Monthly Archives: June 2012

Microsoft: Time to Surface?

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Mac Classic

First of all, I must note that I am a long-time Apple user – – starting in the 1980s with the Mac Classic, in the 1990s with a Quadra,  and continuing with roughly a $3000 purchase every 3 years when something died.  I figure that our family has bought close to 20 Apple products over the years, not including iPods – – but importantly, including a one-year old iPad. The appeal of Apple was no secret:  intuitive, sleek, inter-device compatibility, and increasingly, no worries about viruses, hackers, blue screen of death, etc.  The limitations of Apple were less compatibility with MS Windows software, which made it less popular with the typical office IT folks.

Mac Quadra

Now it seems Microsoft is (again) going all Apple on us, by announcing the introduction of their SURFACE product, sort of a combination of a pad and a notebook.  Following its history of not being a leader in the hardware arena, and specifically being an unsuccessful follower of Apple (Zune, anyone?) I must admit that the Surface has the possibility to break through.

New Microsoft SURFACE

Why?  Like Apple has done many times before, Microsoft has taken an existing innovation (there were lots of MP3 players before the iPod) and made it more usable.  The Surface tablet addresses probably the key downside of the iPad by simply adding a keyboard (on the reverse side of the now-ubiquitous cover panel).  In addition, the Surface products (there are 2 versions) will operate more like notebooks, with relatively full-function Windows desktops available.  Lack of a keyboard on my iPad, and inability to manipulate files have driven me to my (Apple) laptop more than I would like; these could be improvements that sort out the optimal capabilities array for this type of product and finally help Microsoft get its footing in the hardware arena.

Unless (until?), of course, Apple responds.  Will be interesting to see if Apple announces something before fall, when the Surface is scheduled to debut.  That could send MS back under water…

Bloomberg’s Soft Drink Edict: New York State of Mind

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I’m not in favor of Orwellian control of things like drink sizes.

HOWEVER, what seems to have been lost in the recent NYC brouhaha is that there is something huge in the idea of managing down drink sizes (and food portions overall):

1) we all know that humans have essentially zero self-control, and like puppies, will continue to consume whatever is put in front of them until it is gone – – so somehow influencing options makes sense from a behavioral perspective
2) a recent study put Americans’ caloric intake from beverages at around 24% of total caloric intake, yet people to a great extent don’t think about drinks when counting calories – – it’s thought of as sort of a free play.
3) there are roughly 350 calories and about 88 grams of sugar in a single 32 oz cola drink — which chips away quite a bit toward daily recommended intake of 2000-2500 calories and exceeds the recommended daily intake of around 50g sugar (depending on where you source your info).
4) When you consider that a lot of these drinks will be consumed with food, and that restaurant food portions are very often too big and unhealthy, it starts to get scary.

No less an authority than British boy band One Direction (please don’t ask), when asked about the biggest difference between the States and the UK, their immediate response was not the weather, not the girls, not the cars, not the great dental environment – – it was FOOD PORTIONS.    (see 16:47 to about 17:15)

So, I understand Mayor Bloomberg’s objectives, but government mandate can’t be the answer (impractical, unfair; people can apparently easily work around gun laws, so gaming the soda restrictions might just be doable).

If there could be some market-driven way for consumers to somehow be trained to be satisfied with non-excessive portion sizes (food and drink), there could be forward progress.  I wish I had an answer.  But as we’re so trained to equate ‘good value’ with ‘big meal’, getting our arms around this problem will be a tall order (puns intended).