Wednesday, June 21, 2017

We didn't start the Fire...

My early-2015 "ColorFest" - A new lime-green Kindle Fire, along with Chromebook and Mouse
Wow - I haven't done one of those song-title-tribute headlines for quite awhile, and for that matter, I haven't been posting much at all lately. With that in mind and risking that I might have a little rust showing, my recent upgrade to a new Amazon Kindle Fire had that Billy Joel classic rattling around in my head.

Readers of my blog may recall that I've been an Amazon Kindle owner/reader since its inception. (See "Observations: Amazon's Kindle Stirs Up E-book (and Printing and Imaging) Excitement" from 2007.) And while I have had lots of experience using both the E-ink and color ("Kindle Fire") versions (and even do a significant share of my reading on the Kindle Cloud Reader running on my Chromebook), it's those lollipop-colored versions of the Fire that have recently gained my affection. The colors, and also the clever pricing that Amazon offers. This time, the new Fires came with an irresistible deal to spread the purchase price over five months, meaning that my new one at $49.99 would require a monthly payment of $10.00 for five months, automatically charged to my Amazon Visa meaning a 5% cash-back credit coming my way too! The State of Idaho (finally, starting on the first of May this year) gets their share with Amazon now charging 6% state sales tax, added to the initial payment, when my new Fire shipped, was $13.00, and now with four $10.00 payments upcoming. How painless can it get? (Of course I did the mental comparison that the payment would be less, sometimes far less, than my monthly e-book purchases.)

The new Fire is officially, in Amazon-speak, an "an All-New Fire 7 Tablet with Alexa, 7" Display, 8 GB, Punch Red - with Special Offers." I love the punch red! In the painless department, the new one asked me if I wanted to "restore" the Fire I was replacing, and I said "sure", which meant starting out, it had exactly the same setup, including apps, that I was accustomed to. A few password updates and I was in business with my "James's 4th Fire", according to Amazon. And so far, it's noticeably faster and a pleasure to read on, as well as being an adequate email and social media checker.
The "restore" option was a huge plus (and nice surprise)
As far as what others are saying about the new Fire 7? Brian X. Chen of the New York Times wrote a review entitled, "What You Get (and What You Don’t) From a $50 Amazon Fire." It is a realistic view of the product, i.e. don't expect a top-of-the-heap tablet for $50. Which I didn't, and I am happy!
Amazon's Fire 7 - and by their count my new one is "James's 4th Fire"

Thursday, May 25, 2017

HP Printing Business shows a revenue uptick after 23 negative quarters

The modest 2% yty growth in quarterly revenues looks pretty good after 23 consecutive negative numbers
Source: HPQ Investor Relations
HP Inc.'s second quarter 2017 results were announced yesterday, and surprise surprise, printer revenues showed an increase over the same quarter a year ago. The overall 2% growth, to $4.7 Billion, is made up of three components - supplies, commercial hardware, and consumer hardware - which all showed similar single digit gains. And while those components showed sporadic positive compares since 2011, the overall quarterly growth number showed 23 downticks in a row. Most of those were of the small single digit category, but no surprise, they add up! The overall quarterly revenue number leading into the negative streak (Q211) was $6.7 Billion, meaning a $2 Billion quarterly haircut. Congrats to HP for the winning quarter, and I guess those of us who care about the business can root for 22 more in a row!  

Monday, April 10, 2017

Fun with lifelong learning

A new distance learning pursuit for me - Warblers!

Going back a few months, when I decided to give my monthly Observations a rest, I also committed to doing some alternative coverage on this blog. In my mind, this meant shifting from exclusive focus on the printing and imaging industry to something surrounding both my personal and professional interests.

It's been a bit difficult withdrawing from the former focus, as I look back at my irregular posts since last Fall. But today I'm mentioning my latest pursuit - The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's "Get to Know Your Warblers" course, which consists of seven weeks of one-hour classes. The sessions started last week and will continue through mid-May, timed very well for the return of the migratory Parulidae family (the New World Warblers). And so far, so good - I was very impressed with session one and look forward to the remainder.

This is technically not my first class from the CLO. I was a participant, back in the late 1970's(!), of "Seminars in Bird Biology", a now very-old-fashioned-style "correspondence course" where weekly lessons were sent by mail, quizzes were filled out and returned, and a grade was given at the end. I passed!

The "Lab" now has an entire division entitled The Bird Academy devoted to birding education, and I am excited to continue with "Warblers", and then see what else they have to offer. For the past several years, noting the decline in my skills based on too many years of not enough birding, I had been hoping to find a local bird education opportunity specifically focused on identification skills, both visual and aural (songs). So when the Cornell offering came along I jumped on it and I am happy I did - it was sold out at 1,200 students before the first class! Speaks to the interest in birds these days.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

HP-Boise sells out to State of Idaho

Stunning news today, at least from an Idaho perspective

In a stunning development, at least for a few HP old-timers like me, it was revealed that the State of Idaho is in the process of buying the HP-Boise site, with the company leasing back half the space for its ongoing business at the Boise site. revealed in the "scoop" by the Spokane (WA) -based Spokesman Review reporter Betsy Russell.

Shortly following Russell's story, the Idaho Statesman has the story adding additional details and perspective, including a local real estate leader's worries about the future of HP in Boise. While that concern has many factors that will play out over time, this change is significant in itself. Going back to my early days working at the what was then the shiny-new site, the thought of our "Silicon Valley North" oasis being taken over by something as mundane as the State of Idaho's Tax Commission would have been unthinkable.

I joined the Disc Memory Division in 1981, then a "captive" supplier for HP minicomputers, had the Idaho Tax Commission as a customer. They were a small customer, but nearby, and I remember a team heading out for a "field trip" to help them get their new drives up and running, with lengths of HP-IB cables in tow. How times change!

The Idaho Statesman story features a lovely airborne shot of the soon-to-be State of Idaho property

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

GIF Printing

Today brought to light a development in printing that I view as more fun than anything else. But since fun often places high on the interest list for me, I am sharing here.

The new-product site Product Hunt, one of my favorites, is featuring Print a GIF - and the interest is quite high. The solution - to "Turn any gif into a printable flip book" - is ranked in second place in today's listing, based on reader "likes" of the over-20 entries. As already mentioned, I mostly think of "fun" when I look at "Print a GIF", but it is tagged in five categories in PH, leading with "Productivity" and "Get Shit Done". Interesting!

"Print a GIF" holding a lofty #2 position among today's Product Hunt entries

Monday, January 23, 2017

Apps for your Printer - Remember when HP tried those?

Report - Problem with voice apps - stickiness
As an owner of Amazon Echo aka Alexa, and a gifter of Google Home, I was extra-curious about this morning's story in ReCode. Covering the market with a focus on "voice apps", writer Jason Del Ray looks at a new report by VoiceLabs and their analysis of the burgeoning market and the accompanying "Skills" (in Amazon lingo), or something more generically referred to as "apps". I recommend reading the article as well as the report summary.

The analysis also took me back to HP's "Printer Apps" which were announced in 2009 (hard to believe it's been nearly eight years). It was part of an overall launch of web-relevant printing-related products. From a post I filed on June 22, 2009, the day of the event in San Francisco (see "HP Reveals! Web-enabled inkjet all-in-one sets new industry direction"):

When it came time to unveil, at the Current Media studios in San Francisco, HP Imaging and Printing leader Vyomesh Joshi unveiled the "The HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web", a $399 inkjet all-in-one (available in September) that features direct Web access and provides a platform for application developers, with print-centric interests, complete with API's and an iTunes-like online app store dubbed "HP Apps Studio".
I remember talking to HP's then-top printer executive Vyomesh Joshi at the event, and suggested that his business was quite savvy in recognize the growth of apps for smartphones and tablets, and being a "fast follower" getting into their own apps. When I expressed that same sentiment to other HP attendees, also suggesting that it was a low-risk, worth-a-try endeavor, they argued that it was virtually guaranteed to be a success (this included that printer all-in-one with the multisyllabic name) and not a risk at all. that  I reported when their Apps Studio came online in September, and then visited and reported a few more times as the stable of apps, and reviewers, grew over time.

But the individual apps and Apps Studio never did pick up any real momentum, that printer model is now long forgotten, and the overall effort is only a memory for me, and I am betting that I am among the few who even remember "printer apps" at all. As to be expected, the old link to the app store from my post "HP's Print Apps Store update" gets hung up when I try to click through it, and the "home" site back then, the "HP Creative Studio", now takes me to - quite interesting since that part of HP was sold off in April 2015 prior to the split into HP Inc and HP Enterprise. (See "HP Sells Snapfish - cites focus".)

That's probably enough looking back for now. And as I write so long here, let me say out loud, "Alexa play nostalgic music" and bingo, "she" says "Here's some music you might like", and serves up Van Morrison singing "Crazy Love", followed by America's "Horse with no Name" - love my Amazon Echo!

What the HP Printer App store (dubbed App Studio) looked like in October 2009

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

HP Inc's Sprocket printer - a hot (make that scorching) holiday gift item!

Teddy Ruxpin was one of those highly desirable toys in short supply during the 80's
It started with toys, as I remember. The hot item that was in short supply during peak shopping season, and crazed parents would go to any length to get their kid the product of the year. I recall Cabbage Patch dolls, Furbees, and Teddy Ruxpin - the latter being the one I proudly "scored" for unwrapping under the tree.

Those feeding frenzies were before the widespread adoption of the internet and auction/shopping sites like eBay, which may have even upped the ante. The incursion of tech also played into the equation on the in-demand product side, too. It also became a not-particularly-holiday-driven phenomenon (I'm leaving out those pup-tent dwellers outside Best Buy for days before Black Friday). For a number of years (and mostly missing my demographic) the hot items were mostly things like the latest video game consoles. But I got back into it, at least as a very interested observer, when my Google Glass, purchased from the company as part of the Explorer program for $1500, and seeing those being offered for between $3,000 and $5,000 on eBay during the latter months of 2013. (See my post - note that was on another blog, which I had established as my personal contribution to the Glass hype of that year).

Snapchat Spectacles have a list price of $129
So connecting the dots from those early shopping frenzies leading up to Google Glass, one might conclude that Snapchat Spectacles would be the high-premium item this year. With their sketchy retail availability and "cool" factor, that was definitely true, as least a month ago, though eBay prices (bids and offers) have slipped significantly recently, down to a few hundred dollars.

HP's Sprocket printer is in high demand this holiday season, as this recent eBay buy-it-now listing shows

HP Shopping and other retailers are sold out!
And currently up there with the Spectacles' eBay-to-list-price ratio right now? It's the pocket-sized HP Sprocket Photo Printer, introduced early this year. I had posted about its appearance in the HP Q4 Earnings briefing deck in November as an HP Inc. Printing and Imaging highlight, and on further investigation which I had promised last week, lo and behold, it's a holiday season phenom!

More coming on its speeds and feeds in a future post, when I can get my hands on one!!!