Sans Texting?

I overheard my wife talking to a friend of ours on her cell phone and she said something like “just text it to me”. Then I heard, “oh your phone doesn’t do texting?” I about did a double-take. No texting? What the heck!? Then I settled down. But I thought it was just another funny example of how far technology has worked itself into our lives that not having texting is such a big deal.

Is there anyone (else) out there who does not regularly use texting? Is it because your phone doesn’t have a “regular” keyboard, is not a smartphone, or for some other reason?

State of the … iPad?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Apple today introduced their tablet computer, the iPad. I am researching everything about the iPad and will have a write up soon, so stay tuned.

Until then, ponder this. Today is also the State of the Union address. I wonder which media event will have generated more buzz by the end of the day: Steve Jobs and the iPad announcement or Barrack Obama and the State of the Union address. It will certainly be an interesting barometer on the state of technology (and Apple) in our society.

Would You Like Fries With That?

In December, McDonald’s announced that they would begin offering free unlimited Wi-Fi at 11,000 of their 14,000 locations beginning in mid-January. Previously, McDonald’s charged for Wi-Fi usage in their restaurants.

This is significant for two reasons. First, it suddenly makes finding Wi-Fi access extremely easy. Is there any place more ubiquitous than McDonald’s in this country? Second, it solidifies the expectation (for better or worse) that Wi-Fi access should be free at restaurants and other similar publicly accessible locations. Certainly, among many people the expectation of free Wi-Fi already exists, but many businesses have resisted. Now that McDonald’s has changed its tune, expect all major companies to follow suit.

Personally, I can say that I have in fact chosen to stop at a restaurant other than McDonald’s because I knew that McDonald’s charged for Wi-Fi and the other restaurant didn’t. I must wonder if McDonald’s was seeing this trend in significant numbers or if not, what caused them to make this change.

So remember, if you are in need of quick Wi-Fi access, simply find the nearest McDonald’s. Just don’t ask to super size it.

The Bing is Dead. Long Live the Bing.

It is being reported that the new search engine (excuse me, “decision” engine) from Microsoft, Bing, lost one point of search market share in the month of September. This was the first time Bing has lost market share since it was introduced in June. Also noteworthy is that Yahoo also lost a point in September.

Bing’s share went from 9.64 to 8.51 percent while Yahoo’s went from 10.5 to 9.4. One way to look at these numbers is that Bing is right up there with Yahoo. Another way to look at these numbers is that Google had 90% of the share in September.

So depending on your viewpoint, this could be really bad for Bing or no big deal at all. Supporters of one side or another will spin this as they see fit. To me this also seems to correlate with the amount of advertising Microsoft does for Bing. It seems that I’ve not seen as many Bing commercials lately, so it’s probably not surprising that less publicity equals less market share.

“Technically” Speaking, Who’s in Charge Around Here?

During the 80’s and 90’s the average user made technology decisions based on information they usually received from “the computer guy” at work. This was definitely a hold-over from the 60’s and 70’s where most technology was deployed and controlled by the “data processing” department at big businesses (“data processing” was the name that technology departments were widely called before they were called “Information Services” then “Information Technology”)

Today, most people are on their 3rd or 4th personal computer (if not 5th or 6th). Many have owned PDA devices or smartphones. They’ve played a lot of video games and have bought DVD players. The average consumer today is much more tech savvy. And instead of taking the advice from their IT department as gospel, users are now starting to dictate to the IT departments what technology they want to use. While this trend has been in motion for a long time now, IT departments are being forced at an accelerating rate to shift their roles – from being solely in control of the technology decisions – to partnering with those they serve to define the technology platforms in use at a company. The era of top-down technology management is giving way to bottom-up technology decisions. It’s a “grassroots” movement, to steal the political term du jour.

I write this now because I will be referring to this trend in future articles. Stay tuned …

So Much Tech … So Little Time!

Wow, it’s been a crazy busy month! Not just for me personally and professionally, but the tech industry is abuzz in so many different sectors it’s been hard to keep up with it all! But not to worry, I have been paying attention and digesting it all. Soon to come will be many articles covering all the hot topics, including various Microsoft tidbits, the latest on the Palm Pre and the iPhone, everything Apple-related, and whatever else I feel like talking about.

Bada Bing!

I’ve seen a few of the new commercials. I think they are interesting and clever commercials until the end when they reveal what the commercial is for. The first time I saw one it certainly got my attention but I had no idea what the point of the commercial was until the very end, which is likely what they were after. Then they reveal the service and it sort of makes sense, but my question is what exactly is “search overload”? Is this a real concern for people? Or is it a solution looking for a problem? (Just in case, I started a support group for those suffering from search overload on Facebook). And I also question the idea of a “decision engine”. Honestly, I can’t say I’m often looking for a search site to make a decision for me. I’m usually searching for information, not decisions. If I am looking for information to make a decision, the decision comes after I have enough information. Does make decisions for me? If so, do I really want Microsoft making decisions for me?

Regardless, the commercials, reportedly part of a $100 million campaign, will serve the purpose of introducing the site to people and likely getting them to at least try it. The question is will be compelling enough to break people’s Google habit?

In testing the site a few times, my initial impression was that it wasn’t that much different than Google. In fact, it has a downright similar layout. The things that made different than Google seemed superfluous and a little confusing. Perhaps with a little more practice I could take advantage of Bing’s features a little better, but if the point of those features aren’t brain-dead obvious and simple to use, then people are going to miss them, ignore them, or worse be confused by them. And as they say, you never have a second chance to make a first impression. If people don’t get excited by immediately, they will likely not think again to leave their familiar search engine.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think of that annoying Janice character from Friends when they hear “bing”? Also, will it flow off the tongue to use “Bing” as a verb, as we do now with Google? I googled it – I binged it. Go google it – go bing it. I’m not sure.

Seth Godin posted an article on his blog about Microsoft trying to become the next Google. It’s a good read.

The Dark Hallway

I heard a great quote today from a newspaper sports columnist regarding the emergence of the Internet and social networking. I was in the car at the time and couldn’t write anything down. Several hours later, I sat down at my computer and typed in as much of the quote as I could remember. Google came through and I found the columnist and an article with the same quote (apparently, he’s using it a lot!). Richard Justice is the columnist’s name, he works for the Houston Chronicle

“Right now, we’re running down a dark hallway as fast as we can go. We have no idea what’s at the end of the hallway because we have to keep trying to figure it out.”

I’ve told a few people that I don’t believe there are many true experts on social networking because the rules are still being written. How can one be an expert on something that is still changing?

Ironically I have a connection to the Houston Chronicle. Years ago my first real job was at the Edwardsville Intelligencer newspaper, which was and is still owned by the Hearst Corporation, who also own the Houston Chronicle. While I was at the Intelligencer, sometime in 1995 or 1996 the Hearst corporation gave a directive to all their newspapers which was something to the effect of “get online”. Of course, back then nobody really knew what that meant (eerily similar to the situation today with social networking, it seems). So all the newspapers basically just did what they could. For being a small newspaper, we at the Intelligencer did quite a bit for ourselves, and for a while we had a friendly competition with the Houston Chronicle, the other newspaper that got an early jump on the Internet.

Seeing how well the Houston Chronicle seems to be doing, perhaps the moral of the story is that the early bird gets the worm. Those who see the coming trends and get on board early will be in a better position than those who wait.

Newspapers and the News

I was listening to the radio this morning and heard a segment discussing newspapers and people’s awareness of the news. The host had read an article in a newspaper stating that 18 to 25 year olds were not aware of what was going on in the world around them, perhaps due to the idea that this demographic does not read newspapers and if anything, selectively gets their news from the Internet. The radio show took 2 random callers and asked them questions about current events in the news. Both callers were very well informed about current events. When asked, neither caller said they read newspapers. Also interesting is that one caller said she never watched televised news, the other rarely. Both callers said they read most of their news on the Internet, with one caller stating she also reads it on her Blackberry.

Of course, this experiment was far from scientific, but it does point out the trend that newspapers are becoming less relevant today, at least in the actual paper form. It also shows that rather than dumbing down society, the ease of information flow that the Internet has enabled may actually make people more aware of current events. Perhaps what we will learn as society transitions to getting their information from the Internet instead of mass media is that the medium makes a difference in whether people are willing to invest their time to receive the information. Just like students who are bored with traditional classroom environments don’t learn very well, when they are presented the same information in an way they find interesting, they are much more receptive and retain the knowledge.

Welcome to State of the Tech!

marcel-color-med-low-resWelcome to my new blog, State of the Tech! Many of you may be familiar with my other blog, Technology Bytes, as well as my business, Marcel Brown Technology Services. Where the goal of Technology Bytes is to deliver helpful tips and information to computer users, State of the Tech will focus on “the big picture” view of the technology industry and its implications on our world. In this blog, you will see a lot more analysis and commentary of current and future trends in various technology industries. But unlike many other sites, I will focus on making the conclusions understandable for small business owners and the average person. Plus I will try to keep the blog light-hearted and fun, so as to make it an interesting read for those people who don’t “geek out” on a regular basis.

So please visit regularly and let me know what you think. I definitely want to know what technology topics are of interest to you and your concerns in order to make State of the Tech a valuable resource to all technology-concerned people out there. Feel free to contact me anytime at

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