Apple TV: Rumor Roundup and Why I Won’t Be Buying One

Rumors have been circulating lately about the pending introduction of the Apple TV (not to be confused with the actual current product, AppleTV). Apple has been amazingly disruptive in digital media – just look at the iPod! But, I don’t think that strategy is going to work with television.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Apple. I use a Macbook Pro and an iPhone every single day. But here’s the thing about television: the only differentiator anymore is content. Sure, you can get 120Hz or 240Hz, or even some gimmicky version of an 84″ 3D TV, but you know what I want on my TV? It’s really pretty simple: good shows and movies, when I want them, including the live stuff. Will Apple be able to deliver?

Apple: Think Different?

I recently bought a TV, and consciously chose to buy now, rather than wait.

As I said, hardware is no longer a differentiator. As long as you’re at 1080p, and 60Hz, the other differences are largely academic. It’s been suggested that the human eyes can’t tell the difference between 720p and 1080p, and little content actually takes advantage of the full resolution.

The things that matter are what’s on the TV. I purchased a Vizio, which can stream content from NetflixHulu+, and AmazonPrime without any additional hardware or fees on top of my existing accounts with these services. I don’t need any management software (like iTunes) and I don’t need to sync anything – each service remembers what I watched and on what device. I can stream music from Pandora (sorry iTunes), and view pictures from Flickr. I can read Twitter and Facebook, though it’s admittedly clumsy. I can even get weather and traffic.

What will Apple offer?

The rumors – for what they’re worth – indicate that Apple will be releasing a 32″ and 37″ set with iOS software and streaming capabilities. Is this really just an embedded AppleTV inside a Studio Monitor? There are rumors that we’ll see Siri used to control the interface, and even some rumors that distribution deals with major networks might be signed.

Apple has been making the “AppleTV” for years, but it only really works when you’re completely iOS dependent. If you like to use other, non-Apple services, you’re largely out of luck. Yes, it can stream Netflix, but no Hulu+ or AmazonPrime. Yes, it can view photos on Flickr, but no Twitter or Facebook. Will consumers settle for this device in the future? Or will Apple expand their offerings to meet the demands of the market?

Recipe for Success

The only way I can see an Apple TV in my future is if it does, indeed, connect to those places I already source my content from: Netflix, Hulu+, AmazonPrime, and ESPN.com. If I have to do the obnoxious “rent a movie for a set period of time and watch it within 24 hours” plan that is currently used on iTunes, I’m out. If I can’t input other devices (like my computer or a gaming console) to stream the few things I can’t find on the big services, I’m out. If I have to use some sort of shared account like iTunes to facilitate content, I’m out.

The bar is high, it’s possible, but I’m not hopeful that Apple will clear it. Yes, they found major success with iTunes and the iPod, but television is a different game entirely. Competing with OnDemand, streaming services, torrents, Boxee/Roku, and video game consoles like Microsoft’s XboxLive and Sony’s PSN means that consumers have lots of choices, and if they can’t find their content on their current platform, they will go to one where they can.

Apple’s been amazing at capturing consumers, though they have had their stumbles (anyone remember the Apple Pippin?). I have no doubt that television is a market ripe for disruption, though I have some reservations as to whether Apple is the company to do it.

Are you buying an Apple TV? Why or why not? Share your thoughts below!

This post originally appeared on InfoSpace, the official blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University.

I’m Moving

I want to officially announce that I’m moving my blog from this address (shaycolson.wordpress.com) to shaycolson.com.

Some people might not ever see this post, if they usually visit by going straight to shaycolson.com.  Others will have to update their bookmarks, but I’m hopeful that the transition will be an easy one, and a positive one.

This will be the last post made to this account – again – you can keep up with new posts, news, and updates, over at the new shaycolson.com.

CollegeMogul

CollegeMogul

First of all, let me welcome any new CollegeMogul readers!  I’m glad you made it here, hopefully what you find will be helpful, or at least interesting.

For my regular readers who don’t know what CollegeMogul is, or why people might be visiting here from there, allow me to explain.  My first post at CollegeMogul went up yesterday – you can read it here.  The reason I’m posting at CollegeMogul is an outgrowth of a partnership between CollegeMogul and Capesquared, a startup company where I am a co-founder.

Capesquared

Capesquared and CollegeMogul are beginning a partnership to revamp the CollegeMogul site, working to deliver better, more relevant, and community-driven content to young entrepreneurs.  Often, the best people to ask advice from are those who’ve been there before you.  That’s exactly what we’re trying to capture in this partnership.  The vision for the new CollegeMogul is a place where young entrepreneurs can find those needed resources from people who have been where they are.  Enabling young entrepreneurs to make our world a better place can be as simple as providing them a place to connect, which is exactly what we’re trying to create.

Keep an eye on CollegeMogul in the near future – there are big and good things coming.

Shay

Side Projects vs. Posting Frequency

I’ve done a fair job of keeping up with my goal of posting to this blog at least one time per day.  In fact, I’ve recently eclipsed 150 posts, in less than 1 year, which is a great milestone for me.  But, I’d like to say here, publicly, that I’m not sure I can keep up the pace.

In addition to being a full-time graduate student and husband, I’ve got several side projects going on that are all time-intensive, but very interesting and worth the effort, to be sure.

Several of these side projects are poised to move forward in a big way in the near future.  One of my side projects already includes blogging for money, and at least two of my other side projects includes blogging – so don’t despair.  You’ll still be able to read my take on things, but you may have to go three places to do so.  I had thought about syndicating my other posts here, but decided against it.  My side projects are distinctly seperate, and for good reason, and I feel like combining everything here may muddy the waters too much.

Instead, look to see this space emerge as a much more personal blog – covering more mundane things, but a few “impact” topics every now and then.  I have some major life changes coming soon, which I’m sure will find their way into the blog.

In the meantime, I will continue to post, but likely with reduced frequency.  As my side projects go live, I’ll be sure to include links and other information here so that you can follow and hopefully be a part of them.  Until then, thanks for reading!

Bye, Bye, Buzz

As you have probably heard by now, Google’s latest product is an entrant into the social media arena: Buzz.

I have to admit, Buzz came in a little under my radar.  Usually, I’m pretty good at these sorts of things, tracking rumors, discussing potential functionality and impacts, and having a pretty good idea of how something might work before it’s released.  Buzz came on totally out of nowhere.

One day I heard a rumor about a new entrant into the social networking fray from Google, the next day there’s a Buzz link in my inbox.  Where’d that come from?  Had Google adopted Apple-like security tactics?

And now – one week later – I’ve removed Buzz from my life and will not go back unless major changes take place.  Let me give you a little run-down about why Buzz bugged me out.

  1. Auto-share. The reason I blog and tweet, as opposed to joining Facebook, is that I prefer to do social media on my own terms.  This means sharing only what I write, and sharing it only when I want to share it.  With Buzz’s auto-share functionality, I’m already following about 30 people (only 10 of which would I want to), and they’re automatically following me.  I’m all for building a reader-base, but not like this.  Give me a choice, Google, don’t just throw me into something out of the blue.
  2. Lack of integration with Twitter.  Before you shout me down with the fact that Buzz does, in fact, integrate with Twitter, my problem is that it’s a one-way street.  Buzz pulled my own tweets into Buzz, and that was it.  That’s not what I want.  In fact, that’s about the last thing that I want.  I know what I wrote.  I wrote it!  If Buzz could pull in my entire Twitter timeline, including @ messages, and let me respond from within my GMail inbox, then we’d be talking.   Until then, however, no go.
  3. Inbox confusion.  Touted as a “feature” (as so many of these things often are) new Buzzes and comments would appear in my inbox like new emails.  I live and die by my inbox, and don’t appreciate things popping in there that are not emails.  I know Buzz is there, and will click on it when I feel like it.  Don’t trick me into clicking over because it looks like an email.  Be patient!
  4. Google Reader Overlap. Buzz also tried to integrate with Google Reader (another service I use frequently and am quite familiar with – even like!).  The problem was that Buzz did a poor job of knowing what was read and what wasn’t, and I would end up seeing articles in my Buzz that I’d already read in Reader, and vice-versa.  I don’t have time to read things twice, Google, so get it straight.

Finally, after enough fiddling, I realized that settings could not overcome Buzz’s shortfalls, and decided to remove myself from Buzz’s vice.  If you’d like to, you can use the same instructions I did at this link.  It seems to have worked well for me, and unless Buzz can live on like some sort of undead social-networking zombie nightmare, I don’t think I’ll be going back.

Better luck next time, Google.  But don’t worry, I’ll still stick with Gmail and Reader.  Just the Buzz-free versions.

Trickle Down Technology

There are lots of technologies that we have in our daily lives that originated from a military application.  GPS, for instance, was developed by the military and then approved for use by civilians.  And that’s great – I use GPS all the time, and am thankful to have it.

Another example of this technology trickle-down is cellular phones – something that I’m sure most of us wouldn’t want to live without.  The HMMWV, on the other hand (Hummer for civilians) I could easily give up.  There was even a short-lived show on the History Channel about this stuff, “Tactical to Practical.”

Now, we’re seeing another technology trickle down from the military to civilians – but in an interesting way.  With props to BoingBoing, the Houston Police Department unveiled, though apparently unwillingly, a new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – also known as a drone.  Check out a great piece of reporting on the incident in the following video:

This same drone made a great splash when it debuted with the United States Marine Corps in Fallujah, Iraq:

The UAV is small and tough to see, said Marine officials. The contractors put the mufflers pointing up so that the enemy couldn’t track the aircraft by sound. The Marines operate the aircraft at a very low altitude.

The cameras — either for day or night — have enough definition to identify individuals and show if they are carrying weapons.

Houston Police representatives said that they are not “ruling anything out” about the potential applications for the drone.

While this video may be making its rounds now – it is actually from a report done in 2007.  I haven’t been able to find any information to follow up on the report, and can’t confirm whether or not the Houston Police Department is actively using these drones or not.

Like this week’s earlier post about the threat of cyber espionage, items like this make it easier to simply adjust your actions on the assumption that you are always being watched.  This pains me, to be sure, but I suspect that it is much closer to the reality than not.

As we continue to see the expanded use of military technologies in civilian settings, and as our global military engagements continue, America will be faced with some very tough issues about what is acceptable domestically and what is not.

My only hope is that these issues are discussed openly, in public, and with full disclosure about their applications and intended uses.  There’s nothing wrong with employing technology to fight crime and serve the public good, but let’s remember Kyllo v. US,

Where, as here, the Government uses a device that is not in general public use, to explore details of a private home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a Fourth Amendment“search,” and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant.

For the record, infrared cameras are readily available for the ScanEagle mentioned in the video.

The Startup Life: Vol. 1

Some of my regular readers are aware that I’ve got a side project going.  I’d like to write today about some of the (learning) experiences that my business partners and I are having in this crazy entrepreneurship adventure and try to come up with a few lessons learned.

Our latest episode comes out of a point of contention where a client thought we were going to (or would be able to) deliver a certain functionality in our final product, despite the fact that it was not in the proposal (original or revised).  The client had mentioned it in passing in a single email, and again on the phone, both times we were quick to dismiss it as outside both our expertise and our proposal’s scope.

Despite our instance, however, it has come up again, this time with the caveat of “and that’s why I chose you guys.”  This is likely not true (mostly because it’s not even in our proposal), but it does mean that we’re not living up to our client’s expectations – even if they might be unrealistic.

The challenge then becomes being able to balance the reality of your contract/skills/ability/deliverables, and your desire to keep your client happy.  Especially as you’re just starting out, the desire to keep the client happy can be overwhelming – it’s much easier to say “Yeah, we can do that,” than admit that you don’t know how to do it, it’s not in the contract, and it would cost extra even if you could.  But that’s business!  Striking that balance is definitely a learned skill, and something that comes from experience.  This is just the first time of many client issues, I’m sure.

Here are a few other things that this experience has taught me:

Lessons Learned:

  1. Put it in writing.  A contract, typically done based on the accepted proposal, and hopefully including some sort of work breakdown structure, is better for everyone.  These can be tough to put together initially, but are really in everyone’s best interest.  Plus, once you have one put together, it’s relatively easy to re-work it for similar clients/projects.
  2. Incorporate ASAP.  There’s a reason that people seek the legal protections offered by an LLC, or other incorporated entity – they don’t want to get personally sued because of a business dispute.  Once you reach the point where a wrong step could wipe you out financially – i.e. this contract is bigger than my savings account – incorporate.  There are some fees and responsibilities associated with this step, but they are well worth the protection that they can offer you and your company.
  3. Communicate.  Many problems arise out of a simple miscommunication.  When you realize that you and your client aren’t on the same page, communicate this fact in the quickest and most professional way possible.  Here’s a huge hint: this is typically not by email.  Phone is good, but in-person is best.  The dialogue that can take place on a voice-to-voice level will get more done than any email when it comes to communicating about a problem.  There are, however, a few exceptions, including anytime you’d like to have the conversation in writing for the future.  If you’re to the point where you’re worried about keeping it in writing, however, you’ve probably already lost the battle are may be better served by looking for an exit strategy.
  4. Be realistic.  Obviously, this becomes easier as your company becomes more established, but being realistic, up-front, and transparent in your dealings makes finding success much easier.  As a new venture, clients are either trying to put one over on you or simply unaware of your limitations – it’s your job to let them know.  Nobody would ask Microsoft to build them an airplane, and conversely, nobody would want Boeing to build their operating system.  Don’t let the client put you into a position where you can’t deliver – then nobody wins.  Be up-front early, and head-off anything with this potential.

    Work vs. Snowpocalypse

    No way to know if this is authentic, of course, but Dealbreaker is circulating a note from JPMorgan Chase (a Syracuse University favorite partner!) informing employees that in the event they are unable to make it home, they have the opportunity to reserve a cot for their building, or even in their own office!  How nice!

    Employees who would like to request a cot for their office can do so by contacting Facilities Direct. Facilities will attempt to accommodate all requests.

    PLEASE NOTE: There are no showers available at these locations.

    It’s always nice to see a company with their priorities in order.

    Spies Inside Your Computer

    Some interesting articles lately about the threat of cyber espionage coming through the supply chain.

    Essentially, this amounts to the threat that Chinese-made computer equipment could have holes (or Trojans, or backdoors, or malware, or whatever) that would either allow a malicious (assumedly Chinese) user to access the compromised computer or that would automatically exfiltrate data back to a location the malicious user can access.

    Problems like this strike at the heart of the issue of all national security (or corporate security, for that matter) issues: trust.  How do you know that the computer you just bought won’t send all your data to China?  You have to trust the manufacturer when they say it won’t.  Can you trust them?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  After all, another Chinese spy was just convicted this week – these things are happening.  Combine that with the fact that some of the most popular machines on the market today are all made in China, and you can see how this could happen.

    For the record, the Mac mini, Macbook Air, Macbook, iMac and Macbook Pro are all manufactured in China, as are the latest netbooks from Dell.

    Lest we jump to conclusions, or grow overly paranoid, let’s think rationally about ways to prevent our data from heading overseas.  One industry writer suggests that the best way to avoid this is to

    stop buying Chinese computer products today. Until this issue of Chinese cyber-espionage has been cleared up and cleaned up, I simply couldn’t justify buying or using hardware that might be working against me. If you consider it for a minute, I think you’ll agree.

    This is a great theory, but extremely difficult to do in practice.  Can you buy an entirely American made computer?  Sort of: ZTSystems assembles and services their computers in the United States.  Their systems are fast, and would be great machines, no doubt.  But the parts?  They’re all from China or Taiwan.  The graphics card? Made in Canada, with parts sourced from China.  The network card?  Made in Taiwan.  The other parts are not listed as being any particular brand, indicating that they, too, are made in China.

    Other devices, like USB Picture Frames, have already been verified as containing Chinese malware.  What makes anyone think that other devices wouldn’t also do this?  It’s low hanging fruit, difficult to spot, and easy to maintain plausible deniability.

    I’ve heard from several professionals that this is a very real concern for US businesses and government entities, with no apparent solution on the horizon.

    Where does that leave us?  With the need to be careful and conscious about the data we put on our computers.  It’s often easier to assume that anything you put on a computer is compromised and operate from that standpoint.  You’ll find yourself being more careful, something that never hurts in today’s day and age.  There are some tools that can help you along the way, but ultimately a solution to this problem will have to come in the form of data-centric, or even built-in, security.  We must move towards a model where our data is intrinsically protected, as it is created, regardless of location – this would eliminate the worry when it becomes compromised in ways like this.  We’re not there yet, but I suspect there are those who are working on it.

    In the meantime, give some thought to what your data means to you and what you might do if it were lost, breached, or compromised.  It’s an enlightening experiment.