iPad Mini

So the iPad Mini is going to be unveiled on October 23. Hundreds of people have asked me how I know for sure it’s going to be revealed on the 23rd. Thousands have asked me how I am so accurate with my Apple rumors. Well for one, nobody has ever asked me either question, but in case you’re wondering, the best way to keep up with rumors is to read a lot. Kevin Rose once joked that MacRumors is his TMZ. I feel the same way. If you want to truly understand a company, you have to submerge yourself.

However, if you just want to know the dates of Apple’s big events, it is actually fairly easy to stay up to date. Once Jim Dalrymple gives his signature “Yep”, the event is going to happen. It’s that simple. He has predicted all of the recent Apple events with 100% accuracy. The other solid place for Apple related rumors is All Things D. They are the Wall Street Journals tech branch and somehow have some insanely good sources inside of Apple. Their executive editor, Walt Mossberg, was friends with Steve Jobs. I guess that explains the how. The Verge has proven to be very reliable as well.

I don’t plan on buying an iPad Mini, but if you want to see the specs, look here. Anyways, Apple is coming out with a smaller iPad, and they’re going to sell millions of them.

Stratfor on the Mexican Drug Cartels

While the trafficking groups in Mexico are commonly called “cartels” (even Stratfor uses the term), they are not really cartels. A cartel is a combination of groups cooperating to control the supply of a commodity. The primary purpose of a cartel is to set the price of a commodity so that buyers cannot negotiate lower prices. The current conflict in Mexico over cocaine and marijuana smuggling routes shows that there are deep rifts between rival groups like the Sinaloa Federation and Los Zetas. There is no sign that they are cooperating with each other to set the price of cocaine or marijuana. Also, since most of the Mexican criminal groups are involved in a diverse array of criminal activities, their interests go beyond drug trafficking. They are perhaps most accurately described as “transnational criminal organizations” (TCOs), the label currently favored by the DEA.

As an economist, the misuse of the word cartel has always bothered me.

The Denver Debate and Syria

I have a crazy theory. A lot of people have commented that Obama was aloof at the debate on Wednesday night. He seemed out of it. People have been quick to blame it on his lack of preparedness or the fact that it was his anniversary. Bill Maher even joked that Obama was high. None of the proposed reasons make any sense. I think he was distracted by Syria.

On Wednesday, Syria killed several people inside Turkey with a mortar attack. Turkey has responded by shelling Syria with artillery. Turkey has not declared war yet, but they are close. If Turkey decides to actually declare war, the US will have to support them due to the fact that we are both NATO charter holders. An attack on one is an attack on all.

I think Obama was distracted last night because of all the stress related to Syria. He is either planning the U.S. invasion or doing everything in his power to avert a crisis. If it is an invasion, I suspect it would be a Special Operations forces mission instead of a full scale military invasion. The U.S. population does not currently have the appetite for another full scale war. While the CIA and certain tier 1 assets are currently in place in Syria, this would allow the U.S. to conduct more open raids with additional military hardware - i.e. drones.

Being president is not easy. Many of the debate preparations started late or were cut short due to him having to deal with serious issues. This is part of the reason why I believe a president should serve only one term, but make it 6 years. Our president should not spend his time in office worrying about getting re-elected. One term, 6 years.

And while I’m talking about the debate, here is Polifact’s fact check of the debate. Read it.

5 Facts on Social Security

U.T. MBA professor Sandy Leeds shares 5 interesting facts on Social Security:

1. Approximately one quarter of married couples and just under half of single retirees rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.

2. The average monthly benefit is $1,235.  This is less than $15K per year (which is pretty low for people who don’t have much more).

3. In 1960, there were 4.9 workers paying for every retiree.  Today, there are 2.8 workers for every beneficiary.  By 2035, there will only be 1.9 workers for each beneficiary.

4. For those turning 65 this year, women can expect to live 20 more years and men can expect to live 17.8 more years.

5. We are starting to see the first generation of middle-income retirees who will take less out of Social Security than they put in.  The Urban Institute says that a married couple that retired last year and earned average wages would have paid $598K and they will take out approximately $556K.  Higher income retirees have been in this negative situation since the 1990s.  Lower income people still put less in than they take out.

The Future of Google

Most people know Google as the search engine company with a bunch of side projects. In the next 20 years that will all change. Lets take a step back and look at what Google actually does. They are a company that organizes the worlds information. With Google Search they were able to index all the available online information and make it accessible. The next and much harder task is to organize the physical world.

Google Maps is their attempt to do just that. In The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal explained how Google is deploying a huge force of people to improve their maps. The maps from governments, satellite shots, and street view images are all stitched together by hand to create a searchable database of our world. You should read his full article to get a scale of how massive and hard the Google Maps operation is. It’s crazy to see just how much manual work has to be done.

While Alexis hinted at the implications of indexing the physical world, he didn’t fully explore the possibilities. That’s what I’m here for. He quotes the author Robin Sloan saying “In 50 years, Google will be the self-driving car company (powered by this deep map of the world).” This is only part of the story.

Google’s Self Driving cars are already touring the US. As of August 2012, the cars have driven over 300,000 miles accident free. In the near future, many people will abandon their current cars for self driving ones. Sure it will be only for the wealthy at first, and sure enthusiasts will still want to drive their own cars, but the adoption rate will be close to the S curve.

Having a database of the physical world (Google Maps) will make the self driving cars that much more powerful. Imagine getting in your car and saying “take me to McDonalds” or “take me to work.” It will even be possible to get in your car in the morning and it will know to take you to work. This why they are currently testing Google Now. If you have a flight, the car will know to take you to the airport. If you have a meeting, the car will automatically take your there.

It’s even crazier to think that soon Google will convert their Street View cars into driverless cars. That means that Google will have self driving cars around the country constantly improving their own database. Skynet is happening.

Project Glass is another way that allows humans to access Google’s massive database that is Google Maps. Project Glass is Google’s version of augmented reality. When walking around a city using images from the camera, GPS, and compass data, Project Glass will be able to tell you what restaurant occupies that building along with reviews, hours, and the menu. I encourage you to watch this video to see what their plan is.

When Google Fiber was announced, everyone got super excited, and then stepped back and asked why? Journalists have jumped to the easy conclusion that it was just to make Comcast, Time Warner, and AT&T look bad. Some have postulated the more educated theory that Google is curious to see what people do with super fast internet. I think there’s more to it. To get Google Fiber in your neighborhood, you have to sign up in groups. If a certain undisclosed percentage of your neighborhood signs up, you will be one of the first neighborhoods to get Google Fiber. It creates a competition to build excitement, but again I think there’s more to it. All of the set-top boxes, modems, and routers are Wi-Fi hotspots. So every house that gets it will have several Wi-Fi access points. Since the homes with Google Fiber will be clustered in neighborhoods, you end up with areas of the city being blanketed with Wi-Fi from Google Fiber. Over time this will expand to the whole city, to other cities around the country, and eventually to the whole of the country. This is the Wi-Fi cell phone network that Steve Jobs dreamed about.

Google Maps will the the base layer. Google Fiber will be the communication protocol. Project Glass will be how you interface with the world while walking around. Google’s Driverless cars will be there to take you anywhere either automatically or by natural language input.

The next 20 years are going to be just as exciting as the past 20. People who say technological progress is slowing down, are not thinking hard enough. I think Apple knows all of this, and it scares them to death. I just hope Google keeps GMail around.