Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Technorati's Found Headlines and Lost WTF

If you're looking for the new Technorati feature that Steve Rubel spilled the beans on this morning, you won't find it. But you will find this treat:

I looked at the top tags on the Technorati home page this morning and they actually made sense as a series of headlines. Well, maybe not actual sense, but they're pretty much on par with the headlines in the news today.

Bush celebrates China
Comedy Democrats
Flickr gaming Iran
Mac money
Open-source opinion
SEO shopping Vista war
Windows, Windows, Vista
Women fashion foto

Mickeleh's Take: We may have a new doorway into the wisdom of crowds here.

More on Techmeme.

(Tags: , , )

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Chris Pirillo: Vista Ads and Webisodes "Horrible Waste"

Chris Pirillo says Vista ads on Comedy Central and the websites they link to are confusing and a waste of time.

Mickeleh's Take: Chris is right. Good ads embody the virtues of the product. Does Microsoft really want to tell us that Vista is a confusing, pointless distraction? Of course not. They want us to think that they're as hip as the guy with the jeans and the mock turtleneck.Hey, Redmond, stop with the Apple Envy. Play to your strengths.

(Tags: , , , )

Vista's "Wow!" Echoes 1950s Jingle for Color TV

Microsoft is spewing half a billion dollars to ensure that we all have a Pavlovian response linking the word "Wow!" to the new Vista operating system.

It's too late for geezers like me. I'm hard-wired. When I hear "Wow!" I spit-back, "I saw color TV!" Here's the jingle (mp3) that did me in. (It's from Dave Pruiksma's collection.)

Mickeleh's Take
: RCA's challenge in the 50s was to advertise color TV to people watching black and white TVs. If you can't demo the picture, hire someone to scream, "Wow!" Better "Wow" than "Bow Wow."

More on Techmeme

(Tags: , , , )

Monday, January 29, 2007

USA Today: Verizon Passed on iPhone—
Jobs' Terms Too Stringent

Leslie Cauley, in USA Today, reports that before Jobs placed the iPhone with Cingular AT&T, he offered it first to Verizon. According to Cauley, Jobs insisted on too much control over distribution, replacements, etc. to satisfy Verizon.

Mickeleh's Take: USA reports on the terms that Verizon rejected, but I'm not sure we know what terms Cingular accepted. Apple's insistence on determining when a customer deserves a replacement phone raises a flag. Mobile Carriers have been very liberal about offering instant replacements when a phone is in warranty. Apple's policies have been more stringent. (see Scoble's rant on his son's experiences with a rebooting MacBook Pro.)

Steve Jobs famously said that Apple isn't good at reaching their own customers by going through the orifices of the carriers. Could it be that Cingular has a wider orifice than Verizon?

More on Techmeme

See also Brian Dear's Notes on Steve's session at the Wall Street Journal D Conference (2005)
See also Peter Hirshberg and me speaking later at same conference. I heard Steve's "orifices" remark and it resonated deeply. At the time I was working at Digeo and we were struggling to get Moxi through the orifices of the cable carriers. At CES, Digeo announced an orifice by-pass: they plan to offer Moxi directly to consumers through retail.

(Tags: , , , , , , , ,)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Preview: Linda Stone Hips HBR Readers to Continuous Partial Attention

Linda Stone, who is wise and savvy enough to have managed successful careers at both Apple and Microsoft, examines how our many channels of communication and our fear of missing out on something important messes with our minds. People who attend meetings while surfing and blogging on their laptops and answering email on their Blackberry's may be beyond parody, but they're all around us. Linda says too many of us live in a state of Continuous Partial Attention, that it's driving us to distraction. Literally. And that there are important opportunities in offering relief to a population drowning in it's own split focus. Linda offers a concise overview of Continuous Partial Attention in the upcoming Harvard Business Review. HBR ranks CPA as #7 in its breakthrough ideas of 2007.

Mickeleh's Take: The article is short enough to take in even if you're drowning in CPA yourself, but it's worth some focused time to digest and ponder. Linda suggests folks seek immersion in iPod as a refuge from CPA. Hmmm. If email, cell phones, and IMs are enticements to CPA, and the iPod is a relief, where does that put the iPhone? It's got 'em all. It may be an entire ecosystem of disease and cure. No wonder we're going crazy for it.

(Tags: , , , , , , )

Gil Amelio: from Turnaround King to Rightwing Swiftboater

Guess who scored a mention in Bob Novak's latest column? You already know because I put it in the headline. Yes, Gil Amelio, the turnaround king who rescued National Semiconductor (as chronicled in his Profit from Experience, available at Amazon, starting at $0.01) and Apple Computer (as chronicled in his On the Firing Line, also available at Amazon, starting at $0.01).

Why is Amelio featured in Novak's column? According to Novak, Gil is one of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs behind, a right-wing answer to TheVanguard is bulking up for '08, bringing on Jerome Corsi (co-author of Unfit for Command, the anti-Kerry screed that led to the coinage of the verb "to swiftboat.") and Richard Poe, a Freeper who is revving his engines to swiftboat Hillary, and already fired numerous salvos in print and online.

TheVanguard's chairman, Rod Martin, describes himself as a "prescient futurist," which, I guess, is the second best kind of futurist to be. The best, of course, is to be a funny and successful futurist like Matt Groening, creator of Futurama. To end this dismal report on a high note: there are are four direct-to-DVD Futurama movies in production and Comedy Central gets the rights to the series in 2008.

Mickeleh's Take: Does anybody else see some irony in Gil Amelio associating with the guy who wrote Unfit for Command? Yes, Apple lost a billion dollars in his last year there, but Gil actually did save Apple—by bringing back Steve Jobs.

More on Mickeleh's Soapbox.

Wisefool has more on this on Daily Kos. In a comment, Near Vanna recalls the fabled Gilometer.

(Tags: , , , , , , )

Cable DVRs in Short Supply; Bad Forecasting or the CableCARD Rule?

Looking for an HD DVR from your cable company? Depending on where you live, you may just have to take a number or get in line.

On Wednesday, Channel 9 in Syracuse, NY reported that the local Time Warner Cable was out of stock. What's behind the shortage? According to Channel 9, "The company that makes these DVR's has been overwhelmed by requests for them, and cable companies all across the US are telling customers they'll have to wait for the DVR's." (Yesterday Channel 9 announced that TWC had just received a shipment of 1500 HD DVRs to distribute to customers.)

Forecasting demand is always something of a black art, but this season it's especially difficult because of an FCC rule that forbids cable companies to distribute the current generation of set top boxes after June 30th. (By the way, this rule was issued in 1999, so it's not as though this sneaked up on anybody. The cable industry has managed to get the deadline pushed back until this year--and they're still pushing.)

A little background on the rule: To ensure that customers only watch the channels they pay for, and to guard against copying and piracy, most digital channels are encrypted. The set top box has security features that the cable company controls to be sure that you only have access to the channels you pay for. These security features have given two companies (Scientific-Atlanta and Motorola) a virtual lock on the set top box market in the U.S. The FCC rule that's causing the rucus is called the Integration Ban and says that the security features can no longer be integrated into the box hardware, but have to be made available as a separate module (Currently embodied in CableCARD technology).

Separating security from the navigation, tuning (and now DVR) functions was meant to encourage more open competition, innovation, and customer choice. But in the face of rising demand for HD DVRs, it makes forecasting and inventory management a high-risk gamble.

Michael Powell, who was Chairman of the FCC when the rule was first issued in 1998, dissented from the ruling. One of his reasons is proving prophetic:
"... the ban is likely to skew present business decisions of operators about when they should buy new set-top boxes, how many they should buy and what plans they should make for deploying digital technology. MVPDs (Multichannel Video Program Distributors), particularly smaller systems and other non-exempt operators such as wireless cable operators, will be forced to make these decisions so as to avoid the potential for stranded investment, not on the basis of what might be best for their customers. I see no reason to put these operators in such an untenable position."
If you want to get a flavor of this battle over the FCC Integration Ban, here's the latest consumer electronics industry letter to the FCC (pdf) and the cable industry response (pdf).

Mickeleh's Take
: The transition will be ugly, frustrating, expensive, and (maybe) worth it. What do you think?

More at Techmeme

(Tags: , , , , , , )

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dreamgirls Didn't Merit Top Oscar Nominations

I don't know why anybody is scandalized that Dreamgirls missed out on nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, or Best Actress. Those nominations weren't merited. Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy earned their nominations in the "Best Supporting..." categories. Dreamgirls still leads the field with a total of eight nominations.

Mickeleh's Take: [Spoiler Alert] Here's the trap they dug for themselves. The story is how an electrifying and overweight singer gets pushed out of a girl group while a bland, pretty backup singer with more TV and cross-over appeal is promoted to lead. Guess what that means? The story forces the most exciting character (singer and actor) off the screen. Once Jennifer Hudson goes away, most of the energy goes out of the picture. The bland pretty girl just can't carry the weight. At least when Hitchcock bumped off Janet Leigh early on, he left us with Tony Perkins to take us the rest of the way home.

[Edited to remove a spoiler. Thanks to the commenter who pointed this out. I'm going to delete the comment now, because it quotes the spoiler. Apologies to all those for whom I spoiled the movie.]

(Tags: , , )

Record Industry Caving on DRM?

Maybe. Someday.Victoria Shannon, in The Times says that that major labels are "contemplating" selling mp3s without Digital RightsRestriction Management encryption (as many independents have already begun doing).

Mickeleh's Take: Amazing how much good will they can generate for just thinking about doing something. I wonder if we can all adopt that strategy; "I'm contemplating going to work today." "I'm contemplating losing weight" "... getting a new car." "... blogging more" "... blogging less." Oh, wait. We do that already. It's called New Year's Resolutions.

If the record industry walks away from DRM, they take with them Apple's fig-leaf for the "Fair Play" lock-in that ties iTunes purchases to iPod.

More on Techmeme

(Tags: , , , , )

Is iPhone another Newton?

Hardie posted a comment to one of my blog entries, cautioning that the iPhone hype and lust is reminiscent of Newton, which was a much hotter product before its release than after. That got me to poking around for some Newton background, and I came up with this gem:

Newton Getting Started Video (1993)

This video is strong testimony to both the appeal and shortcomings of Newton's handwriting recognition. Part One is a promise of little bit of technology heaven, "Newton is really peace of mind right in the palm of your hand," reinforcing Apple's position as a religion disguised as a product company. Part Two (beginning at Handwriting Tips, 3:55 mins into the piece) is a not-too-subtle admission that the handwriting recognition needed a quite a bit of body english to work well.

(BTW: Tom Hormby has compiled a detailed version of the origins of Newton. See also the Wikipedia entry on Apple Newton)

Mickeleh's Take: Handwriting recognition got really good in later versions of Newton, but you only get one chance to make a first impression. What will be the first impression that customers have of the iPhone onscreen keyboard?

(Tags: , )

Saturday, January 20, 2007

No Closed Captions In Online Videos; Followup

The other day I posted on the lack of closed-captions in iTunes videos and movies. As I noted at the time, this is not an Apple-only issue. Noelle Perese names names: Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, and now the proposed Netscape online download service all lack captioning. This is an issue for the deaf, but not only for the deaf.

Mickeleh's Take: Video distribution by internet streaming and downoads is rapidly moving out of the novelty and early-adopter phase. Before more conrete is poured, the industry needs to enhance the standards to embrace closed captioning.

(Tags: , , , , , , , , )

iPhone Beyond the Backlash: Tog, Ihnatko, et al.

I was pretty good about not obsessing about iPhone this week. But just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

Jeremy Toeman
encapsulates the backlash with a post entitled, "iPhone Appeal Drops Daily."

Jeremy is right, but short-sighted. We're going to see oscillations in the way people look at iPhone. The first blast from the Reality Distortion Field was bound to dissipate and invoke a backlash. I felt it too. But does a sine wave go up or go down? Does the tide come in or go out?

But coming up to Week Three of the iPhone Planet, I'm inclined to trust the first impressions more than the carping. And I'm prepared to call witnesses.

Bruce Tognazzini, who is smart, deep, and relentless about user experience, gives the iPhone user interface an expert walk-through. What you need to know is that Tog is neither a push-over or a fanboy. The verdict?
What’s important is that, for the first time, so many great ideas and processes have been assembled in one device, iterated until they squeak, and made accessible to normal human beings. That’s the genius of Steve Jobs; that’s the genius of Apple.
Embedded in the review are reader comments and questions, with Tog's responses.

Andy Ihnatko spent time using the phone. He's hooked. Chris Pirillo, says his brother, who is not a geek or gadget freak wants one. And Om Malik gets to the heart of things: The iPhone represents a watershed in user-interface paradigms. Expect a range of successful products -- and they won't all be phones -- to follow using.

Mickeleh's Take: I trust the thinking and craft that lead to the iPhone U-I. There's more reality than distortion to the initial wave of jaw dropping. Everything that people are carping about might not matter and can be changed if it does. The moaning about iPhone being a closed-system reminds me of Seinfeld's joke about the difference between the way men and women treat the remote while watching TV: Women care about what's on TV. Men care about about what else is on TV. There will be enough folks thrilled with what the iPhone can do to keep Apple shareholders happy. As for those who focus more on about what else it might do... they'll have their shot. It won't stay closed forever.

Now can we please stop talking about the iPhone until it ships?

More on Tog's view of iPhone at Techmeme

(Tags: , , , , , )

Friday, January 19, 2007

Size Matters: The Serious Side of the Cingular Rebranding

There's a serious business strategy behind consolidating Cingular under the AT&T brand.

Telcos are having their lunch eaten by the cable industry's offer of "triple play" (TV, Voice, and Internet) pricing bundles.

By combining their wireless and wireline customers in a single "call free" pricing bundle, AT&T is putting up a defensive perimeter. It also helps CingularAT&T compete against other wireless carriers.

According to Olga Kharf at, the tagline is "Call 100 million AT&T customers for free."

Mickeleh's Take
: There should be a big honking asterisk after "free." It's more like a cosmetic counter "gift with purchase." This is just the first step. As AT&T steps up to IPTV, they'll be able to throw a "Quad-play" (TV, Internet, Wired phone and wireless) at Cable.

More discussion at techmeme

(Tags: , , , , )

Branding Mystery: Could Steve Jobs be Behind the Cingular Name Change?

Question: What would you do if Steve Jobs gave your company more free publicity than you could buy with a $100-million-dollar ad budget?

If you answered "Change our name," you must work for Cingular AT&T.

Yes, a few days after Jobs made everybody on the planet aware that the iPhone would be exclusively available from Cingular, the company is changing its brand to at&t.

Mickeleh's Take
: My theory is that Steve Jobs forced the name change to deflect all of the negative reaction to saddling iPhone with the relatively slow EDGE network. First he shows them how easy it is by changing his brand from Apple Computer to Apple, then he gets Cingular to change their brand and, after a decent interval, he's all primed to say, "See, how I listen to my customers? You don't want Cingular on iPhone? OK, we're not using Cingular."

Colbert's Take:: Thanks to frequent commenter, Cogwac, for sending along this clip of the Colbert Report, where Steven traces the rise and fall of the Cingular brand.

Steven Colbert On the Cingular Name Change

(Tags: , , , , , , , , )

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wired Tells You Why Joost Will Play A Big Role In "Over-the-top" Video

Spencer Reiss in Wired tells you what the guys who built Kazaa and Skype are up to now:
The vision: universal TV, running on a hybrid P2P platform -- millions of exquisitely networked PCs fortified with traditional video servers. Free to viewers who download the player app. Friendly to content owners, thanks to industrial-strength encryption. Delightful to advertisers, adding pinpoint targeting to their all-time favorite medium. Everyone's a winner!
Mickeleh's Take: I posted yesterday about over-the-top TV. Joost looks like a prime candidate to get us there.

(Tags: , , , )

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Apple, Pioneer of Accessible Solutions, Neglects Closed Captions in Apple TV

Grant Laird posted a comment on one of my Apple TV posts, asking me to find out if it supports closed captions.

As far as I can tell, it doesn't. Videos and movies from the iTunes store have no closed captions.
How sad.

I was at Apple when Alan Brightman ran the Worldwide Disability Solutions Group and guided, cajoled, wheedled and kajeedled the culture into designing accessibility features into the hardware and software. Some examples: PowerBooks were all built with a one-handed latch, (and now the Macbooks have no latch all), the system can be set so the display blinks when an alert sound is triggered, there are options for magnifying the screen, and setting sticky keys so that modifier keys (such as shift, command, option, etc.) can be worked one handed.

If you care about this issue, there's a "feedback" option under the iTunes menu. There's also a current thread about closed captioning in the Apple Support Forum.

By the way, Alan, who is now at Yahoo, spoke last week at Macworld. His inspiring talk on "The Accessible Mac: Yesterday and Today" is available on this podcast from Moving at the Speed of Creativity.

Closed Captioning, like many accessibility solutions, is helpful to many folks who do not have impaired hearing. Sometimes dialog is mumbled, or mixed low, or two characters speak at once. Some TVs now have a CC on mute feature, so that if you mute the sound to answer the phone, you don't actually have to pay full attention to the person speaking to you.

I read in one thread that the issue is in the underlying QuickTime code. As things stand now, it would be possible to encode open captions, always visible to everyone, but not closed captions that can be turned on and off. To my knowledge, no other internet-based video solution has closed captioning. So, Apple, consider this another opportunity to lead the way.

Mickeleh's Take: I'm going to borrow a guest take from Nate Voss
I can understand Apple, in the rush and excitement of launching a video revolution, accidentally forgetting that the hard-of-hearing might still want to download LOST. Hey, sometimes I forget to spell-check documents, too. But I always have to go back in and fix the things I’ve overlooked, and it’s time for Apple to do the same.
(Tags: , , , )

Netflix and Brightcove Join in the Bidding to Take TV "Over The Top"

There's news yesterday that Netflix will add online distribution to their disc-by-mail rental program.

News today of Brightcove closing a new $59 million round of funding.

They're both joining a crowded field of hopefuls with competing strategies for using the internet to deliver TV and movies "over the top."

Backstory: Over the Top of What?

If you're a civilian you probably just call it video on the Internet. If you're dealing with the cable industry, you're calling it "over the top" Why? Because groups love to invent special jargon that separates insiders from outsiders. (Ask a parent of teenage children.)

In acting, going "over the top" means pushing a performance beyond the realm of credibility (see Jim Carrey in Batman Forever). In poker, it's re-raising after another player's raise (see Steve McQueen in The Cincinnati Kid). And in trench warfare it's coming out of your trenches to attack the enemy in their trenches (see Kirk Douglas in Paths of Glory).

And someday, you may be able to watch all three of these "over the top" movies by means of over-the-top video delivery, which oddly enough combines elements from all three movies: big gambles, trench warfare (corporate style), and an endless stream of riddles.

Flashback: Once upon a time, cable was only about TV. Cable operators accepted your money in return for access to a walled garden of television channels. Because space in the walled garden is scarce, and cable likes to say they "own the audience" (that would be us) content owners find Cable operators to be very tough negotiators. Of course, if you can bring the audience (i.e. if you are ESPN or HBO) Cable operators will find you to be very tough negotiators. If you are the audience, expect to be pwned.

Flashforward: The development of the cable modem enables the operator to add new lines of business over the top of the traditional TV channels. For example, high-speed internet access and telephone service. New product lines. New revenue streams.

Flashforward Again: Video over the internet gains traction. (Real Networks, Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe won Emmy awards this year for their contributions to streaming internet video. YouTube earned a Google award of $1.65 billion). Coming on strong, Joost, Brightcove, Akimbo, Vongo, and over a hundred others.

Suddenly the cable industry finds itself in a strange competition with itself. Inside their video walled garden they share in subscriptions fees for premium channels, and ad revenues for basic channels. The more channels you subscribe to, the more money they collect. But over the top of the walled garden, internet video makes cable into nothing more than a dumb pipe. If you download videos from iTunes or Xbox Live, it's Apple or Microsoft that takes your money and splits it with the content owner.

Over-the-top video has a long way to go before being truly competitive with Cable's walled Garden. There's not enough content, there are bandwidth issues, navigation is inconsistent from service to service. And, oh, yeah: there's no proven business model.

But the gap is closing and, even though DRM trolls live under the bridges, it's not hard to imagine a world where viewers can subscribe to only those services and on-demand libraries they care to pay for, lowering their bills and increasing their satisfaction. As with television, many of these services will be ad supported and may offer advertisers important advantages over the TV ad model. This isn't something that's going to flip over night, but over-the-top is already chipping away at conventional TV watching.

Mickeleh's Take: Utopians look at Internet-based TV as a way to overthrow the established content players. Don't count on that. If "over-the-top" does displace the current "walled garden," expect to be watching mainly the same shows from mainly the same studios on the same big screen TV. Except at the margins, the only thing that will change is how the money flows.

(Tags: , , , , , , , , , )

More on Techmeme

The Towers That Brought Me The Voice of Jean Shepherd Are No More

Doc Searls offers a link to a YouTube video of the end of the WOR Towers. Another icon of my youth vanished.

From those towers Jean Shepherd broadcast nightly on a clear channel that could be heard all over the eastern half of the country. If you're not from that time and place, you're most likely to know Shep from his movie, A Christmas Story. If you are, then you knew about Ralphie and the B.B. gun long before the novel was published or the movie released.

We had the privilege of listening night-after-night to a brilliant, unscripted monologist who wove memories of his youth, his Army service, and his sharp observations on the passing scene into humorous and moving tapestries that kept me up night after night.

Many of Shep's shows have been archived and are available on the Web. You can subscribe to The Brass Figligee podcast and The Jean Shepherd Podcast through iTunes and elsewhere. One of the best intros to Shep is a tribute by Harry Shearer broadcast on NPR in 2000, "A Voice in the Night"

Those towers also brought me the voices of Long John Nebel and guests. Here's one of his shows from the height of the fifties flying saucer rage. One of the guests reports on his trip in a flying saucer from White Sands, New Mexico to New York and back within a span of 32 minutes. "These particular people are not like us, but they have many advantages over us." they levitate... they have 32 eyes in a ring around the head.... they have a force-filed around them that can repel bullets.... and more.

PC to TV Connectivity: We've Pushed It Hard Since 2002. Is This The Year?

When David Pogue was on Morning Edition this week to chat up the iPhone (in case anyone on the planet hadn't heard of it by then), Steve Inskeep asked him about the CES focus on the convergence of computers and entertainment. After a brief laughing fit (why couldn't he have been drinking coffee so he could give us a proper spit-take?), Pogue dismissed connecting the PC to the TV as "Geekland and years away" and "a solution to a problem I don't believe exists."

It's still a ways off. But it got a lot closer this year. I've been tracking PC-to-TV options for most of the century, as my former company has been working on including PC-Link feature in its DVR product.

In 2003, The New York Times devoted almost a full page to an article by John R. Quain surveying devices for getting PC content to the TV over wireless networking.

The New York Times, October 23, 2003

This year, many of the same players are still trying to push the same rope up the same hill: HP, Microsoft, Sony, TiVo, Linksys, Netgear. But now, they're joined by some new players: Apple, Sling Media, Digeo, and others. Why the surge* of companies rushing to join a losing cause?

This is a classic example of the tech marketing challenge that Geoffrey Moore described in his 1991 book Crossing the Chasm. Lots of products manage to capture innovators and early adopters and then peter out. They're never picked up by the mainstream market. (Podcasting?)

Despite never having caught on in a big way, connecting the PC to the TV continues to attract investment and new players. Could Pogue be wrong that this is still "years away"? Is there a there there?

Mickeleh's Take: It depends on how many he meant when he said "years". Here's why the ground is shifting rapidly:

First, there's a lot more stuff on your PC now that you might prefer to watch on your TV, including the burgeoning field of net-based video. (I'll talk more about this in my next post, when we go "over the top.")

Second, there are a growing number of PC to TV Trojan Horses out there: Xbox 360 and TiVo. PC to TV connectivity is not why most people buy them, but it's a feature sleeping inside them. Does it take a geek to wake up their hidden powers or can anybody do it? I appeal to higher wisdom.

Heraclitus's Take: You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing around you.

Rocket J. Squirrel's Take: That trick never works.

Bullwinkle J. Moose's Take: This time fer sure.

*surge is a service mark of the Bush administration, used without permission.

(Tags: , , , , , , , , , )

My Favorite Books on the Business History of TV

Too often, when I turn off the TV to read a book, I read a book about TV. (Sick.)

Most of what's going on right now in TV has its roots in technology advances and business warfare going back more than a hundred years. Even companies spawned yesterday in the eras of the personal computer, the Web, (including Web 2.0) tend to follow patterns that were set beginning in the late nineteenth century and on through the twentieth. The focus of most of these books is not on technology per se, but on how businesses maneuvered to productize, market, and profit from technology.

Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World, by Jill Jonnes
I picked up on this after Jonathan Schwartz mentioned it in an early ScobleShow. This is the definitive paradigm of everything going on today. You'll recognize all the staples of what your company is dealing with: from killer demos (except in those days killer demos involved actual death), to keeping the investors hopeful while you're trying to get the product done, to patent battles, event marketing, lavish parties, trade shows, lobbying for favorable government regulations, all the way to (apologies to Guy Kawasaki) employing the first evangelist. There's even a precedent for Valleywag, as this was the era of Yellow Journalism.

The arena is the contest between proponents AC (Tesla and Westinghouse) and DC (Edison) to dominate the coming world of electrical transmission. This was the first platform war of the age of electricity. The evangelist, Harold Brown, was a DC zealot who makes even the most rabid Mac fanboy seem nonchalant by comparison. Brown helped Edison position DC as the safe system by conducting public demos where he electrocuted animals up to the size of an elephant with AC. Not stopping there, he lobbied to get the Westinghouse AC current adopted for New York's electric chair. (The description of how the first human execution by electric chair was botched is on a par with recent news from Iraq.) There was even a move to get "to Westinghouse" adopted as a verb (à la "to Google" or "to TiVo") meaning, in this case, "to execute by electrocution." It didn't take.

Any book that gives us insight into Tesla's triumphs and tragedies is worth spending time with. Bonus factoid: how much horse manure had to be removed daily from New York streets in the late nineteenth century. (And New Yorkers thought there was an odor last week!)

The Golden Web: A History of Broadcasting in the United States, by Eric Barnouw
This three volume set takes us from the telephone through the dominance of the big TV networks in 1970. It offers insights into the rivalries among the networks, between the networks and their affiliates, and patterns of adoption across the country and the rise of advertising. (There's also a one-volume condensed version by Barnouw, Tube of Plenty) Fascinating today is the way Hollywood and the record industry danced with the broadcasters, holding them off, later embracing, even dominating. This history is repeating itself on iTunes, YouTube etc.

Cable Cowboy: John Malone and the Rise of the Modern Cable Business by Mark Robichaux
How did cable move from the Community Antenna business that helped rural residents bring in a decent signal to becoming the dominant Internet Service and TV service provider in the nation? Robichaux traces much of it to the insights and drive of one man, John Malone, who built TCI (later sold to AT&T, then to Comcast). It's a great story of how a smart and scrappy startup can play the game against the establishment and win, changing the world in the process.

Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost Their Way by Ken Auletta
Auletta (who continues to cover media for the New Yorker) takes up the story of how the big three networks floundered in the early days of cable. It's an inside view of how dominant, established corporations try to cope with revolutionary shifts that undermine the foundations of their business. We know now how CBS, NBC, and ABC made it through the cable era.

Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV by Shelly Palmer
This is the first history of our current revolution. The rise of net-based video and it's challenge to the established broadcast, cable, and satellite businesses. Because Shelly is writing from the early stages of the revolution he doesn't have the ability to call winners and losers as the previously mentioned authors do. But this is the best and most comprehensive overview of what's changing today

(Tags: , , , , , , )

Monday, January 15, 2007

How Many NYT Reporters Does It Take to Screw with Seven People Reporters Who Are Losing Their Jobs?

File this in the Annals of Snark department of Mickeleh's Take:

Here's the lede in today's NYT piece about job cuts at Time, Inc.
People magazine's article this week on Britney Spears and her "new guy," model Isaac Cohen, is five paragraphs long. It was reported and written by seven people.

To be fair, they were long paragraphs.
Mickeleh's Take: If you're keeping track, that bit of snark was written by two people: Katharine Q. Seelye and Richard Siklos.

(Tags: , , , , , , ) Dead: "Good Career Move"?

When Elvis died, the quip was, "Good Career Move." (Google was of no help in sourcing that quote. Did Colonel Parker say it? Did Michael O'Donoghue? If you know, hit the comments.) Indeed it was. Until passed by Kurt Cobain last year, Elvis was the top-ranking earner among dead celebrities. And Kurt will have some ways to go before passing Elvis's lifetime(?) dead earnings.

Yesterday, Greg Linden, the founder-developer of announced yesterday that he's ceasing development and letting the site drift on life-support.

I had never heard of Findory until I saw a death-notice in Om Malik's blog. Turns out it's a clever news aggregator that learns what you like and keeps getting smarter about what it shows you. Unlike, say Techmeme and its sister sites, which follow the broad conversation to promote articles. Findory follows your interests.

Mickeleh's Take: Findory looks pretty good and it has a devoted fan base. While Greg is ceasing further development, he thinks the site can drift on autopilot through the rest of the year. I wonder if the added attention brought by its death notice will actually give it a new lease on life or stir the pot for an acquisition. I can think of a few companies that might benefit from good personalization and recommendation algorithms.

I expect dead Elvis will still beat dead Findory in revenues, but for the extra burst of publicity, killing off Findory might prove to be another good career move.

(Tags: , , , , , )

Sunday, January 14, 2007

How Does Apple Get Such Bad Press?

Apple scored a PR coup this week but in true Hegelian fashion the iPhone rocks thesis was quickly followed by the iPod sucks antithesis. (no keyboard, slow EDGE network, CingularAT&T, closed system, maybe no Flash, etc. and, of course, Apple's DRM lock-in)

This morning in The New York Times Randall Stross talks about the DRM lock-in that is part and parcel of the iPod brand. Cory Doctorow labels it the Roach Motel business model. ("customers check in but they can't check out").

There's another round of Apple-beating-up-on-bloggers stories. And Dave Winer examines some of the mechanisms that Apple uses to ensure favorable coverage.

Much of what Apple does comes out of the standard PR playbook. Offer access; expect coverage. Nobody asks for favorable coverage. It just happens. (If it doesn't happen, you may not be asked back.) The same dynamic is at play with Woodward and his first two book on Bush and the war, Scoble on the Edwards announcement tour, Vista on Phoenix laptops for bloggers, and every negotiated celebrity cover story on magazines from Vanity Fair to Rolling Stone. Of course, the bigger the star, the more the leverage—because the bigger the star, the better for circulation, (or page views). And Apple is a huge star with a devoted fan base.

On CNN this morning, Howard Kurtz asked Steven Levy (author of a book on iPod and one of the few star tech reporters to get an interview with Steve Jobs) about Journalists being afraid to criticize Apple.
LEVY: Well, that's right. I think there might be some of that.

I try to avoid that. In my book I refer to Apple's suing bloggers as thinking different about the First Amendment. So I am critical in some cases. On the other hand, I do like the iPod, as millions of people do. And when something deserves to be praised, I think you have to praise it.

Apple has gotten a lot of ink about the options problem it's in now, and I think this is sort of the other side of the good publicity they get when something bad happens. You k now, right now Apple is in the middle of a, you know, options imbroglio.

They're going to get more coverage because of that. And quite possibly, prosecutors are going to take more interest in pursuing them because of that. So there's a flip side to this good publicit

Mickeleh's Take: Kurtz said he'd reserve judgment, "until I see how these phones actually work." But at the same time he reminded his viewers that he, too, was in Apple's pocket. "And speaking of iPods, you can now download a video podcast of this very show at" Onscreen, an image of Howard Kurtz, champion of journalistic integrity and skepticism was framed by an iPod. The journalists are still big. It's their pictures that got small.

During the entire segment, which also featured Robin Liss, the b-roll was a virtual non-stop commercial for iPod now and future.

Ethan Kaplan has the best take on all of this: Enough already!

(Tags: , , , , , , )

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Conan's iPhone Commercial

Did anything ELSE happen at Macworld?

Lots of folks have noted how the Steve Jobs keynote sucked all the oxygen out of CES in Las Vegas. Sylvia Paul reminds us that it also totally overshadowed Macworld.

Mickeleh's Take: If "no third-parties need apply" was the subtext of iPhone, it might also apply to the entire Macworld Expo. The big "boom" of the Keynote seemed to have made everyone deaf to any other messages. A lot of vendors put a big part of their marketing budgets into Macworld. This year, they may have been short-changed. If you know about anything interesting at Macworld 2007, please list it in the comments.

(Tags: , , , , )

Another Senate, Another Attempt to Restrict Fair Use

Ars Technica reports that four Senators (Alexander (R-TN), Biden (D-DE), Feinstein (D-CA), Graham (R-SC) have re-introduced a bill that imposes an obligation to restrict copying on providers of digital radio--whether over-the-air, by satellite, or Internet. The Bill, known as PERFORM (Platform Equality and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music Act,), also requires digital services to pay royalty rates at the "fair market value."

According to Feinstein, the bill doesn't restrict traditional Fair Use rights, because it would still allow users to record from digital sources by timers. What it would prevent is the ability to automatically seek out works by particular artists, or to resort them into playlists.

Needless to say, the RIAA rejoices.

Other coverage: Hollywood Reporter, Public Knowledge, Techmeme, Digg

Mickeleh's Take: I'm all for paying for music. I'm especially for getting the royalties to the musicians. I'm all for compensating the inventors who create new methods and opportunities to discover, acquire, and enjoy music. But here's my question: Where is the evidence that continually thwarting the customer and neutering innovation will actually bring more revenue into the ailing music business? PERFORM died in committee last session. I say, that death deserves an encore.

Please inform yourselves on this issue and let your Senators hear from you.

(Tags: , , , , , )

A Blogger Who Thinks Ahead

Visit The Blue Royale and prepare for the future. (Someone's future, anyway.)

CES 1998: The Cidco iPhone

No, that's not a typo. Not Cisco, but Cidco (the Caller ID Company).

In light of the brouhaha over who has rights to the name iPhone, some long-repressed memories jogged loose.

Nine years ago, Cidco offered an internet phone with the same name (iPhone) and same price ($499) as Apple's product (that would be over $600 in today's dollars). It had some buzz in its day but it was not a hit. Cidco was acquired by Earthlink in 2001.

This from a Popular Mechanics piece on the best of CES, 1998:

Cidco Inc. also announced a new smart phone at CES called the iPhone ($499). Instead of logging onto your computer, with this gadget you can send or receive e-mail as well as access any Web site you desire--right on the phone's built-in 7.4-in. touchscreen. It's the first of its kind to use graphics and not just text. The phone includes a pull-out keyboard, built-in directory, speakerphone, caller identification and 3-way conferencing.

The data delivery speed is marked at 28.8kbps or higher, making Web surfing nice and easy.
Mickeleh's Take: How about that feature set: graphics, web, email, icons, touch-screen. And the Cidco iPhone had a real keyboard with tactile feedback. And a handset so you wouldn't get ear-sweat and makeup all over the screen. Wouldn't fit in your pocket though. Clearly a product before its time. Might prove inconvenient for a company claiming an exclusive trade-mark on iPhone.

(Tags: , , , , , )

Friday, January 12, 2007

Before iPhone: A Delicious Demo of "Multi-touch"

One of the most exciting elements of the iPhone demo that Steve Jobs gave at Macworld was the multi-touch interface--using gestures to manipulate objects onscreen, e.g. squeezing and spreading two fingers to resize photos on the screen.

Last February, Jeff Han rocked the room at the TED conference with a demo of multi-touch research from NYU. If you enjoyed the iPhone demo, this one is a treat. (And, yes, Jeff saw the keynote, too.)

I came across this link in a provocative Tech Dirtpost by Mike Masnick, who asks whether the iPhone really needs patents to be successful. Thanks to Dave Winer for pointing me to Tech Dirt.

Mickeleh's Take
: The miracle our patent system is that it both rewards and retards innovation while providing steady employment for lawyers and unearned income for trolls. The miracle of multi-touch is that we're in for some amazing new devices and very smudgy screens. Invest in screen-wipes.

(Tags: , , , , )

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Video Demo of Apple TV

Todd Howard at Zoom In Online has a video demo of Apple TV from Macworld.

Mickeleh's Take: ooooooh! aaaaaah! The U-I, as expected is very cool. I like the ability to browse and play music and videos from iTunes—especially video podcasts. One of Apple's clear intentions for this product is to make buying TV shows and Movies from iTunes even more attractive—now you can view them on TV. Apple shouldn't count on me being a heavy buyer there. The pricing and resolution of the current offering don't entice me.

(Tags: , , )

Nick Carr: The SteveNote vs the BillNote

Nick Carr talks about the difference between the CES keynote by Bill Gates, which is pretty well forgotten (Spot Quiz: What did Gates talk about this year? What did he demo?) and the Steve Jobs MacWorld keynote which is still reverberating through the real and virtual universes. Nick boils it down to, "Gates wants to sell platforms. Jobs just wants to make tools."

Mickeleh's Take: I think Nick gets the part about Gates right. But about Jobs, not so much. Remember this is a guy who put a Boesendorfer piano and a BMW motorcycle in the atrium of the building where the Mac team worked just so they'd always be in touch with product excellence. He used to say, "insanely great." He dropped the phrase, but not the aspiration. Steve treats product design as a fine art. He wants to astound us. And he does.

Bill: So, we think people will want to put a headless server in their closet to back up all their digital media and keep it safe.

Steve: Look at this iPhone. Closer... Closer... ***Boom***

Bottom line: We can't stop talking about the iPhone; As for the server, what happens in the closet stays in the closet.

(Tags: , , , , , , , )

Doc Searls: Next year, it's the iPhone Shuffle

From Peter Hirshberg and Doc Searls comes a prediction about the next iteration of the Apple iPhone.

Mickeleh's Take: You know it's a sound prediction because it's backed by a quote from Josh Bernhoff.

Message Discipline: What We Can All Learn from Steve

Go to Techmeme today and look at how Steve dominates the conversation—as I predicted he would.

What did Steve talk about? A very short bit on how Apple is doing. The obligatory dig at the guy from Redmond. A short bit on Apple TV. A long bit on iPhone. And, by the way, we're changing the name of the company to Apple, Inc.

And then it's, "Thank you and good night ladies and gentlemen you've been a wonderful audience be sure to tip your server and enjoy the rest of the show." Cue orchestra for bows.

He didn't even talk about all the products that Apple introduced yesterday. He didn't give us an OS update. He didn't tell us how many new stores he opened last year. How many he plans to open this year.

There's a lesson in there for anyone who needs to communicate. Focus.

Decide what you need the audience to walk away with. Leave everything else out.

Here's a discipline I learned when I studied how to write sermons (homiletics) with Rabbi Martin A. Cohen.

Next time you have to craft a presentation or a speech (or a blog post) do this: put in the time to write a one-sentence thesis. Can you boil it down to one sentence? Not a list of bullets. Not an outline. But one sentence. If you could ask the audience to remember one thing, what would that be.

It has to be a simple declarative sentence. One subject. One verb. No independent clauses. No semi-colons. No conjunctions. Get the thesis of your speech down to one sentence and then build up from there. It doesn't have to be a sappy bit of memorable copy. In fact, your audience will probably never hear or see the key-sentence. It's only for your guidance.

Here's mine for this post:
Memorable communications require a clear core idea.
Allow yourself a greeting and introduction. Allow yourself a conclusion and charge to the audience. Aside from that the body of the speech has to illuminate and demonstrate the one core idea in your thesis sentence.

Don't underestimate the difficulty of pulling it all into one sentence. You can't overestimate the value.

(Of course, it helps if you actually have something to talk about, as Steve clearly did. The exercise of writing a thesis statement will help you discover whether or not you do.)

Mickeleh's Take: If you don't determine what the audience should remember about your message, they may not remember anything.

(Tags: , , , , )

Pixel-Punchy Scoble's Rant about Apple TV

Robert Scoble was lividly dismissive of Apple TV, one of the two products that Steve Jobs introduced at his Macworld keynote yesterday.
Is the Apple TV only 720p HD? That really, really, really sucks. If that’s true this thing is dead on arrival. Apple, the entire industry is ahead of you if that’s true.
I have three things to say about that:

One. Robert is super busy right now at CES. So, while he has the specs right, I don't think he's digested the purpose of the product. All it's supposed to do is get stuff from iTunes onto your TV. (Apple's tag line: "if it's in iTunes, it's on TV.") It's not a game box. Not a DVR. Not a YouTube player. It's just for getting stuff from iTunes (and photos) to the TV.

Guess what I have in my iTunes? Hours of unwatched episodes of the ScobleShow. Robert is doing a really good series of video interviews with tech CEOs and demos of new products. I subscribe to his podcast, but I've only watched a few episodes.

Robert should be encouraging me to get Apple TV so I can watch his show from the comfort of my living room. (They're not 1080p, but they're really, really good. -- not sucky, DOA, or behind the entire industry.)

B. Robert's at CES right now, which projects a Reality Distortion Field almost as powerful as Steve's. CES is a super-saturated environment of HDTV displays. Acres and acres of glass. And 1080p is all the rage this year.

But here's the dirty secret of 1080p:

While it's true that a 1080p screen can show more pixels than the first generation of HDTV sets, no broadcaster is supplying that many pixels. Not cable. Not satellite. Not over the air. And there are no plans to change that any time soon.

Third. If you have a problem with the resolution of Apple TV, take it to the source: The gating factor is bandwidth for downloading. How long does it take to get the file at the bit-rates that you and Apple are willling to pay for. You do the math, I'm an English major.

Mickeleh's Take: Robert is correct in noting that what Apple TV does is pretty much a subset of what Xbox 360 does. Except for this: what 360 doesn't do is deliver my iTunes library to my TV. So that's why I'm planning to get an Apple TV and watch me some ScobleShow.

Apple says it clearly, if not prominently:
"Apple TV works with widescreen, enhanced-definition or high-definition TVs capable of 1080i, 720p, 576p, or 480p resolutions..."
But I wonder how many people won't notice that until they open the box?

While TVs that meet Apple's requirements dominate current retail sales, they're far from dominating the installed base of TVs. (See also Scoble's lament that his Dad isn't in the digital TV generation.) If you have an older TV, you're just not going to be able to make the connection.

Mickeleh's Take: There are more than enough modern TVs to make Apple's numbers, but there are also many more older TVs that will make headaches for the returns counter at the Apple store. Apple's delay on shipping the product gives them all another few weeks to stock up on aspirin.

Other Mickeleh's Takes on Apple TV:

One Week with Apple TV (Review)
Apple TV--Scoble Likes It!
The Big Gotcha of Apple TV:
It Might Not Work on Your TV

Apple, Pioneer of Accessible Solutions,
Neglects Closed Captions in Apple TV

(Tags: , , , , , , )

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Blog Schmog. The Best Thing Written about iPhone is by Lev Grossman in Time Magazine

This time around, Apple PR tapped Time for the exclusive "making of" article. That means they get an advance look, exclusive interviews, and time to digest. Lev Grossman does a fine job.

Apple's new iPhone could do to the cell phone market what the iPod did to the portable music player market: crush it pitilessly beneath the weight of its own superiority. This is unfortunate for anybody else who makes cell phones, but it's good news for those of us who use them.
Mickeleh's Take: everyone is saying that without tactile feedback you can't type. Maybe. But would you rather tap 9 four times to get "z" or would you rather have a magically appearing QWERTY keyboard? To me, it's worth waiting to try before denouncing. Not sure about the smudges and scratches on the screen though.

(Tags: , , , , , , )

A visit to the Digeo Booth

A blog called Quiet Company for Loud Lives stopped by the Digeo booth at CES. Posted a couple of photos.

(Tags: , , , )

Monday, January 08, 2007

Yeah, I can smell it, too

Another thing about being in New York right now... I'm smelling the widely reported unidentified gas odor. Or am I just imagining it. Glad the mayor says don't panic.

Julie Taymor's "The Magic Flute" (Okay, Mozart's)

Being in New York during CES means not having to blog, "I'm sitting in an airport waiting to go to CES," "I'm standing in a taxi line in Las Vegas," "I'm waiting to get into the Bill Gates Keynote," "I just drooled on a piece of silicon." Unfortunately, it means I have to read all those posts.

But it also means I could stroll up to the Metropolitan Opera to see Julie Taymor's production of Mozart's hokey and transcendant musical comedy, The Magic Flute. (Her most widely-known credit: she staged The Lion King for Broadway. As for the rest, you could Google it up for yourself. But they'll just send you to Wikipedia.)

What an inspiration to give Taymor this assignment. Between her costumes, the puppets she designed with Michael Curry, and plexiglas palaces designed by George Tsypin, there's more magic in this production than I've ever seen before. About the same amount of flute, though. (Oh, and when I say, "puppets," I'm not talking Bert and Ernie here. It's more on the scale of Thanksgiving parade balloons.)

There are treats in Mozart's score that will knock your socks off. Thankfully, it was warm in New York, so I didn't mind walking home without socks. The music ranges from happy, folky tunes, to soaring chorales, to a "holy f*ck, did those sounds actually come out of a human throat?" explosion by the Queen of the Night in Act II. (It goes to F above high C. Mozart wrote it for his sister-in-law.)

As for the staging: Dignity? You got it. Slapstick? You got it. "Keep it gay" prancing? You got it. Pageantry, thrills, spills, puppetry, flying birds of all sizes, goofy lust, true love, honor, sacrifice, a fat suit, little boys with long white beards, thunder, lightning. What a glorious mish-mash.

What Mozart and Schikandeder have captured is the essential truth about the human condition: We're all nasty, little meat-sacks who want nothing more than to eat, get drunk, and have sex. We're petty, jealous, very easily distracted, and we fall asleep at the most inconvenient moments. Yet at the same time, we aspire to honor, love, loyalty, brotherhood and selfless devotion. No wonder the piece is a mish-mash. It's about us.

Amazingly, it all hangs together. And if we don't hang together, we'll all hang separately. But enough about Saddam.

The cast I saw was first rate. They do it all: Singing, acting, prat falls: everything you want in the theatre. They even show some skin.

And here's the best news of all. If you're within the sound of my voice, you, too, can see this masterwork thanks to the Met's new program of nationwide HDTV theatre transmissions. It's January 23, 1:30 PM Eastern, 10:30 Pacific. Live from New York, it's a Saturday matinee.

Look for it at a Theatre Near You. Take the kids. Take the parents. Just don't take my seat. I'm goin' again.

For an actual review by someone who knows what he's talking about, read Alex Ross in The New Yorker. (He liked it too.)

(Tags: , , , , , , , , , )

Trivia question for the oldsters: name two Miltons who worked for Texaco.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Second Life Followup: GigaGames

Wagner James Au looks into the controversy about Second Life numbers that I blogged about recently and provides some balance. There's a blog-flurry going on. Check Techmeme if you're interested.

Mickeleh's Take: The debunking is, so far, not dissuading marketers from using Second Life for its stunt-value and buzz-worthiness. I'm long-term skeptical. (Tales out of school, that you probably already know: there's plenty marketers and ad folks whose knowledge is a a millimeter deep but feel compelled to impress their clients about how hep they are to this Web 2.0 jive that they'll run with a buzzword and a slick presentation. For them, currently accrued hype will keep Second Life immune to debunkers for a long time.)

(Tags: , )

CES: "Getcha Gear and Software Here. Gear and Software!"

My RSS reader popped up this morning with a good news, no news joke. A New York Times article about CES starts with this lede:
For a small technology company called Digeo, the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is one of the biggest opportunities of the year.
Talk about winning the lottery: 2700 companies show up at CES and Digeo makes it into the first sentence of a New York Times article. Nice PR coup. [Addendum: In the paper, this article is a section A front-pager. HP, IBM, and DirecTV don't even show up until the jump to the business section, C9]

That's the good news. The no news? Authors Brad Stone and Damon Darlin neglect to mention the brand of the product, what it does, or why you'd want it. Digeo is identified only as a company "which makes gear and software for home entertainment." Gear and software? That pretty much narrows it down, doesn't it? Aren't we all on the prowl for gear and software?

I need to mention that the article is not your typical geek-drooling-on-silicon CES coverage. It's a business story that examines what companies spend to go to CES.

Mickeleh's Take: Just to complete the record. The product is Moxi. It's an Emmy-award winning HDTV DVR and home media center. It has what Rob Enderle calls the best user-interface of any product in the category. And I'm paid to plug it.

(Tags: , , , , , , , )

Friday, January 05, 2007

Apple vs CES Continued: Scoble Weighs in

The other day I offered my take on the relative news value of Apple's announcements at Macworld vs. the rest of the industry at CES. But that was based more on style than on substance. Today, based on some actual nudge, nudge, wink, wink, Robert Scoble concurs.

Mickeleh's Take: Expect to have updates on themes that Steve Jobs opened at the Developers' Conference: Apple iTV and Leopard. There will be the annual update of iLife and iWork (with potential new tie-ins to iTV). Expect new announcements of movie studios releasing work for sale through the iTunes store. Expect Adobe to figure prominently in the keynote. And expect the unexpected as well.

The Macworld keynote is now scheduled to run two hours. That leaves plent of room for more than one "One more thing."

(Tags: , , , , )

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Long Tail Leaps from the Library onto Amazon

Last time I looked for books on Amazon, I was shocked, shocked to see the low prices on some of the used copies. Books priced under $1.00 in some cases. The sellers describe them as being in good condition, unmarked, except for library markings.

The Washington Post today offers what may be a clue. Fairfax County libraries are aggressively culling their stacks to make room for hot sellers. "Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings," gone. "The Education of Henry Adams," gone. Want Emily Dickinson's "Final Harvest," Gone.

How widespread is this?

Mickeleh's Take
: Providing free access to the canon of our literature used to be part of the mission of the public library. Instead of offering the long tail, the libraries seem to be embracing only the popular titles. Where's the long tail now? Back in commercial distribution at very low prices through used book sellers and accessible through Amazon. Not a bad solution in the short run. But If these low prices wind up clearing the market, then what happens to the ideal of making them available to the entire community? Maybe by then, they'll all be digitized, and accessible through free terminals at the public library.

(tags: , , )

Next Week: It's Apple vs. The Entire Rest of the Industry

CES and Macworld go head to head next week.

The combined might of Microsoft, HP, Samsung, Sony, Intel, AMD, Motorola, LG, Panasonic, yada yada will spread across multiple expo halls and hotels ballrooms in Las Vegas vying for press attention against one lone company in Moscone Center in San Francisco. CES is celebrating its fortieth anniversary, Apple its thirtieth.

Apple doesn't have a chance.

Except this: in Las Vegas, it's actually 2700 vendors competing for attention against each other across acres of exhibit space, endless walking, dueling keynotes, press conferences and meetings. (Ed Bott had nearly 600 invitations to meet with vendors and room on his schedule for 30.) Whereas in San Francisco, it's the Steve Show all the way.

In Las Vegas, it's practically everything on earth with a plug or a battery. In San Francisco, it's a single coherent message crafted by one of the most focused communicators on the planet.

The Reality Distortion Field vs. A Cloud of Dust in the Desert. It's really no contest.

PS: unfortunately, business takes me to New York. I'll be attending neither. (Online, I'll be attending both.)

(Tags: , , , )

Monday, January 01, 2007

Zune: from "iPod Killer" to "Can it Beat Sansa?"

When the pre-release drumbeat for Zune started back in July '06, it seemed that nobody could write about it without using the phrase "iPod Killer." Today, Todd Bishop in the P-I questions whether Zune can even beat the Sansa Rhapsody from SanDisk and RealNetworks. (This in an article that views nearly every Microsoft initiative for 2007 as an "issue.")

Jefferson Graham, in the USA Today "Talking Tech" podcast, panned Zune so thoroughly that he threw in a prediction that we won't even be talking about it next year.

Mickeleh's Take: Just in case Jefferson is right, I thought I'd get in one last post on Zune. But doesn't Microsoft DNA force them to keep a product going through a version 3.0?

(Tags: , , )