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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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.

13 Movie Online Services is WAY too many. (PPV Part 2)

Netflix vs. Google TV 2.0 PPV (powered by Honeycomb 3.1) vs. YouTube rentals vs. iTunes vs cable PPV vs VUDU vs. Blockbuster OnDemand vs Facebook OnDemand vs BigStar Movies vs CinemaNow OnDemand vs. Alphaline ( Sears/Roxio) vs. Redbox (due 2011) vs. Flixster via Warner Bros. vs anyone else ?

What happens when the airlines have a fare war? You know, you can fly from NY to L.A. for $xx.xx and then the next thing you know, another airline tops that price by $ 20.00? Or gives you a free bag to carry on board? All of a sudden 5 or more airlines have the same special going on. Who do you fly with? Decisions, decisions… It all begins to seem and look the same to you. You get to the same destination, same approximate times, using the same type of transportation, in the air for just about the same money. Who suffers? Ultimately the carriers do.
Meet the carriers. Not the airlines, but the carriers of movies online. I count thirteen (13) of them – eleven (11) of them are live as we speak. All boasting the same movies for the most part for the same prices. All rentable at the same time for about the same amount of time. And I’m not even counting Redbox as an online rentable service…yet. What’s a consumer to do – who do you choose? And why. Do you ‘subscribe’ to a Netflix monthly or do you pick off a film on a one-off basis from another provider. More importantly, how do all of these guys begin to differentiate themselves from each other? How and where do they market themselves? Netflix is clearly the 900lb gorilla today. I guess iTunes is # 2. But beyond them, I can’t really tell who’s in third place. But more importantly, do I really care? Do I need3 or 5 or 7 similar services? On top of all this, I have Verizon’s FIOS cable service at home with thousands of movies to choose from to watch on any given day/hour.

I have licensed movies before from each of the studios and it was no easy task. Number one, its VERY expensive. Figure an upfront fee to be paid to play, maybe between $500k-$1m. That’s just for starters. Then there are the guarantees against each title licensed. Therefore as a provider of online fare, you’ve got to re-coup that fee with a certain number of minimum rentals or turns of the gate so to speak. With nearly 13 services out there plus cable choices, I’m going to take a guess here a few will not make it. Not only must you guarantee upfront cash, you also must explain how you are going to market the studios films, how you will digitally protect them from piracy ( good luck on that one) and how you will separate yourself from the rest of the online movie ‘noise’. All of this and then compete with the new ‘premium’ $30.00 a pop cable TV onDemand offering ( not that I think that’s going to be too successful – it’s the least of these companies problems).
However, the one issue I have with all these services is this: I am unable to save ANYTHING I purchase or rent for viewing later on a rainy day. If I had a ‘digital’ locker – someplace to hold what I spend my money on to see so I can view it later (more than 24hrs later), that might sway me to use that service ALL THE TIME.

Avatar cost $300m to make…

but is ‘Dancing With Smurfs’ going to be the most expensive flop ever?

The story of Avatar – the new film from Titanic director James Cameron, and reputedly the most expensive ever made – will ring true to anyone who has ever felt so much as a twinge of guilt about their own carbon footprint.

It is the 22nd century and Earth has run out of its natural resources. It is now little more than a desert, without vegetation, wildlife or minerals.

But a newly discovered planet, Pandora, is a lush, exotic world which possesses everything we need, so a ruthless mining corporation hatches a plan to strip it bare and save the Earth while making billions for themselves.

Feeling blue: Computer-generated aliens in Avatar

Feeling blue: Computer-generated aliens in Avatar

‘To sum it up, it’s about ecology and greed,’ says Sigourney Weaver, who dyed her hair red to play a botanist in the film. ‘It took me a while to grasp what I was getting into, but then I realised no one has ever made a fantasy film like this before.’

Cameron himself is convinced cinema-goers will want to see it at least four times – hopefully quadrupling its box office potential.

‘People will see the movie because they are curious,’ he says. ‘Then they’ll go back to make sure they saw the fantastic things they thought they saw.

‘By then, they’ll be ready to see it for the third time – just to enjoy it – then a fourth time to savour the full experience.’

Certainly, the Hollywood executives who bankrolled this sci-fi juggernaut laden with 3D effects are hoping that Cameron’s optimism is well placed.

Avatar

Sam Worthington morphed into Na’vi, one of the blue-deer-like creatures who populate the world of Pandora

For although the Fox studio indicates that Avatar cost around $180 million – some $30 million more than Cameron’s previous epic, Titanic – Tinseltown gossip says the true cost was a staggering $300 million, thanks to re-shoots and Cameron’s constantly changing ideas.

It’s no wonder that everyone connected with movies is waiting to see what the box office figures look like when Avatar comes out on December 18.

Some believe a movie about an alien culture of giant blue humanoids can never make a profit, while others think it will save the film industry from the threats of DVD piracy and static ticket sales.

Someone, rather unkindly, has dubbed this long, po-faced epic Dances With Smurfs, after Kevin Costner’s over-long po-faced epic Dances With Wolves.

Is Cameron’s ambitious project likely ever to recoup its investment? Titanic, which cost around $150 million to make, was forecast to be a massive flop. And the prediction, when the film came out 12 years ago, was that it was going to lose at least $60 million at the box office.

In the event, it was the most lucrative film ever released, making a staggering $1.1 billion and winning 11 Oscars to boot.

Critics may have carped about Titanic’s hackneyed storyline and saccharine sensibility, but it was a globally loved phenomenon. Avatar

Like all James Cameron films, Avatar is a huge gamble, with audiences at early previews ecstatic at the 3D technology – less enamoured of his environmentally conscious sci-fi world

It personally enriched Cameron – a five-times married movie obsessive with a reputation for throwing the shoutiest tantrums in Hollywood – by an estimated $60 million.

So why has Avatar, which has its London premiere next week, cost so much to make? It is Cameron’s first feature film since Titanic and the price tag mostly reflects the fact that he wanted to make a photo-realistic sci-fi epic film in 3-D.

Sigourney WeaverSigourney Weaver is the only well known actor

This ‘live action’ epic is about two-thirds computer generated and one-third real, and uses the most advanced motion capture technology.

There are only 37 cast members – all unknowns except for Sigourney Weaver – but there is a roll-call of thousands of digitally-created characters.

Much of the technology was created just to make the filming possible, and Cameron says his team had to invent dozens of new techno-phrases to describe the processes involved.

In fact, when he came up with the idea for Avatar 14 years ago, he was told it was an impossible dream, because the technology needed to make it come true didn’t exist.

Describing the making of Avatar as ‘computer graphics hell’, he added: ‘We were trying to create a world from scratch, working with computer generated characters that are photorealistic. That’s tough. We set the bar high.’

The project was conducted with Cameron’s customary mania for perfection, using close-up cameras so sensitive they could detect muscles moving under the skin of the actors’ faces.

Each shot was captured by up to eight cameras simultaneously and the images were then turned into aliens. The final effect is said to be so convincing that you could be looking at actors in make-up rather than digitally created beings.

And every scene had to be shot twice on 3D cameras to make the film work in three dimensions.

The film’s production designer, Rick Carter, says the created reality is vital to the success of the film.

‘The real challenge is whether you feel the emotion coming through from the characters.

When you look into those eyes, do you feel the connection is real?’

Titanic

Cameron’s movie Titanic took 2.5 years to produce, cost $200m to make and took $1.8 billion worldwide to become the biggest-grossing film of all time

It was Carter’s job to create the fantasy planet Pandora, according to Cameron’s specifications. One of the many spectacular features is that the planet lights up at night.

Cameron had seen a bioluminescent world when he was deep-sea diving during the making of Titanic, and so, for added realism, hired a professor of plant physiology, Jodie Holt, to help create the plant life on Pandora, which had to be toxic to humans but support vegetation.

Another academic, Professor Paul Frommer, of the University of Southern California, was paid to create a language for the tribe of 10ft tall blue aliens, called the Na’vi, who live on Pandora.

Frommer, a linguistics expert, spent four years working on the language, and said: ‘I could have let my imagination run wild and come up with all sorts of weird sounds, but I was limited by what a human actor could actually do.’

The Na’vi language as he created it has more than 1,000 words, with a grammar of its own. The actors even had a voice coach, the renowned Carla Meyer, to help with pronunciation.

Frommer hopes it will have ‘a life of its own’ in possible prequels and sequels and that fans of Avatar may even trouble to learn it, as some Star Trek fans have studied the Klingon language. A Na’vi dictionary is already available online.

Avatar

Some early scenes, such as the one where Jake wakes up as an Avatar, were shot in real sets – partially, James Cameron admits, to save money

Meanwhile, Sigourney Weaver is at pains to point out that the film will appeal to a much wider audience than sci-fi fans.

‘In its way, it is an old fashioned kind of movie but with a seamless modern technology. It is a big, swashbuckling epic romance – the sort of story that has brought audiences into the cinema for almost 100 years.’

Because humans cannot breathe on Pandora, the SecFor mining company which sets out to pillage the planet creates human-alien hybrids, called Avatars.

The hero, Jake Sully, played by Australian actor Sam Worthington, is a paraplegic former Marine who volunteers to take part, blissfully unaware of the corporation’s plans to steal Pandora’s resources.

However, Jake is accepted into the Na’vi world, and falls in love with Princess Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). He learns to respect the Na’vi culture, which puts him at odds with SecFor, as they gear up to assault and take over Pandora itself in a massive final battle scene.

Worthington, 30, was unknown outside Australia, where he had made a few art films. ‘I met James Cameron to discuss the film and discovered that his personal heroes weren’t actors – they were scientists. That got me hooked.’

Worthington’s take on Avatar is simplistic. ‘It’s a great film, and a story that isn’t so far-fetched because we all know that we’re bleeding our planet dry. Maybe it will make people realise that Earth needs saving from itself before it’s too late.

‘But we’re not preaching – It’s just a rattling good story.’

Some critics say it’s a ‘horrible film’ – overinflated, hard to watch and ridiculous. There are also complaints that the Na’vi just don’t work cinematically and that it’s all a shade absurd.

But Leo Barraclough, of the entertainment industry magazine Variety, says he doesn’t think such brickbats will affect its commercial appeal. ‘It is one of the most anticipated films of recent years and I don’t think it will much matter what the critics say.

‘It is 12 years since Titanic, and James Cameron is a big movie maker, so people are going to want to see it because of that.

‘Cameron is known for quality film making, with energy, intelligence and detail. Avatar has also been marketed very cleverly via the internet and tie-ins with MTV and Coca Cola and so on.’

Avatar

James Cameron’s epic new 3D sci-fi adventure is the story of a distant planet, Pandora, being exploited for its precious resources, and features both live action and pioneering digital animation

More than one million people have logged on to the online trailer, and ticket presales are apparently phenomenal.

Rather unusually, Fox has sought to whet public interest in Avatar with special showings at IMAX cinemas around the world of a 16-minute extended trailer.

The marketing assault includes product tie-ins with McDonalds and the Coca-Cola Company, who are Fox’s promotional partners: Coca Cola, for example, has produced 140 million cans of Coke Zero which, when held up to a webcam, will show a helicopter taking off.

Action figures and vehicles are being made for the global market by Mattel. They all contain i-Tags which show content and info when held up to a webcam. And a video game in 3D is already on the market.

It’s all very clever, but will Avatar make its money back? Whether it’s $180 million, as the studio says, or $300 million as the grapevine has it, the film still needs to sell a lot of tickets.

To put this into context, big effects-laden movies such as Spider Man 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean cost around $150 million to make.

Fox, however, is able to stay calm about its financial exposure – because the costs have been split with two other investors. Dune Capital Management and Ingenious Film Partners are paying for about two-thirds of the production costs.

And Fox will also get a 15 per cent tax rebate from New Zealand, where all the live-action sequences and most of the effects were done, which is expected to return around $15 million.

Cameron has agreed to delay his profit participation until Fox and its investors recoup their costs. Perhaps he is so confident because Avatar will benefit from the higher ticket prices charged by 3-D theatres.

There are high hopes that it will help to continue the 3-D revolution, which is bringing audiences back into cinemas, and that it will push the sales of Blu ray discs next year when it is released.

Fox’s co-chairman Tom Rothman describes Avatar as ‘a creatively ambitious movie that is fiscally prudent’. It’s clear that he is already thinking about a sequel. ‘When you can move the popular culture, particularly with something newly created, that’s a path to tremendous success,’ he says.

Guest Post  by Alison Boshoff – Thanks to the DailyMail.co.uk

Google will buy Apple by 2011, Part 2

Many of you had some interesting reactions and comments to this prior post. Thanks for your comments. Let me try and explain why I believe this will happen in one form or another in the next 3-4 years. Many of you have stated that Google can’t afford Apple as the market cap is too big for them to swallow today. True. But it’s not today I am talking about. 3 years on the web is like 21 years on the planet (web years and dog years are nearly equivalent). First, as you know things change rapidly on the net faster than anywhere else. Google MAY be able to grab the rest or nearly 100% of the market share in search over the next 3 years – and that share will increase their value (and market cap) tremendously. To do this, they will not need any hardware, nor will they need to introduce any gadgets/phones, what not. Its 100% software driven. And, given that the web will have an increasing percentage of ‘vertical’ search (vs. the Wal-Mart Google engine of today), Google will also begin to focus its sights on those verticals as well with its huge pile of cash. Google will buy their way into any search vertical they might miss. And that doesn’t take into account non-web advertising like billboards, radio, newspapers and traditional TV +. Now, let’s look at Apple. The market for cell phones is in a state of flux. How many iPhones can one buy? Saturation will occur and sales will eventually have to slow. Competition will appear and market share will s-l-o-w down and decrease over time. When Jobs makes the iPhone carrier-neutral, the walls all come down. So, how do you ‘sell’ more cell phones to people that they don’t need? One possibility is to give them away with advertising. Second, while ‘Goople’ may seem far-fetched to us today, lacing cell phones with ads (think Android) AND perhaps computers with ads or instead of buying an office suite from MS, using GoogleDocs with ads instead to help increase market share over the PC doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore. Would I choose to use a cell service that gave me a free handset combined with no monthly charges in exchange for watching a few ads? Could I and would I use that combination to replace my land-line eventually thereby sneaking this combination right into everyone homes? Would I choose to get a free laptop that does the same type of thing? I might. Would developing countries whose cultures don’t have the money to buy computers and cell communications use such a computer or cell phone? I bet they would.

The same way Apple introduced their new thin laptop without the traditional bells and whistles of all other laptops sounds so much like what Google did when they introduced Search and Adwords, then slowly but surely introduced itself into other traditional media, while their competitors just scramble around to keep up, and can’t so far. And finally, a merger or some combination of the two is not unthinkable. Both company cultures are similar in so many ways. So, think a new form or type of combination or new venture between the two. Maybe not an outright purchase NOW, but its not impossible in the future.

cloudsss.jpgpie.jpg

gPhone update 3

(Courtesy of Bob Cringely):There are two gPhones gphone.jpg slated for release with the first coming in September and the second probably not appearing until after Christmas. Given that the first is the high-end model and the second is cheaper, Google will probably expect to make as much money as possible on the higher-margin units at Christmas before revealing the budget model even exists. How Apple-like, eh?

Both will include WiFi, which makes me wonder if a VoIP client will be there, too. The high-end phone will look somewhat like a Blackberry Pearl, but the screen flips up and there is a keyboard for texting. No word on pricing for the high-end phone, but the second model is intended to be less than $100 — AFTER Christmas.

The actual manufacturer of these gPhones will be Samsung (rumors to this point had indicated HTC, so this is a change) and Google is still talking with both T-Mobile and Verizon as potential carriers (rumors also said Verizon had passed — not). That means there are both GSM and W-CDMA versions in the works. Given AT&T’s success with the iPhone I can’t imagine Verizon will let the gPhone pass, but it will be interesting to see if Google will be able go with a nonexclusive deal and get both U.S. carriers.

Nice ‘eh?

Cell Phone Spectrum Auction…Google is in.

UPDATE from my prior post on Nov 16, 2007 on Google’s google-logo.jpg cell phone ambitions:

So 214 bidders have been approved for the forthcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction, which starts on Jan. 24. The big bidders include AT&T, Verizon and Google. These bidders will go after 1,200 licenses.

(click image below to enlarge)

table_bidding_participation_list2.gif

The bidding will conclude on March 24; down payments will be due by April 11. A third of the spectrum is subject to “open access” rules — the winner will have to allow access to the spectrum to any device or application. This part of the spectrum carries a reserve price tag of $4.6 billion.

table_700_mhz_auction.gif

Much thanks to the edit staff at GigaOm for this info. My guess for a winner is still Google -wish they had odds for this in Vegas!