ON JANUARY 27, 2006, WESTERN UNION SUSPENDED TELEGRAM SERVICE. STOP. FOREVER. STOP. THE REVOLUTIONARY NINETEENTH CENTURY COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY LASTS UNTIL EARLY TWENTY-FIRST. STOP. WESTERN UNION CITES MASSIVE EXPENSE IN CONTINUING TO DELIVER VIAGRA, HOODIA AND PENNY STOCK TIP ‘SPAMGRAMS’. STOP. PR PERSON SAYS ‘THE COST ALONE OF DELIVERING THE ONGOING FLOOD OF TELEGRAMS FROM NIGERIA WAS ‘PROHIBITIVE.’ STOP. TELEGRAMS WILL LIVE ON IN OLD MOVIES, FOREVER PROVIDING A MOMENT FOR A OLDER PERSON TO EXPLAIN TO A YOUNGER PERSON JUST WHAT THEY WERE. STOP.
Rumors are swirling about a new video iPod that may or may not be announced on Apple’s 30th anniversary (April 1st). Think Secret is reporting that the new device will feature a 3.5 inch screen that will take up the entire front of the player. The mechanical click wheel will be dropped entirely in favor of a virtual click wheel that appears when the user touches the screen. The long rumored wireless support will apparently not be built into the new device (you gotta save something for the next iteration after all).
If these rumors are true, the choice of a touch screen interface is particularly interesting considering the grief Apple has gotten over how easily the Nano’s screen scratches. Presumably the new iPod screens will be made out of some super secret scratch resistant material. Perhaps clear titanium.
Here’s the complicated part about all of this speculation. It’s not clear whether this will be the 6th generation iPod or the 5th generation iPod. One line of thinking is that the current 5th generation video iPod is actually just a modified 4th generation iPod. As this line of thinking goes, the current video iPod is not the real deal. The apparently soon to be released video iPod is the true video iPod. Maybe.
In the latest twist on the road to anything, anytime, anywhere, CBS has decided to sell downloads of Survivor directly from its online store rather than going through iTunes or some other middleman. This is the first time one of the major networks is doing this, so it will be interesting to see what happens. Good.
The network is calling it an “experiment,” and saying that it doesn’t mean that they won’t be going through iTunes for other shows in the future. Also good: one wonders how long the exclusive deals like what NBC & ABC have with iTunes should and will last (though with Steve Jobs becoming a huge stakeholder in Disney, it’s not likely that AOL or Google will be getting Lost any time soon), or whether or not a more traditional model of the networks making the videos available (for a price) for any outlet willing to host them will end up taking hold.
However, there is one caveat on all this. A big enough issue toss the whole experiment right off of the island: the downloads will “expire” 24 hours after purchase. Sigh. Even if this works on the technological tip, and people don’t immediately figure out how to hack it, it still never works as a long-term business strategy. It didn’t work for videos in the 80s; Divx in the 90s, and it probably won’t work for CBS now. (Or Napster, but that’s another post for another time.) And it taints the whole “eliminate the middleman” part of this story, because they aren’t offering the same service as iTunes or AOL.
Here’s the thing: price it low enough so I want to purchase it. And let me play it when I want to play it on whatever device I choose. And let me copy it forward to play on my other media.
When we ask for more content created specifically for the Web audience, the new Mark Burnett “reality” series Gold Rush! isn’t really what we mean.
It looks like it’s little more than a glorified ad campaign, designed solely to increase traffic to the various AOL websites that will host it, and while it very well may be a hit — after all, greed is a powerful motivator — it still shouldn’t be confused with actual, you know, content.
And while Burnett seems to get the future:
He believes that in a few years television and online sites will be widely available on the same screen, and viewers will be going back and forth between the two media seamlessly.
does anybody believe that he would be doing this if his most recent TV shows hadn’t been tanking?
The Los Angeles Times has an interesting profile of the head of Google Video Store, Jennifer Feiken (though we could have done without the tidbit about her height increasing when she wears high-heeled boots — seriously, it’s 2006, people). While I found myself mildly interested in Feiken’s journey from the cutting room floor (an aborted role in Hairspray) to Silicon Valley, I was more interested in how Google will work its way into the brave new world of the new media.
Google has made a lot of bold moves in the media world, most notably with its Google Book Search/Print/Publish initiative (what is it, anyway?). And it’s not an overstatement to say they own the search engine world right now. Aggregating and cataloguing data is what they do best — it remains to be seen if they’re up to the task of selling content to the user. Our initial analysis indicates that Google has a long way to go — hiring an entertainment industry insider is a good first step, but this may be the time that Google needs to leverage other skills even more. First up: make it usable.
LAT describes Google’s initiative as an “online bazaar” and indicates that established media companies are facing the project with skepticism.
The service got a rocky start last week. It was launched three days late because of technical problems, and some users complained about glitches and a shortage of popular TV programming. For example, there were only one episode of CBS’ popular show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and fewer than a dozen music videos from Sony BMG Music Entertainment — two of Google’s major media partners.
Google also faces challenges from existing partnerships established by its competition, not to mention the fact that iTunes has set the bar very high:
Season Five of 24 starts this evening, but what you may or may not know is that there is a prequel floating around out there. It was originally an extra to the Season Four DVD, but — horror of horrors, somebody has ripped and posted it.
I haven’t seen it yet, but it looks like it might be another car commercial as well, so downloader beware.
Verizon customers who upgraded to the company’s new music service discovered a big oops: their cell phones can’t play MP3s acquired from anyone but the company’s V Cast Music Store. Verizon says this was an unintentional error and is working to fix the problem. But this problem highlights another issue facing the communications giant:
The new V Cast Music store does, however, weigh in definitively on one side of the music download industry by employing the newest version of the Windows Media Player from Microsoft Corp., which doesn’t work with Apple Computer Inc.’s Macintosh operating system or iTunes software.
The audience being targeted by V Cast is already using iTunes for music and more. By choosing a Windows-based format, Verizon is asking consumers to make a choice that might backfire on V Cast. Consumers who have purchased music via iTunes — and given the store’s blockbuster success, there are many — aren’t going to repurchase items just to listen to music on their cellphones.
This isn’t a Beta versus VHS issue. Content providers cannot afford to embrace one operating system/format over another. Consumers have made it clear that they want their technology to be as flexible as possible. Companies that force choices on consumers will learn what the music industry discovered the hard way: people aren’t buying the “we know best” approach.
As for the MP3 problem, there’s no way to say this nicely: it was sloppy work by Verizon. The MP3 format is mature and skipping compatibility testing shows that Verizon either doesn’t understand the business it’s entered or needs to implement better software development procedures. This blunder puts the burden on the consumer: they must go to one of the company’s stores to receive a software upgrade. Why not provide a downloadable link on the V Cast website and send a text message to all service subscribers?
Now Verizon faces two challenges: recovering from this stumble while convincing consumers that excluding the world’s most popular music service was a good move.