The Unsinkable brian cork™

Brian Patrick Cork is living the Authentic Life

are computers portals to chaos or confusion?

August27

I’m thinking it was either early  2001 or 2002 when David Gardner, the co-founder of The Motley Fool, and I were hanging out here in Atlanta in a local hotel bar pondering optimistic investment options, when it dawned on me how technology is, and will remain, a two-edged sword.

Between the two of us we had six gadgets scattered across a small table that included bulky cellular telephones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDA’s), and one pager (his, not mine), and a camera (again, his not mine). Since, statistically, the odds are good you are reading this blog, and you are at least thirty four years of age, you are probably thinking back with the vision of a similar array of your own.

I was telling David how one of my investors (think Palm Pilot and then PalmOne) that I was coaching and a company I was recruiting for called Handspring had collaborated around the Handspring Vizor devices (that, as you might know, then evolved into the Treo line of products) working with a cellular company to form (what is now) a “smart phone”. The Handspring was a PDA that you could now also use as a phone using a Sprint snap-on module (and, yes, I was an early adopter)! So, you had the least amount of “stuff” you needed to do a lot of business on the fly. By the way… The Handspring  and Palm collaboration realized one of the first efforts to utilize USB connectivity for synchronization, and worked brilliantly with the Macintosh operating system out-of-the-box.

I was pondering my gadgets when I looked at him and asked:

“Do you think all this technology simplifies your life and business, or creates more stress and confusion?”

That was another of my “Forrest Gump” moments as we subsequently witnessed that Motley Fool take a lead in driving a great deal of attention around convergence and mobile technology platforms.

With the advent of Apple’s iPad (and, obviously the iPhone) maybe the answer to my question today is: “as complicated as you prefer”.

I think Nicholas Johnson would appreciate that because he likes to fidget and tweak stuff, in the spirit of all things Windows and Google. He is also apparently offended by things “that just work (a la Apple).

And, this will bring me around to what is currently a continued bastion of confusion – the PC (to be sure all computers are, essentially “PC’s” – some are just more PC, or useful, or work, for that matter, than others) – all of them aspiring to be compared to an Apples.

I have an iPhone and I’ve owned hundreds of computers (mostly Apples).

Here is another question in this time of economic uncertainty, continued efforts around convergence, mobility and the unending quest for what the real “truth” is, any where:

“are computers portals to chaos or confusion?”

Today, if you are under forty years of age, and asked a question, you will almost always go to Google.com for the answer. And, this might be where we realize the true cost of chaos. There is an old rule that allows: “if it’s in writing, it must be true”. Print is a powerful tool or weapon – and, misinformation can be the result.

Picture the twenty five year old “techie”, all-sophomoric, to be sure, at a cocktail party when they get challenged with a great question. The first thing they’ll do is whip out their Treo (well… maybe not) or Android device, fire up Firefox and google the question. Whether the information they find is accurate or not, it will often be touted as gospel and spread like wild-fire.

Think about it… If you Google a topic, most of what you read as a result is from blogs (sic), websites designed to influence thinking, white papers based on uncertain facts, “chat” responses posted on written articles of uncertain origin, etc. Other sources of information those which you find on MSN that can include media-hyped head-lines about the stock market and other economic reporting that is rarely based in fact. And, this is what forms our thinking and opinions daily. Wikipedia might have some credibility due to its community-based self-regulation that suggests some integrity from the intellectual community. But, how do you know if you don’t balance the information against information possibly found in a library or research facility.

I studied Social History (not a widely promulgated course-of-study, and some what “unofficial”) – or why things happened at Radford University and through other programs most of you won’t have access too. And, that has helped form my super powers perspective and position as a heterodox and contrarian. For example, if I read about a certain stock on a blog or through an oped, I know how to verify the information – and, first via skepticism. I focus on what most people don’t realize what they don’t know.

I also ask a lot of questions and always cross-reference. And, that is where I’ll end this piece and hope you pass this on as both a historical perspective of reference, and a warning around how to absorb knowledge, form your own super powers for good use, and be part of the solution, and not the problem.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

blackberry IS all business

July17

It is certainly rumored, and, it is likely so, that I probably get more insider stock tips than the Chairman of NASDAQ.

Regular readers of this Blog know that I likely have the coolest job in the world. Part of this involves coaching decision-makers that you read about – and, have probably read their books. So, there isn’t much I haven’t seen from a business and related technology perspective.

Today I am blogging about a business thing…

That would be Smart Phones (and the people, smart and otherwise, that want them).

Reader, we will pause here to gather ourselves – but, only for a brief moment. I feel compelled to warn you early on… I approach everything as if it were a kind of quest. Therefore, you might consider walking away right at this very moment. This is a long and grueling post. Continue only if you dare. This is not for the faint of heart (or the impatient).

Let’s go.

I like technology (especially shiny and new technology), and, very fast cars. So, you see me hot-swap things like Smart Phones often. More about the topic of fast cares later and elsewhere.

To be specific, Apple’s iPhone, Research in Motion’s Blackberry (various models), and the new Palm Pre.

Readers of this Blog know I am an Apple evangelist. Naturally, I was an early (and very satisfied) and smug adopter of the iPhone.

But, a few months ago I switched to a Blackberry Curve 8900 because AT&T’s (the exclusive service provider partnering with Apple around the iPhone) reception has become abysmal (a lot of dropped calls, for example), and frankly the iPhone’s radio is very poor (you can read more about this with some depth here).

As it turns out, I liked the Blackberry Curve a lot. So, with some ingenuity on the part of our engineers, we put together a MacBerry. Mostly because that, some how, made sense to me.

Then local technologist Steve Aninye convinced me to give the new Palm Pre a try (It should be noted that he had one in-hand a day before they were released to most of the public). Steve tries everything (I should probably add from a technological standpoint here, just for clarification) with great enthusiasm. He has used several versions of the Blackberry and both generations of the iPhone (I am, in fact a witness to all of this). He told me he could not put it down – it was: “almost perfect”. I have always enjoyed the Palm interface, and was intrigued over this offering from the company that actually pioneered Smart Phones with the Treo line as they evolved from the Handspring PDA’s (okay, along with Kyocera – whom I believe actually coined the term “Smart Phone”). And, Aninye convinced me that Sprint had better reception than AT&T.

One more thing… Enough people have started using iPhones where I had stopped thinking they were cool (unique anyway). So, I waited about a week for the Pre furor to abate, visited a local Sprint store, and ported over my cellular telephone number (it was a snap; took about five minutes, and I was up-and-running).

Out the gate (or, box) /1:

The Palm Pre is not an iPhone killer. The iPhone is much too elegant (no further or detailed review here, or even required). But, I already predicted and discussed this in earlier posts: candid colored Apple, and that loyalty thingy. So, I have diligently used a Palm Pre for over five weeks (both in Georgia, the Carolina’s and Florida). The reception is good. No dropped calls; not one. And, I can use it with confidence throughout my building. This satisfies me that the Pre’s radio combined with Sprint’s network is also fine (so, Aninye was certainly right about that). The form factor is solid. But, I don’t like how smudgy it gets from finger prints (and, I am very clean and neat). And, the slide-out keyboard is more awkward than utilitarian. It’s just, and simply stated, not as intuitive as an iPhone.

…………….

And, now we have late breaking news…

“Apple Inc. has shut down one of the most compelling features on Palm Inc.’s rival Pre smart phone, crippling the Pre’s ability to act like an iPod.”

Fortunately for all of you as a collective, you can read more about that and some additional insight (and solutions) by reading: It takes more than a palm to hold (an) Apple.

It should be noted, because I will address this in future posts (and, look for a prediction around Apple that will shake the Smart Phone industry to it’s core) that the iTunes software smackdown is the latest example of tensions brewing between Apple and Palm, which since June has been led by the former executive behind the iPod, Jon Rubinstein. Rubinstein became Palm’s executive chairman in October 2007.

……………

Then, just before he headed off to China again, Steve Aninye showed up at my offices with yet another Blackberry Curve – Sprint’s unique 8330. BAM! Just like that. All he could say was: (something to the effect) “It’s the keys. I don’t like the keyboard and keys on the Pre – just like the iPhone. I prefer the Blackberry”.  But, what I am waiting for is the new Blackberry Tour!”

Mind you, I was not particularly surprised. I had already come to the conclusion that I was looking forward to the day when Apple upgraded the iPhone’s radio, and opens up partnerships with other service providers (I will long be skeptical about AT&T).

You have likely already surmised what happened next. As soon as he was back from China, Steve had a Blackberry Tour in his hand (pretty much before just about anyone else, I might add – the dude is, like, my new phone guy hero).

As far as I can determine, the Blackberry Tour is pretty identical to the Blackberry 8900. But, I doubt I can convince Steve of that. All that really matters is that he appears to be quite pleased with himself (and the Blackberry Tour).

Okay…

I am approaching my point. And, it’s not what you are expecting.

Just over a week ago, my Pre went dark. Just inexplicably faded to black. It had a full charge (I had checked it only an hour before). Nonetheless, it was now, essentially, a (smudgy) paper weight.

No sweat. I was well inside my thirty days allotted by Sprint to return a handset. So, as soon as the local Sprint store was open I made my way over there (after a good six mile run, shower and a Vente Ice Chai) thinking I might just go with another Blackberry Curve (possibly a Treo).

And, this is where it gets interesting (at least for me, and I completely understand if this thinking is shared by nobody else) There were four other Pre-returners at the Sprint store as well (a decidedly disconcerted appearing lot I must add). All four were going to exchange their Pre’s for a Blackberry Curve (few knew about the Tour – possibly including the sales people). The only problem was the Sprint store had none in inventory. That was rather telling I thought (just to be clear… People returning Palm Pre’s, but not enough Blackberry Curves might mean this had been happening a lot).

The sales dude plugged my Pre into the Sprint store’s Pre charger and it fired right up. That really annoyed me. My Porsches do things like that as well.

In my typical fashion, I immediately hitched-up my drawers and started asking everyone questions. I wanted to know how many of these “Preples” (I made that up) had used a Blackberry or iPhone as well. Turns out three of the four had used an iPhone but kept going back to the Blackberry (but, for some reason had wanted to try a Pre).

Meanwhile, the sales dude asked me if I wanted to exchange my Pre as well. I decided to wait until the following Monday to see how it was operating. But, I had the damn Blackberry Curve back on my mind again.

I asked everyone: “why an iPhone or Pre?”

General response: “Because they are cool.”

No one said Blackberry’s were cool. The Pre was speaking for itself.

And, that is when it hit me.  And, I finally arrive at my point (in my own painfully and inarticulate way).

I think I first began to sense and then understand this epiphany when I watched Steve Aninye fiddle with his Blackberry Curve and then the Tour. I also thought back to every time he tried a new Blackberry in between three or four iPhone purchases and returns. Greg Buchholz (whom I had recently recruited to work with Steve in one of our Accelerator companies) had also recently stated that the Blackberry is “a real business tool”.

I think people want to use iPhones.

Apple sold over a million new units when they released version 3.0 of their operating system and the latest generation iPhone S (interestingly, just like the Porsche “S” series). The “S” stands for speed. Everyone knows that Apple computers (just try a Macbook Pro) are vastly superior in quality and reliability than any Winblowz machine. But, they are concerned other people in business might not take them seriously.

iPhones, like Apple products in general, are still perceived as being outside the grid. Blackberry’s are firmly part of the corporate norm. They are safe (rather like a blue blazer). You can wear jeans to work (with a blue blazer as well).

But, as long as you are sportin’ a Blackberry you must be a real businessman.

I am perfectly aware that I could make this point with fewer words. But, I like to write. And, everything has a story attached to it. There is also that element of the aforementioned quest. And, if you don’t like this approach you can fight me (I meet all-comers behind the Haynes Bridge Starbucks every Wednesday at 2:30. Please call 877-207-1109 to make an appointment. There is quite a list).

Having thought through this I am now at a crossroads of my own design. How can I go pick up a Blackberry Curve (or a Tour) when this means I may be viewed as a conformist? I ultimately stopped using an iPhone because they were hitting the main stream, and because AT&T’s reception is poor. I tried the Palm Pre (but, now I realize I only did it trying not to use a Blackberry. But, my best option is now, ironically, a Blackberry Tour.

Because it all comes down to AT&T for me. But, for now, that must be besides an evolving point.

Am I concerned about sounding like a hypocrite (very not Jeffersonian) by going Blackberry and mainstream?

Nope. Enough people read this blog to know better.

I can probably expect an email from Aaron Masih wanting to know how, or why, I am different. And, is God involved.

Yes. God is involved.

He invented the first Apple – right?

Quit rolling your eyes.

And… does this mean I am back to the MacBerry (but this round with Sprint)?

Nope.

So… I went on eBay and picked up a new (albeit discontinued) Palm Treo 800w. Steve Aninye will tell you that this particular Smart Phone does not represent Palm’s finest hour. The battery life is apparently even more abysmal that AT&T’s degrading reception. So, look for a story around that. Maybe I will call such a story: This stupid phone! a dissertation on juxtaposition. Or, irony is my Stupid smart phone.

That is probably what Thomas Jefferson (the Treo 800w) would have done (mostly because John Adams would be using a Blackberry). So, there is an example of me being a Heterodox. Learn more about that by reading: A Heterodox and possibly: Do the Math, for good measure.

Stay tuned for much more technology related shenanigans.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

1/ The first time I ever heard the phrase “think outside the box”, my first thought was: what box?

What’s All This About?

"What am I looking at?", you might wonder.

Lots of stuff.

Meanwhile, here, I discuss events, people and things in our world - and, my (hardly simplistic, albeit inarticulate) views around them.

You'll also learn things about, well, things, like people you need to know about, and information about companies you can't find anywhere else.

So, while I harangue the public in my not so gentle way, you will discover that I am fascinated by all things arcane, curious about those whom appear religious, love music, dabble in politics, loathe the media, value education, still think I am an athlete, and might offer a recipe.

All the while, striving mightily, and daily, to remain a prudent and optimistic gentleman - and, authentic.

brian cork by John Campbell





photos by John Campbell

 

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