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  • Microsoft: Carrier Support Is Key To Windows Phone Success [View article]
    How would anyone make money from developing an app for Bank of America? Would end users pay for it? If you have developed the framework for a good Bank of America app for North America for Apple, can you readily adapt the code for any other bank in the world by changing parameters and interface languages?

    I would have thought the general trend for apps that are alternative Web sites is for companies to develop mobile versions of their Web sites that are browser agnostic or browser indifferent. Surely much more cost effective than maintaining multiple apps.

    Most interesting is the question of apps that aren't just versions of Web sites, but that use some function of the operating system to perform calculations or display images, like the cooking timer app I have on my phone, or the Nokia downloadable maps or the Bing downloadable languages.

    Personally I like to be able to be in a foreign country and still be able to access local maps and gps without using roaming data, or be able to use Spanish language translation without a Web connection. Actually I rarely use this as my Spanish is fairly fluent, but occasionally it can be handy to look up a word in a legal document, or something like that.

    Anyway, I readily concede that Windows phone will always be a minority operating system in North America, but how does this affect the availabilty of apps in emerging markets like like Argentina and Pakistan and Nigeria?

    Are Android and Apple developers there making money in ways that cannot be done with Windows, or is it just a question or adapting apps that are successful in North America to other markets?

    What kind of apps sell the operating systems in these markets?

    In my own not very exhaustive researches in the health care system in the US, I find that yes, higher paid employees like doctors usually do have Apple phones, though some had adopted the larges sized Samsung phones before Apple came out with the larger phones, because they were better for using with the fine print in drug database or symptom lookups and such, and particularly for data entry into fields. The larger phones are also better for reading pdfs and electronic patient medical records, examining X-ray images, EKGs, etc. while on the go. For dictation the size of the phone does not matter much.

    Lower paid ($10 per hour) employees also almost all have smart phones, but use them mostly for baby pictures, games, Facebook, etc. and are not knowledgeable about different operating systems. However lower paid employees are MUCH MORE NUMEROUS!

    And then what about the children? Many parents, for example me, are happy enough to put a $29.95 toy into the hands of a 2-year-old, but would think twice about a $650 device. My 2-year-old daughter has her own Nokia smart phone and is already quite expert at using the interface to access her games and videos, so much so that she now also picks up her mother's phone surreptitiously and places video calls me on Skype. Is she a Windows phone customer of the future, or is she in the same position as a child using a Mattel toy phone--just waiting to graduate to the real thing, an Apple or Samsung phone?

    I am certainly willing to listen to arguments about why Windows phone is destined to be a global failure, but I am not yet ready to short Microsoft on the basis of a complete collapse of the Windows franchise, because I don't know which way things will go in the future. The first Apple smart phone came out in 2007, only 8 years ago. Just think how many automobile manufacturers have come and gone since Henry Ford. I laughed when Honda started making cars powered with a chain like a motorcycle. We all knew Honda made good bikes, but cars? Give me a break! Nobody is laughing at Honda automobiles now.
    Feb 26, 2015. 11:17 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Microsoft: Carrier Support Is Key To Windows Phone Success [View article]
    Exactly. I use Bing quite a lot now as it is the default with Cortana on my Windows phone. Yes, I will still use Google sometimes when I can't find what I am looking for, but Bing can meet most people's needs.
    Feb 23, 2015. 09:20 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Microsoft: Carrier Support Is Key To Windows Phone Success [View article]
    What you say may be perfectly true in one country and one culture, but can you be so sure that it will apply globally?

    I have a Nokia 520 phone which is now available for as little as $29.99 without contract and find it perfectly adequate for my needs. The definition of the screen is good enough to be able to read e-mails, blogs, and news sites, so what exactly does one need?

    OK, it is not the only mobile device I use. I also have a Galaxy tablet, a Windows RT tablet, a laptop, and a desktop computer that I use pretty much daily, but I still find the little Nokia 520 to be a very handy device that doubles as a phone, pocket short wave radio, cooking timer, e-mail client, map, navigator, voice note recorder, stock market ticker, instant messager, camera, video recorder, camera, photo album, encylopedia, alarm clock, pdf reader, Skype device, language translator, calendar, scheduler and a few other things too. You can also use Cortana to reply to text messages when driving without using hands.

    It can also be used for Facebook and Whatsapp, which is what most people seem to use these things for, though I don't.

    How can you be so absolutely sure that people in Argentina, New Zealand, or Nigeria, or Pakistan are also laughing at the failure of Windows phone to provide state of the art apps that they need to successfully navigate their daily lives?

    The only thing I actually don't like about my bottom-of-the-range device is that it doesn't have a front camera for Skype and it is not very convenient to use a mirror, (especially when driving!!).

    I have to use my Android tablet quite a bit for business reasons, and I can tell you that the half million apps in the Playstore are nearly all utter garbage. Sure there are a lot of them, but most of them are about as useful as a high school science project would be for commercial manufacturing.

    Of all the apps I have, I think the best one of all is one called Hyper for Youtube that I have in Windows RT that finds and plays Youtube videos and allows download in a variety of video definitions or, if you wish just as sound in mp3. It is just perfect. No doubt I could find one just as good in the Android Playstore, but would probably have to try out a dozen to find a decent one and that is the trouble with Android--too many apps and too much garbage.
    Feb 23, 2015. 09:16 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Microsoft: Carrier Support Is Key To Windows Phone Success [View article]
    It will certainly be useful when Windows 10 unites the platforms and Microsoft is wise to offer free updates to consumers.

    I very rarely use Microsoft Powerpoint, a Microsoft presentation program that is incredibly common in industry and government, but recently prepared a presentation to be delivered at a large government entity. I was assured that I could bring it on a thumb drive and they would be able to play it on their equipment.

    The presentation was prepared and prerecorded, so all they had to do was hit the slideshow button and select "use timings".

    However this didn't work properly, as it transpired that their networked version of Powerpoint could not play embedded mp4 videos which I had included in the presentation as their version of Powerpoint was an older one.

    This kind of thing is getting old. It is not 1980 anymore. End users do not expect to have to figure out which build of Powerpoint they are using and how many gigacyles the computer runs at. They just want it to work.

    Hopefully, (for Microsoft bulls) they advent of Windows 10 will mean that they have finally cracked the art of making Windows devices able to communicate and share common types of files properly without having to call for the tech guy.
    Feb 19, 2015. 09:02 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Costco's Canadian Success Story [View article]
    You are right, I try to avoid processed foods. But the point is that if you want to save money on food, then you have to buy basic products and prepare them yourself.

    Hypothetical example: If Costco wants to sell $1 cans of chickpeas for 75 cents if you buy a box of 12 cans , that is not a real saving if you can buy the dried chickpeas for 1/4 of the price at Walmart and cook them yourself, so you are paying the extra money for convenience and pre-cooking.

    A lot of what Costco is selling is expensive convenience food in restaurant size packs, but represents no saving over preparing the food from scratch. And Costco is not great deal if you want to buy the basic ingredients and prepare the food yourself.

    Actually Costco caters to affluent consumers and small businesses, so its potential to grow, and for example drive Walmart superstores out of businesses is not as great as might be assumed at first glance. As I have written somewhere her before, Jacksonville FL, an urban area with 1/2 million people has just one Costco, but if they built another 6 stores in the area, they probably would not grow sales at the expected rate, whereas Walmart has numerous stores in the area. The nearest Costco store outside of Jacksonville is 116 miles away in Altamonte Springs, and there must be a reason for this
    Jan 31, 2015. 10:38 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why I'm Still Not Buying Wal-Mart [View article]
    Based on this article I bet half of my entire fortune on shorting Walmart with options on margin. Right now I am a bit in the hole, but I shall just double down and go all in.

    Jan 15, 2015. 09:12 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple: Dear iPhone 6, Meet Desay Mirror X5 [View article]
    "Brand conscious consumers like brand names."

    Obviously. But to what extent will this affect the next billion people globally who enter the smart phone market, and which brands will win and which will lose?
    Jan 15, 2015. 12:45 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple: Dear iPhone 6, Meet Desay Mirror X5 [View article]
    "Japanese cars of the 60's".

    My sister had a used Toyota Corolla in the 1960's and my mother's next-door-neighbour owned a Toyota dealership. A friend of mine also had a Datsun Sunny. My recollection is that people were amazed by the Japanese cars of the 60's that just ran and ran and ran until they eventually rusted away, but still kept running. They hardly ever needed to be repaired, but when they did, there were parts available and people who knew how to repair them.
    Jan 15, 2015. 12:36 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Wal-Mart's Real Problem: Competitors Can Match Its Buying Power [View article]
    "The thing is, Wal-Mart has this phrase "Everyday Low Prices" drilled into people's mindset that we all trudge along like "The Borg" through the doors and pay up."

    I have probably shopped for groceries more in Walmart than any other supplier over the last 20 years and have only been dimly aware of the "Everyday Low Prices" slogan.

    I find most things are reasonably priced in Walmart, but not all. Some things are cheaper, for example some items that sell for $1 at Dollar Tree cost even less in Walmart. Many items are very competitive compared to other sources, for example oil changes, car tires. Clothing is cheap, but the quality is also often second-rate, so no great bargain. Generic prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs are better and cheaper than anywhere else that I know of.

    On the other hand, some things like computer peripherals are expensive in Walmart compared to online merchants like Amazon and eBay.

    Anyone who makes major purchasing decisions based simply on an advertising slogan is a moron, but if one wanted to parse the "Everyday Low Prices" slogan a bit, it probably just means that Walmart depends less on gimmicks like loyalty card pricing, coupons, two-for-ones to shift slow-moving merchandise, and special offers than some other merchants, so not constantly changing prices is a cost-reduction strategy as well as a marketing strategy.

    Of course from an investment point of view it is immaterial whether I like shopping at Walmart or not. In my view none of the main supermarkets or ethnic food markets in my area are ideal, but Walmart is probably the best of a bad bunch, and obviously a huge number of consumers feel the same way, which is why I remain long Walmart, even though the stock looks a bit overbought at the moment with resistance at $87.50.
    Jan 5, 2015. 10:42 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Microsoft's Smartphone Business Will Continue To Grow [View article]
    Yes, I think one thing that commenters here fail to address is that these days people will own a variety of devices, not just one, so of course price comes into it, because the cheaper devices are, the more one can own within a certain budget.

    You also have to take into account that people use devices in all kinds of different ways and that once they have devices, they may change the way they use devices.

    For example in my family we have:

    3 Nokia 520 phones
    2 Surface RT tablets
    1 7 inch Lenovo Android tablet
    1 Asus netbook computer with Windows 7
    1 Asus netbook type computer with Windows 8.1 and touchscreen.

    This does not include devices used for work-related activities. The total cost was about $1100 or less than two iPhones.

    Right now I am doing some consulting work around Jacksonville, FL which a resident told me last week is known as an $11 per hour town, in other words a place where most people find it hard to find employment that pays more than that figure. Obviously a percentage make much more than that, but an even larger percentage does not. However it seems highly likely that the large number of workers at the lower end of the scale, retirees, etc. will want mobile Internet connectivity just as much as the more affluent consumer, even if they use it in different ways for example social media and shopping, rather than for scheduling business deadlines and synchronizing spreadsheets.

    For the average family an iPhone plus monthly contract payments takes a hefty chunk of the monthly budget, and it seems logical that many will look to more economical alternatives, perhaps even also giving up the increasingly dire and expensive cable TV in favor of Internet radio and video connectivity.

    All this would seem to work in favor of cheaper devices, with income coming from Bing driving consumers into the arms of retailers.
    Jan 4, 2015. 11:11 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Microsoft's Smartphone Business Will Continue To Grow [View article]
    Yes, the Nokia 520 can be used as a GPS and navigation aid without SIM card service, or overseas, for that matter. The Nokia maps can be downloaded to the phone, so no need for SIM to use that. The music downloads are basically a way of trying to induce you to buy music, but you can download unlimited free music from Youtube anyway. Cortana is quite useful, for example for replying to text messages by voice with no hands when driving. The ohone also doubles as an excellent short wave radio tuner via TuneIn Radio. Not bad for a device now selling for as little as $29.99, though presumably sold at a loss.
    Jan 3, 2015. 11:40 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Wal-Mart's Real Problem: Competitors Can Match Its Buying Power [View article]
    Yes, I agree and the fundamental analysis is wrong from the get go. Either compare Maxwell House with Maxwell House or compare the Kroger house brand coffee with a can of Walmart House brand coffee, which is called Great Value, and sells for $3.50 a can, and is excellent coffee (coming from a very picky coffee purchaser.)

    If I can buy frozen strawberries at Dollar Tree for ten cents an ounce and they cost twelve cents an ounce at Walmart, which is 20% more, how is this related to purchasing power or the gross turnover of the business? Is this because Dollar Tree has twenty percent more negotiating power with strawberry growers?

    Why are frozen blueberries ten cents an ounce at Dollar Tree, but fifteen cents an ounce at Walmart, a massive 50% more. Why doesn't Walmart hire Dollar Tree's blueberry buyers? What happened to the pricing power of Walmart. Perhaps when you need vast quantities of commodities, you have to get tied down in long-term contracts with growers rather than buying on the spot market when there is a glut and take your chances on currency fluctuations.

    Some things are pretty cheap in Walmart due to an efficient supply chain and bulk sales, and others are damn expensive. If you try to buy something like a USB cable or a protector for an iPhone at Walmart instead of Amazon, you will get badly stung, but you are paying for the convenience of picking it up along with your groceries while your car gets a new tire installed. This has nothing to do with negotiating power.

    Incidentally, I have compared the prices per ounce of basic products like frozen strawberries, yoghurt, and oatmeal at Walmart and Costco and there is no real advantage to Costco once you get it down to a per ounce basis. Costco is growing faster because there are large tracts of the country that are not served by Costco stores, whereas there are large tracts of the country in which everyone has a Walmart within a few miles.
    Dec 29, 2014. 07:59 PM | 7 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Microsoft: Additional Catalysts For Windows Phone Franchise [View article]
    Not sure that Windows Phone is actually a "franchise".

    Some good points in the article. I had a Nokia phone in the US with AT&T that had carrier billing enabled, so if I bought apps, they were added to the phone bill. When I switched to Cricket, a cheaper subsidiary of AT&T, there was no carrier billing, and if you wanted to buy from the app store, then you had to supply a credit or debit card or Paypal, or something. However with AT&T, you could not use the Amazon app to make purchases and have them charged to your AT&T account.

    Odd, since the Cricket brand surely has more third-world type customers without Visa than AT&T.

    The problem with this plan is that the third world carriers will have to assume the credit risk should the customer not pay up at the end of the month. In many third world countries customers buy data or calling time on a pay-as-you-go basis, rather than through billing. For example in Haiti there are vendors with machines selling Digicel airtime at the kerbside, and in the Dominican Republic carriers like Orange and Claro (partly owned by AT&T) sell prepaid airtime tickets in almost any convenience store or bar.

    One of the problems with smartphones is that now they have become so cheap and that wi-fi is getting to be so ubiquitous, lower income smart phone without a calling subscription plan. For example the Nokia 520 GoPhone, a fully functional Windows 8.1 smart phone whose main deficiencies are lack of a front facing camera for Skype (can use a mirror) and somewhat short battery life, is now available for $29.99 on Amazon and can be used as a very useful and economical communications device and handheld computer without any cell phone calling plan at all. The more expensive Nokia 635 with a front facing camera can be got for about $100, though with Cricket service I think there are discounts and cash backs, actually bringing the device price lower. [Postscript: Actually you can get the phone "free" with a $75 cash rebate, but will have to pay for the phone plus a month of service up front to get the deal. With a credit card, you would not need any cash up front for the phone.]

    So I am not sure how Microsoft gets to monetize this market. However with the global roll out of 4G, the first fully functional iteration of wireless Internet, now getting into full swing, I am sure Microsoft will find ways to get the world buying something with a phone, probably via Bing.
    Dec 28, 2014. 05:16 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Microsoft: The Era Of Sub-$90 Windows 8.1 Phones Has Arrived [View article]
    "The money for fancy cell phones often ends up gong on formula and diapers."

    Tell me about it!
    Dec 20, 2014. 01:16 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Microsoft: The Era Of Sub-$90 Windows 8.1 Phones Has Arrived [View article]
    Sorry to reply so late on this, but just for information my two-year-old daughter will be getting a $29.95 Nokia 520 GoPhone to use as a wi-fi client and general toy. Hopefully having her own will keep her hands off mom's Nokia 520 which she already knows how to use quite effectively as a camera, video player, music player, radio, and for games, and so should be able to transition to learning her ABCs and numbers. She has already perfected the number 1, and if she can just learn zero now, she will be able to communicate in machine code.

    I actually have one of these phones too, and while it is not an iPhone it is as good as the iPod touch that I had three or four years ago, actually better as you can change the battery yourself for $5, add or switch SD memory cards, and buy a replacement cheaply should the device get dropped in the bath or toilet. The iPod touch I had, I think I paid about $160 for it on sale, and the only difference between that and an iPhone was that the phone had GSM calling added at a cost of several hundred dollars.

    Anyway this just illustrates that while we are talking here about the sub $100 smart phone, perhaps we should be talking about the sub $50 smart phone (or handheld Internet computer with GSM calling, as I prefer.)
    Dec 20, 2014. 01:13 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment