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Code/red: Second Amazon Fire Phone May Not Suck as Badly as First

Plus, Aaron Sorkin on Steve Jobs's Stanford commencement speech, Peter Thiel says some words and a seven-year-old kid delivers an awesome weather forecast.


Amazon VP on Fire Phone: We’ll Get It Right … Eventually

Amazon is taking Silicon Valley’s “fail fast, fail often” mantra to heart. Though it was forced to write off $170 million in unsold Fire Phone inventory in its third quarter, the company has no intention of abandoning the device. For Amazon, which is currently sitting on $83 million worth of Fire Phones that it can’t seem to unload, lackluster sales and lousy reviews are all part of the same tried and true development plan that gave us the Kindle. “In an honest assessment of the Fire Phone, we’ve learned a lot on this one,” Amazon VP of Devices Jorrit Van der Meulen told the Guardian. “We’re undeterred. … So might the second step be slightly different than our first step? Sure, I suspect that it will be. … If you look at version one of the Kindle e-reader it was pretty bad, like the reviews we received on it. But we said we’re going to keep going, keep investing and do this eventually.”

Microsoft’s Five-Years-After-Everyone-Else Strategy Reduced by Four Years

It’s taken far, far longer than it should have, but Microsoft has finally realized that charging a subscription fee for full access to the mobile version of its Office productivity suite is an untenable strategy in a world filled with free, viable alternatives from Apple, Google and others. And so this morning the company said it will make Office available for free on mobile. “We’d like to dramatically increase the number of people trying Office,” Office marketing VP John Case told the New York Times. “This is about widening the funnel.” A major strategy shift, but like so many others before it, sadly late. With Apple and Google exploiting Microsoft’s hesitation around mobile productivity apps for over a year now, the case for paying for a premium version of Office for mobile functionality has never been a particularly strong one.

ET Atari Cartridge Was Buried for 30 Years — Like the Social Lives of Those Bidding on It

eBay auction for Atari Dig Cartridges ET #8205: “This game is one of the limited numbers recovered from the ‘OLD ALAMOGORDO LANDFILL,’ also known as the ‘ATARI DUMP.’ Purchaser will receive the game as portrayed in photo above, City property I.D. tag, the Certificate of Authenticity and a narrative with photos of the 1983 burial and the 2014 excavation proving the legend to be true. The seller does not represent that this item is operable; it was buried for 30 years.”

Aaron Sorkin’s Ego Happy to Take Some Credit for That Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech

Aaron Sorkin: “The third time [Steve Jobs] called me was to ask me to help him write his commencement address at Stanford. … Honestly, I fixed a couple of typos in the speech — I don’t want to suggest for a moment that any of those thoughts were my thoughts. That is the brain of Steve Jobs. And [I] helped him put the music to it.”

Yeah, Great Tech Companies Like … Clinkle

Peter “Reefer Madness” Thiel claims to have about three-quarters of his net worth tied up in illiquid tech stocks. With that much wealth invested in Silicon Valley’s latest running of the bullshit, it’s hardly surprising he prefers to think we’re not in a bubble. “I don’t think we have a bubble in technology,” Thiel told CNBC Wednesday. “This is nothing like the ’90s. The great tech companies have learned to stay private, and there’s no bubble because bubbles only happen when the public is involved.” A simplistic view, though it’s certainly nice that Thiel can take comfort in it when even folks like Marc Andreessen are beginning to sound alarms. Incidentally, in addition to being opposed to the idea of a tech bubble, Thiel is also opposed to death — the concept, not the penalty.

My Kid Is an Honor Student at Jimmy and Dre Academy

Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine on the new school he’s founding with Dr. Dre: “There’s a new kid in town, and he’s brought up on an iPad from one and a half years old. But the problem with some of the companies up north [in Silicon Valley] is that they really are culturally inept. I’ve been shocked at the different species in Northern and Southern California — we don’t even speak the same language. The kid who’s going to have an advantage in the entertainment industry today is the kid who speaks both languages: Technology and liberal arts.”

“House of Cards” Producer Still Hasn’t Discovered Pirate Bay

Just because “House of Cards” producer Dana Brunetti stays away from the movies doesn’t mean he doesn’t like seeing them when they’re first released. He’d just prefer to watch them on his own terms. “I hardly ever go to the movies,” Brunetti told attendees of the Web Summit in Dublin. “You can’t get a babysitter. You want a pee, can’t pause it. You want to get a beer, can’t pause it. It’s an expensive night out. There’s guys like me who aren’t going to the theater, so distributors are leaving money on the table. But if I had the opportunity to buy the latest movie that’s out that month and watch it on the comfort of my big screen TV, I would pay for that.”

Like Nine Inch Nails Frontman, Music Ownership Also on the Downward Spiral

Nine Inch Nails frontman and Beats Chief Creative Officer Trent Reznor: “I am on the side of streaming music, and I think the right streaming service could solve everybody’s problems. Ownership is waning. Everybody is comfortable with the cloud — your documents, who knows where they are? They are there when you need them. That idea that I’ve got my records on the shelf doesn’t feel as important even to me as it used to. I just think we haven’t quite hit the right formula yet.”

Surface Pro 3 the Best iPad Smart Cover Yet

Not even an election season sponsorship deal with Microsoft could pry CNN’s commentators away from their iPads. Outfitted with Surface Pro 3 tablets to use on-air during Tuesday night’s coverage of the midterm elections, some CNN panelists found a better use for the devices: iPad stands.

Oculus CEO: Let’s Talk About the Puking Elephant Staggering Around the Room

Consumer virtual reality is potentially months — not years — away and if we’re lucky, this time the big consumer electronics companies won’t screw it up. This according to Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe, who worries that inferior VR headsets will “poison the well” for the re-emerging virtual reality market by nauseating early adopters. “We’re a little worried about some of the bigger companies putting out product that isn’t quite ready,” Iribe said this week. “That elephant in the room is disorientation and motion sickness. … We’re encouraging other companies, particularly the big consumer companies, to not put out a product until they’ve solved that problem.”

Off Topic

Seven-year-old kid delivers awesome weather forecast and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, A Masterpiece of Modern Horror.

Thanks for reading. Send tips, comments, Off Topics, muscle relaxants and prosthetic spines to, @johnpaczkowski. Subscribe to the Code/red newsletter here.

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