news-resizedAmazon Appliance Ups the Pressure on Google and Apple

Why can’t a computer be more like a toaster? That’s the question many engineers have asked over the years, only to be told by marketers that when people buy computers, they want all-powerful state-of-the-art marvels of technology, not home appliances.

Well, the marketers might have finally met their match. Jeff Bezos apparently agrees with the engineers. If simpler is better, why not sell computers that are simple and easy to use?

Amazon understands that consumers want simplicity. And they’re ready to sell simplicity, even if it means ceding the “cutting edge” to competitors like Google and Apple. Best of all, Amazon’s new product is both simple and useful.

“It’s called the Echo Show, and it is the latest incarnation of the Echo, Amazon’s voice-controlled smart speaker that has become a surprise hit. The Echo Show is easy to describe; it’s an Echo with a screen, and you control it the same way you do any other Echo — by talking to Alexa, its cheery assistant,” writes Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times.

As Manjoo notes, the Echo Show won’t do email, search the web or play first-person shooter games. So far, it’s pretty much limited to playing music, making telephone calls and helping you shop at Amazon. But it does those things really well – and it’s amazingly simple to use. From Amazon’s perspective, less is more. Echo Show is engineered to do a great job of delivering less, which might be exactly what most people really want from a computer.

Google vs. Europe

The European Union has fined Google $2.7 billion and ordered the tech giant to change its approach to search, potentially opening the door to more competition from other shopping sites.

“The EU's executive branch, the European Commission, also ordered Google to change the way it displays search results from its online shopping tool,” writes Klint Finley in Wired.

From my point of view, this is part of a heavy-handed attempt to tilt the playing field in favor of European competitors. Frankly, I don’t think it will work in the long run. But that won’t stop European regulators from trying to hobble Google, at-least in the short term.

Scientists Inhale Uranium at Nuclear Sites

I’m including this brief in solidarity with nuclear scientists, because they are part of the larger tech community.

Apparently, “an elite group of 97 nuclear researchers” were exposed to airborne particles of enriched uranium at a Nevada nuclear site in 2014. At least three of the scientists inhaled radioactive particles, which can pose serious cancer risks, according to an investigative report published in Scientific American.

What’s really scary about this incident is that it was totally preventable. And evidently, according to the report, it’s part of a larger pattern of sloppy behavior at some of our leading atomic laboratories.

The article is worth reading and worth discussing. Science and technology play key roles in everyone’s life today. We simply can’t afford to take them for granted, at any level.