Particle Debris: (Week ending 12/5) SSDs, Ferengis and Vulcans

I am a big fan of Solid State Disks (SSDs). Aren't we all? Late last week, there was a story about the endless ingenuity humans have in improving nascent technologies, in this case multi-level cell (MLC) flash drives. The article at ars technica goes into some technical detail about the differences between single-level cell (SLC) and MLC drives.

Currently, there are some serious tradeoffs, and it you want really fast write speeds and low cost, it just can't happen yet. At CES in January, SanDisk will talk about its ExtremeFFS technology that, if they can work out the reliability issues, will lead to much faster SSDs. Personally, I can't wait to get rid of spinning drives in my Mac. It's such a huge bite into the future to have a MacBook with no moving parts except the keyboard.

Also, late last week, there was a story at BusinessWeek about how operators are rethinking their handsets to be more in line with the Apple iPhone. Even more flabbergasting was this statement: "Operators are coming to accept now that you put a device – and you align your device with your service – with your own brand."

Mark Newman chief research officer at Informa Telecoms & Media added: "With the consumer downturn we're going to see ... the mobile operators taking a more dominant position. So we have this nice alignment of the operator, the device, the service and the shop."

I'll leave it as an exercise for the student to consider how Apple has shaken the mobile phone industry and its carrier/operators to their roots.

On a personal note, I bought a small Samsung LCD HDTV for the bedroom. It was high time -- the old 20-inch NEC TV was twenty-four years old, well past its prime even for a well-made CRT driven TV. However, the manual for the new Samsung TV was badly mangled thanks to the way it was crammed into the box.

I contacted Samsung customer support, and they said I had two and only two options. Download the PDF of the manual and print at my own expense or order (pay for) a new manual from their customer support Website. I argued that when buying a new TV, I shouldn't be faced with just those two options. Rather, I should get a new manual. However, the agent was firm.

Fortunately, I knew someone from Samsung's PR agency, and this heroic fellow took it upon himself to send me a new manual. However, he knows what I do for a living, so I suspect that other customers wouldn't have this solution available.

I always thought of Samsung as a first class consumer electronics company. I still do, mostly, but incidents like this leave a bad taste in my mouth that I won't soon forget. And that leads to stories like this.

On Thursday, there was a rumor at Boy Genius Report about how Apple might sell a 4 GB iPhone at Wal-Mart for US$99. (With mandatory two year contract.) We elected not to cover the unsubstantiated story, but there was a healthy discussion in our TMO chat room about the merits of such a move.

While some felt that it would damage Apple's brand and create a customer support headache and overload, my take was that it would create fear and panic with the competition as well as create a much larger marketplace for the already booming App Store. Think about the developer glee if Apple could double its market share in 6 months. Anyway, it's something to ponder.

Netflix is one of my favorite companies, not for how they treat me, but from a business management and development standpoint. I just sit back in awe as they pummel Blockbuster and even Apple. This week, Netflix announced that they'll start streaming movies in HD. It's not a big thing, according to spokesperson Steve Swasey. Just a "stake in the ground for future development." Initially, there will about 300 out of 12,000 movies available in HD, so it's not yet a Big Thing. However, these things have a tendency to escalate.

Companies like Netflix face key decisions: first, to embark on a project and what the ROI will be. Secondly there's the technical implementation. Lastly, there's how fast they can leverage off a smart technical implementation to obtain a competitive advantage. Many companies squabble within regarding stage one and then screw up phase two. They never get to phase three. Netflix doesn't seem to have this problem, and that's why I monitor the company so closely.

Finally, I ran across a hilarious story at Computerworld on Thursday about how "Americans are Ferengis, Europeans are Vulcans." I won't try to explain it -- that will take some of the fun away. Just head over to Computerworld and read it. Right away, you'll be chuckling and nodding your head in approval.

Full disclosure: my friends called me "Mr. Spock" in college.