Tag - apple

Viewers prefer free TV to ad-free (or, Survey uncovers huge market for paid TV)

Macsurfer recently carried a link to a recent study published by a TV industry publishing company which poo-poos the whole buy-video-content-for-your-iPod thing:

When asked if they missed their favourite TV show and could watch it online or order it through cable or satellite, 62% of the 800 respondents contacted by phone in November said they would prefer getting it for free with commercials. Just 17% would choose to pay US$1.99 to avoid commercials, although 21% were undecided, researchers Points North Group and Horowitz Associates revealed.

“Video downloads for US$1.99 will have limited appeal. Consumers will grow tired of having their credit cards charged US$1.99 every time they download a rerun of CSI,” said Craig Leddy, a Points North Group analyst.

In the coveted demographic of consumers aged 18 to 34, 68% chose free, ad-supported shows, against 26% who favoured paying, and only 5% were undecided.

If you read between the lines and perform a simple calculation, you’ll find that what they’re actually saying is that there are 75-85 million people in North America who are willing to pay for commercial-free downloadable and saveable TV.

Interesting! That sounds like a pretty large market to me.

The question is, who sponsored this research? And why?

Seems obvious, doesn’t it … old media dinosaurs, or hangers-on of those dinosaurs, who are seeing another comfortable niche start to get eaten away.

Architectural design on Mac OS X

I’m sort of in the market for a design tool that will let me have some fun with home design and architecture, and there are two tools that appear interesting right now.

One is Microspot Interiors. Looks very cool – you see it in action via a demo movie. A bit pricy, perhaps, at about 120 Euros.

The other is much more an architectural imagineering app. Sketchup is an extremely powerful tool to create and manipulate incredibly detailed 3-D mock-ups. Once you’ve made it, you can fly through it in a QuickTime movie, see shadows at various times of the day, and much more. It’s also not cheap, but since I’m a student (getting my Master’s part-time) I can pick it up for $50.

As I try these two apps out, I’ll post more impressions.

How to slow Mac OS X down to a crawl

Most people are looking to have a faster operating system.

Which is why I was more than a little concerned when the dreaded spinning beach ball (Max OS X’s progress indicator) was appearing with somewhat frightening regularity lately.

The slowdown was fairly global, but was especially noticeably in Mail as I was entering email addresses. Like most email applications, Mail lets you enter just the first few letters of an email address, and then auto-completes it if it’s one that you’ve used before. Unfortunately in my case, Mail was taking tens of seconds or longer to find matches.

Then I happened to check my Energy-saving preferences. Lo and behold, “put hard disk to sleep when possible” was checked. I know I didn’t check it, so it must have been the update to Mac OS X 10.4.4 that reset this preference:

slow-down-mac-osx.jpg

I’m sure this is only one of many possibilities, but if your Mac is slow lately … you might want to check this preference.

Apple worth more than Dell

If you thought you’d never live to see the day … well, so did a lot of other people. APPL is now worth more than DELL.

And even though it’s probably more a factor of multiples and stock trends, maybe a little bit of bearishness on the commodity-type of business that Dell runs, and is probably not going to be a permanent state of affairs, it’s still pretty cool.

But if Apple can sustain its product momentum, and not get tied up in legal battles, politics, and distracting battles, it has a decent chance of going from man-bites-dog news to yesterday’s news.

(Kudos to MacDailyNews for the link.)

Firefox = crappy typography?

I’d like to use Firefox more. I honestly would.

But when I get stuff like this, I really, really don’t feel like it.

firefox-ugliness.png

There is not a bold or a strong or a css class tag anywhere in that paragraph.

Firefox has stronger compatibility across the entire web. There are occasional sites that do not display or behave in Safari, and so Firefox is necessary. And, since I use WordPress to blog, and Firefox has better compatibility with rich-text editing and other web 2.0 features, Firefox is handy to have around.

But aesthetics is important. And Firefox isn’t even in that race, Safari’s so far out front.

Intrapreneur

Guy Kawasaki is good. I mean really, really, really good.

I started reading his blog almost as soon as he started writing it because … well, the Kawasaki chic, right? The ineffable aura of Apple coolness, even ex post facto. And the attractive seductiveness of a venture capitalist, one of those magical beings that bestow money on mere mortals.

Then, of course, my hard drive crashed, and I lost all my RSS feeds, bookmarks, etc., and I kind of forgot about Guy. (I sure hope he pronounces that as rhyming with bee, by the way. That’s the Only Right Way™.) That was a mistake.

He recently hit my radar screen again, just as I was starting a revisioning process in Premier home & family, my baby. And he’s not going to drop off it, this time.

Today I spent a chunk of time on his blog, and what really caught my eye this time was this article about intrapreneurship … being an entrepreneur within a large organization.

It’s not easy, you know. Those Aerons aren’t nearly as comfortable as they’re cracked up to be. (Umm … small joke. I only wish …)

Here’s his list of to-do’s for intrapreneurs:

  • kill the cash cows
  • reboot your brain
  • find a separate building
  • hire infected people
  • put the company first
  • stay under the radar
  • collect and share data
  • dismantle when done

Read his post for details – it’s worth your time.

The toughest one, of course, is killing the cash cows. This is the standard innovator’s dilemma: I’m making millions from buggy whips … how can I go to making thousands on automobile tires?

The reality is that somehow, most companies have to transition their mainline showcase products every decade or so as time and technology obsolete them. The hardest part is going from being the ultimately adapted lean mean king of your (diminishing but still very profitable) space to being just one of the contenders, not too well adapted, not lean, not mean, and probably not even as profitable – at least at first. The urge to protect is so strong and so (seemingly) natural that most companies never make it onto the next curve.

Intrapreneurship might just be the way for dinosaurs to evolve.

The alternative is Sony-fication. Walkman, anyone?

Removing titles from OmniOutliner printed documents

OmniOutliner is an excellent Mac OS X app for outlining and organizing just about any kind of information.

It’s intuitive, powerful, and elegant, but there’s one thing that annoyed me about it: it insisted on printing the title of each document at the top of the document.

This totally violates the WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) principle, since the title, of course, does not appear on the screen while you’re building your document.

After trying in vain to find a way to undo this via the app’s preferences, and then searching in vain for support information on this, I emailed support, and (after a couple of iterations) got this answer:

If you’d like all new documents to print without headers & footers do the following:

* open the preferences
* Press Edit New Document Template
* Open Page Setup in the document that appears
* Select the OmniOutliner option from the Settings pull-down
* uncheck the headers & footers option
* Press Ok and save the template

Now all new documents will have that options disabled. Follow the same instructions for any existing documents and that option will be saved with them. Let me know if you have any more questions.

OK.

Now, I’m happy that my document titles, which are intended for my view and my use, primarily to help me find them back on my computer, etc., are not appearing on the public, printed, presented final form of my work.

But should you really have to go through that much labor to take something off that shouldn’t be there in the first place?

In any case, if anyone else searches Google in frustration after trying to rid OmniOutliner of its omnipresent titles in printed form, hopefully they’ll find this article and be able to do it!

Apple home theatre: PLEASE!!!

There are a number of spoof and joking rumors running around the internet about Apple’s plans in home entertainment: plasma displays, or all-in-one HDTV, etc., etc..

Well, it may just be a spoof right now, but Steve, we NEED Apple to make home theatre systems.

I recently bought a Harmon Kardon AVR 240 for home stereo, primarily. It’s for upstairs. But downstairs, our “home-theatre-in-a-box,” which is a JVC XV-THA5, is currently giving up the ghost. Or, not giving it up.

It simultaneously refuses to read DVDs and refuses to eject them until it’s read them. The result is predictable … and, for a unit that’s both the receiver and the DVD player, not good. Not good at all.

So I’m wondering if we need a new mini home theatre system as well.

But getting into that market again is horrific. The acronyms! The wires! The connections! The protocols! It seems almost impossible to put together a simple system. Interfacing the TV, the VCR, DVD player, satellite box, receiver, and the 6 or 7 speakers is a nightmare.

Apple could do amazing things with this market.

For instance, why are there 15 different types of connections? Optical connections, coaxial, speaker wire (15 different types right here), component cables, you name it. In fact, why on earth does a DVD player have to have separate cables for left audio, right audio, and video? I mean, what earthly reason, besides “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” is there?

Give me one kind of cable to connect everything. Make it smart, so it knows when stuff is connected – or when a piece is missing. Give me one device which is a PVR, digital cable (or satellite) receiver, HDTV tuner, DVD player, and possibly VCR (for legacy use) all in one.

Let me connect it to my TV with one cable. And let me connect my speakers to it with one cable, or wirelessly.

Make sure it tunes itself. It should know where its speakers are (just like Bose solutions) and adjust volume between the channels automatically. Give me one power button for the whole set-up.

Stick an Apple logo on it, and watch it fly off shelves.

[ update Jan. 10 ]

This is interesting … Apple-branded HDTVs?.

Thunderbird better than OS X’s Mail?

Downloaded and installed Thunderbird today, and configured it for two of my 5 email addresses.

I’m a little put out with OS X’s Mail … it’s a beautiful but sometimes too ditzy blond.

My main problem right now is that Mail’s autocompletion of email addresses that you start typing seems buggy: Mail will lock up and give me the dreaded spinning beach ball every fourth or fifth address. I send a TON of mail, but this is crazy.

Not sure if I’m going to stick with Thunderbird as my main emailer … this is stricly a trial balloon.

Taxing the iPod economy II

I wrote about Apple’s first moves towards taxing the iPod peripheral market earlier this year.

Turns out the market is now worth over $300 million. Over 1000 devices interoperate with, improve, add functionality to, or otherwise interface with iPods.

And this is just the beginning.

But I still think that Apple should go softly in their attempts to benefit from this huge market. Let this whirlwind grow: it feeds a virtuous cycle that promotes more iPod and iTunes Music Store sales.

Die Haxies Die

Some guy presumably named Bynk has written a bellyaching article complaining about haxies.

Sounds like he’s in IT support, and has has tons of fun trying to fix pointy-haired bosses’ computers after they’ve installed a haxie or two. A haxie is (IMO) an application that futzes with the underlying operating system. In a sense, it’s not an app but a meta-app.

In the same way that an OS enables applications, a haxie enables user interface enhancements. (Or just UI eye candy.) Some give you easier ways to access applications. Some change the way that you manage files. And some just sing a little song, replace the desktop with blinking lights, and turn your mouse into a Christmas tree.

I have to say I’m pretty much totally in agreement with the Bynkster.

After a couple of nasty experiences with OS upgrades, crashes, and general nastiness, I swore off haxies a couple of years ago. It’s just not worth the hassle.

There’s no way an operating system manufacturer, whether it’s Apple or Microsoft, can possibly take all actual and potential OS hacks into consideration when updating or patching. There’s just too much.

And so, if your haxie does break anything when you update your OS – as you will, from time to time – guess what: your haxie itself will break. And then you have to update it, reinstall it, upgrade it.

Thanks, but no thanks.

I have a computer to enable, not disable me. It’s to help me to do stuff that otherwise I can’t do. It’s not an end in itself. And therefore I require it to just work.

Which is why I run MacOS X. And why I don’t use haxies.

Puretracks: Record labels Forced Mac Incompatibility

A couple weeks ago, Mike Skovgaard and I went to Vancouver Enterprise Forum.

One of the speakers was Geoff Hansen from RocketBuilders, who happens to sit on the board of Puretracks, the music service that (he said) has more more market share in Canada than Apple’s iTunes.

Puretracks is also in the US, and other markets, I believe, but in most instances users of its services would have no idea that they are using Puretracks, since the company licenses its software for other companies to use to build their own online music stores. For instance, if memory serves, Geoff said that Coke’s music site uses Puretracks technology.

The interesting thing that he mentioned was that when Puretracks was launching, a condition that the music labels required was that the site would not work for Macs.

Well.

Perhaps the labels, knowing that they’ve helped Apple create a juggernaut in the iTunes and iPod empire, are very, very leery of doing anything else that will support Macs. Or perhaps the labels’ contracts with Apple, worked out when the iTunes music store was only a dream of Steve, specifies that they will not allow other competitors to build music stores on the Mac platform.

The funny thing, of course, is that there is nothing inherently about the site that would disallow Macs. I browsed the site and added a bunch of albums to my shopping cart in Safari … simply by enabling Safari’s Debug menu and switching the reported user agent to MSIE 6:

puretracks on max OS X no problem

Previewing songs does require WMA, however. Mac users are not first-class citizens in the WMA world, but it is supported.

The question remains: why would the labels not want Puretracks to work on a Mac?

Update:
I originally (and mistakenly) thought Andre Charland was the speaker who talked about Puretracks. Apologies, Andre!

Thanks to the very youthful Michael Fergusson for setting me straight!

iTunes: a media distribution platform

I don’t think this story about Stanford University and Aple’s iTunes working together received the attention it deserved.

Basically, what they’ve done is create a version of iTunes that, instead of selling songs and videos, is full of Stanford lectures, speeches, sporting broadcasts, and more.

Essentially, this is a pilot project for potentially releasing all kinds of different iTunes-based media distribution platforms.

Imagine the possibilities for companies, universities … any organization with a large number of people that want any of a variety of types of content or media. iTunes provides a ready-made cross-platform distribution channel that puts you on the desktop of your community … while still providing all the internet-connected goodies: being able to update the application regularly and easily, being able to change featured items and add new content continuously, and, critically, being able to see what users are doing at any giving time.

Very, very cool.

I’m certain the value in having “your own” iTunes-style application will only be for very large organizations. Smaller groups and companies will be better served by participating in the scale that Apple has already achieved with iTunes.

But for large companies – with deep pocketbooks – this could be very, very enticing.

Windows Live …

on Mac OS X Safari …

window live on safari

… is not very live.

(It does work, however, on Firefox. “Work” being a somewhat relative term.)

Mac OS X 10.4.3

Well, I bravely updated our home iMac G5 to Mac OS X 10.5.3 today:

mac os x 10.4.3

I say bravely, because when I updated my PowerBook G4, restarting was a bit problematic. I had the spinning charcoal dashes for easily 15 minutes. Finally gave up, started again, gave up again and restarted again, and was trying to go into single-user mode, but fortunately was just a tad late with my Command-S. Third time was the charm, and it started up fine.

But the iMac G5 was routine. Install, restart, continue. No problems at all (such as those mentioned at Macintouch’s 10.4.3 report).

Jobsian quote

I like this Steve Jobs quote: “a technology in search of a problem.” Saw it here, and doesn’t it ring a bell when you look at some of the consumer electronics products available today ….

New iMac + iSight = Ultimate Security?

I just saw this tease of an intro at MacDevCenter.com:

Editor’s note: When I recently saw the new iMac with the iSight built in, it reminded me of a project we’ve been working on. In a nutshell, Matthew Russell and I have been talking about using the iSight to take and classify images, such as those of a user sitting at the iMac, so it knows who’s using it. (Face-sensing engines have been in the news lately.) Aside from being a cool hack, this possibly could used be in addition to your user password for authentication.

What a cool idea! Built-in face recognition used as part of a password/security approach to your computer.

I expect some hacker to come out with something like this some time after the intro of the new iMac, and some commercial company somewhere to build something similar shortly thereafter.

It should be fairly easy to tap into the built-in camera … hopefully Apple has already exposed some APIs. Then it’s a matter of running some pattern recognition (don’t you dare get a haircut or shave off your moustache or wear too much makeup) to make an intelligent estimate of whether or not the person sitting at the camera is an approved user or not.

That’s probably the hardest part of the app. But it is doable, has been done, and now that a camera is built right into the box, would seem to be a very cool way of securing a computer.

Bronfman: We want a piece

So Edgar Bronfman (the guy for whom the statement the best way to make a small fortune is to start with a big fortune could have been created) wants a piece of iPod sales:

Mr. Bronfman said the music industry should not have to use its content to promote the sale of digital music devices for Apple or anyone else, and not truly share in the profits.

“We are selling our songs through iPod, but we don’t have a share of iPod’s revenue,” he said. “We want to share in those revenue streams. We have to get out of the mindset that our content has promotional value only.

So he wants a piece of CD players too? What about car stereos? Maybe speakers? Speaker wire, for sure.

I don’t want to use the words that would adequately describe this jamoke on this website – my kids read it.

If you keep reading the Red Herring article that the above quote is from, you get this interesting piece:

“We have to keep thinking how we are going to monetize our product for our shareholders,” added Mr. Bronfman. “We are the arms supplier in the device wars between Samsung, Sony, Apple, and others.”

And we thought he was a music label. Interesting.

If I was a group, band, or artist in his label, and I was anything approaching a serious group (i.e. I wasn’t a pre-packaged air-brushed focus-grouped fluffy piece of nothing), I would get out fast.

Henrico County, Macs, PCs, and Education

PCs are cheaper, right? That’s why schools should buy them?

Hmmm …

The results from last year? IT service calls to the high school tripled from the year before. The IT office had to hire another full time tech and contract with an outside consultant to keep up with tech calls. After factoring in the cost of software to prevent virus, malware, and adware infection as well security software to prevent students from messing with the systems the Dell computers cost US$19 apiece less than the Macs the school system would have bought. That, of course, doesn’t count the extra personnel.

That’s part of a pleasant reverse migration story. Here’s a piece of another:

”It all sounds very familiar (my district has it its own Dell mess following heavy Mac use). Recently, one of our totally Wintel centric IT guys admitted that ‘we have wasted millions’ on all this Windows crap.”

Yay.

Education is always a few years behind business in terms of technology adoption. Maybe the realization that PCs are not actually cheaper in spite of initial appearances is taking a few years to seep in as well.

Audible.com & iPod: Down the iTubes

Well, there goes a great partnership.

I watched the Stevenote in which Jobs announced the new iPod Nano yesterday. And saw what I hadn’t heard earlier: that Harry Potter is on iTunes. J.K. Rowling is putting her annoyingly adolescent but immensely popular books on the iTunes music store in audiobook format.

Hmmm. Guess who has been a great Apple partner – and who is still promoting iPods left, right, and center?

Audible.com, that’s who.

The biggest and the best
Audible is the biggest name in audio books … and unsurprisingly, Audible is the first link when you google for ‘Audio book’. They’ve promoted iPods for years now.

audible.com and iPods

Not out of some strange altruistic impulse, of course. iPods are what most people are using to listen to audio books. Well, at least those who are regularly spending money on new audio books.

That’s why iPods are plastered all over Audible’s homepage. And why you get a free one when you sign up for Audible’s service.

Whole new ballgame
But now Harry Potter’s on the iTunes, um, music store …. and I’m betting it’s just the beginning. What, functionally, is the difference between recorded music and recorded books, to a computer? None.

iTunes could become the biggest audio book seller overnight, if the right contracts could be signed, the right legalities observed, the right priorities set.

Money, money, money
I’m not guessing that Apple’s in any hurry. After all, the audio book industry is a fraction, and probably a miniscule fraction, of the music industry.

However, the potential profits are bound to be MUCH better – audio books sell for $10-25 – and my guess is that Audible takes a very retail-like 30-50% of that. A little different than the pennies Apple makes on song sales!

Harry Potter today …
My guess is that Harry Potter is simply a test case. If it doesn’t take off, no big deal. Jobs will try anything, once.

But if the $249 audio book package sells, and sells hard, Apple has a success story to take to book publishers all over the world. Publishers who are concerned about declining book sales. Publishers who are looking for ways to jazz up their industry. Publishers who are going to be interested in new revenue streams. And publishers who see an opportunity to increase their own profits as well.

A high-profile success story would be just the thing to get the ball rolling and speed up all the contracts and formalities … to get the publishers pushing each other out of the way in their rush to sign a deal.

If I was Audible, I’d be very, very worried.

Hard drive fiasco

OK, it finally happened to me … my Powerbook G4 hard drive bit the dust, hard.

It’s certainly beyond the hope of recovery with software disk tools – Disk Utility was a joke, and DiskWarrior beat on it for a couple of hours before giving up in despair.

Losing a hard drive is nasty, nasty, nasty. The Powerbook is my main work machine, plus I had some personal stuff on there. The personal stuff is all OK – I recently backed up to our home iMac G5. That’s also where we store our photos, music, etc.

But my work files are another story.

Toast, toast, toast
We haven’t had a good backup system in place for 3-4 years at the location I (until recently) spent most of my time at. I’ve been asking (3 times in the last 6 months) but wouldn’t you know it: just as I walk in with my busted drive, one of our tech guys is putting the finishing touches on a back-up server for that location.

Ouch.

What I really need, since I’m pretty mobile, is one of those one-touch portable disk backups – the kind that you just connect via Firewire or USB, press a button, and it clones your drive.

There are two sitting on a tech guy’s shelf right now in our Bellingham location, and I’m kicking myself for not taking one. He’s giving it to me now though. Probably mostly out of pity.

Off to Calee-forn-ee-a
Anyways, the drive is off to a data recovery place in California – they should be able to recover most if not all of my stuff.

We could grab a few things off it when we bootted my PB in Firewire disk mode. It was agonizingly slow, meaning there’s real trouble with the disk, but we could get some of my most critical business files.

I’ve got to wait a week at least, though, to know for sure.

Lessons learned, I guess.

iTunes price increase: the story behind the story

So, the labels want more for their songs.

It’s well known that many record labels aren’t happy with the ‘one price fits all’ approach to digital music sales taken by iTunes, and there is speculation that when the contracts come up for renewal early next year some labels may not renew them unless Apple changes its pricing strategy.

Well, there may be a little more to it than that. Jonathan Schwarz posted the following:

I was with the Chief Executive of a music company recently, who told me how thrilled he was to have a growing percentage of his revenues being derived from digital distribution. But there was one caveat – 95% of the digital distribution came through one vendor’s product and service (guess which), the owner of which had let him know his royalty stream was being radically reduced, unilaterally, in a new contract. No negotiation.

It’s not too hard to put 2 and 2 together.

Jobs is unhappy with getting only 4 cents or so from each song downloaded from the iTunes music store. The labels are already raking in the dough by getting the lion’s share of the 99 cents, but they also want more, especially the ability to charge more for popular, in-demand, recent music.

Two groups I’m not sure are in the negotiations are the clients – everyone who buys music – and the artists. One thing’s for sure: this is the wrong time to be increasing the price. Paid digital music is very young yet, and increasing prices could stifle the newborn.

I have to say I trust Jobs more than the labels, which have proved themselves time and again as souless profiteers. And 4 cents a track for the retailer is ridiculous.

But starting a fight right now is in nobody’s best interests, which is why my prediction is that this will all blow over. The two positions are likely just initial bargaining points, from which both parties can devolve into something fairly similar to what exists right now.

Journalists or rumor mongers?

Umm … what gives with story leads like this: Apple blunder gives Gates iPod royalty?

The story is here. And here. And other places – it’s probably off the wire.

Now, the reporter knows that Microsoft isn’t claiming or getting any royalties on the iPod (yet).

She also knows – or should – that many patents are first rejected, then refined, resubmitted, and accepted. And finally, the reporter should also know that Microsoft filed the patent much later than Apple actually came out with the product … meaning that prior art exists and would be a strong deterrent to any royalty claim.

So the title of the article is patently bogus. It’s just a rabble-rousing, wolf-crying, attention-seeking, dishonest ploy.

[ update ]

Here’s a more complete summary.

Jargon watch – pod switching

New word: PodSwitching. Or phrase: pod switching.

The scenario: two people on a airplane, both pull out their iPods, and exchange them so they can check out each other’s music.