Archive for the ‘ Thoughts ’ Category

Feedback for the D.C. Government

I love that D.C. sends alerts to my phone and e-mail account. I just wish they didn’t seem like they were written by someone without any education. From today:

DDOT reports at 295 Southbound  there’s a two vehicle accident with injuries all lanes are block at this time and all on coming traffic is Being rerouted on to East Capitol St.

If I were grading this in English class, I’d mark seven problems with this short message. Can you find them?

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D.C. Parking Enforcement Sets an Example

Parking is at a premium in D.C.’s busy Georgetown shopping district, so the local Chevy Chase Bank posts clear and reasonable restrictions on the parking available for its customers. Oh…the car parked behind the sign? That’s an official vehicle from the Parking Enforcement division of the District of Columbia’s Department of Public Works. It’s parked there. And the bank was closed at the time this picture was taken, so…it seems unlikely that the parking enforcement officer was “banking at Chevy Chase Bank.” It seems more likely that the parking enforcement officer was violating Chevy Chase’s parking policy by using this private lot rather than seeking out oh-so-hard-to-find legal street parking in Georgetown. Precious, isn’t it?

Marriott Understands Travelers’ Technology Needs

After finally giving up on the Sheraton Stamford, I strayed from my Starwood roots to stay at Marriott’s Courtyard Stamford Downtown earlier this week. I was surprised and delighted to find the room appointed with many perks, including an LG high definition LCD TV, and a desktop interface with power, communication, and media connections galore!

Check out the options here:

  • 4 outlets, specifically oriented to accommodate multiple wall-bricks
  • 1 telephone jack
  • 1 Ethernet jack
  • 1 3.5mm stereo audio jack
  • 1 set of RCA audio/video jacks
  • 1 S-video jack
  • 1 VGA connector
  • 1 HDMI connector

The A/V connectors all feed into the widescreen LCD TV, which auto-detects and selects the connected source. Of course, if you want to go wireless, you can do that, too. The hotel provides wired and wireless Internet access in the rooms at no cost. The only negative: the hotel’s television and video service offers just standard definition programming and content.

CompUSA Closes. Is Anyone Really Surprised?

After months of liquidation, CompUSA’s operations will cease this Friday. Analysts are debating the cause of the company’s demise, but there’s really no mystery here. CompUSA failed for two main reasons:

(1) Their customer service sucked. I can’t tell you how many times I wrote to or spoke with CompUSA’s unapologetic management about the poor customer service in their stores. Staff were often unavailable, uninformed, and unhelpful. Advertised specials were often unavailable. Clerks were clearly more interested in selling computers than helping customers with the bulk of the store’s merchandise.

(2) They lost their focus by trying to sell home video electronics. Most CompUSA stores reconfigured their space to sell TVs, DVD players, DVRs, and other home electronics. Put aside the question of why they believed they could attract TV-buying consumers. Or maybe you shouldn’t. In fact, because they couldn’t move this merchandise, most of their home video inventory was woefully outdated.

Macworld Predictions Recap

OK, so let’s quickly review my Macworld predictions and see how I did….

  • Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac releasescheck; it wasn’t a surprise to anyone, but it happened today nonetheless. Of course, this was a no-brainer.
  • New features for existing iPhones and discussion about the iPhone SDKcheck; Apple pushed another iPhone (and iPod Touch) update today that adds great new features to the iPhone, including mapping, messaging, and home page improvements. Other manufacturers please note: this great platform doesn’t stagnate, thanks to continued software updates.
  • No announcements of new iPhones, except possibly for added memory for the existing linecheck; lots of news about the iPhone’s popularity, but no new product announcements. Sadly, no additional memory yet either.
  • No new iPod devicescheck; After a major refresh of the iPod line last fall, there’s no need for new devices yet. The iPod Touch, however, did get some additional functionality (for a nominal fee).
  • New life for Apple TV with movie rentals through iTunes and other new capabilitiescheck; With a firmware update in just a few short weeks, my Apple TV will become an in-home movie rental store–with titles from every major studio (even Universal!). And a music store. And a full HD/5.1 video playback device. Sweet! Want in? Get one yourself at over 20% off the original price!
  • A new addition and form factor added to the Mac computer linecheck; MacBook Air is a new 3-pound ultra-portable notebook that (according to Apple) is the thinnest notebook computer in the world. I just might have to get one.

Hmmm…considering I posted these over a week before the big event, I’d say I did pretty well! As an added bonus, today’s Apple TV announcements addressed 3 out of 4 of my earlier product feature wishes for that device.

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SmartLabs a No-show at CES

SmartLabs, the company behind the INSTEON home automation technology, is noteably absent at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. In the space listed as their booth–the largest in the Home Automation section–stands…nothing. Vast emptiness. Hopefully it’s not indicative of anything going on at the company.

One Remote to Beat Them All?

From the floor of CES this year, the single most interesting item to me so far is Logitech’s new Harmony One remote. After years of industrial design mis-steps, it appears that the Harmony line is back on track with this great new device. It looks great, it feels great, and, from my initial hands-on experience, it seems to remedy every annoying quirk I’ve disliked in recent models. Expect it in stores this February and expect to hear more about it from me.

My Macworld Predictions

As I’m packing to leave for CES, I thought I’d jump ahead a little and throw my chips on the table with my own predictions for Macworld announcements. Yes, you read it right–not CES…Macworld. Here’s what I think we’ll see this year at Macworld:

  • Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac releases
  • New features for existing iPhones and discussion about the iPhone SDK
  • No announcements of new iPhones, except possibly for added memory for the existing line
  • No new iPod devices
  • New life for Apple TV with movie rentals through iTunes and other new capabilities
  • A new addition and form factor added to the Mac computer line

OK, granted, some of these are no-brainers (e.g., Office is releasing on 1/15), but hey…I aught to get some of them right!

NBC and the Business of TV Downloads

Apparently, NBC Universal thinks that consumers should pay more than the going rate of $1.99 per episode to download single episodes of television shows…as much as $4.99!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. HA ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Wow…they just really don’t get it, do they?

What’s Next for Apple TV?

Now that I’m used to surfing through YouTube videos on the television with my remote, I have to wonder: what’s next on the horizon for Apple TV?

I’ve been a fan (and owner) of Apple TV since its introduction earlier this year. Just as the iPod completely changed how I consume media while commuting, at work, and on travel, Apple TV has transformed video viewing habits in my home. Apple TV makes iTunes a more viable option for buying movies and episodic television shows, but it also brings Internet video to my TV and remote. I hate sitting in front of my PC to watch video content, which only leaves air travel and car waiting time for catching up on Ask A Ninja, MacBreak, and other Internet short-form content. But with Apple TV, my Internet video subscriptions are in my Den, up-to-date, waiting for my enjoyment. Apple TV and iTunes sync automatically through my home network; it all happens seamlessly and invisibly. And with iTunes’ ability to note and share my last play position for video content, I can pick up where I left off if I want to finish watching a TV show in another room or catch the end of the movie on my morning flight.

Is Apple TV everything I want it to be? No. Will it be? Maybe. With this device, Apple has created a platform that it can expand with both hardware and software. Happily, the signs point to just that plan. A few months ago, Apple released a new Apple TV model that bumps its introductory local storage capacity of 40GB up to 160GB. Now we’re talking about some decent room for video content. Shortly thereafter, Apple introduced YouTube on Apple TV. It’s a good start, but hopefully it’s just that: a start.

What’s next? Here are some options I hope that Apple is considering:

iTunesHD. Apple TV has the ability to deliver high definition video and multi-channel sound to your television, but where is the content? While the Xbox Marketplace is offering movies for paid download in 720p, movies on iTunes are still limited to sub-DVD quality. I’m hoping we’ll see high definition movies and TV shows for purchase through iTunes before the end of the year.

iClick&Buy. Just how much can I do with that tiny little remote? Not enough. Yet. I’d argue that I should be able to browse and purchase content on the iTunes Store right from my sofa. Apple could take iTunes Top Movies and similar features on the Apple TV to a new level with just one little option: Buy this Movie.

Appleflix. Netflix and TiVo never managed to get it together, but why not go for the same effect with Apple TV? The Apple TV is the ultimate device for PPV content – be it movie rentals or special programming. Its iTunes Top Movies and Theatrical Trailers features demonstrate that direct-to-device streamed content is already possible, and much of the back-end storefront architecture is in place today to support iTunes.

iDVR. With added capacity and a software update, the Apple TV could be the perfect platform for a completely new type of flexible DVR solution. Stackable, add-on components that share the Apple TV’s footprint could deliver channel-specific single and multi-tuner cable, satellite, or IPTV content right to the device for real-time or shifted viewing. How do you get your TV: DirecTV? CableCard? Digital cable/QAM? With swappable TV modules, it wouldn’t matter. This kind of solution could make Apple TV the first fully-integrated provider-independent DVR. If nothing else, I’d love to see the UI they’d create for a TV programming guide.

So that’s what I hope to see out of Apple over the next year or so for Apple TV. Clearly, Apple has been heavily focused on the iPhone and the Mac hardware and software updates recently. My hope is that they’ll come up for some air when Leopard goes to market and focus their creativity on the largely unrealized potential of this new entertainment platform.