Dec 09

Amazon Makes You Dumb

Amazon makes you dumb — or at least that’s one consequence of this point of view.  The article blames Amazon’s tax “evasion” techniques for the inability of state and local governments to earn the tax revenues needed for schools and police.   This doesn’t make much sense to me.

Amazon is already paying taxes, federal and state, for what it produces and sells.  The only tax revenue that is under question is the additional sales tax in the state the items are purchased in.  The article claims that Amazon is finding loopholes in tax law so it can maintain a competitive advantage against rivals by offering lower prices.  If you follow that  No state sales tax –>  lower price –> competitive advantage then you have to believe that adding the state sales tax to Amazon purchases would eliminate the competitive advantage.  Then Amazon wouldn’t be selling as much in those states and you wouldn’t earn (as much as you think you should) on that revenue.  And it can’t be said, with any certainty, that the increase in revenues from the added sales tax wouldn’t be offset by the loss in corporate taxes on the total revenue earned by Amazon.

I guess I’ m a tax idiot, but I’m not sure sales tax even makes sense.  And I guess that’s a larger point —  I don’t think our tax system/law is understandable in any meaningful way.  What are the underlying principles of what is taxable and what isn’t?   It seems the whole point of tax is a means to fund public services and goods.  What would happen if sales tax were eliminated — and the required tax revenue was made up by corporate and personal income tax?  It seems strange that consumers are penalized for consuming.  Sure — keep gas and cigarette taxes in effect, but it seems the administration of sales tax itself may be so difficult to manage that it may never pay out.

Further, to this point, there more complex the tax law is, the more “loopholes” that exist.  And more time must be spent on closing those loopholes.  However, until that time, as a consumer, I’m benefiting from Amazon’s effective and legal tax maneuvering.

Dec 09

From A Great Height

How durable is your Kindle? I had mine in it’s optional black case. I dropped it in a way that seems would occur most frequently — oriented vertically as it is being read. It hit the bottom right corner with an audible crack. It fell about 3 feet onto a hard tile floor. The metal has a 3-4mm gouge out of it now. The front and back sections dislodged. After a few tries snapping them back together, everything seems aligned. It has been working fine for the last 5 days since the occurrence. The only hiccup, which I can’t attribute to the fall, is that the page sometimes advances on it’s own ( about once every 300 or so page flips).

I was a skeptic on the Kindle for many reasons. But after receiving one as a gift I’ve been using it quite a bit. I’m a book lover and horder. So it might be useful to document how (and if) I get comfortable using the Kindle instead of books. More to come.

Feb 09

Google Trends Versus Twitter Twist Trends

Both Franz Ferdinand Tonight:Franz Ferdinand and Andrew Bird Noble Beast have released new albums in the past 30 days. I started thinking about how good they are, relative to one another.

In my initial preview I found “Tonight” to be the same old Franz — in a boring way, while “Noble Bird” was the same old Andrew in a good way. I turned to Twitter and Google to see what everyone else is thinking.

First, Google shows parity in the US across the two acts in search, with Franz Ferdinand getting substantially more news hits. Oddly, the albums were released in separate weeks and search results don’t reflect this.

Andrew versus Franz

Andrew versus Franz

The most interesting distinction through Google Trends came through the location information. I started with no regional filters. Franz Ferdinand popped very high in Croatia and other seemingly odd places. I then filtered for only in the United States.

Andrew versus Franz by location

Andrew versus Franz by location

Bird crushed Franz Ferdinand in Austin, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis. FF dominated Irvine, CA and LA. Not sure what that means? Bird rocks and FF doesn’t (yes I live in Chicago).

Franz versus Andrew

Franz versus Andrew

Twitterers are making more noise about Franz Ferdinand (sorry about the color swap, blue = bird in these graphs) — though in general, the tweet rate looks low. They start to look similar over the last few days.

The real metrics here are actual listens, downloads, or sales. Based on current Amazon Sales Rank, in CD format, “Tonight” ranks #36 and “Noble Beast” ranks #94. However, as an MP3 download,”Tonight” ranks #54 and “Noble Beast” dominates at #12.

I have a few tools I can use moving forward to track this stuff in more detail. Not sure what to make out of this just yet — but interesting nonetheless.

Dec 08

I’m Still Doing the Rain Dance

Cloud computing isn’t going to dominate the tech landscape, but will raise a ruckus for software vendors. Google and Amazon will be cloud computing winners, but the spoils will be relatively small. And there’s a race to deliver a cloud developer stack for both consumers and enterprise customers.

Handicapping cloud computing: The big picture | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com.

I don’t agree with the takeaways.  They may not dominate the landscape as currently configured (might be new players and/or new manifestations), but I’ve had too many business models that are workable ONLY because of the cloud…