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Only One

Mike Petrucci in his post "Only One":

Some things cost more because they’re worth more. Buy accordingly.

Yup, good words to live and shop by in this economy of buy buy buy.

Waking up to Music

Many years ago I used to wake up to music slowly rising in volume from my BoomBox (something like the JVC Kaboom) as an alarm. You would select a song, set the time and a few minutes before your selected time, the music would start to play. First on the lowest volume setting and as it would continue to rise until you either hit snooze or play (as far as I remember) to keep the music going at a decent volume.

I loved it as there were many times I didn't feel like getting up but the music would get me going, singing along or just wanting to get up and dance. Yes, dancing the minute you wake is a good feeling on days you can.

Today Pandora released a radio station alarm clock update to their iOS app. Although the song chosen will be a random one and maybe not one I might want to listen to first thing in the morning, I'll be giving it a try. I however don't like the fact that I will have to leave my screen on overnight just to use it.

Hopefully I can go back to waking up to music in the morning again.

The Next Generation of Gaming

This year, both Sony and Microsoft will release their next generation gaming console. I am looking forward to seeing exactly what features they will add besides faster CPUs and GPUs. One such reported feature is cloud gaming

CLOUD GAMING

Excerpt from an article in the Guardian:

Last year Sony spent $380m on the California-based company Gaikai, which has developed a cloud-based technology that lets users play as games are streamed over the internet. Microsoft has hinted that the new Xbox will support cloud-based gaming.
It is likely, then, that both next-gen consoles will offer something akin to Spotify for games, allowing players to stream or download new titles in exchange for a monthly subscription.

This is a great idea particularly for gaming, although it is widely dependent on bandwidth. I do however like the idea of being able to also play games on mobile devices via a cross-platform system. The issue though is that both Sony and Microsoft hope to tie it to their respective mobile and handheld platforms such as Xperia, Vita and Windows phones. 

This is a big mistake. why? The main reason is they will be forgoing a large number of mobile device users on Android and iOS. The lure of being able to play their playstation or xbox game on their phone will not be enough to make them switch to an Xperia or Windows phone. 

MOVING FORWARD

I am not suggesting that they just give up, but that they consider alternatives. If Apple does open up the Apple TV to gaming through an SDK, they will most likely win the mobile (and possibly home) gaming market by share size of users alone. What Sony and Microsoft need to do is open up their platform significantly. 

Imagine if when you buy a Playstation and pay a monthly fee, you get access to the best games in the world on your mobile device possibly by using the Gaikai technology. However in order to add a non-Xperia or Vita device to your account, you would have to pay an additional fee a month. 

This fee will be shared with the mobile network providers for unlimited game streaming/downloading separate from your mobile account.

Here is how such a system could work by splitting local gaming at home and gaming on the go:

LOCAL GAMING

At home with your console, you can either buy the full disk version from a store or download the entire game over your internet connection. As you play and without prompt, your basic game data such as how many lives you have left, how many things you have collected and how far you along you are etc. are saved. When you are done playing or if something comes up, you can just turn off the game and go.

MOBILE GAMING

When on the go with your device, there would be a two options depending on choices made by the game developers and how graphically intense the game is.

Streaming

If the game is graphically intense and therefore hard to run on certain mobile devices, you can connect to the game in the cloud and continue from exactly where you left off at home. As long as you are connected to the internet, the game will continue to stream and you will not be charged any extra data from your wireless provider.

Download

If the game is not so graphically intense, it can be scaled down (or a specific mobile version can be developed) to work seamlessly with all the same game features and downloaded as an in-app download tied to your mobile device app.

For example, Sony would have a Playstation mobile app that allowed in-app downloads of games you purchased for your console or vice versa. Once downloaded, you start from wherever you left off. Since the basic data is saved in the cloud, it updates your account and you continue playing the game on your phone or mobile device and can immediately pick up from there when you get home and want to play on the bigger screen. 

Level by Level

Developers could also allow for downloads of each stage separately to reduce game sizes for mobile devices. This way, you can download only the level you are on and maybe the next level till you pass that level. As you play, each subsequent level will be downloaded while you play the current level allowing you to play the next-level even if you lose internet connection but lower the space required if the entire game is large.

GAMES

Mini Games

This could also allow developers the ability to add new levels online for game upgrades, or even when building a continuous story game that continues over many years, build shorter mini-games in between that can be downloaded and keep users entertained before the next epic version is released. 

Social Games

Social games could also be easily shared as someone on their mobile device could play against someone on their home console head to head.

SUMMARY

Sony and Microsoft are entering a battle for the next-gen gaming console. One that will continue to be profitable and they are about to lose if they don’t make changes to their plans. They are choosing a shrinking market instead of going after an expanding market. 

Both Android and iOS are dominating the gaming market, but just imagine if they developed this gaming platform that could work on multiple devices and build on game epics allowing people to play any game they want when they want as long as they have the console and pay monthly for access to that content. Imagine what happens when the Android gaming consoles come out and all they need is the Playstation or Xbox app to play the same games.

Developers will flock to the system as there will be a larger number of people buying games, even if they only buy the mobile versions. A Platform that has the ability to be mobile will win in the long run.

 

What is User Experience

user experience is not pretty logos, lovely web design or rounded corners. A smile is a user experience and so is an honest and candid reply to a tweet. Experience is not just physical.  It is delivering happiness across as many touch points as often and as frequently as possible, is the ultimate user experience. - Om Malik

I am currently learning a lot about user experience and though the focus has been on physical and digital products, this quote perfectly sums things up for me. Along with a previous quote on what is a product, are now the two most important ideals in building a successful company with a successful product.

The Redemption of Distraction

Perhaps we ought to get over our cultish demonization of distractions so that we can effectively utilize them. Perhaps we would benefit from instituting better distractions — not necessarily less of them.

Interesting take on the power of better distractions. Read the last paragraph of the article on using them properly (or at least trying to).

How We Learn

Most people are put off by success because they don’t think they can make it. We all make excuses because we’re scared of what’s on the other side, but it’s important to take risks—even if we fail—because that is how we learn.
— Lara Jade

On That Low Cost iPhone

According to the recent rumors (again), a Low Cost iPhone is finally headed to the market this year. However, unlike in the past I do believe the cheap iPhone is coming this time for one reason only. 

T-Mobile is rumored to get the new iPhone and they are getting rid of subsidies. Yes Apple currently sells unlocked iPhones, but I do not believe T-Mobile expects people to pay the current iPhone full price and gain a large market share. The timing just fits perfectly. Only time will tell if the rumors end up being true.

Roku Is Doing It Right

Roku just struck a deal with Time Warner Cable to stream their television selection to their Roku boxes through an app. As the fight for the living room continues, adding Cable streaming to these TVs or boxes as I mention in rethinking the television will be key to who wins this fight.

Apple and Google better be working on similar deals but with all the major cable players before Roku beats them to the punch. 

A New Model for Music Distribution

Elliot Jay Stocks is carrying out an experiment on distributing his upcoming music next year based on the following suggestion

musicians, I suggest this: release small and often. Put out a track — or small collections of tracks like EPs — on a regular basis. Seed them directly to your fans. Release sketches and demos and rough mixes and experiments. We no longer need to toil away for months or years at a time crafting a ‘finished’ album, because digital media — by its very nature — has destroyed the hitherto-held understanding of what ‘finished’ really is...
What this means is that everyone gets the same product — and that product is actually a series of regular digital releases and one physical release — but the earliest supporters get the reward of having to pay very little.

In this age of digital experimentation and pushing the boundaries in distribution mediums, music is only still in its early stages unlike magazine publishing which seemed to be the first to push through said boundaries thanks to tablet devices. 

I like what Elliot is doing, but I do agree with him that it will be hard to scale such a system. There will always be a need for a body willing to support new acts due to the high cost of recording said music. New acts usually do not have the required initial funds to get in a studio and record their first few tracks let alone an album. Using Kickstarter is great, but again only if enough people have heard your music previously and believe in you enough to pay early for your music and the perks attached. 

I do however completely agree with Elliot that the concept of the album is dead. This is why subscription music is so popular as it give you access to a whole bunch of singles whenever you want. I doubt most people listen to whole albums at a time (although I have no data to back it up except for my own usage of such services). 

I especially like this quote from Elliot

As a maker and publisher of any form of content that can be consumed — but most importantly distributed — digitally, freeing oneself of the business models inherited (by default) from the physical world is perhaps the most liberating step one might take.

I feel however that the real change in music will come when it is cheap to make and record a song or album (I thought it was already with the likes of things like Garageband but with artists still needing large advances, I must be wrong). As this cost reduces, more and more artists will be able to afford making music on their own and with the digital distribution already in place, they will be able to start lean like any other startup and hope they make it to critical mass.

I will be watching to see how his experiment plays out. Good luck Elliot

Television is Going Mobile

In my last post I mentioned how the iPad might be the future of television and slowly, this seems to be coming true, at least for local television.

ELGATO

EyeTV_Mobile_iPad_iPhone.jpg

Elgato recently launched the EyeTV Mobile that allows you to watch live network television on your iPad without using your data plan. You connect a compact tuner and use the EyeTV app on your device. It's that simple. This is only available in certain markets currently, so check coverage before you buy. 

DYLE

The signal is provided by Dyle.tv who also recently partnered with Samsung to build a phone with the tuner directly built-in allowing for live TV anywhere. Check out the video here to see it in action.

WHAT NEXT - CABLE TV

The compact tuner is getting smaller and as more markets are covered, mobile devices will all begin to have this built-in. That leaves only the cable television frontier to be captured on a mobile device and this is where I see the current mobile wireless companies at an advantage.

Imagine Verizon and AT&T providing a mobile plan that allows you to stream certain cable TV channels directly to your mobile device over their LTE networks that doesn't count against your data cap if you are also a subscriber to their cable TV service. If LTE really improves streaming performance, how many people would pay extra to have access to what they have at home while on the go? Or at least to their certain favorite channels or shows.

This is already happening in some ways with channels providing apps that require authentication in the app like WatchESPN or HBO GO. However, these count against your data cap reducing the amount of times you actually use it.

The future is mobile and the mobile companies need to find ways to take advantage of the need for television on the go. 

In Your Hands

Mark Hall the creator of the Showyou on the future of the television

But the thing that is currently, actually starting to disrupt television arrived 20 months ago. As soon as we got our hands on the iPad in April 2010, it was clear that it was the future of entertainment.
The tablet is doing for video what the iPod did for music, giving us more control than any other device over what we watch, and where and when we watch it

In investigating where the disruption will come from in television, I have been hearing more and more about how the iPad is replacing peoples television usage. Maybe this is where the change will really come from.

Shine Activity Tracker

Just yesterday I talked about how I was going to get the Jawbone UP and then today I saw this and changed my mind.

1_shine.jpg

The Shine wireless activity monitor by Misfit Wearables is a brand new and unique activity tracker just like the UP that only shows you how close you are to reaching your activity goal for the day. It is beautifully crafted from aluminum and looks very durable.

Unique Sync Function

The Shine has a magical way of syncing with the iPhone just by launching the corresponding app and placing it on the phone screen. No bluetooth pairing or wires. Go to 0:50 in the video to see it in action.

That is definitely an innovative way to sync. Much more clever than the UP which I previously thought was great. 

Get yours by funding manufacturing on indiegogo

The New Jawbone UP

The Jawbone UP is back and well, looks exactly the same. I had the original UP and it failed on me like it did for a lot of people. Even with that knowledge, I plan to get the new UP as I really enjoyed using it when it worked.

The new UP seems to have been tested a lot more and is promised to not have the same issues as the previous version. They also added new colors and some new features like a power nap feature. 

The new UP is available starting November 14.

Netflix Account Management

Netflix has a small problem in my mind that continues to ruin their suggestions of what to watch and therefore their customer experience. 

What is the problem? 

SHARING

Netflix allows multiple customers to share one account. Thats great, but imagine for a second that in a family you have the dad who watches hardcore action movies, the wife who watches romantic comedies, the teens who watch twilight and the kids who watch animation movies. Under the one account system, the algorithm mixes all these up and continues to suggest the wrong movies. One example could be the latest twilight movie suggested to dad who just wants to watch action movies.

what is a possible solution?

SUB-ACCOUNTS

Within the login system, the user should be allowed to pick a sub-account that focuses more on their choices and better improves the movie suggestions for that person. Dad launches Netflix and selects his profile from a list created for the users sharing the account. This can be set to a default account such as mums account is default on her phone app, or no default (at home) allowing users to always choose upon launch. 

Transient

Such a system would tremendously improve the suggested movies and TV shows for each individual sharing an account. 

Rethinking the Television

2013 could be the year of the Television. Although that remains to be seen, there is a lot of competition for who will rule the coveted living room and the Television is at the center of the it all. In thinking about this, I decided to write about what it would take to rethink the television. 

Although the television has been relatively unchanged, in recent years there has been advances in the display and the addition of internal software. This addition of internal software has opened up the television in ways that were not previously possible. Google tried to revolutionize the TV with their Google TV, but missed a few key features that has kept them from dominating the market. Lets look at what and how the TV is used today to understand it a bit more.

TELEVISION OF TODAY

The main use of a television is to consume video content in one or a combination of ways. Today, in order to consume this content a customer must add various other accessories and services with the aim to build the ultimate home theatre system. Let’s first look at it from the current user stories of customers based on the content they want to watch and what they need.

CONTENT & ACCESSORIES

Broadcast Television:  This involves adding an antenna to capture the High definition broadcasts available today. 

Cable Television: This involves buying service from a cable TV provider and plugging in their proprietary box. This comes with its own remote and functions like DVR functionality. If you have cable however, you also get the standard broadcast channels eliminating the need for an additional antenna.

Internet: Recent televisions are now internet ready and can stream various content over the web directly such as movies through Netflix, videos through YouTube, video calls through Skype and so on. This also allows for browsing the internet while watching TV and following social media streams.

Movies: This involves buying and adding an accessory device such as a Blu-Ray player, Media PC, Apple TV,  Playstation, Xbox, Google TV, Roku etc. to your television. Recently, you can also stream movies directly from your internet ready TV through various apps like Hulu and Netflix. If using an accessory device, this adds another remote to the mix. 

Sound: In order to get the “High Definition” sound that is part of the home theatre package, you also need to add an accessory receiver and speakers. This device takes all your device input and allows you to have the perfect surround sound system. Using this accessory requires another remote and is usually a hassle for most customers to pick as there are too many choices and not enough distinction between one or another.

Overall, the key point here is that buying a television today is only the beginning. To enjoy your television, you need another multitude of services, devices and especially remotes. This adds up to more wires, money spent and inevitable ruins the customer satisfaction and experience when you need three different remotes to watch your content. 

TELEVISION OF TOMORROW

The goal of the television should be to allow the customer access to their content with the most amount of ease. This means transforming it into a single device eliminating setup issues, wires, accessories and especially remotes. With that in mind, lets look at the reinvented TV with a focus on the above uses

Broadcast Television: The Reinvented TV needs to have both the digital decoders and antenna built-in. A customer should at the very least be able to buy a TV, take it home, plug it in and have access to high definition broadcast television without every having to plug-in an external antenna. This is both an issue with signal strength and device location and should be dealt with from both sides. The use of channel numbers also needs to be eliminated. Punching in 2-1 on a remote to get HD CBS should be eliminated to just pushing a button on a customizable touchscreen remote.

Cable Television:  The Reinvented TV will come with built in cable tuners/decoders for each provider through a partnership. Each provider with a proprietary box will have their decryption technology built directly into the television and customers will pick their TV based on their supposed cable provider. This may introduce an indirect lock-in to a particular provider, but the option could be provided to have their decryption technology available via a software selection. There is always the possibility of providing built-in cable apps for partner providers. Select the one you want, sign up for a package and start watching using your email address and TV identification number as your identifier. This is also beneficial to the providers as they eliminate the handling of their cable boxes which they rent to users hopefully eliminating part of their costs.

AT&T U-verse for example already has a streaming cable box that does not need to be plugged directly into the wall, and recently you can watch your live cable TV through your Xbox. Applying this concept to an internal integrated TV simply means integrating the cable box into a TV. Since most users bundle their internet and cable TV service, only one box needs to be plugged into the wall anywhere in the house and all watching is done via streaming.

Internet: Just like many current Televisions, the Reinvented TV will come with the latest wireless technology allowing for streaming and more.

Movies: This should come as no surprise but online movie rentals and streaming services are available to fill the requirements of a growing number of people. Blu-ray sales are dropping as more people move to digital media. However, for those who still want Blu-Ray and DVDs, an accessory player will be sold that doesn’t need any cables to connect to the TV but uses a streaming mechanism eliminating the need for wires. This includes hard drive based accessories where users can store their content and stream directly from there for digital purchases.

Sound: The Reinvented TV will have the ability to stream sound to capable speakers eliminating wires and allowing for convenient and easy placement of speakers anywhere. 

REINVENTED

The TV of the future will have almost no additional wired input, removing the hassle of setup. It will be light, thin and contain the fastest processors. In fact, it will be a stripped down computer with a HD display powering software that allows for access to available content anywhere from within the home to online on the internet. It will easily connect to accessories without cables and be able to talk directly to them using the same remote. 

THE REMOTE

The remote will need to be capable of taking various formats and button configurations depending on the accessory device or app being used. This will have to be a touchscreen device that contains minimal software built as a companion to each accessory and app. For more see my previous concept the Apple TV Remote.

THE CUSTOMER STORY OF TOMORROW

A customer decides they want a new TV and walks into a store. There they see a Television linked to their internet service provider. They pick up the TV and go home. They connect the power and turn on the TV where they sign in using their email and setup a profile. 

Once completed, they select between simple broadcast or cable television. If broadcast, the TV tunes all available channels and the user has a remote showing the channels with touchscreen buttons. No numbers to remember, just channels by name and current showing content. If cable TV, they sign up right there using their email (automatically loading their profile), television identification number and internet provider. Once completed, the necessary software is loaded over the internet to the TV and remote. In a few minutes, the customer is watching the latest cable TV content.  

When the customer decides they want a more sophisticated sound system, they buy a set of speakers that automatically connects to the TV and uses a software application to complete setup. There are no wires involved and the customer can easily place the speakers where ever they want with only power as the main consideration.

SUMMARY

The future of Television is an all-in-one device with an internal hard drive, installed OS software, in/out streaming technology with a touchscreen adaptable remote.

Next post, I will look at how Apple has slowly worked to achieving the television of the future, along with possibilities for competitors.