Update*

I’m now writing for SiliconAlley.com. You can see my latest article.

http://siliconalley.com/blog/2013/06/www-and-the-holy-grail

 

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Look Ma no more cable TV! Aereo + Nimble TV + Apple TV + YouTube = Cable Be Gone

AppleTVMarch2012_35160082_04_620x433         NimbleTV

Finally consumers have choice – at least those that have the technical knowledge to take advantage. Want to get out of cable but still have cable channels plus broadcast TV? Your prescription is as follows:  Apple TV, iPhone or iPad, Aereo for $8.00 month, Nimble TV for as little as $24.95 month. No contracts, you can add a virtual DVR and then simply launch a browser on your phone or tablet, login and throw the signal through the Apple TV onto your TV. The combo of Aereo + Nimble will cost no more than $32.00 a month (unless you want more than channels than the minimum) and you’ve got TV. Cable TV channels and broadcast. But more on this in another pub shortly.

(UPDATE:  Aereo is on a roll, with plans now to bring its streaming TV service to Atlanta. The Atlanta launch is scheduled for June 17, the company announced Tuesday. The capital of Georgia will be the third city to get the Aereo service, following New York and, from Wednesday of this week, Boston.  source:  CNET. 5/15/2013

aereo_logo         url4

There are really some other very cool non-cable broadcast channels coming out. I’d them term them ‘off Broadway’ TV channels. Some call them online channels. But they are as good as some cable channel programming offerings and maybe some are even better.

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YouTube’s rumored subscription-plan offering is now a reality. The video site is rolling out a pilot program that will allow “a small group of partners” to offer paid channels on YouTube, with subscription fees starting at $0.99 per month. Every channel has a 14-day free trial period, with many also offering discounted yearly rates.  Some partners include:

The Jim Henson Company is launching an ad-free channel online with full episodes of Henson’s kids and preschool titles like Sid the Science Kid and Fraggle Rock. The channel will be available for $2.99/month or $24.99/year. The company is also launching a Spanish-language channel, which will be available for $1.99/month or $17.99/year.

Sesame Street will also offer full episodes on its paid channel when it launches.

National Geographic Kids’ channelwill be available for $3.99/month or $29.99/year, offering long and short-form videos aimed at kids ages 6-12. It will include a mix of library and original content.

Acorn TV, a streaming service focusing on British classic TV programming, is also launching with a channel that’s available for $4.99/month.

B-movie film director Roger Corman will launch a paid channel this summer called Corman’s Drive-In. It will offer more than 400 feature films that have been produced or directed by Corman. These include Grand Theft Auto (Ron Howard’s directorial debut), The Cry Baby Killer (Jack Nicholson’s first film), and Fire on the Amazon (Sandra Bullock’s first film). The channel will also serve as a potential distribution outlet for new films in production. We love Roger Corman!

UFC’s channel will feature classic fights and full versions of older UFC pay-per-view events. It’s available for $5.99/month.

Then there’s Entertainment Studios, which has launched eight paid channels on YouTube, spanning a bunch of different verticals, from cars to comedy, pets, recipes, and entertainment news/pop culture. One of the eight channels, which is titled Smart TV offers “best of” programming from the other seven networks for $9.99/month.

HuffPost Live will arrive on AXS TV, a network backed by Mark Cuban, CBS, Ryan Seacrest Media, AEG, and CAA, on May 13. The interactive streaming news network will run for six hours a day, from 10am to 4pm.

Yahoo unveiled partnerships including a brilliant the deal with NBC Entertainment and Broadway Video to become the exclusive US home to all Saturday Night Live archival content, and a similar agreement with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).  This is especially key now that Seth Meyers is taking over for Jay Leno – the repeats should garner some heavy online traffic that advertisers should eat up.

The Cheap Life with Jeff Yeager, an original how-to show on AARP’s YouTube channel, has topped 1 million video views. The show focuses on providing tips on spending smart and enjoying life at a fraction of the usual cost.

And finally there is the Jerry Seinfeld show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The meaning of something, of course, is relative. show features Seinfeld just cruising along with friends such as Seinfeld co-creator Larry DavidSeinfeld co-star Michael RichardsRicky GervaisAlec Baldwin and Colin Quinn. That covers the comedians in cars; presumably, the getting coffee part will come a bit later. The show debuts on Crackle July 19th.

All in all I’d say online programming is growing up. The cable operators will soon take notice – more than likely too late.

The Changing of the Guard

Changing-of-the-Guard

 

IBM, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, Dell, HP, and other large legacy hardware and software companies have something in common these days. A declining revenue stream. Big time.

IBM_logo     cisco      intel_logo

Its not just one or two companies, its most of the big ones. And the results will ultimately effect employees as each quarter passes and they are forced to reckon with Wall Street earnings and reports. The stock market takes no prisoners.

Online newcomers with ‘disruptive’ business models and software are flourishing. Box, Dropbox, Workday, Amazon, Salesforce, Facebook, LinkedIn, all have reported record quarters. Even Apple despite its recently declining stock price is still growing. Just about anything that has to do with mobile phones and tablets has the ‘Midas touch’.  Google Inc. said last Thursday that its revenue grew 31% in the first quarter, while profit rose 16%.

IBM last Thursday reported its revenue dropped.

Software giant Microsoft Corp., once known for rapid sales of PC software, reported that the business that includes its Windows operating system turned in essentially zero growth

Intel Corp., which has struggled to get its chips into mobile devices reported a first-quarter profit drop of 25% on revenue that declined 2.5%.

Oracle Corp., reported a 1% drop in its revenue in its most-recent quarter.

The disparities are the result of technology shifts—the rise of mobile devices and slowing growth in personal computers, conventional software replaced with online versions and cloud outsourcing by corporations. Companies want to rent software and computer systems. The deals are smaller and take less time to implement. Companies want to get out of the construction business—building and rolling out expensive software and hardware systems.

Web-based technology makes it easier for consumers and corporate employees to try new things and makes it harder for older technology suppliers to keep rolling out huge hardware and software deals month in and month out. Hardware, chips and hard drives get faster, smaller and cheaper now every 3-6 months making large purchases by corporations old before the equipment barely gets installed.

Workday Inc which was founded in 2005 and went public in October, reported that revenue for its fourth quarter ended in February rose 89%

Box Inc., founded in 2005 that lets customers store their data online and tap into it from mobile phones and PCs., revenue grew more than 150% in 2012 and it expects another doubling again this year.

“Their biggest challenge is they live in a world of legacy business models,” said Ed Anderson, an analyst with technology research firm Gartner Inc.

Apps, Software and Video Games shortly will go the way of the DVD – they will live in a ‘cloud’.

Bandwidth is the key to the cloud. If you’ve got enough access to it, meaning if you’ve got a fast enough connection, then you don’t need any physical media or software to live in your PC, Mac or for that matter very soon your mobile phone and tablets.

We used to have giant ‘desktop’ computers that had to have HUGE hard drives in order for us to install many applications. For example, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, MS Office, CAD software, etc. all are very large installation packages. Couple this with your collection of MP3’s, photo’s, video’s and documents and most of us ran out of room on a PC that had 50-100 gigs of space for a hard drive.

The obvious to the consumer

Today, as a consumer we see convenient repositories for photo’s, music and videos and documents. Skydrive, GoogleDocs, Dropbox, Box, Amazon Cloud Drive. Now consumers are beginning to understand and use these places to store what they used to store on their home computers. Why? Several key reasons – first, once uploaded to a large mainstream cloud drive (and I mean to the likes of Google, MS or Amazon) your collection of ‘whatever’ is safe. How many of us have dropped or lost a laptop, had a hard drive fail, spilled coffee on our desks and then PC, etc. If you didn’t back it up to an external hard drive you lost it all. Worse yet, I’ve had friends who did and THAT and the hard drive failed shortly thereafter. Years of precious photos (and now videos more than ever thanks for our mobile phones) you can never get back or thousands of MP3’s gone (at $.99 each). Second, consumers now are getting familiar with storing their digital belongings off site and in a cloud. We hear about Amazon’s or Google’s cloud storage drive initiatives more and more everyday. They are fast becoming the new norm. And third – they are not expensive. Certainly not when compared to a 1.5 Terabyte hard drive that can fail without warning.

The not so obvious to us all

What’s not so obvious to consumers is what’s happening in the enterprise business realm. Years ago, you wanted to put up a business domain web site or had a business that required large databases, some required separate servers for clients that are uber security conscious, some needed to have their domain living on a separate server from others (especially the financial and health industries). Others needed production servers, staging servers and then after testing finally deployed an application or web service. Sometimes IT had to physically travel to the colo facility to apply a ‘patch’ to a newly deployed application and hoped that the patch worked as it was supposed to or else everything came to a screeching halt. Businesses lost money, time, and face sometimes. You’d pay Sun, Oracle, Cisco, EMC, etc. millions to deploy servers and DB’s for your environment. You’d spend money on hiring the right technical IT staff to deploy and sync and stitch all of this together. This WAS the norm.

Enterprise today is all moving into a cloud based environment – virtualization is the norm now.

Sun servers were all the rage in the 90’s. But they were VERY expensive. Robust, great customer service, but very costly. Today, you can run a linux box for a fraction of the cost. No more hard drives or servers (blades or otherwise). You can fire up an ‘instance’ and server through AWS in a few minutes. No going into a colo facility. Start-up’s can get to market almost instantaneously and for far less of a cost. You pay for what you use. No more buying a million dollar license for ATG, Vignette or Broadvision and installing 15 discs in a cage. You rent it now. Patches get uploaded by the cloud vendor in a virtual environment and tested before they are deployed to you.

With the rise of this ‘virtualization’, more and more apps or processes now get built into the browser. Java script was written just for this purpose and has allowed for far more sophisticated applications to run in a network environment and now on browsers. Other software will be embedded in browsers as time goes on that will mimic the functionality and hardware on your PC. You can bet on it.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Whereas IaaS (infrastructure as a service) providers offer bare compute cycles and SaaS (software as a service) providers offeraccess to such apps as CRM online, PaaS offerings provide turnkey services for developers to get their apps up and running quickly, no infrastructure concerns needed.

Offered as a service, PaaS runs the gamut from development tools to middleware to database software to any “application platform” functionality that developers might require to construct applications. None of these above services come without their problems. But so did everything else before them.

IaaS focuses on managing virtual machines, and the risks are little different than with other cloud types — here, the main risk is rogue or unwarranted commandeering of services. IaaS requires governance and usage monitoring. But with this comes a good degree of convenience and business ROI.

Some of the most popular cloud services running virtually are; Microsoft Windows Azure, Googles App Engine (which offer a nonSQL relational SQL database service), VMware cloud foundry, Force.com ( from salesforce.com), Heroku (also from SF), Amazon Elastic Beanstalk, Engine Ysrd Cloud (for Ruby on Rails enthusiasts), Engine Yard Orchestra (for PHP enthusiasts) and CumuLogic (for Java developers). Consumers never see or hear any of this but use web services that live on these services day in and day out.

What will be obvious to consumers in about 10 years or less

All of this bring me back around to bandwidth and apps. Once we have enough consumers that have access to real fast broadband (100mbps or more down and ideally 200mbps down), then the Apple and Android app store will disappear. Software discs will become obsolete. Video game installation discs – gone. Why, because once you have enough speed, apps can be loaded and accessed wirelessly via the web. The calls to databases, functionality and such can all be received instantly online. Its already happening, slowly. Examples of this in the entertainment space is Ultraviolet, bring your DVD’s to Wal-Mart and upload them to your digital locker – no more disc. Onlive, Livestream, Gaikai all stream video games without the need for a disc, Netflix (you know about them). Consumers are aware of these, but then you’ve also got GoogleDocs and Skydrive for documents and the creation of word and excel docs. We don’t need an install disc anymore.

Last week, it took me 4 days to upload 12,934 MP3’s to my cloud locker at Amazon Music drive. Less time than I ever thought. Available anytime for me to download if need be. That’s nearly $ 13,000 worth of music, stored for as little as $ 20.00 a year.

Mobile apps, software suites, video game discs, movies, music photos and more will still be here but will not physically be in your home forever. It’s inevitable.

Algorithms and Sensors – web 3.0 services abound

Its been a while since my last post – I’ve been consumed at my work ( which I have been really enjoying) . However, I felt compelled today to write a bit about algorithms and sensors, which are creating some GREAT services now and even better in the near future. We are watching web 3.0 ‘blossom’ right now. Here is what I mean.

Ever since I’ve gotten my hands on Apple’s new iPhone 4Gs and Siri, my mind has never been the same. Not that Siri is the end all and be all. It has its drawbacks and in fairness, Apple has always and still does call it a ‘beta’.

But the mere presence and interaction I’ve had with Siri signaled something new to me on the internet was really happening – and in a very subtle but meaningful way.

Siri is learning – yes, she really does learn. “Artificial Intelligence” – no one seems to think that the machines are actually intelligent, but they can certainly do a lot of things that used to be hard for computers. Clearly Siri is an ‘AI’ that is programmed to adapt in certain ways and modify its behavior according to how I or what I would request of Siri. Fascinating really.

The real thing to keep your eye on here is that sensors plus big data algorithms are leading us from today’s world where content considered king to one where content is simply one component of a service. Content is becoming secondary and the service and platform primary. There never used to be 13 different ways to rent’ the same movie before. Content is becoming commoditized.   When Siri was first introduced, its creators called it a “do engine.” that is, rather than retrieving a web page (media) that you consume to make a decision, it just does things for you. “Find me a restaurant near here.” “Make me a reservation.” Media will become part of a database back end rather than a media front end.

Some examples of sensory algorithms that in effect build a network-mediated global mind are (this is really us, just augmented):

–          Mobile cell devices -we are augmented with cellphone cameras (electronic sensors again), the ability of events to become a shared experience is has become vastly increased and more so now with social media connects.

–          Smart Parking Meters – In the city of San Francisco, you’re seeing something similar, where all the parking meters are equipped with sensors, and pricing varies by time of day, and ultimately by demand. In effect an “algorithmic regulation” – they regulate in the same way our body regulates itself, autonomically and unconsciously.

–          Predictive AdWords -Google’s Adwords were always more effective than competitors because Google was better at learning from human input – instead of selling ads to the highest bidder as competitors such as Yahoo did, they used machine learning algorithms to predict which ads were more likely to be clicked on. They might choose an advertiser who only wanted to pay half as much if their ad was 3 times as likely to be clicked. Google was the first to harness the collective intelligence of their users to improve ad results. Just like the social media platforms we use to disseminate events and other digerati it’s important to understand just how much this is man-machine symbiosis.

–          Large connected networks – it could be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or G+, but any one of them connects to most of us somewhere at some point. The massive sharing of data and thoughts, the crowd-sourcing of opinion and the collective conclusions we draw are all kept and logged, improved upon and progressively mature and evolve. Here and on these massive giants, nothing stays the same for very long. The mere platforms themselves have spawned other interconnected platforms like Zynga.

The Internet as a whole is a mirror image of us  – a thriving interconnected network. It improves with knowledge and data and learns 24/7. It’s the community that creates content. Its about how you engage people and who you engage, not the number of followers.  It’s about the collective impact we make together. The Internet is an architecture of participation, interconnected, open source and open protocols. It really is our global brain. Look at the ‘picture’ of the network. It is no coincidence that it looks the way it does.

the internet

Google also thinks about this. Their key business model depends on the success of others – driving traffic to their sites, and producing ad results. Google only does well if their partners do well.

Contrast this with how the dwindling and toxic financial firms, who once positioned themselves as the enabler of the economy, creating liquidity and trading on behalf of clients, began to trade against them, and increasingly created products – from the mortgage backed loans that brought down the global economy to even more reprehensible trading practices that have driven up the cost of food for starving millions and was directly responsible for not only our economic collapse, but the ripple effects that are being felt worldwide. This is capitalism gone wrong. Occupy Wall Street’s fundamentals are not incorrect.

In the end, a company is most successful when it makes all of its stakeholders successful, not just its shareholders – a good example of this is Apple.

Which brings me back to algorithms and sensors. Soon, Apple will release an API for Siri. Many businesses’ that can use it will use it and the revolution will progress in earnest. As Siri learns what I do the most on my mobile device, she will also begin to learn my doctor’s and dentist’s name, the nearest hospital to me and map, my grocery list and cost and what I’ve run out of in my house, the type of movies I watch and music I listen to and where to find the content. In short, Siri will make my life a little more convenient and predictive. It will combine my habits with my surfing activities on the Internet and will suggest based on location where to buy items that interest me conveniently and cost-effectively based on my location.

'Things to Come' 1936

Just think of the services that will come…H.G. Wells would have had a blast.

DPI is coming to a mobile phone near you!

                                 

Consumers will be confronted eventually here in the U.S. with DPI or Deep Packet Inspection. DPI simply put is a new technology that gives mobile carriers a way to tell exactly which applications you run and when on your mobile phone. Are you a  FaceTime user or Skype user? Do you check Facebook on your iPhone using an iPhone app 5 or more times during the day? Check into G+ a lot?  Tweet? Blog remotely to your Tumblr log? Do you text with a friend on the train or bus home? Is that during rush hour or business hours or between 6pm and midnight or in the morning?

                                       

Instead of allowing consumers to consume and buy an ‘unlimited’ data plan on their mobile phones (and by unlimited I mean unlimited for the most part and then ‘throttled’ ), carriers are seeking new ways to charge us for mobile usage. And they will have to figure this out because the number of mobile phones and data usage is increasing exponentially. Having a plan now as to how to avoid network congestion (as opposed to later when it really becomes a issue) makes total sense.  Its all about balancing out a consumers usage with network peak and lull times usage.  If I only was checking and using Facebook on my iPhone, I’d rather purchase a $5.00 a month all-access plan to Facebook than spend $25.00 a month for 2GB of data for everything.  Having a ‘Happy Hour’ on data usage from 7pm-midnight would get me to remember to download my music or movies on my iPad or iPhone during those times. Training the mobile public to use certain applications at certain times makes the use of the network better for all users during a 24hr. period. And carriers would not have to sell ‘unlimited’ data plans to us, which really aren’t unlimited after all.

This is not a new concept and is being tested and used in Europe right now. Orange is testing personalized pricing plans with consumers – working with them to determine which applications and activities they really use and crafting a pricing plan that fits them best.

Orange has a Panther plan for heavy users that costs £25 ($39.40 USD) for 10GB of mobile data and voice a month and a Dolphin plan for £15 a month that offers an hour of unlimited surfing at a time of the users choosing. Under the plan, customers can pick a so-called ‘Happy Hour’ from the following; 8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. (the morning commute), 12:00-1:00 p.m. (lunch break), 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. (late afternoon) or 10:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. (late night).

The more transparent the carriers become, the friendlier consumers will become to switching plans and buying services that fit their habits. The days of just a few data choices for us are limited indeed.

Apple’s Half Approach To The ‘Clouds’

This weeks Apple announcement is not quite as cloud centric as you may think. Unlike Googles approach with having a chromebook browser with Linux running underneath and no local storage, Apple is still tethered to the device we use. It’s a world of ‘apps’.

In Google’s view, you do everything using a browser with no local storage or apps. In Apple’s world, while it has taken an elegant approach to its delivery mechanism and user experience bar none, it is still largely delivering a localized environment.

In Google’s world, chromebooks and other devices like these will still need to grapple with the unreliable world of ‘wireless’ connections – or sometimes lack of them and the consumers long time habit and behavior of wanting the content close by them, local.

With Apple’s announcement, they are positioning themselves to take full advantage of the ‘post’ PC world – that is they know that by 2013 (a scant 2 plus years away).

Gartner and others predict mobile phones and THEIR screens will be the No. 1 way we access the Internet to view the web. Here are some more rather startling mobile facts:

*82 percent of consumers have used their mobile phones in a store, 55 percent in a doctor’s office or hospital, 17 percent during a movie at the theater, 14 percent while flying on a plane and 7 percent during church service. Around 17 percent of mobile users have shown a clerk in a store a picture of a product on their mobile phone, saying in effect, “I want this please,” which is a new shopping behavior that is surprisingly being driven by men. 45 percent of users check their mobile devices first thing in the morning, according to InsightExpress.

*Research has determined that mobile advertising is four-to-five times more effective than online advertising, on average…due to various factors, including lack of clutter in mobile, typically one ad per page, and the mobile pages themselves typically do not have a lot of stuff going on—they tend to be very clean. Also, the proportion of the ad on a mobile screen is greater, so it gets more share of eyeballs.

My takeaway from these numbers is that we are steadily becoming a mobile and tablet world, not a PC one.

This is a world the Apple knows better than anyone and using iCloud, it has taken a very good shot at delivering a cloud experience with what really is a local one.  Apple is extending what Apple does best, its core strengths into the cloud. And this is simply the basic integration of Apple’s hardware and software – their elegant OS.  The major difference being it does not yet rely on the browser as the central driving force in the picture (Google’s chrome) rather in Apple’s view what they are giving us an elegant CMS or content delivery system that we manage.  Google is betting on its browser, and they too know its coming to the small screen, therefore, that’s why we are seeing the Android store downloadable app strategy they are pushing out..

Apple which supports its web apps in the App store will have a rude awakening one day as eventually everyone but them will play on a browser using HTML5, but for now Apple’s user experience is by far the best.  A good example of this is when you go to read GoogleNews on your iPhone using Safari and at the bottom of the screen a small box pops up saying ‘ if you want to access Google News, click here to put this app on your device’. If you agree, a small app-like icon gets created on your iPhone using HTML5 just as if you downloaded it through iTunes.

So, Apple IS a cloud player indeed, distributing its OS X online, supporting over the air updates, allowing iTunes to be streamed to any iOS registered device. And iTunes did something that neither Google nor Amazon has done – signed deals with the major music players for their content (video/films excluded for now). This allows us to avoid the time consuming process of uploading our music collection to iCloud (I think I have about 60gigs of files). We can purchase a subscription to Music Match for $24.99 year, and MM will mirror my music collection with the iTunes store – ALL of my music, not just iTunes purchased music. These tracks can now be streamed back to me from the cloud on any MacOS registered device.

However, unlike other pure cloud players, this isn’t a web based operation for all of this. Apple still is enabling core SDK kits (software development kits) for developers to build in access and API’s (application program interfaces) that will let developers integrate their own apps within Apple’s cloud.

To perhaps make this analogy clearer of why it is not a pure based cloud play, look at iTunes. Your music library stays right where it is, with YOU – MM provides software that identifies songs and tracks you have and purchases you made at iTunes against the vast iTunes catalog of music to support MM. All of this not really ‘cloud’ based, but still local.

For us users, the benefit is an elegant, easy intuitive way to sync our content between all of our tablets and mobile devices (Macs included). And this sync does include most other services and docs Apple’s got to offer, calendars, contacts, documents, online storage and photos.  This is far different than Google that has a true cloud offering using GoogleDocs where you store the document and edit in the clouds.  With Apple, you make changes locally and then those changes are synced to the cloud.

This method allows us to be far less vulnerable to the woes of the wireless world or lack of it at times. And, ultimately, it will keep us all purchasing not just apps but what Apple REALLY wants us to buy – newer iPads, newer iPhones and brand new Macs.  Apple is really in the hardware business, unlike Google that wants to drive everyone to the web on inexpensive chromebooks running Linux to see more advertising or Amazon that wants to drive purchases online. It a half hearted approach but it’s a damn elegant one and one that I am particularly enjoying because everything just works!

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Apple’s ‘iCloud’ Just Might Be Netflix’s Achilles Heel.

Apple took a long time to get the Internet. Geeks were still installing FTP clients and web browsers for years after Apple belatedly included TCP/IP and PPP to their OS and, when Apple finally did integrate the Internet into Mac OS, it was in a very tacked on kind of way. A browser, an app for making web pages, eventually a few vertical online stores. I think that’s all about to change tomorrow a the WWDC.

The upcoming ‘iCloud’ announcement will vault Apple into the music cloud business, pitted against Amazon and Google (and a few others, but they are the 900lb. gorillas in the room). Apple has been in the business of selling movies and music for a long time now. Far longer than Google and longer than Amazon, at least digitally (no physical plastic CD). Now they will announce ‘iCloud’.

There have been many guessing at what this will look like and include, and I’ll make a few guesses too and I’m sure not all of them will be correct. But its fun nonetheless to postulate. Netflix is unquestionably the king of movie rentals by far. They have the breadth of product, elegance of delivery online and a reasonable cost/subscription plan. Apple is the king of online movie ‘purchases’. Based upon the fact that Apple has been building out a $1B data center in maiden N.C. , it is more than possible that they have infrastructure to support ‘movie’ lockers. That is, you buy a movie and can now store that film remotely in your cloud ‘locker’. This is the one thing that Netflix (at the moment) can’t replicate very easily.

First, it does not have the infrastructure in place (at the least own the facility) even though they host through Amazon’s EC2.  Yes, they can build it out there, but it would be costly.  Second, to my knowledge ownership is a digital right that must be negotiated and exists separately from a pure rental right with the studios. Something that is NOT easy to get from the Hollywood majors – and I know because I’ve been there before several times before. And third, Netflix core business premise is rentals – it has never been the place we turn to purchase a film thereby making it even harder to shift consumer habits that so far lie with an Amazon or iTunes.

This IMHO, could be considered an Achilles heel for Netflix. Not that they couldn’t get here, but perhaps they will get here AFTER Apple does. And first mover advantage is HUGE online and especially in the entertainment space. An storing your movies is altogether another issue – especially once you begin storing your movies in a cloud. They are NOT easy to move (file size is 750megs -1gb or more compared to a typically small 4-5mb mp3 file) nor would you want to. Right now, people are complaining about how you need to upload your MUSIC files to Google or Amazon’s music cloud offering. Imagine what they’d be saying about uploading movies? Again, this is all a guess of mine. Some other thoughts and guesses about tomorrows announcement by Apple MIGHT be:

 

• Your Mac, Windows, or iOS device can sync with all or part of it in the same way that your iOS devices sync with your computer’s iTunes library today because your music library exists in the cloud now.

• Continuous syncing of iOS devices in real time. The implication is never having to plug your iPhone or iPad in to your computer again. You won’t need a computer to sync anymore.

• One login using your Apple account: On any Mac, sign in as a guest using your Apple account credentials and you’ll be brought to the same desktop you get on your personal machine. Files will be downloaded from the cloud (or your home network) on demand, and you’ll have access to all the apps you’ve purchased via the Mac App Store, downloaded and installed on-demand, and removed securely, along with your data, upon log-out.

• Play music on your mac, then with a tap shift the music to your iPhone when you’re on the go. A sizable portion of the playlist will quickly transfer over so there’s no reliance on continued wi-fi access or 3G streaming. A ‘cloud’ benefit.

Lion and iOS 5 will change the playing field for many. It will be interesting to find out exactly how Apple will do this and when tomorrow at WWDC (Worldwide Developer Conference). You can watch it live here on Monday, June 6th at 10am: http://www.macrumorslive.com/.

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The End of An Era – Music Companies, ‘cloud’ services and the ISP’s are laughing all the way to the Bank, courtesy of you and me!

Amazon’s Cloud Drive, Google’s BetaMusic, iTunes upcoming ‘cloud’ offering, current subscription based music ‘cloud’ services and music ‘lockers’ ( eMusic, Spotify, Rhapsody, Thumbplay Music, mSpot, MP3Tunes, and others) are all similar in many ways.

There are slight differences in the cost and the amount of storage for free that you get initially. After that, users will find the old fashioned way we now store and playback music might in fact have been the best and most cost efficient after all.

Today, we all have mp3’s or m4p’s (iTunes) stored somewhere on our computers or in an external hard drive or both. We have our iPod and other devices to playback these files. Load up a playlist and take them with you. Soon, the above mentioned services will offer us the ability to ship all or some of our music collection to what effectively is a hard drive outside our house or computer – essentially letting them live ‘over there’ or wherever that service lives, be it Amazon, Google or Apple. Load up a playlist and playback the music just as we do now.

A few things will change however that will drastically alter not how or what we listen to but what it will cost us to listen to what we now playback for free. And the changes are subtle but substantial. And these changes are all designed to generate money, a lot of it, for 3 separate entities; the music cloud service of your choice, the music companies and your local ISP.

What has been an essentially free activity for all of us (creating and playing back music on our device of choice locally), will now very quickly become an expensive one, remotely. The change has been slowly evolving – with the ISP’s like Comcast, Time-Warner and others that supply us leading the way. They have all decided to ‘cap’ and meter our bandwidth usage under various tiered plans. Just like we get our water and electricity usage metered, so will our ‘internet’ usage.

And that’s old news – I’m not telling you anything you have not already heard before. Soon, we will keenly be aware of how much data we will be using monthly. And now, the new music ‘cloud’ offerings will present us with tiered pricing plans to store our music monthly as well. You might have 10 gigs of music (which is NOT a heck of a lot, personally) today that you want to store on Google’s Beta Music Cloud Drive ( they are just being used as one example). For me, I’ve got a ton more than that and I add to that monthly. So initially, I’ll choose a plan for 10 gigs, but I am 100% sure over time, I will eventually double that.

In addition to those charges I want to turn on my ‘cloud’ player and listen to some tunes being played back at my home, through my PC piped into my speakers in the house. Well that used to be free when I loaded up my player locally on my PC. Now with my house being metered, here’s a rough idea of what I could be faced with.

1GB streamed per month = a little more than half an hour of music per day
3GB streamed per month = about 2 hours of music per day
5GB streamed per month = about 3.1 hours of music per day

For music aficionados, that is not a lot of time spent listening to my music. Now mind you, I don’t have to use a cloud service to listen locally – I can continue doing what I do now. But that also means I’ve got to keep a duplicate set of files. And it does not include any bandwidth for any other activities on the Internet during the month I engage in. If you have a iPhone or other device that plays back music, sure you can stream your collection from that same cloud service, but wait, there’s a data cap on your phone too. But wait, there’s more. The new Chrome notebook offers a plan too when you are NOT connected to WiFi – and it’s not cheap:

• Free 100MB per month (what you get with the first two years of ownership under the current plan): 1 hour and 45 minutes of music playback for an entire month
• $10 for an unlimited day pass: listen all day
• $20 for 1GB of data in a given month: a little over half hour of music per day
• $35 for 3GB of data in a given month: nearly two hours of music per day
• $50 for 5GB of data in a given month: a little over three hours of music per day

All of this cost and metering does not include monthly cloud ‘subscription’ costs. Put it all together and you might be looking at some heavy fees every month that you don’t currently pay storing and playing back your music collection locally or playing back on the road through your iPhone, etc.

Now I am a big cloud advocate – there are some big advantages clearly in storing your collection outside of your house. The biggest single advantage I can think of is a disaster – and they DO happen. Replacing a 60gig collection is not only time consuming and expensive but just go and try to remember what was in your collection of say 40,000 songs – good luck! This alone is reason enough to consider storing your collection remotely. Other disadvantages include getting the songs up there to start and you don’t want to move the collection once you are there. Ever try moving 60gigs quickly – there is no quickly. So choose your service very carefully!

While all of these new music services sound great and offer us new and improved ways to listen to our music, I can’t help wondering if one day a few years back the ISP’s and the music industry got together in one big Hotel room and figured this out as a way to get back all of the lost revenue that the ‘Napster’, ‘Kaaza’ and ‘Limewire’ era sucked out of them. Maybe they will get the last laugh after all. Here’s a better one – how would a Netflix for example, replicate a ‘cloud’ locker storage scenario for movies I might purchase? Could it? Just think of THAT cloud storage plan!! Ouch!

Amazon’s New Cloud Drive – an ‘almost’ step in the right direction.

While the announcement today from Amazon is a step in the right direction for all of us, in the sense that cloud computing is really the future, Amazon has made the same mis-step that other companies have made in a competitive environment by limiting and making certain music and movie file incompatible in its Cloud Drive (CD). Specifically, files not supported include Digital Rights Managed (DRM) files, ordinary files of over 100MB in size, ringtones, podcasts, audio books, and other non-music audio files. Unsupported file formats are .wma, .m4p, .wav, .ac3, .ogg, .ape and .flac.

READ: Apple music files and files that you could store on Google Docs.

So, it reminds me of the movie studios film rights ‘war’ of the nineties, when HBO and Showtime out bid one another and each ‘exclusively’ bought film pay rights for certain studios. The losers were the consumers (of course not in the mind of the pay services or studios). The consumers were forced to buy TWO pay services in order to get most of Hollywood’s prime films. Disney, Paramount and Tri-Star went to Showtime, Paramount, Fox, and Universal, and Warner Bros. Flash forward to today, none of this matters anymore.

Now, even though Amazon’s announcement today (http://bit.ly/hdbkTL) is very progressive and good for consumers, it alienates iTunes users. Ypu can’t store any music you bought from iTunes on Amazon and even if you didn’t buy it at Amazon, you can’t use your media player (iPod, iPhone or any Apple product) to stream that music back. I really hope that Google’s upcoming music locker will not prevent me from streaming and storing files I’ve purchase from either Amazon or Apple. I don’t want to have divide up and be forced to remember which files I bought from who in order to stream and enjoy my music.