Sunday, January 22, 2012

CES Retrospective- Part 2

By Bayle Emlein

Money, which is a very strange notion if you stop to contemplate the symbolic nature of the invention, is becoming even more abstract. Instead of working out the shared bill at the end of a restaurant meal, one has the option of signing up oneself and one’s friends/co-diners to haggle electronically about the balance of payments. Credit-card reader add-on devices for smartphones have been out for a while. At Showstoppers,  Intuit was showing their addition to the market. The Intuit Mint is the smallest of the devices I’ve seen, and with the Intuit name behind the service there might be some traction here for small to mid-sized businesses. Reminiscent of a time when shaving was a manual art and the razors were low-cost but then you were locked into buying razor blades, the gizmo is free, the service from Intuit is not though the charges are comparable to standard credit card transactions. 

This model allows anyone with a smartphone to accept credit cards, enabling many small merchants to use the payment option in an era when checks are obsolete and even parking meters do not require cold hard cash. All you need is a connection to the Cloud. Notice the assumption that every farmer at the farmers’ market has an iPhone?

While we’re looking Cloud-ward, let me comment on the growing assurance from the denizens of the virtual air that I, too, will be happier if I move my digital life to the ethers. From my point of view, this is a bid for job security for network administrators and server farm jockeys. Living as I do less than a mile from one of the major California earthquake faults, I would do well to get my data stashed in some other state or country. But the Cloud seems even more fragile than California real estate. 

There are stories going around (possibly urban myths) about folks who have uploaded their entire family photo history only to have the backup service cease to exist. So far whenever I have centralized my work life to depend on a centralized atmospheric base, some component has failed and the access I depended on has evaporated.

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