The days of hanging up on those pesky debt collectors may be coming to an end. Some debt collection agencies are now harnessing the power of Big Data to take a scientific approach to profiling those who are more likely to pay up, and then working with them to get the debt paid. Using analytics and applying algorithms to filter through the “water hose” of deadbeats to get to the few that are willing to pay will bring a bigger return for companies trying to recover their cash. This will allow collectors to focus on a more positive approach as well by enabling more “self-service debt repayment” through customized re-payment plans that are workable for those who really want to pay their debts. Big Data’s promise in this space requires a new set of skills though: it’s not about being a database administrator. It’s about being able to analyze data and hash algorithms. Expect debt collectors to start hiring scientists very soon. A scientific approach to getting you to pay your past-due Visa card is the wave of the near-future.
Archive for the ‘News’ Category
The tech community has been mostly unified in semi-harsh criticism of Microsoft’s Surface hardware. It’s like schoolyard bullies going after the geeky kid that stands by himself on the playground, thick glasses, and button-down shirt, twiddling his thumbs as everyone else plays sports (I know what it’s like — I was a geeky kid like that). Bloggers have been commenting about the seemingly deficient battery life, the weight, the size, and the cognitive dissonance of going back and forth from the Modern UI to the classic desktop. On top of that, many have been bloviating about how the “Surface is no iPad killer.”
Let me stand apart from the fray and discuss why I think the Surface devices are forging a completely new paradigm shift for computing.
When Apple introduced the iPad in 2010, they ushered in the “tablet era” and revolutionized mobile computing. Although people have been moving to laptops and away from desktop computers for quite some time, in one fell swoop the iPad sped up the move away from being tethered to a desktop. Combined with the App Store, Apple made mobile computing and the cloud real for the masses. In my opinion, the iPad represented the first real example of how mobile computing and cloud technology combine to provide an experience of how people really want to connect with devices and each other. I knew something big was afoot when I was in a mall watching an older gentleman swiping through screens on his iPad. In one device, Apple captured how most people want to interact with technology.
Humans are funny creatures, however. They will naturally try to evolve their own perceptions of what a device means to them and try to make it adapt to their environment, needs and desires. People love the “lean-back” experience of consuming content on the iPad. But many wanted it to do more — they want productivity apps. They want to work with it. They want to always BE with it and make it an integral part of their lives. Many already do this with their smartphones. Inevitably, developers starting building apps to unleash the power of productivity on the iPad.
The app world has moved fast. Developers are innovating at lightning speed. Much faster than Apple’s UI and OS developers can keep up. Supporting two devices that are selling faster than Chinese kids can screw them together, combined with updating the OS and the built-in apps to keep up with how people are using them, has kept Apple on the edge of its capabilities. Compromises are made. The fragmentation of its operating systems are starting to show. The rough edges are exposed. The “old-school” textured backgrounds in iOS, the debacle of Maps, the bandwidth leaks, and so on show a company splitting at the seams with its strategy as it tries to stay the dominant player in the market.
Along comes Microsoft with a different perspective of how an operating system should support its users. Instead of two OS’s and a fragmentation between devices, Microsoft builds a new OS to blend the lean-back experience with the desktop experience and give the user control over how to interact with their device. They decide to build their own hardware to control the experience. They fundamentally provide a different perspective on what a “tablet” computing experience represents. Enabling the lean-back (what I call the “entertainment mode”) with the “productivity mode” in a form factor that supports both touch and input devices tells the world they’re not going to dictate how their users should interact with the device. In one operating system, Microsoft is saying, “you can traverse between your tablet, your laptop and the Xbox and determine how you want to interact with the device in a seamless fashion, picking up where you left off.” A completely different approach than Apple, which has a disturbingly complex and confusing cloud strategy, a stretched-to-the-max hardware strategy. It seems like Apple’s current strategy is to tack on a few “blingies” to the existing line and host a new launch party. (See the convoluted iPad product family as an example.)
Then there is the contrast between the user interfaces. Microsoft’s Modern UI is nimble, flexible, and approachable. iOS is still trying to shake off the legacy of the Jobsian look-and-feel, which is to try and be cute and clever with “real-world” textures and metaphors to physical objects. Firing Forstall was necessary, but Apple is years away from where Microsoft is already. Windows 8 begs you to touch. It wants you to interact with it. I’m tired of fumbling around iOS, falling into holes where the way I use my device is just not well thought out.
Having said all this: The Surface devices, in my opinion, represent how I will interact with my mobile device. When I want to consume content, it provides me a quick, snappy way to engage. It supports an app store experience like any other device. When I need to be productive and “get things done” I have the perfect interface in which to focus on work. I don’t have to try and make the OS work for me and accept compromises (I mean, just try to get Pages to really WORK on iOS — and many features on iPad’s version of Pages are different than OS X’s version).
Bloggers are beating Microsoft up, but history will show it has the right strategy. The Surface devices are representative of how humans want to interact. Sure, battery life will get better, the devices will get thinner. This is version 1, folks. Right now, Apple is the schoolyard bully, throwing it’s punches — but I’d rather be Microsoft right now: the geeky kid with the pocket protector, holding the key to “getting the girl”.
It’s been quite a year. So many memorable moments across tech, politics, the economy, and so many other areas that it seems at times overwhelming to try and keep up with it all. When reflecting on the year, there’s a few things that stick out in my mind as top moments worth remembering. I’ve managed to keep the list to 10 items (barely) and yes, I decided to NOT add “Facebook goes public” or “Facebook buys Instagram”… as a matter of fact… Facebook isn’t on MY list at all! These moments mattered to me because I’m a tech junkie, a political junkie, and somewhat of a sports fan… Here goes:
There was a lot of talk this year about the impact Windows 8 is/will/may have on all of us as we move to more gesture-based computing. I see Win8 as a giant leap forward for mankind. While Apple twiddles with it’s tired-looking skeuomorphic software designs and its old-school looking Mac UI, Microsoft has shown us what the future of computing looks like. The Metro UI which easily adapts to multiple devices is the friendliest, easiest computing OS I’ve ever seen. Adoption may be slow, but in one big release, Microsoft has taken the lead in future-proofing our computing experiences across multiple devices.
By mid-year I think most of us were frustrated and tired with politics. Luckily, living in California, I wasn’t inundated with political ads. I heard from friends in Ohio that wanted the election to be over long before it really was because of the constant stream of ads they were bombarded with. As the debates approached, I was finding it hard to believe there would be anyone left in the country that hadn’t made up their mind already. However, the show wasn’t really over as Jim Lehrer proved. His performance was unexpected from such a veteran newsman. The halting lack of control over the candidates, the meandering miasma of his inane questions let a top-of-form Romney command the stage and made Barack look like he’d forgotten to do his homework. We have come to expect more from our TV news anchors, and Jim just had a terrible moment… really, a terrible 90 minutes.
I’ve been following David Byrne since he started blogging and posting online. Long before, naturally, I was a Talking Heads fan and I’ll never forget the day I bought the cassette of My Life In The Bush of Ghosts. So, sure, Byrne is a fixture for me. It’s fun to follow him online however, because he is leading quite an interesting post-Heads life. This year he released a book “How Music Works” where he takes us on a journey to the inner-workings of what music really is and what it feels like and how and why it plays such a big part in our lives. In addition to reading the book, I had the extra pleasure of seeing him in discussion about it in San Francisco with Bernie Krause. Along with a few quirky anecdotes, I got to experience Byrne giving a PowerPoint presentation filled with bird sounds. Yeah, Byrne and PowerPoint. What a great moment!
It seemed like when I was a kid, the Olympics were a much bigger deal. However, with the games in London this year, I thought I’d tune in and watch as much as I could… well that didn’t work out. What did work out was the opening and closing ceremonies. Man, do the Brits know how to put on a show. These events are becoming like the Halftime shows on the Super Bowl. Yeah, a tad over-the-top, but a visually stunning show all the same. And, oh yeah, the USA won the most medals (104)!
Yeah, yeah, the comparisons to Wall-E were rampant, but think about it. NASA designed and built a device that not only made it Mars, but made it in one piece with cameras attached to send us photos and videos. This still blows my mind when I think about it.
Yeah, it’s a moment that matters. I’m not Catholic, however, the old man holed up in the fancy flowing robes in the Vatican actually sliding up to an iPad and tweeting is something to remember. I know it’s all symbolic… but just imagine how ubiquitous Twitter has become now when Da Popa feels the need to send out his own thoughts in 140 characters or less. This could have an interesting impact on those really long liturgies.
Yeah, the Giants won in 2010 as well. And that was exciting because it had been the first time since they moved to SF that they won a World Series. But it’s just as cool knowing my home team is the reigning World Champions again. And although I didn’t have tickets to the games, I had front row seating in front of my HDTV. And there’s nothing like baseball on a big-screen HDTV. And there’s nothing like the show the Giants gave us this year as well.
I love having instant access in real-time to news. The Internet has given us an impatience with “breaking news” — we want to know what’s happening now! Late in the year, I discovered software pioneer John McAfee’s blog and the clusterf*ck drama he was embroiled in down in Belize. While he was on the run from the Belize law enforcement, he kept us all informed with constant blog posts. There’s nothing more warming to the geek heart than a guy on the run, but still able to connect and update via the Internet. Who knows how sane the man actually is, and who knows if he actually committed a crime… this was REAL reality TV unfolding before us as it happened.
I like Obama’s soaring, elegiac speeches. He’s kinda like a modern-day television evangelist when he gets all fired up. But, rosy and uplifting as he always is, it took Bill Clinton to paint a more realistic picture of where we’re all headed and what the impact of the election would have. His speech this year at the Democrats’ nominating convention easily captured for him the title of “Great Communicator” from Reagan. Clinton handedly laid out the pros and cons of the choice we faced between Obama and Romney and more than likely in that 49-minute speech single-handedly sealed Obama’s re-election.
OH, right… a 10th unforgettable moment. Well, I was going to add Newtown. But it’s so tragic that words aren’t coming. All I can hope for is that we as a nation have a good dialog in 2013 about the issue and try to come to some common-sense solutions to make sure our kids are as safe as they can be. Happy New Year!