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Archive for December, 2006

 

Looking in the mirror at just what objects did appear closer as the year comes to a close, I suspect a key question on your mind is: What is Mac’s prognostication of digital home and general usage trends next year…?

1. Music is THE Application for Mobile Phones

CD-quality music is going to be on more than half the entry-level cell phones used around the world by year-end. Music will be THE application on cell phones measured by consumer use and revenue-generated by handset makers and wireless service providers. Apple proved people will pay for good-sounding music, including hundreds of their favorite songs, easily accessed by simply pressing a button. And these music cell phones will store hundreds and late in the year thousands of songs, which is plenty for the average music fan.

But what about video or Mobile TV adoption? Mobile TV will continue to develop, but will be challenged to win market acceptance because of the small size of cell phone screens. Battery limitations and the small screens make long-term, non-stop viewing unappealing, not a good user experience. The most likely mobile TV applications will be people checking sports scores and updates; cartoons, videos, standup comedy etc., and/or general news. All these will need to fit in about a 3-to-15 minute time frame, according to most industry experts. Many people won’t watch TV on a cell phone for much longer than that, except for some special, out-of-the-mainstream reasons. Mobile TV’s early adopters are expected to be mass transit commuters, primarily Asian and European adults. Look for those countries to be early adopters.

2. Apple iTunes Remains Dominate

Apple will see their iPod market share erode in ’07 from increased competition thanks to Microsoft (Zune), the increased availability of independent video subscriptions (studio’s, broadcasters, news organizations etc.,), and the MTV URGE marketing juggernaut of VH1, MTV and CMT.

The “Leopard” version of the OS will extend Apple MSS to 8% and the FrontRow: media access embedded in the OS along with iTV is what the digital home needs in an interface device. The OS and device will be hugely successful with Apple retail stores able to promoting a compelling value proposition for consuming video content on your schedule…on any device… any time and keep those “buying eye-balls” on iTunes.

The increase in content sources and video quality of the iPod will drive demand for portable video players and subsequently on demand video content. The standard drive size for an iPod will be 100GB by year end. Flash models will ship with 8GB standard and upper end units with 15GB.

The Apple iPhone (Cell phone) will have few new features, but will become big sellers. It won’t be introduced at MacWorld rather it will be mid-year.

3. IPTV Over-Hyped and HDTV Prices Drop as Demand Increases.

The first sub-$500 27-inch LCD HDTV will hit the market. The dramatic price drops are causing consumers to not only upgrade living room sets, but buy additional units for different rooms in the house.

IPTV adoption and speculation will continue to be rampant and over-hyped. Industry pundits will continue to state that it’s right around the corner and that the deals are ramping the industry. New mega-revenue streams don’t exist. There are opportunities for the industry, including programming for non-traditional platforms, but 2007 will not be the year for broad adoption.

4. Blu-Ray and HD-DVD Sales Stall

With no HD-DVD standard concluded, format wars will continue to confuse the consumer and retail is unable to position the differences. Touted as the second coming of the DVD, it’s starting to look a lot like the second coming of the Laserdisc. The inclusion of 1080p support in Playstation 3 (PS3) won’t matter to consumers because there is very little content available and it’s at a premium price.

Speaking of Sony — they will stumble over backwards compatibility with PS2 games and lack of an interactive strategy. Gamers will become further addicted to Xbox 360 combined with Xbox Live, where points and ratings offer a direct comparison of skills against other Xbox Live members, which leaves PlayStation 3 out in the cold. For the console market, 2006 will be game over at Sony.

5. Generation C (Content) Mind Share

In three years, people born between 1980 and 2000, will outnumber Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. They will be a consumer sector of tremendous importance to the media & entertainment industry. Not only are they big, but they will be fragmented and difficult to reach. The increasing number of media channels – instant messaging, email, social networks, iPods, mobile phones, Tivo, P2P networks, handhelds, video games, etc., – through which this group communicates and consumes media & entertainment, makes them a very elusive target for us to market to them. The characteristics of this generation – one embracing a pervasively digital world – and the implications for media, entertainment, and advertising is going to drive everyone nutty.

Social networking services will morph into something even less useful, like social shopper with coupons and we’ll see sites provide buying recommendations triggered by your profile data.

6. Microsoft Success

Late-February they issue a Press Release proclaiming that “Windows Vista is the best selling operating system ever.” Consumers will love the Vista Media Center Edition with Xbox 360 connectivity in large scale. Adoption rates of Vista with XP customers will be very slow due to computational and memory requirements.

Frustrated with Apple’s market power, the music industry will move aggressively closer to Microsoft. It won’t matter, as the Zune will be deemed the most underwhelming product Microsoft has ever made. And afraid of Microsoft’s market power, the movie industry will try to cozy up to Washington.

Groove collaboration software will ship in the Office suite for the first time. It won’t matter as more significant desktop apps will move to an Ajax/server-based design like Zoho.

7. MPAA Supports Consumer Content Value Chain (When Pigs Fly!)

We buy a title, not a particular file for a title (so, we buy video once, for all devices)

“Stop, pause, resume, buy, rent, etc.” all work across platforms, devices, and service providers/retailers

Content transcoding is a job for the professionals and the serious hobbyists and the MPEG, H.264, video compression codec’s…whatever, is banned from everyday consumer vernacular

We need to know as much about DRM as we need to know about locks in our bank safety deposit vault

Content (purchased and our own creations) are as safe as credit cards (Meaning we should be angry when someone rips the content that we had to pay for)

I left off the ever important legal prediction…there will be a felony conviction in the U.S. for a crime committed entirely in a virtual world and for the Wiki people, the word “mashup” will be the most overused word in 2007!

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Mt Hood - From Hood River, OR

The unfortunate turn of events on Mt Hood for Kelly James is sad. And now the massive rescue effort has many calling for a winter month climbing ban and/or forcing location aware devices as you enter any state park. The banter has started…

“They should’ve known”….”They could’ve stopped”….”If they would’ve just…”

And what about who will pay the expense? Some even debate why it seems that out-of-state climbers create the major issues. It doesn’t matter! You and I will pay, but that doesn’t matter. The Hendricks Report has been covering the story non-stop.  We need to find Brian and Jerry. We need to do as much as possible as early as possible to help rescue these two men. Of course there is no blank check, but rescue costs are not significant. Let’s act for the less fortunate rather than resurrect old debates.

The perception that climbers are a significant drain on search and rescue services is just not supported by national or state data. An excellent report is here.

Specifically in Oregon there is a requirement that sheriffs report every search and rescue mission in the state—whether performed for a recreational participant, lost child or escaped criminal. This allows the Oregon Office of Emergency Management to perform the most comprehensive analysis of any state in the country. And despite the high level of climbing activity occurring in Oregon, climbing rescues ranked seventh in the state among all categories, representing a significantly smaller share of all rescues than common activities including hiking, motor vehicle use in the backcountry and hunting.

The report points out that the National Park Service in 2003 spent $3.5 million for personnel, supplies, aircraft and vessels to respond to 3,108 search and rescue missions, an average of $1,116 per incident. These search and rescue costs represent a very small portion of the National Park Service’s annual operating budget. For example, during the six year period from 1993 to 1998, search and rescue costs system wide accounted for 0.15% to 0.2% of the entire park service budget. This amounted to approx 1.5 cents out of total costs of $6 per visitor to run the National Park system.

Charging for rescues conflicts with national policies and creates legal liability issues. State laws currently allow the recovery of rescue costs, but vary in terms of the amount that can be recouped and the standard that is applied is based on “reasonable care was exercised” vs. intentionally, knowingly and willfully” entering an area closed to the public.

So, give me a break and go back to writing your Dear Santa letters to see if you’ve been naughty or nice…

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Mt. Hood Summer


Mt. Hood in Summer.

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Mt Hood Rescue


Given all the press over the past few days about rescue efforts to find the 3 missing climbers (Kelly James, Brian Hall and Jerry “Nikko” Cooke), on Mt. Hood , it made me reflect of the one-and-only time I climbed that same mountain. Of course it wasn’t in the middle of December, but none-the-less it was a challenging adventure for someone with no mountaineering background.

It wasn’t until I was 3 hours into the mountain climb with the crunch of crampons on ice and a heavy fog filled the predawn air that I fully appreciated the skills, hurdles and human conditioning required to do this every other weekend. Let alone execute a rescue like Portland Mt. Rescue in poor weather conditions, with extremely high avalanche hazards and with hurricane force winds.

Here are my summit stats:
Mazama – Summit Certificate
Ascended MT. Hood (South side) on May 16, 1978
Leader: Dick Sawyer w/ assistant Steve Rearder

Mt. Hood is one of several volcanoes on the west coast of the U.S. It is located about fifty miles east of Portland, Oregon in the Mt. Hood National Forest near Hood River. It is very easy to reach the trailhead since it starts at the parking lot of Timberline Lodge at an elevation of 6,000 feet, which is the base for the ski runs located on Hood’s southern slopes. It is common to see skiers high up on Hood. In fact, last year/season the ski area Meadow’s broke the all-time skier/boarder attendance record with 1.83 million visits.

But the mountain can also be very dangerous as noted by the deaths in May 2002 of climbers falling into a crevasse and a helicopter rescue gone bad. The nine climbers were swept into a 50-foot wide and 20-foot deep crevasse, known as the Bergschrund, early in the morning. Three of the climbers were killed and four more were critically injured.

And despite being the site of one of the worst climbing disasters in the U.S. in 1986 and that in the past 100 years, there have been 130 deaths on Mount Hood, it is very popular for various skill levels and some 40,000 people fill out permits to climb it every year.

But I digress, I summited Hood in May 1978 (yeah, I know that was before Al Goreinvented” the internet!) with two friends, Mike and Gary along with a number of other climbers who we never met before. We used the standard route named the “Hogsback”. It is a very long, but straightforward day. We climbed independently most of the time, but roped up near the summit since the final ridge is exposed, slippery and can be windy.

The previous day we met up at Timberline Lodge to get final information and register with our guides from Mazama and the Park Service. We got the paperwork filled out and proceeded to an orientation as we spread all our gear on the floor for a final check and a quick refresher course on the “rest-step”, crevasse rescue and harness/rope travel. Mike, Gary and I looked at each other…”refresher”…we didn’t know about crevasses, or ropes, but we all thought the ice axe was cool. After the “lesson”, we killed a few hours in the lodge giving Heidi some love (a St. Bernard who has since past away) who was the lodge’s goodwill ambassador. Bruno has since replace Heidi and is doing a fine job continuing the role. We over nighted in the Chalet Rooms. These are European-style bunk rooms with shared access to a public bathroom with showers centrally located in the hallway. We had a 3am wake up call and everyone knew it would be difficult to sleep. The “snorer’s” seem to be asleep in seconds and kept most of us from any quality shut eye in the bunks.

We started the climb at 4:00am after a big bowl of oatmeal from the cafe. The route was clearly marked (by our flashlights) with a big sign stating “Climber’s Route” as well as discs on tall poles. This route takes climbers along the east side of the ski runs. The starting elevation is about 6,000 feet. The steady slope rises two miles to the top of the ski runs (oh how we wished for a chair ride on Palmer!) at a 30 degree grade. You are cold for the first 30 minutes then the steady grade gets the blood flowing in the legs and you begin to peel off layers.

As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I was surprised to see so many other people climbing on this foggy morning. There was no wind, but the heavy fog made it cold anytime you took a rest.

As the sun came up we were treated to the burn off of fog and the shadow of Hood off to the west. I seemed a little slower than my friends, but I plodded along…step-rest-step-rest. We took a longer rest at the base of the Hogsback about 10,000′. I remember the strong smell of “eggs”…sulfur…I expect from the out-gassing of the mountain. Looking up at the ridge, it was clear we needed to rope up for safety otherwise a quick slide down the mountain would likely happen. So on with the harnesses as I latched onto the rope.

I plodded along near the end of the rope for the short climb up the ridge. I remember someone shouted “FALLing” so, we all fell onto the snow with ice axes to prevent an accident. The person only slide 10-20 feet. We were all down to short sleeve shirts by this time as the sun was in full force. At Bergshund split the ridge about halfway to the twin rock towers called the Pearly Gates. We took a path to the left to reach a narrow gap in the Bergshund. Once across, we continued our climbing to the Gates. Waiting for a number of people already on the way down and everyone else to arrive, I enjoyed the views of the Kitchen and surrounding pinnacles and ridges. And that sulfur smell continued on… We disconnected from our rope and quickly headed for the summit saddle. About 200′ at an aggressive angle and then we were there.

On top! It was about 11:00am and it had taken seven hours to climb the 5400′. Everyone enjoyed the views and took pictures as well as made a quick climb to the true summit about a hundred feet away and maybe 50′ vertical.

On the downclimb, we roped up again until we were at the bottom of the Hogsback. From there it was a simple matter of tracing our steps back to the parking lot. With the steep slopes, we enjoyed some glissading in the black trash bags we packed and that sped things up quite a bit. It took us about 3 hours to return.

I think Mt. Hood is more challenging than advertised, especially if the weather is poor. The route is straightforward as long as you use Crater Rock as a guiding landmark. The crevasses are grouped off the primary route but climbers have been known to “find” them during whiteouts or storms.

As I reflect I remember it was a quiet May afternoon and my body was absorbing the warmth from the midday sun. In fact, it was too much sun. I remember wondering as we down climbed Hogsback that the people coming up were covered in Zinc Oxide? As I unbuckled my harness in the parking lot and felt the stiffness in my body…in particular my face…I realized my Sunforgettable SPF was forgotten and the bright red colorescience in my face was not being out of breath, but for NOT applying sunscreen.

My face and forehead peeled for a week. But, 20+ years later I’ll never forget this positive experience with good friends and have never once thought about doing Mount Kilimanjaro.

I hope only the best for these 3 climbers.

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There is a format battle brewing between the video-disc players and with no clear winner consumers are going to walk out of stores confused this holiday season and not buy anything.

This past weekend I stood in front of a 50 inch Pioneer Elite plasma, toggling between two 1080P stunning video’s with the absolute best and brilliant image quality offered from a video disc player. One is known as Blu-ray and the other HD-DVD. Before I explain how I walked out of the store dazed and confused about how an industry is doing a re-do (or is that Deja Voodoo?) of previous VHS/Betamax format mistakes…let’s back up some and cover a bit of the technical details.

Blu-ray and HD-DVD are new types of optical discs that provide better image and sound quality than standard DVDs. The discs are read by a tiny blue laser at a shorter wavelength than standard DVDs, which means more digital information can fit onto a single disc. The players retail cost is between $800-$1000.

Traditional DVD format manages a resolution of 720 x 480, for a total of 345,600 pixels. Blu-ray Discs for example can pack in a head spinning sum of 2,073,600 pixels for content recorded in 1920 x 1080 resolution. In case you don’t have a calculator handy, I’ll add it up for you: Blu-ray Discs are capable of six times the resolution of standard DVDs. Blu-ray’s higher bit rate also outshines regular DVDs at 10 Mbps and HDTV broadcasts at 19 Mbps.

Blu-ray Stats:

  • Storage capacity: 25 GB (single-layer); 50 GB (dual-layer)
  • Data xFer Rate: 54 million (bits per second)
  • Industry Backers: Sony, Dell, Disney, Fox, Panasonic, LG, Phillips, Apple, MGM, Columbia Tri-Star, Miramax, ESPN, Touchstone, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, TDK, Thomson
  • Console Support: Sony Playstation 3
  • PC Support: Apple
  • Security: Mandatory HDCP encrypted output, ROM-Mark watermarking technology, BD dynamic crypto (physical layer) and Advanced Access Content System (AACS)
  • HD-DVD Stats:

  • Storage capacity: 15 GB (single-layer); 30 GB (dual-layer)
  • Data xFer Rate: 36.5 million (bits per second)
  • Industry Backers: Toshiba, NEC, Microsoft, Intel, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., HBO, New Line Cinema, Sanyo
  • Console Support: Microsoft xBox 360
  • PC Support: Intel
  • Security: Mandatory HDCP encrypted output (for HD), Volume identifier (physical layer), Advanced Access Content System (AACS)
  • The Consumer Electronics Association lowered (twice) their U.S. projected adoption rate for players this year from their hopeful robust holiday season of 600K units to only 200K units. These numbers don’t include video game consoles.

    Speaking of gaming consoles, Sony expects to ship 2 million PlayStation 3’s (Blu-ray) by year end which is behind the 10 million shipments of Microsoft Xbox 360, however, very few Xbox 360 (1080i) units were shipped with the $199.99 add-on HD-DVD as it only become available in November. According to NPD, HD-DVD had out sold Blu-ray by 33 percent due to an earlier introduction and more vendors selling the hardware. And why does Microsoft put so much “puffery” behind how the 1080i picture will look identical to a 1080p picture? I’ll save details for another post, but trust me there is a difference between i (interlaced) and p (progressive). Historically, interlacing was first used in TV signals because CRT displays built in the 1940s could simply not work fast enough to draw every line in one-sixtieth of a second. So, has HD-DVD has won, correct?

    Not so fast and back on topic. I suspect that a number of consumers are like me. Heads hurt and eyes roll because retail can’t promote the technology without confusion. There is no guarantee that top movies will be released on the format that I want. Not all movie Discs will be encoded at 1080p. I’m fearful of buying an expensive player that may well turn out to be worthless. Remember Laser Disc? And that really smarts…having a lot of $$ tied up in excellent content/movies that become unplayable due to MTBF rates (electronic gear built to fail) and your “format” is no longer supported.

    And what’s behind that HD player pricing. For $200 I can buy the HD-DVD add-on for the Xbox 360 which is already attached to the HD TV or pay 3-5 times that amount for a standalone unit. Huh?! Or maybe I should just take the lowest common denominator approach and buy that $79 “up-converting” DVD player, and with all money left over pass out iPod’s like chewing gum stocking stuffers?

    I’ve just said no, and will work really hard to convince to be happy and content with a low-rez DVD library for another year.

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    Writing my annual holiday letter can be so draining, but here goes…

    Dear friends, family and outlaws. Well, 2006 has been a life altering and misdemeanor-filled year, what with the wine bottle exploding in the garage and the subsequent visit from homeland security; the announcement that my neighbor won the Powerball; the amazing mini-bike we built in the bonus room; and the shocking announcement from the hospital that Brian really is adopted!

    First, the house. As you may recall, last year, after the big aluminum-siding scandal, we had to completely remodel, as mold had really taken hold on the shady part of the living room. Then one morning, we were surprised by a knock at the door. It was the NW News prize patrol, telling us we had just won a free-cruise (on the Columbia River), a mini- TV, $50 cash or a Costco size box of extra-butter microwave popcorn. It was a terrific prize, amounting to a great experience (after taxes), and it allowed us to add on that extra gate to the fence I’ve always wanted in the back yard to keep the neighbor’s cat’s out.

    Brian (the adopted kid!) is a thriving rap-star listener of MTV and getting a little fat. You may remember him as the one that doesn’t speak much unless its hip-hop street rhymes.

    Yo, Yo, Yo…got the Cadillac EXT, stowed…

    I remind the pediatrician during ear infection vists that it’s the MTV programming. There is a lot of good that comes from that “box”, like Simpsons and Lost, but that MTV isn’t one of ’em! He was accepted at Subway University this summer. It was a tough choice for him as he was bribed by several different fast food institutions. He is very, very busy at his computer…always downloading lots of music (he has a rather large collection now, thanks to them all being free on that internet!), ripping CD’s or playing action games nearly everyday before and after school, but he still finds time to surf eBay to add to his ever growing collection of used packing peanuts. Occasionally he wanders outside to throw rocks at the local kids in the “hood”.

    As supreme leader of the family, the one formally called Dad; I’ve had a tumultuous year. After finding out I won the 10-minute shopping spree at 7-Eleven, I was caught watching The Bachelor and spent an evening in phone-therapy. But the media exposure from my newly published book “Cable TV for Dummies” helped my pursuit of happiness, and soon I was back in the local casino’s listening to local bands re-do the famous stars of the 80’s. My life has been full of surprises. After helping stage the bikini snowshoe race (shown on local cable channel 19), I was asked to dinner at the Governor’s house. Everything seemed to change after I started the botox injections. People I hadn’t heard from in years began calling. As a family, we tried not to say the word “dude” as much this year. And that trip to the beach outlet mall was exciting, as was the barefoot hike around the block.

    Hope your year has been stupendous and as arrest-free as ours. If you get a chance, drive by slowly and look in the window; you’ll find a picture of me at Safeway, standing next to a psychiatrist and my collection of Who Wants to be a Millionaire on VHS tapes.

    Happy Holidays!

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    Social networking sites can get millions of users, but can they make millions in revenue? I’m a bit conflicted about how these sites monetize services. And, just who are these people? The people that swarm to these sites? Do they have jobs or should we label them the bored-at work generation?

    I submit that relevance to your social community and the monetary engagement is what accelerates the social networks forward in terms of revenue or traffic or users. The bored-at-work generation went thru the marketing spin-zone machine and are now called the “Participation Age”…all about people connecting across the network to share, collaborate, explore, create and discover just how amazing the world truly can be. I’m thinking this has a bit of deja-voodoo. If you are ‘ol enuff to remember the CB Radio then you’ll remember that when few people had them they were very good communication tools. Then as costs came down and as more people bought them the “noise” level increased to the point where you could not hear the conversation. How many people have a CB Radio on their holiday wish list? I suspect very few.

    So, these predominately Teen oriented sites have had meteoric rise in growth, but the “noise” keeps increasing and increasing. Take Consumating yet another “new” way to find and connect with people. You tag (mypeeps) someone that makes you laugh and they appear automagically (is that a word?) and your peeps will continue to amuse/bemuse/distract you from your important job. Tell everyone what you just overheard at the water cooler and do it on-line…

    “Jimmy just, like, called Bill, like stupid, duh we knew that and like he’s totally lazy too…like always surfing the internet…like can we, like just, like U-know go like, back to where we like all get along or like, what…”

    Then there’s Fake Your Space. Feeling lonely because your are not popular enough on your social networking site? Don’t have enough friends commenting on your blog? So, how popular do you want to be? This new “service” where paid models (for a monthly price of $.99/month) will pump-up your MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, Flickr sites with comments and postings about how cool and popular you are. All this of course, is done as privately as possible so as to not let anyone know that you’re “faking” it and no one will be wiser with your new found gorgeous models as friends.

    How about Datemypet. Another Match.com knock-off for the online speed dating crowd with focus on Pet lovers and their pets. Single and have a cat? Then why not spend time at work looking for a life partner or a buddy for your pet. Little known fact from the site is:

    14% of dog owners admitted they might continue dating someone they didn’t like all that much, just to spend time with that person’s dog…

    I wonder what the cat people think? I can visualize the dating profile now…Cute dog pics everywhere with the statement: My pets perfect date is hanging out in the park, taking casual walks with an occasional Frisbee romp topped off with bone-treats at the McDonalds drive-thru!

    Another example is VampireFreaks (with 750,000 users) offers a premium subscription to create “unlimited cults” along with 17 other “useful” features.

    Finally, the nirvana of social sites is one that shot up like a rocket called Second Life (a virtual reality world where only your imagination stops) has expanded into a new world and you’ll have the time of your life doing it. Second Life, for those of you who are going, huh?, is a video game full of fake cities, shops and people. It’s the type of place where people who have sex with dolls in real life can have sex with avatars in fake life. And, oh my, what forms these avatars can take. Or if you want to pole dance for $18 in a sleazy club never feeling so alive, this is the place for people who feel no pain while in the guise of a throbbing avatar. Sure, I’ve glommed on to the more thematically mature activities that occur within SecondLife, but it’s all there…on the internet.

    Yep, that bored-at-work generation is truly getting everything they ever wanted from their social communities…and people will pay for it! Go figure.

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