Yellowcake, Yellow Journalism and Android

In 2006, Vanity Fair summarized how the Bush administration orchestrated a series of thinly disguised propaganda moves to justify the invasion of Iraq:

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The War They Wanted, the Lies They Needed

The Bush administration invaded Iraq claiming Saddam Hussein had tried to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger. As much of Washington knew, and the world soon learned, the charge was false. Worse, it appears to have been the cornerstone of a highly successful “black propaganda” campaign with links to the White House.

There were innuendos, Congressional committee “testimonies,” off-the-record briefings, “experts” on TV, Italian connections and enough subterfuge to justify a decent Hollywood movie.

But most of all, there were journalists writing and talking about it everywhere. Without the benefit of fact checking. As “the world soon learned,” the U.S. went on to invade Iraq and, regardless of what you think about that decision, the cost in human lives and treasury has been devastating.

What color is Android?

What, you may ask, does this have to do with Android? Despite the smartphone wars everybody’s talking about, no lives are at stake and nobody’s going to thermonuclear war over Android.

Here’s how the Android yellowcake was sold:

Bestselling

Amazon told us the Kindle Fire was their best selling product on Black Friday and now some early Q4 numbers have arrived. A new report from iSuppli estimates that Amazon will ship 3.9 million units before the end of the year and Digitimes says that number could climb to as high as 5 million.

In a “Report” entitled, “Amazon selling 2,000 Kindle Fires every hour” the mainstream MSNBC.com syndicated a GeekWire.com piece:

Looks like Amazon.com has a hit on its hands, even before its new tablet computer is officially released to consumers.

The Seattle company is selling pre-orders for its new Kindle Fire tablets at a rate of 2,000 an hour, or more than 50,000 per day, according to website Cult of Android, which has gotten its hands on what it describes as internal Amazon inventory documents.

If the report is accurate, and the pace continues, Amazon will have sold 2.5 million Kindle Fires prior to the Nov. 15 launch — outpacing the first month of sales for either the iPad or the iPad 2, according to the site.

which referenced a website called CultofAndroid.com which referenced “leaked” documents:

Leaked

Even the generally more responsible The Verge couldn’t help itself repeat verbatim those Kindle Fire numbers. Numbers neither it nor any other publication had, because Amazon just doesn’t bother reporting them:

Kindle Fire remains Amazon’s best-selling item, million Kindle per week sales continue

Amazon just announced that it sold more than a million Kindle devices per week throughout December — that includes the Kindle, Kindle Touch, and Kindle Fire tablet. As usual for Amazon, no specific numbers were given, but the company says the Fire remains its best-selling and most-wished-for item, marking some 13 weeks that the Android-powered seven-inch tablet has held the top spot.

Are we there yet?

Indeed, if you read about the Kindle Fire around that time in any number of print or online publications, the unmistakable impression you’d get was: the Kindle Fire was selling in record numbers. So well in fact that same journalists would soon start telling Apple to come out with a 7″ tablet of its own or lose the iPad head-start, just like it “lost” its iPhone advantage.

And yet no journalist had any concrete evidence of the yellowcake: actual Android units sold. Not from Amazon, not from Samsung, not from HTC, not from Google…Nobody has actual Android unit numbers sold, quarter after quarter, in one of the biggest and most lucrative markets anywhere, which they’re supposed to be covering. No journalist has had the gumption to ask Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos or Google CEO Larry Page, “Sir, have you no sha, err, sales numbers to give us?” And keep asking until Amazon and Samsung and HTC and Google tell us just how well they are doing. Where’s the yellowcake?

I am, of course, not the only one on Twitter who objects to this charade of corporate secrecy in the name of openness:

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Isn’t it time honorable journalists asked Google, whose mobile operating system was created primarily to harvest users’ private info, to report just how many Android units are actually sold every quarter, lest they be labeled yellow journalists carrying Google’s water in a link-baiting game?

A publisher’s most excellent adventure in hardware business. Not.

pin.pngFrom Fortune‘s Hearst to launch a wireless e-reader:

Against a backdrop of plummeting ad revenue for newspapers and magazines, and rising costs for paper and delivery, Hearst Corp., is getting set to launch an electronic reader that it hopes can do for periodicals what Amazon’s Kindle is doing for books.

According to industry insiders, Hearst, which publishes magazines ranging from Cosmopolitan to Esquire and newspapers including the financially imperiled San Francisco Chronicle, has developed a wireless e-reader with a large-format screen suited to the reading and advertising requirements of newspapers and magazines. The device and underlying technology, which other publishers will be allowed to adapt, is likely to debut this year.

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What could be the business model here for a content creation/media distribution company like Hearst?

What Hearst and its partners plan to do is sell the e-readers to publishers and to take a cut of the revenue derived from selling magazines and newspapers on these devices. The company will, however, leave it to the publishers to develop their own branding and payment models. “That’s something you will never see Amazon do,” someone familiar with the Hearst project said. “They aren’t going to give up control of the devices.”

By now, you might be thinking what does Hearst know about hardware?

A decade ago, Hearst invested in E-Ink, the company that supplies expensive screens to the current crop of e-readers like the Amazon Kindle and Sony PRS-700 Reader Digital Book.

The urge to cross over core competencies into unchartered territories is a disease that has often caused acute problems for many well-known companies. Microsoft, the diva of cross-dressers, has tried everything from cable programming to online publishing. Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Virgin thought they could be online music giants. Prada and Ferrari pretended they know how to design consumer electronics.

And now Hearst, a media publisher apparently with more money to burn than hardware chops to show for, is out to demonstrate what happens when a company can’t summarize its business model in 5,000 words. You thought ‘synergy’ was dead after it was brutally strangled by Sony after an intense, decade-long effort?

EcoGoons? Come down from the trees!

In various mostly-European projects, we’ve been noticing that trees are coming under assault from presumably well meaning tree-hugging architects. Four of the more visible cases in recent months:

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The cocoon is supported by steel suspension cables that are attached to the tree’s stronger branches above. With the tree trunk running through the center of the cocoon, the trunk naturally acts as a hand rail and central divider between the home’s triangular shaped spaces. The polygonal-shaped panels of the EcoCoon make the structure easily assembled on site. Each made of pre-insulated materials with high thermal resistance, the panels are designed to make the interior more comfortable without using a ton of resources.

Much like other retreats, the EcoCoons allow its inhabitants to re-connect to nature. On each level of the shelters, one panel is hinged so it can open up into a terrace while smaller, fixed windows give residents a chance to peek out into the surrounding nature.

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Nestled amidst lush pine and magnolia trees, this treehouse from Baumraum updates a traditional backwoods form with a sharp modern profile. The quadratic cube is supported by two high-quality steel frames and features a terrace and an outdoor shower. The interior is outfitted with a full set of modern features including a stereo system, heating, and large windows that contribute ample amounts of natural light, making it a perfect place to enjoy the outdoors no matter the season.

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As a nod to childhood treehouses and those good old days of youthful splendor, Dustin Feider obsessed himself with developing the perfect eco-friendly version of the tree sanctuary. After much trial and error, the 23-year old freelance furniture designer came up with a unique and green take on the conventional kiddie sanctuary which he dubbed the O2 Sustainability Treehouse. Inspired by the construction of Buckminster Fuller’s infamous geodesic dome, Feider discovered that by following Bucky’s lead, he could use less material and construct a more stable structure than that of the ‘traditional’ treehouse – most importantly, without at all harming the tree.

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Mitchell Joachim insists that his plans are not futuristic. As the Executive Director for Terreform, a “philanthropic design collective,” he is responsible for progressive solutions for current problems. Save for the overt reliance on CGI imagery, the plans he presented at Postopolis! seem robustly conditional on collective goodwill, but still grounded on hard statistics and grounded feasibilities.

Is there a good reason for all this? Judge for yourselves, in this video where Joachim explains the imperative for hugging trees so closely.

Daily question: Foot. Bullet. Trigger.

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From The Crystal Reports® Underground, SAP resurrects the “screenshots” issue:

Business Objects claims that no one can use a Crystal Reports screenshot in a book without their approval. They sent letters to courseware vendors (including me) telling use that we need to get permission to use screenshots in our books. Most vendors ignored those letters and nothing more was said in the three years since. Now it appears that more letters are going out from SAP (who now owns Business Objects). I read one of the letters this past week and it talks about screenshots and adds a new warning about using SAP trademarks like the term “Crystal Reports”. The letter was very impressive, with majestic references to various sections of US copyright and trademark law. Sprinkled throughout the letter was the Latin incantation “inter alia” to make it seem almost pontifical. It sounded so ominous that it brought to mind the blustering Wizard of Oz (“ignore the little man behind the curtain”).

Large-scale enterprise vendors like IBM, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft sell complexity and arbitrage general IT cluelessness, fear and risk adversity. It’s good business if you can get it.

Does anyone still wonder why they go out of their way to not make their products less user-hostile when the obligatory training, support and maintenance taxes are integral profit channels without which some of these products may not even be viable?