Tag Archives: Digital Entertainment

Can Netbooks and Media Save Each Other?

Here’s an interesting editorial from Ad Age.  The author, Simon Dumenco postulates that free or very cheap netbooks can save the media industry through a subscription based content model.  Hahaha!!! This is nothing new.  I remember when the first round of “Internet Appliances” tried to come out in the late 90’s early 2000’s.  There was talk that a portion of the screen would be filled with ads to pay for the cost of the hardware and the software.  That idea died quickly.  Fast forward to now … so I’m gonna get a free netbook so I can pay$xx.99/mo. for each cloud application I want to access?   Oh, and by the way, some portion of the screen will be filled with advertisements to pay for the cost of the hardware and the software.   And, wow, isn’t it great to watch Hulu on an 8-in screen — how about a 8-in portable DVD player and a Blockbuster card?

Now some words about “Netbooks.”  When I initially heard about these devices, I thought the idea was ridiculous.  Being the type of person I am, this meant I had to get one to see if I could make sense of the hype.  My parents gifted me an HP Mini 1000 for Christmas and I really like it.  It’s a great little computer for the kitchen to look up recipes, read e-mail, and do little online shopping tasks when it’s inconvenient to go up to the office and fire up my PC or “real laptop.”  I, also, use it to read manga online while in bed and it’s much easier and less worrisome to bring this little guy on trips rather than a bulky laptop, when all we want to do is e-mail and check the news while out.  I think what makes this netbook and ones like it successful is that it is not as underpowered as I expected.  My netbook has comparable technical specs to my 3-yr “real laptop” so I can watch downloaded anime in the high-def file formats and I can have a “Rich Internet Experience.”  Granted, though, it’s nothing like my gaming PC or my smokin’ media laptop.  All-in-all, I’d have to say most netbooks are nice little products suitable for people on the go, children, and people looking for a secondary PC or laptop.

And some thoughts on media:  I still go to the movies because I like to watch good movies on a big screen with a crowd.  I feel watching a good movie is a good use of $11 and 2-1/2 hours of a weekend — the key words being “good movies.”  Good or better products and good or better experiences built around these products will always attract a crowd.  I think media outlets should concentrate on the content and make delivery of the content a better experience than piracy, rather than worrying about pirates and wasting brain cells coming up with the next free-but-not-free gimmick.

Lastly, to the author’s suggestion that hardware/software companies have to become media companies — well, this is not an old idea either.  The problem is, neither hardware/software companies nor media companies want to share because each wants it all.  On top of that, there are neat anti-trusts laws protecting us consumers from something like a DellMicrosoftNBCUniversalTimeWarner catastrophe (banish the thought now!).

In conclusion, can netbooks and media save each other?  I don’t know.  However, I do know selling a product for less than it cost to make and racing to the bottom in a price war is not a viable business plan.  Neither is free content.  I think hardware/software and media companies have to do the hard work and apply business fundamentals and some good old-fashion product innovation, as well as, take away the “free candy” from consumers in order to survive and thrive.  I think Apple is a great example of this on the hardware/software side.  As for media and piracy, if you want to beat the pirates, then join them and figure out how to make a paid experience that is much more appealing than piracy.  Again, I stress, media companies should impress upon potential customers that bad people can hide malicious code in free downloads.  I think this would be a far more compelling argument against piracy than copyright violation because you are offering protection from identity theft and the like, in addition to great entertainment.  (AUGH!!! It’s so frustrating watching the media industry pointlessly twisting in the breeze …)

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Flash to Move to TV

Adobe plans to expand Flash to TVs and set-top boxes.  No information on timing was giving in the article.  This seems quite natural to me in terms of interface, but I have to agree with MS on the matter of Flash’s limit video delivery capabilities.  People expect to watch HD content on their HD TVs.  Non-HD content on an HD TV looks like crap.  I imagine none of this is lost on Adobe, so it should be interesting to see what they come up with.  As for MS Silverlight, I did watch the extended Olympic coverage using the Silverlight and yay … but it wasn’t HD either, so I had to watch the video in a small window on my TV to see things clearly.  That kinda defeats the point of have a ~50-inch screen.  The other interesting part of this discussion is that Apple has yet to adopt Flash.  It makes me wonder whether they have something up their sleeve or whether they are being the same old obnoxious Apple that has some philosophical objection to Flash.  Either way it seems that Apple’s complaint that Flash is too processor intensive is a call to action since I imagine that concern would cross over into TV’s and set-top boxes too.

Here’s a link to an article/commentary about it.

TV Everywhere

Here’s a link to an interesting article from Ad Age Magazine.  The CEO of Time Warner, Jeff Bewkes, want users who access TV content online to prove that they are cable subscribers.  Buwhahahaha!!!  I guess he sees the writing on the wall as a middle man between customers and content producers.  As usual, it’s a fight about how gets the ad and the subscription money — the content producer, the content provider, or the Internet Service Provider.  Personally, I see no point for cable to do anything more than provide a content “pipe” into my house.  I pay for that pipe just like any other utility and get what I want from it.  As for paying specifically for content, I’m a little confused.  We currently pay a subscription fee to Tivo and Netflix to watch content when we want to.  My husband is currently watching “Jericho” as a video stream from Netflix.  It’s convenient for him and he doesn’t have to deal with commercials.  But that’s beside the point.  I imagine, currently, many people get broadband access through their cable provider, so why add the extra layer of authentication?  If a person drops their cable service but keeps broadband … so what?  It just means that the cable companies are no longer “double dipping.”  In theory, if cable providers only provided the pipe, then they could quit serving up cable tv in general and let the content producers figure out how they want to generate revenue.  It seems to me to be a logical simplification.

On the other hand, let’s consider how many people are gonna give up cable in general to watch things on the small screen.  Not everyone is tech savvy enough to pipe content from their computers to their big screen tv.  I think for the most part, watching via a computer is a singular experience, whereas you watching the big tv in a group.  Until the tv and computer become one with a simple interface to access content from the internet, I think Bewkes is barking up the wrong tree because people are gonna view via the both small screen and the large screen.   The proper move to make is to develop that technology that joins TV, the PC, and Internet and to charge for that convenience to both the customer and the content provider — “TV Everywhere + Any Content.”  With respect to Bittorrent … well, content providers should put out their own Bittorrents and high quality streams of a show in a convenient location and either charge a “reasonable” fee to watch the show or make people watch commercials (or maybe forward the trend of incorporating product placements into the shows).  Either way, the only way to beat pirates is to join ’em ;p.  I will say this though, as this economy tightens, and money tightens, the urge to kill cable and just go broadband is strong.

Consumers Want More Home Networking

Here’s a little article from InformationWeek about consumers’ desire for more interoperability and networking options for their various personal gadgets.  Hahaha!!!  Well … in terms of networking, WiFi, Bluetooth, TCP/IP are just that.   All of the devices I have that use these protocols I can see on their respective networks.  When I remove DRM and other barriers I can push and pull data between these devices over their respective networks, too.  However, I would imagine for those that are not inclined to explore or are technically challenged, all of this networking stuff is daunting.

Because the electronics manufacturers want to lock consumers into their product ecosystems, the manufacturers are not inclined to make their products open to consumers.  Of course this never really works.  Successful products like the iPod work with a great many accessories and other non-Apple products and crafty people have come up with ways to “crack” the iPod so users can get around  DRM and reclaim the music they have purchased.  These products also tend to have a bunch of third party companies that make accessories and software for the devices.   Of, course it takes market dominance to begin with to have cottage industries pop up around a product.  iPod can thank the mp3 format, USB, and great product design for their success.  The glue, though, for interoperability are the mp3 file format and the USB hardware interface.  iPod took advantage of protocols that were already well established as universal.

So it seems to me that the foundation for device interoperability already exists.  It’s simply a matter of making it such that ordinary people can communicate with their devices over the common networks.  Centralized network devices like home servers and the third generation consoles like the xBox360 come close, now, to knitting everything together.  The problem is that these devices are not accessible to the lowest common denominator of consumers.  The wii comes closest to a device that is very accessible, but its hardware and software are not capable.  Continue reading Consumers Want More Home Networking

Intel’s Widget Channel

Intel will debut its widget channel concept at CES 2009.  Unfortunately, since I’m unemployed, I will not be able to go to CES in January (no credentials — bloggers blew it last year — and no extra money) so I won’t get to see this first hand and ask the reps questions.  So… I’ll just have to follow the tech blogs from the media.  Anyhow, I’m not quite sure of what to make of this.  It sounds like it’s a toolkit to put extra advertising content into a TV broadcast, though, I’m not sure whether it’s an additional “frame” around the broasdcast content.

With regards to interactive TV … recently, we’ve noticed our Tivo asking for input and if we would like to view the additional ad content it’s downloaded.  After the third or so time this happened, I became numb to it and I now ignore it.  As for social activities like chatting during a show … well, I suppose that could be fun, though, I imagine it would be a distraction from viewing.   Therefore, it’s probably something to be done during a commercial break.

I think what I would like most of all is a bookmarking feature built into my viewer so I can tag scenes to get more information or to document my thoughts on the matter.  For instance if I like an actor’s outfit, then I would like to bookmark the frame with the actor and save the available metadata so I can query later.  The question is, what sort of information would people want to know about what they are watching and how would they access the additional information.  There’s the standard show documentation that is displayed in the credits.  These can be termed into tags that can searched on the internet.  There information on sponsorship, products in the scene, the location of the scene, time data, and so on and so forth.   I can see the bookmarked frame itself becoming a piece of metadata.  I recall Sling having something like this in which viewers could mark frames or small snippettes of content and microblog or chat about the content.  The last I heard though, is that they ran into copyright issues, which is sad because it goes to show that media companies still don’t understand that loyalty is built when the content becomes their viewer’s possession.   This is the nature of virality silly executives …  Sigh…may the old business models hurry up and die so we can get on with it …

Then there is the matter of viewing the additional content and doing the Internet search.  For many people the TV and the computer have not yet converged.  To be honest, for those people that aren’t hip to this, I don’t know if having the extra content would make a difference.  But to someone who watches most of their entertainment online already, the added functionality would be welcomed.  That said, people who already watch their entertainment online are primed for this type of service.  For those that are not converged, I think the articles author raises a good point about the TV experience.  Your TV doesn’t ask for updates.  This goes along with the thought that you don’t expect your TV to crash to the Windows “Blue Screen of Death.”  So, for those people, TV should look and feel like TV.  Understandably, that is where the set-top or cable box aspect comes in.  Still, I know many older consumers for whom even these devices are over their heads.  They just know how to and want to flip channels and newfangled remotes confuse and scare them.  It’s really sad that nobody has made the converged products drop dead easy to use.  On the other hand, though, is it worth the trouble to try to use new methods to advertise to them?  That would be an interesting study … Are legacy methods more affective for non-tech and technophobes?

Anyhow, I look forward to seeing what Intel has in mind.  Hopefully it’s something that can also be easily configured by consumers too, so they can pull what they want from content rather than having more advertisement pushed at them.

Here’s a link to the article about it.