PR and Stuff…

I am not late to TIVO party, I just left and snuck back in…

I am one of those original TIVO users. I defended TIVO for years against all the things I knew they had no control over (Cable Boxes). I was an early adopter of the HD TIVO with CableCard support — and wrote my letters of complaint, not to TIVO, but to the FCC for their limited support and lack of two way communications.

But at some point I just gave up. I moved to AT&T uVerse fell in love with the multi-room feature and didn’t look back. But then I moved to Seattle, WA. I had to break up with AT&T and was forced into a relationship with Comcast and their 1990s style DVR. To put it simply Comcast sucked. I brought in an AppleTV, hacked it but was generally left unfulfilled. I attached an old laptop to the TV to run Netflix, Amazon Unbox and Hulu.

At this point my living room was looking like the service center at Best Buy. There had to be a better way to get all this stuff in one place? I looked at the Roku and Boxee Box. But I wanted local, HD (didn’t want to pay for it) and DVR capabilities.

Well, those naughty little folks over at TIVO pushed out an offer I couldn’t refuse. A new TIVO Premiere for zero down and $19 per month. It supports my HD antenna, Netflix, Amazon Unbox and will soon support Hulu. My monhtly TV costs have gone from $100 per month to less than $30 — and I get what I want, not a smorgusboard of channels I never watch.

Sales pitch over!

Look at all that stuff!

A thing of beauty

posted by Eric in Cool Sh*t! and have Comment (1)

Getting a grip on our technology gripes

Woody Allen said that tradition is the illusion of permanence. He may have been talking more about religion and kilts, but I think his comments apply well to our need to sometimes protect those things being improved upon (or cast aside) by technology innovations.

Case in point, I received one of those family-spams last week that listed the sad state of the world, as it related to technology taking things like our beloved TV and landline phones away.

I wanted to take a moment to break this family-spam down and turn, if you will, that frown upside down.

The Post Office

First, outside of getting passports and buying collector stamps immortalizing the Apollo Space Program, I don’t find myself visiting the post office too often these days. And with grandma texting; everyone (and their mother) on Facebook; and the proliferation of e-card companies, I don’t see society returning to snail mail greetings anytime soon. But on a serious note, how can we demonize the financial industry for its lack of fiscal responsibility while continuing to allow our tax dollars to be fed into a dead business model?

The Check (or Cheque)

So, the UK is planning to make physical “cheques” obsolete by 2018. Are we next! Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I wrote a check. These days I am all about the Debit Card. If I did write a check it would be because I didn’t have money in my account and was simply trying to buy a couple of days till payday. So, I guess what I am saying is, save the trees!

The Newspaper

One of the arguments here is that younger people just don’t read the newspaper these days. When I was young I read comic books and other things I hid under my bed. When I was in college, I read schoolbooks and journals. These days, I get various RSS feeds to stay in the loop on the things I care about. To that point, the word “News” comes from the word “New.” At 2pm there is very little that is new in a paper printed that morning. By the way, save the trees!

The Book

Just use some positive feedback and say to yourself over and over, “I lived through the transition from the LP Record to the CD. I lived through the transition from VHS to DVD. I survived the loss of the iOmega ZIP drive and have come to embrace the joys of USB dongles. I can survive this!”  If that doesn’t work, the good news is that bookstores aren’t going away tomorrow. You still have time to enjoy the sweet smell of paper and dead trees!

The Telephone

Seriously. Is anyone really waxing nostalgic about landline phones? Keep a corded trimline phone in your closet, and when society and our electricity fail, you can plug it in and get 911 for free. But if that happens, you better also have a more relevant trade skill ready such as metalworking or midwifery.

The Great Music Industry Corporation

If a lone guitar player struck a power cord in the forest would anyone hear? Producers have been pushing packaged music talent out to consumers since the dawn of the gramophone disc. The reason? The industry is filled with people “that just want to make art, man” so there is an inherit need for people that understand and expect to be paid for the business side of things. To make more money calls for more promotion (or exploitation). The digital world may make this more complicated for marketers, but it’s a hell of a lot less expensive and more immediate than pressing DVDs. Besides, if this really bothers you, you don’t need to buy it. And there is a lot of new music waiting to be discovered on any number of college, independent and Internet radio stations (support!). Unfortunately, since everything is digital either way, none of this will save trees.

The Television

TV as we know it is dying. And that’s a good thing! Terrestrial TV is still free (for those that can get in a good DTV signal), but that isn’t helpful if trying to access all that great, original programming produced on HBO, Showtime, FX, etc. To get these channels today, you need to pay for dozens of channels you don’t want. Here is the good news. If you don’t want to pay for cable, satellite or FiOS, and have a little patience, then you can legally get access to great content via iTunes, Netflix and a number of online portals. This may not satisfy your need for MTV’s Jersey Shore or live sports, but you can always stop spending $4.05 per day at Starbucks to help pay the $50 for basic cable!

Innovation is an amoral and pragmatic force. It’s both sad and wonderful depending on where your standing. Yesterday, scribes lost their jobs to the printing press. Today, printing press operators worry about the impact of eBooks.

a very mad scribe

j'aime Le Jersey Shore

And tomorrow…we’ll see!

The one silver lining I just discovered while editing this blog, is that you can watch full episodes of Jersey Shore for free on But you can also use parental controls to block the site — if that’s how you roll!

posted by Eric in Rants & Raves and have Comment (1)

Five things I like this week…

  • Nintendo Wii will be streaming Netflix. At this point the only place Netflix doesn’t have a streaming deal is with my Microwave. But although it will be standard definition, this will be a great addition to our Family Wii room – YouTube Preview Image

How to Program a Message on Your MEDEA Bottle from Medea Spirits on Vimeo

  • 16 Reasons the iPad sucks by “Sebastian” at Okay, there are like a million of these stories out there. If I had 499 to burn on this, I probably would just buy my wife some jewelry instead. There is at least some guaranteed return on this investment. –
posted by Eric in Random and have Comment (1)

comScore Releases really silly study on Apple iPad, and oh yeah, those eReaders!

I love research. I love comScore. But seriously, this has got to be the silliest piece of published “tech” research I’ve seen in some time.

comScore Releases Results of Study on Apple iPad and E-Reader Consumer Attitudes, Behaviors and Purchase Intent…iPad Matches Amazon Kindle in Awareness and Purchase Intent

Why? Three reasons!

  1. Amazon makes Kindle iPhone/iPod reading software. Barnes & Noble has announced that they will make reader software for iPad. Amazon and Barnes & Nobel want to sell content.  Their products are nice, but in the long run, they launched their devices to sell content. Why wasn’t this surfaced in the research?
  2. Comparing an e-ink, eReader to a Tablet PC is like comparing a Ford F150 to a Super Bike (I know not a great analogy, but I am tired!). So iPad can kick ass in the do-everything department — no doubt. But e-ink has a huge advantage as an e-reader — less eye fatigue and better battery life. But then again, that’s all they do!
  3. Finally, the research isn’t as much about “Apple iPad and E-Reader Consumer Attitudes” is it is about, well, Apple iPad attitudes. And consumer attitudes seem to show that consumers will purchase the device for Internet, email, and to do a lot of computerlike things on it (aka multitasking). Basically, see point #2. You can’t do these things with Kindle or Nook because they are eReaders, not tablet PCs!!!

So what did the research tell us? Lots of things! Just nothing that’s particularly useful. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker: This research is not to be tossed lightly aside, but hurled with great force…

posted by Eric in Rants & Raves and have No Comments

China vs. Google = a dubious mobile experience for Chinese consumers

I was quoted in a PRWeek story by Aarti Shah today (“Google’s China move affirms reputation“). The article focusses on the Google brand and how its decision to “not censor” search and move their operations to a Hong Kong server might impact their brand reputation.

I think the simple answer is: only in good ways. Why? Because they stayed true to their Philosophy and chose to not compromise. Regardless of how you might view Google’s business overall (selling advertising and collecting data about people), you won’t be able to corner them for being hypocrites!

But this does bring up an interesting point not being debated as much right now:  Why go into China in the first place? Did they really think this wasn’t going to be an issue?  Google is a smart company, with some of the smartest people in the world.  Naïve isn’t  a word I would use to describe them. But let me table that for another day (and another blog)!

What I think is most interesting is how this act will impact mobile-focused companies doing business in China that rely on Google to help monazite their products and services.  For example,  OEMs like Motorola are breaking ties with Google in China. This is most likely a pragmatic act of  solidarity with the Chinese Government as Google might not be available in China in the near future anyway…so why not hedge their bets?

Google Android Mad!

Google Android devices will suffer in China without Google services

But to understand fully the implications here, you have to remember that Google isn’t just a web search being used on LAPTOPs and PCS. Google today is about mobile phones, mobile search, and location based services.  When looking at the global usage numbers these are consistently the big drivers in mobile data traffic. This is why people PAY for data plans.

But now, Motorola is going to remove Google search from the Android devices that they are marketing and selling to Chinese consumers. That’s like trying to sell a three-legged horse. Which is to say: useless!

As I mention in the PRWeek story, moving its servers to Hong Kong was a hell of chess move by Google. But the fall out from this decision — including the subsequent business decisions made by OEM’s like Motorola and any actions the Chinese Government might take —  could be a huge blow to mobile consumers in China.
posted by Eric in POV and have No Comments

Thanks to Google Voice, area codes will soon become irrelevant

YouTube Preview Image

The “818? 310. Nice.” line in the movie “Swingers” was classic, but 13 years later it’s beginning to show its age.

This isn’t just because the real estate market has moved all the good girls to The Valley in Los Angeles. It’s because as more and more of us cut our land lines (at home and in the office), move from job to job and city to city, we have started to cling to that one number that can follow us anywhere: our cell phone number.

In fact, since I moved to Seattle, I have met half a dozen people that live here but have decided to hang onto their out-of-state cell numbers.

I can relate. I am keeping my old, out-of-state number too! But my decision was based on the fact that where my cell phone company could give me a new and shiny area code, they couldn’t put a message on my old line to let callers know my number had changed. I have a lot of long standing media relationship, and having them get a dead line wasn’t going to work.

Well I just nabbed my new Google Voice number and this is all going to change. I now have a single number (with an area code of my choosing) that I am putting on my business cards. One number, and each caller (friend, client, media, wife, bill collector) will be routed not only to a special message, but also to any number I choose.

Here are some of the things it can do:

  • Screen calls before you accept them
  • Hear voicemails as they are being left
  • Automatically transcribes voicemails and deliver them to you via text, email, etc.
  • Allows you to automatically forward both calls and texts to any phone number
  • Allows you to create separate greetings depending on who is calling (e.g., my wife is from Germany and her family gets a special voicemail from her in German)
  • Most importantly, gives you the ability to separate your business and professional lives with one phone number (and one cell phone)

To get a Google Voice number — go to and sign-up for a phone line. If you don’t mind having a random area code, you can put in words or expressions to see if you can nab a vanity number. I won’t put my number here, but I will say that it includes the words: ski and fun.

posted by Eric in Cool Sh*t! and have No Comments

Cable companies aren’t going anywhere — yet!

My good friend Mr. Biggs over at just wrote a novella about (my words) the future of on demand programming vs. the bloated channel line-ups most of America is forced to purchase with cable.

While I agree that this is ultimately a losing scenario for cable companies, I think that the majority of Americans are still in the rosy glow of HD programming and HD On Demand that there is still time for cable companies (or telco companies) to look at changing how they do business. But how should they evolve?

Telco companies are certainly evolving to bring more choice into the market. But as much as I love AT&T UVerse, at the end of the day (no offense to the engineering marvels here), it’s just an IPTV version of what cable is offering. Same content, same channels, but with some nice multi-room DVR controls.

But it’s still just a box. A box that does not play well with other content services — not to mention my own personal content.

So I have a TiVO and the future promise of a hacked Apply TV to solve some of these issues. However, I am not a case study for the average American.  Most American are still discovering the joys of time shifting with their cable (or telco) DVR.

So there is still time to evolve. But not much time. As more and more of the Gen-Y are getting jobs, their first apartments, and getting married, there better be some changes — because they will  will gladly choose iTunes On Demand to get their shows pushed to their TVs than pay for 200 channels they don’t want.

When Cable first arrived, people never thought people would pay for what they got for free (read this great article on the history of cable television). Well they did. And over time, the networks have lost a lot of power to the original “paid” programming offered by Showtime, HBO and others. And cable became the 800 pound gorilla in content distribution.

So what’s keeping things from evolving as fast as we are? When talking about cable companies, a lot of this is technology driven, a lot of this is copyright (see my previous post on copyright/drm and content), but a lot of it is that the modern cable company is a giant network of regional operations, mom and pop acquisitions, and nightmare processes for rolling out new programming — not to mention the customer service issues. It’s a monster with many heads where even something simple can not be simply integrated.

This gives a leg up to AT&T, which has brought to market the first IPTV offering with its remotely controlled home network. A network that update itself and easily role out new services. Lets give them a chance and see what happens!

posted by Eric in Rants & Raves and have No Comments

What if AT&T sold HDTVs?

Was just reading a story by Chris Foresman at Ars Technica about the future of AT&T sans iPhone exclusivity.

There is no doubt that AT&T gambled (a lot) and won (a lot) with their bet on the iPhone. So let’s call it a success and move on.

What I think is a more interesting question to ponder: when will AT&T better leverages its quad-play (home phone, cell, Internet and IPTV) offerings to begin really owning the digital home. I am not talking about discounted package deals and single billing statements. Yawn.  What I am talking about is going into an AT&T store seeing a big, beautiful HDTV and getting it for free or near free (say $20 per month) for signing a 2 year commitment for new IPTV and Internet service.

When this happens, AT&T would not only drive up subscribers, but drive HDTV sales and services through the roof. I love going into Best Buy, but if AT&T was willing to off set the cost of a new HDTV like they do for cell phones, I’d be the first in line.

If you are a tech-nerd like me, take a step back before you blast me on the disadvantages of bundling. I know the customer service issues needed to be dealt with first! But most people don’t want to be CIOs of their house. They want a simple solution to bring everything together. And think — what’s the next logical step once all these things are connected together? Access to advanced content and services. Not just movies, but critically needed services such as remote home network management, off-site file back-ups (documents, movies, photos and videos), managed DRM so you can move content from one device to another (legally), and much much more.

I am not the first to prognosticate about the future of telco and cable companies (sorry satellite), so believe this isn’t a matter of if this will happen, but when. And when it does… that will be a hell of thing to be able to promote. Much more interesting than bundled billing!

posted by Eric in POV and have No Comments

Pundents who punt: quick POV on Jonathan Miller’s Tech 2.0 appearance

In filmed entertainment all the technology we need to share, move, and enjoy content on any platform imaginable is already here. The only thing we are waiting on is for the Digital Rights Owners to get it together.

Having said, this is a vastly complicated issue that requires action on the part of the owners (including their agents, lawyers, managers, promoters) 3rd party sellers, their various intermediaries, and even all those artist unions. It’s an alphabet soup of crazy.

This is why intellectual property rights are the single biggest issue facing digital content distribution. Until it’s figured out, we’ll continue to get access to only a small layer of available content. This is why the channel line-up and on demand selection appears to be exactly the same whether you download it on your laptop via Amazon or access it via On Demand through cable, IPTV or satellite, et al.

With all that said, I was a little disappointed with Jonathan Miller’s (News Corp.’s Chief Digital Officer) answer to a question about copyright at today’s Tech 2.0 summit in San Francisco.

Q: Talk about copyrights.

JM: We need to have copyrights that are expected. Even in China they realize that. They have a budding content industry too. They’re very interested in copyright and piracy. I think we’ll have an Internet that respects copyright.

I get that News Corp owns a lot of content (you’ve heard of 20th Century Fox, right?). We get that they have more freedom to move their own content around on their various holdings. But what the world needs now is more open debate about a global standard focused on letting people decide for themselves how they want to consume content.

For example, with mobile broadband speeds increasing, the need to side load content (move it manually from your computer to your mobile device) is becoming more and more unnecessary. In the future all this content will be managed in the “cloud,” and you will be able to simply push pause on one device, such as your TV, and push play to continue watching on another device, such as your laptop.

Does this mean that when we figure all this out that consumers will stop using the Internet, peer-to-peer services, usenet groups, etc. to get their content for free? No. But as any consumer survey will tell you, the vast majority of people want (and will) pay for digital content.

The industry needs to work together to figure this out. They need to focus on finding new ways to make more money, not obsess on the certain possibility that some people — people that would never have purchased the content legally anyway — might get access. It’s like a grocery chain closing down because they have a few shoplifters.

posted by Eric in Rants & Raves and have Comments (2)
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