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      The Ukrainian military clearly doesn’t care enough to actually fight: The day began inauspiciously for Ukrainian forces as they sought to establish an operating base in the city of Kramatorsk, moving in units from a nearby military air base. According to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and a witness who spoke by phone, a column of six [...]
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How will the Emperor strike back?

If Rupert Murdoch is unfit to lead his British journal empire, doesn’t that suggest that he is unfit to lead his American news empire as well?  From the NYTimes article on the subject:

The report said that Mr. Murdoch exhibited “willful blindness” toward wrongdoing at his organization and saidNews Corporation, his conglomerate based in New York, had made “huge failings of corporate governance.” The consequences of the panel’s findings were not immediately clear.

The committee’s report said: “On the basis of the facts and evidence before the committee, we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications.”

“This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organization and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International,” its British newspaper subsidiary.

“We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.”

In a statement from its New York headquarters, News Corporation said it was “carefully reviewing the select committee’s report and will respond shortly.” It also said the company “fully acknowledges significant wrongdoing at News of the World” — the now-shuttered Sunday tabloid at the heart of the scandal — “and apologizes to everyone whose privacy was invaded.”

One dissenting Conservative, Philip Davies, told reporters: “To me, very clearly, Rupert Murdoch is a fit and proper person to run a major company.”

In a statement after the report was published, Ofcom, the British media regulator, said it had a legal duty “to be satisfied that any person holding a broadcasting license is, and remains, fit and proper to do so. Ofcom is continuing to assess the evidence — including the new and emerging evidence — that may assist it in discharging these duties.”

In its report, the committee itself did not use the full term “fit and proper” in its condemnation of Mr. Murdoch.

Oh, those silly Brits, splitting hairs and taking care to not quite meet the legal definition of criminal incompetence.  They just can’t come right out and say the Rupert Murdoch needs to be stripped of his broadcast and “journalism” licenses- yet.  Maybe they’re all busily calling their wives and mistresses and boyfriends with “a bit of bad news” before they bring the hammer down on Murdoch.  It can’t come a minute too soon.  If they bring the bloody bastard down, I say we kiss and make up and offer Britain a US statehood.  Rupert Murdoch has been a bigger threat to the world than Osama bin Laden ever was.

Now, if we could only get the FCC to investigate Pat Robertson…

 

Technical Corner – The iPad hype edition

There has been so much hype over Apple’s forthcoming tablet offering that I thought it was worth a look. Not just because it may or may not be an interesting product, after all other tablets have been on the market for a while, but how it might effect things we’re interested in including print journalism and book publishing and blogging. Well, that and it might be a nice distraction from the SOTU speech. Oh, and this is my first post. I really meant to do something political first, but time just got away from me. Hope you like it.

Background/Rumors

Rumors of a tablet from Apple have been around for a long time. Since 1983 in fact. A really nice timeline and summary of events can be found in this Engadget article. Some of the speculation and wild Apple fandom has been a bit weird. Walt Mossberg is a technical reviewer at the WSJ and has gained some fame for his reviews. Here is a great spoof of a muppet version of him reviewing the Apple iPad (here called iSlate):

Publishing/Journalism

What I think is interesting though relates to what’s been happening to print journalism and to the book publishing world of late. As we’ve seen, a number of companies are pursuing e-book products from web based for the desktop to small handheld devices like Amazon’s Kindle. In addition, the boom of smart phones have also included e-book capabilities.

There are a number of interesting factors involved with the various offerings that have been worth watching. One is the store model. It would appear from Amazon’s recent changes, followed by Googles, that the iTunes store model has won out. This is a model where there is little in the way between the original creator (of music, applications, books, periodicals, etc.) and the user. And the ratio of 70% to the creator and 30% to the store is shared by most now. There are still music publishers and book publishers in the middle of many offerings, but independents in those areas are gaining ground. And interestingly what I think has made that possible, given the zillions of competing products, is social networking. More specifically it’s the advent of Crowd Sourcing which is one way to manage and make sense of too many offerings. But of course a stores own editorial staff providing reviews and featuring products is probably still a major factor.

The other area that makes a lot of difference in usability is the means of displaying the material on the screen. There are a number of competing screen technologies, and many of these are just emerging. The choice of technology here also depends on what you want  your device to do. If it’s only about reading text, then the current electronic ink based approaches are pretty nice. These e-ink systems require no backlighting and so are easier on the eyes. However if you want a multi-purpose device, then e-ink as it is won’t work because it is too slow at refreshing for complex graphics. There are newer technologies that can function like normal LCD screens, but then can switch to e-ink type screens. This appears to be the most promising for multi-purpose devices, but has a ways to go.

Now back to print publishing and journalism. As we all know, newspapers seem to be dying in the US. They offer their papers for free online using an ad based model for revenue. That is wildly popular. But to the detriment of print subscriptions. And unfortunately many newspaper businesses aren’t set up for an online only business. Previous attempts to charge for online papers has failed. WSJ being the main exception. In the textbook realm, Terry McGraw, McGraw-Hill CEO, Tuesday on CNBC said the following:

Yeah, Very exciting. Yes, they’ll make their announcement tomorrow on this one. We have worked with Apple for quite a while. And the Tablet is going to be based on the iPhone operating system and so it will be transferable. So what you are going to be able to do now is we have a consortium of e-books. And we have 95% of all our materials that are in e-book format on that one. So now with the tablet you’re going to open up the higher education market, the professional market. The tablet is going to be just really terrific.

As much as newspapers might get a boost with this technology, I think e-books is where the action will be. Time will tell though.

Product Review

Today Apple introduced their “latest creation” the iPad:

The new iPad

iPad showing NYT

iPad Contacts Book

iPad Showing Contacts Book

It looks like they’ve done a nice job. We have a new slick gadget to be sure. They’ve nicely integrated audiobooks, music, video, TV/Movies, apps, etc. It has the benefits of mobile platforms which in the end will be the critical thing I think. It has 10 hours of battery life, which is pretty nifty. And similar to other efforts, it’s very green. But what’s interesting now is the e-book application and integration with the newspaper, magazine, and book publishing worlds. (Note: images above thanks to Engadget).

The New York Times has developed an application for the iPad. They’ve made quite a nice interface that, well, makes it really nice to navigate through sections and articles. And they’ve nicely integrated embedded video. They appear to be working with other newspaper publishers to do the same. The question not answered is what the business model will be for NYT. I suspect it will be free for basic stuff and subscription for additional functions like archives, etc. And like current online papers, the ad model will be used.

In the e-book world, they have initial deals with Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon&Schuster, Macmillan, Hachett among others. The iPad has a bookshelf store, iBookStore (of course). And they have a book reader built in, iBooks (of course) that acts as a book reader and book library. Clearly the book and magazine world is where they’ve put most of their effort. Sorry newspapers. The current library of books seem to be in the range of $5 to $15. There is a big effort for educational/text books, so expect to see more there. This appears to be the biggest deal for the show today.

But to me, a big issue is that they’ve added creation related software since the device is powerful enough. So their iWorks product is available for the device. Which means you can use it for blogging, writing, etc. And you can get a hardware keyboard accessory if you like. There were lots of other applications demoed. I quite liked the Brushes demo which allows you to use the device as an art tablet.

And now the requisite price info:

WiFi (only): 16GB – $499, 32GB – $599; 64GB – $699 (available in 60 days)

3G (and WiFi): 16GB – $629, 32GB – $729, 64GB – $829 (available in 90 days, contract with AT&T)

End of the show shows a street sign showing Technology (street) and Liberal Arts (street) and Steve saying they’ve always tried to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts. OK, completely cheesy. In fact it was a laugh out loud bit.

What does it all mean?

A nice gadget. Perhaps a big deal in the e-book business. Perhaps not. Time will tell. Will it change the world? No. To me though, it’s symbolic of our creativity, ingenuity, and innovation in the face of a horrible economy and seemingly the end of our country as we know it. Unlike our administration and congress, it gives me a bit of hope. But then again, it’s just a gadget, and I’m clearly biased about cool techy gadgets. Tell me what you think.

Update

Just adding a photo that shows off the e-book aspect (the real winner I think):

iBooks on the iPad

Will the iSlate save journalism?

The tubez are all abuzz over Apple’s upcoming announcement on January 26.  Gadget enthusiasts all around the world are speculating about what Apple’s Steve Jobs is going to pack into the new iSlate, if that’s what it’s called.  There’s an online document of the alleged specs that have us scratching our heads and salivating at the same time.  The screen is either going to be 7.5 inches or 10 inches.  (Whip out your big ten inch, Steve!)  Other fantasy document specs include a 120 GB hard drive, a new OS called Clouded Leopard (Jeez, we should have seen that one comin’) and a built in projector.  OooooOOOOOoooo!  That one has piqued my curiosity.  It kind of makes sense too.  If the screen is only big enough to type on a touch screen, how will you view the content?  Ohhh, project it onto something.  D’oh!

Steve Jobs, if you’re out there, I promise to be your best friend if you let me review one of them big ten inches.  And I’ll be nice.  Because I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not but there are a lot of gearheads out there who think a WiFi Newton on speed is not really necessary, especially if you have a laptop or iPhone.  I can envision busloads of schoolchildren dumping their lead weight laden backpacks for iSlates.  Maybe there’s a way to turn this sucker into an electronic notebook device for labrats that they can use to jot down how many moles of whatever they used for their reactions and that they can upload to a server later.  And I guess the skeptics haven’t been through an airport in the last 9 years where you have to dump the contents of your carry-ons whenever some authority figure demands it.  Who wouldn’t want the convenience of a neat  device you can carry in your hands that is a little bigger than a Kindle while you listen to your music through your stereo bluetooth as you stand in the Security line reading a document your downloaded from your cloud account or a copy of the NYTimes from the iTunes store?

Now, about that media content the iSlate is supposedly going to deliver in living color.  The newspaper industry is hurting.  What Craigslist hasn’t snatched from the classified section, the internet has downloaded for free.  Of course, the newspapers have brought some of this down on themselves.  Someone at the Times with a degree from Acme Business School made the idiotic decision to charge for the Op/Ed columnists a couple of years ago at the same time that  blogs started teeming with good Op/Ed writers while leaving (what should have been) the news content unguarded on the net.  The real assets of the newspaper business, should they care to invest in them, are the news collecting bureaus around the world.  There’s no substitute for actually being there, as we have learned from the Iranian protest movement and Twitter.

With Twitter, the news certainly looks fresh and has the immediacy of being there but there’s virtually no way to make sure that what is being posted is true and not a plant.  Unfortunately for the Times, there’s no way for us to tell if they’re just reporting propaganda either.  Remember Judy “Gorgeous Glass” Miller and her quaking Aspen friends who were all connected at the roots?  Was that a bizarre story or what?  When the paper that writes the stories becomes the story, it starts to lose credibility.  I know that I dropped my subscription specifically because of Judy Miller.  But it I had a subscription today, I would probably have cancelled it this morning when I found out that Arthur “Punch” (or is it “Pinch”?) Sulzberger, the Times publisher, is friends with Steve Rattner who is trying to primary Kirsten Gillibrand by running Harold Ford Jr. for Senator of NY.   Great!  Just what we need.  Another pandering male conservative Democrat because female senators are so plentiful. I don’t even know Pinch (or Punch) and I already dislike the fact that he feels he can arrogantly use the power of his mighty ink to scuttle Gillibrand simply because his friend Caroline Kennedy didn’t get the plum appointment when Hillary resigned.  It makes him look vengeful, petty, selfish and careless.  Sort of like Arthur Frobisher or some other self-centered and corrupt uber rich person with a conscience that only extends to his own personal wealthy clique.

Would I pay a subscription for the NYTimes on an iSlate?  I guess it would all depend on the content.  I lived for a couple of years without Paul Krugman or had to get his column via backdoor means.  I suppose if Punch (or Pinch) would leave the writing and editorializing to the real journalists and if I could be certain that those journalists weren’t part of some bizzare neocon plan to take over the world, I might cough up a few cents every day to read it on an iSlate.  But I hope that Jobs is busily getting the rights to a bigger movie library to project onto a nearby wall.  I wouldn’t bet my company on the likes of Punch or Rupert Murdoch.  They can’t be trusted.

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