Monthly Archives: May 2011
I’ve written before about my belief that the ecosystem will be the next big tech battle – as margins shrink and people want more streamlined services and products, companies will respond by developing products that they wouldn’t have thought about years ago. Apple’s potential development of a television incorporating their AppleTV software is a good example. Now it seems that Amazon will be releasing tablets powered by Android.
And it makes sense with what we’ve seen from them lately. Both their Android App store and their music service seem appropriate preparatory moves. Each has been warmly received, even if the users of these services seem confused by Amazon’s plans.
We know Amazon can make hardware – the Kindle is a wonderful gadget that many people love. It’s not hard to imagine that they will do a good job with an Android tablet. If the rumored pricing is correct – $349 and $449 for the 7″ and 10″ respectively – they’re going to give Apple some serious competition. Some will argue that Android isn’t as refined as iOS, and whether that’s true or not, money talks and people like cheap. $349 sounds a lot cheaper than $499, even if the price difference isn’t extensive.
The big question, then, will be what Amazon builds next. Google I/O had talk of various household automation devices with Android on them. With all of Amazon’s experience selling products, I could see them stepping into this realm. An Amazon / Kindle branded Car appliance with music, apps and text-to-speech for books might be well received. Think of it as some advanced GPS unit.
An Amazon Kindle tablet might not make Amazon the strongest player in the tablet market overnight, but it will likely be a test for them. A test to determine if they should try other devices. I suspect the tablets will be successful and I do think they’ll try other things. A phone will happen, at some point. Whether or not they make it themselves or have someone make it for them without the manufacturer name on it… who knows. Just as Facebook and Google want to engage your life as much as possible, so do Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. We’ll see them spreading their fingers into as many avenues as possible. Get ready!
The backstory is well known – Sony’s PlayStation Network (PSN) was hacked resulting in the loss of personal data for 77 million people. During the near-month that the network was offline, Sony did everything wrong from a PR perspective – from denying the facts to delaying communication. Now they’re trying to win back their fans, but they’re doing it all wrong.
They’re offering affected users a package worth, from my analysis, around $100-$125. You get to choose a couple games from a short list, credit monitoring, free service, and, at some point, some free online movie rentals. It’s a good idea, until you actually think about it.
Sony has but one appropriate course from my perspective – make the PSN (and all premium services, except the purchase of games or rental of movies) free for a year. For everyone. This will eliminate the need to enter a credit card for the majority of users. It will give people time to actually forget about the massive failing of their security team. Maybe, just maybe, if Sony gives people something they wanted in the first place, rather than a couple games and credit protection (which shouldn’t count because they wouldn’t have needed it without Sony’s failure), they’ll come back around.
Sony – it’s not too late.
Since the announcement of the Google Chromebook at Google I/O last week, the impending product release has been met with mixed reviews. Nevermind the fact that it’s not out yet, or that, even at release, it will basically be a public beta. There are some in my sphere that have already condemned it. One asked my thoughts, so I thought I’d post them here.
The Chromebook, for those unaware, is a shift from a traditional computer. On most computers, you have the hardware which runs an operating system that allows you to interact with programs. In this model, the internet is viewed through a browser – which is a program. The Chromebrook skips the operating system, making all of your interaction with the computer through the browser. You turn it on, you’re in the browser. Without internet access, it’s useless.
This is huge. Or, more accurately, it will be. When we look at the way Google works, they release things before many would feel they’re ready – and those people would be right. What they’ve created with this approach is a culture of public testing, seeking the opinions of the technology-centric so that they may make small, fast improvements. If you’re a user of Android, you see how quickly the apps Google maintains are improved. Gmail gets new features all of the time. These improvements are rarely substantial, but it’s a slow march of progress. This was how Android was developed, and whether you love it or hate it, you can’t deny that it’s been successful.
How will this approach be relevant to the Chromebook? Google’s going to learn a LOT in the first few months of release. All sorts of people will turn to them and try them. We’ll see lots of minor changes, but I doubt any of those will change the game. No, the game changers will be in the business model.
Chromebooks will be useless without internet – so we’re going to see the bundling of internet service with them. This isn’t new – you can already buy a netbook with a cell modem installed. What will be different here will be the cost. Since everything is done on the web, very little has to be downloaded to your laptop. Rather than having the constant struggle between users and carriers around data caps and download speeds, we’ll see carriers embrace this model, since the heavy lifting of web apps, and viewing web pages, is done on the servers hosting them. Carriers will, if they have an ounce of intelligence, encourage people to use this model. We’ll see lower priced internet access for these devices – maybe as low as $10 a month.
If we can get internet access that low, than the $20 a month that Google has published for what looks to be a long term rental of these devices may even include the service. Imagine – if your information resides in the cloud, and you can get to it whenever, wherever, for $20 a month on a computer that, should it break, you don’t have to pay to fix… it’s beautiful.
The notion of re-purchasing music has always deeply offended me. I’ve been a part time DJ for around 8 years and a music lover my entire life. My CD collection is fairly large, and I’m proud of it. I continue to buy CDs because, regardless of what any one company says, I can do what I want with my music. No DRM, now or ever, on my beloved compact discs. MP3.com tried the music locker service many years ago – before the world was ready. As cheap as storage is these days, though, I think we’ll finally get the service I’ve been dreaming of, and it will be called Google Music. There have been rumblings of a Google Music service for over a year and it looks like we’ll finally get the full scoop tomorrow.
In a perfect world, I’d just have to prove that I owned a CD and then get access to it in the cloud. This would surely piss off the labels, as it did years ago when MP3.com did it. What seems more likely to work this time is that which Amazon is doing with their cloud player service – you generate your own music files and then upload them to space on Google’s servers. I live in the Google world – gmail, Google Calendar, etc. – so this should work well for me.
The project of ripping and uploading will be a nightmare for me – but I expect that Google will release some APIs that will allow someone to make a utility that automatically rips and uploads CDs. Then I’ll just do 2 or 3 a night and be finished in a few years. Ugh!
But since Android seems to be headed everywhere – including, I would bet, a reboot of Google TV (pun sort of intended) – it makes sense to get behind Google. The Amazon service intrigues me, but I drank the Google-aid many years ago, and it’s a lot easier to live within their fiefdom.
More on this tomorrow, we’re told, as Google gives out the details at Google I/O.
I don’t generally write about political stuff, but I can’t ignore this. I’m sure, and actually hope, that this post will not get much traffic, since I don’t know if what I have to say is worth reading. Anyway. It’s been nearly ten years of trying to find and kill Osama Bin Laden. Now it’s over. It feels… anti-climactic. I don’t know what I wanted. Sure, a big announcement followed by a three day firefight would have been “better” (though more people would have died and I definitely don’t want that). Sure, we could have announced it the intent before the mission, but that would have jeopardized it. I guess there really wasn’t a way that this could have gone that would have kept this feeling from me. So many years, so many deaths, so many news stories. Now it’s…over? What’s next? Is this the crippling blow for Al-Qaeda we hope it will be? I hate to be pessimistic, but I doubt it. Some news reports are saying that it may create an escalation in attacks. I pray that isn’t the case. So many worries, so many thoughts unanswered. I do hope that we look back on this as a massive victory that changed the landscape of terror, forever.