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.

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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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Redefining Our Idea of a “Program”

Google recently added the Chrome Web Store with the release of the newest version of its Chrome browser. With this release, the Chrome Web Store is available throughout the U.S., so it is now available direction from the New Tab page.

What’s significant about this and the four videos about the Web Store embedded at the bottom of Google’s announcement? It’s an attempt of a kind we’ll likely see more and more of in the near future, as Google, Apple, and others try to redefine the idea of a “program” in peoples’ minds.

“When the Web started, Websites were simple. […] The Web, in essence, was about reading,” explains the first of four videos. “Doing was reserved for programs you installed in your computer.”

The video, which was released with the Chrome Web Store last December, goes on to explain the evolution of websites, saying that “websites offer features that are pretty much like those found in applications installed from a CD.” The next video is an introduction to the Web Store, with the subsequent two videos adding up to pretty graphics to show off what’s possible inside your browser these days.

Google doesn’t usually make much of a production of releasing new versions of Chrome. They are, after all, on version 9. It took Internet Explorer 16 years to get through 9 versions, and really, the 9th one is still in Beta. (Chrome, by comparison, has  gone through 9 versions since 2008.) So why now? Again, the Web Store is something Google will push harder and harder in an effort to redirect our definition of “program”. It’s the next big step on our way to using Chrome OS and existing entirely in the cloud.  Thx. RWW!

 

 

Chrome OS NotebookUser thoughts and first observations – by Happily stuck in a cloud

Chrome OS NotebookUser thoughts and first observations – by Happily stuck in a cloud.
(written entirely on the chrome using googledocs)

So never did I dream that after submitting a request to google to become a beta user for their new ChromeOS Notebooks that I’d be accepted. I’m not even sure of what the reasons were that I mentioned to them ( and I do remember them asking for some) that I wrote down. Yes, I have over the years managed to amass a good deal of apps that I use from Google. But so what, I’m sure I’m not alone on the planet – others probably use more. But nonetheless, here I sit with a brand new notepad on my lap writing my 1st impressions about this machine and its OS. I have read some of the reviews on this laptop – some written using a ‘prototype’ – (http://techcrunch.com/2010/12/12/cr-48-chrome-notebook-review/) (http://searchengineland.com/first-day-review-the-google-chrome-os-cr-48-notebook-58322 – or http://www.engadget.com/2010/12/09/google-cr-48-chrome-laptop-preview/ some of the parts of these reviews I agree with, some I don’t.  Google has a place where you can apply and on the notebook itself, it has a feedback button which I will be using.

I am MAC an PC proficient, have been under and in a few Apache OS servers (and even less so for Linux servers) and I don’t sling code seriously, just dabble in html5 and now starting ruby as I understand Mac is or will be releasing a ruby for Mac platform and perhaps one day I’ll be able to write my own apps for the iPad in ruby ( but that’s far off for now).  Back to my Chome OS thoughts.

When this lap arrived in a box ( see my previous posts to see the cover) I thought someone sent us a housewarming gift. We moved our family from Los Angeles (and L.A. is  literally falling apart) to the white warm watered sandy beaches of the gulf coast near Clearwater Beach Fl. If someone from Gooooogle is reading this – A BIG ‘thank you!’ many times over.

So, the biggest changes I have noticed thus far from the traditional lap is:
1. Verizon was incredibly smart to partner and offer 3G wireless access (100mg for free a month); Verizon will be reaping the reward – no one uses 100mgs a month of data unless you are an ant.
2. Cloud computing works and will take the masses some getting used to; but its where EVERYTHING is going.
3. This laptop is on of the lightest and coolest (temperature as well as hipness factor)I have ever encountered;
4. Apple was a heavy influence and its ‘app’ store concept a key part of how this OS works;
5. Its a bit disconcerting NOT being able to view my files and docs by browsing a file structure a la windows; but I’m almost used to it.
6. Using this requires a change of habit and thinking and that will be tough for some, but its refreshing (at least for me).
7. It ‘feels’ nice – like my black rubber iPhone protective casing. Easy to grasp and hold. Plus, Google gave me ‘stickers’ !! (I feel like a kid again).
8. EVERYTHING is done using a browser and you can’t minimize it to look at a blank or customized screen ( that’s right, you ‘skin’ the browser instead of place a ‘desktop’ image on your laptop screen.
9. The instructions were written by the same guy who wrote some other Google instructions – with a sense of humor, thank f’ing god!
10. Screen, resolution and powering up once closed up- is great.

So, let look at he above points.

1- First, Verizon – who  approached who is not important – Google or vice versa. Nonetheless, Verizon will capture a lot of new revenue from new COS (ChromeOS) owners. If you can’t find a hot spot, activate this service and you’re connected. Depending on your activities, you’ll pay for your usage. Hence, a nice new rev. source for Verizon Wireless.  Unless of course Google buys all the white space spectrum and wires the major cities for free with 4G, but that’s another post for another time.

2-.Cloud computing – if you have not figured it out by now, hard drives that spin and even SSDS drives (unless they are used to start the computers OS) are ancient history. Between Microsoft’s 25 gigs of free space at Skydrive, Google Docs, Dropbox and many others, you have plenty of choices where to store your precious word, excel, power points, pictures, videos, music files, etc, etc. forever. Use LastPass as a password reminder (browser based AND works with chrome) so you don’t need to remember each of your storage lockers as you want to get in and the rest is pretty easy. Once you store it in a cloud, you can basically drop kick your laptop or desktop (going by way of the Model-T as well) and not care. Buy a new one, and install Lastpass again and access your files. Nothing lost. Ever. Microsoft and Google are NOT going anywhere. Not closing their doors in the near future or at least as long as I’ll be on the planet.

3.- It’s light – I have not weighed it, but its VERY light. Lighter than anything I own and I’m a nut for light and portability. No one wants to lug a big heavy PC anywhere outside the home.  And yes, it is cool temperature wise. Especially the bottom of the computer. I’m sure if you have ever taken your laptop into your bed with you, you know what I am talking about.  Typically, all laptops have a small fan that cools the processors and hard drive. Not so here.

4.- You don’t download .exe’s or programs. That’s ancient history too – Apple was the influence here. Google made an chrome ‘App’ store. They prepared popular applications without drivers so they could be chromized and made installable on the laptop. I wish they made a bluetooth app so my wireless bluetooth mouse worked, but I’m sure they are working on it. In the meantime, there must be hundreds of programs turned apps that you can grab. Just like iTunes, you download the app. Thanks Apple!

5.- Not being able to view my LOCAL files was at first a bit disturbing. But I had to remember that since I began using PC’s and Mac’s, that’s what you did. There was no ‘cloud’ computing. So, at first, you need to think a bit different and realize that ultimately this is in your best interest.

6. – Change of habit. No more ‘save as’ locally. Use Google Docs which = word, excel, PPT, etc., save them to the native Google doc acct. or save them to dropbox, etc. It all works except saving them to ‘my documents’ or your ‘c’ drive. Its different, but not that much different. Besides, the PC still does all the work saving it whether its local or remote – what do you care? Your habits and thinking just changes.

7.- the outside of this feels great. It is an easy grip and feel similar to my iPhone outer case cover. Rubber-like and not slippery. Better to me than a sleek plastic feel most laptops have.

8.- When it boots up for the first time, its a chrome browser you operate in, nothing else. When you click for a new tab, it brings up a new tab BUT that tab also brings up the chrome store. The chrome store is where you grab whatever apps you want to operate within the laps environment. So, just like the iPad, you’d grab apps of a similar nature.  Homage to Apple, doing this was easy enough and not unlike something have not done before. Nice and it was as easy to install these, if not easier as I wasn’t asked for a password or verification each time I requested an app like I am at the iTunes store. Although, to be fair, I have not bought any apps yet and this will more than likely prompt those screens.

9.- So, some of the ‘good humor’ part.

Safety Notices
(This is the usual yada yada…just more fun).

“This product contains sensitive components. Do not drop, disassemble, open, crush, bend, bake, deform, puncture, blend (guess we’ll never know if it will blend), shred, incinerate, paint, bring to the moon, or insert foreign objects into the device. Do not spill liquids, rocks of any size, or food on the device. Do not expose the device to water, moisture or rap music.

This product contains small parts, which may present a choking hazard to small children, as well as men who have not emotionally matured.  Keep the device away from small children, regardless of how much they want to bang on the keyboard.

This product does not contain any user-serviceable parts. Repairs should only be made by an authorized technician. Note that the authorized technicians do not necessarily include your neighborhood 15 year old brainiac that you call anytime you get an antivirus pop-up on your computer. Do not do anything silly with the battery. We already said not to bake the device but apparently we had to repeat ourselves.”

10. – The screen is 1280X 800 resolution with a 12.1 inch size viewable space. Better than most. Once turned on and if you close the screen and then open it, it takes about 2 seconds to come back. Far quicker than a PC or Mac. And 2 seconds is not an exaggeration. This is an Atom chip powered laptop, and its pretty quick but the chip COULD be updated to a newer version Intel chipset now being used in the 64bit laps. But I’m not complaining. I did own a 9 inch laptop which was way too small and then a 10 inch, which again was too small. The 12 inch seems perfect however, I’d bet that a new AirMac at 12+ would give this a run for its money.

Next up – switching over to using it more than full time.

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And you thought Twitter was just for ‘I’m eating lunch’.

I’ve been a user of twitter since its inception and I’ll admit I didn’t get it at first. I mean, why do I want to waste my time telling anyone where I am or what I’m eating for breakfast? Or reading what they eat for lunch?   I’ve watched Twitter grow up now for sometime and it has seen some massive growth. So, it cant be from everyone telling everyone else such mundane and useless information. There has to be something here that means so much more. And there is.

Back in the days when I first jumped aboard the web, prior to the first dot.com meltdown, you had Netscape (R.I.P). I used NS as a place or ‘portal’ as they called it to find out the weather, news, events, movies and other things that was scattered throughout the internet. Actually before NS, I used BBS boards. Useful, but a bit boring and graphically plain and in 1 or two colors, its was sloooow to use and a terrible user experience. But then again, that’s all there was until NS appeared.  (Can you say 28k and 56k baud squelching modems)?  And then AOL and Yahoo came along which was a step up from NS. It started collecting ‘links’ for us.

Our browser (netscape) allowed us to bookmark our favorite places so we didn’t forget them. I used to have way too many. And then really simple syndication showed up (RSS) and that was pretty awesome. Sites created an RSS ‘feed’ which was a link of sorts. We then had RSS ‘readers’ and presto, web sites and readers could ‘feed’ us what they updated without us going back to the site to load it up every hour or two. A syndication of information of sorts, quite useful and all of a sudden EVERYONE has an RSS feed.   Then we had ‘shared’ bookmarks. The concept of shared online bookmarks dates back to April 1996 with the launch of itList. Within the next three years, online bookmark services became competitive, with venture-backed companies such as Backflip, Blink, Clip2, ClickMarks, HotLinks, and others entering the market. Then Delicious in 2006 along with reddit, newsvine and dig showed up. All of these allowed us to share what we thought was cool and interesting that we found on the web.  Collaborative tagging so-to-speak.

And then came Twitter. I found that the best way to use Twitter is to consume and drink from twitter and not to necessarily feel so inclined to ‘tweet’ incessantly. With my RSS reader, I have to launch it and peel through (and find) the feeds ‘I’ have chosen to read. With twitter, if I follow people who are smarter than I am, they find things that they ‘tweet’ about and ‘tweet’ them out. Even the ‘re-tweeting’ of things becomes a beacon and new river of new information for me to see and learn from. Think about it –  using smarter people and friends to find cool things to discover and read about on the net in just a short 140 character ‘tweet’. No long story to read, a quick blurb and a link. If I think it may be interesting, I’ll read it. Sometimes I don’t even need to read the article – its encapsulated enough in a tweet. And, yes I get to see what is most obvious about twitter delivered to my mobile or ipad, which is the current trends and events that happen somewhere on the planet which CNN and ABC never get to first anymore. Its usually someone with a mobile phone who ‘tweets’ it. (Think the jet in the Hudson river in NYC).

Yes Twitter can be used as a marketing tool and is all the time – sometime too much so. Twitter’s usefulness as a ‘free’ loudspeaker or podium for their services /software/business can work against people more often than not as its abused so much so that way. But as a way to consume snippets of information from around the planet for even short periods of time from people who are experts at one thing or another that you are NOT an expert at, is pure serendipity. There’s no other tool like it today.

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Is Pandora’s Box About to be Opened? TV of The Present and Near Future – 4 Possible Scenarios

1.  Slingbox + iPad or gPad (this is the quickest way to get your TV experience at home with ALL your channels – a ‘bridge’ solution at best as it omits the web

2.  gPad or PC Tablets running android (and Googles upcoming OS, Chrome) with a receiver chip built in for wireless broadcasts (including youtube for movies , via PPV) – this can be any number of announced tablets ( Dell, etc.)

3. AppleTV + iPads with special chips + iTunes for movies and TV shows (this assumes an updated iPad version).

4.  3rd party hardware/software boxes: Logitechs Revue box (coming soon), Roku (here now), Boxee Box (coming soon), and others require you to connect these to your TV (and whatever else is there, like a DVR, cable TV box, etc). The average person will have some reluctance to doing this. And that’s most of us. They don’t call TV BROADcast for nothing – its for the masses, not just the technophiles.

All of the above solutions or alternatives will give you ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox + movies on an on-demand basis. Some will let you access Netflix or Hulu if you have an account and subscribe (read: an additional cost).

WHAT’S MISSING: your very own DVR Cloud for shows you watch and want to keep which you have purchased.

Despite Steve Jobs stating that consumers “don’t want a computer on their TV,” consumers DO want TV on their computers or more specifically on their mobile and wireless connected devices (iPads,  tablets, etc.) and especially on the go.  Business customers, more than consumers, especially need any of their purchases to do double-duty to make fiscal sense.

Some GPad TV reasons to exist:

Google has released an informational guide for would-be developers to create more applications specifically for Google TV. While many apps will probably be useless or purely for entertainment, there will likely be some useful programs for business consumers in the near future.

Some things worth noting are Google’s forthcoming Chrome OS: Android will be picking up Street View services in Google Maps, as well as voice-powered search so users can speak search queries rather than typing them into a keyboard or using a mouse.

Google TV will be built right in to new TVs from Sony, available on separate set-top boxes from Logitech (Revue), and those are just launch partners, with many more to come. Google has announced plans to roll out Google TV in the United States this fall, with a worldwide launch following in 2011. Google TV aims to fuse traditional television programming with Internet browsing and interactive capabilities.

Google TV will run on Intel’s Atom processor – the same chip powering virtually every netbook on the market. This enables it the additional horsepower to pump up full 1080p video, rather than 720p as the Apple TV maxes out at, it should leave room for additional upgrades, and maybe even the possibility of hacking the software to run other desktop apps (umm, now we shall see ‘jailbreaking your Google TV or gPads, I can virtually guarantee that one).

Google, meanwhile, has said nothing of opening a store for content. Every source will either come for free through the Web, from a cable box, or third-party providers. This might make the selection of popular shows smaller out of the box, but providers like Amazon on Demand, Vudu and Hulu Plus will line up to jump aboard Google TV, and it means that Google TV will be providing more content than what Apple alone can deliver- although it doesn’t mean that those same providers won’t want into the iTunes storefront as well.

To Googles point and possible advantage, Movies and TV isn’t everything.  Sometimes, you want to see photos from Picasa. Sometimes, you want to give directions to a friend using Google Maps. Maybe you want to want to read your favorite site without squinting on a mobile device or watch a YouTube video.  Google TV will integrate a browser based on Chrome to do all the above.

Google claims that existing Android apps should eventually be able to run on Google TV, as long as they don’t use smartphone-only features. Meaning it will be damn difficult to tilt your TV to play skillball or bowling using an app.

Dell is releasing later this year a Dell ‘Looking Glass tablet’. With larger screen Android phones and tablets coming to market in the second half of the year it only makes sense that content services will be supplying the increasing demand to watch content on these new screens and devices.

The Looking Glass is actually the big brother of the Dell Streak 5 and it comes with a 7 inch WVGA display. The tablet will run Android 2.1 on a 1 GHz nVidia T20 processor. The nVidia Tegra 2 is impressive because it is based on an ARM Cortex-A9 multicore processor design. Other spec highlights include 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera, 512 MB ROM and 512 MB RAM, and 802.11n WiFi. Optional accessories for the Looking Glass include a 3G modem (mini card type) and a digital TV module. Expect the Looking Glass to launch in Q4 2010 on AT&T. Early renders for the device show U-Verse integration, which is AT&T’s fiber optic network.

Apple TV Reasons:

Apple recently redesigned the Apple TV to run on the same A4 processor powering the iPhone and iPad. Essentially, it’s a smartphone, without a screen, in a box.

Apple TV conveniently puts its storefront for iTunes in the middle of your living room, allowing you to buy Apple content from Apple. And hey, you can watch Netflix this year, too, YouTube and Flickr.  Apple has proven to make this closed shopping experience feel cozy and convenient as in the past it has done with all of its devices and media offerings. Being a proven solution is a BIG advantage here.  And Apple is so far the only ones that can say this.

Apple has got it down and has sold millions of iPhones, iTouch’s, iPads and other connected devices AND content for years now. This is not an easy trick – as it not only requires the hardware to be stupidly simple and easy to use for the masses, but its software must be self-healing and not require the ‘patches’ and the many problems we have all had with things like syncing your Outlook to a Palm or Crackberry and maintaining ALL of your information. How many of us have had problems doing this because we were running one of the many Microsoft operating system versions or incompatible updates for our MS Outlook or office.

Apple is also easing restrictions on the use of third-party development tools to create iOS app—a move that might clear the way for developers to create apps for the iPhone using Adobe Flash CS5. (Note this is not the same as letting Flash run on the iPhone.)

When Apple debuted iOS4 back in April (then called iPhone OS 4), it unveiled restrictive terms in its developer program license that prohibited developers from using third-party application development tools or middleware to create iOS applications. In an open letter later that month, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said Apple did not want the iOS platform to be “at the mercy” of third party development tools. Apple has not changed those provisions to permit the use of third-party development tools, so long as the applications do not download code to iOS devices. “This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need,” Apple wrote.

Slingbox Reasons:

For the uninitiated, Slingbox is a “places shifting device.” Connect it to a video source (cable or satellite box, DVR, TV antenna, and so forth), and the Slingbox digitizes the video output for access on a wide variety of PCs and smartphones and iPhones–essentially allowing access to your home TV anywhere you can access the Internet. People prefer the benefit of mobility and they will accept just about anything – even frequently dropped calls – for the ability to have a media session (voice call, video chat, whatever) while they are wherever they are.

If you can watch whatever is on your home DVR, TV or better yet live HDTV on your iPad, wherever you are, then the broadcasting companies have lost total control of advertising as it relates to geography. This is an interesting notion (Nielsen please take note).  This has huge implications. One example is sports blackouts. Often local TV stations will not carry a local team game to force local people to go to the game to see it, or a particular company owns the rights to the broadcasting and will not allow it to be shown in that area. The entire concept of locality is gone.

There are buckets of content that come through cable still unavailable from the Web. Google TV and third party hardware/software boxes connecting to cable boxes and other hardware can and does cause setup nightmares that negate all of its potential capabilities and benefits. After all – a home theater PC can already do pretty much everything Google TV will – but how many people do you know with computers under their TV sets?

All in all, its going to get very interesting in the very near future. For now, I’ll take my simple basic cable set-up, throw a slingbox in my house, download the iPhone app on my iPhone or iPad and I’m good to go anywhere. Keep it simple.



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What’s to come in 2010

Some thoughts and predictions for 2010:

Computers/OS:

Google’s OS and Google’s Browser Chrome will further erode Microsoft’s OS dominance.

Phones:

Google’s Nexus One is not an iPhone killer but what would be much more powerful and meaningful would be for Google to offer a ‘subsidized’ cell phone service through a carrier in exchange for watching ads – no more cell bills. That MIGHT make me give-up my iPhone habit.

TV/Cable:

TV Everywhere will dominate as cable subscribers will WANT to get what they see at home on their PC’s, phones, etc. They will want this because its only a matter of time before Hulu (and other online content aggregators) lose their premium content or require a subscription fee. (Smell Comcast here?). Boxee, Roku, Sezmi and Zillion TV will have tough sledding IF Apple TV hopefully syncs a (rumored) TV subscription service with their upcoming iTablet/iSlate.  Apple MIGHT offer consumers an a-la-carte menu of the best of cable and network TV on their televisions through the AppleTV box, iphones and the iTablet  (along with several newspaper/magazine subscriptions) for a single monthly fee. Their version of  a cable ‘triple-play’ subscription. Do you remember when cable TV was “sold” as a way to escape the ads on free, OTA broadcast TV? Those were the days…

Movies/Music/Web:

iTunes will announce an iTunes web service, thanks to the Lala acquisition. Disney will move forward with their Keychest initiative and so will the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, or DECE. However, only one system will survive this year to avoid consumer confusion.

‘Live’ streaming video and UGV will replace the jpg /gif as the dominant content format of visual sharing online.

Facebook, Hulu, YouTube , Twitter, and other ‘weapons of mass distraction’ these days will be increasingly ‘filtered’ out from the workplace due to too much time by employees during work hours spent on ‘social media’ causing a huge traffic shift in several social networks most notably, Facebook.

Facebook will go public and the IPO will be a huge financial success until Facebook becomes the Borg unless it allows data portability. Its number of users will continue to climb until the network is as large as Google and people will confuse Facebook with “the Internet” like days of old when the internet was ‘AOL’ to many people.

And then one day…

A new social network will rise to join the big ones. It may offer the privacy that Facebook is moving away from; it may be mobile and location-centric; it may focus on personal content recommendations, but it will come and the minnows will swim like fishes to the next ‘big’ new network to be seen and heard on.

We are all ‘Paparazzi’s’ and ‘Jimmy Olsen’s’ now…with the Advent of ‘live’ broadcasting apps on the iphone and android makes paparazzi’s and Jimmy Olsen’s (instant news ‘scoops’) out of us all further diluting the worth of major news org’s that can’t be expected to be everywhere at all times.

Cloud computing heats up. AWS, Google, Microsoft and others begin price wars to compete for customers.

MySpace will try to become as important to online viewers as MTV was to cable subscribers in the 80’s.

MOG and Spotify will invade the US and give iTunes(lala) and MySpace a run for their money.

And hopefully:

Data portability will become more real, standard, expected and viable. Why isnt’ there a way for me to make 1 Avatar, use 1 password and login to store all this info in a central location that my ‘social networks’ and other internet related service use and fetch each time I access these services?  Here is where I’d place all my photos and videos and then simply choose which services get access to which photos and videos. So, when I leave a social network, my ID and photos and videos LEAVE too.  Go ahead and just try moving or populating another social network again with all of your pictures, comments and videos that you’ve uploaded at one time or another. Hard to do and time consuming beyond belief. It would be nice to able to take MY STUFF (and data preferences) with ME with 1 click.

Comments welcome.

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Blockbuster killed the video store all by themselves

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It was a lethal combination of technology, fatter pipes and morons who THOUGHT they understood this business but didn’t have a clue. That’s right. MORONS. Why do I say this? In August of 2008 when interviewed about the success NetFlix was having, Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes was “baffled by his competitor’s success”. And what was even more confusing to Mr. Keyes was the emphasis on catalog size. “Why would anyone want to watch anything other than new releases”, he wondered. He goes on to say : “I don’t care how many movies are available to me. As my personal taste as a customer, I want to watch the new stuff so whether we have 10,000 movies or 200 movies doesn’t matter if I don’t want to see any of the movies that we have . . . our assortment is heavily weighted toward newer releases and mainstream staple titles.” This guy clearly just does not get it. He’s not a film person and why in the world any responsible and half-way intelligent person responsible for turning around a business like Blockbuster hire someone like this is beyond me. FAIL.

blockbuster_p2p

Blockbuster used to be the 900 lb. gorilla in this space. It was dominant. And they did nothing to extend that dominance into the 21st century. Content to rest on this 80’s-90’s business model of retail foot traffic, Blockbuster basically put its head into the sand and held its breath. For a company with the kind of cash flow it had and market power and brand awareness they simply mismanaged their business into the ground, all the time telling shareholders that their business was doing great.

blockbuster

And then there was the Circuit City possible acquisition for $ 1.35 billion. I guess someone figured that expanding the brick-and-mortar business was a way to increase Blockbusters business. Why you want to expand the brick-and-mortar business when over the last 18 months, Blockbuster closed 412 stores (including Gamestation stores), presumably because they were operating at a loss or weren’t terribly profitable. FAIL. But it gets even better.

movielink

In August of 2007, they acquired ‘Movielink’ for $20 million dollars. Then one year later rolled out to the general public in ‘beta’ a service for ‘downloading’ of movies online. It included 5,000 titles. The downloading prices started at $8; and rental fees started at $2. It didn’t matter that it took nearly as long to download one movie as it did to get the same one in the mail from Netflix. Nor did it matter that once you spent the $8.00 and a day to get the film, it was laced with DRM making it unwatchable anywhere else but the device you received it on and unwatchable after 24 hours. Very consumer friendly indeed. If you were an executive in the business, you knew that Movielink was already dead long before Blockbuster bought it. CinemaNow and Movielink were both dead. You had to be living under a rock to believe that Movielink with its ‘PC windows’ download client manager with DRM was the future of the online movie business. How management at Blockbuster managed to convince their board of director to use $20 million dollars of the companies funds to buy Movielink is nothing but pure stupidity and mismanagement of funds. If I were a shareholder, I would have sued them. FAIL once again.

DISCLAIMER: (I started iWatchNow.com in late November of 2003 with a partner)

Fast forward to 2006, we had started an online film and TV distribution service called iWatchNow.com. My partner knew how to sling code something wicked and I knew where and how to get the content. We were one of the very early entrants in this area, next to CinemaNow and MovieLink. Neither iTunes, Hulu, Amazon, Reeltime, Veoh, Joost, Babelgum, etc., were there yet in 2003 when we were around. But they were coming big time. We acquired over 3,000 movies and TV shows. Everything from Jack Nicholson’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ (the Roger Corman public domain (PD) classic) to non-public domain goodies like ‘Tunnel Vision’ with Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and the original Saturday Night Live crew. It was eclectic, fun and as irreverent as we could make it showing rarely seen and hard to find content. We gave away some content for free with advertising. Other programming cost $ .99 cents per rental/24 hrs to stream.

But there were 4 things that we felt were important; to stream instead of download, to not use a client to stream but use the browser, to make the search on the site for content lightning fast and purchases easy with as few clicks as possible. We didn’t focus on ‘new’ releases because we knew that in a short time, EVERYONE would be showing them. The advances were too big from each studio for our little company, so we focused on the ‘long tail’ and convenience.

We thought that we had created a pretty good framework for a start-up online company and launched in January 2006. Then in March I decided to call Blockbuster and invite them in to our offices to see our system for the expressed purpose of selling it to them so they could jump start their online business. So, two executives showed up at our offices; Dean Wilson and Richard Jenrud. They looked under the hood, saw the library, kicked the tires and then left. We never heard back from them. Then we heard they paid $20m for a failing ‘Movielink’ service. What I am saying here is that Blockbuster probably had not only our service to look at but many others in the fledgling marketplace, yet they chose a dinosaur to spend $20m and buy Movielink. What in the world were they thinking?

Chrome’s tricks and ‘eggs’ of strength revealed!

Chrome is a very nice little new broswer. Not sure the world needed another one, but its still pretty cool. A few tricks that you can try are below. Google placed a few ‘easter’ eggs into the code. So, if you paste some of these commands into the broswer address bar, you’ll have some fun. Try some of these:

about:internets – makes your browser a MS screen saver

  • about:memory
  • about:stats
  • about:network
  • about:internets
  • about:histograms
  • about:dns
  • about:cache
  • about:plugins
  • about:version

Enjoy!