The Fools on the Street

Remember the early days when Amazon wasn’t profitable, but was going to be any quarter now? This week, Amazon announced that its quarterly profits would be down by a third because they were investing in infrastructure to continue to grow into a larger company — and Wall Street was disappointed at the way the profits “tumbled.” They were still profitable by a large margin. They just weren’t AS PROFITABLE, because they spent money to make more money down the road. They’re bringing in close to $10 billion per quarter — $10,000,000,000 — with profits in the hundreds of millions. (Nope, not a great profit margin, but here’s the classic case of making up slim margins in volume.)

And, of course, Wall Street hates it because Amazon didn’t “meet expectations.” In other words, the numbers that analysts plucked out of thin air and guess at weren’t right. And that’s Amazon’s fault.

Compare this to Apple, where every quarter Apple sets low expectations and then blows them away and gets a big stock boost. Everyone knows Apple is underguessing its numbers to help “meet expectations.” And everyone also knows that the armchair amateur revenue guessers on-line are always better at figuring out sales figures and dollar amounts than the “pro” analysts who are aid to guess these numbers. And they never get them right, or close to it.

I hate Wall Street. On the other hand, their game is so consistent(ly wrong) that it’s a good game to play, so long as you realize it’s a game and not anything based in reality at all.

Wii HD at E3?

The day after I post my “Farewell to Wii,” this short story pops up:

…a successor to the Nintendo Wii capable of displaying games in high resolution. Will Nintendo finally make it happen? Multiple totally anonymous sources say yes: they told Game InformerIGN andKotaku that just such a system will debut at E3 2011…

Things just got interesting.  I’m not sure how “backwards compatibility” would work.  You can’t just reconfigure the games for widescreen. I suppose they could make 4:3 higher def, but it would still feel like a waste of screen real estate.  It’s almost better to start from scratch at that point. Maybe we’ll know better this summer…

The Wii Revolution Fades?

It was almost six years ago now that I first mentioned the Nintendo “Revolution” game console. It promised such amazing things as wireless connections straight out of the box and a wireless controller.

The die-hard gamers started complaining right away, but even IGN knew why a gaming console that promised easy playability was so important.

And there was the first look at the controller.

The hype built quickly, the “Wii” name change was a point of major initial controversy (I admit that I hated the change from “Revolution,” too), and the rumor mill suggested — in 2006, no less — that perhaps the Wii would be a 3D projector. Or a built-in camera to put your face on a Mii.

When it finally came time to buy one, Amazon’s sale was not unlike a lottery. I didn’t win that, either. I missed it the first day. But then I took advantage of the Blue Laws, went into work late one Monday, and grabbed one for myself. And had some initial happy impressions. (I never got used to Super Monkey Ball and sold it off later. It wasn’t my kind of game. “Rayman Raving Rabbids” was a big hit for me, though.)

That all was four and a half years ago. Things have changed since then. Wireless internet is everywhere, and everything in the house will be wireless soon, including your toaster. High Def TV is the new standard. And the Wii controls have finally been copied by Microsoft with the Kinect and Sony with something so embarrassing that I can’t even remember its name right now.

Lately, the 360 has pulled ahead, leaving the Wii as a strong second best seller from month to month. And, seriously, the difference between #1 and #2 isn’t that great here. Furthermore, the Wii will go down as the top selling video game console of all time. That’s pointed out by Chris Kohler in this article that explains why the Wii’s days may finally be numbered. With a rumored price drop coming next month, it looks like Nintendo is ready to set the old girl out to sea and move on to the next console for next year sometime. Such is life.

More from Kohler:

But if Nintendo’s plan to woo third-party gamemakers does revolve around a new machine, that leaves only Nintendo to keep Wii interesting. And even Nintendo seems to be washing its hands of Wii these days. The company is largely focusing on games for its recently launched Nintendo 3DS. To be fair, this is the more important task at hand, but the effort seems to be coming at the expense of Wii.

Yes, Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword will be released for Wii at the end of the year. I do believe that the excellent Japanese role-playing games Xenoblade and The Last Story will make it to America. And Square Enix says we’ll hear about Dragon Quest X for Wii later this year, which will be a very big deal … in Japan. Not in the United States.

The Wii was a great console for its time, and it did great things. It expanded the video game industry in a way much of the industry still doesn’t want to acknowledge, even as it’s spent the last five years trying to copy its every move, from wireless motion controllers to the stripped down family-friendly game console package. And it’s still very playable, with many years’ worth of addictive and group-friendly games. I’m not tired of my Wii; I just wish I had more time to do gaming. I still pick it up for the occasional game of Rock Band or Guitar Hero, and I wish I had the time to get back into both Wii Sports games.

But, yeah, at the same rate I really do with it was in HD, as I’ve become a complete snob about that. Other than that, no complaints here. I’m not giving mine up anytime soon, but maybe it’s time to acknowledge the passing of the torch to — of all people — Microsoft.

You Tubing with Christina Perri, Part 1

I admit it — I’m hooked on Christina Perri music. And she doesn’t even have an album yet.

I first wrote about her at the beginning of the year, after I refound her one hit song from last summer.  And I knew from following her that she used to post YouTube videos of herself singing her songs.  But it took me a few months before I delved into those.  Don’t know why that is, but here we are now.

Time to check out some of those videos.

We’ll start with the covers.  Pardon the bad still that this video generates, but here’s “Crying” from Roy Orbison:

“Hand In My Pocket” works very well, also. Here she sings it in her pajamas, although I don’t know many people who sleep in decorative scarfs…

Lady Gaga’s “Speechless”:

The Beatles, Queen, Anya, Coldplay, and more are all after the break:

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Augie’s First Computer

Less than a year out of college, I finally purchased my own computer with my own money.  Previous to that, I had been using an IBM Aptiva I bought at CompUSA a couple years earlier that I had paid for most of, but that my parents helped to fund.  (Let me tell you, that 133MHz processor was a screamer!)

On February 10, 1999, I bought a Gateway.  And just today, I ran across the receipt for it.  Check out these specs and prices:

My First Gateway Computer

My First Gateway Computer

The most painful part is probably the $550.00 I spent on a 19 inch monitor.  It wasn’t an LCD display, either.  (Here are the full specs.)  My next computer about two or three years later would have that.

The computer, itself, was $1666.00.  When I think about what that kind of money will buy in an iMac today, it’s crazy.  People complain about the expense of Macs, but look at what I got for $2600 12 years ago.  It wasn’t top of the line at the time.  For $2600 today, I could get the top of the line iMac with a 27″ screen.

Yes, I include the price of the printer in there, because the iMac I’m typing this up on right now came with a free printer/scanner/copier/fax machine combo unit — after $99 rebate!

Still, there was nothing cooler than the assemblage of brown boxes with black cow spots arriving at the office, was there?

AI10 – Round of 9 Results in a Nation in Mourning


So, judges, don’t you feel so smart for saving Casey now?

When Ryan Seacrest announced the results, who do you think they had to drop the audio because of?  Randy Jackson?  Someone swore, and deservedly so.

Better question: Were tonight’s results more reminiscent of Daughtry or Jennifer Hudson? In the NYC area, “Daughtry” is a trending topic.

Daughtry trends on Twitter because of Pia

Daughtry trends on Twitter because of Pia

Chris Daughtry responds:

Chris Daughtry reacts

Twitter's Instant Reactions

Daughtry made it to the Round of 4 that year, though. Hudson went out with only 7 contestants to go. As I explained in 2004, she lost because of vote splitting (three divas, including the amazing Latoya London). Daughtry lost because his fans assumed they were safe. So, yeah, Pia is Daughtry II.

Here’s the problem with Simon being gone, too: There’s no negative criticism anymore.  It used to be that Simon would lambaste someone and that would strike up the fanbase to vote vote vote. This week, the judges said nary a negative review to anyone, so no fanbase was energized.  That said, who did the judges go after the “hardest” this week? Pia. Yeah, we get it, she has no groove.  She probably should have stood still behind the mic stand for another week and avoided those criticisms all together, or made the judges look silly for repeating them again.

Good job, judges.

But they saved Casey.

Good job, judges.

Pia’s problem is a typical one for Idol contestants: She’s too good, too early, and too consistent. Voters love an arc in a reality show as much as they do in a movie.  They want to see someone come on strong and peak down the home stretch.  They don’t want someone who’s better than everyone else from Day One and then continue to be The Best each and every week. That’s boring.

She also had never been in the bottom 3 before, so her fanbase didn’t mobilize.  You can bet Paul was safe this week because he was almost cut last week.

Jacob was in the bottom three because he did a fair karaoke job, and because he went first.  Everyone forgot him by the time the show ended because he went on so early and didn’t do anything terribly memorable.

And Stefano was in the bottom three because he has no fanbase.  He’ll be in the bottom three every week until he’s gone.  All other rules being equal, he just doesn’t get the support.

But Pia almost never stood a chance.  You can’t be that amazing every week without people coming to expect it.  The slightest stumble would have doomed her.  The biggest song of the week would have been expected.  It’s just the way Idol is set up.

Also, the voting fanbase for “Idol” is tween girls.  They’re not voting for anyone but the boys they think are dreamy.  Six boys and two girls are left.  The girls are dropping like flies, and I hope Haley is next.  She’s painful to watch.

Pia has one other problem.  She doesn’t have a personality that makes you want to like her.  She comes off a bit as a beauty queen, always with the perfectly nice and perfectly political response to any question anyone ever asks.  She smiles politely and welcomes all feedback. She keeps perfect posture and never cracks.  She’s a bit aloof and, at times, almost a bit arrogant.  When her name was called for making the Top 12, the look on her face said, “Yeah, I know” instead of “Yes! I’m happy and shocked!” like all good Idol contestants should.

Here’s the upside for Pia: Going out so early in such a firestorm of controversy?  People will always remember her. Plenty of good singers have gone out before the Final Six.  You’ve forgotten most of their names already.  You won’t forget Pia.

The only dumber thing than Pia getting voted out this week was Jacob saying that if he went home, it wasn’t because of anything he did, but rather because America couldn’t look at itself in the mirror.  I’m still trying to figure out what that means.  At best, it’s arrogance.  At worst, it’s a nasty little racially charged thing.  I wanted him voted out this week just for that.

By the way, my DVR cut off the last minute of the show. They didn’t institute a second Judges Choice at the last second, did they?  Maybe Nigel should consider that.

Parting thought: I think Simon left “American Idol” so he wouldn’t have to listen to Constantine Maroulis sing “Unchained Melody.”

Extra bonus thought: Just to show you how much better Pia is than the other two girls on the show, look at the opening medley.  She blew the two away in their opening lines.  It wasn’t even close.