Monday, January 21, 2008

Macworld Wrap-up

As usual, the focus has been on Macworld this past week rather than CES. I think that the media and even a lot of geeks have just become disenchanted with CES and have begun to care more about the words of Steve Jobs. Barely anyone really seemed to care that it's Bill Gates last CES keynote ever. By this year's end, Ray Ozzie will be the new CEO of Microsoft. Of course, there is the fact that this video from the keynote of his supposed last day at work spread pretty fast and is pretty funny. I love that he can make fun of himself and that he managed so many great cameos. Oh, and I have a lot to talk about today to make up for not writing this post like two days ago when I should've.

Anyway, back to Macworld. There are a few things I thought were worth mentioning related to that keynote. Game Daily has a great article pointing out that this was another Macworld without any focus at all on video games for Macs. I agree with them in calling this a huge oversight. I have no idea why they don't believe the power of video games. That industry has really exploded in the past 5-10 years and PC games have seen a come back with titles like Half-Life 2, Portal, World of Warcraft, The Sims, and Civilization 3. They're losing the gamer market by forcing them to run these titles on a dual-booted machine or even a VM. They should be making it easier to run them on native hardware and they could be touting the consistency of Mac computers as ensuring that any game developed for Mac could work on potentially all Macs or say right from the get-go which ones work on which. For PCs, the hardware combinations are so diverse that you lose this slight advantage, which really only hurts you when you want to get someone a game as a gift, most likely, and don't know if they can use it. They're clearly not pushing iPod/iPhone games ostensibly, though Sonic has come on board, and I just imagine that there's a bigger market there than Game Daily believes because of how many people play phone games when they're bored. I just can't figure out why Apple has no interest in supporting this market.

Joy of Tech has a pretty great comic
about the MacBook Air that kind of reflects my views also.

This isn't really related to the Apple TV even though you may see articles around with people billing this as a big blow to Apple TV, but Time Warner is trying out a new pricing scheme similar to your power bill. The more you download, the more you pay. This indirectly affects Apple TV because renting/buying those HD movies is not going to be all that attractive rather than buying/renting the hard copy from a store. In any case, the point is that they're trying to penalize you for piracy or using up the "unlimited" Internet access you pay for too much. This is like opening an all-you-can-eat buffet where you see a few fat people and decide that if you're fat then you have to pay more money. It's crazy. Unlike your power bill or your water bill, it doesn't cost them anything extra to serve up more of the Internet to you, in reality. They make so much money with their outdated networks and large base of users that they really just want more money. In some areas you may see a higher quality of service, but the quality of your Internet should be higher because they're re-investing your monthly payments into thicker pipes and not because less people are online. People are not going to like this idea in this society of rising gas prices and other things where you pay a variable cost. They claim it'll only affect 5% of users, but in this increasingly broadband world, it's going to hurt more people than that. It's frustrating, but I'm honestly not sure what can be done. Maybe it'll end up being a tiered plan, which would be slightly better but still irritating since your service won't get any better for paying more money. Somewhere at Time Warner corporate there's a guy in a tall, black leather chair laughing diabolically. Oh, and whether this is a conspiracy against Apple TV so that people buy digital cable rather than watch TV online is a little bit extreme. I honestly do not think that it has anything to do with that. I believe torrents and P2P are hurting them, and they'd rather pass the buck than adapt. They're not smart enough to think ahead to IP TV; put their execs in a room of Neanderthals and you wouldn't know the difference.

I love PicLens. I think it's the best add-on since IE Tab (or the best thing since sliced bread, if you prefer). It works in IE and Safari, too; just not the new feature I'm going to talk about. I casually updated recently only to later realize that they've upgraded the UI. You can see it in the screenshot to the left, but it doesn't do it justice. It's just so ridiculously intuitive. They've made the pictures into a wall of thumbnails rather than a filmstrip at the bottom so that you can use the fullness of your screen to navigate and use your scroll wheel to casually glance at whatever piques your interest. They've also really improved the Facebook functionality. I don't think I've ever browsed pictures so effortlessly before; not even in Picasa. I was so struck that I took the time to actually port several galleries from the NSC site to the PicLens format (really easy with PicLens Publisher tool; you just surround the code it gives you with your layout) and will be using it permanently for the NSC site. It's a great thing to try out if you're running a website where you value viewing images over comments and ratings and descriptions and all that junk, and it even has a Flash-based thing to view the images in a slideshow even if you don't have PicLens. Oh, but word to the wise: look at the CSS I have on my galleries. I had to hack it up for IE6, which doesn't support max-width.

I think I've all but declared the HD-battle over in Blu-ray's favor. Gizmodo feels the same and has shed a little more light on what has been happening in recent weeks. While it's likely true that Sony did pay some of the studios to help them decide to move exclusively to Blu-ray, the fact of the matter is that they money they paid was much less than what they stand to lose/gain in a new HD format. All the studios were pretty eager to end the format war though, and I think Fox caving to Blu-ray caused a domino effect that almost ceded the battle to Sony. I don't think we know yet what motivated Fox to do this, and the exact reasoning for Warner and Toshiba hasn't totally given up yet, but I think it's pretty clear that they're gripping at straws. Only a few loyal studios remain; I mistakenly reported Paramount's switch because they haven't jumped ship yet though they legally can. Universal is bound until 2009 or the bitter end, whichever comes first. New Line, Fox, and Warner aren't small potatoes though, and it may be enough to tempt more studios to take the leap. The battle isn't over, but I think a lot of us want it to be. After all, Blu-ray has done a poor job of future-proofing the format and, not-so-coincidentally, the PS3 is the only Blu-ray player capable of supporting the 2.0 spec because it has an Internet connection and 1GB of local storage. It looks like they're trying to use Blu-ray in 2.0 to help spread gaming to movie enthusiasts from the looks of CES demos with trivia games and the like, but these Blu-ray versions will surely cause confusion (there's a 1.1 that only a few players, including the PS3, support).

I thought it was interesting that MySpace is still dominating Facebook in traffic. If you have any insight into this, I'd love to hear it because I have to say that I'm more than a little surprised. 72% of social networking traffic goes to MySpace compared to 16% for Facebook. This is more than a small disparity. I guess I live in a bubble where only a minority of the people I know have MySpace accounts, including the adults I know who are on Facebook. To be fair, Facebook's grew 50% over last year whereas News Corp's bastard child lost 8% of its prior market share. The hype machine would make it seem like Facebook is taking over the world. Hell, I kid you not, my own mother called me last week to tell me about Facebook and this guy who started the site in college and made all this money. She thought that I should do something like that someday. I'm suddenly glad that I didn't take the Facebook interview. It's not that I believe they're failing, I just think they're in this huge bubble. I don't know if it'll pop or not, but I also don't know how stable it is. In any case, my theory is that a lot of minors are loving MySpace whereas adults and many college students who do social networking use Facbook. There's also an overlap of college students who still check their MySpace but don't actively use it. That's just my theory, and I guess that it would mean that the Facebook audience is more valuable than the MySpace audience. Anyhow, I think it's even more interesting given that MySpace has been getting bad press over privacy issues. I mean when people can see private photos of 14 year-old boys/girls, that's creepy.

I have a few quick things to lump together here. AOL (AIM/ICQ) has finally caved and moved its protocol to XMPP, more popularly known as Jabber, which is what Google Chat runs on. I can't say anything about this other than that it's ostensible very cool since XMPP is open source. If you're uninitiated into the dark art of MySQL, this is an awesome primer. Woot has put up their always funny Wootable Awards from CES of random things including Most Racist Display and Best Alien Detector. I liked the new trailer for Baby Mama and so I thought I'd share. Tina Fey wants a surrogate mother because she can't conceive and so she turns to a childlike character(Amy Poehler). I thought it was quirky and funny. And last, but not least, my first upload to YouTube from going to Copa on Friday night:

Just because I miss it, how about some Unconscious Mutterings:

I say ... and you think ... ?

  1. President :: Clinton (Bill ;)

  2. Stare :: Glaze

  3. Embrace :: Hug

  4. Movie :: Theater

  5. Everything :: On sale

  6. Profile :: Facebook

  7. Satire :: Comedy

  8. Erratic :: Errata

  9. Costume :: Party

  10. Secretary :: of State

1 comment:

Samantha Winters said...

Hi Elton-

We will be up and running again tomorrow! The subject is music. Hope you can join us.
Have a terrific weekend.

Saturday 9