Friday, January 29, 2010

Apple's IPad: The Shape of Things To Come?

Wednesday was a big day in the tech world, particularly, if you’re into Apple. After months of speculation, guessing posturing, and predicting by pundits and everyone else the Questions were finely answered.

Its called the Apple IPad. What it is essentially is a scaled up version of the hugely popular Apple Ipod Touch media player. Which means it syncs with your apple I-Tunes and can play music, videos and run all of the applications that you can run on a I-touch or I Phone now. This gives it a huge leg up on most new products. Using it is the same as using the I touch.

While Apple did not invent the MP3 player, and the Smart Phone, they did set the standard by which all others are judged in those lines. The same goes for Portable Media Players. While Apple didn't invent the Portable Media player they just may have set the stranded.. again..

Obliviously, its way too early to tell for sure. as they have just announced it today, and they won't ship for 60 days . But the bigger questions will take a while to answer. They have been critiquing something that very few of them have really seen, much less actually held yet. So essentially what they are doing is guessing. Until it ships and get out to the public and they use it no one will completely know what the impact it will have.

With the ability to get models with 3G and a no contract option for buying 3G from AT&T it becomes a platfrom for use in situations where one probably wouldn't do Internet and letting you do things you couldn't do on your IPhone because the screen is too small.

But the bigger question is will the public buy into it? Will they use it like they do the IPhone, and Ipod models, particularly the I touch ?

The IPad has already been called the Kindle Killer. The ablilty to buy and download e-books and audio books and play them on here as well as music and video, and aps defiantly even the playing field. Will aps makers buy into it? How soon will aps written specify for the IPad, and how many aps will be ported up to the IPad, so they can work natively on the larger 9 inch screen, and other features of the IPad?

Theses are many of the questions that will be answered over the course of this spring and summer.

I followed the news of the Apple announcement not on the TV so much as it was covered and commented on on the big new stations, But on my laptop, watching live streaming coverage by a number of websites, and web news venues, cheifly My favorite, Leo Leporte and his gang at TWIT.TV. Leo was actually in the convention center and saw the Steve Jobs presentation and afterwards was able to go and see and play with the demo units they had set up for the press. They then did live discussions with many of the people who were there for quite a while before Leo headed home. All of this was streamed and shown live . I don't remember the exact number they had watching at one time but it was huge, 2-3 times more then they had figured on. This not the first time they have done live remote streaming of events. In fact they were at CES in Los Vegas earlier this month, for 4 days straight and streamed and did live overage, and did several of the regular TWIT network shows live from the CES floor. What he had done on a relatively small budget is bring as good in some cases better coverage of events like CES and The Apple doings today to an audience who care what is happening, and given them the news they wanted when they wanted it.

So this was a news day in several ways, while Leo was covering Apple, He was interviewed by a reporter from I believe it was Fox , which was streamed to us right along with everything else.

So now all of the pundits can stop guessing and betting on whats it got,, they can now guess about the future of the Apple IPad.

Ken Lawson

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010;... The Year of Living Dangerously

As the year and decade come to a close it is time to consider how far technology has evolved over the last ten years. It’s hard to remember where we were back then.

In the last ten years, I've had probably four different computers and on the third laptop, each one more powerful and more capable , and cheaper than the last one. Other technology has evolved over the last ten years. To go into the many changes would be redundant: as many other places are comparing then and now, better than I ever could.

The state of Media has been in flux for the several year as the big media companies struggle to find a balance between traditional broadcast style programming and distribution, and new venues and uses of their content.

They are finding that a mix of new and old content seems to be a draw. Sites like have done surprisingly well, combining a mix of both new and classic TV content. To many, they have set the bar for on-line streaming of video content. Various other network site have offered streaming media with mixed results. The media/content producers are desperately trying not to repeat the mistakes the record industry made with DRM on music and MP3s. Yet they want to continue to control how "their" media is used and how the consumer, their customers who put them in business, in the first place. Something they seemed to have forgotten.

In the way of physical media, VHS tapes have come and gone, DVDs are still here, although they compete with High Definition disc ,which we went through another "war' over deciding which format was to be the default format. Blu-ray won. The price of Blu-ray HD DVD players has come down, however it has to come down to DVD player levels to help it really take over.

However, delivery methods have evolved over the last several years. No longer is going to the DVD rental store and then having to remember to return the movie needed. Physical movie rental has all but disappeared in many areas.

With the mass adaptation of broadband, online means of delivery have taken over as more and more products that connect to the consumers local wireless network and allow for streaming of movies and other content either from the consumers local networked media, or from other online sources such as Netfliks, or Amazon and other Video on Demand sources.

For many years the line between traditional production media and web produced content has been a barrier for the growth of user-created content, which is what the vast majority of on line content is. Everything from YouTube video of silly people being silly, to semi-presesionall podcasts produced with a minimum of production standards. To original creative story productions. All of this content was confined to the computer. Getting to watch this content on any other screen was a challenge for even serious geeks. That was then; This is now; Now more and more machines are come through with options to hook directly to a new HD TVs either through a regular monitor connection that is on almost all new TVs, and some new laptops have HDMI out ports on them allowing them to plug into a free HDMI input on any HD TV. Web content is also being made available on a variety of platforms, ranging from "web Enabled" TVs to Blu-ray player that connect to your local wireless network, many will allow to use your Netflick on demand to stream movies directly over your network and through the player to your TV. What is meant by Web enabled is that the TV has what are called widgets built into the TV software that allow for a limited access of the net through your TV.

Other platforms have also emerged ranging from game consoles both the Sony PS3, and the Microsoft X-Box 360 both allow for access to the web in different foms, The Wii also allows for general web browsing through its Opera browser, which works good, but doesn't support the newest versions of flash, thus making it useless for watching anything other than YouTube which is built into it natively, Hopefully this will change soon, However it does work good for checking web based e-mail and the like.

Over the last several years, a number of company's both hardware, and content produces has come out with various set-top boxes the bridge the gap between the traditional TV screen and the computer screen along with several programs to turn a computer into a TV tuner and DVR. Also many cable and satellite companies now offer DVRs built into their set-top boxes. A product that I am particularly excited about is a box from Roku. They have a small set-top box the hooks up to your TV, and connects to your local network either wirelessly or wired. What this allows you to do is to tie your Netflicks account to the box, and then stream any of the movies in your queue to your TV via their box. Also Amazon on Demand has their content available though their box. Amazon offers both rental and movies to by as well as shows. Also as a side note MLB is also on there to. If you want to subscribe to their content. If you don't use Amazon, Netflicks, or MLB. the box cost you nothing. But it was pretty useless with at least a Netflicks account tied to it. Now there is more content available. Many web only services are now offering their content on the Ruku Box. They have offer what they call the channel store which offer a variety of free content. All streamed directly from the web. The list includes, Pandora, music streaming, FaceBook, Mediafly, Frame Channel, Flicker, MotionBox,, Revision3, and my favorite, Suddenly this become a really interesting box to connect to the TV, and bring in content that had been stuck on the computer.

Speaking of getting content off the web and into other venues; Mediafly is a big player in that regard. They make their content available to most portable platforms, iphone/ipod, and many smartphones such as the Blackberry, and any platform that can at least either download or stream audio, most will do audio and video content.

All of this merging of different types of content and media may leave one wondering what’s next. That is a interesting question. It’s impossible to say for sure who going to do what and in what format they will do it. I know of several different approaches to bring different media to platforms to which it has not been traditionally available . The mixing of platforms has traditional media content producers and distributors looking for ways to monetize their content.. without giving up control.. and still keep the consumer happy,,,

2009, and the decade before it brought about many changes. Many of these changes are still being felt now. The changes in 2009 will be helping to shape the digital future. Apple and I-tunes changed the look of music, and how and where it is played and how and where one can get it. TV and other media are going through the evolution as the music industry did during the last decade. Watching how this plays out will be interesting.