Microsoft just announced a chat-based enterprise collaboration tool. It’s called Microsoft Teams, and the implications are deeper than one might imagine, at first blush. Whether those implications realize themselves or not depends (of course) on how enthusiastically the market embraces this SaaS.

One’s first assumption might be that Microsoft Teams is a “Slack killer”, and this might certainly be the case, if Microsoft were to have a fantastic track record of imaginative and impactful marketing. It does not. It’s unlikely that Microsoft Teams will have much initial impact on Slack user numbers, given the fierce loyalty of Slack users to the brand. The same applies (to lesser extents) to Basecamp, Smartsheet, Asana, Podio, Trello, Samepage, Quip, Projectplace, Yalla, and, and, and…

Each of these collaboration platforms provides an experience with which its users are – for the most part – quite comfortable. You don’t often see an Evernote user of longstanding jump over to OneNote, or vice versa.

So what’s the big deal with Microsoft Teams? There are two big deals, in fact.

First, if the solution is well-thought and intuitive, and if it integrates with Office 365 in as fluid and seamless a fashion as intended, it will secure those enterprise users of the Office Suite, and prevent their adoption of the other aforementioned “standalone” collaboration toolsets. Microsoft will be strengthening its enterprise software ecosystem, not by preventing escape, but by making the notion of staying more attractive. More of a golden cage, than a walled garden.

The second implication, however, is more dramatic: Microsoft was almost going to acquire Slack earlier this year – a move I did not quite understand, given both the $8 Billion price tag and Microsoft’s existing holdings of SharePoint, Yammer, and Skype, to mention just a few. Opting to withdraw from the purchase has made a silent statement that will, I believe, reverberate through the already flawed VC world. For the past years, convention and hubris have driven the notion that companies will purchase and absorb promising or threatening products and solutions, as a matter of course and self-preservation. On balance, this has not proven as cost-effective or innovative as many have pretended. Whether intentionally or not, Microsoft, by opting to pursue internal development and release of their own Swiss Army collaboration tool, has communicated that their IP, combined with internal dev talent, are sufficiently robust to offer solutions that do not require Slack.

Admittedly, this remains a risk. Slack users tend to comprise small businesses that “graduate” toward Google suites of product offerings, rather than the traditionally heftier Microsoft suites. However, the Microsoft brand (somewhat inadvertently, I feel) has been ceding its Goliath mantle to Apple and Google, of late, and many small businesses with which I work are less intimidated by the brand than they once were.

If Microsoft manages to position their Teams offering properly, this could be the moment when all the vaporware startups out there realize they are standing in the street naked, and need to actually develop something unique and truly valuable (read: unrealizable by others without great investment), or risk being eclipsed by developers who have finally wised up to the fact that a snappy presentation does not a mighty valuation make, even if it’s in PowerPoint.

As Apple Computer seems to lose a little of its luster (perhaps only temporarily), it’s heartening to see products in other market sectors pick up where the late Steve Jobs and the conspicuously silent John Ive left off. Indeed, some products have picked up the baton and taken it even further, when it comes to out-of-the-box user experience. One such example is the impressive Nest Learning Thermostat, the latest version of which I just installed today. The product works wonderfully, a pleasure enhanced tenfold by the exquisite care taken by the product development team to ensure that my introduction to, installation of, and experience with their creation be nothing short of brilliant.

I kept running back and forth from the living room and the hallway, where I was installing the thermostat – eagerly sharing with my wife each and every childlike discovery: “there’s a cute screwdriver included in the kit!”; “it automatically determines what wires I have, and whether it needs to jumper the connection!”; “they included little sticky labels to identify each of the wires coming out of the wall!”; “the digital display comes on automatically as you walk up to it!”; “we can manage it all from my computer, iPad, or phone!”; and so on.

I did feel a twinge of concern, when I realized that use of this thermostat included communicating when I was home and when I was away. This fact, combined with the requirement to enter my home address and other personal information, makes me wonder what sort of fun high-tech burglars might have, were they able to hack in to the Nest servers, and remotely track the comings and goings of homeowners…

Extant that challenge to my otherwise usually enthusiastic embrace of new paradigms in social transparency, I was thrilled by this update to an obviously well-conceived piece of consumer electronics genius. More often than not, startups are trying to practice alchemy: attempting to fashion something priceless out of nothing, or something very close thereto. When an innovator comes along, recognizing the shortcomings of something so ubiquitous as a thermostat, and leverages advances in networking technology and product design, the result is far more exciting than it ought to be.

Some might say that Tesla Motors has achieved the same result with automotive innovation, while Amazon’s Kindle has shifted the landscape of literary hardware, and ARM and Intel continue to duke it out in the technology battle for supremacy in combined processing power and energy efficiency. Innovation abounds, moving our society forward, not so much by leaps and bounds in to the unknown, but rather (I’d like to think) in an inexorable arc toward improvement, so long as we – the consumer – continue to demand integrity in sourcing, sustainability, and workforce management.

What recent product release do you feel has most startlingly advanced an otherwise mundane or hitherto predictable market?

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The following list was compiled by PGA New Media Council member, Susan Zwerman. It’s meant to be a work-in-progress, and comments and suggestions are welcomed:

AccuWeather ver 2.0: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/accuweather-for-iphone/id300048137?mt=8
Gives video forecasts as well as accurate weather information. Can email weather report directly through your iPhone or iPad. (Free)
Action Log: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/action-log/id316992969?mt=8
Action Log is a film and television-logging tool, designed for use on location or in a studio with up to 25 recording devices. At the touch of a button the logging system keeps track of all reel names and time codes for each recorded piece of action. For iPhone or iPad. (Free)
Align of Sight: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/align-of-sight/id385134018?mt=8
For Precision Photography, Visual Effects, Match-Moving and Location Scouting. Record and log any view vector in space & time and align live camera angles to previously recorded Lines-Of-Sight and specific sun direction. Used as a digital level on a camera. For iPhone or iPad ($14.99)
Artemis: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/artemis-directors-viewfinder/id324917457?mt=8
A Digital Directors viewfinder. For the iPhone (Free)
Artemis Remote for the iPad: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/artemis-remote-for-iPad/id372459098?mt=8
Directors Viewfinder and Remote – Use your iPhone 4 camera as a director’s viewfinder to plan out shots, and feed that information over Wi-Fi to your iPad. You can select the lens size, ratio, etc. For iPad. ($4.99)
Aspect Ratio Calculator: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/aspect-ratio-calc/id423170814?mt=8
Calculates video aspect ratios and pixel dimensions. Presets are provided for common formats. Results can be copied to the clipboard or emailed. For iPhone and iPad. ($1.99)
CamCard: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/camcard-lite-business-card/id355472887?mt=8
Scans and reads business cards and convert to contacts. Can save contact information in Card Holder or iPhone Address Book. For iPhone or iPad. (Free)
Camera for iPad: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/camera-for-ipad/id366129244?mt=8
Add a camera to your iPad – wirelessly. Easily connects any two devices to send the camera from one to the other. Simply start Camera for iPad on both devices, and they’ll find each other. Your iPad shows what the iPhone’s camera sees. For iPhone and iPad. ($.99)
Celtx Shots: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/celtx-shots/id467370902?mt=8
Celtx Shots is the first app with both storyboarding and set blocking built-in, so you can create storyboards and block scenes in the field or on the set. For iPhone or iPad. (Free)
Storyboard Composer: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/storyboard-composer/id325697961?mt=8
Storyboard Composer is a mobile story boarding application. No need to know how to draw. This app allows you to portray your vision to others in an easy controllable format. Designed for Directors, Directors of Photography, Producers, Writers, Animators, Art Directors, film students and anyone who wants to be able to visualize their story. For iPhone or iPad. ($14.99)
Daylight: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/daylight/id324528814?mt=8
Display sunrise and sunset times for your current location, at any point in time. For iPhone or iPad. (Free)
Documents To Go: (Office Suite) http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/documents-to-go-office-suite/id317117961?mt=8
Enables you to read and edit Word and Excel docs from your computer on your iPhone i.e. call sheet. This app can also view PowerPoint, PDF, iWork, Text, and RTF files on both the iPad and iPhone. Need to sync iPhone or iPad with a Desktop application to use. ($9.99)
Documents 2: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/documents-2-free-spreadsheet/id314894105?mt=8
Mobile app that lets you see any type of office document on your iPhone, iPad Also can transfer documents to/from your iPhone via FTP or Wi-Fi, Google, or Email. For iPhone or iPad. (Free)
Doddle Premium: http://www.doddleme.com/registration/pro-preview/
Create Digital Interactive Call Sheets right on your iPhone. Auto Update Weather and Emergency info for your shoot by just adding a location and date. Get interactive Map locations by adding in set address. If you make a change on your call sheet you can send out an email notifying the crew in your address book of that change. For iPhone and iPad. ($2.99)
DOFMaster: http://www.dofmaster.com/iPhone.html
Calculates depth of field for photography and provides best f-stop and lens combination. For iPhone. ($1.99)
Dropbox: http://www.dropbox.com/iPhoneapp or http://www.dropbox.com/ipad
Save and restore documents for moving to multiple devices. Bring your files with you wherever you go. Easy to upload photos and videos to Dropbox. For iPhone or iPad. (Free)
Easy Release: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/easy-release-model-release/id360835268?mt=8
Create release forms for talent. There are pre-canned release forms to get you started, simply fill in the blanks, save the form as a template. Hand this form to your talent so they can sign with their finger. Email the PDF to them and yourself. For iPhone and iPad. ($9.99)
Movie Slate: http://www.movie-slate.com/
All-in-one digital slate, clapperboard, shot log, and notepad are used for film, TV, documentaries, music videos, and interviews. It records both for the iPhone and iPad all of a shot’s production, GPS location, and time code data and is stored to the MovieSlate’s shot log history. This report can then be exported and viewed on your web browser. iPhone 3GS or later and iPad ($24.99)
Evernote: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/evernote/id281796108?mt=8
Evernote is an easy-to-use list maker that helps you remember everything across all of the devices you use. This app lets you take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists, record voice reminders–and makes these notes completely searchable. For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
Fahrenheit: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fahrenheit-weather-temperature/id426939660?mt=8
A weather application that uses latest technology to show the current temperature of any location. This app gives you detailed weather information of unlimited cities worldwide with an easy-to-use user interface. For iPhone and iPad. ($.99)
FDX Reader: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fdx-reader/id437362569?mt=8
Reader for Final Draft scripts for the iPhone and iPad. Final Draft uses a file format called .FDX. If you’ve ever attempted to open one of these files on iOS, you get raw XML. With FDX you get a screenplay nicely formatted. For iPhone and iPad. ($7.99)
FiLMiC Pro: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/filmic-pro/id436577167?mt=8
This app gives you more control over iPhone movie recording. It turns your iPhone into a fullfeatured HD video camera. For iPhone and iPad. ($3.99)
Flashlight: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/flashlight-o/id381471023?mt=8
Works like a real small flashlight. This app helps you see when it’s night exterior inside or outside. For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
Final Draft Reader: http://www.finaldraft.com/products/mobile/reader/
It precisely displays production scripts, including colored production pages exactly as they appear on your desktop – perfectly paginated. You can make script notes directly on your iPad. For iPad only. ($19.99)
Flipboard: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/flipboard/id358801284?mt=8
For both the iPhone and iPad. Internet access to web, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. Creates a personalized magazine out from shared files. For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
Genius Scan: PDF Scanner http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/genius-scan-pdf-scanner/id377672876?mt=8
Genius Scan turns your iPhone into a pocket scanner. It enables you to quickly scan documents on the go and email the scans as JPEG or PDF. For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
GoodReader for iPhone: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/goodreader-for-iPhone/id306277111?mt=8
PDF reader with advanced reading. You can read virtually anything, anywhere: books, movies, maps, and pictures. The ability to mark-up PDFs opens up new doors to GoodReader users who can now use typewriter text boxes, sticky notes, lines, arrows, and freehand drawings on top of a PDF file. This version is free for iPhone. For iPad, get “GoodReader for iPad.” ($4.99)
GPS by TeleNav: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gps-by-telenav/id414817704?mt=8
3D maps with live traffic flow, turn-by-turn directions with manual re-routing, local search, and cheap gas price finder. Now with Facebook integration & enhanced map discovery. For iPhone 3GS, 4, 3G and iPad and iPad 2. (Free)
Group Email: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/groups/id407855546?mt=8
Create and manage groups of contacts . Email a group of contacts as well as attach images to your group emails. For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
Group Text: (textPlus free texting & group text): http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/textplus-free-texting-+-group/id314487667?mt=8
Can use this app for free texting. . For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
Helios Sun Position Calculator: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/helios-sun-position-calculator/id311648870?mt=8
This application graphically predicts the path of the sun from dusk to dawn, on any given day, in any given place. Good for Cinematographers and Still Photographers working in natural light. For iPhone and iPad. ($29.99)
iAnnotate PDF: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iannotate-pdf/id363998953?mt=8
This app has a fully searchable library to organize, find, and read your documents. It is used for taking notes on lecture slides, annotating important business documents, revising screenplays, and grading papers. For iPad only. ($9.99)
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/apps/iPhone/
Specifically for IMDB access on the web. Internet industry database – large connection of movie, TV and celebrity info. For iPhone and iPad (Free)
iMovie: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/imovie/id377298193?mt=8
Great way to do simple edits on the go. For iPhone and iPad. ($4.99)
Instapaper: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/instapaper/id288545208?mt=8
Save and access web pages to read later when you are without Internet connection. For iPhone and iPad ($4.99)
iSlatehttp://itunes.apple.com/us/app/islate/id295464071?mt=8
Simple slate and easy to use as a portable digital clapper board. Digital Slate for Red Camera. For iPhone and iPad. ($2.99)
iVideoCamera: http://itunes.apple.com/app/ivideocamera-record-video/id332166209?mt=8
Now with tons of effects, this app records videos for older iPhones as well. For iPhone and iPad. ($.99)
LightMeter: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/light-meter-free/id410228606?mt=8
A simple light meter. For iPhone and iPad (Free)
LiVE-PLAY: http://lightiron.com/services/live-play
Automated Video Playback – LiVE PLAY is a streaming playback tool designed to enhance existing VTR setups on the set. With LiVE PLAY, iPads can be used as monitor for serving an unlimited amount of clips and are completely secure. It lets users view, share, and comment on clips from their LiVE PLAY-equipped iPads. For iPad. ($34.99)
MapQuest 4 Mobile: http://www.macworld.com/appguide/app.html?id=113106&expand=true
FREE voice-guided, turn-by-turn, GPS navigation for iPhone. Your phone speaks to you, telling you when to make a turn. Easily search with a single click while on the go. Stay on schedule by checking live traffic en route. If you take a wrong turn, MapQuest re-routes you automatically. For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
MatchLens: http://itunes.apple.com/app/matchlens/id315223799?mt=8
This calculator computes the equivalent lens focal length to produce the same field of view between two cameras with different aperture/sensor sizes. It will do a “Match Lens” calculation, and produce the closest equivalent angle of view lens, in millimeters, for both vertical and horizontal frames. For iPhone and iPad. ($9.99)
Movie Magic Scheduling To Go for the iPad http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/movie-magic-scheduling-to-go/id428072812?mt=8
It only works with a file that is created in Movie Magic Scheduling 5 and can make changes with the touch of a screen. Movie Magic Scheduling To Go provides a mobile companion solution to the desktop version of Movie Magic Scheduling 5 for use on the iPad. It allows you to make changes to your existing schedule in a simple touch screen interface. For iPad. ($29.99)
Movie Slate http://www.movie-slate.com/
With each closing of the clapper, MovieSlate automatically creates a shot log with your production, timecode, notes, and even the GPS location of your shots. For iPad and iPhone. ($24.99)
MyRadar: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/myradar-weather-radar/id322439990?mt=8
Regular MyRadar is free and fast and easy to use. It displays animated weather radar around your current location, allowing you to quickly see weather patterns coming your way. For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
Notes to Store: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/notes-to-store/id364740608?mt=8
Create notebooks of unlimited pages, type text, import photos, draw on photos or sketch. For iPad. ($1.99)
OmniFocus http://www.omnigroup.com/products/omnifocus-iPad
This is a personal task management app. Keep it all up-to-date and take your to-dos to-in sync your devices. Categorize your tasks by the tool, resource, or location required to accomplish them. For iPhone ($19.99) and for iPad. ($39.99)
OmniGraffle: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/omnigraffle/id363225984?mt=8
Your iPad touch screen is your canvas. It provides stencils full of objects for you to drag and drop, and it can magically organize diagrams so your ideas come to life. For iPad. ($49.99)
Orchestra to-do: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/orchestra-to-do/id459356540?mt=8
This app is a list maker. If everyone has it, you can send out and update to-do lists wirelessly. Good for inter-department app. Automatically syncs between the iPhone and the web for home/work, and can also create tasks with your voice. For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
PanaScout –Lite: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/panascout-lite/id371341478?mt=8
For crews scouting locations. This app shows the Cinematographer’s viewpoint from a professional cinema camera. For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
PanaScout: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/panascout/id361799671?mt=8
This is more advanced than the Lite version, with zoom issue resolved. It allows you to upload your stills to Final Cut. 360 Panorama – take location stills and stitch them together. For iPhone and iPad. ($9.99)
pCAM Film+Digital Calculator: http://www.davideubank.com/Good_Focus/pCAM_Film+Digital_Calculator.html
Many features for Cinematographers, Camera Operators & Assistants, VFX Supervisors, Script Supervisors and Still Photographers. Calculates Depth of Field, Splits-Aperture Finder, Field of View (Picture Sizes), Focal Length, Exposure, and Running Time Length. For iPhone and iPad. ($29.99)
PDF Expert: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pdf-expert-fill-forms annotate/id393316844?mt=8
It lets you read and annotate PDF documents, highlight text, make notes, draw with your finger and save these changes being compatible with Preview and Adobe Acrobat. This iPad application can fill in PDF forms. You can get PDF files from desktop computers, email attachments, documents on Dropbox, MobileMe iDisk, GoogleDocs etc. For iPad ($9.99)
PDF Reader: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pdf-reader-iPad-edition/id367816156?mt=8
PDF Reader can read all PDF files. For iPhone ($1.99) and iPad. ($4.99)
Phone Aid: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/phone-aid/id293019352?mt=8
Phone Aid contains real-time slideshows with clear, intuitive pictures and voice instructions that guide you through CPR and how to help a choking person when it really happens. You will also get an A-Z First Aid guide where you will find simple, straight forward advice on how to initially handle the most common injuries and illnesses such as, drowning, convulsions, burn injury, snake bite etc. For iPhone and iPad. ($1.99)
Photosynth: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/photosynth/id430065256?mt=8
This is a panorama creation app that makes it easy to capture and share interactive panoramas of the locations. Photosynth allows you to make a panorama from left to right, as well as up and down, thus enabling you to capture a full “sphere” (3D image of the location). For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
PlainText: Dropbox text editing http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/plaintext-dropbox-text-editing/id391254385?mt=8
This app is a simple text edit and allows you to create and organize your documents in folders and sync everything with Dropbox.com. For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
ProPrompter: https://apps.bodelin.com/
The universal app can sync between iPad and iPhone, so you can use your iPhone to remote control the iPad scrolling. For iPhone and iPad. ($9.99)
Rdm+ http://www.rdmplus.com/
Remote desktop for mobiles. This uses your computer on your iPhone if both are running. Works with both PC and MAC. For iPhone and iPad. ($9.99)
ReelDirector: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/reeldirector/id334366844?mt=8
Video editor that can create and edit movies right on the iPhone/iPad and includes a drag-anddrop timeline. For iPhone and iPad. ($4.99)
Screenplay: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/screenplay/id322410822?mt=8
Writing scripts index card -write up index cards and group, color them accordingly. For iPhone and iPad. ($4.99)
ShotList -Movie Shoot Planning: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/shotlist-movie-shoot-planning/id424885833?mt=8
ShotList shows a production stripboard to your mobile device, allowing the planning and tracking of every scene of a shoot as it happens. For iPhone and iPad. ($11.99)
Speedtest: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/speedtest.net-mobile-speed/id300704847?mt=8
Tests Internet speeds – one tap connection under 30 seconds to find out your upload, download and Ping speeds. For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
Squiggles: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/squiggles/id284927554?mt=8
This is a paint and image app that can create some sophisticated looking artwork with ease. Take a photo or select an image with your device and then doodle on it. Decorate with many overlay images and special stamp brushes. For iPhone and iPad. ($.99)
Storyboards: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/storyboards/id392533504?mt=8
Storyboards allows you to create your movie’s storyboard without requiring any drawing ability. Hundreds of characters and props are included inside this library. The free version lets you create up to 2 storyboards of 10 drawings. For iPad. (Free)
Sun Chaser: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sun-chaser/id428454778?mt=8
SunChaser is an app to calculate sun’s setting and rising time with the use of iPhone that detects your location. For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
Sun Compass: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sun-compass-for-iPad-ipod/id367001553?mt=8
This compass app determines your direction by calculating the current sun position. Sun predictor, less advanced than Helios. For iPhone and iPad. ($.99)
Sunrise Sunset Pro http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sunrise-sunset-pro/id319184913?mt=8
Displays sunrise/set times, dawn, dusk, solar noon, sun positions throughout the day. For iPhone and iPad. ($1.99)
Sun Seeker: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sun-seeker-3d-augmented-reality/id330247123?mt=8
Provides a flat view compass and an augmented reality camera 3D view showing the solar path, its hour intervals, its winter and summer solstice paths, and rise and set times. Find the sun, even when it is hidden by clouds. For iPhone and iPad. ($4.99)
The Weather Channel®: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-weather-channel-for-ipad/id364252504?mt=8
The Weather Channel for iPad combines interactive imagery with weather report. Full screen, customizable weather maps. M Push alerts for severe weather in your selected location. For iPad only (Free)
Time Card 24 Converter http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/time-converter-24-free/id444154009?mt=8
A simple application to help convert clock times into decimal times. For example: 6:42pm to 18.7. This helps in filling out time cards. For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
To-Do-List: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/to-do-list/id293837047?mt=8
Keeps track of all your to-do lists. For iPhone and iPad. ($.99)
Toodledo: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/toodledo-to-do-list/id292755387?mt=8
Toodledo is a powerful task and note manager. It will help organize your to-do list and notes. For iPhone and iPad. ($2.99)
Voxer Walkie-Talkie PPT http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/voxer-walkie-talkie-ptt/id377304531?mt=8
This is a Walkie Talkie app for smartphones. Send instant audio, text, photo and location messages to your crew. Your crew can listen to your message if their app is turned on and they are on Wi-Fi otherwise it will save like a text message for you to hear later. For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
WiFi HD: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wifi-hd-free-wireless-hard/id311170976?mt=8
Turn your iPhone into a wireless, mobile external hard drive. Works over any WiFi connection. You can now share, copy, and backup your files to and from your PC or Mac. For iPhone and iPad. (Free)
WritePad: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/writepad/id293033512?mt=8
WritePad is a text editor that utilizes advanced handwriting recognition input for the English language as well as iPhone keyboard for text entry, and includes spell checker, context analyzer, and standard editing operations such as copy, cut, paste, etc. For iPhone and IPad. ($3.99)
WriteRoom: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/writeroom/id288751446?mt=8
This app allows you to write text files in focus. It uses Dropbox to keep your documents organized. Also has ability to use fonts & colors. For iPhone and iPad. ($4.99)

If you have a suggestion for an app that would be useful to production personnel, or any other feedback, Susan Zwerman will be updating this list regularly, in PDF form. For details, email her at: susanzwerman@gmail.com

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I got an iPad six months ago, and have spent the time since then exploring far too many apps for my own good, so I’ve decided that my iTunes Store meanderings should do some good for someone, if possible…

Over the next few months, therefore, I’m going to share some of the apps that I have deemed “keepers”, amidst the legion of apps that have sojourned briefly on my iPad, before being unceremoniously deleted for lack of perceived long term value. Unquestionably, many of these apps that today I praise will eventually be usurped by new and improved solutions. For now, though, these are the few apps that have survived my merciless judgment, by simple dint of the fact that they’re better than the rest:

In order to make this review somewhat digestible, I’m going to split the apps into 20 categories, and I warmly welcome your own feedback and input, should you know of any apps I’ve not covered, which you feel are superior.

  • Learn
  • Teach
  • Read
  • Play
  • Create
  • Watch
  • Travel
  • Notes
  • Share
  • Listen
  • Finance
  • Work
  • Research
  • Shop
  • Utilities
  • Photography
  • Communicate
  • News
  • Cook
  • Cure

Please note that in all but one or two cases, I am focusing on apps that are, or were at one time or another, free. With this in mind, let me start with the “Shopping” category:

SHOPPING

Yes, I downloaded the Catalogue app, for all of about 10 minutes. It seemed cool for about that long, before I realized I hate getting catalogues in the post, so why would I rejoice in a flashy digital version of the junk mail tomes? It was therefore the first app to “wiggle” its way out of my iLife. Other apps fared better, however.

AppStart, AppShopper, App Deals, AppPriceDrop

With 585,000 apps in the App Store (as of 03/07/2012), of which more than 150,000 are exclusively for the iPad, how does a new owner know what’s what? A good beginning would be to dive in to the very attractively designed AppStart interface, and learn a little about the device itself, how to maximize its functionality, and then which top apps merit installation as a good foundational collection. At this point, it would be useful to learn the “secret” many iPad users have learned too late: an enormous number of iPad and iPhone apps fluctuate in price on a frustratingly random basis. I rely on a trio of research and aggregation apps (AppShopper, App Deals, AppPriceDrop) to parse these fluctuations, and take best advantage of “sales”.

Flow

Amazon’s AR app takes impressive advantage of your iPhone or iPad camera, and lets you point your device at the everyday products around you to discover more about them, and how much they cost on the site that truly seems to have it all. Audio and video clips of some products are often offered, and the A9 technology makes the pan functionality effortless. I was at a friend’s house and browsed a book they had recommended to me, held my iPad infront of it, and in less than the time it took to say the title, I had added it to my Amazon wishlist. From a consumer perspective this is functional utility through technology innovation at its finest. From a sales perspective this is targeted “pull-push” marketing at its most impressive.

GrouponHD, LivingSocial, Spreebird

The ubiquitous deal companies have efficient mobile apps to accompany their desktop sites. I actually find the LivingSocial one to be a little better designed, but the Spreebird app (and site) allows me to donate 10% of the deal back to my daughter’s school, so the double whammy win is a good twist on a concept that is getting old in the eyes of many vendors out there.

Craigslist, eBay

If you use these sites on your PC or Mac, these apps are great add-ons, to help you track and manage your buying and selling.

Karma

My newest app crush is on Karma. The concept is deceptively simple: tap in to your social network to manage your gift giving schedule; respond to the growing demand for “in the moment” accessibility and ease of process; transfer the choice to the recipient, without diminishing the impact of the gesture. You have to try it out to “get it”, but (as the tagline suggest) “good things will follow”.

On the bubble…

ShopAdvisor, Coupons, RedLaser, ShopSavvy, Yowza!

I love the idea of Barcode scanning for price comparisons, and easy access to coupons in situ, but I’m afraid the value of these apps may be limited to the mobile phone form factor: the iPad and other tablets prove too bulky for the mobile scanning function, IMHO. That said, these 5 apps seem to be the best of the bunch, and I tested a bundle.

Do let me know if you’ve discovered iPad apps that have made your life as a consumer a little easier, or simply a little more fun!

Next time, I’ll be reviewing which Social apps I use on a regular basis.

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Historically, small businesses founded during periods of market malaise grow to become behemoth multinational empires. At least, that’s what the track records of the likes of Microsoft, GE, IBM, GM, Disney, and even Apple would have you believe. Whether it’s because a recession throws a marketplace in to clearer and sharper relief, and identifies gaps that can be filled by innovators…or the simple possibility that it is perhaps less challenging (in the short term) to start one’s own business than to get a job when companies are reluctant to increase their workforce when their revenue projections are so shaky.

Whatever the reasoning, small businesses seem to appear by the legion during economic downturns, and the challenging economic times we are currently experiencing are no exception. Starting a small business is but the first step, however, in a very long and often unpredictable journey to success.  Advice abounds for these self-starters. Some of this advice is spiritual, some aspirational, some inspirational, most destined for the remaindered bin (or today’s e-book equivalent thereof).

It is refreshing, therefore, to come across a book that offers little by way of cheerleading, and a lot by way of practical and actionable advice. Susan Wilson Solovic and Ellen R. Kadin have recently co-authored a small biz startup guide entitled “It’s Your Biz” (Amacom, 227pp), and much of it is well worth the reading. If you are thinking of, or in the process of, starting up your own business for the first time, you would be well advised to skip all those feel-good tomes designed to raise your consciousness or karmic frequency, and instead study the experienced advice of these women, who will help you raise your eyes to see the road ahead, and guide you around many of the potholes thereon.

I have two quibbles with the publication:

a)      Resources are cited in a manner that leaves little room for the inevitable evolution of information sources in the 21st century. Sites come and go, new resource offerings crop up on an almost daily basis. The authors are handing out free fish, as much as they are teaching the reader how to fish. I would prefer if they would perhaps challenge the reader to find the resources for themselves. Perhaps providing pointers and search tips, instead of direct links; hints and clues that will not only yield resource opportunities, but empower the conscientious reader to seek out emerging resource opportunities not available at time of publication. Gamefication is a deeply embedded convention in today’s marketplace. Why not apply a little of that methodology to the book, and integrate a layer of interactivity in to the publication?

b)      Yet another “expert” has mistaken product marketing and sales support for strategic marketing. So long as marketing is seen as little more than a support activity, the sole purpose of which is to drive and support sales, organizations will only realize – at best – 50% of the value of this practice area. Marketing is a complex undertaking that –when successful – manages to connect an offering (product, solution, service, or brand) with one or more markets, in a manner that delivers exponential returns to all stakeholders. These returns are not purely fiscal, but also relational. Marketing has the potential to turn customers into salespeople, employees into evangelists, and brands into currency. Today’s social economy requires that business ventures recognize the new and very collaborative relationship they must foster with their clients and customers, in order to survive and thrive. Today’s marketing strategy is all about commitment, and far less about campaigns.

Extant these two quibbles, I am impressed with this guidebook, at least as a solid “get your head on straight” introduction to the basics of business building. This is not, as the book’s cover would have you believe, “the complete guide to becoming your own boss”, but rather the initial guide to the planning, preparation, and perseverance required to start a small business. Reading this book will not guarantee you business success, but it will assuredly get you in the headspace necessary to evaluate whether you are prepared to undertake the adventure.

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It’s been almost 2 months since I last posted anything here (I have no interest in blogging for the sake of blogging, and I’m sure you have no interest in reading self-important daily ruminations on the state of social media, society, or Steve Jobs (RIP)).

So, beginning today, I will be compiling – in keeping with my commitment to publish only when I have something worth publishing – recaps of a few of the various things I’ve discovered and shared during the previous month, be it via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or whatever other social brand made sense in the moment. I won’t be recapping ALL my postings and discoveries (saints preserve us!), but only those that I think still merit review, one month later. As noted above, I’ll be calling this regular entry “In Case You Missed It…”, and I welcome any feedback or input, as always.  So, without further ado, here is the first installment of this regular publication for your enjoyment, information, education, and perhaps even inspiration! (this first posting will cover a little more than the past month, just to get us all caught up):

Fundraising in the New Economy

As many of my readers know, I have been dedicating a big chunk the past couple of years to supporting a small variety of Not-for-Profit Organizations, helping them to strengthen their brand and financial positions during this economic downturn. Many NPOs are still wasting a lot of time pursuing legacy funding channels that no longer deliver the returns they used to bring, at the cost of other revenue generation opportunities. Crowd-sourced and network funding channels abound now, including ProFounder, Kickstarter, Razoo and others. NPOs need to have a dedicated New Funding Director, well-versed in emerging channels (from text-based through Social, and beyond). In July, Mashable published an interesting article offering some tips for NPO mobile campaigning. It was a little simplistic, but a great way to help NPOs start thinking along the right lines.

21st Century Pop

Later that month, I came across a very compelling site called thesixtyone, where “new artists make music and listeners decide what’s good”. Why it took me so long to check this out, I’ll never know, but I’m glad to see it still going strong, and now there’s another offering, exclusively for the iPad, called Aweditorium, which is similar, yet just different enough to make it worth looking in to. While Spotify, Grooveshark, Pandora, Mog, and Last.fm are hands down the best purveyors of mainstream music over the Net, it’s great to see intuitive, crowdsourced music experience such as thesixtyone and Aweditorium. Kudos to Reid Hoffman and Joi Ito for supporting such truly grassroots musical adventures as thesixtyone, and I’m eager to see what sort of UX the iCloud offers, to mitigate the lousy experience that is currently iTunes.

Gee, Plus or Minus

Also in July, I began using Google+, and I must say I am still struggling to adopt it as a preferred social network. I can see some potential, but it is so specifically reliant on the input of users that one wonders whether “we” are enough to ensure ongoing and continually expanding usefulness, beyond the fraternity of early adopters. This network may end up becoming little more than a glorified techie BBS, which is not a bad thing, just not perhaps what everyone had initially expected or hoped for. I yearn to be proven wrong, though, and see this evolve into a deeply enriching experience for a vast cross section of society, sufficiently differentiated from Facebook that it moves beyond being an “either/or” proposition. Other niche social networks are growing strongly, meanwhile, including photography site 500px (an alternative the increasingly messy deviantart).

Incremental Change

I’ve been waging a more than 2-year battle to have a major residential street in Burbank calmed sufficiently to allow for bicycle lanes, a center turn lane, upgraded signalization, and safe pedestrian crossing experiences. Just a few weeks ago, with the help of many friends and professionals, the battle was won, and we now move on to the next street, in this war (at least, that’s what it often feels like!) to make urban living safer, more manageable, and more sustainable.  My efforts were quiet and diplomatic (for the most part!), compared to the impressive actions of people like Vilnius Mayor A.Zuokas and Ed Begley Jr. While we may not all have the discipline, vision, & commitment of Mr. Begley, wouldn’t it be nice if we each moved an inch further in the right direction? Standing still on the issue of sustainable living isn’t going to improve air quality, landfill overflows, urban heat island effect, & the host of other challenges bearing down on us. Whoever said “ignorance is bliss” was a fool (Hello, Thomas Gray). As for the tank stunt: Is it all staged? Perhaps. Does it momentarily fulfill the fondest wish of many a pedestrian, bus driver, and bicyclist around the world? Definitely. The streets of our urban areas are supposed to be for ALL forms of transportation, not just cars. Does your city have the legislative tank commanders necessary to ensure you are able to get around a cleaner city, however you wish, and safely? Think about it, and maybe one or two more of us can act upon it…

In the meantime, while we fight to make our cities more inclusive, many among us are worrying about how our privacy is becoming compromised online. Facebook is certainly not to blame, if you are stupid enough to post drunken/naked/awkward pictures of yourself on your profile, or otherwise upload sensitive data. That’s all on you, bubba! However, your phone number, real estate records, social content, name, age, and so much more are easy to find on the web, regardless of your Facebook activity, thanks to a host of sites you may never have heard of. Clearing the data can be a bit of a headache, but finding all those sites has recently become a whole lot easier: Unlistmy.info is a free service that helps you identify those sites and remove your personal data from their records.

Speaking of records, the results from the 2010 Census came online last month, and they’re interesting to wander around, during your coffee/tea break… (some intriguing questions arise, such as: if all designated races experienced population decline in Los Angeles County, how did the overall population in that California county INCREASE by nearly 300,000 people?). Explore the 2010 Census here (courtesy of CNN).

Keeping The Fire Alight

More recently, Lots of new techie toys have been coming out: iPhone 4S, Amazon Fire Tablet, Kindle Touch, Samsung Galaxy S2 for T-Mobile and others, a couple of new Android tablets, some more Windows phones…Despite high unemployment, and a gasping economy, our almost unconscious desire for the newest consumer tech bauble remains as healthy as ever. At some point we will suddenly wake up to the fact that all these devices are nothing more than toys or tools, and as such need to be either mightily entertaining or extremely useful…and, in both cases, firmly reliable.

Let that day come sooner, rather than later.

The speculation surrounding the Amazon tablet release was perhaps the most feverish, with claims being made that the “Fire” was a potential “iPad Killer”. Despite press reports supporting this dramatic contention, nothing could be further from the truth, IMHO. As I said in one of my Quora answers last month, the new device from Amazon certainly opens up the market, with a price point ($199) that will bring fiscal fence-sitters into the arena. However, the feature-set on the Kindle Fire make it more like a juiced-up iPod Touch than an iPad. The Kindle Fire has no camera, no microphone, and no 3G connectivity. That said, it has two things that the iPad does not have: Amazon Silk and a vast content library (remember, Apps are not content, per se, they are applications!). The iPad will continue (for now) to dominate the upper end of the tablet market, with its dominant app collection and solid device performance. Meanwhile, the Kindle Fire represents a price and feature challenge to the rest of the market (Android and Windows8, essentially). To go out on a limb, just for the heck of it, I’m going to predict that that Kindle Fire does very well in the short term, while the new Kindle e-readers do astonishingly well, once they come out in November. Amazon may well take 2nd place in tablet market share, but not for long, as I have to believe the release of Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablet OS will force the Android Tablets and applications communities to mature at an accelerated pace. Amazon will take 1st place in mobile content delivery, and will keep it, so long as they maintain focus on their existing core capabilities.

I don’t think Mr. Jeff Bezos and Co. are looking to secure early advantage in the tablet race. Their objective is loftier. Amazon is in the multiplatform content delivery market for the long haul, as evidenced by their Kindle ecosystem. While the HTCs, Dells, Samsungs, RIMs, and Motorolas of the world (sorry, HP, but a jailbroken tablet can no longer be considered viable competition) fight it out in their respectively scrappy fashions, Amazon would do well to stick to its proven methodologies: manage and enhance a world-leading library of diverse content; produce competitively priced, robust, yet simple-featured devices; tying it all together with a superior (if still prone to outage) cloud infrastructure,

Market analysts have claimed that everyone who was going to buy a Kindle has already bought one, but the new touchscreen functionality and very affordable price point now position the Kindle e-reader as the only game worth playing in town. The Nook is in serious trouble (trapped between the Kindle Touch and Fire, yet costing almost as much as both combined). Watch for massive sales of this new line of Kindle e-readers, assuming the interface is solid, and the Whispernet deal (free wireless content delivery) stays equally secure.

The Kindle Fire represents a widening of the market for tablet users, not so much a direct challenge to the iPad (although it may convince Apple to lower the price on their current model, and keep it on the market when the next iPad iteration comes out, all depending on whether there is sufficient differentiation between their current model and the next release. Most signs point to this not being the case).

The new line of Kindle e-readers positions Amazon to garner such a massive and insurmountable lead over all other book distributors, digital or otherwise, that the Big 5 publishers are going to have to come back to the table soon, with their tails between their legs. Although Apple’s iBook may have better UI, the Kindle App gives readers a degree of mobility and flexibility that is unmatched.

Amazon is pursuing software and hardware innovations in full support of their core competencies, and the company will prosper mightily as a result. If AWS can reduce outages, and their Cloud infrastructure is able to handle the load that might come to bear when 50 million (or more) tablets and e-readers and other devices call for content at the same time, then Amazon will be the new leading entertainment studio of the 21st century: in charge and in control of distribution more content to more people, in more places, on more devices, than any other entity.

That brings me to the end of September, and I haven’t even mentioned my Twitter postings (tweets). So I’ll just post a few from the beginning of July below, to give you a taste of what you can usually find there! In the meantime, I look forward to next month’s recap and, if you prefer to connect in a more timely fashion, I encourage you to follow my regular (almost daily) tweets on Twitter, and/or my weekly short posts on Facebook.

A few Twitter tweets of note for early July:

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I still maintain that anyone (individual or company) looking for short to mid-term revenue injection should consider developing applications for the Blackberry platform, especially with the imminent 6.1 platform (Open GL-ES2.0; Windows API; Magnetometer/Digital compass APIs; Event based geo-tagging location APIs; Enhancement to barcode APIs, and a lot more). The Apple and Android platforms are increasingly overcrowded, and any applications developed in to that space will simply be part of the crowd, with an intensely rare few breakouts. It will be another couple of years before the glut of useless apps begins to fall by the wayside to a degree worthy of note.

Meanwhile, over in Blackberry App World, users are dying to get their hands on utilities and apps that make them proud to own a Blackberry once again. That RIM is not doing as good a job as it might in marketing its platform to developers is just one part of the puzzle that seems in dire need of burnishing. With the advent of Blackberry’s Playbook tablet, application development for the Blackberry ecosystem now has a truly compelling attraction. The window is open for a short period (as Motorola’s Xoom, Notion Ink’s Adam, and Samsung’s Galaxy jostle to get through, among others), and Blackberry needs to get aggressive.

The smart app developer AND brand manager will play the odds, and seize this opportunity to develop their apps in a space with far less competition, and far more demand for quality applications (just bear in mind that Blackberry users are a different demographic than Apple and Android users: know your market).

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If you want a device that can do a pretty good of chopping veggies, opening bottles and cans, extracting small screws, cutting paper, sawing small pieces of wood (very small), chiseling even smaller pieces of wood, and picking your teeth…then the good ol’ “all-purpose” swiss army knife is what your looking for! It may not be the best at any one of those things, but then you just want something that covers all the bases adequately, right? Who knows what you’re going to want to do at any given moment, and you want to be ready to do it all, right? It’s not as if today’s individual actually has the time to plan their activities and intentions in advance, is it?

However…

If you know what you want to do in advance, and you’re the type of person that prefers to focus on one activity at a time, with minimal distraction, then it stands to reason that you should select the best tool for the job. For example, if you have a particularly thick steak that you wish to enjoy eating, your swiss army pocket knife is going to be a messy and challenging device to deploy, resulting in a less than exquisite dining experience. A well-crafted, high-quality, high carbon stainless steel knife is the only option in this case. It does one thing…reeeeaaally well.

iPad: The Victorinox of tablet devices.
Kindle: Yup – the steak knife.

I do not want my car to have email functionality on the driver side; I do not want my oven to do my laundry; I do not want my book to play movies. Not yet. Not until the car drives perfectly, the oven bakes beautifully, and the book reads crisply. I prefer my devices and tools to be as cost effective, robust, elegant, and functionally precise as possible, so that I may have the liberty to develop a relationship with my products that assures me the highest degree of satisfaction, at the best price.

At a moment in time when consumers are desperate to bring order to the chaos in their lives, when people are eager for simplicity; when companies such as Flock and Pip.io are growing their user base of evangelists intent on collapsing the layers in their social worlds…why isn’t Amazon’s marketing department focusing on the fact that their product is built for one main purpose, and it accomplishes that purpose with an elegance that the iPad’s multifunctional personality cannot pretend to approximate, except perhaps via the Kindle App itself? The e-ink differentiator is a worthy advantage, I agree, but perhaps it’s time to focus on the big value advantage: the Kindle knows what it’s supposed to do and, a few minor tweaks notwithstanding, it does it very well.

I know where my steak knives are. I use them regularly. I have a Swiss Army knife, but have no idea where it is…never use it anymore.

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Now that everyone who couldn’t bear to wait is feverishly pawing their new iPad (or not), I want to take a few moments to explore the possibility of alternatives.

I’ve admired Apple for the longest time, largely for its design and brand marketing savvy. The company’s innovative techniques have forced the hardware and software industries alike to eschew complacency, at the risk of alienating a very demanding consumer-base. However, I believe that the iPad, while it will certainly not damage Apple’s bottom line (Apple  apparently sold more iPad units on its opening day than it sold iPhone units back in June 2007, when that device was launched*), may well contribute to some overdue redress of the perception of the brand, versus the reality of its product line value.

There’s no denying that Apple has made some innovative products, and its oligarchy has ensured that attention to detail and robust design standards have remained mainstays in the development of all hardware and software offerings. However, the company’s commitment to closed systems, proprietary elements, and “walled garden” disdain for open standards has served to goad competitors into an increasing frenzy of responsive innovation. The result has been that the gap between Apple innovation and mainstream industrial emulation has narrowed sufficiently these past few years, so as to position several competing brands almost neck and neck with Apple on this, their latest release.

Blackberry, HTC, Motorola, Palm, and Google have all come out with multitouch interfaces for their handheld devices, in the wake of the iPhone. While few of these brands offer a truly competitive alternative to the Apple iPhone OS, with respect to UI and application experience, this gap may no longer exist with the Tablet. Here below are a few possible competitors to the early bird iPad:

WePad

Neofonie’s 11.6” display has much going for it, and is *apparently* going to hit the European market in less than a week. however, the absence of any video footage of note makes one pause…Here are some pictures, at least:

 

Lenovo IdeaPad U1

For those who can’t decide between a netbook and a tablet…there’s an app a device for that:

HP Slate

Competitively priced, and with some of the features that lots of people are moaning are lacking in the iPad:

Microsoft Courier

If Ballmer is able to deliver on the promise held within these demos, things could get really exciting:

Dell Mini 5

Multitasking, small form factor, data AND phone AND camera…:

Dell Mini 5 walk thru

ExoPC Slate

They call this a “finger driven PC”, and it certainly has some interesting specs:

ICD Tablets

Innovative Converged Devices has created a full size (called the VEGA), and a mini tablet (the ULTRA), depending on your carrier preference (the VEGA will be sold via T-Mobile, while the Ultra will go to Verizon). The full size gets my motor running more so than the mini, but the mini is certainly worth a look, if portability is one of your top priorities:

Notion Ink Adam

Saving the best for last, Notion Ink has managed to accomplish what I have been dreaming was possible: to marry the text reading superiority of the Kindle (e-ink), the user flexibility of the iPad, and the multitasking capability of some of the the other tablets mentioned above:

So where does this leave Netbooks? Given that companies like MSI, best known as netbook manufacturers, are set to launch their own tablet devices later this year, I predict that with the rise of tablets, we will see a relative decline in netbook sales. It won’t happen overnight, and devices such as Lenovo’s IdeaPad will certainly cater to those of us who want a little bit from both worlds, but as Android and other mobile OS technologies evolve, and multi-touch and resistive interface technology refine themselves, I think netbooks and laptops will be left with greatly reduced market share.

Yet, just when we think that there are enough worthy alternatives out there to permit ourselves the luxury of making a choice, along comes Google (again!) to suggest they may be releasing their own Chrome OS-based tablet

I guess it’s like car-shopping these days: if you need one, get one. If you don’t need one, wait a bit.  Everything seems to change dramatically on a weekly basis, so whatever you buy this week will be trumped in no time. The firm of Amdahl, Nielsen and Moore is hard at work…