Thursday Grok: Kindle v iPad, Google v Facebook, and an Aussie Bill

There can be only one

Markets don’t always work — just ask a pharmaceutical company. There, the economics of the industry are underpinned by government sponsored structural monopolies (we call them patents because it sounds more first world than IP cartels). But in reality without the gift of legislated dominance for 20 years we would not benefit from all those life changing, almost magical blockbuster drugs*.

Of course the IT Industry has never needed government intervention to create similar dominant circumstances. IBM versus the BUNCH (that’s showing your age) gave us the era of Big Blue and actually required government intervention to curb market power. Microsoft versus everyone gave us ten years of homogenous desktop computing. Go on, admit it: don’t you miss those days when you didn’t have to think for yourself — when Maximum Bill took care of all the details, and of course, the cheque.

And now we are seeing it all again with Apple and the tablet desperadoes. The tech sector, or at least those of us who can’t shut up about it, are desperate for a genuine competitor to the iPad, but history tells us the industry loves a winner.

This morning it's all tablets and in particular Amazon’s Fire which according to the obviously drug fueled hallucinations of many reporters this morning, is the poor man's answer to that shiny, shiny new iPad.

No, it's not.

The two best pieces we could find on what you get for your small outlay were provided by the New York Times and while the best account of what it actually means can be found on US Computerworld.

CW’s run round of the analysts found downers aplenty to mitigate the collective amphetamine psychosis that otherwise greeted the announcement.

Under the headline, “Amazon’s Fire no iPad killer” Computerworld quoted Brian White of Ticonderoga Securities, "While Amazon's price point, installed base, digital content and cloud ecosystem will attract a certain consumer demographic to the Kindle Fire, there is still no real competitor to the iPad 2."

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi also gets a run in the Computerworld article, "I think it's more disruptive of the Android tablet market because of its price point. Android competitors like Samsung will be impacted by the Fire's price, much more so than something that has the Apple logo on it. So there's no reason why Apple should worry today."

Mashable suggests the best thing about Fire is Amazon Silk, “the company’s home-grown browser that uses the power of Amazon’s own cloud servers to offload Web page building duties. It can even, Amazon promised, prefetch the next page it thinks you’ll view.”

They caution however that they haven’t really had the chance yet to put it through its paces.

Beware of big numbers. Google’s decision to finally open up Google + to all comers generated a fair few extra pages impressions for the industry’s last big thing, and in the process got the headline writers reaching for the percentage keys.

Google+ traffic surges 1269 per cent wrote News.com.au whereas the SMH wrote Google+ sees traffic soar 1269 per cent (Thank Allah for media diversity). Of course whether this represents anything other than predictable gawking is yet to be seen. Both stories are relatively restrained about the implications for the time being although the News article has a bet each way. It leads with a suggestion that Facebook better start sweating, but closes with the opposite imputation.

Finally, the PM was talking tech yesterday at the launch of the Australian Broadband Application Laboratory, suggesting the next Aussie Bill Gates is out there just waiting to leap up from beneath the cables and corrupt market forces with monopolistic intent.

“We celebrate stories like Bill Gates, the university drop-out who'd started mucking around with computers as a 13-year-old kid.”

Perhaps not the best analogy as Gates didn’t actually rely on $36 billion of government infrastructure to get started. Dad’s affluence, all those Harvard connections and Bill’s own enormous brain probably had something to do with it, though. Check out his SAT score on Wikipedia.

*Actually last time Grok looked, eight out of 10 of those top selling magical blockbusters in the US were anti depressants, so let's not get too carried away. Turns out structural monopolies are principally beneficial for overweight, anxious, middle class Americans...hold on, the analogy still stacks up after all.

Anxious, overweight, middle class Australians, especially the next Aussie Bill can join Grok for some self help therapy on twitter @ag_birmingham while they wait for their brand new iPhone 5’s which will MURDER anything coming out of the Android world right now or in the forseeable future.

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