Monthly Archives: April 2011
You probably have an image of what a video gamer looks like. What would you say, then, if I told you that nearly everyone plays video games? See, games have changed and thus the people playing them have changed.
Video Games were originally kidsâ€™ stuff. As a child, I remember the old Nintendo games and how my friends and I would spend hours on them. As the games became more advanced, the demographics of the players expanded, but not a lot. You still knew who played games â€“ they were generally male and on the younger end of the age spectrum. Sure, many people of all ages played solitaire or online flash-based games, but those people would never think of their activity as video gaming.
Then, right around the same time, we saw the Wii and the iPhone. Both of them revolutionized gaming. Neither one was the most powerful device available â€“ the Sony PSP was more powerful than the iPhone and both the PS3 and Xbox360 were more powerful than the Wii â€“ but they brought in new types of games. The iPhone gave everyone an excuse to have games in their pocket, as they already had to carry a phone. The Wii featured titles that were fun to all ages and encouraged socialization. Both devices featured games that were typically referred to as â€œcasual,â€ meaning they could be played for a short period of time.
Anyone on Facebook has seen the true socialization of these casual games. The constant requests from your friends to play Farmville may be annoying, but they show how popular these games are. Nintendo is set to release a new gaming console next year and I expect theyâ€™ll take the successful elements of the Wii and add new and social elements to it.
With the downward pressure on technology complexity, we’re seeing more and more technology in the hands of the non-technical. When it just works, people use it. We’re seeing smartphones in the hands of the non-geeks, when just a couple years ago, these were the tools of the computers nerds (like me!) They’re easier now, and useful and fun… and people want them. Now that we all have high end tvs and phones and laptops, we all want them to work together. Enter the ecosystem.
Apple has been the company that people traditionally think of when they talk about an ecosystem – they control the hardware and software and have heavy involvement in the accessories and programs. Thus it’s no surprise that the iPhone and iPad can work together. They don’t work as well with the AppleTV as they could, though (as I’ve read… I’ve still yet to play with one). What if they did? What if you had an Apple laptop and TV and phone and tablet… and whatever else you might want. What if they could all work together seamlessly? We all want that, even if we don’t realize it.
Moving forward, more and more people will have more gadgets. These people will start to question why they don’t work together flawlessly and perfectly. People question that now, but the answer usually has to do with a lack of standards and the economics of proprietary technology. Then who is going to be the first to standardize across their entire range of products? I say that whatever company does it will get a leg up and truly set the bar. I expect it will be Apple, but I could also see Samsung doing it along the Android platform and their Galaxy brand.
I hope someone does, because everyone else will be forced to follow suit. It will be bad for consumers, initially, as it will trap us within a particular ecosystem (until the probably-nonexistentÂ standards materialize). That’s OK. I can live with it. I’d accept that fate if it meant I could stop looking for third party solutions to make all of my hardware work together.
It’s always an honor to be asked what I think about something. So it was when my editor at BYTE, Gina, asked my opinion on Cisco’s decision to drop the Flip cam. My quote’s at the end of page 2.
Everyone loves the Kindle. It’s a great piece of hardware that has come so far down in price that millions of people have them. They’re great – my girlfriend loves hers and even I, the guy who doesn’t read books, is thinking of getting one. The business model for the Kindle seemed clear – get the device in people’s hands at a small profit (or maybe even a small loss) and they’d love it enough to buy books and Amazon makes money. The new release of an ad-supported Kindle has totally blown my mind.
Ads are Google’s territory. Or at least they’re supposed to be. As is an app store for Android programs. Woops – Amazon is in that space now, too. Subsidizing hardware is the cell phone provider’s space. I remember back at the initial releases of Google’s Android operating system, there was talk of a free or dramatically subsidized Google phone. The Nexus One, in some circles, was supposed to be that free or nearly-free device. It never happened. Now, several years later, we’re seeing Amazon hone in on that turf.
I don’t often belief in coincidences, including here. If we connect these three dots – ads, subsidization and an Android app store – we can see a very clear future move; phone. Amazon is going to announce a phone, or maybe a tablet, in the next few months. It will probably not be high end, but I suspect it will be Kindle branded and subsidized with this new ad platform. Google, are you scared yet?
They should be. If there’s one company that has proven they can quickly and effectively move into new markets, it’s Amazon. Their cloud services seemed like a bizarre move when it was introduced, but now it’s yet another money-making segment for their conglomerate.
I think the ad system on the Kindle, right now anyway, is a test. I think they want to gauge the reactions of users and advertisers. After all, a $25 discount on a Kindle isn’t that much. I suspect that price is based on low demand from advertisers. Is it going to work? I’m not sure, but a full screen ad on every Kindle has to be worth some money.
For as long as I can remember, speech recognition technology has been â€œalmost there.â€ Some have tried it, a few have even loved it, but Iâ€™ve never felt the need to jump in with both feet. Sure, the ability to talk rather than type is exciting. Or, it is until you realize that you have to speak as the computer wants you to. Directing my computer with my voice is an interesting idea, except that it doesnâ€™t work as well as I want it to. After all, telling my computer what to click on is much more complicated than, well, clicking on it.
For the first time, though, I feel these cries of â€œweâ€™re almost thereâ€ may be correct. My Android based phone has speech input, and it works pretty well. In fact, it surprises me as to how good it is. Windows 7 comes with speech recognition built in, and itâ€™s not perfect, but itâ€™s the best Iâ€™ve used.
In the scientists and engineers defense, speech is extremely complicated. With all of the voice patterns, accents, dialects and varying word choice, it takes years for us to understand people as humans. Computers donâ€™t even have the luxury of that time to be trained â€“ we expect them to know our voice right away. The science behind even the simple voice recognition in my phone is so complicated that the recorded file has to be uploaded to Android servers and then sent back to my phone as text.
If you havenâ€™t played with any speech-to-text software, Iâ€™d encourage you to try it. In Windows 7 itâ€™s free, and other products have demos and trials if youâ€™re not ready to commit. You might hate it, you might love it, but you never know until you try.
If you don’t know, GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons recently posted footage of the hunt of an Elephant. During this video he was seen shooting the elephant and later posing with the kill. I’m from Maine, and I live in Vermont. I have lots of friends that hunt – that’s fine by me. I’ve never had a problem with hunting. What I have a problem with is the AC/DC soundtrack to the video… the GoDaddy apparel the locals are wearing while they butcher the animal. In fact, the entire incident is clearly a manufactured event for the purpose of causing controversy and getting eyeballs on GoDaddy’s logo.
It would be one thing if this stunt involved something silly or crazy or off-the-wall. But it didn’t. It involved the killing of an animal. I am not some militant animal rights activist. For the record, I am a vegetarian, but most of my friends, including my girlfriend, eat meat. This isn’t about killing an animal. It’s about the complete devaluation of that animal’s life. That animal, whether you worship it or consider it just a food source, is an animal. It deserves at least a tiny amount of respect… and Mr Parsons showed absolutely no respect for it. In fact, I’d argue that this promotion was intentional… he knew how big this would blow up, which tells us he knew there was something wrong about what he was doing.
To boil it all off – he knew what he did was wrong but he did it anyway and for the sake of marketing his company.
The more I think about this attitude, the more offended I am. I own a business, and I’ve done some crazy stuff, but I have always made sure that my company gave back – instead of just taking, as is the case here.
I was fully supportve of GoDaddy when we were talking about the ads with the girls – that never bothered me. Whether you appreciated it or not, it was controversial, but no one and nothing got hurt. You want to hunt an elephant – go for it. You want to use it to feed people – nothing wrong with that. But when you enjoy the death to that degree and use it for promotion… you’ve crossed the line.
Alright, I’m done ranting.
On March 22nd, Amazon opened an Android marketplace in direct competition with Google. If youâ€™re not aware of this, hereâ€™s a bit of background.
Until recently, Google was the near-exclusive source for apps (programs) for the Android smartphone platform – creating an effective monopoly. Amazon, a major online retailer that sells nearly everything, is offering the first major alternative to Googleâ€™s dominance in the sale of Android programs.
Many have said that the main advantage of the Android platform, compared to alternatives such as Appleâ€™s iPhone, is the open nature â€“ you arenâ€™t restricted to doing things â€œthe Google way.â€ Yet, until the Amazon store, the options for adding software to an Android phone outside Google were complicated.Â This alternative brings real competition which has already led to innovation.
At launch, Amazon doesnâ€™t have as many applications as Googleâ€™s Android Marketplace â€“ a few thousand compared to over one hundred thousand â€“ but theyâ€™re adding more every day. The Amazon store has some advantages over Google â€“ such as a feature to let you try new software before installing it â€“ something Iâ€™ve never seen in any app store before.
If you donâ€™t use an Android phone, does this matter to you? Yes! The innovation in technology these days is in smartphones and not computers. Smart phone adoption will only continue to grow and may, eventually, replace computers for some. Having competition breeds innovation which helps us as the users, consumers and benefactors of technology. Even if you donâ€™t have a smartphone yourself, these advancements help youâ€“ from improving business efficiency (and thus lowering costs) to democratizing news in far off countries (so corporate interests canâ€™t keep you blinded). Lastly, thereâ€™s a rumor going around that Amazon may be releasing their own Android phone or tablet. No one knows yet, but that would be interesting, for sure!