comments saying that, I’d do that for five million.

Ms. FIORINA: Yeah. Well, it’s a great idea. And it’s an example of the fact that we need to use technology much more broadly and more smartly in the federal government, and I do think that there are many politicians who really don’t understand technology. They don’t understand its power. And so, we’re trapped by these bureaucratic rules that have been in existence for a really long time. And we’re not taking advantage of the innovation that has come out of America. I embrace that idea. I also embrace the idea of, you know, let’s start with something really basic. Let’s put every agency budget up on the internet for everybody to see. People would be outraged at how their money is being spent. Of course, we ought to be using technology aggressively to both hold government more accountable and to make government more efficient.

Mr. SCHONFELD: Alright. Isn’t that being proposed or already being done, all these transparency initiatives that are going on in federal government or by the U.S. CIO currently?

Ms. FIORINA: Well, you know, not really. I mean, you may remember, there was a kerfuffle over the healthcare bill.

Mr. SCHONFELD: Mm hmm.

Ms. FIORINA: And folks said very reasonably, gee, people would really like to know what’s in that bill. And there was a discussion. Oh, you know, it’s going to take three weeks to upload it, which is ridiculous. Nobody understood the technology clearly. Of course, people ought to see that healthcare bill. You know, we permit comments by special interest groups by putting proposed regulation or legislation up on the internet or – see, why shouldn’t we do that with legislation?

Ms. FIORINA: Or an agency budget that’s spending American taxpayer dollars?

Mr. SCHONFELD: Right. Let me go through a few issues that I think are near and dear to the hearts of our readers. One that has been on the news lately is China and, with Google’s recent reevaluation of their, whether they’re going to continue operations in China or not, it sure raises a whole host of issues about whether companies, especially technology companies should continue to operate under the off auspices of that government when they’re perhaps helping with their censorship or even in some cases, like the case with Yahoo! a few years back where information they provided the government ended up with dissidents going to jail. So, what’s your position on how technology companies should engage or not engage with China and what should the government’s position be in supporting that?

Ms. FIORINA: Well, I want to separate two issues. One is the issue of censorship. But the other issue which is equally troubling is China’s ongoing and aggressive pirating of technology companies IP. They – and by the way, aggressive hacking of all kinds of databases in this country. Both are serious issues. China, of course, as a signatory of the WPO has an obligation to protect a company’s intellectual property. And in many real cases, it has not stepped up to that obligation. The Google case raises not only the issues of censorship but it also laid this – it highlighted the fact that China is relatively routinely engaging in hacking and the pirating of intellectual property. I believe that technology companies and the federal government have to be extremely aggressive with China about highlighting both sets of abuses and beginning serious conversations with China about how to end those abuses. But I would also say that realistically, China will respond much more effectively to a commercial discussion than they will to a human rights discussion. So, while Secretary Clinton is morally justified in pointing out the human rights violations, I think it will be more effective for the U.S. government and technology companies to engage in the commercial conversation about China’s continued flaunting of their obligations to protect intellectual property and the aggressive posture on our part to begin to prosecute and highlight their pirating of intellectual property.

Mr. SCHONFELD: Right. But once you – apparently, right, Google has been in China for years and you would think that they’ve been having those discussions and they came to a conclusion that those discussions were going nowhere and they had no other choice but to exit. So, I guess the question is talk gets you so far, but if the Chinese government doesn’t reciprocate on a commercial basis, then what do you do?

Ms. FIORINA: Yeah. See, I’m – well, I guess what I’m suggesting is that I am not sure that we are having a – I’m not sure that – let me rephrase that. I have seen no evidence that the administration or the federal government is engaged in concert with technology companies in having a commercial conversation about the pirating of intellectual property. And Hillary Clinton’s position that she took recently on this issue really focused on the human rights aspects of it only. And that is a conversation that’s unlikely to be effective with the Chinese government because they are not influenced by our view on human rights. They’re influenced by their assessment of their commercial self-interest.

Mr. SCHONFELD: All right. Let’s move on to another topic altogether, Sarbanes-Oxley. Did it go too far?

Ms. FIORINA: Erick, I’m really sorry. We’re going through a bad cell spot here and I can’t hear your (unintelligible).

Mr. SCHONFELD: I want to talk about Sarbanes-Oxley and whether it went too far and whether it is acting as a dampener on – especially on small growth companies, their willingness to go public these days. Or is that behind us and everyone sort of understands the new rules and it’s just the new kind of cost of doing business?

Ms. FIORINA: You know, I think Sarbanes-Oxley is an example of the dangers of a rush to legislation in an emotional moment. You know, as I recall, Sarbanes-Oxley passed 99 to 1 or something, and that would certainly qualify as the emotional moment. I actually think that for very large companies, Sarbanes-Oxley did some important things. It focused boards on understanding a company’s processes.

Mr. SCHONFELD: Mm hmm.

Ms. FIORINA: And I think there’s merit in that. But, one rule just doesn’t fit all, and in this rush, Sarbanes-Oxley to your point has been a applied broadly to every single public company. You know, Hewlett-Packard can afford to have their legal and accounting bills quadruple, which is basically what happened, to try and comply with Sarbanes-Oxley. But smaller companies can’t and so I absolutely believe that new businesses, smaller businesses shouldn’t have to comply with the full scope of Sarbanes-Oxley, and I think there’s no question that Sarbanes-Oxley has had a chilling effect on companies’ decisions to list here as opposed to perhaps listing on other exchanges around the world. So I think it’s got to be revisited. Is it a complete evil? No. But was it too broad, too intrusive for every single circumstance and every single company? Yes.

Mr. SCHONFELD: OK. What about – let’s move to immigration policy and the whole idea of H1B Visas and the quotas on their – many in Silicon Valley would like to see the H1B Visa quotas increased because they recruit a lot from countries like India and others where they get a lot of talent, as you know. And then there’s this whole idea also, it’s been floated, of a founder’s visa that will be a separate visa for people from other countries who come here to start companies, which would be a separate pool apart from the H1B Visa. What do you think about these ideas?

Ms. FIORINA: Well, I think it is always good to attract hardworking people from other countries to come here to build their dreams. I mean, this is, after all, a country that has benefited enormously from being the place people want to come. And, of course, we should make it – we should be welcoming and make it easier for tech entrepreneurs or for legal immigrants of any kind to come to this country temporarily on a visa or permanently as legal immigrants. It’s to our advantage. And the reality is that even if we completely fixed our education system, which is, of course, a huge priority and we’re falling further and further behind in basic skills like Math and Science and Engineering, even if we fixed that situation, we still will benefit from and need people with the ambition and the skills to contribute to our key industries.

Mr. SCHONFELD: Right. So, two more questions and I know you’ve got to go. But, one is just sort of the whole standoff in Congress between the Democrats and the Republicans. You know, one thing I think that did resonate with a lot of people from the State of the Union was when Obama said that people want things done, right? And that gridlock – he even said that the gridlock really isn’t popular on either side. But, yeah, that seems to be what’s happening, in the Senate particularly – especially with the numbers so close. So, even if you have all these great ideas, how are you going to resist the pressure, if you get elected, not to sort of toe the party line when there are things that can actually be done? Or what do you propose to do to end the gridlock and get legislation passed?

Ms. FIORINA: Well, first, if I am fortunate enough to be elected to the U.S. Senate, it won’t be a party that will have elected me. It will be the people of California. And the people of California expect me to get something done on their behalf. So, I think it starts with remembering who sent you to the job. Secondly, one of the absolute very first things I will do is sit down with Senator Diane Feinstein and talk about those areas where we can find common ground and where we can get something done for the people of California. And there are – I am well-aware because I know her well – places where we have common ground. For example, Senator Feinstein believes as I do that the terror trials ought to move out of New York. I think it is one of the things that Barbara Boxer is most notorious for. Barbara Boxer is an ideologue. Her voting record is one of someone who is ideologically driven and purely partisan and it’s why she hasn’t gotten anything done on behalf of the people of California. I’m not a career politician, I’m not an ideologue although I have core beliefs that are very important and that I hold strongly, and I’m being sent to Washington to get something done on behalf of the people of California not on behalf of a particular party or a particular partisan point of view.

Mr. SCHONFELD: Mm hmm. OK, then finally, a question about your use of social media in this campaign. I just took a quick look at your Facebook page and your Twitter account. Seems like you have a lot more followers on Twitter, 234,000, versus Facebook, which is something around 3,000 or so fans. Are you focusing more on Twitter? Where are you getting the better – most bank for your buck?

Ms. FIORINA: Well, you know, I think those numbers may be more a reflection of how people are using the technology increasingly. We’ve seen really a pretty phenomenal growth, and our connection with people through these social networking sites and certainly Twitter has been hugely successful for us. So, I don’t think it’s a question of us focusing on one more than the other. I think it’s a question of how people tend to be attracted to sort of the short kinds of conversations that they see on Twitter. So that may be – I guess what I’m saying not very well is I think it’s more about the users and the voters than it is about us and our campaign. We want to reach out and use as many different mediums as possible and use technology aggressively and differently in some cases than it has been used in the past to try and reach as many people as possible.

Mr. SCHONFELD: Right. I put out a question 10 minutes before we started that I was going to be talking to you and asked if anyone has any questions for you. One woman on Twitter wants to know – she said, “Ask her why she thinks young women should be involved with technology.”

Ms. FIORINA: Well, what a great question. You know, I believe that technology is the great leveler. Technology permits anybody to play. And in some ways, I think technology – it’s not only a great tool for democratization, but it’s a great tool for eliminating prejudice and advancing meritocracies. So, I think women should be attracted to it for that reason. I also think that – and this applies to many other folks besides women, but I think technology now is a great community organizing building tool. You can find lots of people like you through technology, and women in particular like communities. And so, you know this, but stay-at-home moms, for example, are one of the more aggressive users of technology because of the communities that they find and form using technology.

Mr. SCHONFELD: Right. Which brings me to a question my wife asked. She wants to know what’s your opinion on what the government can or should do to make it easier for women with children to have more flexible options in terms of going back to work. And her point was really that – you have a job and then you have a child and then you go back to your job after a year or two and then you have these choices that are like, OK, I can work and not be with my kid and basically, I’m just paying the nanny for the child care, you know, or if I stay out of the work force for a year, then my job is gone and there is this untapped talent pool of women who are very talented and could really help the economy, but it’s just not worth it for them.

Ms. FIORINA: Yeah. Well, in fact, it’s such a great question because technology enables any job to be done anywhere at anytime and enables anybody to contribute. So, for example, technology, I believe, should be embraced aggressively by companies to permit flex time, to permit job sharing. When I was at Hewlett-Packard, we pushed forward a whole bunch of pretty pioneering flex time and job sharing programs because technology let us do it. So it’s totally possible to contribute meaningfully to a group meeting while a mom is on the soccer field watching her kid play. And in this day and age where it’s all about brain power, the nation with the best brain power wins, which is why education is so important. The company with the most innovative and best brain power wins, so why not use technology to bring all this additional brain power to bare and do it in a way that works for women who have children. It’s all possible with technology. You know…

Mr. SCHONFELD: Does the government have a role in making – in creating incentives for companies to adopt that kind of policy?

Ms. FIORINA: Well, I certainly think that government has a role in making sure that broadband is deployed aggressively and ubiquitously. I don’t think government should get into the business of legislating how companies deal with this issue because I think regulation and legislation always move so much more slowly than technology, that you create more problems with that approach than you solve. But if government can help motivate the broadband – the aggressive deployment of broadband so that technology is available and companies focus on their enlightened self-interest, which is to tap as much talent as possible, I think there’s a nexus there that can bring a lot of women into the work force in a productive and fun way.

Mr. SCHONFELD: OK. All right, well, this has been a great discussion. Is there anything we haven’t had a chance to touch upon that you’d like to share?

Ms. FIORINA: Well, you know, Erick, I hope that there’ll be many other opportunities to chat but unfortunately, I’m like two minutes away from a speech I have to give. So…

Mr. SCHONFELD: OK. OK, well, always a pleasure talking to you and thank you so much for taking the time.

Ms. FIORINA: Not at all. My pleasure as well, Erick. Thank you.


Ms. FIORINA: Bye-bye.

Does Foursquare Have A Douchebag Problem?

This post is by MG Siegler from TechCrunch

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

With Foursquare seeing fast growth and starting to be embraced by elements of the mainstream (like their new deal with Bravo), it might be decision time.

A popular part of the gaming element of the service is gaining badges, virtual tokens that show you’ve done a certain task on the service. Most of these are clever, like the Photogenic badge when you check-in to three different places with photobooths. But some are a bit more risqué, like the Douchebag badge. As Foursquare keeps growing, will there be pressure to get rid of these?

Increasingly, this issue is being brought up on Foursquare’s Get Satisfaction page. As one user wrote yesterday in the forum:

Has it occurred to the too-cool-for-school hipsters at foursquare that unlocking a “douchebag” badge for your fans because they check in at places like Barneys might:
1. Be insulting to your users, especially if have chosen to share their badges with friends and
2. Might also be insulting to your future customers and business partners like Barneys?

Total FAIL, guys. Who are you to judge what your customers like and don’t like?

Another user follows that up with:

I agree, it is also offensive to me and I suspect many others. What’s next, “Asshole” and “Dickhead” badges? At a minimum, users should be allowed to delete/block such an offensive badge in their profile.

A week ago, another thread was started raising the same issue:

I’m surprised to have unlocked the “douchebag” badge by checking in to a trendy hotel and must admit that I find the badge name rather offensive. What’s the point of it and why use such a crude name?

Editorial comment: If you’re trying to build a service that’s going to be appealing to more than just the uber-geeky among us, don’t y’all think that, just maybe, you should screen some of the words involved with the service?

That actually ties in very well with what Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley told Bits today while talking about the Bravo deal:

Bravo’s shows really overlap with our users and a new mainstream audience that we want to reach. I don’t think check-ins are a nerd-only experience. It’s about sharing content and experiences with others.

While the Douchebag badge may have been fine for the “nerd-only” crowd, they’re clearly starting to move beyond that, and some users are getting upset about it.

And while you might not see why this is much of an issue, coincidentally, I ran into this issue last night. I have my Foursquare account set up to auto-tweet out when I unlock new badges. Last night, I happened to be at a bar tagged as a “douchebag” bar, so when I checked-in, I unlocked the badge and it automatically tweeted out to all my followers.

For the record, I think the Douchebag badge is hilarious, and couldn’t care less that it tweeted out. But I certainly can see how that could be an issue for some people. To a lesser extent, the same is true with the Crunked badge (4 or more stops in one night, implying you’re drunk — which is probably true) and others.

Also, what happens when a venue doesn’t like that they’ve been tagged as a “douchebag” place?

This brings up an interesting dilemma for Foursquare: do they abandon some of the fun, quirky things that made the service what it is, in an attempt to go mainstream?

[thanks malachi]

Stephen Colbert shows off an iPad at the Grammy’s (video)

This post is by Dean Takahashi from VentureBeat

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Apple always gets an leg up on its competitors with the glamour factor of its products. It’s starting already with the iPad.

At the 52nd annual Grammy Awards tonight, Stephen Colbert whipped an iPad out of his coat pocket (must have been a big pocket!) while on stage giving an award for Song of the Year. He said, “Jay-Z, did you not get one of these in your gift bag? Am I cooler than you?”

He asked if it made him look cool. As far as product placement goes, you can’t do much better than this. The question is whether this is one more example of free advertising for Apple, or if it paid to get Colbert to pull the stunt. The logic is always sweet. If you get celebrities to endorse your product, then more people will think it’s cool. And when lots of clone tablets come out, people will ignore them. They’ll only buy what’s cool, even if it’s more expensive than other tablets out there..

[photo credit: Engadget]

How the iPad is Changing Interaction Design

This post is by Dana Oshiro from ReadWriteWeb

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

ipad_150_jan10.jpgApplications that looked amazing on larger multi-touch experiences like Microsoft Surface may have a more affordable consumer-facing counterpart. While the iPad has been widely criticized, many startups are thrilled by its possibilities. In mid-November we featured Paris-based Pearltrees as a new design interface for remapping Web information. We spoke to CEO Patrice Lamothe to hear his thoughts on the release of the iPad.


Pearltrees is a new way of organizing information where users create mindmap-style visualizations of their favorite websites and Web-based media. Each “pearl” or media node can have multiple branches, and depending on how you want to arrange your pearls, you can drag and drop them to any branch point to suit your needs. Rather than scrolling through a linear hierarchy of bookmarks, users can delve into different branches of a pearltree. Naturally, this type of data visualization lends itself to the touch capabilities of the iPad.

Says Lamothe, “The idea of physically touching and moving items on a screen is in the DNA of Pearltrees. We won’t need to change much to the interaction design to make it suitable for the iPad.”

Nevertheless, while Lamothe sees the potential in the tablet’s touch interface, the fact that the device does not currently support Flash is a problem for the CEO. While many argue that Apple’s omission of Flash support is in favor of HTML 5, there’s no denying that lack of Flash would hinder the consumer experience. The plethora of pre-existing Flash apps and sites are inaccessible save for Adobe’s workarounds.

Says Lamothe, “I believe tablets can open up an entirely new field, something I would call ‘casual browsing’. It’s a really simple way to get information, browse the Web, enjoy content, play games and communicate with friends. It’s something you will do at home, in cafes, during your holidays – basically when you have a bit of leisure time. To be the perfect casual browser, the IPad would need a more open architecture, Flash, a camera and a few other features…In any case, it’s an exciting new way to enjoy the Web.”


Amazon: “We will have to accept Macmillan’s terms” on e-book pricing

This post is by Paul Boutin from VentureBeat

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

We reported on Friday that all Macmillan book titles, minus a few stragglers, had been removed from’s U.S. site and its Kindle e-books store. The books were still listed, but you couldn’t buy them from Amazon, and still can’t on Sunday evening. Only links to third-party sellers are available. If you want to buy the bestselling tell-all about John Edwards, The Politician, a book that’s all over TV and radio talk shows this weekend, you’ll have to go somewhere else.

Even Macmillan titles on Kindle owners’ wish lists magically disappeared.

What happened, we’ve learned via forwarded communications from Macmillan and Publisher’s Marketplace, is this: Macmillan went to Amazon last week and told them that they earnestly believe Amazon’s $9.99 pricing for Kindle copies of books — a loss-leader price designed to jump-start Kindle sales and use — was bad for Macmillan, bad for their authors, and bad for the book business.

From now on, Macmillan representatives said, Amazon would no longer be a retail outlet for Macmillan books. Instead, Macmillan would require all e-book sellers to use what’s called an “agency model.” Amazon would act as a sales agent of Macmillan. Macmillan would set each book’s sale price individually. Macmillan books would be priced at $14.99 to $15.99, with a few $12.99 new titles.

As an agent, Amazon would get a cut, probably around 30 percent, of each sale. But Amazon wouldn’t be allowed to knock down prices to move units. Macmillan’s public stance was that Amazon would make more money per book from the agency model, so everyone should be happy. Even e-book buyers, because Macmillan could bring them more books in the long run, albeit at a higher price.

Amazon’s public stance on Friday was: Take a hike, Macmillan. If that’s the only way we can sell your books, we won’t sell them at all. We’ve deleted your print titles. Sorry, did we break your concentration?

Today, Amazon changed their stance. In a post on the Kindle forum, an official company statement says:

Dear Customers:

Macmillan, one of the “big six” publishers, has clearly communicated to us that, regardless of our viewpoint, they are committed to switching to an agency model and charging $12.99 to $14.99 for e-book versions of bestsellers and most hardcover releases.

We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles. We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books. Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book. We don’t believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan. And we know for sure that many independent presses and self-published authors will see this as an opportunity to provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative.

Kindle is a business for Amazon, and it is also a mission. We never expected it to be easy!

Thank you for being a customer.

January 2010’s Most Popular Posts [[this Is Good]]

This post is by Adam Pash from Lifehacker

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

This month we showed you the best times to buy anything, all year round, highlighted a better way to tie your shoes, discussed some problems with the Apple iPad, and a whole lot more. Here’s a quick look back.

  • The Best Times to Buy Anything, All Year Round
    You’re always hearing about off-season, post-peak times to save money on purchases and food, but it always arrives too late. We’ve compiled a timeline and lots of best-time-to-buy suggestions into one post to help you plan a more frugal 2010.
  • The Problem with the Apple iPad
    Yesterday, Steve Jobs worked his charm, attempting to wow the world with the Apple iPad, a new, super-slim computer he touted as the missing link between iPhones and laptops. It’s an undeniably beautiful device, but it also represents some serious problems.
  • Five Best DVD-Ripping Tools
    You pay good money for your DVDs, but they’re hardly the only format you need these days. These five ripping tools ensure you can back them up, keep them on your media server, and load them on your favorite portable player.
  • Ditch the Granny Knot to Tie Your Shoes More Efficiently
    The difference between shoes tied with a balanced, neat, and self-tightening knot versus those tied with an unbalanced, sloppy, and loose knot, is all in how you make your first loop.
  • Pack a Gun to Protect Valuables from Airline Theft or Loss
    If you don’t like your bags being out of your sight and it makes you uncomfortable to think that airline workers are rifling through your stuff, you can take advantage of the TSA’s own security rules by—eek—packing a gun.
  • How to Put Your PC to Good Use While You’re Sleeping
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Earth Tones and iMacs: A Cozy Home Office [Featured Workspace]

This post is by Jason Fitzpatrick from Lifehacker

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Nothing in today’s featured office is extraordinarily expensive or custom built, but the office looks like it was designed by a professional thanks to a unified color scheme and use of accessories.

Lifehacker reader Veronica Domeier made over her home office and since then she has been steadily tweaking the layout since. She writes:

So this year I decided I needed some inspiration in my home office. The new book shelf was a great start but nothing pops like a new coat of paint.

Last weekend we went down to HomeDepot and picked up some paint. I had already decided I wanted red before we got there. Looking through the swatches we came across one called “red, red wine” Perfect! One, it was a nice shade of red, dark but not too dark and, two, it had the word ‘wine’ in it – I love wine. Sold!

Here are the results…I must say I’m really enjoying the new look 🙂

The images here show her office immediately after the make over and with the addition of an nice spacious external monitor.

If you have a workspace of your own to show off, throw the pictures on your Flickr account and add it to the Lifehacker Workspace Show and Tell Pool. Include some details about your setup and why it works for you, and you just might see it featured on the front page of Lifehacker.

Why iPad will sell despite “missing” features

This post is by Saad Fazil from VentureBeat

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Since Apple announced its forthcoming iPad tablet device last week, there’s been quite a bit of banter about its shortcomings. The device has no camera, no phone, no Flash support, and doesn’t allow multitasking, just to name a few of the issues.

But before you conclude Apple’s made a terrible mistake here, remember, this is exactly how it launched the iPod Touch.

Remember how the iPod Touch came without a camera or speakerphone? It seemed like a no-brainer — why wouldn’t Apple put a camera and a speakerphone in iPod Touch and make it more attractive? After all, the iPhone has both of these features and is still almost the same size as iPod Touch (3G does add a little weight of course). So why does Apple leave out obvious features? Well, here’s why:

1. It doesn’t want to sell too many of one product at the expense of another. So while a few additional features would certainly make iPad more PC-like and open it up to broader sales, they could also eat into MacBook sales (just as adding a speakerphone and video camera to iPod Touch would reduce iPhone’s sales). While Apple is obviously interested in maximizing revenues from iPad, it is even more interested in maximizing its total revenues from all products.

2. Adding more features to iPad would increase its price to a point where it’s no longer affordable. Adding certain features could also compromise its size and performance, and thus defeat the basic selling point of the iPad: its portability and form factor. It’s no secret that iPhone performs better than certain competing operating systems because Apple consciously left out such performance hogging capabilities as Flash and multitasking.

3. Apple believes in doing fewer things right than doing a lot of mediocre things. For example, when iPhone came out, it didn’t have a copy and paste feature because there was no easy way to implement it without a physical keyboard. Since iPhone didn’t have any keys except the home button, Apple had to invent a more intuitive way to copy and paste. Eventually it did come up with the feature, and when it did, it was a brilliant solution, which has since been copied by other touch screen smartphone manufacturers.

4. Time to market is important. Should Apple wait for another year to make iPad “perfect” before it launches it, or launch it when it’s good enough? I’m sure that, with time, Apple will find a solution to do multitasking in a less resource intensive fashion, or the processors on small devices such as iPad and iPhone will become powerful enough to handle multiple applications at the same time (this is assuming that Apple didn prevent multitasking on iPad to avoid reducing Macbook sales). This leaves opportunity for Apple to launch newer versions in the next few months or years, in turn generating more revenue in the long term.

Fundamentally, what Apple’s created in the iPad is a new category of device. By defining the iPad’s feature set the way it has, it’s not creating a new phone or a new kind of PC or just an e-book. It’s creating something new, and — here’s the sticking point, perhaps — the industry is having a hard time deciding if the category Apple’s defining here really makes sense.

Well, the jury’s clearly still out on that, but at this point it does seem that Apple’s the only vendor playing into this new category.

Several other vendors have showed off prototypes this month of tablets due out later this year, and as far as I can tell, they’re all chasing the established categories. Lenovo’s IdeaPad is a particularly interesting hybrid of a netbook and a tablet. You can detach the “monitor”, and take it with you as tablet. However, the high price of $999 isn’t too attractive.

Then there’s the Dell Mini 5, which has a 5 inch screen and is based on the Android operating system. Its size makes it more of a powerful smartphone and less of a tablet, which makes it less interesting for “e magazines”. Its price is unknown at this point.

Then there are at least three slate PCs coming down the pipeline (one from HP), all running Windows 7 and all targeting the PC category. However, there isn’t much information available about them yet.

What is clear about all of them is that they offer more functionality than iPad. If their manufacturers are able to pull off these tablet devices without compromising either size or price (I don’t think they will), they could offer stiff competition to Apple’s iPad, when or shortly after it launches, which means iPad won’t get the same head-start iPhone got when it first launched (Andorid, Palm, and Blackberry were quick to launch competing touchscreen smartphones with competing app stores, but iPhone had already built substantial momentum by then).

Is iPad truly a new category?

In case you’re just not buying my new-category argument here, let’s take a closer look.

Let’s rank Apple’s current products (and other computing devices) in terms of power and mobility. A laptop is on the high end of power but on the low end of mobility. iPhone or iPod Touch on the other hand rank low on power and functionality, but rank highest on mobility. These two attributes make them very different from each other, ensuring that more sales of one product won’t impact sales of the other. It is no wonder that iPhone ate into iPod sales: Both rank high on mobility, and iPhone ranks higher on power and functionality. When the price difference between the two becomes small enough, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to buy an iPod (although arguably Apple has done a good job of keeping them in slightly different buckets: For example, iPod Touch’s maximum storage capacity is 64GB compared to the 160GB of an iPod Classic).

iPad obviously ranks in between a Macbook and an iPhone — both on power and mobility. According to Jobs, neither Macbook nor iPhone does a better job at browsing, email, photos, video, music, gaming, and e-books.A tablet seems to be the best device to use for browsing when you’re laying on the couch watching TV.

How does it then compare with a netbook? Doesn’t a netbook lie in the same spot in our map — between a laptop and a smartphone in terms of power and mobility? And yet a Windows 7 netbook lets you practically replace a laptop, whereas iPad is nowhere near to replacing a MacBook. A third attribute might explain the difference.

While iPad ranks lower than a netbook on the functionality scale, it ranks much higher in form factor. Due to its tablet form factor, it allows things not possible with a netbook. For example, its accelerometer allows developers to design creative games such as F.A.S.T, which detect motion and positioning of the device to move a jet in the game. Moreover, its touchscreen and form factor open up opportunities for media companies that a netbook cannot dream of (more on that in a minute).

This is not to say that the iPad’s better than a netbook — netbooks remain a highly viable category. However, saying that iPad is inferior to netbooks because it doesn’t allow for a webcam or multitasking is missing the point that it allows for a lot of other things that netbooks don’t.

It’s also important to note that most PC manufacturers, such as HP and Dell, didn’t have a choice but to make netbooks, even if it meant lower profit margins. Otherwise Acer and others would eat into their market share as people start buying more netbooks and fewer laptops. On the other hand, Apple would be shooting itself in the foot if it launched a netbook, as that would eat into its MacBook sales. And therefore it makes even more sense for Apple to define a new category.

Three reasons the iPad will outsell the competition

What I’m betting is that, even with more feature-rich tablets on the market, the iPad may sell best for three reasons: First, there’s a huge ecosystem of iPhone apps iPad can immediately tap into, most of which are games, and thus will make iPad an entertainment device from day one of its launch. Second, iPad’s form factor and weight would make it a more likely destination for reading “e magazines”, thus making media partnerships more likely. Third, fewer features mean a lower price.

So what does this all mean for entrepreneurs?

Tablet PCs offer several new opportunities for startups and established companies alike. iPad,with its huge ecosystem of app developers, will especially help the following markets.

Content Publishers

I’m not going to predict that iPad is going to save the media industry, because it isn’t. However, it does give media companies a chance to reinvent themselves by offering beautiful and meaningful content, making full use of iPad’s real estate (screen size). If you want to see what’s possible, watch this video of a tablet being sponsored by Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corporation and Time Inc in a project dubbed a “Hulu for Print” by The Economist. What they’re trying to do with their new tablet is already possible in iPad. Few media companies have the expertise to envision and produce such rich and interactive content, and this opens up a tremendous opportunity for players such as Zinio who can help traditional publishers go digital.


Content on iPad would open up opportunities for creative ads and thus open doors to entrepreneurs who want to innovate in “e advertising”. Bigger screen size, higher video quality, and portability allow for greater innovation in advertising business. This would partly pay media companies for their content. Media companies could also subsidize the cost of an iPad for readers buying annual subscriptions, for example.


Although iPad is not a competitor to XBox, Wii, or Playstation, it could present a threat to mobile gaming platforms like PSP and Nintendo DS. What it really does, however, is open up a new market for gaming. iPhone has already proven that it is an extremely successful gaming platform. iPad, with its bigger screen size, offers a lot more possibilities to game developers — for example, allowing them to introduce new and enhanced controls for iPad versions of their iPhone games.

Video and TV

One big reason mobile TV hasn’t picked up is the small screen size of mobile devices. iPad removes that limitation. It makes perfect sense for products such as Boxee that do not have an iPhone app, now to write an app for iPad.

It’s hard to write an analysis before the product is actually out in the market, and even harder when several of its competitors are not out either. But given Apple’s history and a strong developer support, I think iPad will live up to the hype. What would make it even more compelling are media partnerships and a few more powerful apps such as the ones suggested above.

By the way, for more on the pros and cons of the iPad, see our earlier anti-iPad and a counter-post on why critics of the iPad are wrong from Dean Takahashi.

Amazon Caves To Macmillan’s eBook Pricing Demands

This post is by Leena Rao from TechCrunch

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

A new development in the Amazon vs. Macmillan fiasco. Amazon just posted an announcement indicating that it will be “capitulating” to Macmillan by selling the publishers’ books for their desired prices.

Macmillan is trying to price their e-books at $15, while Amazon prices e-books at $9.99. Macmillan’s CEO John Sargent said that unless Amazon sets the price of new e-books to $15, the publisher will not distribute new books to Amazon when they are released. On Friday, Amazon basically banned titles, both paper and digital, published by Macmillan by refusing to directly sell them. And Macmillan took out an ad in the Publishers Marketplace magazine protesting the tactics being used by Amazon regarding pricing.

Amazon is now giving into Macmillan’s demands because of the publisher’s monopoly over its titles. In a passive aggressive manner, Amazon says that readers will decide whether it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for e-books. And that other publishers will compete by offering their books and lower prices.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said last week that publishers were unhappy with Amazon’s pricing mode, foreshadowing this disagreement with Macmillan. Jobs revealed that publishers are withholding their titles from Amazon because of Amazon’s pricing model. Jobs also said that prices for books on Apple’s new tablet device, the iPad, will be the same as Amazon’s pricing.

Here is Amazon’s announcement:

Dear Customers:

Macmillan, one of the “big six” publishers, has clearly communicated to us that, regardless of our viewpoint, they are committed to switching to an agency model and charging $12.99 to $14.99 for e-book versions of bestsellers and most hardcover releases.

We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles. We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books. Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book. We don’t believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan. And we know for sure that many independent presses and self-published authors will see this as an opportunity to provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative.

Kindle is a business for Amazon, and it is also a mission. We never expected it to be easy!

Thank you for being a customer.

UPDATED: Amazon Is Doing to Publishers What Apple Did to Record Labels

This post is by Mathew Ingram from GigaOM

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

UPDATED: If you’re interested in books, either the old-fashioned kind or the electronic kind, you’ve probably caught wind of a major dustup going on between Amazon and book publisher Macmillan over what price Macmillan should be allowed to charge for its e-books. Macmillan took out a full-page ad in the magazine Publishers Lunch to inform authors, retailers and readers that Amazon had yanked all of its books from the company’s electronic store.

According to several reports — the most detailed (if confusing) of which comes from author Charlie Stross — Amazon didn’t take kindly to Macmillan’s proposal for a new book-pricing structure, which would see new books, both printed and electronic, priced at $14.99 and then gradually dropping in price over time. Amazon is apparently not impressed with this idea at all, and would like virtually all of its e-books to be priced at $9.99 or lower.

In fact, the new royalty rates that the retailer offered to authors and publishers in advance of the Apple iPad announcement requires them to guarantee that their books will not be priced any higher. Amazon seems miffed that Macmillan is not only proposing to raise prices, but is also playing footsie with Apple about book sales on the iPad.

As Amazon and Macmillan retreat to their respective corners, with Apple waiting in the wings, authors have been taking sides on the dispute, and many of them seem to be siding with Macmillan, including John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing. Why not let the publisher charge more, or have a more flexible pricing scheme, they argue? It’s better for the consumer, etc. (there’s another good overview of the fight here).

One thing no one seems to be talking about, however, is how similar this is to the strategy employed by another large consumer technology company whose name begins with an A. In effect, what Amazon is doing — trying to maintain a fixed, low price for e-books to help stimulate the market, both for e-books and the Kindle — is almost exactly the same as what Apple did several years ago, when it was putting the screws to the major record labels on music prices through the iTunes store.

Virtually every major record label tried to boost prices for their songs, or at least get Apple to agree to a variable-pricing model, which would let them charge a higher price for the current hits that customers wanted most, and lower prices for older songs from the “back catalog.” Apple repeatedly refused, until a year or so ago, when negotiations began to modify prices in just such a way. The two sides reached an agreement a year ago.

So why did Apple not get criticized the way Amazon is now? Perhaps because not enough musicians had blogs, and authors do. Or it could be that no one in their right mind would have thought of supporting a record label — one of the most reviled corporate entities of the modern age — whereas many feel more kindly towards a book publisher. In any case, the issue is the same: The labels wanted to charge more to preserve their profit margins from the compact disc, and Apple wanted to charge less to spur market growth.

If you’re trying to decide which side is right, ask yourself this question: Why should consumers support the right of book publishers to charge whatever they want for their product? Since when does the manufacturer or distributor of a thing get to set the price? Surely the retailer is the one that should be allowed to determine the price, based on market demand and a host of other factors (including what price the manufacturer charges him to supply it). In this case, that retailer — or the closest thing to it — is Amazon.

Wal-Mart doesn’t charge whatever Kimberly-Clark says to charge for its toilet paper; the store charges whatever it thinks the market will bear, or whatever it needs to charge. Admittedly, toilet paper and books are somewhat different (depending on whose book you are reading) but the principle is the same. If MacMillan wants to have its e-books on the Kindle, or its printed books in Amazon’s online store, then Amazon gets to decide what to pay for them. Even if a quasi-monopolistic situation has developed with the Kindle, Apple’s iPad should ensure that it is shortlived.

Update: According to a post in Amazon’s Kindle Community forum, the company has decided to capitulate to Macmillan and allow the publisher to charge higher prices for its books. Obviously having Macmillan books in its stores means more to the retailer than winning a price war. The somewhat passive/aggressive post states:

Dear Customers:

Macmillan, one of the “big six” publishers, has clearly communicated to us that, regardless of our viewpoint, they are committed to switching to an agency model and charging $12.99 to $14.99 for e-book versions of bestsellers and most hardcover releases.

We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles. We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books. Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book. We don’t believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan. And we know for sure that many independent presses and self-published authors will see this as an opportunity to provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative.

Kindle is a business for Amazon, and it is also a mission. We never expected it to be easy!

Thank you for being a customer.

Thumbnail photo courtesy of Flickr user bass_nroll. Post photos courtesy of bass_nroll and Flickr user gadl.