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Business, Cable, Consumer Electronics, Engineering

CES 2013

I was at CES 2013 to support a demo we had running at the Intel Booth
(see story). I got to walk a lot of the floor and saw some interesting things. The overall theme of the show was BIG Tvs and anything for iPad and iPhone. The amount of accessory vendors was overwhelming. The main Electronics Manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Sharp and LG made huge showings this year. Most of them focused on the 4K (4 X HD) technology as well as pushing the limits of OLED. Everyone had the largest OLED screen (How is that possible?). Here are a few things i found interesting.

 

 

4K and OLED

The screens have become so crisp that you believe that you are looking through a window into someones house not looking at a TV. There is a lot of hype around this but no one has talked about the amount of effort or cost associated with all of the production houses updating their cameras to film in this format. I think it will be awhile before we see 4K channels on our cable account.

BIG Tvs

They are soooooo big we will all have to upgrade our homes to fit them. Lets say the 110″ Samsung eventually comes down to the 3k-4k price range, where do you put it? Can your meager walls support the weight? Will to pure light output give you a tan?

Tablet Phone Accessories

Everyone is making accessories for your phone and tablet and the Shenzen province of China made a huge showing. I am sure none of us even knew how to pronounce Shenzen before Apple started producing devices there. They have everything for your tablet or phone. Cases, Stands, Speakers, Earphones, Toilets….. Toilets? Yes they have a potty training toilet with a integrated ipad dock to keep your child on the potty longer. I said they had everything.

Life Systems

Also being shown was a gamut of lifestyle devices. You may know FitBit as a leader but there were a lot of followers. Many devices track everything you do each day in a effort to show you problem areas in your life. I need a device that tracks my Cheetos consumption. I’m sure that would show a problem area.

Telepresence

As a “Work from Home” guy who travels to Philly every month i have to admit this intrigues me. There we at least 4 companies showing this technology. One of the companies Beam offered the highest level solution which allows a company to have multiple devices per location and a webservice that allows any user to take a device and use it at the location. Starting price for this technology? 16k. Is it really that beneficial?

Cool People

I got to meet some of my favorite Web TV personalities from the Revision 3 show Geekbeat.tv. Cali Lewis and John Pozadzides. They were both very cool and down to earth we talked for a little while about technology and had a great time, i hope to get to hang with them again some time.

Geekbeat

 

 

 

 

 

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2010 Apple iPad
Business, Engineering, General

The iPad isn’t for you!

If you are reading this post then i am going to go out on a limb and say the iPad isn’t for you! Why not? Because you are probably technically savvy. See, for you the iPad just does not do enough, sure you can get email and browse the web but what if you want to torrent the latest TV show Blu-Ray disc transcode it and output it to 1080i on your TV. If it cant do that it must be worthless. For you, having an iPad is only going to leave you frustrated because you want more out of it.

We have to remember that computer savvy people make up a extremely small percentage of actual computer users 0.02% – 0.05%. The best way i heard it explained was a comparison of video game consoles. Lets compare.

Microsoft Xbox 360

Developed for: Avid Gamers

Total sold to date: 258 million

Sony PS3

Developed for: Avid Gamers

Total sold to date: 138 million

Nintendo Wii

Developed for: Families, Casual Gamers

Total sold to date: 275 million

The Wii is the iPad and the Netbooks/Laptops are the Xbox/PS3. That is why Apple keeps emphasizing that this is a new vertical. Apple is targeting a whole new group of individuals. This goes back to Apples methodology of targeting particular sub-markets first. The iPad is the light computer for the MASS market. Now, because you are tech savvy and you probably to tech support for your entire circle of friends and family let me put this scenario together. Your 75 year old gram wants to dip her toe in the technology pool. She wants to check out the “Internets” that she has heard about and start sending email. Between a iPad, Laptop and a Netbook what is the easiest platform for her to get started on? With a Laptop or Netbook you are going to get 2 calls a week. “Jonny, i clicked something and now my screen is blank”. “Jonny, i moves the mouse and now i don’t see it”. Instead of critiquing the new iPad you should be applauding it. For $499 you family can get a computer that does everything THEY need it to do and you won’t get 10 calls a week to fix things.

So, Apple will probably sell well in this market but they will also do well in the tech savvy early adopter market. Sure it does not do everything i wish it would but it will replace my 8.5 x 11 notepad. So lets not hate on the iPad. I think we will all be surprised on how well it does.

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2010 Apple iPad
Business, Engineering

Oh the iPad

If todays iPad event happened six thousand years ago it might have played out like this;

And on the twenty seventh day of the first month of the two thousandth and tenth year the gods of Apple decided to bless the mortals of the earth with a bounty of media, email and photos. And the mortals rejoiced greatly looking upon the work of the Apple and seeing that it was good. And due to the personal nature of this gift, it’s texture and flatness the name iPad was bestowed upon it by the mortals. But, outside the garden were mortals who were jealous of the gods. “Why have the gods not seen fit to give us a camera or allow us to partake in the games of Flash or even output our video at 1080i?”. These mortals thought they knew more than the gods, they became insolent and hoped the righteous mortals choked on their iPads. They  had forgotten about all the wonderful contributions Apple had given them to date including the modern user interface not to mention the 50.2 billion dollar track record the gods had already set.

These rebellious mortals began to bicker, plan and build altars to the gods of Microsoft, Dell and Asus. These mortal became jealous of the power Apple wielded. After many offerings and sacrifices the false gods were unable to extinguish the fire of the iPad.

2010 Apple iPad

All joking aside there are some interesting things to take into consideration. It seems as if most people love or hate the new iPad. Some excellent points were made today at the event. I do believe that the iPad fits a specific second screen market. For instance, if you are watching TV and want to use the internet then your smartphone is probably too small. Your laptop is too large, hot and bulky and your netbook is too small/slow. The iPad does provide a light, thin quick second screen experience. Don’t get me wrong i don’t really believe that it is a perfect device (handed down by Gods).

I would like to see;

  • Wireless Syncing
  • Flash Support (Fancst.com, hulu.com)
  • Silverlight support (netflix.com)
  • IR port (Use as universal remote)
  • Larger SSD (150 Gig)
  • Camera (Skype)

For a Rev 1 device in a totally new vertical you have to admit this is a good start. Remember it is not a netbook, Apple once again has sat back and watched the netbook craze compiled user feedback and positioned themselves within this new vertical.

Now for untapped goodness. Let’s just say that people outside of the Apple fanboys hate the iPad and it gains no traction with the mainstream user base. Apple has already positioned themselves with businesses. Get a iPad download the Saleforce.com app and you have a technical advantage of other salesman in your field. Even if Apple fails they win, i like those odds.

Many including myself will critique Apple at times, second guess and ask for more. No matter what we say or do we have to admit, Dang, they know how to make $$$.

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Business, Cable, General

Would you pay for Hulu?

If you can see this blog then you probably know what Hulu is. For those that do not it is basically free tv on the internet. There has been controversy back and forth on Hulu with most people loving the service. I like Hulu and have enjoyed shows/movies on it mostly because of three reasons;

  1. Because it’s FREE
  2. It’s on demand
  3. It’s FREE

Well for all of you enjoying Hulu or one of it’s many partners, this announcement was made 10.21.2009:

“I think a free model is a very difficult way to capture the value of our content. I think what we need to do is deliver that content to consumers in a way where they will appreciate the value,” Carey said. “Hulu concurs with that, it needs to evolve to have a meaningful subscription model as part of its business.” – Chase Carey – News Corp. Deputy Chairman

I am curious what they are trying to say exactly. Are they saying people only find TV programming valuable if they pay for it? Maybe they are saying that Advertisers don’t think it’s valuable enough unless people are paying. What is a meaningful subscription model? Let’s see what you think with the below poll, what would you spend for monthly Hulu service?

How Much Would You Pay For Hulu?

View Results

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Some facts on Hulu:

Despite more than 40 million unique visitors and 500 million free online streamed videos, Hulu continues to lose about $33 million annually. It shares ad revenues with content owners. Still, Hulu’s three broadcast network owners lose an estimated $920 in ad revenues for every 1,000 viewers who substitute the PC for the TV – Analyst Laura Martin.

If Hulu does go to a subscription model it better well come with a box i can hook up to my TV. If i am paying monthly then i want a traditional viewing experience. The one think i don’t think they are getting is that people use Hulu because it is easy. More importantly it’s easier than torrenting a movie or show. As soon as you start charging then torrenting seems easier to some. If they are concerned about the value of the content then make better content don’t charge to imply value. If ad revenue is an issue there must be a better way of engaging the audience while keeping the content free to the user.

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Business

Get your money for nothing and your chicks for free

I used to believe that only the Dire Straits got their money for nothing, i mean who pays for nothing? The whole concept around paying money is that you receive something, correct? I know, I know. “We pay for experiences, entertainment”. I agree we do but you usually walk away feeling good, entertained!

Well, as i said i used to believe this. There is a revolution of people paying for nothing. You can go out and set up an account right now with OfferPal, the setup only takes 10 mins. In a short period of time they will have you set up to sell NOTHING. You heard me. Let’s look at an example. Zynga, you may have heard of them. They are the small company that produces games in Facebook like Texas Hold’em, Yoville, Farmville and others. Each of these games use the same underlying framework and work off the same model. You use a form of imaginary currency that they determine. To get more currency you play a game or preform a series of mundane tasks. After ahwhile you might become bored of these task so what can you do? You can BUY more coins, points, etc. This is where OfferPal comes in.

OfferPal links your application with big advertisers like Netflix. OfferPal gives you iFramed content targeted to your user. They may see ads for Netflix, eHarmony or others. If they signup for one of these the user may get up to 10,000 points to spend in your game. You get $20-$40 per signup depending on the advertiser. It was estimated that Zynga may earn 200,000 + a year per game based on this model. Now that is what i call “Good Times”.

What do you spend the points on, is it entertaining?

Farmville: With enough points you can buy a combine (it’s actually a 50px x 50px GIF that looks like a combine). You can use that combine on your farm. Oh, wait, no you can’t it’s actually JUST a image. Ha, you can show your friend how much money you spent on a image of a combine the most sought after piece of farming equipment known to man.

Texas Hold’em: You can use your chips to buy someone you don’t know an image of a Pastrami on Rye, Vodka, Tiara or a Teddy Bear.

Yoville: You can buy 100,000 coins for only $40 USD and use them to buy your friends furniture for their home. I don’t even buy my friends furniture in real life. I believe this type of action builds friendships we are not ready to commit to. I mean if i buy you a couch, thats it, i am not contributing any more beyond that to our relationship.

I guess the most surprising thing to me is that with the economy the way it is and so many people cutting back this business is thriving. There are millions to be made with this model and the end is still far off. The lifespan of many of these games is not very long, maybe just 18 months or so. These things are very trendy so if your interested think of something HOT and get in quickly.

So if we have learned anything its that Zynga is getting it’s money for nothing, i am not sure if the chicks are free.

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Business, Cable, General

Jericho, Neilsen and the Future

Folks, something interesting happened the other day. Last Friday CBS announced that Jericho was going to be canceled, again! I happen to be a fan of the show in a time when the majority of TV is considered garbage in my mind. Most of you may recall what happened last time the canceled Jericho, the viewing community responded by sending boxes upon boxes of nuts to the studio. This action prompted CBS to bring the show back for a second season and see how the ratings do. This time around they averaged 6.8 million viewers.

6.8 million viewers seems great but isn’t to the TV community. Let’s look at what popular ratings are, wow, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (13.3 mill), SAMANTHA WHO? (9.6 mill), AMERICAN IDOL-TUESDAY (18.8 mill). In fact the 6.8 million Jericho viewers are just behind CRIMINAL MINDS, it just wasn’t enough.

This brings me to the real reason for this post. Neilsen is an archaic system. We use a sample group of 5k people to determine what 99 million homes are watching. With the vast technology we have at our disposal the best we can do is attach a little black box to someones cable line to determine what people like? In just that last few years we have developed Personal Video Recorders (DVR, PVR, Tivo), web streaming shows (cbs.com, hulu.com) and downloadable content (iTunes). Neilsen does no take into consideration any of these sources, in fact when CBS reinstated Jericho they asked people NOT to DVR/Tivo the show because they would not get accurate ratings. According to Tivo’s website Jericho was in the Top 25 most recorded shows (week ending in 3.25.2008). I would not be surprised if the total viewers on these three other mediums were well over another 1.5 – 2.5 million.

If i were Neilsen i would be looking at how i could roll new viewing methods into my ratings calculations.

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Business, Engineering, General, Product Managment

Apple iPhone, SDK released

First the information you really want to know;

  • iPhone update 2.0  and public SDK will be released in June.
  • iPhone Beta SDK released today for $99.
  • iFund by KPCB VC worth $100,000,000 to be invested into the iPhone dev community.

Now on to the more nitty gritty details.

  • Exchange Support; Email, Cal, Directory
  • Cisco IPsec VPN
  • Cocoa Touch is how to build iPhone applications
  • With the SDK you can debug your plugged in iPhone
  • iPhone simulator also in the SDK
  • Ability to program against OpenGL, 3D
  • EA built a version of Will Wrights SPORE
  • Sega creating real 3D console games for iPhone
  • Aol IM client for the phone (ability to use bonjour for connections, imagine meeting people on the train around you)
  • Access to the iPhones Database SQLite
  • Applications delivered and updated over WiFi or Edge using the AppStore provided by Apple.

I will have more details later… See you soon.

Message to Steve Jobs:

Dear Steve,

Did you wake up one morning and while having your morning Starbucks mocha choca lata yaya decide that it was the perfect day to crumble the once powerful enterprise mobile communication solution known as Rim/Blackberry. If this was how your decision was made then my hat is off to you. Well played Jobs, well played.

Sincerely,

Shaun Gehring

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Business, Engineering, General, Product Managment

Apple iTv, is it for me?

When you look at an Apple product you realize that Apple has though, thought again an then maybe over though the product. With the iTv they have taken something that most of us already have in our home and improved upon it. On Demand content.

Vs

We all love having On Demand content in a world of “I want this and i want it now”. Our cable and satellite providers have given us and continue to give us the largest amount of content at one time but for a price. In the world today with our busy schedules sure having 700+ channels is great but how much of that and our dollars are wasted. To combat that is the infamous “A la cart” cable, great idea, not for the cable companies though. A la cart would allow you to only purchase the channels you really want to watch, that means less money for the cable providers.

What has apple done? Now we have this iTv that without a PC you can buy/rent tv shows and movies (we don’t even need to get into youtube and flickr). So now you have basically a set top “cable” style box. Right now we can rent movies for about the same price as VOD/EOD and buy tv shows for $0.99. But, you know that Apple has something up their sleeve. Think about what apple could do with a mere software update! Let’s play “What If”!

What if Apple finds a way to get as many content rights as Hulu and they start to add some commercials to the content and charge $0.00 for Tv Shows!!! What effect could this have on the Cable industry? Instead of paying $40 – $100 a month for Tv you pay $0.00. Unless you are a Tv-holic don’t you only care about the major shows, so you might miss a Mtv reality nightmare or two but maybe this will force more production houses to supply their content via digital means.

Consumer: Wants Tv/Movies when they want them for the lowest cost.

Show Producers: Wants the most amount of advertising dollars for the show.

So, What could iTv Be?

  • Free Tv Shows (saved indefinitely – ads updated)
  • Movies bought and rented
  • Flickr, Youtube, Trailers, Video Phone???

If Apples wants to they are gaining the ability to rock the cable world as we know it. They have gained the trust of the mass consumer electronic market and are gaining market share at a record pace. Will they do it? Are they already working on it? Call me a Apple prophet if you will but only time will tell.

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Business, Engineering, General, Product Managment

The great Chumby debate!

For those of you that havn’t seen it you can find a chumby here Chumby

The lowdown

  • Wi-fi connectivity • access to the free Chumby Network • 3.5″ LCD color touchscreen • two external USB 2.0 full-speed ports • 350 MHz ARM processor • 64 MB SDRAM • 64 MB NAND flash ROM • stereo 2W speakers • headphone output • squeeze sensor • accelerometer (motion sensor) • leather casing • AC adapter included
  • The dimensions are: 5 1/2″ wide, 4 1/4″ tall, 3 1/4″ deep at the base, and 2 1/4″ deep at the top. Here’s the chumby next to a regular size coffee cup.
  • Plug it in, connect to your wireless network, and use your computer to choose a playlist of “widgets” (the bite-sized applications that run on a chumby)
  • Because it’s always on, the chumby must be plugged in to an AC outlet.
  • The chumby costs $179.95.

The Functionality

Widgets, Screens and Power cables, Ohhhh my! So they are marketing a Widget panel. That’s cool so you can take your widgets with you right? Wrong! it has to be plugged in at all times because it NEVER goes into sleep mode. Not like the pesky iPhone or Nintendo DS. So as long as you are near WiFi and an outlet you will always have weather and email, unlike your laptop. On there website one of the selling points is that it can hook op to your iPod and be a boombox, ony one problem, the songs shuffle and you cannot choose what to play.

The Look

It’s beautiful…. I mean i look at it and see a Lexus Headrest with a LCD mounted in it, don’t you.chumby with mug
It looks so soft you probably want to hold it while you watching Tv on the couch (i hope there is an AC outlet close). The screen is slightly smaller than the iPhones.

Saving the best for last

More amazing than the device itself is the company that produces it. They will defend the product to the ends of the earth, here are some quotes the Chumby senior team;

the chumby is always in a state of continuous improvement — that’s the real innovation here — and it challenges the point-in-time judgment model (”Am I glad I bought this product or not?” “Was it worth the money?” “Here’s what’s good and what’s bad about this product!”) With Chumby, you’re buying into an “open development vector.” Huh? How in Hell does someone review or pass judgment on that? There’s the rub.

Anyone who got one of our early alpha prototypes, and complains that it was very limited, ummmm, didn’t we mention at the time that it was *alpha* hardware? — should be judged on what works, not on what doesn’t work, i.e., it was an early “proof of concept,” not a finished product. And, by that standard, people who understood what this stage means *loved” it.

Carping about the limitations of a free prototype seems ungrateful at best. But…whatever…wait until all the teenagers in your neighborhood have one, check it out, and then let us all know what you think.

Don’t want to belabor this, and sorry if I’m grumpy and “un-PR” about the topic, but the prototypes were expensive for a start-up and were offered with the very specific and stated quid pro quo that people who took them o requested them needed to be willing to do something of value for us in return — hack it, write widgets for it, play with it and blog about it, provide *informed* feedback after some reasonable expereice with it, whatever.

My Thoughts

Chumby is trying to compete in a niche market, they are a very small San Diego startup. Microsoft has tried the same thing with there SideShow devices at a $80 price and still hasn’t been able to make it work. I love the line that said “wait until all the teenagers on your street have one”, well, on my street everyone has iPhones, the funny thing is they have a battery, there always connected to the internet, they play video, they have widgets and ooh yea, i almost forgot, IT’S A PHONE!!!

Links

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Business, Engineering, General, Product Managment

Industry Software Shift

I started out programming with VB and ASP. Over the years i need to expand my skills to Java, PHP, Etc… The marketplace for a long time seemed to be embracing Open Source with “Open” arms. Over the last few weeks though i have heard of multiple large companies shifting to or even back to Microsoft for their solutions. Some that i know of have even gone as far as getting rid of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Sun servers. What is sparking this? Microsoft had not announced or released a new “Messiah” of business suites.

Well, my humble opinion is that my “VB/ASP” generation of developers is now moving into those once coveted VP and CTO positions and they want to got back to what they are comfortable with. If this truly is the case, what will happen when generation AJAX takes the helm?

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