Politicians Hard At Work

Newt Gingrich is having problems with calling these crazy contraptions “smartphones” (via The Verge):

To call this a “cell phone” or a “handheld computer” fails to capture the change that has taken place. It is a change in kind, not just a change in scale, and just as drivers of the earliest cars called them “horseless carriages”, our language has not caught up.

So having failed for several days to come up with an adequate term for the device we call a “cell phone,” we want to open the discussion up to you. Let us know in the comments what you think we should name it, and we’ll feature the best ones in a future newsletter.
Hey dumbass, the automobile was indeed called the horseless carriage first, but what do we call those crazy vehicles with tires and steering wheels now? I believe the word is “car” and that’s short for “carriage”. And that spot in front of the steering wheel you put your Newt Gingrich bobble head figure? That flat area? I believe that’s called the “dashboard” because back in the horse carriage days, horses would “dash” and kick mud and shit up on the people in the carriage, so a board was required to shield people.
The point is, there’s a lot of things that should be keeping Newt up at night, but renaming the smartphone should not be one of them.
I can think of a whole bunch of more pressing issues he should be tackling.

Tools Disguised As Toys

BGR on Microsoft still not getting the whole tablet thang:

Windows-based tablets haven’t been big successes so far, whether they use the desktop-centric Windows 8 or the tablet-centric Windows RT. iMore’s Rene Ritchie does some sharp analysis of Microsoft’s latest marketing campaign and concludes that the company simply does not understand why people are buying tablets in the first place. Essentially, Microsoft doesn’t get that its central criticism of the iPad — that is, that it’s more of a toy that can’t be used for doing serious work — is precisely why consumers are drawn to it in the first place. Simply put, consumers have PCs at their offices if they want to do work. When they’re at home, they want to play around with their tablets instead; they like having toys.
As Clay Christiansen famously points out in The Innovator’s Dilemma, most innovations aren’t taken seriously when they debut and by the time they gain momentum, it’s usually too late for competition to respond. My favorite one was when people in the media and some people in the government thoughts the Internet a fad back in the 1990s.
The iPad might look like a toy because kids love them, but when I’m on business trips I see iPads being used in first class seats and then I see them again when I’m in client meetings at Fortune 500 companies.

New School

Naz Hamid, on the industry versus the design schools:

Something I’ve noticed, and as an industry we all have, is the disconnect between “The New Design” and what’s currently being taught in schools. Interactive designers, also called UI, UX or visual designers, are in short supply. The young guns are emerging, but product-driven start-ups and companies are searching high and low for those who have experience.
I agree with the whole piece. Design is about problem-solving and design students need to articulate their solutions beyond visual means. Writing, speaking and programming (to name a few) should all be in design students’ tool belts.

You Hear the Struggle In It

Great interview with Billy Joel at the NYTimes:

Everybody is different. Some writers can write reams of great books and then J. D. Salinger wrote just a few. Beethoven wrote nine symphonies. They were all phenomenal. Mozart wrote some 40 symphonies, and they were all phenomenal. That doesn’t mean Beethoven was a lesser writer, it’s just some guys are capable of more productivity, some guys take more time. Mozart pisses me off because he’s like a naturally gifted athlete, you listen to Mozart and you go: “Of course. It all came easy to him.” Beethoven you hear the struggle in it. Look at his manuscripts, and there’s reams of scratched-out music that he hated. He stops and he starts. I love that about Beethoven, his humanity shows in his music. Mozart was almost inhuman, unhuman.

More Than Design

Designers (like me) love to talk about how successful Apple is in context of Design—software, operating system, hardware—but Apple’s popularity and profitability are due to much more than the big “D”.
This email exchange between Steve Jobs and News Corp./HarperCollins sheds light on how important negotiating (or for Jobs, not negotiating) has been to Apple (Tim Cook’s supply chain mastery is a whole other story).
Let’s face it, without content (music/movies/books) and simple content delivery mechanisms on iPads, iPhones and iPods, they’d just be beautiful hardware devices with nothing to do.
Reading Jobs’ emails reminds me of poker. When you watch a true master playing, you understand it’s more than just the cards they’re holding that determines if they win. It’s intelligence, Jedi mind tricks, attitude and confidence all combined into one.

Engine Efficiency

So Achates Power, in San Diego, is working on a diesel engine that uses 1/3 less fuel than conventional engines:

The basic Junkers design has an unusual arrangement of pistons. In a conventional engine, a piston moves inside a cylinder, compressing fuel and air against a cylinder head. A significant amount of energy in fuel ends up heating the cylinder head rather than driving a piston. The Junkers design puts two pistons in the same cylinder and eliminates the cylinder head. Instead, the two pistons compress fuel and air between them and then fly in opposite directions when the fuel is combusted.
I love that the name of the German company that’s the source of Achates design is named “Junkers.”
(This article is from January, but I’m posting it anyway. I’m way behind in links)