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Archive for December, 2006

Bowl Games on iTunes is Only Part of the Story

December 29th, 2006 No comments

Apple has just announced that they will carry full-length video downloads of college bowl games on the iTunes Music Store this year. You can already subscribe to season passes from ESPN College Football and Fox Sports that include pre-game analysis, player interviews, and future game coverage and highlight reels. I think the idea is outstanding. It creates a product for rabid fans of a particular school (or pro team) to collect. I’m pretty sure that if the schools and their broadcast partners market this correctly, they can charge a small premium for this type of content (over what they get for regular TV shows on iTunes) and still reach a huge percentage of the fans that would want to download this content.

My alma-mater doesn’t have an (American) football team, but we did win a national championship this year in the “other” football. I coach high school soccer and my son plays for a local club team and I have a huge interest in watching the game, or at least highlights, but there isn’t a current option for me to watch it. I would definitely pay a few bucks if CSTV were to put together even a 5 minute highlight reel and put it up on iTunes. They already put some of their ads online, so I know that they are aware of the possibility.

But I think these examples are just the tip of the iceberg in the story here. iTunes is enabling a whole new way to market media. Bowl games are not really niche products, but they have a limited lifespan for those that want to watch the whole game. Broadcasters can repackage the content by marketing to collectors and fans and they will reach a new market that brings in additional, previously untapped, revenue. Sure, I’m aware of the offers on TV to buy Super Bowl and World Series highlight DVD’s, but going through iTunes is going to make this a lot more accessible to the general public, particularly college students that (I suspect) would never buy a $20 Super Bowl DVD, but would buy a $6 season pass or a $2 highlight program to watch their team compete on the national stage and save that memory forever.

The best play I can think of right now is for College Sports TV (owned by CBS) to put up all the small school and non-network sports coverage they have in their archives on iTunes. They have their own streaming video service, for those that don’t subscribe to the channel through their cable or satellite company. But I don’t want to pay $15/mo to see streaming content, I want to pay $2 to see the Gauchos defeat the Bruins for the College Cup. And I want to carry that around on my iPod so I can heckle anyone I ever see wearing a UCLA sweatshirt on the street. Heck, I might even pay $15 just for that.

Top 10 things we need from Apple’s iTV

December 27th, 2006 No comments

I’ve been thinking about what Jobs might have to show us at MWSF in just under two weeks now, and I’ve made my own list of features that the iTV would need to have to make it a killer product.

  1. Compatibility with MPEG-2, H.264 and VC-1. That includes all the variants of those codecs from video downloads on the iTunes Music Store, to personal rips, iMovie exports, etc.
  2. HD resolutions up to 1080p. There’s no reason not to support the best resolution possible when entering the game at this point.
  3. iTunes Music Store Integration. I understand that the iTV isn’t a full computer, but it would be nice to be able to preview and buy content right from the TV. If it’s to be stored on another computer in the house, then the iTV should talk to the other computer and tell it to download the content that was just purchased. It would also be nice to download it straight to the iTV and then copy to the computer later. It also needs to be treated as an authorized computer so I can play DRM protected files I purchased from the iTMS.
  4. iPod integration. I want to be able to plug my iPod into the iTV and have it give me a 10ft interface for my iPod content. I also want it to act as if I just docked my iPod into my computer (when it’s my own iTV) so it will sync over the network. When I’m at a friend’s house with an iTV, I want to show my home videos and play music from the iPod while it’s plugged in, like I could with an AV cable into the receiver. I don’t need to copy my music to my friend’s iTV or computer, I just want to be able to bring a photo slideshow of my kids (on my iPod) to my parents’ house and play it on their iTV without any hassle.
  5. Bonjour support. I want to plug the iTV into my home network and have it automatically discover my shared iTunes library and iPhoto albums. It should be a seamless out-of-box experience for Mac users. It would be ultra-cool if iTV would play nice with stand-alone TiVo’s and other Bonjour-enabled devices.
  6. New slideshow effects. The iTV should be able to autocreate slideshows from selected iPhoto albums and use a bunch of cool new transition effects that we haen’t seen on the iPod yet.
  7. New iTunes visualizations. Similarly, the iTV should have a bunch of extremely cool visualizations that we haven’t seen in iTunes yet. Make use of my HD widescreen set and blow me away with how cool it is to play music with my iTV hooked up to my surround sound receiver and HDTV. Make my friends jealous when they come over and we have music playing in the background during the party.
  8. Network support. I know wireless is a given, but I want draft-802.11n support now with the promise of a future upgrade to the 802.11n spec when it is finished. I guess this means I want a new Airport Express that also supports draft 802.11n. I also want gigabit ethernet.
  9. Mac integration. I want to be able to configure the iTV to pass along notices from my Mac (when I want) to pop-up new email notices, caller-ID from my phone line (if I have a modem on my Mac), task finished, streaming a DVD from the drive on my Mac to the iTV, and so on. Basically, I want Apple to reward me for owning both a Mac and an iTV and make me feel cool for doing so.
  10. Windows support. I know, I know, but for the iTV to be successful, most of these features should work with iTunes on Windows as well. Just like we saw the iPod take off when iTunes for Windows was released, we’ll see the same with the iTV if Windows users can also download movies from the iTMS and watch them on the iTV. Of course, Apple can use the cool integration features only available on the Mac as incentive for even more people to switch. Soon we’ll be talking about the iTV halo effect.

So that’s it. My wishlist for the iTV that would convince me to buy it. Did I forget anything? Tell me what you want to see in the iTV in the comments below.

Promoting independent Mac software developers

December 23rd, 2006 No comments

There’s been a lot of talk recently about various software bargain schemes and the associated web sites that have popped up recently. MacSanta, MacHeist, MacAppaDay, MacZot! are all examples. I think what we need is a common tag that all independent Mac developers can use so that people can more easily find blog posts, reviews, bookmarks in del.icio.us, and so on. But I can’t think of a good tag to use, so I need some help. Maybe you can make some suggestions…

  • IndieMacDev?
  • MacDev?
  • IndieMacScene?

Surely, you can think of something better than that.

Categories: Technology Tags: ,

The Airplane-Treadmill Conundrum

December 12th, 2006 No comments

I ran across this thought experiment on David Pogue’s blog site. Below is my answer to what would happen if you had a plane on a giant treadmill for a runway. Basically it comes down to how you interpret the movement of the treadmill as the problem is stated.

I think that the plane could take off, given the right circumstances.

The forces acting on the plane are, gravity pushing it down, the surface of the treadmill pushing it up, the thrust from the engines and the friction between the tires and the treadmill as a result of the plane and the treadmill pushing against each other. If thrust is applied horizontally, at some point in time it overcomes friction and the plane begins to move forward. At some speed, the lift generated by the wings is more than gravity and the plane begins to fly.

You could lock the wheels so that they never turned and still take off as long as the forward thrust of the engines could overcome the friction between the wheels and the treadmill surface so that it slid along the treadmill without rotating.

If that is breaking the rules of the puzzle and the treadmill moves to match the forward speed of the plane, then the plane only has to exert enough extra thrust to overcome the extra friction that is transferred to the plane through the wheels. The plane is moving forward at 100 miles an hour, so the treadmill is moving at 100 miles an hour in the opposite direction, but only a portion of the treadmill’s movement is transferred to the plane through the wheels as friction. The wheels, of course, are rotating at 200 miles per hour (assuming they stay coupled to the surface of the treadmill). The wheels are rotating faster than the surface of the treadmill is moving below them.

If the problem means that the surface of the treadmill is moving at the same speed as the rotation of the wheels, then this sets up an infinite feedback loop between the forward thrust of the plane and the motion of the treadmill. As soon as the wheels begin to be pushed forward by the thrust of the plane that forward motion is transferred to rotation of the wheel. Because only a portion of the friction of the wheel is transferred back to the plane the plane would continue to move forward.

But if the treadmill is meant to compensate for the motion of the wheel, then it will continue to accelerate to a point where the friction generated by the movement of the wheel is enough to counteract the forward thrust of the engines. As the treadmill accelerates it will actually turn the wheels on the plane faster and faster. If friction increases as the wheels rotate faster, eventually it will reach a point where the friction pushing against the plane is the same as if the wheels were locked in place. The plane will then slide along the treadmill if the engines can push hard enough. If friction does not increase as the wheels spin faster, then the treadmill will attempt to accelerate to infinity. As long as the wheels on the plane can spin at infinite speed, the plane will continue to move forward and take off. If friction moves towards infinity, then it will eventually reach a point where it balances the forward thrust of the engines and the plane will stop moving forward and will never take off.

Categories: Technology Tags:

Mac Shareware Marketing Craziness

December 6th, 2006 No comments

There’s been a bunch of inventive and off-beat marketing schemes in the Mac software market recently. MacAppaDay is giving away 5,000 copies of one application every day in December. Mac Heist is creating a riddle / puzzle game to unlock a free copy of a few applications each week. MacZot! is promoting an app at a discounted price in a Woot-like model. My Dream App is also a very cool idea.

Nick Santilli wrote about Peddling Software to the Mac Crowd the other day and then followed up on the side effects of these programs to say that he generally buys the software that he uses. I don’t disagree, but I don’t think the story is about how many test drives were converted into “pro” version upgrades or registered users that will buy the next version.

I think this is an interesting experiment in social marketing. Just like Digg and the blogosphere have changed the way that people find the news and stories that interest or entertain them, I think that software marketing will also be revolutionized by ideas like iusethis. I know I don’t go shopping without checking reviews on Amazon first. I suspect that more and more people will buy software based on the community buzz, comments, ratings and reviews they can find on the Internet. Think about every Mac board you’ve ever visited. There are always threads asking for recommendations. Getting 5,000 copies of your app into the hands of people that are plugged into the latest trends in the Appleverse is a good way to help get mentioned in those conversations or maybe show up on iusethis. Maybe someone will write a review in their blog. You get the idea.

Still, I suspect that the most effective marketing is going to be getting mentioned in MacWorld or hitting the front page of Digg, or even landing on Tech Crunch. Even though we talk about the democratizing effect of social software there are still a few large players that generate the most attention, even on the Internet. But, like I said, I think these marketing and promotion programs are an interesting experiment. It would be fascinating to do some Google stat diving a year from now to see if those apps show up any higher in generic searches for Mac software than other similar apps that didn’t participate in the programs.

Categories: Technology Tags: , , ,

Ambrosia releases Sketchfighter 4000 Alpha

December 1st, 2006 No comments

I absolutely love the concept behind this new game from Ambrosia. This classic side-scroller shoot-em-up looks like you are playing in a sketchbook with hand-drawn graphics. The game even lets you design your own levels and share them with other people.

The gameplay reminds me a bit of another video game, but I can’t remember which one, but the graphics take me right back to the classic 80’s music video from A-Ha for Take On Me. I had to watch the whole thing on You Tube again just for fun.

I’ve always been a big fan of Ambrosia for providing quality software at reasonable prices. In fact, Andrew Welch and I did a deal about 12 years ago to build a private-label version of the Eclipse screensaver (OS 7 or later only) with an admin backdoor so that we could still get into Macs when users left them locked.

If you create a cool new level, please tell me about it.

Categories: Entertainment Tags: ,