General

I Read Your Blog

It’s not a threat, but it’s probably a safe assumption. At least if we work togther, worked together, if you came in for a job interview, or if you interviewed me for a job, if we knew each other in college, if I met you at a conference or community activity, if you’re the new or old boss or employee of someone I worked with, if you’re a sibling, relative, or friend of any of these people, or maybe just if you live on this planet.

A while back, someone I know was shocked when a group of people started discussing several posts from their blog. Especially since that blog had been deleted a while ago, but was still showing up in web caches. They were a good sport about it, even while being ribbed about their personal elaborations on love and life. It was nothing personal – I think we’ve chatted about blog posts of virtually everyone in our office who has a blog at one time or another – this one just happened to be treated more like a diary than a blog.

I don’t read too many blogs of personal acquaintances with any regularity, but I regularly stumble upon the personal blog of people I know, some more often than others. It’s compelling to catch up on what they’re doing, what they’re interested in, and what they’re thinking. Most folks realize that blogged thoughts are not private thoughts. When discussing business and personal matters on my blog, I operate on the assumption that the person I’d least want to read the post is going to read it. That doesn’t mean we all have to blog boring, it just means to blog consciously, being intentional about the thoughts and details we share.

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Technology

iPhone – Will it blend?

A day late and a dollar short, I’m weighing in on Apple’s announcement of the iPhone, the smart phone/iPod combo. My overall opinion is fairly negative, but it was negative about the iPod too. Marketing can cover a myriad of sins. Some thoughts:

  • Cingular Exclusivity – word is that the exclusivity period is far from brief. Forcing customers to choose another company in order to choose your product makes earning their business that much harder. Tell me they couldn’t have had every U.S. wireless provider begging to carry this product to drive 2 year contracts and broader adoption of unlimited data plans.
  • Price Point – $500-600 with a 2 year contract? Insanity. If it’s a market-skimming price that will drop steadily, no worries. The rationale is that you combine a smart phone price ($300) with an iPod price ($200-300), and that’s what they’re charging for the combined device. Once again, they’re asking customers to think of this as making 2 concurrent purchasing decisions. Except that many of the folks I’d expect to want an iPhone already have an iPod with more capacity than this. I’ll be stunned if they can hit 1% market share without quintupling storage capacity or halving the price.
  • “Keyboard” – the keyboard is the touchscreen, no physical keys. Early reviews indicate this is indeed as sub-optimal as it sounds. Anyone who wants to use a smart phone for heavy email usage is going to prefer the tactile feedback and certainty of actual keys. If they get the price down, it IS a huge leap forward for the consumer market, which is used to the hideous process of typing words on a 9 digit keypad.
  • Chest-thumping – Margaret Thatcher once said, “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” I’d add “revolutionary” to that list, and man, was Jobs busy telling us (repeatedly) how revolutionary the iPhone is. Quit telling and just show it. This phone does very few things, feature wise, that my new Treo can’t do. But the same was true of the iPod – countless competitors had feature-complete mp3 players at lower prices. Apple succeeded in making the iPod a lifestyle brand, and the price difference didn’t matter. It’s tougher to do the same thing with a $500 phone that ties you to a 2-year contract with Cingular.

I have every reason to be an Apple fanboy – I used my first Mac almost 20 years ago, used Apple II computers in elementary school, but the gearhead in me tends to find that I don’t WANT the hand-holding that makes Apple products so appealing to so many. Even in the Mac SE/30 days, I resented that MacOS gave me its system errors are number codes (“Error 99”, and little extra info). That’s fine for a casual user who will only be confused by the extra info. For me, I like getting the full error message that lets me understand and fix the problem too. I like that my MP3 player has a slot that lets me upgrade the capacity whenever I want. At equal prices, I might buy Apple, but for a premium, usually not.

The iPhone doesn’t give me anything I want that I don’t already get from a Treo, Blackberry, or other smart phone. I foresee a product launch similar to the PS3, though more peaceful. Massive fanboy demand at launch, followed by widespread oversupply when the general public refuses buy into the uber-premium price. I think Apple could have launched a phone I would praise, but this isn’t it. Being Apple, perhaps their marketing will bail them out again.

General

Wiiroes

Watching the TV show “Heroes” on my Wii. Yes, I got a Nintendo Wii, yes, it is fairly cool, but one shortcoming has been that the Flash player embedded in the Opera browser isn’t current enough to work with the ABC and NBC “view shows online” features of their web sites.

 
Searching for workarounds today, I discovered a number of web sites that will stream TV shows using an earlier version of Flash. I haven’t watched “Heroes”, because a) the previews reminded me too much of X-Men (which I lie, but don’t want to watch a rip-off), and b) I expected it to be cancelled before it got off the ground. I figured this would be a good candidate to try out streaming video to my big screen on the Wii.

 
It’s far from perfect, but still intriguing. The sites that are out there aren’t in the right resolution to fill the screen, and the Wii’s zoom settings don’t fit either. The resolution is garbage compared to an HD feed. The opera browser has a massive toolbar at the bottom (the white blur in the picture). With things like this, the new Apple TV product, and my new Treo’s ability to stream video over the wireless network, it’s clear that the internet is beginning to make its way into the living room.

 
Orb and Slingbox are coming at this from the other direction, bringing your TV to wherever you are, but this requires planning in advance WHAT you’ll want to watch. For a show like “Heroes” that I dismissed out of hand, these solutions don’t help. I fully expect these sites to be shut down in whack-a-mole fashion. I wouldn’t object to watching the ad-supported versions on the network sites, but until that’s possible, this approach isn’t so bad either.