Cool Tech Reviews

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July 16, 2008

Kindle 2.0 coming in the fall?

Amazon KindleJohn Biggs at CrunchGear has a rumor of two new and improved Amazon Kindle eBook readers on the way:

The first is an updated version with the same sized screen, a smaller form factor, and an improved interface. The source told us that Amazon has “skipped three or four generations,” comparing the old Kindle to the 1st gen iPod and the new version to something like the sexy iPod Mini.

The second new model, which is shaped like an 8 1/2 x 11-inch piece of paper, is considerably bigger than the current model and should be available next year.

The claim is that they’s also be available in multiple colors and the first one as soon as October. That’s the original Kindle e-book reader in the photo above.

Posted at 12:29 pm. Filed under Amazon, Books, Brands, Companies, eBook, Kindle

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July 11, 2008

Amazon’s Kindle popularity taking off?

Amazon Kindle I haven’t mentioned Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader because it had seemed like a nonstarter, but Josh Quittner at Time reports some surprising sales statistics:

According to a source at Amazon, "on a title-by-title basis, of the 130,000 titles available on Kindle and in physical form, Kindle sales now make up over 12% of sales for those titles." Amazon is notoriously tight lipped about sales data, and the new line of business that the Kindle represents for the online retail powerhouse has been especially frustrating for analysts and media to parse. At a technology trade conference in May, CEO Jeff Bezos said that Kindle sales accounted for 6% of book titles sold for the Kindle and in print. So Amazon appears to be selling more e-books.

Since we’re dealing with percentages rather than unit sales, it’s impossible to say whether we’re talking about a ton of books, or a modest number. But it’s fairly certain that, given the enormous number of new books that Amazon sells, and the fact that many if not most are also simultaneously released as Kindle e-books, we’re talking about a good sign for Amazon.

Explanations for the upsurge abound, including short supply when the Kindle was first announced and growing familiarity with the unit by consumers.

I guess I will have to give it a look although my initial reservation was that there was not as much of a discount for electronic books as I thought there should be. However, checking the prices of Kindle books, I see that (irrespective of special sales) they are running at about equal to or slightly higher than a new paperback and thereby much lower than hard covers. I still think there is room for improvement, but it’s clearly in the ballpark.

Posted at 12:14 pm. Filed under Amazon, Books, Brands, Companies, eBook, Kindle

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March 6, 2006

Book review: The Pentium Chronicles by Robert P. Colwell

The Pentium Chronicles : The People, Passion, and Politics Behind Intel’s Landmark Chips by Robert P. Colwell. Published 2006 by John Wiley & Sons. ISBN: 0471736171.

Summary: Dr. Robert P. Colwell was Chief Architect of Intel’s wildly successful P6 processor and the The Pentium Chronicles is an anecdotal account of its development from someone who was in on it from the start. While portions of the book will only appeal to those in the chip industry, there is something there for everyone about life in a large organization.

Review: Dr. Colwell’s account of the development of the Intel’s “P6″ processor (which appeared to great success as Pentium Pro, Pentium II, Pentium III, and other names) will inevitably be compared to Tracy Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine, but the comparison is imprecise. While Kidder provides a start-to-finish narrative of the development of a minicomputer at Data General in the 70′s, Colwell recounts a selection of high (and low) spots along the way to the completion of the P6. Both projects were huge bets for their respective companies that were ultimately successful and both teams seemed to have suffered the same sort of “post partum depression” when they were completed.

Colwell describes starting out with a small team and the perils of each step along the way from concept to final production of a large chip technology project. The technological and development process insights are interesting to me and likely anyone else with experience in the industry. One is the guidance of design with performance information based on real data which is often amazingly absent from many technical projects. While many designers tend to shoot from the hip based on their “intuitions,” Colwell describes how his team trained their intuitions in designing the unprecedented features of the P6 using performance analysis tools they wrote themselves and exploiting real instruction traces.

If that is too techie for you, there are plenty of items of more general interest about the computer industry (e.g. a meeting at Microsoft turning into a shouting match between the Windows 95 and Windows NT teams or an off-the-cuff remark at a press event being blazoned across the headlines) and about life in a large organization. What do you do when when rival teams make bogus performance claims; or when there’s a corporate directive replacing satisfactory tool systems with buggy “approved” versions; or when implementing the latest corporate slogan campaign has your engineers in revolt? Colwell has no magic answer other than to shoot straight and tell the truth which is the best advice anyone can give.

However, while it never seems like it at the time, all successful technical projects are a brief magic moment which passes all too swiftly. Organizations inevitably change which places a premium on another key skill which is knowing when to move on. Colwell eventually did exactly that and explains why. The changes that have taken place at Intel over the years are likely one of the reasons it is facing its current difficulties.

Posted at 2:54 pm. Filed under Books, Companies, Intel

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