What is a media center?

2 04 2007

Microsoft introduced the term “media center” when they launched Windows media player to try and mesh together entertainment with computers.  A decade ago, our society was very segregated in the way that we viewed computer entertainment.  At the purest sense, entertainment generally focused itself around a living room with two couches and a large CRT TV set.  The computer was generally meant solely for computation purposes or office use.  Today, we find ourselves perusing the internet and watching short YouTube clips of last nights TV shows that we may have missed.  The literal and metaphorical boundaries between the entertainment “center” in the living room and the computer in the office room cease to exist in today’s world. 

Yet there are still some limitations that exist between watching a youtube clip versus watching a full HD Blu-ray DVD of James Bond’s Casino Royale on a 70 inch plasma screen.  Given the very nature of the computer, will we ever see a full transition to a completely integrated office/living room entertainment center?  We can look in the past and see some failed attempts at integration in determining possible successes in the future. 

WebTV

WebTV came out in the 90’s and was integrated into Microsoft’s product line to attempt to connect your TV to the internet.  Needless to say, simply checking your email on a much larger TV did not really appeal to the mass public.  Perhaps it was the funky wireless keyboard or the proximity of the screen, this never really took off.  After all, when you can hook up a $400 desktop to a 32″ LCD screen, why not just do that?  Oracle had also attempted to integrate a low cost web surfing device from your living room.  Both of these solutions failed to gain mass approval.

So how do you rectify a failed product like WebTV?  How can you effectively integrate the internet into an entertainment center in the living room.  Microsoft believes that it exists in the gaming consoles.  They launched the XBox360 with full browser capabilities and online marketplaces (which I wrote about in an earlier post) to attempt to bring together the a integrated solution. 

But the real question is…where is apple in all of this?

The reason for this post was to speak about Apple’s iTV.  This was announced at MacWorld and was definitely a bit overshadowed by the iPhone.  Nonetheless, the product streams all of your media content from your network into your living room.  This means that all of your “legal” downloaded content that you got from iTunes/BitTorrent can be viewed on your living room TV.  If your willing to hedge out the money for Apple’s HD content on iTunes, you can stream it onto your HD screen which is the real advantage.  Here is what it looks like:

Let’s see how this does….but it should be interesting if this is the first step to really changing the landscape of media entertainment.

Just my $.02…

-SD





Microsoft announces XBox marketplace for living rooms

8 11 2006

Microsoft made huge waves yesterday after announcing that they will be offering XBox Live Marketplace to users in late 2006- early 2007.  The XBox 360, which has done reasonably well across the United States, will have the ability to download movies and TV shows from a browser straight onto its hard drive.  Microsoft plans on adding this content after it has made partnerships with most studios and such.

Microsoft made a great move in announcing this product at the time that it did.  Apple iTV has been very vocal about that fact that it will release in early 2007 for $299.  The iTV plans on bringing iTunes to the living room by being able to download shows and movies straight onto your hard drive.

Microsoft has set the stage however by indicating that 20% of its content will be provided in High Def.  It will be interesting to see how Apple responds to this.  They’ve indicated that rentals will be around 2 dollars and purchasing shows will be around 3-7 dollars.

Just my $.02…

 SD





Zune out in the open…

17 08 2006

Apparently Gizmodo just found the Microsoft “Zune” player – aka IPod Killer – out in the open and took photos to prove it, shown below:

Apparently, every photo you’ll be seeing is going to be in black and white because the Zune will come with 150 color combinations.  That at least beats your standard black v. white iPod choice and the occasional red with the U2 collectors edition.

They also have magnetic earphones to make it easier to manage.

Looks pretty good msft….now launch it.

Short $.02

–SD





Coming soon in technology…from the big guns

31 07 2006

I figure it’s about time to do some tech previews of the biggest and best tech companies out there. Earnings were announced and some where happy while others were very sad. This means, however, that the road ahead is extremely important. The back to school season and the holiday season are probably the two greatest times for consumer electronics and you know that after all of the competition this year, each company is going to put their best products out there. So let’s begin.

Microsoft

We all know by know that they have this product named Zune. I had blogged very early on that there were rumors that an iPod “killer” was on its way but it was simply that – a rumor. Steve Ballmer of Microsoft confirmed last week that the Microsoft product Zune is very real and is going to be a huge product in the market. A picture of this is shown below:

Here is my take on the Zune product. I think it’s going to be very difficult for Microsoft to initially gain a lot of traction in the market. I think the pricing that they set this at will really determine how many people will gain attention. Even the iPod took a long time to gain attention among the young demographic. I remember when I first got my iPod in June of 2003, I had to explain to people back then what an iPod does. Here are some other issues that the Zune player can face:

  • With so much traction in the market, Apple users are generally tentative to move not only to a different mp3 player, but also a different software. It is because of iTunes that the iPod has been so successful and transferring those songs to WMA format will be painstaking and time consuming
  • WiFi and mp3 enough of a value proposition? Without full scale wireless access, ultimately it can be a bit useless. I guarantee you that 2 iPod generations from now we will see a wifi ipod
  • There will always be competition in the marketplace – the key is how the dominant player will react. If Apple plays its cards right, we should see this just like Apple is in the PC market….ironic isnt it..

Expected Date: November 14th (according to MSFT sources)
Apple

Since we’re talking about Apple – we might as well see what’s on their roadmap. Apple usually comes out around this time (right before people begin to purchase their back to school accessories) and announces a huge new product. Last year it was the iPod Nano, two years ago it was the announcement of the click-wheel..etc…etc. So what about this year? What does Steve Jobs have up his sleeve? Well initial reports indicate that we’re going to see either one of two things. An advancement of the iPod nano (which wouldn’t be that cool), or an iPhone. The photos circulating around the internet are all fake and design oriented, but the idea is pretty close. I wonder if they are going to team up with Motorola at some point since they did with the SLVR and ROKR phones.

I doubt the iPhone will actually look like this but it seems like it would logically be a slider phone. The problem with phones, however, are that Apple right now is probably cutting some deal with a phone provider (Cingular most likely) to put it on the market. This means that you would have to purchase a phone plan in order to buy the phone which would make it difficult to sell at the Apple stores. Additionally, I must say that this will probably be a GSM phone (obv) but the slider functionality (which would make the most sense) would be interesting. Hopefully they announce it soon…

Expected date: Before School Starts (Late August – Early September)

Google

Honestly, these guys announce something new almost every week that it is really tough to figure out what they are going to do next. This summer we saw some very large products get launched and some more which are slated to be released soon. As the summer started, we saw Google Spreadsheets launch to a moderate audience (still in Beta). After that, Google Checkout launched and was coined as the “PayPal killer” which obviously didn’t happen. Just last week they launched google traffic which gives you real time updates of traffic which can be accessed through your phones as well (really cool btw – best google product I’ve seen yet). I really think that Google has become extremely dominant in one thing. Releasing a product frequently, getting relative traction in the market, and then ultimately finding it’s niche in the middle of the market. With the exception of search and arguably maps, google product have done okay. Gtalk was recently said to have 44,000 users….versus AIM which has over like 300,000.

So what’s next? Well today, they began to offer Google Writely, a word processing software which is able to be modified online and saved online. You can sign up for an account now…*I already did*

Expected Date: Google Writely in beta now…like every other one of their products..


Conclusions

There are a lot of cool products coming out and I’ll be blogging soon about some of the other companies and their roadmaps, including eBay, Yahoo and YouTube…

Just my $.02

–SD

Dell blowup count: 3 to date





Why you should be passionate about the company you work for…

20 07 2006

I was at a brown bag lunch yesterday with the Senior VP of Trust and Safety at eBay and he told us a very interesting story which I wanted to tell everyone. With a lot of companies these days, and everything extremely accessible, it’s very simple to have many choices in whatever field you’re looking for. I think by virtue of regulation, you’re never forced to buy one companies product because they’re the only player in the market. Even with Microsoft, you have options of Mozilla compared to IE, Google Spreadsheets/Lotus compared to Excel , etc. etc.

Well back to the story – the senior VP told us an interesting story about one of his collegues and his days back at Pepsi Co. Pepsi Co. as you know, owns a lot of fast food restaurant chains. Specifically, they own Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, etc. One day, the CEO of Pepsi Co was leaving the office pretty late. As he walked down to get out of the office, he sees a Dominoes Pizza guy waiting outside the door. He opens the door, and asks the guy, “who is this pizza for?” The guy tells him who it is and what cube it’s supposed to be delivered to. The CEO then proceeds to pay the Pizza guy for the pizza and tells him to get moving. He then takes the pizza up to the employees cube and stands there. The employee turns around and sees the CEO of Pepsi holding a dominoes pizza box in his hand. As the employee stands there in horror, the CEO takes the pizza out of the box, and stuffs it in his trash and just walks away….

Crazy stuff – but definitely interesting….I know for me, I’ll never buy anything from amazon again and have it shipped to my cube.

Quick $.02…

–SD





Microsoft says “Tag me in”

6 07 2006

**UPDATE**

A small little update to this player that I just found out – apparently you are actually able to connect to other players on an ad-hoc level and see what other people are listening too….kind of like the itunes sharing mechanism that currently exists on networks – however, what’s even more cool is that you will be able to get prompted when a wireless network is in the area – I.e it will come in the form of a quick advertisement or something which makes it easy to connect to unknown networks.

As you can tell I’m fascinated – the ipod is getting a bit old and outdated…let’s all try something new.

Read the rest of this entry »