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Archive for the ‘Technology’ 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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By now you’ve read about Warner Bros. Entertainment announcement to drop HD DVD and focus on Blu-ray, a Sony Corp. backed technology vs. rival Toshiba.  Warner was the last major studio to put out movies in both formats and after May they will exclusively release on Blu-ray. 

The announcement by Warner rattled the industry nerves to the point that the N.A. HD DVD Promotional Group (which included Intel and Microsoft) canceled a major media event.  Who would blame them?   It’s not the kind of exciting news for what’s to come in 2008! 

I predicted Sony would not allow the “Betamax” struggle to repeat and that Blu-ray would prevail (HERE).  No need to bore you with the technology advantages of each format.  Ironically HD DVD has better interactivity today than Blu-ray, but that will evolve with BD Live.  I also observed evidence of a move of desperation during the holiday season when Toshiba HD DVD players flooded the market at $179.99.  Then Sony countered and jumped on the price discounting wagon with their BDP-S300 (entry level player) at Costco for $278.99 after a $100 rebate.  A $100 premium and never mind it didn’t support 7.1 audio. 

So what will Microsoft do now?  Speaking to Reuters, Albert Penello, group marketing manager for Xbox hardware, said in response to a question about Microsoft possibly supporting a Blu-ray accessory if HD DVD failed that they would consider it.  According to Engadget during holiday ’07 consumers purchased 92K HD DVD players for the xBox 360.   I believe Microsoft really wants the market to shift to digital download (aligns with xBox 360 content download service and their xBox 360 IPTV directions) and the format war was likely viewed as a gift which stalled adoption, create consumer confusion while digital download services improve. 

What is really important to most consumers is that the Warner announcement translates to the release of more movies which we want to watch (rent/buy) in stunning hi-def.  Now that the format battle is over I can plan on the Blu-ray release of Lord of the Rings (LOTR).  New Line (parent Time-Warner) will make this happen in ’08. 

And if all this wasn’t enough good news for the week, Sony demoed at CES the “next generation” of portable cinema viewing.  Samples of Blu-ray movies were successfully copied from a PlayStation 3 Blu-ray drive to a PlayStation Portable’s memory stick, as part of Sony’s new web-oriented service/approach to interactivity and play anywhere portability known as BD Live.  Other abilities include ring tone downloading and other media content to a BD Live media player.  One issue is that current Blu-ray players in the market (including the PS3) do not support BD-Live, but Sony confirmed the PS3 firmware update will be rolling out as early as this month to incorporate BD-Live playback into the system.

Now if Universal and Paramount can see that it makes sense (or is that $cents) to move to Blu-ray we’d be all set for a great hi-def year!

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I didn’t make CES this year so, I’m doing a bit of “web watching” and trying to stay current on the events.  

One keynote I sat through was the live webcast of Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini, eJamming’s Alan Jay Glueckman and front man Steve Harwell of SmashMouth.  This was an interesting and entertaining demo. 

As a musician I admire what eJaming software is all about.  They are enabling musicians to play together in real-time as if in the same room, but in actuality they could be across the world from each other.  The power of today’s PC’s and the internet make it all possible.  While there was some notable sync delays in the band being remote while Harwell sang on the CES stage — it was cool.  

This technology will only get better and truly encourages creativity, teaching options for kids and will expand the community of musicians. 

There were a couple of references to SmashMouth playing at the Intel party tonight…sorry I’ll miss that one. 

Note: Picture courtesy Intel webcast.

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itunes_roundJust days before the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) where legendary musicians and the buzz of new product introductions will showcase how consumers manage and enjoy their digital media “everywhere”, the Washington Post is reporting that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has a federal case against Jeffrey Howell, an AZ, man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer.  RIAA maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.  

Huh?  It’s illegal to transfer CDs to a computer?  I thought court rulings over the last 20 years have found no violation of copyright law in the use of VCRs and other devices to time-shift TV programs; that is, to make personal copies for the purpose of making portable a legally obtained recording?

Who is RIAA?  It’s an organization that represents the major recording labels in the USA. These labels pay multi-millions of dollars for this representation and since RIAA is based in Washington, DC., they act as an industry lobbyist, literally.  They often urge, cajole or otherwise influence Congress to take their side in the “battle” against “music piracy.”  I’m not sure who would visit, but the RIAA even ran a Holiday Anti-Piracy Campaign message streaming across its web site offering tips on “avoiding pirate products.”

And northwest news the Oregon State Attorney General and the University of Oregon are being assaulted by RIAA’s tactics.  RIAA subpoenaed the University asking it to turn over the names of students that it suspected of making copyrighted material available to file sharers.  Note the keyword here is suspected.  While no one would disagree that it’s appropriate for victims of copyright infringement to pursue statutory remedies, shouldn’t that pursuit be tempered by basic rights of privacy and due process?

Typically RIAA harassment comes in the form of a pre-litigation letter to “suspects” they believe are guilty file sharers. There is even a credit card payment link – p2plawsuits.com where these so called “suspects” that receive the pre-litigation letters can drop off a quick $3000 to stop the RIAA from suing them.  Maybe next up is payroll deduction options?!  Good grief!

But that’s not good enough.  RIAA is now running around with deep- pocket teams of lawyers saying that even making a personal copy on your computer is a violation.  This hard-line position is clear. RIAA wants to roll back time to pre-internet days of vinyl albums.  If you make copies of copyrighted music recordings – even on cassette tape – you’re stealing.  You’re breaking the law and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages.

The RIAA’s legal crusade against consumers (its customers) is a text-book example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed.

UPDATE: The Washington Post left out a couple of facts that are now being reported for the people who need to read all the details.  Turns out the article was misleading in that the RIAA was not only going after Howell for ripping his CD’s, but for also putting those ripped files into a shared Kazaa folder.  I disagree that because he put them in a shared folder its infringement, but its a different claim than the original one of just ripping them to his PC.  It will be interesting to watch…

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synctvLet’s see, I slept for 7 hours; it’s a new day and an announcement of yet another start up in the internet video space.  This seems like a daily ritual. 

The newest is Sync TV, a spin off from consumer electronics company Pioneer, which launched a beta download service.

The audio and video quality of the TV shows is comparable or superior to the same show on DVD.  SyncTV will provide HD programming across some of the different channels and will also have programming available in discreet 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus, giving you the “home theater” experience.  They allow you a great deal of flexibility in how you play back the TV shows you download. You can play back shows on up to five ‘home’ devices which mean PCs/Macs now and other home entertainment devices in the future (read portable players). 

That’s the good news.  The bad news is yet another DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology for the consumer to try and get their head around.  Sync TV is using an open-standard DRM called Marlin.  Yet another group of top electronics manufacturers joining forces to develop a standard for content management and protection.  Marlin is also referred to as “OMArlin” because it supposedly bridges between the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) DRM v.2.0 and the Marlin DRM standards.  Does anyone care, outside the companies involved?  Not really.  Consumers might agree that content protection is a good idea but, they just want to play their stuff on all their devices. And they want everything to be cheaper, too. 

It’s another set of companies trying to protect what they see as their intellectual property and make money. You could make the claim as the same motive as Microsoft, Apple, RealNetworks and others in the DRM struggle.  The marketing spin tries to convince us that DRM is intended to make it easy for us to buy content and share it, without being encumbered by content protection schemes.   But, adding Marlin to this mix will be yet another failed attempt to create a DRM “standard”.   

What I do find interesting with Sync TV and all the regulatory noise about bundled programming, is the fact that users can subscribe a-la-carte for a variety of programs they want to watch. Each channel costs about $2 each per month, and currently there are four subscription channels available. Showtime is the foundation partner with promise of more.  

The Sync TV launch underscores the two worlds that now exist–the heavily regulated telecoms and broadcasting sectors and the almost entirely unregulated internet channel.  

Where do you think most of the innovation is?

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itunes cardsI don’t know about you, but I’m bummed over the end of the Starbucks and iTunes music promotion which ended last month.  The promotion ran October 2nd and ended November 7th to be exact, but every time I go to Starbucks I can’t help but look for the little “redeem-me-now” credit sized cards. Maybe I’m in a need deprivation state of mind?   

I remember first learning about the promotion where I get a free, new song every day in Starbucks. It made my morning stop so much more pleasant.  The first artist was Dylan and included other greats such as Gloria Estefan, Dave Matthews, John Mayer and many more.  Personally, I thought this was a great combination of two awesome products, coffee and music, brought to me by folks who know how to pamper my whims and do it so well, “Bucks” and “Mac”.  I don’t have an exact count on the total number of artists, but I collected 31 of those little redeemable cards and punched in 100’s of alpha-numerical characters to obtain the music goods.  How many did you collect?

But, don’t worry about my Apple/Starbuck-withdrawal-syndrome (ASWS).  I continue to frequent the place and now find myself trying to resist the urge to buy a CD every time I get a latte!  Maybe that was the intent…everytime I sip a latte I think of a song?!

 Hey don’t forget — you have until the end of December to redeem all those Song-of-the-Day cards.

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SafeLike the famous book “Give A Mouse A Cookie…” by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Illustrator Felicia Bond, “cookies” are often used by advertisers and Web analytic firms on most all web sites.   They place “tracking cookies” on your computer.  And like the book, the mouse will “ask for a glass of milk…” you can sure bet those web advertisers and analytic firms will be asking you for something. 

In most cases they don’t even let you know that they’ve ask!  Let me explain.  On the web, a “cookie” is a small text file that contains a string of alphanumeric characters. The tracking cookies tell companies what you are doing online, even though they don’t typically record your name or other personably identifiable information. The cookies are used by companies to try and match ads to a user’s interests or in the above mouse example they will “ask for a glass of milk”. 

There are two types of cookies used on most websites: a persistent cookie and a session cookie. A persistent cookie gets entered by your Web browser into the “Cookies” folder on your computer and remains in this “Cookies” folder after you close your browser. Persistent cookies may be used by your browser on subsequent visits to the site. A session cookie is held temporarily in your computer’s memory and disappears after you close your browser or shut off your computer. There are websites that use Web beacons (also called “clear GIFs” or “pixel tags”) in conjunction with cookies. Web beacons are small strings of code that are placed in a Web page. For example, if you arrive at website by clicking on a banner ad for a product or service, a session cookie may be used. This cookie will contain an identification number for the ad that you clicked on, or will contain an identification number for the site that you were visiting when you clicked on the banner ad. 

Most web sites tell you nothing upfront about tracking cookies, or how to get rid of these tracking cookies assuming that you want too.  Cookies are used all over the Web, but in most cases, their presence is only disclosed deep inside privacy policies.  When was the last time you read a privacy policy? 

Some of the more reputable web sites want you to know how to get rid of these tracking cookies or opt out of the cookies set by any ad-placement or analytic contractor they might use and will provide the information.  For example, here is a link to a page where you can opt out of the cookies set by an ad-placement or analytics contractor of Omniture

 I’d prefer a totally opt-in system, but, as far as I know, the ad industry doesn’t have a practical one yet and not enough consumers have complained about tracking cookies to make an impact for the industry to change. If you want to clean out all tracking cookies from all your Web sites the following links take you where you can download three programs that can help clean out tracking cookies: 

 I’ve used some of these applications and been satisfied with the results, but give them a try and let me know your results. You can also change the preferences or settings in your Web browser to control cookies. In some cases, you can choose to accept cookies from the primary site, but block them from third parties. In others, you can block cookies from specific advertisers, or clear out all cookies. 

Not all cookies are tracking cookies. Like a lot of Web sites, they may place cookies on your computer, in addition to any placed by advertisers. But they aren’t “tracking cookies.” They merely do things like save your registration information, if you choose to register. They do not tell the companies what you do or where you go online. 

I’ll take warm milk with my cookies, thank you.

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