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.

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Technological State of the Union

There are many pressing issues that President Obama will address in tonight’s State of the Union address.  One of the issues that has seen some press, but mostly been relegated to the back burner, is the technological policies of the new administration.

You may recall the Cyberspace Policy Review, released earlier this year.  This work, and the resulting document, were badly needed, and also decently well-received amongst the tech sphere.  Some, including Purdue University’s CERIAS head Gene Spafford, took issue with a few things, namely the creation of the “Cybersecurity Coordinator”:

First of all, the new position is rather like a glorified cheerleader: there is no authority for budget or policy, and the seniority is such that it may be difficult to get the attention of cabinet secretaries, agency heads and CEOs.

Second, the position reports to the National Economic Council and OMB. […] Given the current stress in the economy I don’t expect any meaningful actions to be put forth that cost anything; we will still have the mindset that “cheapest must be best.”

Third, there was no mention of new resources.

Fourth, there was absolutely no mention made of bolstering our law enforcement community efforts.

This position was finally filled on December 21, 2009 by Howard Schmidt – who had previously served as a cyber advisor to President George W. Bush.  Like Dr. Spafford has said, it seems that there is nothing but more of the same in regards to America’s official stance on the digital world.  As they say, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.

Where does that leave us for tonight’s address?  Ed Felten suggests there are 4 areas which must be improved to make a meaningful difference, and I would tend to agree:

  1. Improving Cybersecurity
  2. Making Government More Transparent
  3. Bringing the Benefits of Technology to All
  4. Bridging the Culture Gap Between Techies and Policymakers

The real challenge here is that each of these four pillars depend on one another, and must all be advanced simultaneously.  If we can bridge the gap between techies and policymakers, surely that will improve cybersecurity.  If we are able to make government more transparent, then that will work towards bringing the benefits of technology to all.  Can we simultaneously make government more transparent, and also improve cybersecurity – especially when so many of our cybersecurity initiatives are led by classified organizations?  Where do we begin?

I hesitate to think that Mr. Schmidt will be the catalyst for this change.  I also hesitate to think that President Obama will have the political capital to drive a meaningful shift in policy or practice – especially with the current struggles over healthcare, jobs, the bailout, or any number of issues.

Does this, then, mean that we must sit and wait for positive change to happen?  What happens in the meantime when Google and China seem to be racing towards the boiling point?  As individuals, who are often left responsible for their own security online, what recourse do we have?

Unfortunately, these are not questions to which I have an answer.  Like the rest of America, I will be tuning in at 9 PM (EST), and listening intently to see if President Obama mentions the state of US Cyber initiatives, and any plans for the future.  If progress on the issues is made as slowly as progress on the selection of the Cybersecurity Coordinator, it would seem that our cyber future may be bleak.  On the other hand, I truly believe that a concerted national effort, not unlike those that created the Space Program, could produce some very real, very positive, and very impactful results.

The floor is now yours, Mr. President.  We’re listening.

This essay originally appeared at Information Space.

Digital Literacy – It’s Important! (Seriously)

This stuff matters.  Really!

I feel compelled to confront a very serious issue facing the newest members of Planet Earth: digital literacy.  Just as we teach our children to read, teach them manners, and, as best we can, teach them the difference between right and wrong, we must teach our children the ins and outs of navigating our new digital existence.

NPR ran a very interesting story this weekend about a research lab at the University of Maryland.  The lab, funded by Google, recently released a study about the ways in which children search for information online.  The results may be surprising – not every kid is a computer whiz.  As it turns out,

There were many children just sat there and watched until they would find the information. As opposed to, hey, couldn’t you do a keyword. Nope, uh-uh. This is what I do. I’ll find it, don’t worry. We had one child swear he was going to find the Vice President’s birthday next year in the Spongebob Squarepants Web site.

This is not good, people!  As someone who was in charge of learning these skills on their own, I implore all of you to take an active approach to rectifying this situation.

Let’s be honest about this – people in my generation (ages 22-30, for the sake of discussion) are members of a unique generation that was in charge of bridging this gap on our own, learning the necessary skills as we progressed.  My first computer, a Commodore 64, was a complete mystery to nearly every person of responsibility in my life.  How do you use it?  What can it do?

My parents certainly couldn’t teach me these sorts of skills.  My mom only recently learned how to send a text message (a major technological achievement, believe me).  So, I did what everyone else my age did – tried different things until I found one that worked reasonably well.  Occasionally, I would share tidbits with friends, or pick something up in a magazine.

Once the Internet came to my house (which was admittedly late – they just got high speed connections in my neighborhood last year), the floodgates opened.  I could connect with other people who were facing the same problems I was, who knew more than me, and who could speak my language when it came to technology.

Now, I am in charge of working to pass this torch to those who come after me – we all are.  It’s vitally important that our children grow up knowing how to successfully use technology.  They need to know how to navigate the pitfalls and gold-mines that can be found online, and be made aware of the implications of their online actions.  This is no small task!  Where do we begin?  According to Dr. Allison Druin, director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland, parents

can be mentors in the sense of trying to motivate a kid to go further and farther.  Also, being able to let kids see how you search and what you do to refine a search.

This might be a great start, but it’s not nearly enough.  Children need to know where to go to find resources, what kind of things are likely to be found online, and what kinds are not.  For these things, try contacting your local librarian, they are fantastic at these sorts of questions.

Children also need to be given the skills and knowledge to navigate these online areas, become able to recognize trouble if they see it, and know how to handle things that they might not be familiar with or know what to do when they get in over their heads (hint: ask an adult you trust!).

If you don’t have any children of your own, that doesn’t mean that you can’t help with this process.  Contact your local library to volunteer, share you skills and knowledge whenever you can.  Do you have a certain area of technology that you’re particularly fluent in?  Be an evangelist for using it correctly, and share what you know – kids talk to their friends, and your positive influence can quickly spread.

I encourage all of you to become involved in helping the children in your lives learn as much as they can about becoming engaged online citizens – not only does it benefit each individual child, but our society as a whole depends on their ability to function in an online world.

You can hear the whole NPR story at this link.  And, for the record, this study concluded that girls were more persistent, but less successful, than boys at performing these online searches.  I’m just sayin’.

This essay appeared originally on the Information Space blog.

Movember

I’ve been getting some questions lately about Movember.  What is it?  Check out this video:

Interested?  Want more about my own Movember involvement?  Our iSchool team has been getting some good press lately, both from our own internal mechanisms, and as a headliner on SU News.

Still interested?  Want to donate?  Check out our official team page for donation information:

http://us.movember.com/mospace/members/search/q/imocuse

For all the mo you can handle:

 

 

 

Should Graduate School Be Rewarding?

This post started as an expression of frustration and subsequent discussion between my wife, who is also a graduate student, and myself.  The basic question: Should graduate school be rewarding?

After the discussion, I’ve boiled it down the three basic answers to this question:

  1. Yes, but only after you’ve completed your degree.  The rewards come later.
  2. Yes, on a daily basis.  It is a time to explore ideas and concepts that you find rewarding and engaging.
  3. No.  It is supposed to be hard, boring, not fun, and a drag.  That’s the point.

My wife finds herself squarely in camp #1.  I, on the other hand, am more of a camp #2 person (rewarding on a daily basis).  Others, like the Annoyed Librarian, are in camp #3.

Does my feeling that graduate school should be rewarding on a daily basis stem from an enlarged sense of entitlement?  Or am I right in feeling this way?

Hear me out: graduate school is optional.  Moreover, it’s expensive, and an enormous commitment.  Why would anyone do something that is both expensive and likely requires them to move their entire lives, give up stable jobs, connections in other communities, and untold other sacrifices to engage in a process that is not rewarding?

To me, simply being “worth it in the long run” is not a good enough reason (things like going to the gym aside – let’s be realistic, here).  Two years, ~$70,000, and the lost opportunity costs are a high bar that needs to be met to engage in the process.  It’s not for everyone, and even for those who it is right for, the timing is not always there.

That being said, there’s a bit of a trick to the whole process.  Once you start, you really can’t stop, even if it ceases to be rewarding on a daily basis.  I have now found myself in this situation.  I know I’m not the only one having a rough semester, but I also feel that if an activity is not rewarding to me, does not enhance and enrich my life, then I should cease to participate and instead engage in something that is rewarding and enriching.

Only, I can’t.  I’m too far down this path to quit now, and must instead attempt to rectify my sour attitude for the remaining weeks of the semester.  Perhaps this is a good life lesson, that you can’t always have it your way (it’s not BK), and some things you must suffer through.

So, fair readers, what do you think?  Share any experiences in the comments.

Hopefully the time goes quickly.

One For The Librarians

Prof. Dave Lankes, of Syracuse University’s iSchool, has a great post today about incorporating new, digital, mashedup data into library catalogs and collections.

He asks

Does it make sense to put this [mashup] in that catalog? How would you even do it? Not the paper they are presenting, but the actual system.

As librarians we must greatly broaden our concepts of the services we provide, and how we organize them. One could imagine a transportation library where this is the primary interface for members. Add to this real time world links to planning and environmental data (click on that road, up comes the construction records – click on that bridge and access the inspection schedule).

Here’s my take: to remain relevant, libraries must adapt and overcome the challenges posed by society’s changing information dynamics (production, consumption, distribution, etc.).  Failure to do so in a relatively short time will relegate libraries to the same place as other information age relics (see AOL, Juno, etc.)

These organizations once provided valuable services, and were industry leaders, innovative, and worth millions.  They also failed to adapt to the changing demands of their customers, and as such, have found themselves irrelevant and forgotten in a mere matter of years.

I’m not intending this post to be one of doom and gloom, just offering that the challenge of incorporating digital and user-created content is the next great hurdle for libraries and librarians.

I’m confident that some of my colleagues, perhaps with Prof. Lankes’ guidance, will tackle and ultimately overcome this problem.

Hopefully they can do it in time!

Thoughts on posting academic work for world-wide inspection…

So I have begun adding some of this semester’s work to my Portfolio Page.  For a long time I had been reluctant to do these sorts of things – posting my work for anyone to access, especially in an easily reproducable format such as PDF.

I can’t tell you exactly why I felt this way, but I think it was likely something along the lines of “This is mine, I don’t want to share.”  But that’s not the wave of the future – sharing is.  Also, I think these sorts of things (sharing your work) produce better work.  If you know that your name is going to be on a piece of work, you end up that much more motivated to produce a quality deliverable.

So – I’m going to continue to post my work, in PDF format, in the hopes that sharing it will spark dialogue, discussion, and perhaps even some pushback from readers.  I’m proud of the work I’ve done, I’ve worked hard to produce it, and will continue to do so.  That said, any input or refinement advice is more than welcome – graduate school is, after all, a process, a journey.  I’m beginning to think there is no destination….

Crowdsourcing my homework

Lest anyone get the wrong impression (I’m talking to you, Syracuse University Office of Academic Integrity) all work was completed entirely on my own, with proper citations where appropriate.

So – less than 36 hours into my Web 2.0 journey, I am already reaping the benefits of expanding my network to places (and people) that I wouldn’t have otherwise.  I posted the following tweet:

Time to make a serious dent in my IST 700 paper – any input on ITIL and IT Security Architectures is much appreciated. [see the tweet]

Within the hour, I had a response from someone who works as an ITIL expert training, explaining the intricacies between ITIL and IT Security in 140 characters or less.  This spawned a tweet-a-logue (is there a term for a dialogue that takes place over Twitter?  If not – I’m coining that: tweetalogue) between him and I that has certainly helped to refine my position on the paper.

It’s great to have some positive feedback – hopefully I can continue to build on this idea and newly forming network.  Maybe I’ll tweet about all of my assignments, if this is the result.

Stay tuned….