Shatner video phone mad cow

Rogers in Canada recently announced their video phone call service on their new HSDPA high speed wireless network (with very limited coverage and even disclaimers that service make be intermittent as the network is built out).

HSDPA offers huge mobile data possibilities but video calling is the vehicle that (sadly, and clearly not learning from Three’s failure in the UK) Rogers has chosen to use because quite frankly, it’s really hard to figure out how to convince consumers to spend extra money on a new network investment.

They had William Shatner (who is Canadian – and why can’t the Canadian media resist the urge to tell everyone about someone being Canadian every time they sneeze) show up to do some kind of tongue-in-cheek launch event.

However, in a seperate media interview (and I’m paraphrasing/remembering here) he talks about science fiction become reality – bear in mind that they only had voice communicators on Star Trek, vs. say Space 1999 – but then started to go on about how text messaging was not a very warm way to communicate with people, etc. I think he was trying to say that video phone calls were much more ‘in-person’ and friendly but didn’t specifically say that as far as I remember, and remember sheep need to be herded.

I was wondering if Rogers executives were cringing at Bill’s words though. The point of having a celebrity is that it lends some persuasion to influence all those susceptible people out there. Now, imagine how much money Rogers makes from text messaging, and now Bill has told lots of people that text messaging is bad, and yet this new service is only available around Toronto…

I didn’t get to see the full media launch video, so hopefully, for Rogers’ sake, not many people will get to see this ‘mad-cow’ (see Boston Legal), i.e. confusing media clip. Yeah, OK… the texters are addicted so Rogers is safe, but it was a little like watching Denny Crane put his foot in it.

My kingdom/PS3 for a Wii?

I got a PS3 on launch day, but it came with an opportunity cost other than the cash. I (for the first time) slept overnight in my car – well from 2am to 7am – a month before to get my pre-order in. That wasn’t the cost, and it beat sitting outside in a chair or tent like most people had to in near-zero temperatures. The EB Games store I went to knew how many of PS3s and Wiis they’d be getting and I had to choose between the two systems, so I went for the PS3. That was the choice.

Since last November I haven’t seen a Wii in stock anywhere and yet I’ve been bombarded with the Nintendo commercials. Don’t they realise they’re wasting money given that it’s hard to convert ad time in to sales when there’s nothing to buy?

Nintendo is notorious for under supplying. I don’t care what they say; I believe it’s a strategy to keep demand up. It also hurts the accessory partners.

Most stores I’ve contacted (and trust me I have a list of all the relevant store’s phone numbers from my PS3 pre-order adventure) either have no idea when they’ll get their next shipment, or have a date that keeps slipping.

Would I trade a PS3 (or more) for a Wii? Well, no. My 1080p screen (to get the best PS3 and XBox 360 experience) will no doubt stick it’s nose up at the Wii’s graphics, but I’d like to have one because 1) I’m a gadget junkie so I have all the others, 2) the controller concept and games seem like fun & 3) one gets to get off the couch.

Internet Borders – use the off switch

A handful of videos offensive to the Thai king have caused Thailand to ban YouTube access in the country. Apparently such acts in Thailand can lead to serious prison time.

Apparently the king is regarded as semi-divine – he is 79 and apparently the world’s longest-reigning monarch. I kinda think the hat could make him a comedy target, but then it never hurt the British Beefeater guards at Buckingham Palace.

The Thai communications minister claims that YouTube told him that there was “much worse ridicule of President Bush on the site” which is kept there. One of the offending clips replaced the monarch’s face with a monkey’s face – imagine that with Bush and decide for yourself how many people would bat an eyelid – good ol’ USian free-speech. These are clearly different cultures. While Thailand holds its monarch in high regard, it also has a quite public thriving hospitality industry 😉 which the US would frown upon for the most part even if it has a similar industry covertly operating too (as do um… most countries?).

This brings up the discussion of Internet culture borders and jurisdiction. Quite frankly I’m surprised that a more blunt stance is not taken in Thailand (compared to say China). If YouTube is under the jurisdiction of the US constitution, which would seem to allow rights that are most definately not in line with Thai national laws and morals (once you’ve figured out who is in charge after the 18 coups in 75 years), then why would Thailand condone access to it in the first place?

If you don’t like something on TV (allowing for the fact that in some countries like UK there are watershed times during the day before which mature content is not allowed), you can turn it off. If Thailand doesn’t like US morals, they can turn it off too – in fact why did they even allow it in the first place?

UPDATE:
These Turks know how to do it. But then again, it makes me wonder if the only really effective remaining democratic action one can take is moving country. It’s just a shame you can’t make your own with its own set of rules – ah well there’s always Second Life or um Weblo(?) but even the US Feds are starting to look into those.

Bait, switch and upgrade with DRM-free music

OK – who isn’t talking about this? DRM-free EMI tracks at a higher price and higher quality on iTunes.

I think it comes down to this:

  • you’re still (for now) locked into the Apple eco-system – Apple win;
  • you can get music at high quality and DRM-free – consumer win;
  • many people will re-buy or upgrade songs to get the higher quality or non DRM – EMI win

It’s marketing – someone thought it through…

People will do that last one for the same reason that people buy something on DVD that they already have on VHS – and when will Star Wars come out on Blu-ray or HD-DVD so all geeks feel compelled to buy it again??

The bait is DRM-free or high quality music. The switch is that people will likely spend money on music they already had. If you’re reading this and thinking you’re too clever for that, then this marketing scheme wasn’t aimed at you and you are likely in the minority. This deal is for people who buy stuff just because it’s on sale.

Of course even if the other major industry players cave, DRM will not come off rental/subscriptions deals which of course is perfectly rational.

Frankenstein parents

So I was out driving along at 7am this morning when I hear an ad on the local radio station for a company that will do cosmetic surgey on babies. The ad mentions how babies and young children are still adaptable, etc. It even promotes the service as good for beauty pageant hopefuls.

I’m pretty sure it was an April Fool joke, or at least I hope it was and I couldn’t remember the web address they gave.

However I bet there are parents out there who do get elective cosmetic surgey for their children for the purpose of enhancing their beauty pageant chances.

Anyone who caught the pilot episode of “The Great American Dream Vote” (the cheesiest show on TV by far and hosted by Donny Osmond) on Mon March 26th 2007, can see the enthusiam some people have for getting their children in pageants, enough that a contestant mentioned twice that kids had died from cancer but were buried with pageant crowns on their heads that her daughter raised money to buy. The contestant’s dream was for her daughter to be Miss America. OK, the girl visits dying kids and keeps them company, but come on… I think people tend to have one of two extreme reactions to this story. The fact that Jimmy Kimmel was joking about it on Tuesday night gives you the general impression out there. Perhaps this is where the radio station got their idea for the joke from – I really hope it was a joke.

Life… Art… Life, etc.

Xbox 360 coloured sheep

Today I feel like a marketing sheep but I will resist the urge.

Microsoft’s new Xbox 360 Elite apparently has HDMI and a 120GB hard drive…

… and comes in Black and Silver… cool… I’d like one just for the HDMI (there’s some ghosting on the component output with my 1080p display, compared to the lovely solid digital output from my PS3 on HDMI) and use the old one as a media center extender now that my HP extender doesn’t have an upgrade to work with Vista !#$#

… oh wait: my controllers, and battery charger and camera are all white.

Bugger.

I guess they aren’t trying to appeal to the colour-co-ordinated enthusiast – way to go J Allard!

So I either have to put up with white controllers with a black & silver unit or be a total sheep and buy new controllers to match, right after I sucker up and buy a Gillette Fusion Phantom (‘cos I haven’t collected that colour yet) – yeah right.

Check back to see what happens…

The last newspaper you’ll ever read…

…unless it needs to go in for repairs.

I’m going at this from a different angle than Robert Scoble.

As much as I’m a gadget and software nut, I recognise that there are still millions of people reading a news paper today, as even more tabloidish as they are on a Sunday.

My angle is about form-factor and consumer device adoption rather than recognising journalism through blogging, etc.

Electronic ink will come along and have a profound effect on the world. One day you (if you read newspapers in paper form today) will acquire a newspaper; it will feel like a newspaper (and you can have the sheet size you want) but it will be the last one you buy (more or less). Its contents will be replaced when the daily newspaper would normally be published. If you don’t have a computer, you’ll do this at the newsagent for a few pennies. It may need also have pages since one sheet or folder out may be enough if you can electronically flick through the pages.

When this happens, it will be adopted by the masses, because it will be an easy substitute and cost far less than a yearly paper subscription. Once the transition has occured then we’ll see the convergence of form-factor between newspaper and PDA like we have today between computer and phone.

I think this, more than the source of the news (which doesn’t necessarily concern the individual newspaper reader today), will affect journalism in a democratising way. This will largely be because the user will be in control of content but in a way that feels familiar.

Later models will animate (perhaps showing video and even maybe sound), have colour and possibly be interactive (at which point you can watch the text book go the same way).

Add wifi/wimax/’wifad’, along with wearable computing and you have a realistic view of the future on what you can expect to see people doing on the train/bus/car(!) within a decade.

So newspapers are not dead, but their form-factor and delivery will almost certainly change.

Retail zombies

When was the last time you went for a browsing in a large furniture outlet? Did you make it passed the greeter? Did you end up with a new living room set? If like me, you dodge the greeter you’re probably familiar with that feeling of the sales people slowly homing in on you… it’s unnerving – like a game of PacMan especially in those larger stores which are like mazes. At they don’t feed on captured prey in packs.

What really grinds my gears (as Peter Griffin would say) is that in most of these situations you’ve barely taken a step inside the building when the crouching tiger pounches and you’re not ready, but when you have real questions there’s no-one to be seen (they have moved to other prey) or they can’t answer the important questions like “OK so what is the call out time on that warranty service you wont shut up about?”.

I was going to called this “retail vultures” (getting people signed up on credit or extended warranties aka “profitable insurance”) but “zombies” better reflects the pace of the encroaching movement.

I happened to walk through a used car lot this week and was greeted with “Hello, are you aware of our sales this week?”. Now of course this is a no-win baited question – the trick is to give them a completely different line that will throw them off long enough so you can run away, or to ask a question that you know will not get an answer but at least requires consultation.

Of course the point is that these tactics and scripted conversations work on the majority of people and result in real sales, but I think I may invest in a t-shirt that says “Yes I’m already being helped” 🙂 I know these are nice people doing what they do well. In other cases they are following marketing orders and I hate to see it extending to undeserving retail checkout people turned into robots with lines like “Do you have a predisposition-spending-more-because-we-said-you-are-loyal card… No? Would you like one?”. Worse than that is the “Will you be using your more-money-for-share-holders loyalty/points/credit card today?” – a presumptuous and potentially insulting question.

How long can you cruise around your local whatever store without being incercepted?

Slow release product marketing

Do you suppose that every year or so someone at Gillette thinks “Actually, the best a man can get now includes one more blade – we never thought of that before”? Probably not. But I wonder how long they can keep adding blades – OK, I admit to having a Power Fusion razor with the 5+1 blades.

So yesterday I heard the recently released Rogers (Canada) commercial again saying that their Home Phone service (which they say is not VOIP but I’m sure it technically is – they try to differentiate it because it’s locked down so home-brewers need not apply for the most part), now has free calls between anywhere in Canada if both ends are on the service. Wow – image that, free in-network VOIP calls – how generous… after how long now? OK, so they maybe wanted a certain critical mass of adopters for their service. I’ve been having free VOIP calls for years and I don’t have to pay any fixed rental for it. Rogers is getting my money for a cable connection, so why should I pay to just send data over it? Cue the marketing script response…

This is what I call slow release product marketing. All the potential is practically/probably already in there, but for economic and/or investment-recouping and/or profit milking purposes, you just don’t get the benefit of it, and most people are oblivious enough to think it’s the best thing since sliced bread.