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      Blog :: 2011

      Beyond the PC

      The Economist Magazine Special report: Personal technology  Beyond the PC

      Mobile digital gadgets are overshadowing

      the personal computer, says Martin Giles.

      Their impact will be far-reaching.

      IF YOU HAVE a phone, these days even space is within reach. Last year Luke Geissbühler and his son, who live in Brooklyn, popped a high-definition video camera and an Apple iPhone into a sturdy protective box with a hole for the camera's lens. They attached the box to a weather balloon, which they released about 50 miles (80km) outside New York City, after getting the approval of the authorities. The balloon soared into the stratosphere and eventually burst. A parachute brought it to the ground. By tracking the iPhone's inbuilt global positioning system, the Geissbühlers were able to retrieve the box and the video of their "mission", which shows the curvature of the planet clearly. The results can be seen at www.brooklynspaceprogram.org.

      The iPhone and other smartphones are proving extremely useful on Earth too. These devices, which let people download and install applications, or "apps", from online stores run by phonemakers, telecoms companies and others, are starting to displace ordinary mobile phones in many countries. Ofcom, Britain's telecoms regulator, recently reported that more than one in four adults there uses a smartphone. Nielsen, a market-research firm, reckons the devices make up the majority of mobile-phone purchases in America. Emerging markets are embracing them as well: in Indonesia, BlackBerry handsets made by Canada's Research in Motion (RIM) have become a status symbol among the country's fast-growing middle class.

      Sales of tablet computers, though still small, are also growing rapidly. Since Apple's iPad arrived last year, a host of rivals have appeared, such as RIM's Playbook, Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Sony's Tablet. All eyes are now on Amazon's Kindle Fire. With smartphones, which seem to be surgically attached to the hand of every teenager and many an adult, tablets have opened up a new dimension to mobile computing that is seducing consumers. Morgan Stanley, an investment bank, believes that in 2011 combined shipments of smartphones and tablets will overtake those of personal computers (PCs).

      The revolution is mobile

      This marks a turning-point in the world of personal technology. For around 30 years PCs in various forms have been people's main computing devices. Indeed, they were the first machines truly to democratise computing power, boosting personal productivity and giving people access, via the internet, to a host of services from their homes and offices. Now the rise of smartphones and tablet computers threatens to erode the PC's dominance, prompting talk that a "post-PC" era is finally dawning.

      PCs are not about to disappear. Forecasters expect 350m-360m of them to be sold this year and the market is likely to keep growing, if slowly. With their keyboards, big screens and connectivity to the web, PCs are still ideal for many tasks, including the writing of this article. And they continue to evolve, cheap, light "ultrabooks" being the latest in a long line of innovations. Even so, the Wintel era--dominated by PCs using Microsoft's Windows operating system and Intel's microchips--is drawing to a close. The recent news that HP, the world's largest computer-maker, is thinking of spinning off its PC business to focus on

      A new tech landscape is taking shape that offers consumers access to computing almost anywhere and on many different kinds of device. Smartphones are at the forefront of this change. The Yankee Group, a research firm, thinks that sales of these phones will overtake those of ordinary "feature" phones in many more countries in the next few years. But other kinds of machine, from Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming console, which allows gamers to contact friends while they play, to web-enabled television sets, are also helping people stay connected.

      In part, this emerging array of devices reflects changes in society. As people come to rely more heavily on the web for everything from shopping to social networking, they need access to computing power in many more places. And as the line between their personal and their work lives has blurred, so demand has grown for devices that can be used seamlessly in both.

      The consumer is king

      The rise of tablets and smartphones also reflects a big shift in the world of technology itself. For years many of the most exciting advances in personal computing have come from the armed forces, large research centres or big businesses that focused mainly on corporate customers. Sometimes these breakthroughs found their way to consumers after being modified for mass consumption. The internet, for instance, was inspired by technology first developed by America's defence establishment.

      Over the past ten years or so, however, the consumer market has become a hotbed of innovation in its own right. "The polarity has reversed in the technology industry," claims Marc Andreessen, a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist whose firm, Andreessen Horowitz, has invested in several consumer companies, including Facebook and Twitter. Now, he says, many exciting developments in information technology (IT) are appearing in the hands of consumers first and only then making their way into other arenas--a trend that tech types refer to as the "consumerisation" of IT.

      The transformation may not be quite as dramatic as Mr Andreessen's remark implies. Armies, universities and other institutions still spend vast sums on research, the fruit of which will continue to nourish personal technology. Moreover, this is not the first time that individuals have taken the lead in using new gadgets: the first PCs were often sneaked into firms by a few geeky employees.

      Nevertheless there are good reasons for thinking that the latest round of consumerisation is going to have a far bigger impact than its predecessors. One is that rising incomes have created a vast, global audience of early adopters for gadgets. Around 8m units of the Kinect, a Microsoft device that attaches to the Xbox and lets people control on-screen action with their body movements, were sold within 60 days of its launch in November 2010. No consumer-electronics device has ever sold so fast, according to Guinness World Records. "These people will absorb new technology on a scale that is simply quite stunning," says Craig Mundie, Microsoft's head of research and strategy.

      The cost of many gadgets is falling fast, giving another fillip to consumption. Smartphones priced at around $100--after a subsidy from telecoms companies, which make money on associated data plans--are starting to appear in America. The cheapest Kindle, an e-reader from Amazon, sells for $79, against $399 for the first version launched in 2007. The cost of digital storage has also fallen dramatically. A gigabyte (GB) of storage, which is roughly enough to hold a two-hour film after compression, cost around $200,000 in 1980; today a disk drive holding a terabyte, or 1,024GB, costs around $100.

      The growth of the internet and the rapid spread of fast broadband connectivity have also transformed the landscape. So has the rise of companies such as Apple, Google and Amazon, whose main aim is to delight individuals rather than businesses or governments. Apple, in particular, has been to the fore in the democratisation of IT, creating a host of impressive devices such as the iPhone and the iPad. Much of the credit for its success goes to Steve Jobs, who stood down in August as its chief executive.

      Techtonic shifts

      This special report will examine in more detail the forces underlying the reversal in polarity to which Mr Andreessen refers and how they are affecting individuals, businesses and governments. The combination of new devices with pervasive connectivity and plentiful online content is raising citizens' expectations of what personal technology can achieve. And it is leading them to bring their own devices into the workplace, where some of the technology they are expected to use now seems antediluvian by comparison. This trend is challenging companies to rethink their IT departments' habit of treating employees as digital serfs who must do as they are told.

      The burgeoning global market for smart consumer technology is also inspiring an outpouring of entrepreneurial energy that will create many more remarkable products. And it is encouraging organisations of all kinds to adapt innovations from the consumer world for their own ends. Companies are setting up online app stores for their employees; hospitals are handing out specially modified smartphones to nurses; soldiers are trying out tablet computers to control drones and experimenting with "battlefield apps". Many more such opportunities are likely to emerge as the technological and economic forces behind this popular computing revolution gather steam.

      Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 to arrange for showings,  list your property,  or look further into Vermont's real estate market and using your own technology to access property.

      Vermont Required Consumer Information Disclosure: please note Vermont  real estate agencies represent Sellers directly or indirectly. Buyer representation can be gained for properties not already listed by Maple Sweet Real Estate. To better understand the merits of or arrange for buyer representation, please email or call for further details.
      .....
      If your property is already listed for sale with another real estate agency, this is not intended as a solicitation of that agency's listing.

      Comments

      1. Mobile Commerce on

        Excellent article and I couldn't agree with you more! Our ancestors would be simply flabbergasted if they saw our technology today!

        30 Year Mortgage Rates Match Record Low

        Heavy Lifting

        Mortgage Rates for 30-Year U.S. Loans Fall to 3.94% as Record Low Matched

        By Prashant Gopal - Dec 15, 2011, from www.bloomberg.com

        Mortgage rates for 30-year U.S. loans declined, matching the lowest level on record, as the European debt crisis drove investors to the relative safety of Treasury bonds.

        The average rate for a 30-year fixed loan fell to 3.94 percent in the week ended today from 3.99 percent, Freddie Mac (FMCC) said in a statement. That rate, first reached in October, is the lowest in records dating to 1971. The average 15-year rate fell to an all-time low of 3.21 percent from 3.27 percent, according to the McLean, Virginia-based mortgage-finance company.

        The housing market has been weighed down by an 8.6 percent unemployment rate, tighter lending and foreclosures even as borrowing costs fall. Yields on 10-year Treasuries, a benchmark for consumer loans including mortgages, dropped this week amid concern thatEurope's fiscal crisis will hobble U.S. expansion.

        "To the extent Europe's credit crisis is lowering Treasury yields and mortgage rates, that would support the U.S. housing market," Sal Guatieri, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto, said in an interview yesterday. "Unfortunately there are negative ramifications from Europe's crisis, in particular the drop in equity values and the impact on consumer confidence."

        Lower borrowing costs have helped boost refinancing as homeowners seek to reduce their monthly payments. U.S. home-loan applications climbed 4.1 percent in the week ended Dec. 9, according to a Mortgage Bankers Association index. The Washington group's gauge of refinancing climbed 9.3 percent, while its index of purchases fell 8.2 percent.

        Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 to arrange for showings,  list your property,  or look further into Vermont's real estate market or obtaining a mortgage.

        Vermont Required Consumer Information Disclosure: please note Vermont  real estate agencies represent Sellers directly or indirectly. Buyer representation can be gained for properties not already listed by Maple Sweet Real Estate. To better understand the merits of or arrange for buyer representation, please email or call for further details.
        .....
        If your property is already listed for sale with another real estate agency, this is not intended as a solicitation of that agency's listing.

        Barclays Analyst Sees 2012 Housing Rebound

        By Kerri Panchuk, Housing Wire, a LinkedIn Today Post

        Barclays Capital (BCS: 11.84 0.00%) analyst Stephen Kim predicts a housing recovery buoyed by improving jobs numbers and the fact prices for nondistressed homes will have stabilized without government support.

        "In the absence of a government homebuyer incentives, prices for non-distressed home sales have stabilized for almost a year," Kim said. "This is the most important trend in the housing industry right now, and we are amazed at how little attention it has been getting from the media and the street. This stability on the part of nondistressed prices has occurred despite a very high share of distressed activity and continued declines in overall prices."

        Barclays said recent economic data -- including higher job creation in November, housing starts and improved homebuyer traffic -- point to some improvement potential in the sector.

        In mid-2010, the federal homebuyer tax credit expired, leaving the housing market without training wheels for the first time since the 2008 economic meltdown. Yet, prices in some housing markets remained stable on the back end.

        With its new outlook in the market, Barclays upgraded D.R. Horton's (DHI: 12.68 0.00%) stock to buy and raised price targets for D.R. Horton, Lennar (LEN: 19.27 0.00%), Toll Brothers (TOL: 21.30 0.00%) and Meritage Homes(MTH: 22.92 0.00%).

        At the same time, the investment bank raised its 2012 earnings-per-share estimates for D.R. Horton, Lennar, Meritage Homes, Pulte (PHM: 6.48 0.00%) and Toll Brothers, while lowering its estimates for KB Home (KBH: 8.23 0.00%).

        "Thus, the key to timing housing's recovery depends primarily on when these first-time buyers decide it is safe to buy a house," Kim concluded.

        Write to Kerri Panchuk.

         

        Will Mortage Rates Stay Low?

         by Carla Hill, Law Office of Fred Peet, South Burlington, Vermont

        While the Federal Reserve has promised to keep rates "low" until 2013, it is clear to many experts that the current historical lows we are experiencing will not last.

        According to the latest projections from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), interest rates should gradually rise out of historic lows as we move through 2012.

        This isn't the most welcome news for a housing market that has continued to falter and a credit market that already has tightened lending standards

        The NAR reports that current surveys reflect the tight credit conditions. They report that recent buyers are staying well within their means, with higher incomes and higher down payments.

        Richard Peach, Senior Vice President at the Federal Reserve Board of New York, who said the economy is under-performing, reports, "Nearly two-and-a-half years since the end of 'the great recession,' the economy continues to operate well below its potential. Among the significant structural impediments are the legacy of the housing boom and bust, and fiscal contrition at the state and local level."

        Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors®, said home sales should be stronger. "Tight mortgage credit conditions have been holding back home buyers all year, and consumer confidence has been shaky recently," he said. "Nonetheless, there is a sizable pent-up demand based on population growth, employment levels and a doubling-up phenomenon that can't continue indefinitely. This demand could quickly stimulate the market when conditions improve."

        It is this improving jobs markets that many analysts are waiting for. Yun projects the GDP will grow 1.8 percent this year and 2.2 percent in 2012. The unemployment rate should decline, albeit modestly, to around 8.7 percent by the end of 2012.

        Around this same time, experts expect that "mortgage interest rates should gradually rise from recent record lows and reach 4.5 percent by the middle of 2012."

        This is still an incredibly low rate and many experts feel that housing market, while still struggling, will improve throughout next year and after. In fact, the NAR expects new home sales to reach 372,000 next year. Existing home sales could fare just as well, rising 4 to 5 percent in 2012.

        "Housing affordability conditions, based on the relationship between median home prices, mortgage interest rates, and median family income, have been at a record high this year," Yun said. "Very favorable affordability conditions will dominate next year as well, which will probably be the second best year on record dating back to 1970. Our hope is that credit restrictions will ease and allow more home buyers to take advantage of current opportunities."

        The bottom line is that the housing market should improve over the next year and along with that improvement will come higher interest rates. Buyers interested in making a move should take heed of today's historically low rates and high levels of affordability.

        Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 to arrange for showings,  list your property,  or look further into Vermont's real estate market.

        Vermont Required Consumer Information Disclosure: please note Vermont  real estate agencies represent Sellers directly or indirectly. Buyer representation can be gained for properties not already listed by Maple Sweet Real Estate. To better understand the merits of or arrange for buyer representation, please email or call for further details.
        .....
        If your property is already listed for sale with another real estate agency, this is not intended as a solicitation of that agency's listing.

        Toyota, Yamaha Bring E-Bikes to Smart Grid, from Wired Magazine

        Toyota, Yamaha Bring E-Bikes to Smart Grid

        Toyota, Yamaha Bring E-Bikes to Smart Grid

        Toyota, Yamaha Bring E-Bikes to Smart Grid, from Wired Magazine

        Toyota, Yamaha Bring E-Bikes to Smart Grid

        Toyota and Yamaha have created a couple of commuter concepts that integrate e-bikes and battery-powered scooters to Toyota's electric vehicle communications network. Now, e-bikes and e-scooters can share the road and the charging infrastructure, too.

        The EC-Miu three-wheeler and PAS-WITH e-bike will appear at the Tokyo Motor Show when it opens tomorrow. The two concepts were designed to highlight the companies' joint vehicle communications infrastructure, which they say will advance vehicle-to-vehicle telematics, encourage vehicle sharing and bridge the gap between cars and bikes.

        Through smartphone connections, WiFi and in-vehicle navigation setups, each concept can link to the Toyota Smart Center, a so-called "smart grid" telematics service developed in partnership with Microsoft. With that connection, riders can find the nearest charging station, reserve and pay for charging and upload vehicle diagnostic information.

        Those are the same benefits electric vehicle owners are beginning to enjoy. In addition to Toyota's Smart Center, automakers such as General Motors and Nissan have already deployed smart-grid charging where EVs can communicate with utilities and EV owners to find and reserve a charging station, set pricing and the like. However, the Toyota-Yamaha partnership marks the first time vehicles other than automobiles have been invited to an automaker's own charging party.

        Toyota and Yamaha say that the partnership has multiple benefits. The companies could save a lot of money through shared infrastructure and technology development, and owners of linked Toyotas and Yamahas would benefit from access to each other's charging networks. Eventually, the partnership could even link scooters and e-bikes with a car-sharing service, where a suburban EV owner could borrow a bike to ride in a city while his or her car was plugged in at a public charging station.

        Images: Toyota

        Thank you for visiting Maple Sweet Real Estate's blog, Light Amber.

        Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 to arrange for poetic showings,  list your property,  or look further into Vermont's real estate market.

        Vermont Required Consumer Information Disclosure: please note Vermont  real estate agencies represent Sellers directly or indirectly. Buyer representation can be gained for properties not already listed by Maple Sweet Real Estate. To better understand the merits of or arrange for buyer representation, please email or call for further details.
        .....
        If your property is already listed for sale with another real estate agency, this is not intended as a solicitation of that agency's listing.

        Tree House, by Shel Silverstein

        A tree house, a tree house,

        A secret you and me house,

        A high up in the leafy branches

        Cozy as can be house.

        A street house, a neat house,

        Be sure and wipe your feet house

        Is not my kind of house at all---

        Let's go live in a tree house.

         

        Thank you for visiting Maple Sweet Real Estate's blog, Light Amber.

        Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 to arrange for poetic showings,  list your property,  or look further into Vermont's real estate market.

        Vermont Required Consumer Information Disclosure: please note Vermont  real estate agencies represent Sellers directly or indirectly. Buyer representation can be gained for properties not already listed by Maple Sweet Real Estate. To better understand the merits of or arrange for buyer representation, please email or call for further details.
        .....
        If your property is already listed for sale with another real estate agency, this is not intended as a solicitation of that agency's listing.

        Irene. A Retrospective by Waitsfield, Vermont Photographer David Garten

        After the Flood, Sediment Streets



        After the Flood, Sediment Streets

        After the Flood, Sediment Streets

        After the Flood, Sediment Streets

        After the Flood, Sediment Streets

        After the Flood, Sediment Streets

        After the Flood, Sediment Streets

        Ravaged Pavement

        After the Flood, Sediment Streets

        After the Flood, Sediment Streets

        After the Flood, Sediment Streets

        After the Flood, Sediment Streets

        After the Flood, Sediment Streets

        David Garten has photographed weddings throughout Vermont and New England, as well as New York, California, and Madrid, Spain for 23 years. From 1994 to 2004 David traveled often to Havana, Cuba where he photographed the worlds of music and dance, as well as daily life. His cuban photos have been published in the New York Times, Latin Beat Magazine, books such as "Cuban Ballet" by Octavio Roca and "My Sax Life" by Paquito D'Rivera, and on Grammy-nominated CD's by Cuban musicians such as Chucho Valdés and Irakere. David has exhibited at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, and the Jazz Gallery in New York.

        To reach David Garten for weddings, portraits or other assignments: dgarten@madriver.com

        4412 Main Street #2, PO Box 210, Waitsfield, VT 802.496.5516

        Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 to list your property, arrange for showings, or look further into Vermont's real estate market or Act 250 reform.

        .....
        Thank you for visiting Maple Sweet Real Estate's blog, Light Amber.
        .....
        Vermont Required Consumer Information Disclosure: please note Vermont  real estate agencies represent Sellers directly or indirectly by default. Buyer representation can be gained for properties not already listed by Maple Sweet Real Estate. To better understand the merits of or arrange for buyer representation, please email or call for further details.
        .....
        If your property is already listed for sale with another real estate agency, this is not intended as a solicitation of that agency's listing.

        Streamlining Act 250. Vermont Environmental Law Reform.

        Clear Air Clear Water

        Watching over Vermont's land & water. Act 250 is a public, quasi-judicial process reviewing & managing the environmental, social & fiscal impacts of Vermont development. Nine district commissions review permit applications based on criteria articulated by state statutes.

        In 2005 Vermont's legislature created the Natural Resources Board (NRB) with Act 115  to replace the Environmental Water Resources Boards. The NRB includes a full-time chair (state employee), and two citizen panels, a land use panel and a water resources panel, consisting of four persons each, with the chair serving as chair of each of the two panels. Act 115  consolidated environmental appeals and land use development law revisions. View the full text of Act 115 in which substantial previous language is stricken making deletions clear and new language underlined.

        Clear Air Clear Water

        The NRB administers the Act 250 process and has rule making and enforcement authority over land-use permit violations (significant time is spent prosecuting violations) as well as the right to participate in certain Environmental Court appeals.

        Clear Air Clear Water

        Northfield Attorney Peter Young chaired the NRB from 2006 when appointed by former Governor Jim Douglas following an appointment to the District 5 Environmental Commission in 2003. Young's challenges included dealing with applicants who had already developed: building a project and belatedly coming to the NRB for permits. Innocent oversight or planning to beg forgiveness later?

        Clear Air Clear Water

        In 2007 the Board appointed John Wakefield of Redstone, a Burlington Real Estate Development company permit specialist, as it's first Permit Compliance Officer.

        Clear Air Clear Water

        Burlington Attorney Ron Shems, formerly and co-founder of Shems, Dunkiel, Raubvogel & Saunders replaced Young April 1st of this year when Shems was appointed the new Natural Resources Board Chair by newly elected Governor Shumlin.

        Act 250 Proponents, since its 1970 enactment in 1970, see it as setting a reasonable set of guidelines for developers and business owners, protecting Vermont from odious American sprawl. Citizen participation and protecting the environment are the heart and soul of Act 250. They view Act 250 reform suspiciously as attempts to circumvent environmental protection and eviscerate regulations leaving Vermont vulnerable to unbridled exploitation.

        Business Proponents consider Act 250 unpredictable, unfriendly and decidedly antagonistic economically, causing in some cases many year permitting periods and exorbitant additional legal expenses. With interested party status, "the Interveners" can become unjust obstructionists.

        "To a developer, it doesn't matter if you're spending time before the local boards or the state or Act 250. It's all permits, and if you can simplify the process, the whole state benefits." James Pizzigalli, Co-Chairman of Pizzigalli Construction

        Clear Air Clear Water

        Former Governor Jim Douglas claimed the average permit took companies 278 days to receive but the NRB cited different numbers, with two-thirds of all applicants gaining permits within 60 days.

        Streamlining objectives & options:

        • Eliminating duplicate permitting requirements at the state & local level and within the state level.
        • Minimizing special consultants including attorneys, engineers and planners so applicants may run the process on their own except in the most complicated circumstances.
        • Adding a state facilitator. Bill H-475 called for a pilot program to add a facilitator to help council businesses on the Act 250 process.
        • Clear and consistent intervener standards. Predictability for who and how interveners can participate. Limiting interveners to those having legitimate interests.

        Clear Air Clear Water

        The Wetlands Regulations took over three years to hammer out.

        Act 250 revision includes the launch of the Permitting & Compliance Portal including a wealth of easily accessible information including an environmental permit summary and the Vermont Permit Handbook.

        Get a better idea of Vermont's Land Use & Development Act's history, hear Jane Lindholm of Vermont Public Radio here in an Act 250 special program including notes on the "culture of no" and the importance of working as well as looking at the view.

        Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 to list your property, arrange for showings, or look further into Vermont's real estate market or Act 250 reform.

        .....
        Thank you for visiting Maple Sweet Real Estate's blog, Light Amber.
        .....
        Vermont Required Consumer Information Disclosure: please note Vermont  real estate agencies represent Sellers directly or indirectly by default. Buyer representation can be gained for properties not already listed by Maple Sweet Real Estate. To better understand the merits of or arrange for buyer representation, please email or call for further details.
        .....
        If your property is already listed for sale with another real estate agency, this is not intended as a solicitation of that agency's listing.