Monday, December 31, 2012

Rough year ahead for Microsoft and other 2013 tech predictions

Analysts predict tough going for Microsoft, Nokia, Hewlett-Packard and Research In Motion in the year ahead.

2013 tech industry predictions, part five: 

1. Bill Gates returns as Microsoft CEO after Steve Ballmer is ousted. 

CNBC predicts that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates will return to lead the company after Steve Ballmer is shown the door.
“With Windows 8 a disaster, and the Surface tablet not close to meeting original internal projections, Steve Ballmer’s days at Microsoft in 2013 are ... over. The bigger surprise: Chairman Bill Gates returns as interim CEO in a last-ditch effort to do the impossible: re-engineer Microsoft to its former glory. Perhaps the only bright side: To keep investors engaged, Microsoft more than doubles its regular dividend.”

2. Windows 8 gets a quick overhaul. 

Veteran technology reporter and analyst Steve Wildstrom says Windows 8 will get an overhaul soon in response to consumer complaints about its new user interface.
“I expect that, at a minimum, Windows 8.1 (whatever it is really called) will give users of conventional PCs the ability to boot directly into Desktop mode, less need to ever use the Metro interface, and the return of some version of the Start button.”


3. Microsoft will make Office software for every platform. 

“2013 is going to be ugly” for Microsoft as it shifts to Windows 8, Forrester predicts. When PCs, tablets and smartphones are combined in a category called personal devices, Microsoft’s share of all operating systems has fallen from 95% in 2008 to 30% in 2012. And because Microsoft has little chance of gaining a large share of the smartphone and tablet markets, it will need make its Office productivity software for all the major platforms, Forrester says.
“Microsoft has to bite the bullet and rake in revenue from Office on every platform, not just Windows, and to a minor extent, (Mac) OS X,” Forrester says. “To remain relevant in a world where mobile devices outnumber PCs at least 2 to 1, the Office team will have to figure out ways to make Office equally accessible on Mac, iOS, Android devices, proprietary Android tablets, and the Web.”

4. Hewlett-Packard spins off its PC and printer business.

Before the end of 2013, HP will spin off its PC and printer business as it “makes a last-ditch effort to be like IBM,” CNBC says.
Silicon Valley entrepreneur Mark Rogowsky says calls to break up HP will grow louder in 2013, but HP CEO Meg Whitman will take other actions during the year.
HP will cut things like its Snapfish division, trim the number of PC models it makes by half and take another accounting charge, he says.

5. Nokia will split up and the parts will be sold off.

Nokia is “roadkill” in 2013, Rogowsky says. Its Windows-based Lumia phones will fail to get traction and spur a turnaround, so the company will be split up and sold off.
Nokia’s infrastructure division will be spun out. Its maps division will be sold to Apple. Its emerging-markets Asha line will find a home with a Chinese or Taiwanese partner. And Microsoft will buy some of Nokia’s smartphone division assets to build and launch its own branded Windows Phone handsets, Rogowsky says.

6. Netflix and Pandora will be acquired.

Apple is a likely buyer of both Netflix and Pandora, Rogowsky says. Apple will break its precedent of never doing large-scale deals, he says.
Netflix needs a capital infusion or a deep-pocketed buyer to meet its $5 billion in upcoming bills for streaming video content. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings will join Apple’s board, he says. (CCS Insight thinks Google will buy Netflix in 2013.)
Apple will pick up Pandora when it realizes it’s better to buy than build a streaming music business, Rogowsky says.

7. Microsoft will buy Zynga. 

Rogowsky believes Microsoft will buy online games company Zynga. Meanwhile, entrepreneur Dylan Collins believes Zynga will go private next year.

8. Dropbox, Square and Twitter will file for IPOs. 

“Recognizing that going public too late isn’t a plus, Dropbox, Square and Twitter will all file for IPOs in 2013 and each will command multibillion-dollar valuations, vindicating their expensive private rounds (two will be north of $500 million in revenues),” Rogowsky said. AirBnB “will be close to following the other three to market.”

9. Apple will come out with a smart wristwatch. 

Apple and Intel are jointly building a Bluetooth-equipped smart wristwatch that can connect to other iOS devices, most notably iPhone and iPod devices, The Next Web says. The Apple smartwatch could find its way to the market in the first half of 2013 and sport a 1.5-inch OLED display, the website says.

10. Microsoft will produce its own smartphone. 

Just as Microsoft decided to build its own PCs and tablets with Surface, the company is poised to build its own smartphone as well, says tech analyst Ben Bajarin. To do so, the software giant might acquire a company like Nokia or HTC, he says. “I believe Microsoft will officially get in the smartphone hardware game in 2013,” Bajarin said.
At the same time, Bajarin does not believe rumors that Amazon will come out with its own smartphone.

11. RIM will be acquired. 

Research In Motion will make a modest rebound in 2013 with the release of its BlackBerry 10 devices, Bajarin says. But to be competitive in the handheld market it will need help. Samsung could acquire RIM and make BB10 its proprietary OS if its Tizen OS doesn’t work out, Bajarin says.

12. Young people will abandon Facebook. 

“The stream of young people leaving Facebook becomes a flood as the middle-aged Gen X takeover becomes overwhelming,” blogger John W. Smart writes. “Facebook stock tanks. Then the Gen xers exit Facebook too.”

13. The driverless car becomes a serious initiative. 

Driverless cars, such as those backed by Google, will make substantial progress in 2013, says Strategic News Service publisher Mark Anderson. Multiple new states and countries will pass laws to allow robot-driven cars, he says. And major brands will undertake serious development of all the features necessary to make the technology commonplace.

14. Half of North Americans will own a tablet in 2013. 

By the end of 2013, at least half of all North Americans will own a tablet computer, says Joshua Bixby, president of Strangeloop.
“Currently, 29% of North Americans own some kind of tablet,” he said on Dec. 11. “With the proliferation of new inexpensive tablets, with the emergence of kids as a mostly untapped tablet market, and with Christmas just around the corner, I’m predicting that more than 50% of North Americans will own a tablet by year end.”

15. Smartphone viruses will proliferate in 2013. 

“2013 will be the year your smartphone gets infected with a virus,” Bixby said.
Security firm McAfee Labs says smartphones and tablets will become a larger focus for cybercriminals in 2013.
Symantec is predicting a rise in mobile adware, or “madware,” especially for Android devices.

16. More online companies will open retail shops. 

Rising vacancies in shopping malls and lower rents will prompt more e-commerce firms to give retail a try, says Howard Lindzon, co-founder and CEO of Stocktwits.
“Online commerce finally goes offline beyond Apple’s dominance,” Lindzon said. “Microsoft’s retail foray is one of the abominations of all time. It did not have to be so bad and in 2013, either Google or Amazon will make a much better attempt at a retail presence. My outside bets for the same attempt are Kayak, Intuit and Facebook.”

17. Chinese mobile phone vendors will become major players. 

Three of the top five mobile handset makers will be Chinese by the end of 2014, research firm Gartner says. ZTE, Huawei and Lenovo are looking outside China for growth.
Chinese telecom equipment vendor ZTE is already the No. 4 global smartphone vendor, as of Q3, and could become a top three global smartphone vendor soon, ISI Group says. Some of ZTE’s carrier-branded Android smartphones in the U.S. include the Sprint Flash and the T-Mobile Concord.

18. Nintendo’s Wii U console will flop. 

Nintendo’s next-generation video game console, the Wii U, will be a failure, says Dean Takahashi, lead writer for GamesBeat at VentureBeat. Initial supplies of the new game machine may sell out, but three to six months from now the novelty will wear off and gamers will await better-looking titles on the upcoming consoles from Sony and Microsoft or on the PC, he says.

19. Dish will merge with DirecTV or a telecom company. 

Satellite television broadcaster Dish Network will aggressively seek a merger with rival DirecTV in 2013, says Phillip Swann, president of TVPredictions.com. If that doesn’t work out, Dish will join forces with a communications company such as Sprint, Verizon or AT&T, he says.

20. DirecTV will buy Netflix. 

If DirecTV and Dish don’t merge, DirecTV will buy online streaming video service Netflix, Swann says.

Photos: Microsoft Windows 8 and Surface tablet launch event in New York City on Oct. 25, 2012 (top). Nintendo Wii U video game console (bottom). 


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Leap Motion, 3D printers and Google Glass predicted to be hot products in 2013

People will be hearing a lot about ultra-high definition television, new game consoles from Microsoft and Sony, and next-generation smartphones and tablets in 2013. But those are incremental improvements to existing product categories.
Meanwhile, several groundbreaking products are expected to make a big impact next year.

2013 tech industry predictions, part four:

1. Leap Motion will make a big splash.

San Francisco-based startup Leap Motion has created a 3D user interface product for computers that has Silicon Valley buzzing, ReadWrite says. It says the “tiny gizmo could be a very big deal in 2013 – and beyond.”
The first version of the product will start shipping in early 2013 and cost $69.99. It is an iPod-sized gadget that connects to a laptop or desktop computer.
“Basically the engineers at Leap Motion have invented the 3D user interface of the future,” Dan Lyons writes. “You don’t use a keyboard and mouse; you don’t even use a touch screen. You just move your fingers in the air, and, as if by magic, with zero latency and pinpoint accuracy, stuff happens on your screen. Think of Microsoft’s Kinect controller, but way better. Leap Motion claims its device is 200 times more accurate than anything on the market and can track your finger movements down to 1/100th of a millimeter.”

2. 3D printers will go mainstream.

3D printers “will become very popular in 2013” and in maybe 5 years one out of 60 people either will own a 3D printer or have access to one directly, says Marshall Sponder, an independent Web analytics and SEO/SEM specialist.
Technology entrepreneur Mark Cuban also believes we’ll see major growth in 3-D printing in 2013. Leaders in the home 3D printer market include 3D Systems and MakerBot.

3. Google Glass will raise eyebrows.

Google’s computerized glasses, Google Glass, will hit the market in early 2013. The initial versions of the glasses, the Explorer Edition, will cost $1,500 a set and will be available only to software developers who attended a Google conference last summer.
Google Glass will be a “passive presence” mechanism that goes mainstream, Sponder says. The special glasses can take photos and videos while users are wearing them. They also feature a small screen for users to access information.
Google Glass could fit into a predicted trend in social media involving “frictionless capturing of precious memories in the real world,” says Patrick J. Sweeney II, a featured contributor to Social Media Today and CNBC. “When people are skiing, doing a triathlon, at a concert, or doing anything fun and engaging – mobile technology will enable them to capture the moment with very high quality pictures and video and instantly share online without lifting a finger.”
Market research firm Gartner predicts that wearable smart electronics, like Google Glass, will be a $10 billion industry by 2016.

4. Google gets its mojo back.

Strategic News Service publisher Mark Anderson said Google will get its mojo back in 2013.
“Google’s efforts in email, video, smartphones, maps, and driverless cars open up new long-term expansion paths, with more to follow,” he said. “With all its many failures, the company has proven it can find and plough new turf. In terms of creativity, Google becomes the next Apple.”
Google will challenge Amazon.com’s AWS for public cloud supremacy next year, says Floyd Strimling, vice president of community and technical evangelist at Zenoss.
And Google’s Chrome will hit 45% of the worldwide Web browser market by the end of the year – almost entirely at the expense of Firefox, predicts Joshua Bixby, president of Strangeloop.

5. Netflix will have a breakout hit TV series.

Netflix will show that an Internet-based TV service can have a breakthrough hit series just like cable and broadcast TV, predicts Informa Telecoms & Media in a Dec. 19 report. That hit could be “House of Cards” starring Kevin Spacey, which is scheduled to premiere Feb. 1 on Netflix, Informa says.
2013 could be the year that the Internet gains legitimacy for its original programming, JWT Intelligence says. Netflix will be airing the fourth season of cult comedy series “Arrested Development” and political drama “House of Cards.” But other over-the-top TV services will be playing the same game.
“Hulu, Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft (and possibly Amazon) are all recruiting big-name talent to develop attention-getting web programming, while YouTube’s $100 million bet on programming channels is well under way,” JWT says. “With so much invested, high-quality Web programming is almost too big to fail.

Photos: Google Glass (top) and Leap Motion sensor.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Twitter goes public, Zynga CEO steps down and more 2013 tech industry predictions


My roundup of tech industry predictions for 2013 from around the Web continues here with looks at Twitter, Zynga, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn.

2013 tech predictions, part three:

1. Twitter will go public.

Microblogging service Twitter will go public in 2013 so it can afford to play in the “verticalization of the Web,” says Howard Lindzon, co-founder and CEO of Stocktwits. Facebook buying Instagram is one example of the trend toward verticalization, he says. Google and Amazon will be other players in the movement.
But as I wrote earlier in the week, Twitter also is seen as an acquisition target by Google in 2013.
Eric Jackson, founder of IronFire Capital, doubts Twitter will go public and could be a potential acquisition for Apple.
Patrick B. Gibson, a staff engineer at Tilde Inc. and former Apple employee, thinks Apple will buy Twitter to get its Web services expertise.
Cnet notes that Twitter has said for some time that it wants to remain an independent company. But if a big enough offer comes around, who knows?

2. Zynga CEO Mark Pincus will be forced out.

In his article “CEOs Who Will Get Fired in 2013,” Rocco Pendola, TheStreet’s director of social media, puts Zynga CEO Mark Pincus at the top of his list in terms of likelihood of getting canned. He said online games company Zynga should fire Pincus and “reassign” him to a role as founder and chief strategy officer.
Second on his list is Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly. His hiring was a “mistake,” Rendola said. “Fire his butt, but be nice in the process.”

3. Facebook will get its mojo back.

Social networking giant Facebook struggled after going public in 2012 as investors grumbled about its slowing growth and lack of mobile strategy. But several analysts think Facebook will shine in 2013.
“The recovery of Facebook” will be a big story in 2013, says Henry Blodget, editor and CEO of Business Insider. “They finally reaccelerate revenue and everybody gets excited about it again. (Facebook CEO) Mark Zuckerberg becomes this major league capitalist, which he is starting to show signs of. He’s sick of being humiliated (and called a) communist. That’s out the window.”
Will he put on a suit? “No. He’ll stick with the shirt.” And hoodie.
2013 will be the year of “mobile (advertising) at scale,” said Lucy Jacobs, chief operating officer at Spruce Media. “Mobile launched this year on Facebook and we’ve seen some really strong results on initial testing. I think Facebook is going to dial up the rate of monetization on mobile and advertisers will be able to tap into that channel further.”
Facebook will become “a meaningful ad-scale platform” in 2013, says Antonio Rodriguez, a general partner at Matrix Partners.

4. Google+ shows surprising growth.

Google’s social networking service “Google+ will pick up steam in 2013 and reach a threshold as Facebook’s growth will slow and some of that will be people deciding they can get more done on Google+,” says Marshall Sponder, an independent Web analytics and SEO/SEM specialist.
More people will use Google+ next year because Google is pushing users of its other services to give it a try. And Google+ will get a boost from mainstream media organizations, says Lindsey Cook, a junior journalism and computer science major at the University of Georgia.
“Google+ will continue to rise in newsrooms because of Google’s search algorithm,” she said. “Social media is already integrated into the algorithm. At some newspapers, SEO experts are telling them to have Google+ accounts and to post often. Why? It’s page rank, dummy, and that’s not going to go away.”

5. LinkedIn will go on a buying spree.

Professional networking service LinkedIn will be a “very active acquirer in 2013,” Lindzon says. “I believe they will make a few big acquisitions along with tuck-ins like my 2012 fave Rapportive. My favorite big idea for them remains Angellist.”
LinkedIn will be seen as “the new Facebook” next year, according to Affect, a public relations and social media firm specializing in technology, healthcare and professional services. LinkedIn will become important for companies interested in monitoring conversations about their brands and connecting with customers and influencers. LinkedIn also will be used by more journalists to research and break stories, Affect says.
Ed McMasters, director of marketing and communication at Flottman Company, is equally enthusiastic about LinkedIn’s prospects.
“The future of social media for B2B will be held in the hands of LinkedIn – the new advances of LinkedIn make it a true business-to-business relationship builder … I am a firm believer that LinkedIn will be the social media BIG GUY of the future.”

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Apple predicted to come out with camera, TV, iOS PC in 2013

Some analysts try to figure out what new products Apple is developing based on reports from component suppliers and other sources. Others just talk out of their asses.
Here’s a second batch of tech industry predictions from around the Web, this time dealing with Apple. Whether these predictions are born of insider knowledge or complete bullshit, I can only guess.

2013 tech predictions, part two:

1. Apple launches iOS-based PC

Apple will come out with a hybrid tablet-notebook PC running its iOS mobile operating system, says Tim Bajarin, tech industry analyst and president of Creative Strategies, writing on Tech.pinions.
“Imagine a sleekly designed hybrid that perhaps has the design lines of the MacBook Air but the iPad screen detaches from its ultra-thin keyboard. For lack of a better term, I call it the Macbook AirPad or iPadAir,” Bajarin said.
Bajarin admits that he’s “going out on a limb” with that prediction. But if Google Android and Microsoft Windows tablet-laptop combos catch on, Apple could be forced to enter the market, he says.
Berenberg Capital Markets technology hardware analyst Adnaan Ahmad also thinks Apple will launch a “MacBook Air with iOS functionality.”

2. Apple debuts iOS-based camera

Apple’s next big move into consumer electronics could be in digital imaging.
Howard Lindzon, co-founder and CEO of Stocktwits, believes Apple will come out with a state-of-the-art camera running iOS software.
“Photos are still the big thing for chronicling life and so I expect more fireworks in the photo and camera space,” he said.
Lindzon doubts Apple will make a television because there is not enough margin or money in that business in 2013.

3. Apple comes out with a smart TV or improved set-top box

Some analysts are doubling-down on bets for Apple’s long-rumored iTV smart television.
Berenberg’s Ahmad thinks an Apple smart TV will debut in the second half of the year. It will be differentiated through a combination of hardware, software and services, he says.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has predicted an Apple television for years. He thinks it will launch in November, cost $1,500 to $2,000, and come in screen sizes of 42- to 55-inches.
Perhaps hedging his bets, Munster also is predicting Apple will update its Apple TV set-top box to accept apps from developers in March.
Cnet Editor Josh Lowensohn wasn’t willing to stick his neck out for an Apple television, but did say a revamped set-top box is in the wings.
“While a full-fledged TV set is a possibility, expect Apple to roll out a smarter set-top box with better ways to view TV programming and control basic TV functions – two things Apple’s current models can’t do,” Lowensohn said. He called it “Apple TV, take four.”

4. Apple switches on streaming music service

Munster thinks Apple will reveal an “iTunes radio product” in March.
Lowensohn agrees that an Apple subscription online music service is on the way. He dubbed it “iRadio.” It would take on companies like Pandora, Spotify and Rdio.

5. Modest upgrades to iPhone and iPad lines

March could bring a refreshed iPad Mini with a Retina display, Munster says.
September could see a “modest upgrade” to the iPhone 5 called the iPhone 5S, he says. And the next generation full-size iPad tablets will get a redesign to look more like the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini, Munster predicts.
But Berenberg’s Ahmad made a bolder prediction. He thinks Apple will come out with a “mini” iPhone in mid-2013.

Photo: Apple’s retail store on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Google to acquire Netflix and other ballsy 2013 tech industry predictions

Most year-ahead prediction articles are yawners because their predictions are either obvious or intentionally vague.
But sometimes prognosticators take a big risk and make bold predictions for the coming year. I’ve assembled some of those here along with other predictions that I found interesting.

2013 tech industry predictions, part one:

1. Google will buy Netflix.

Research firm CCS Insight thinks Google will buy Netflix in 2013. The acquisition of Netflix’s premium subscription video service would complement Google’s free, ad-supported YouTube service. The acquisition also would improve Google’s relationships with major studios and content rights holders.
In the past, other predicted Netflix acquirers have included Amazon.com and Microsoft.

2. Microsoft will buy TiVo.

CCS Insight expects Microsoft “to buy TiVo or a TiVo-type service to integrate its technology in the next-generation Xbox” video game console, according to Consett Magazine.

3. Google will buy Twitter.

Microblogging service Twitter will get acquired in 2013, says Dylan Collins, founder and CEO of several Internet and online gaming companies including Phorest (acquired by MBO), DemonWare (acquired by Activision Blizzard) and Jolt Online Gaming (acquired by GameStop).
“At some point the current investors look around and realize that the entire stock has now been re-sold at least five times. Hard to see how Google doesn’t buy it,” he said.

4. Microsoft or Facebook will buy Yahoo.

Marshall Sponder, an independent Web analytics and SEO/SEM specialist, puts “even money” on Microsoft or Facebook buying Yahoo in 2013.
Microsoft tried to buy Yahoo in February 2008 in a deal initially valued at $44.6 billion, but Yahoo rejected the bid, which was later sweetened. As of late December, Yahoo was valued at $23.2 billion, with shares rising under new CEO Marissa Mayer.

5. Twitter will buy Foursquare.

“Foursquare will be acquired by Twitter in 2013,” Sponder predicts. “If Foursquare isn’t acquired by Twitter in mid 2013, it will irrelevant by the end of 2014.” The platform is losing momentum, he said.

6. Yahoo will buy Foursquare.

Bryce Maddock, CEO of TaskUs.com, predicts that Yahoo will buy FourSquare.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer “knows better than anyone that she and Yahoo will live or die with mobile,” he said. “That Mayer’s mandate is so clear, makes bringing Yahoo back to relevancy no less difficult. I don’t expect Mayer is being entirely honest when she says Yahoo will move into mobile through small acquisitions … The fact is, to catch up with the widening lead of Facebook and Google in mobile, Mayer and Yahoo will need more than just a toe in the water; at some point they are going to cannonball into the mobile pool. My bet is on FourSquare.”

7. Zynga will go private.

Social gaming company Zynga will go private next year, says entrepreneur Dylan Collins.
“Wall St. likes predictability. Do you honestly think that’s the place for a company transitioning its entire business from Facebook to mobile while also experimenting with social gambling? I’m guessing Q2,” he wrote.

8. China Mobile will try to buy Deutsche Telekom.

China Mobile’s efforts to expand into Europe will trigger a wave of global consolidation in 2013, CCS Insight says.
“China Mobile will try to buy Deutsche Telekom,” the research firm says. “Its move will meet considerable resistance in Germany, allowing France Telecom to step in and lead a Franco-German merger. This will prompt a rash of consolidation that affects Telefonica, Telecom Italia and several networks in Scandinavia. China Mobile will snap up some of the assets that the newly merged entities will be obliged to divest to satisfy regulatory concerns. These could include operators in Eastern Europe, which may then deploy Chinese TD-SCDMA networks.”

9. Microsoft buys GetSatisfaction or Lithium.

Market research firm IDC predicts that Microsoft will beef up its customer relationship management offerings by acquiring a community management platform like GetSatisfaction or Lithium.

10. RIM restructures into two divisions: a services unit and a hardware unit.

Research In Motion is predicted to split into two units by CCS Insight. A services division would focus on the BlackBerry service and network infrastructure. The hardware division would develop BlackBerry handsets and mobile operating systems.

Photo: Netflix promotional art.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

3 changes Twitter needs to make to improve its search tool

I recently concluded a year-long newsgathering exercise on Twitter that revealed huge shortcomings with search functions on the microblogging platform.
With the massive number of posts, or tweets, being uploaded to Twitter every hour, news media and other users need a better way to find information of interest to them. People are posting a lot of useful information on Twitter, but finding it can be like searching for a needle in a haystack.
Let’s use my experience as an example.
I was interested in tracking citizen complaints about the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. I surmised that official complaints to the TSA were a drop in the buck compared with actual discontent with agency and its practices. And Twitter is a great way for people to bitch about things in real time, so it’s a perfect place to check for complaints.
I set up a Twitter account called TSA Rants, or @TSArants, to retweet people who had a beef with the TSA. It ran for one year, ending Dec. 18.
Early on, it became clear that I’d need to use Twitter’s advanced search feature. But it’s not advanced enough. (See “How to Use Advanced Twitter Search.”)
If you search for “tsa” on Twitter, you will get results larded with spam from people selling TSA-approved locks and other products on Amazon.com. You also get a lot of posts from non-English speaking Twitter users where the three-letter combination appears in their languages.
Using the advanced search function, I was able to limit the search results to English-only and to exclude “amzn” (the abbreviation for Amazon used in commercial weblinks).
But that still left too many irrelevant results for my needs.
Searching for tweets with the hashtag “#tsa” yielded much better results, but they were limited to savvy Twitter users. The average person complaining about the TSA on Twitter doesn’t use hashtags.
Here are three areas where Twitter could greatly improve its search tool and help journalists like me:

1. Search for tweets that have been retweeted or marked as favorites

Giving Twitter users the ability to search only for tweets that have been retweeted or marked as a favorite would limit the results to the best tweets. It’s a way of crowd-curating the best tweets on a subject.
Better still, Twitter should give users the option to search for tweets that have been retweeted or favorited “at least once,” “twice,” “three times,” “four or more times,” etc.
The more times something has been retweeted or favorited the better the tweets should be, right?

2. Exclude tweets that include weblinks

Having the ability to exclude tweets that contain weblinks from Twitter searches will allow people to ignore all the news articles that can get endlessly retweeted. That way you can filter out the parrots from the people who have something original to say.
By excluding weblinks from search results, you also can eliminate spam. Sometimes commercial outfits will try to leverage off of popular trending topics to sell stuff.

3. Search for tweets that include photos

A picture can say a thousand words. When news is breaking, it would be nice to have the option to search only for tweets that include photos. Ideally this should include third-party photo services, but just Twitter photos would be better than nothing.

Photo: Propaganda-style poster of Twitter by Aaron Wood.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Web surfers don’t use browser bookmarks or address bars anymore

The top 10 list of most common Internet search terms in 2012 includes four variations on “facebook.” There are only two explanations for this.
First, Web surfers either don’t want to use or don’t know how to use the address bar to type in a Web address. Second, they either don’t want to use or don’t know how to use the bookmarks function on the browser.
In both cases, they’re idiots.
Why else would someone type “www.facebook.com” into the search window instead of the address bar? After all, typing that into the address bar takes people directly to social network Facebook instead of a list of search results.
For at least the second year in a row, “www.facebook.com” was the eighth most common search query in 2012, according to Experian Marketing Services.
The No. 1 search term was “facebook” for the fourth straight year. YouTube was second, followed by Craigslist. The fourth and fifth most common search terms were “facebook login” and “facebook.com.”
Like I said, idiots.

Photo: Propaganda-style poster of social networking leader Facebook by Aaron Wood. (See article by BuzzFeed.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TSA Rants one year later

A year ago I started a Twitter account to track citizen complaints about the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. I called it TSA Rants.
Over the past 12 months, I’ve documented more than 23,000 complaints about the TSA. And that barely scratches the surface. I sampled just a few hours of Twitter traffic a day, when my schedule allowed. The actual number of TSA complaints on Twitter is easily several times higher than that.
Needless to say, people writing on Twitter have a lot of ill will toward the TSA.
What follows is a brief summary of those citizen complaints about the agency, in no particular order.

1. Molesting attractive women

The TSA pats down a lot of attractive women, as I’ve previously written. These women don’t fit anybody’s profile of a potential terrorist. But TSA agents continue to feel up young ladies either because they like pointless “random” pat downs or they’re perverts.

2. Conducting racial profiling

The TSA says it doesn’t do racial profiling, but that’s not the case, based on numerous complaints by passengers of color. Many note how they are “randomly selected” for additional screening every time they go to the airport to catch a flight.

3. Mistreating the elderly and the infirm

People often tweet their observations of TSA agents making senior citizens and disabled and sickly adults and children get out of their wheelchairs to go through the stand-up body scanners. If they can’t, they’re subjected to humiliating pat downs.

4. TSA has a hair fetish

If your hair is in a ponytail, a bun or just poofy, TSA agents are going to want to put their fingers in it and dig around for contraband. Twitter responses range from “WTF?” to complaints about TSA screeners messing up their perfect hairdo.

5. Thefts from carry-on bags and checked luggage

The TSA has fired hundreds of screeners for theft from passenger luggage. But judging from the complaints on Twitter, they’ve got a lot more bad apples to sort out. Valuables go missing all the time from carry-on bags in the screening area as well as checked luggage.

6. Vandalism and careless damage to property

The TSA carelessly or maliciously damages passenger property. Travelers take to Twitter to complain about agents dropping their laptops and tablets, cutting off their TSA-approved locks and failing to zip up their bags after inspecting them. I’ve also seen quite a few cases of screeners opening shampoo, perfume and other liquids and dumping them on travelers’ belongings.

7. Confiscating toothpaste and other innocuous liquids and gels

The TSA continues to piss off travelers by confiscating their water, sodas, toothpaste and other liquids and gels on the astronomically remote chance that it could be explosive material. Do they treat it like a bomb after confiscating it? No, they just toss it into the nearest trash bin.

8. Flirting with female passengers

Horn-dog TSA men are always hitting on female travelers. This is especially infuriating when they’ve just forced them to go through the nudie scanner or get a pat down. Lots of women report unwanted flirtatious behavior by TSA agents on Twitter.

9. Making fliers who opt out of the scanners wait

Passengers have the right to opt out of the radiation-emitting scanners at the airport. But they often have to wait seemingly forever for someone to conduct a pat down. This passive aggressive behavior has been documented time and again.

10. Giving aggressive pat downs

Men and women alike have taken to Twitter to complain about aggressive full-body pat downs by the TSA. Many have described sexually invasive fondling of their privates. Some men say their testicles have been rammed by TSA agents during frisking.

11. Incompetence and laziness

The TSA is often referred to as “Thousands Standing Around,” because screeners are seen standing around doing nothing. When they are doing their jobs, they frequently are angry and combative. Many times they don’t understand their own rules about what is permitted in the screening area.

I think I’ve made my point with TSA Rants and likely will wind down my activity on it. It’s time to move on to other pursuits.
I’d probably stick with it if Twitter had a better way to search tweets. More on that later.

Photos: Singer and actress Jennifer Hudson gets manhandled by a TSA agent (top) and actress Denise Richards gets fondled by a TSA screener. See more photos at the Celebrities vs. the TSA blog.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Unflattering TSA portrayals in pop culture now extend to video games

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration has been ridiculed in TV shows, movies, television commercials, online videos and now video games.
A couple of games featuring the TSA have popped up on Apple’s App Store for play on iPhones and iPads. They include “Airport Scanner” from the Kedlin Company, which features a “trio of burly TSA agents that will lay down the pain on any troublemakers,” and “Checkpoint Madness” from SGM Games, which has a character named Officer Friskie. (See article in AZ Tech Beat.)
In “Checkpoint Madness,” you work as a TSA agent and can send passengers through the “Groping Line,” the “Naked Scanner” or the metal detector.
These games are more examples of art imitating life.
The TSA has been widely criticized as a wasteful, ineffective government bureaucracy that routinely violates the constitutional rights of citizens. It has become the most despised government agency, beating even the IRS. Airline passengers are growing increasingly upset with being harassed, embarrassed, molested and inconvenienced by the TSA.
This is showing up in pop culture portrayals of the agency, as I’ve documented.
The TSA is a frequent target of political cartoonists, such as Rick McKee of the Augusta Chronicle. (See below.) See more examples at PoliticalCartoons.com.


Also check out the cover of the Dec. 6, 2010, issue of the New Yorker magazine. The artwork by Barry Blitt is titled “Airport Security Kiss.”


As I’ve noted in previous posts, the TSA has been parodied by “Saturday Night Live,” “Up All Night,” “The Simpsons,” “South Park” and other television shows. I neglected to mention the movie “She’s Out of My League” (2010).


Related stories:

TSA a prime target of political cartoonists (Oct. 4, 2011)

TV shows and advertisements tap into citizen hatred of the TSA (May 18, 2012)

Videos: 

Top 10 funniest TSA parody videos (Dec. 13, 2010)

TSA portrayals in TV advertising (May 13, 2012)

TSA portrayals in pop culture (May 25, 2012)

10 Funny TSA parody videos (May 26, 2012)

More humorous TSA parody videos (Dec. 4, 2012)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Music labels are marketing to girls with low self esteem

You’ve got to hand it to today’s record company producers. They sure know how to target market their product.
Lately I’ve noticed several popular songs that seem directed at girls with low self-esteem. They typically feature young male singers crooning about liking regular girls who don’t have high opinions of themselves.
Boy band One Direction is the master of this trend. Two of their hit singles appeal to insecure young girls, likely their biggest fan base.
Take their song “What Makes You Beautiful.” Seriously, just take it.

“You’re insecure,
Don’t know what for,
You’re turning heads when you walk through the door,
Don’t need make-up,
To cover up,
Being the way that you are is enough.”

Please. These guys are dating starlets not plain Janes. But they’re selling an image that they understand their teenage-girl fans and are approachable.
How about one more line from the song?

“But when you smile at the ground it ain’t hard to tell,
You don’t know, oh oh,
You don’t know you’re beautiful,
If only you saw what I can see,
You’ll understand why I want you so desperately.”

Yes, girls, the boys of One Direction can see what no other boy’s your age can see, that you’re the greatest. Now buy the record and daydream about them.
Their latest single, “Little Things,” offers some similar sentiments.

“You never want
To know how much you weigh
You still love to squeeze into your jeans
But you’re perfect to me.”

But One Direction isn’t the only one playing this game of marketing to low self-esteem girls. So is Ne-Yo. In his latest song, “Let Me Love You,” he hits the same key messages.

“Girl let me love you,
And I will love you,
Until you learn to love yourself.”

Thanks, Ne-Yo, you’re a swell guy.
I’m not sure when this trend started. But the New York Times newsroom likes to say that three instances make a trend, so there you go.
Maybe Katy Perry started it with “Teenage Dream.”

“You think I’m pretty
Without any makeup on,
You think I’m funny
When I tell the punch line wrong,
I know you get me,
So I let my walls come down, down.”

Photo: One Direction from Fabulous.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TSA agents like to pat down pretty ladies. But why?

Spend just a little time searching comments about the Transportation Security Administration on Twitter and you’ll see a lot of posts from pretty ladies who have been felt up by TSA agents.
Sometimes traveling companions will post photos of their friends getting fondled. A picture is definitely worth a thousand words here. It’s comical that the TSA will pat down these women who often are wearing body-hugging outfits. The only thing dangerous on these ladies is their curves.
Women writing on Twitter about their TSA pat downs are surprised by the experience. Depending on the person, they express bemusement, outrage and other emotions at the incident.
But why do TSA agents pat down obviously harmless young women?
In public responses to such activity, the TSA claims its pat downs are random. They’re meant to keep the bad guys guessing, they say.
If that’s true, then TSA agents are just wasting their time and that of the traveling public. And they know it. Not a good way to spend taxpayer dollars.
Worse yet, this security theater subjects innocent citizens to searches that would be illegal if done by law enforcement officers. That’s because they have no probable cause to search these women. U.S. citizens are supposed to be protected from unreasonable searches by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
These so-called random pat downs are designed to avoid racial profiling. “Look, we’re treating everybody the same!” What a joke.
I can understand why people would think racial profiling makes sense for airport security. After all, just look at the photos of the terrorists involved in the 9/11 hijackings.
But racial profiling is illegal for a reason. It treats whole groups of people as suspects because of their skin color. That’s wrong and again violates our constitutional rights. So random pat downs today mean that a blonde teenage girl has as good a chance of being frisked as Mohamed Atta.
Effective security against terrorists must occur before a suspect ever reaches the airport. It requires intelligence gathering and law enforcement officials working together.
But back to the question of why TSA agents pat down pretty ladies.
This activity by the TSA has been well documented in the news media. (See articles below.) Some people describe it as “flying while attractive,” a variation of “driving while black.” Just as racist cops will pull over black motorists, some TSA agents want to molest pretty women.
The frequency with which it occurs leads observers to suspect that either male TSA agents enjoy using their power to watch female passengers get groped or lesbian TSA agents want to do the groping themselves.
One more reason to abolish the TSA and reform airport security.

Related reading:

Female Passengers Say They’re Targeted By TSA (CBS; Feb. 3, 2012)

Female Passengers Say They Were Targeted for TSA Body Scanners (Wired; Feb. 14, 2012)

Airport security makes married mother go through body scanner THREE times... after telling her she had a ‘cute’ figure (Daily Mail; Feb. 15, 2012)


Photos (from top): 
Carlo Mondavi posted a photo of his wife getting a TSA pat down on March 25, 2012, to his @CarloMondavi Twitter account. 
Photo by Schuyler McFerran at Oakland airport TSA checkpoint posted to Twitter account @_schuyler_ on June 10, 2012. 
Twitter user Jaye Sosa posted this photo to @jayesworld on Sept. 2, 2012, saying “TSA stopped basically our whole team.” 
Katie Alexander of the Bikini Hockey League gets a TSA pat down in this Aug. 2, 2012, photo posted to Facebook

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sexualization of women’s sports continues with Bikini Hockey League

After the early success of the Lingerie Football League, entrepreneurs have tried to make other women’s sports sexy.
There have been at least five attempts recently to make women’s basketball sexy – the Lingerie Basketball League, Bikini Basketball League, Bikini Basketball Entertainment, Rick’s Basketball Association and Bikini Basketball Association.
Now some geniuses have decided to try the same formula with hockey and the result is: the Bikini Hockey League. (Check out their website and Facebook page.)
With the NHL season on lock out, the Bikini Hockey League has scheduled a Winter Classic exhibition game for Jan. 1 near Detroit. The event will be held at the Great Lakes Sports City Superior Arena in Fraser, Mich.
Yahoo Sports reports that the Bikini Hockey League was created as a reality TV show in which the players live together in a mansion. (Also, check out the article on the fledgling league by TruTV.com)
There’s no telling whether the Bikini Hockey League will make it. Judging from the sexy basketball leagues, it could be a tough sell.


Status of sexy women’s basketball leagues 

The Lingerie Basketball League finished its second season of 12 games on Oct. 12. It features four Los Angeles-based teams.
But the LBL still lists a 2012 championship game between the L.A. Divas and L.A. Glam as “TBA.” (See LBL website and Facebook page. Photo below is of the LBL’s 2011 “Hottie of the year” Nicole Hamilton.)


The Bikini Basketball League never got off the ground. It launched a website in February 2011 that said season one of the league was “coming soon.” As of today, the website remains unchanged. The group’s Twitter feed has been inactive since April 2011.
Bikini Basketball Entertainment is still active, but like the name states is more about entertainment than sport.
“We are not a sports league,” the group says. “BBE produces fun promotional games with our group of players, and play against other team groups. Our group mainly plays 3-on-3 basketball games at different types of venues such as playing street basketball or in small indoor venues.”
(See BBE website and Facebook page.)
Rick’s Basketball Association, formed during the NBA lockout in fall 2011, never got past the planning stages. It was to feature topless dancers from strip clubs owned by Rick’s Cabaret. But it shut down when the NBA players and teams ended their labor dispute, according to the New York Post.
When Rick’s ended its sports league plans, former NBA player Dennis Rodman announced his intention to start a topless basketball team. But he appeared to be all talk and that effort went nowhere.
And lastly there’s the Bikini Basketball Association, which has captured a flurry of media attention lately. (See articles by Forbes, NBC Sports and the Smoking Section.)
The BBA expects to start playing in spring 2013 with such teams as Miami Spice, New York Knockouts, Hollywood Hotties, Orlando Lady Cats, L.A. Ice, Minnesota Mist, Atlanta Peaches and Chicago Crave. (Check out the BBA website, Facebook page and Twitter account.)


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Shazam is handy app when watching the 2012 ‘Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show’

Despite my concerns that this year’s “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” would be a continuation of last year’s decision to focus more on the guest music acts, the 2012 special struck a nice balance.
I could have used a little less of Justin Bieber leering at the sexy lingerie models, but his performance was actually quite good. The other musical acts, Bruno Mars and Rihanna, were excellent. Overall, they were a marked improvement over 2011’s rougher-edged music acts, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Maroon 5 and Nicki Minaj.
One of the things I love most about the annual “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show,” besides the lovely women, is the selection of music played while the models are strutting their stuff.
This year I used the Shazam app on my iPhone 4 to identify some of the music played during the show. I was pleased to see that Shazam identified the show I was watching and provided a special section that featured music, in order, from the broadcast.
It showcased about 50 songs used during the show. Some of my favorites (excluding the live performances) were “Midnight City” by M83, “Young Blood” by the Naked and Famous, “Pound the Alarm” by Nicki Minaj, “State Trooper” by Drop the Lime, “Advice of Tomorrow” by Ciuju Nelabai and “Brokenhearted” by Karmin.
The feature called Shazam For TV works like a second screen app for TV viewing. It not only displays music in the show, but offers trivia, celebrity gossip and tweets about the show and cast.
The 2012 “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” aired Tuesday night on CBS, but will be rebroadcast on Wed. Dec. 12 at 9 p.m. EST on the CW.

Photo: Erin Heatherton walks on the runway at the 2012 “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.” See photos at UPI. Screenshot of Shazam app below.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

‘Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show’ at risk of becoming a generic pop music concert

A year ago, I expressed a concern that the annual “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” was at risk of becoming just a run-of-the-mill pop music concert with supermodels as eye candy.
Last year’s show featured musical performances by Maroon 5, Nicki Minaj, and Kanye West with Jay-Z that overshadowed traditional aspects of the program.
Music has always been an important part of the show along with the crazy spectacle of themed lingerie costumes, dancers and wonderful set design.
About half of the models’ runway walks traditionally have been set to recorded music (often great D.J. mixes) and the rest were set aside for one, or maybe two, live music acts. But now the scales have tipped in favor of live music performances.
Last year’s show got great ratings so the producers used the same formula this year. The 2012 “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” features performances by Rihanna, Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber. It airs tonight on CBS at 10 p.m. EST.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Best uncensored Lingerie Football League wardrobe malfunction photos


Update (Feb. 19, 2015):
My collection of LFL wardrobe malfunction photos has been moved to a Soup website called LFL Wardrobe Malfunctions. Natch.

How’s that for an SEO headline?
You can find the best uncensored Lingerie Football League wardrobe malfunction photos at my new Tumblr blog titled LFL Wardrobe Malfunctions. Clever name, huh?
Under pressure from Google, I censored many of the LFL wardrobe malfunction photos on Tech-media-tainment that I hadn’t already censored. (Butt shots mostly.)
I can understand Google’s misgivings about placing ads next to photos of LFL players slipping a nip or flashing some moon. So I gave in to their requests for modesty on the Blogger platform.
But Tumblr has no problem with partial nudity. In fact, Tumblr seems to have no concerns about all-out pornography. That’s kind of surprising for a blogging platform that wants to build a successful business. I’d say Tumblr has a serious porn problem that it will need to deal with at some point.
But compared to that filth, my collection of LFL sports photos showing the absurdity of the league’s uniforms is downright innocent.

Photo: A player with the San Diego Seduction fixes a wedgie during a game against the Dallas Desire on Oct. 16, 2009. Photo by Nathan Rupert, Flickr user San Diego Shooter.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

YourVersion targeted by Chinese hackers

One of my favorite Web services, YourVersion, was down for about a day earlier this week and I got nervous.
I’ve seen Web services disappear overnight before. But the next day it was up and running again. Thank goodness for that.
YourVersion is a personalized news service that is great for tracking niche subjects. I use it at Tech-media-tainment to do standing Web searches for information on things like “mancations” and year-ahead predictions. I’ve used the service for two years.
On Monday, Nov. 26, I couldn’t access YourVersion. I kept getting a MySQL server connection error. Concerned about this, I contacted YourVersion co-founder and CEO Dan Olsen.
Olsen e-mailed me to say that YourVersion noticed the problem on Monday and thought it might be a problem with a specific Amazon Web Services server. They switched to a new server but the problem persisted, he said.
YourVersion service was restored Monday night, but was very slow, Olsen said. So they continued investigating. He followed up with me Wednesday morning with an update.
“After further investigation, it looks like hackers have been hitting our server (looks like from China). Makes sense since we didn’t change anything and we ruled out any problem with our Amazon server itself by switching servers,” Olsen said. YourVersion made changes to block the hackers. “Hopefully that will be the last of it.”
“This hacker episode was very odd,” Olsen said. “Haven’t seen anything like that happen in the 3+ years since we launched the site.”
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