Comcast expands its mobile reach.

Comcast is now turning the WiFi routers it rents to cable Internet customers into neighborhood hotspots.

Comcast is transforming its customers’ home modems into public Wi-Fi hotspots by adding a second signal to each device. In addition to a customer’s home Wi-Fi connection, Xfinity wireless gateways (which include the cable modem and wireless router) will by default broadcast a separate signal that other Comcast subscribers can log in to with a Comcast username and password.

via Comcast turns your Xfinity modem into public Wi-Fi hotspot | Ars Technica.

I am reminded again of low-cost mobile carrier Republic Wireless, which offloads mobile VoIP and data traffic to WiFi whenever possible. One of the things that intrigues me about Republic Wireless is that it’s parent company, Bandwidth.com has a line of business providing VoIP termination to cable ISPs.

On Apple’s Hiring of Kevin Lynch, Former Adobe CTO

Yesterday the news came out that Apple had hired Kevin Lynch away from Adobe, where he served as CTO. The hire hasn’t been without controversy.

Over on Daring Fireball, John Gruber reacted to the news with contempt and disbelief, pointing out that while at Adobe, Lynch had displayed questionable judgement in his championing of Flash at the expense of Apple and iOS:

Lynch wasn’t just an employee pushing the company line. As CTO, he was the guy who defined the company line — and his line had Adobe still pushing for Flash on mobile devices over three years after the iPhone shipped.

Gruber concludes that Lynch is a “bozo.” He makes a strong case for pinning the label on lynch, but he fails to consider alternative explanations for the hire.

On Apple Insider, Daniel Eran Dilger has a different take on the hire. He points out that Lynch has a long and successful track record with digital media creation tools. He came to Adobe when they hired Macromedia, where he was their top technical and product exec. He was instrumental in the creation of Dreamweaver, and the Mac version of FrameMaker.

It is also worth noting that despite the fact that while the success of the iPhone and iOS caught Adobe, not to mention the rest of the tech-industry, flat-footed, Flash had a damn good run up until that point, and since then, Adobe has done a reasonable job establishing itself on iOS with end-user-apps, and tools for content creators, even without Flash.

I’ll suggest an alternative take: Apple hired Lynch as part of an ongoing effort to improve their tools for creating content and apps for iOS devices. Time will tell whether or not he was a good hire. Certainly other tech execs have fallen from grace, only to redeem themselves. Take Google’s Eric Schmidt, who had a great run at Google after getting beaten badly by Microsoft while leading Novell, or Steve Jobs, who was run out of Apple by a guy he himself hired and had a middling run with NeXT before returning to Apple and leading it to its current preeminence.

What Debt Does Personal Computing Owe to the Past?

Last week Dave Winer posted about the important, if obscured, influence of MacWrite and MacPaint after being surprised that a younger techie he was talking to had never heard of either of them. He followed up with an invitation for people to provide their own nominations about influential software.

At least one of the commenters bemoaned the fact that so few people gave credit to software before the micro/personal computer era. This is my response:

I tend to agree that we shouldn’t loose sight of our origins, but I think the fact that so few people can name influential software before the personal computer era shouldn’t be condemmed without deep consideration.

Many serious people dismissed inexpensive micros as “toys,” barely worthy of their consideration. For good or ill though, the arrival of cheap micros meant those people no longer controlled the course computing would take. Their influence was muted, as was the influence of all the software they produced and/or revered. It was like the protestant reformation. The monks and priests, their cathedrals, their rituals all became optional. Nothing mattered but the user, the software and the hardware.

Certainly a lot of the people who were involved in the early days of the personal computer had at least dipped their toes into what came before. Gates and Allen had used PDP-10s, for example, but for many, those cheap micros were the beginning of computing. They may have owed a debt to the past, but only because some of them did the work of digging through the scrap piles behind the cathedrals to find discarded scraps they could haul back to their camp and hack to work on their 8-bit toys.

What the Technology Press and Bloggers Doesn’t Understand About Apple (or the rest of the industry)

John Gruber and others have done good work highlighting the ravings of Apple’s doomsayers and trying to understand what makes them tick.

I’ve been ranting and raving about what’s wrong with the world-view that, “the latest Apple product was a boring incremental update and that they need to release something disruptive or they are doomed,” for a while now, but I figured it was time for me to actually write some of it down.

My take is that these technology writers might know a little something about writing, to the point where they can collect some facts and hack them into a narrative that seems to accommodate them, but they don’t know shit about technology and user experience.

They know that once upon a time, Apple almost died, but then Steve Jobs returned, saved the company, bestowed the the revolutionary iPod, iPhone and iPad upon a grateful public, and as a result, became one of the most valuable and most profitable in the world. From this they conclude that if Apple doesn’t do the same thing, in the same way, again, soon it is doomed, and Steve Jobs won’t be around to save it.

Their mistake, is, as I said before, they don’t know shit. They don’t understand that users are most apt to embrace revolutionary change when the status quo is shit. If the status quo is already pretty good and improving at a steady rate, they’ll stick with what they know. This is perfectly rational, sensible behavior. Incremental improvements let people build on their existing knowledge, revolutionary change requires that they unlearn what they already know and learn something new. Steve Jobs understood this. Time Cook, for those who listen, seems to understand this.

Apple released the iPod, iPhone, and iPad into a stagnant landscape. It stagnated because of Apple’s own failures, and Microsoft’s failure to innovate and improve user experience, despite its success in crushing competition and dominating the industry. Apple was disruptive because catching up on a 5-10 years of missed innovation was disruptive.

Going forward though, the best interests of Apple and Apple’s users aren’t served by disruption, they are best served by strong, steady, relentless incremental progress. As long as Apple keeps up a healthy pace in the areas they’ve already entered, there won’t be obvious disruptions. Instead, every few years, people will feel like things have improved enough that they feel compelled to give Apple more of their money and take home the latest version of Apple’s gadgets. When they get them home, they’ll have an easy time moving all their data and settings over to the new device, and be reassured by the familiarity of the user experience. They’ll also feel glad they spent their money, because the new device will be the best phone/tablet/computer they have ever owned. Their old one, which they may have hesitated to part with, will seem old and worn.

If anyone has doubts about this approach, they need only look at Apple’s oldest product line, the Macintosh. After a rough decade preceding and following Steve Job’s return to Apple, Mac hardware and software has seen regular incremental updates. In the process, Apple has seen its share of the personal computer market grow steadily, and it has taken the lions share of the most profitable segments of the market. They’ve done this from a base that was far far weaker than their positions in the mobile phone and tablet market.

As for what the future holds for Apple. I expect that they will, eventually, move into new markets in a big, disruptive way, but they’ll do it on their own time.  It’s also possible that, despite their best efforts, competitors will end up disrupting Apple before they disrupt themselves. I won’t bet on when though, and I’d be skeptical of anyone of anyone who insists that such a change is coming soon.