Open Thinkering


Tag: Amazon

Want a tablet? Choose your vendor lock-in.

Ever wondered why Mozilla’s Firefox web browser exists? It’s because about 10 years ago Microsoft had sewn-up about 90% of the market and was creating vendor lock-in through anti-competitive practices. You can read about this in the History of the Mozilla Project. Happily, Mozilla were successful and now there’s at least two high-quality alternatives to Microsoft Internet Explorer – which itself has become more aligned with web standards. It’s a win for everyone who uses the web.

The next battleground is mobile. Although Google’s Android mobile Operating System (OS) is billed as ‘open’, for example, it’s not really developed in the usual Open Source way: the source code tends to be released long after each iteration of the OS. Apple, meanwhile, maintains a notoriously closed ecosystem with a stringent procedure for inclusion in their App Store. They also control how you can get things on and off iOS devices in order to make money from the iTunes store.

Amazon, meanwhile, is a fairly new to the mobile device game. They’ve taken Android and significantly modified it – including defaulting to their own app store. They’ve slashed the price of the Kindle Fire 2 (with, cleverly, ‘special offers and sponsored screensavers’) for Black Friday* making it a loss-leader. They’re betting on making the money back through Kindle book purchases, Amazon Prime subscriptions, and Lovefilm streaming.

So even though we may have multiple vendors it’s essentially similar problem to the Internet Explorer issue ten years ago. You may get shiny new ways to consume things that the vendor is selling you, but it’s not a great situation, overall.

You want a tablet? For Christmas 2012 that means you’re going to need to choose your vendor lock-in.

Thankfully, all this is set to change in 2013. Why? Two reasons. First, Mozilla are working on Firefox OS built entirely of standards-based web technologies. Secondly, Ubuntu Linux is being developed for mobile devices like the Nexus 7 and (even more excitingly) you’ll soon be able to run an entire desktop OS from your docked smartphone.

My conclusion? Buy a tablet if you have to, but be aware that real choice is around the corner…

(this was an attempt to write my version of the NSFW (but excellent) post by Terence Eden)

*The cynical nature of this marketing ploy is bad enough when tied to American Thanksgiving. It’s even worse when standing alone in the UK context.

Image CC BY-SA tribehut

#amazonfail: a perspective

I woke up to hashtag-tweetstorm of controversy this morning. Amazon are selling this book:


I’m a parent of a 3 year-old, a member of his school’s PTA, and was, in my previous role, responsible for child e-safety. Just like 99.9% of people on the planet, I find this material extremely objectionable and dangerous. But then I’m not overly-fond of Amazon selling books on how to make pipe bombs and smuggle cocaine (which are also available if you look hard enough).

The hashtag #amazonfail, like other hashtags, became a rallying call for people to expend 140 characters of horror against big business not protecting us from such awful things. Amazon have now taken the book down yet people are still baying for blood and talking about a boycott. Unfortunately many are confusing the source of the book (author) with the conduit (Amazon).

I’m fully expecting to be castigated by those seeing themselves as ‘defenders of children’ but I’ll say it anyway:

A bookstore offered a book for sale that’s abhorrent to the majority of the population. Like the BNP appearing on a BBC pre-election debate, it seems that people are all for free speech – so long as they agree with those doing the speaking.

To be honest, as a parent and educator there are many other things I find more immediately disturbing to my everyday life. Take, for example, taxpayers’ money being used to  set up an Educational Endowment Fund instead of free school meals for the poorest children in our society. Or, how about £500,000 being spent by Michael Gove on a former adviser to set up a Free School advisory body? I’ll not even mention the fact we haven’t had a proper debate about the purpose of education in this country during my lifetime.

Some things are easy to cry out against. It’s the things that are more difficult to protest about effectively that we need to collectively focus upon.

Glowing first review of #uppingyourgame!

First (5-star!) review of #uppingyourgame: a practical guide to personal productivity on the Kindle store:

I have a very busy life and am always on the lookout for ways of improving productivity; both to enable me to be more productive at work and the by product of being able to spend more time with my family. My rss reader has the usual array of lifehacker-type feeds and I enjoy implementing new technologies into my day to day life. This book explains the meaning of productivity and motivation before leading you through a variety of tools that you can readily implement. Doug describes in his “getting on & doing” chapter not just productivity enhancers, but also productivity killers and what to do in times of adversity. I found a number of tools that I already use in my day to day life and work in the Productivity 2.0 chapter, but there were some new ones that have already made into my life. “Helping make others more productive” was particularly thought provoking for me; this is always inherently challenging. This is a well-written and accessible guide that will have a practical positive impact on your life. (Steve Margetts)

Last week I launched my first paid-for eBook. I’ve been working on #uppingyourgame: a practical guide to personal productivity since the beginning of the year, with almost 50 people buying into the book before it was even published thanks to the OpenBeta process!

Now that’s it’s finished I’ve made it available at the following very reasonable prices in these formats:

£6.99 Kindle format (no images) Buy now with 1-Click

£7.99 PDF (full-colour with images) Add to Cart

£9.99 paperback (full-colour cover) Buy paperback at Lulu

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