Category Archives: The NY Times Valiantly Attempts To Report on Technology

Putting the We Back in Wii

Link: Putting the We Back in Wii

"As of the end of April, Nintendo has sold 2.5 million Wii consoles in the United States, almost double PlayStation 3’s sales of 1.3 million and closing in on Xbox 360’s 5.4 million sales, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm.

What changed? The secretive company is coming out of its shell. It has made a concerted effort to woo other makers of game software as part of a broader change in strategy to dominate the newest generation of video game consoles."

I rolled my eyes when I saw the headline of this NY Times story on the Wii because it opened with the same tired stats on the Wii’s success we’ve been reading for the past seven months . It also asserts that reaching out to partners is a "new strategy" which of course can’t be true. But if you stick with the piece for a few paragraphs, something new pops out at you: part of the Wii’s success is because of Nintendo’s focus on getting third party developers on board.

I don’t think this is the only reason for the Wii’s success, for sure. Clearly the low price point of the Wii compared to competing consoles is a biggie, as well as its innovative controllers and simple interface. In its effort to uncover new ground, the Times story doesn’t mention these important aspects. But it’s clear that the story of the Wii is a story of disruptive innovation — using out-of-the-box thinking and cooperation with partners to defeat well-heeled incumbents.

Bad Hair Days Lead Pair to Web Incubator and Venture Capital

Link: Bad Hair Days Lead Pair to Web Incubator and Venture Capital

"[NaturallyCurly.com] is a throwback to the late 1990s, in that it follows the “three C’s” of Web site development — community, commerce and content."

It’s true: you’ll recall that on December 31 1999, internet users suddenly decided en masse that community, commerce and content were no longer interesting. Today, most internet users instead flock to sites offering a lack of community, an inability to purchase anything and no content whatsoever.

Sold on eBay, Shipped by Amazon.com

Link: Sold on eBay, Shipped by Amazon.com

"Fulfillment by Amazon, in development for the last three years, is one of the oldest efforts in the company’s stable of Web services. Unlike S3 and other recent initiatives, Fulfillment by Amazon involves the movement of physical goods instead of digital information."

I am sure that the Times’ writer is wrong here about the age of the service and they sure as heck aren’t shipping molecules via the web, although that would be a neat trick.

The NY Times on this Hot New PC Gaming Trend

It is one of those NY Times pieces on technology that, as soon as you read the headline, makes you think "oh, God, they’re taking another stab at it," much in the way a dying bumblebee attempts to extricate itself from a maliciously overturned pint glass on a hot summer day. Each time you read one of these stories, you think to yourself, "if this reporter demonstrates any domain knowledge on his subject, he’s going to screw up the story anyway, because he’s going to write as if his audience were comprised solely of retired couples living in Port St. Lucie."

This time the Times is tackling this hot new trend in gaming: you can actually run a game on your PC without even owning a gaming console. Imagine: that same PC that lets you balance your books, send email, and view pornography can actually be used to play hot new games such as Civilization IV. (Which, we should note, was released a year and a half ago and can’t actually be played on any console.)

It looks like the reporter wandered into a game store to get some quotes from real gamers. This is the utterly genius quote the reporter came up with: a stunningly brilliant slice of life from a reformed console gamer who, as a young professional, has now outgrown that greasy kid stuff called Nintendo:

“When I was a kid, I used to like Nintendo and used to play on
consoles,” said Mr. Kirschner, a 28-year-old lawyer. “But right now I
don’t have the time or money to invest in a $400 console and $50 in a
game.”

This is screamingly hilarious on a number of levels. First, is a lawyer (even a first-year associate, as this sharp-witted consumer probably is) really going to respond to a $10 difference in price between one game and another? Second, did no one inform him that the list price of the current Nintendo console offering is $250, not $400? Next, did no one inform him that a bargain-basement PC costs at least 200% more than the average game console? (Maybe from an economic perspective he evaluates the cost of his PC as being zero since he’s using his work PC to play games on nights and weekends — which makes sense, but it doesn’t support the premise of the story.)

But just set all that aside for a minute. This guy, he’s a lawyer, so we understand he’s a busy guy. But he says that one of the reasons why he’s pursuing a PC instead of a console game is because of time. He doesn’t have the time to invest in a console game. But what game is he purchasing? That’s right, Civilization IV, one of the biggest time sucks in the known universe, a game that may be responsible for the downfall of industrial civilization as we know it. So this dude really can’t be bothered to purchase and set up a Wii because he’s got to get home quick, knock out a few angry letters for clients, and settle in with some Velveeta cheese fondue, cocktail wieners, a six-pack of lukewarm Tab to fortify him during his six-hour stint of Civ IV tonight. The Times has spelled it all out for me, and I understand everything now.

I could go on and on, and I suppose I already have, but you get the idea.

David Pogue Needs To Settle Down

I loves me my New York Times but two things that they consistently screw up are news of the West and technology reporting. They blow it on timeliness, they blow it on accuracy, and (particularly for news about the West) they often use a condescending style which is maddening.

David Pogue is not the best technology reporter/reviewer in the world. His review of the IPod nano in today’s edition is embarassingly cloying and extremely poorly edited. In it, he says:

Some music players contain a tiny hard drive, offering huge
capacity. Others store music on memory chips, which permit a much more
compact design. (This type is known as a flash-memory player, or flash
for short.)

What’s so clever about the iPod Nano ($249) is that it merges these two approaches.

Well, no it doesn’t, it’s just a flash player. What Mr. Pogue may have meant to say was that the nano offers the best of both worlds, but this quote implies that the device is somehow both a flash player and a hard drive device, which makes absolutely no sense. I realize he’s trying to hit a non-technical audience, but there are accurate ways to describe the product that don’t bombard the reader with technical details.

He also credits Apple with the “gutsy” move of discontinuing the IPod mini. This is gutsy like falling off a bicycle is gutsy; the mini was their mid-range player and now it’s being replaced with another mid-range player. Yes, it’s gutsy of them to disrupt their own market by coming out with a new product that displaces one of their old products, but that’s how you stay on top (it’s the same thing that Sony did when they released the audiocassette Walkman in the 1980s; everybody said it would cannibalize sales of their high-end audio equipment, but it actually led to two decades of dominance in consumer audio). But the gutsy part didn’t involve taking the old product off the market. So, memo to Mr. Pogue: if you’re going to pontificate like this, read the Innovator’s Dilemma and check back when you’ve found a new copy editor.

Update: Fake Steve Jobs has some compelling thoughts in re Mr. Pogue.