Hail to the Commodore; Apple Feels Some Heat

What's buzzing in the tech world today?  A trend setter in low cost home computing has passed. And Apple's feeling some competitive heat in the mobile phone space. 

Bargain Computing Started Here: Unless you built your own PC in the garage, there was once no cheaper (serious) computer to be had than the Commodore 64, the brainchild of Jack Tramiel and reportedly the most successful model ever sold (17 million.) "We sell to the masses and not the classes," said the Commodore king, who died Sunday at age 83. 

 The Polish-born Tramiel was a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, had the equivalent of a 5th grade education. After coming to the U.S., he started fooling with gizmos as a typewriter repairman in the U.S. Army, later founded Commodore to import typewriters, then got into bargain electronic calculators and digital watches. That set off his first price battles with Texas Instruments. "Business is not a sport. It's a war," he said.

The first Commodore PC launched in 1977, coincidental with the arrival of the Apple II and Tandy/Radio Shack's popular TRS-80.  The Commodore 64 emerged in 1982. Designed for easy modification/software writing by hobbyists and with a price tag ($595) far below  IBM and Apple desktops, the 64  became  a huge hit. When Commodore became a billion dollar company two years later, Tramiel  turned over control to more "professional" handlers and left to get back into the trenches. He acquired Atari and introduced  the spiffy ST model which aimed  to challenge the Mac world - offering "power without the price." Didn't quite work out that way.

Taking a Bite of the Apple: Why did wireless industry analyst BTIG downgrade Apple stock from a "buy" to "neutral" yesterday?

For starters, rival phone makers, system developers and sellers  have really been gunning for Apple, evidentally with some success. Samsung just reported higher quarterly sales for its mobile phone division, based largely on sales of the oversized Galaxy Note which some (but not Samsung) like to call a "phablet." 

 Yesterday, Amazon reported record first day sales for the Nokia Lumia 900 - the first Windows 7 phone running on AT&T's high speed 4G/LTE network. Amazon's super insane pricing on this Microsoft/Nokia "flagship"  model - just $50 with a two year contract -  clearly was a factor. (AT&T offers it for $99 wiith a contract.)

 Reviews of the 4.3 inch AMOLED screened Lumia 900 have been decidedly mixed, particularly aggravated over its' camera and the apps selection despite Microsoft's best efforts to spur developers.  And I'd echo mixed sentiments from my time with the 5.3 inch AMOLED screened  Note - a relative behemoth great for viewing web content, but sometimes slow in responding, flawed in predictive typing and a little goofy looking to hold to your ear.   

Adding insult to injury for Apple, said analyst BTIG, iPhone users  now rush to upgrade the price-subsidized models every two years, as soon as their contract expires. That's squeezing the profit margins for resellers AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, who are  pressing Apple to lower the price it actually charges them for the  phones - currently about $600 a unit. And can Apple possibly meet the "elevated expectations" with its next iPhone model, deliver "another revolutionary product?" ponders BTIG's Walter Piecyk.  All that's now  given this Apple analyst a pause.