Sunday, January 18

Boxee and the future of the television

From: Boxee Generates Buzz by the

Boxee is betting that consumers accustomed to the freedom of the Internet will not be interested in a dribble of online services on their televisions but will want more comprehensive access to Web video.

“Consumers and developers aren’t going to put up with the idea of one piece of hardware talking to only a few services,” said Bijan Sabet, a partner at Spark Capital, one of two East Coast venture capital firms that invested a total of $4 million in Boxee last year. “It would be like getting a Verizon phone you can only use to call other Verizon subscribers. It’s not a natural thing.”

Boxee appears to be generating a tremendous amount of buzz. For good reason too.

The people behind Boxee appear to "get it", as is evident by the above quote.

In a world where anyone has access to anything via the internet the game has changed for television and media as well.

It's no longer enough to have some or "most" of media on your TV.

It's no longer enough to have access to some prepackaged set of channels from a cable provider.

It's no longer enough to have access to the popular stuff... or the stuff in english.. or the stuff on youtube.

The television of the future will be able to play any video from anywhere in the world through the internet.

Everyone will have equal access to not only watch but also to publish and share media with everyone else in the world.

No longer will what's on TV be constrained by a cable company like Comcast, a hardware company like Apple, or even the latest greatest kid on the block, Youtube.

The TV of the future must be completely content, language and geography agnostic.

If you want to watch the first landing on the moon... videos from China in a local dialect... a video your sister posted yesterday of her kids making a snowman... you should and you will be able to watch it on your TV.

Wether this content be personal home movies, niche content of any type in any part of the world or any language, or mainstream popular media, whatever your hearts content you should and one day you will be able to watch it on your TV with simply the flip of a button on the remote.

That is the big picture, and until now there has not been any one piece of software or one company that could get you there.

With youtube and a thousand other existing web services are serving every type of content imaginable around the world,

with high-speed bandwidth becoming more ubiquitous everyday,

and finally with the revolutionary bittorrent protocol allowing anyone with even a shred of bandwidth to serve a video to millions...

...the media world is at the cusp of making two more great leaps.

One leap for media will be mobile.

The other leap will be to the living room.

For the next step in revolutionizing media we need piece of software that is Mosaic or Firefox of the internet for media for the TV.

Boxee is the first thing I've seen that *may* very well fit that bill.

Saturday, January 10

Palm Pre Specs

  • High-speed wireless (EV-DO Rev. A or HSDPA, depending on version)
  • 802.11b / g WiFi with WPA, WPA2, 801.1x authentication
  • 3.1-inch 24-bit color 480 x 320 display
  • Dedicated gesture area below display
  • Slide-out portrait QWERTY keyboard (banana slider)
  • Integrated IM, MMS, and SMS messaging
  • Email: Microsoft Outlook with Microsoft Direct Push Technology
  • POP3/IMAP (Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, etc). So it does push exchange email, but the rest is not push.
  • Built-in GPS
  • Bluetooth 2.1 EDR with A2DP stereo Bluetooth support
  • High-performance browser
  • 3 megapixel camera with LED flash and extended depth of field
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 8GB of internal storage (~7.4GB user available)
  • USB mass storage support
  • Phone as laptop modem - Bluetooth tethering
  • MicroUSB connector with USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
  • Proximity sensor for detecting when phone is near face
  • Light sensor to automatically dim display
  • Audio Formats: MPS, AAC, AAC , AMR, QCELP, WAV
  • Video Formats: MPEG-4, H.263, H.264Image Formats: GIF, Animated GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP
  • Ringer mute switch
  • Removable rechargeable battery
  • Width: 59.5mm (2.3 inches)Height: 100.5mm (3.9 inches)Thickness: 16.95mm (0.67 inches)
  • Weight: 135 grams (4.76 ounces)

I must admit, I didn't think anything would compete with the iPhone for a long time yet, but the Palm Pre certainly looks good on paper answering to many of the iphone's shortcomings including a removable battery, thumb keyboard, running multiple tasks and even background tasks, and suposedly based on a much more open and accessible linux based OS that they call Mojo.

It occurs to me, that for as long as I've been waiting get a phone that integrates well with my mac (a need the iPhone filled) that that may be completely irrelevant now since the web is the new OS. This thing syncs with google calendar, contacts and gmail and that's probably more then enough for me.

My hardware related caveat is it's only 8 gigs and I see no mention of a micro SD or other expansion port.

My one network caveat is it's being released first by Sprint. Based on my own experience I'm thinking it's probably not possible for sprint to not f*ck it up.


Monday, January 5

Music sales boom, but albums fizzle for '08

Americans bought more music in 2008 than ever before, but album sales — the music industry's main source of revenue — dropped for a fourth year.

According to the Nielsen Co.'s year-end figures, music purchases — CD, vinyl, cassette and digital purchases of entire albums (grouped together as total albums), plus digital track downloads, singles and music videos — attained a new high of 1.5 billion, up 10.5% over 2007.

More than 70% of those transactions were digital track downloads, a record total of 1.07 billion that swamped 2007's previous high of 844.2 million by 27%. Last week's track downloads set a record of 47.7 million, and 71 songs exceeded 1 million downloads this year, compared with 41 last year (and just two in 2005). Track downloads outsold albums by a ratio of 2.5 to 1.

Total album sales dropped to 428.4 million, 14% fewer than in 2007, and have fallen 45% since 2000. Even combining album and track sales (by a formula that counts 10 track downloads as one album sale), the 535.4 million total is still down 8.5% from 2007 and more than 30% below 2000's physical album sales of 785.1 million.

Music purchases are "astronomically high," says Rob Sisco, Nielsen's president of music, "but it's a marketplace in transition from physical to digital." He sees promise in the rise of digital purchases of entire albums, which reached a high of 65.8 million in 2008. New albums by big acts bring the market up, he says, but "there hasn't been a steady stream of high-profile releases."

Music sales boom, but albums fizzle for '08 -

Wow, it's starting to happen. Exactly as predicted. The advantages of digital distribution now that music is starting to be sold DRM free are starting to really outshine the disadvantages of piracy.

Generally these advantages of digital music sales are summed up as a growth in the depth and breadth of music. A debate I've posted about here in the past.

Specifically it goes something like this.

1) The market of people whom have access to purchase music as it goes digital grows exponentially... it becomes truly global.

2) Love of music is not innate, people can exist without buying any music at all. They can make it themselves in fact and be just as happy. Music interest like all art is cultivated and cultured. People aren't born loving Rothko or PIcaso, they develop a taste, the same goes for Britney Spears. (Eeee. A shiver just went down my spine.) More access to music, more accessibility... more commons = more cultured tastes = huge growth in people's purchasing habits in the mid and long tail

3) people's individual capacity for music is growing exponentially now that it's not encumbered by the physical limitations of CD's.

To put it bluntly I can't wait for the first terabyte mp3 player. I can't imagine what will fill it, but it would be stupid to say say as Bill Gates once did... "I only ever see a need for the individual to have X amount of memory". While this is paraphrased badly, the point is clear, don't be naive about people's capacity to consume and collect nor the ability of new formats to take advantage of that capacity.

I could see music formats of infinitely higher quality, where not only is each instrument a separate track, but each instrument has multiple channels. Who knows where it'll go but I think it's safe to say the mp3 is the wax record of its day.

In the end the death of the CD will have been the best thing that ever happened to the music industry spurring HUGE growth across the board in every area of music from the head to the tail. US citizens will discover musical interests all over the world and we'll discover the rest of the world hasn't even begun to explore the US market.

The only thing limiting the success of the music industry in 2009 will be as always the major labels themselves.

1) While DRM is on the way out, DRM cannot die fast enough. Expect it to stage failed comeback after failed staged comeback though. Everyone loves the unicorn.

2) New competing storefront alternatives are needed to spur innovation in the marketplace, but are limited by the labels arbitrarily picking winners and losers completely contrary to their innovations and contributions. Expect this to continue to slow what would otherwise be extremely rapid innovation and evolution. I.E. Expect to be stuck with the mp3 for a great number of years to start with.

3) geographical barriers thrown up will slow the exponential growth from new world markets slowing the global trend.

All this of course has nothing to do with piracy, that which the major labels fear. In fact as has proven time and again (most obviously with the video game Spore) it directly pushes the market away from the incumbent creating the demand in the p2p black markets and a more demand for independent and alternative artists. Neither are a bad thing for anyone except the major labels... so as is oft said, f*ck em.

In conclusion. Music sales will grow exponentially in 2009 greatly surpassing even the wildest dreams and expectations despite the major labels complete ineptitude. This growth will happen in all areas but CD sales, though even that may eventually even come back in 2-5 years just as vinyl has. Oh, nostalgia.