iPad Thoughts

I’m not sure if you’ve heard about the iPad.  Unless you’ve been under a rock, you can’t avoid the Apple madness.  I’m up in San Francisco this week and couldn’t help but feel the Apple riptide and get drawn into the hype.  So I watched the announcement and here are my thoughts

The iPad is super-duper slick.  I can see some great use-cases for it, such as:

  • If i was pitching a presentation to someone at a restaurant, in an elevator, or anywhere – the iPad would be a much better way to present the presentation than a laptop.  I could see it becoming a must-have for entrepreneurs
  • If i had kids and a family room with lots of people, having a family iPad that people use publicly would be great. Anyone in the family could us it in front of the TV or as the home iTunes download system for movies and TV shows that syncs with their AppleTV
  • Games. This could be one of the most sick gaming machines. It has the graphics, accelerometer, and connection needed to really be badass. I could see someone making a truly unique iPad gaming experience.

All these great ideas and reviews make me love the iPad but i’m not going to get one.  I’m not feeling it yet (not because of the video joke and jokes) and here’s why

  • i have an iPhone and i have a Macbook. I’m not feeling a huge need to have an iPad. If i did, i would want to replace my MacBook and i don’t think the iPad is powerful enough to be a replacement yet. I want all my songs on it (need more than 64 GB) and i want to run a browser and email at the same time. Until those happen, my laptop is vastly superior.
  • The A4 chip seems like a bad idea.  No way Apple is going to consistently be better than Intel or AMD at making low power chips.  Maybe they can now and early billions from it, but it can’t be a long-term solution
  • No camera bums me out.  I’m not sure but i think I’m going to want to take pics with the iPad. Maybe not but i like video skyping and i like taking random pics.  Give me a camera

If you know, you know that i feel that i’ve seen the future. I know what i want and where i want Apple to take me.  It’s this:

  • I want an iPhone device that has huge storage, enough for music (b/c i don’t see cloud music solution for another 5 years), and a fast enough processor that i can put all my files on it and use Google Docs and Dropbox for shared files
  • A portable keyboard and docked monitor so i can plug my phone into them and use it as a desktop computer when i’m at home or at work.
  • Over time, the files get saved more and more in the cloud and my phone become a portable processor, harddrive and network card.  That’s all

I saw with the iPad a keyboard doc and saw this future is coming.  It’s coming but slowly.  i can’t wait

My Moments of 2009

2009 was a fun year.  I traveled to 42 cities, 4 countries and logged over 100k miles.  I also found time to stay at home and do stuff.  Looking back on the year, some things really stand out.  For instance:

  • Up’s tear-jerking silent vignette. With each new film, Pixar finds some way to top itself. The marvelous innovation inUp was the wordless sequence near the beginning, set to Michael Giacchino’s wistful score, depicting Carl and Ellie’s entire life together — including the sad fact that they can’t have children. Who else would dare to try that? And who but Pixar could pull it off so gracefully?
  • I Like This Song.  I started a little experiment in May of placing a good song i like every day to the blog ilikethissong.com.  At first it was easy because there were so many songs i was bursting to share.  But as the year wore on, i got more selective and paid more attention to what i was putting up.  The real treat, however, has been the followers of ILTS who have sent me new music and tunes.
  • The Android OS. I went to the largest mobile phone conference in the world last February and saw thousands of phones that were running Windows Mobile OS that was vastly inferior to the iPhone. I came away from there thinking that the iPhone was going to crush everyone for the next 10 years.  Luckily Google’s OS has grown up and is the real deal.  This is the year when the race for the future of mobile actually started
  • Brett Favre.  Say what you want about him, but for me he has transformed the Vikings from a team that drove me crazy to watch to a team to be proud of every week.  He was inspiring and regardless of how early we go out in the playoffs (i’m thinking first round) i’ll always remember this season because of him.
  • Zach Galifinakis and The Hangover.  Zach G. had slipeed under my radar until The Hangover which was this summer’s must-see movie.  I thought he made the film and i was even more delighted to see that his webepisodes of Between Two Ferns prove him a true comedic talent
  • Death of Old Media.  Magazines crumbled.  Newspapers folded.  Online usage soared.  People who were in the print business ran scared.  Some tried to adjust their print properties.  Others just wove a white flag.  It become evident this year that online is where the users are and if you’re not moving your media business there, you’re either going to downsize or disappear.  This was of personal interest to me as i spent lots of 2009 looking at the advertising piece of this at Buzz and looking at the opportunities this new world creates with Tobes.
  • In-N-Out burger.  I ate so much In-N-Out in 2009 that this could very well be the year of the Double-Double.  Thanks to JT, Pedro and JStreet for coming with me time after time after time.
  • eReaders / Kindle.  The Kindle came on strong this year and The Nook is looking like a solid competitor.  While neither may be long solutions with their closed formats, they have gained serious attention and sales.  I also read my first books on electronically this year and i can easily picture a future when books are primarily sold without paper.
  • Obama.  He came out of nowhere.  We were about to elect someone into the Presidency (Hilary) which would have had two families (Clinton’s and Bush’s) control the office for over 24 years.  THis was not the America i was down with and i was just about to write off the political system for good when Obama came along.  Sure, you can complain about different things he’s done in office thus far but he’s engaged me and he’s made me pay attention. I respect his reasoning.  That word, “hope,” is a strange one and it was a big part of 2009 for me due to him.
  • Avatar, Star Trek and Sci-Fi. This year was an incredible year for sci-fi. I thought Star Trek was awesome, the little indie flick District 9 was refreshing and extremely well done, and of course James Cameron’s epic, Avatar – the film that needed new technology just to complete it – rocked the end of the year. These films showed that sci-fi is alive and kicking and isn’t some little repetitive genre reserved for geeks and nerds.
  • A Personal Stream of Information From Friends.  Before 2009, my RSS feed dominated my web browsing experience.  Twitter and Facebook worked their tail off in ’09 to change the web landscape.  Their impact has been incredible.  The personal stream of information is how many people are now receiving their news and media.  What this means is that the web (and possibly life) won’t ever be the same.  I can’t wait to see where it leads
  • D Wood.  Last and most importantly it’s D. Say what you will about LA but it brought me to Diane and more than anything it will be a year remembered as the year i met her.  That one little meeting has changed everything.

Happy 2009 everyone. It’s been a fantastic year and I wish you all the best in 2010.

Kindle vs. Nook

I just got a Kindle for my birthday about a week ago and have really loved reading on it. I think digital books could change how i read and the amount i read in a great way.

I was bummed however, to read of the new Barnes & Noble Nook not because it’s bad but because of what it represents.173939-bn_nook_reader_180

The hardware of the Nook is better: It has expandable storage slot, it has wifi and it has a touch screen instead of a keyboard which means it’s more flexible for future functionality.

I now have library concerns. The Nook can take not only B&N’s eBooks but also Google’s and PDF’s.  While i’m not one to compare book counts, i am worried about my eBook library.  When i buy a book i want to own it forever.  I don’t want it attached to the device i have at that time.  Think of how bad it would be if the music you had was tied to your iPod.  Every time you got a new iPod, you could only put new music on it.   Granted, it’s not a great analogy because you listen to music over and over and you typically read a book only once.  But i think you see my point.

Vinyl vs. Books.  What i think could happen with me is that my book purchasing starts to look like how many music lovers purchase vinyl.  These people consume music digitally, through mp3’s, but for bands they really love they like to have the physical product – thus they purchase the vinyl record.  I could see myself doing this with books.  I read them all digitally and for authors/books that i really like, i’ll actually pay a premium and buy the physical copy.  Ideally i would like to have a format (like mp3) where i could save every book in and keep them all on a harddrive.

The Nook has sharing capabilities.  With the Nook you can send a book to a friend for 14 days.  This is nice but not a big deal for me.  What i want is the ability to share sections of the book to the web.  I want to post passages to my blog and i want to send to Facebook and twitter sentences that i enjoy.  I don’t see anyone allowing this and it’s troubling.  I want to be able to do much more with digital books then i could with the actual book. That’s why the mp3 is so much more powerful than the CD and that’s why the eBook could be much better than the book

Anyone else had similar concerns with their kindle?

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The Music Business and Days of Radio

I’m reading the book Free by Chris Anderson on my iPhone Kindle.  It’s the only book i have on it – and i got it because it was free.  It’s actually turning out to be a good read and having it on my phone allows me to read it when i normally wouldn’t read anything (subway rides, waiting in lines, etc.)

radioaniIn the book there’s a good passage about the music business and radio.  In the late 1930’s, radio was emerging as a popular entertainment format but also one that made a mess of the old ways of paying musicians.  At the time most radio broadcasts were live, and the musicians and composers were paid for a single performance but to musicians and composers payment for a single radio performance alone did not seem fair when that one performance was being received by millions of listeners.  To them, if those millions were packed into one concert hall, the musicians share of the receipts would have been huge.

Broadcasters argued that it was impossible to pay licensing fees based on how many listeners tuned in b/c no one knew what that number was.  But ASCAP, which had a near-monopoly on the most popular artists, made the rules and insisted on royalties of 3 to 5 percent of a station’s gross advertising revenues in exchange for the right to play music – and it threatened to raise the rate in 1940 when the contract expired. Whoa.

Understandably, radio stations were pissed and took matters into their own hands and cut live performances entirely.  Recording technology was improving and more and more stations began playing these new things called “records” instead.  Music labels responded by selling records stamped with “NOT LICENSED FOR RADIO BROADCAST” but in 1940 the Supreme Court decided that radio stations could play any record they had purchased.

So ASCAP convinced its most prominent members (including Bing Crosby) to stop making recordings.   Let me repeat that, ASCAP convinced artists to stop making music because of how it was being distributed.  Amazing.

With a shrinking pool of music to play and a crappy deal on the table by ASCAP, the broadcasters struck out and formed their own royalty agency called Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) which had much better terms.  At first it was a magnet for regional musicians such as R&B or Country artists who were usually neglected by New York-based ASCAP.  Because these musicians wanted exposure more than money they agreed to let radio stations play their music for free – and thus business model for charging radio stations to pay a fortune for music collapsed. ASCAP never regained the right to get large royalties.

The irony is large is amazing.  Worried about a bad business model, ASCAP’s bad terms practically drove free music into the radio stations.  A free inferior version of music (radio) turned out to be a great marketer for the paid version.

Similarly today, free music on the web is driving more and more people to concerts. Music consumption continues to rise but record labels are collapsing.   You’d think today’s issues are unique but you only have to look back 80 years to see what we continue to repeat history.

Kindle and eBook Formats

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 09:  Amazon.com founder an...
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I must admid it, i want a Kindle 2.  I like the thought of having all my books in one nice little electronic device.  I like the thought of downloading and saving and storing all the things i want to read.  I’m intrigued.

This is why i was interested in this article in Forbes from Tim O’Reilly about formats.  He talks about the importance of supporting an open format in the success of a product.  For instance, the iTunes/iPod ecosystem is a popular platform and even though it has it’s own proprietary AAC format, it also supports the mp3 – an format that anyone can encode into.  Supporting both allows the iPod to take advantage of both customers and the web at large.

O’Reilly argues that Amazon should do the same with the Kindle.  The fact that it supports only it’s own eBook format will lead to its demise in the same way that Microsoft and AOL’s support for their own formats led to theirs.  The O’Reilly camp is only supporting the open e-book platform and they have seen it have success:

But we can already see the momentum on the open e-book platform. Stanza, the epub-based e-book reader for the iPhone and other Web-capable phones. Lexcycle, the creator of Stanza, announced recently that its software has been downloaded more than 1.3 million times, and that more than 5 million e-books have been downloaded.

While The Kindle is the slickest of eReaders and the most popular with 500,000 – 700,000 sold, the game is far from over.  The Sony Reader which also uses e-Ink has sold around 300,000.  Should Amazon remain closed, it could very well miss out on a huge opportunity, or as O’Reilly says: “Open allows experimentation. Open encourages competition. Open wins. Amazon needs to get with the program”

Of course, another way to look at this is:  AOL was about to build a $150 billion company by making it easy for people to get web information and only after the web matured did they fall.  Perhaps The Kindle will be the first out of the gate and will take the early lead because of the streamlined format and operation of it’s service.  Personlly, while i understand the need to be open, i’m still willing to check out The Kindle.

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