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Archive for the ‘Format War’ Category

If you didn’t see the 90 minute MacWorld keynote here is a quick summary of the product launches yesterday.  Jobs photo courtesy of Apple.  

  • Ad:  Hi I’m a Mac and I’m a PC — New Years ad ran which poked fun at Vista…what are you going to do in ’08…  Then Jobs enters stage.
  • Time Capsule:  backup hardware device the same size as the Apple TV product.  Two models both include Airport 802.11N in a 500MB and 1TB configuration.  Priced at $299 and $499 works in conjunction with Time Machine (back up system) which is included in OS X Leopard.
  • iPhone: 4M sold in the first 200 days (averaged ~20K/day); currently has 19.5% MSS (more than combining the bottom three companies – Palm (9.8%); Motorola (7.4%); Nokia (1.3%).  Enhancement announced:
    1. Maps w/ locations (joint effort by Google and Skyhook Wireless (drove the US & Canada mapping 23M wi-fi hot spots and allows triangulation on the hot spots.  Google triangulates off cell towers and Apple uses both systems in iPhone for identifying location)
    2. Webclips (clipping links to favorite web sites or sub-site
    3. Custom home screen (up to 9)
    4. SMS multiple people at the same time was only one prior
    5. Chapter search for videos and song lyric’s displayed if available
    6. Free software update for all current owners which include the above enhancements
  • iTunes: 4Billion songs sold through iTunes; Christmas day sold 20M songs in one day – highest ever; 125M TV shows sold (more than any other service); 7M movies sold (more than anyone, but didn’t meet expectations).  Enhancements announced:
    1. iTunes Movie Rental (music users have not wanted music rental); Studio’s on board at launch (20th Century Fox, TouchStone, Miramax, MGM, Lions Gate, New Line Cinema, WB, Disney, Sony, Paramount, Universal – essentially all of the studios; More than 1000 films by February
    2. Films available for rental in the 30 days after DVD release
    3. Watch anywhere (PC, iPod or TV)
    4. iPod Touch added 5 new apps including maps, email, SMS, web clips and chapter search
    5. Didn’t state, but looks like progressive download as the movie starts within seconds of the rental purchase
    6. 30 days to watch the movie and 24 hours watch it once started
    7. Can transfer the movie watching to another device in the middle (start on a PC then xfer to iPod for a flight)
    8. DVD quality, but also providing Hi-Def (100 titles today growing fast) with 5.1 Dolby surround sound
    9. Pricing is DVD library release – $2.99; DVD New Release – $3.99; HD library – $3.99 and HD new release – $4.99
    10. Service started today in the U.S. and goes International later this year
  • Apple TV: stated that we’ve all missed (Microsoft, Netflix, Nubu and other logos on screen) how to get the movies to the flat panel in the living room.  Apple TV was designed as an accessory for iTunes & computer, but it’s about Movies, Movies, Movies.  Enhancements announce:
    1. Price dropped from $299 to $229
    2. All new user interface
    3. Leverages the new iTune movie rental service
    4. Rent directly from the Apple TV box – no computer needed now
    5. Photo from Flickr can be streamed or from your dot mac accounts
    6. Will auto sync with your computer if you want
    7. Free software upgrade to all existing users and get the functionality
  • 20th Century Fox: Jim Gianopolos (Chairman & CEO) on stage to discuss movie rental deal.  Talked about biz models being super important, gushed about how great it is to work with Jobs and put a major plug in for Blu-ray winning the format war as the crowd applauded.
  • MacBook Air: launched a new ultra-thin MacBook to compliment the notebook line up. Standard model priced at $1799.  Model with the 64GB SSD flash over $3K,.  Compared the “Air” to the Sony TZ series which had previously set the benchmark in this category.  The thickest part of the Air is thinner than the thinnest part of the Sony for comparisons.  Features:
    1. .76 to .16 thin (no optical device, can get one external if you need)
    2. 13.3 inch LCD back light display
    3. Full size and backlight keyboard
    4. Multi-touch (similar to the iPhone – swipe, pinch etc.) capability on the trackpad
    5. 80GB HDD and optional 64GB SSD (pricey however)
    6. 2GB memory and 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo (C2D) standard or optional 1.8GHz
    7. 802.11N and Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR
    8. Usage model changing and driving wireless even for software download – now leverage a PC optical drive across the network
    9. Talked about environment: mercury free, arsenic free glass, Bromide Fire Retardant (BFR) and PVC free
    10. 56% less packaging waste
    11. Jobs applauded the joint effort and working with Intel
  • Intel: Paul Otellini was invited on stage to evangelize the 30% reduced form factor of the C2D.  Gave Jobs a souvenir of one and gushed about how great it was to work with Apple.  For those of you into little known factual tidbits, it was interesting to note that the video graphic overlay while Paul walked on stage used the old Intel dropped “e” logo.  The graphic/name/title on the projected stage TV was correct.
  • Summation: In the first 2 weeks of the New Year Apple launched:
    1. Fastest ever Mac Pro desktop system
    2. Time Capsule
    3. Software updates for iPhone, iPod Touch along with new apps for Touch
    4. iTunes Movie Rental
    5. Apple TV (software upgrade) along with HD video content
    6. MacBook Air – Ultra thin laptop
    7. Last slide stated…And there’s still 50 weeks left….
  • Randy Newman: Music artist extraordinaire played a couple songs for the audience.  Newman photo courtesy of YouTube. He starts by telling us about his trip to Europe, where he noticed that “they don’t like us so much.”   And he sang a song he wrote about it…”A Few Words in Defense of Our Country.”

 A couple of parting thoughts about Randy Newman.  The song choice was odd.  If Apple signed off on the first song he sang they have some guts.  A little piano ditty that compares the U.S. to Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and Europe during the time of the Inquisition.  Now that’s an interesting mix of art meeting commerce.  Highly political and bashed a number of things which will only add to the blog fodder I’m sure.

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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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