It’s no secret that Microsoft has struggled for relevance in the mobile and tablet markets. Its phone platform, though well designed and capable, hasn’t yet attained the kind of market share that would assure Microsoft a seat at the table for years to come.
Its efforts to break into the tablet market have so far been an even bigger disappointment. Microsoft’s first mistake was launching a new tablet operating system, Windows RT, that had little developer support and few applications written for it, and it wasn’t compatible with applications written for the desktop version of Windows. It’s no surprise, then, that Windows RT has been a massive failure.
To add insult to injury, Microsoft has also seen its traditional bread-and-butter product (PC operating system Windows) come under attack from Google in the form of the ChromeOS running on Chromebooks, cheap notebook PCs that have made a big dent in Windows notebook sales in 2013.
Microsoft has apparently learned from its failures in the tablet market and adapted to the emerging threat of ChromeOS, and its resulting tablet strategy is a stroke of genius. Simply put, Microsoft’s strategy to gain market share in the tablet market and simultaneously defend its market share in low-end PCs is to launch a series of low-priced tablets powered not by the out-of-favor Windows RT, but by the full-on Windows 8.1, and at a price-point that challenges even inexpensive 7″ Android tablets.
The vanguard contender in Microsoft’s effort to dominate the tablet and low-end PC race is undoubtedly the Dell Venue 8 Pro, a capable 8″ tablet that is ostensibly priced at a reasonable $299 but that has often been offered on sale for only $229, the same price as Google’s flagship 7″ tablet, the Nexus 7.
Though Windows 8.1 lacks tablet-specific software compared to Android tablets and the iPad, it more than makes up for this shortcoming by supporting all desktop software compatible with Windows 8, offering an advantage that Android and iOS cannot match.
One great use case that shows Windows 8.1 tablets’ supremacy over tablets from Android and iOS is photo editing. If you need to use a professional photo editing tool on a tablet, Photoshop on a Windows 8.1 tablet would be your only option. Photo editing tools available on Android and iOS are childish in comparison.
Interestingly enough, using the Dell Venue 8 Pro as a handheld tablet isn’t even its biggest selling point: you can use the 8″ tablet to replace your desktop PC. The Venue 8 Pro is armed with a Mini HDMI port, allowing you to hook it up to a larger external monitor when you’re at home or at work, and naturally you can also use an external keyboard and mouse to provide an almost exact recreation of the desktop PC experience.
It is the option of using a Windows 8.1 tablet as a desktop PC replacement that I think really drives the value proposition, especially when we’re talking about a device that can be snagged for $229, hundreds of dollars less than desktop PCs.
Another problem that the combined tablet/PC solves is working with documents on multiple devices. If you have a desktop PC and a tablet and you work on documents on both of them, you’ll need to use the cloud to sync your changes. With a tablet running Windows 8.1, you don’t even need to use the cloud, because when your tablet IS your desktop, you can edit your files on-the-go or at your desk all on the same device. The cloud is a pretty solid solution already, but not even having to use the cloud is even better, because it means you won’t have to use up your data plan when editing documents on-the-go.
Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 tablets are less expensive than Chromebooks and are much more capable devices, and will help Microsoft fight off the stiff competition coming from Android. For tablet buyers who had previously been committed to either Android or iOS, there is a new option and it appears to be quite compelling. For Canonical, the maker of the Ubuntu flavor of Linux that has been touting its plans of offering a unifying OS that runs the same software on mobile phones, tablets, and desktop PCs, Microsoft’s unification of the PC and the tablet may serve to take the wind out of its sails.
A few big questions remain: can Microsoft convert Android and iOS tablet buyers into Windows 8.1 tablet buyers? With the advent of a desktop PC in tablet form, does Microsoft even have to win over existing tablet buyers, since they can still score a solid win selling Windows 8.1 tablets to customers who were planning on buying a PC or a Chromebook?
I built a spreadsheet to model the effect of California state income tax rates on after-tax income and compared California with Washington State, which lacks an income tax.
I would have to earn about $12,000 more in California in order to earn the same after-tax income that I make in Washington State, and even if I did earn that income premium in California, I would likely not be able to save as much money each year because housing is more expensive in big cities in California. If I were to account for all of the cost of living increase, I’d probably need to earn $20,000 more each year in California to save the same amount each that I can in Washington State.
This spreadsheet really illustrates the power that income taxes wield over all of us…who knows, maybe this spreadsheet will even cause someone to move to a lower-tax state! 😉
Click here to see the spreadsheet in a new window.
Note: Someone tipped me off soon after publishing this spreadsheet that I did not account for the fact that earning a higher pre-tax income in California would also potentially put you into a higher federal income tax bracket, and this scenario is not reflected in my spreadsheet (maybe in version 2.0?).
To those of you in disbelief that a deadly shooting could take place at a trashy bar/nightclub in Bellevue (Munch Sports Grill), let me teach you a lesson about trashy nightclubs: they tend to draw a dangerous crowd. As a result, your chance of getting shot there is MUCH, MUCH HIGHER than if you had gone out to the Irish pub across the street. This regrettable occurrence should come as a surprise to no one. If you value your life, you might consider avoiding the following venues:
-Most nightclubs in Pioneer Square
If you’re not sure whether the bar you’re going to is dangerous or not, a rule of thumb is that if you answer ‘Yes’ to two of the following questions, you should head elsewhere:
1) Is there a dancefloor inside the venue?
2) Is there particularly loud music anywhere inside the venue?
3) Is the venue charging a cover?
It is unfortunate that we all need to make conscious decisions in order to avoid danger, however, in that respect, choosing a nightlife venue is no different than selecting a mountain to climb: if you choose to climb Mount Everest (or go out to a nightclub full of lowlifes), you should expect a certain amount of risk (and even death).
More unfortunate still is that those who enjoy dancing must be extra vigilant. Is dancing something that people should be afraid to do? Of course not! Unfortunately though, dancefloors and loud music tend to attract trouble, and just because you wish things were different does not make it so.
Please stay safe and consider where you go partying before you get yourself into unwanted trouble.
If you haven’t seen the new Zaarly Storefronts, you should take a look. It legitimately might change ecommerce forever.
The team of geniuses at Zaarly has tackled a few big peeves we’ve all had with the legacy ecommerce establishment:
- Traditionally, online merchants focus on products and are horrible at selling services
- It’s hard to find local products/services which due to their proximity may be more relevant to what I’m looking for
E-commerce isn’t totally broken today, but it doesn’t really provide a good avenue to finding good local service providers (house cleaning, outsourced chores, lawn mowing, personal chefs, et cetera), and it is no good at helping you find Services (major ecommerce sites like Ebay/Amazon are much more focused on selling products). All the daily deal sites made ecommerce more local, but they only gave us deals on restaurants, spas, and some other things that we don’t really want or need. Zaarly Storefronts changes is. It is local (which makes its service offerings more relevant), it includes products (which is what most of us buy online, anyway), it makes buying services easy, it provides a clear visual introduction to the service provider or product, and does all of this in one place.
The gist of Zaarly Storefronts is that it is local products and services with with engaging descriptions and photos/visuals that give you a good idea of what you’ll get.
Here’s an example: you want someone to clean your apartment every two weeks because you don’t have time to do it yourself. Zaarly Storefronts says “Meet your new cleaning lady, Geannie Meckler!”:
See, read, click, buy. Now your house is clean. It’s intuitive and effortless. I think that Zaarly’s ecommerce innovations are going to drive its competitors to change the way they list products and services, so perhaps Zaarly Storefront will change the way commerce happens even on platforms outside Zaarly.
Here’s an example of some of the local products available on Zaarly Storefronts (which reminds me of a sort of virtual farmer’s market):
Kudos to the team over at Zaarly for building a hyper-relevant ecommerce platform!
I’m excited that Seattle’s famed 520 floating bridge is being replaced by a modern, safe 6-lane span. Here’s my composite rendering of what opening day will look like:
It is possible. Here’s proof:
Shoe performance while skateboarding: Acceptable.
I’m wearing the 1901 Driving Shoe in Brown available at Nordstrom.com for $89.95.
They have Church for that.
This track will appear on the upcoming album Rose Island.
Big Pun’s Off Wit His Head from his 2000 album Yeeeah Baby is perhaps one of the most underrated songs of the last 20 years. Its production, though favoring synthesized instruments and voices to authentic live recordings, is peerless. I’d compare it to Puff Daddy’s classic “Victory (feat. Notorious B.I.G.)”. Off Wit His Head is prototypical thug rap layered over classical instruments (including a strong harpsichord, synthesized violin, and synthesized cello), but what sets it apart are its melodic vocal hooks that seem as if they’d be right at home in a classical operetta. Meanwhile, a computer-synthesized chorus adds a sense of grandeur and gravitas, which is precisely the kind of element that is necessary to balance out the whimsically amateurish synth instruments. The track is peppered with lyrics that show Big Pun to be an unapologetic hedonist:
“…I don’t give a fuck! Til I die, I’mma live it up…”
Other passages show that Pun knows his death is near, but illustrate his desire to stubbornly go down swinging:
“…I ain’t ready to die, bury me alive…”
The classically-themed beat, operatic vocals and frighteningly prescient lyrics were indeed a deadly combination: Big Pun died on February 7th, 2000, just two months before the album was released.
For the first time since May 2008, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has closed above 13,000, an important psychological and technical level.
What does this event say about the economy, if anything?
Simpletons might be inclined to identify the breaking of 13,000 as a sign that the US economy and the world’s economy are returning to vibrancy. Such an explanation is overly simplistic, ignoring the complexity and the myriad variables that lead markets to behave the way they do.
US stocks are being driven higher for two reasons:
1) Fear of exposure to European sovereign debt
2) Fear of exposure to European banks
Both of these drivers have led investors to seek safety in US Treasuries, which has driven down Treasury yields, causing many treasury investors to seek potentially higher returns in stocks due to the low returns offered by Treasuries. As a result, I believe it’s safe to say that the recent breaking of 13,000 is not caused by bullish sentiment on stocks, but rather is simply a consequence of insanely low-yielding debt, which has made stocks look like a bargain in comparison.
Investors are faced with heightened global uncertainty due to fears of low growth in the Eurozone and the United States, slowing growth in China, high energy prices, and the threat of inflation. The obvious play in this environment would be to buy gold, TIPS, and Treasuries and wait out the storm until it’s safe to wade back into the equity markets. However, there is little opportunity to make gains using said strategy because our relatively efficient markets have priced gold at stratospherically-high levels and have done the same to TIPS and Treasuries, some of which are currently sporting negative yields (including the 5, 7, and 10-year TIPS).
So what might an intelligent investor do to best position their portfolio with regard to risk and return?
1) Buy leveraged real estate funds, REITs, apartment home operators, and senior living operators
With the cost of financing going through the floor, healthy demand for apartments and rental housing, and low prices for single-family homes due to the poor health of the US housing market, real estate is cheap. Cheap asset prices and dirt cheap financing? Sign me up.
2) Buy energy services firms
Energy prices are high and will likely remain high, barring a global recession. Oil production in the Bakken shale and other areas in the heartland of North America is increasing quickly due to recent advances in horizontal drilling and fracking. Increased production will drive higher revenue and margins for energy services firms.
3) Go bargain hunting in Europe
European equities are cheap, and by spending some time prospecting through them, you might just discover some hidden gems.
Catholic Bishops would like women to be unable to plan or time the birth of their own children, but it appears Catholic Bishops haven’t really given the subject much thought. Had they done so, I believe they might have a different opinion about the effects of birth control on a society. Here’s what Ludwig von Mises had to say on the subject:
Those fighting birth control want to eliminate a device indispensable for the preservation of peaceful human cooperation and the social division of labor. Where the average standard of living is impaired by the excessive increase in population figures. irreconcilable conflicts of interests arise. Each individual is again a rival of all other individuals in the struggle for survival. The annihilation of rivals is the only means of increasing one’s own well-being. The philosophers and theologians who assert that birthcontrol is contrary to the laws of God and Nature refuse to see things as they really are. Nature straitens the material means required for the improvement of human well-being and survival. As natural conditions are, man has only the choice between the pitiless war of each against each or social cooperation. But social cooperation is impossible if people give rein to the natural impulse of proliferation. In restricting procreation man adjusts himself to the natural conditions of his existence. The rationalization of the sexual passions is an indispensable condition of civilization and societal bonds. Its abandonment would in the long run not increase but decrease the numbers of those surviving, and would render life for everyone as poor and miserable as it was many thousands of years ago for our ancestors.
-Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, pg. 673.
So much for humans breeding like wild animals, we humans have moved past that. Or have we?
It all started in Seattle in 2008, when photographer and fashionphile Adam Sinding began taking photos of the fashionable denizens of his adopted hometown and posted them on his now-famed photoblog. Years later, in 2011, Sinding moved to New York City, enabling him to capture and curate an elite fashion scene that was on an entirely different level than that of the very provincial Seattle.
Adam’s work has been featured by Elle Magazine, mega-influential blog Refinery 29, Mary Claire, ELLE Japan, and New York Magazine. Just last week, The W New York Times Square hotel and Elle Magazine hosted an event to kick-off fashion week called Scene On The Street, a photo exhibit curated by Elle Fashion Editor Sydney Wasserman which featured street fashion photos from Le 21ème Arrondissement.
Here is a taste of what you’ll find on Le 21ème, as well as some photos from the event:
The Scene On The Street photo exhibit is viewable at the W New York Times Square’s Living Room until February 29th.
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