20 January 2015

Cheapskates for Windows Phone.

To those of us in the posh developed world, Windows Phone no longer exists. The last time a flagship was released was with Android-equivalent early 2013 specs. When American customers get lost in a Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile store, the only place they will find a Microsoft Lumia is in the cellular gumball machine at two for a quarter. Yes, Windows Phone is still out there, but they are truly being given away to anyone willing to take them - which is mostly Microsoft employees. So, what happened to the cutting edge Lumia devices of old? Microsoft decided they want to make money and that means selling entry-level merchandise while giving every indication that they have no plans on battling the Apple and Google cutting edge any day soon.

The cell market is long since saturated in the States, Britain and Oz. Heck, your average American hobo is on their third Android smart phone these days. (They have nothing to eat, sure, but - hey - they have a phone.) Android and iOS own these markets, but the so-called "developing" parts of the world are just getting hooked. Microsoft wants to be one of the two systems left standing and knows that Apple is currently not playing the low-end game. The result, they hope, is countries throughout Africa, South America and Asia getting addicted to inexpensive Windows Phone devices.

Since all of their R&D attention is spent on finding ways to mass produce phones as cheap as possible, that has left the high end market to the Nexus 6, Galaxy Note 4 and iPhone 6. Microsoft spent years trying to shoe-horn their product in that market and got nowhere, so this new direction makes a great deal of sense. Or, at least, has the virtue of never having been tried. Why fight the battle long lost when there is a market of customers out there that just wants a portable device with internet access?

Time will tell whether this game plan will turn these markets into long-term Windows Phone customers. Until then, Microsoft will keep hammering away at cheap devices and might even occasionally release a half-decent Lumia for the iPhone crowd, too. But don't hold your breath you highly developed customers. It is pretty low on their priority list right now.

19 January 2015

Televising the national anthem.

A gentleman whom I consider a close friend (and he sometimes to tolerates me) has rightfully pointed out my nitpickobnoxiousness when it comes to following the rules of loving our country during sporting events. I once derided individuals at a football game for putting hand over heart during the national anthem and taking off their hat during America the Beautiful for not being requirements. Not surprisingly, he was correct in telling me that any display of affection and reverence is welcome. (Leave it to an astounding member of our military to put me in my place. Damn him.)

That said, I continue to be struck by the lack of patriotic reverence in the process of televising the games. My point is not to ridicule the great employees generating excellent TV coverage. I merely am asking everyone to follow the same set of rules. No more - no less. We play those impossible for me to sing notes before every game to show the most important element is not a win or loss but our dedication to this country. When we attend a game and the Star Spangled Banner begins, our hat should be off and our eyes planted firmly on the flag. Consider it a moment to ponder the greatness of America, or just to catch your breath to build up energy for a rowdy game. Whichever works.

That level of respect does not fully materialize on television. We see a little bit of the person or people singing the song. A little bit of the fans. A little bit of flag. And, most of all, we get close-up moments of the athletes and coaches - I presume so we can judge our favorite jerseys as being more respectful than their jerseys. Who knows.

This may be great for ratings and exactly what viewers want but I cannot help but find this as disrespectful as someone who decides to leave their hat on or strike up a conversation. The requirements of focusing on the flag and not be distracted by anything but the moment applies to those at home, too, and this undermines the patriotic experience for everyone - not least of which are the people behind the cameras.

I know I am asking a lot, but maybe for the Super Bowl we could just have a shot of the flag during the song so the camera jockeys and other employees could stop what they are doing, stand and face that symbol of our free country? Yes. Silly. How about simply pointing the camera at the individual singing the song and not moving it? There are a million opportunities during the game to see the athletes, coaches and fans. For a couple of minutes before the madness begins, let's ignore all of that and give our full attention to something slightly more important.