Cable guys looking in the wrong direction for Video on Demand

Ashley Norris’s article in the Guardian about the potential merger of NTL and Telewest in the UK and their plans to offer video on demand has Toby Hack head of OMDtvi enthusiastically suggesting “This is the start of the next phase in the evolution of TV: viewer choice TV.” Excuse the pun, but that’s a media hack’s interpretation by any standards.

Far from being the killer app for cable companies, it’s the attempt to fulfill an empty promise that broadband, RSS and BitTorrent have been filling for the last year or more. Media centre PCs (or a shiny new Mac mini) are becoming a piece of the living room set-up and the rise of personal media services via broadband, BitTorrent and RSS feeds have all but made video on demand from cable companies obsolete. Why bother subscribing when you can download High-Def streams (which is what they’ll broadcast anyway) for free (nearly).

Norris suggest this at the end of the article, but the cable guys just don’t want to hear it:

“The cable companies, with their huge bandwidth, could be in a strong position to offer IP video on demand services. ‘Of course we are considering video on demand via IP,’ says Telewest spokesman John Moorwood. ‘But for now the key is video on demand via TV, and probably will be for some time to come.'”

They should just concentrate on selling their bandwidth and make deals for IP-based content that make it cheap and easier than stealing it. It sounds to me like the cable guys are still running to catch up with their train that has already been the station, sadly unaware that they’re about to be mown down by the one piling in behind them.

Misunderstanding mobile phone cameras

Simon Castle’s rant against mobile phone cameras in today’s Sydney Morning Herald completely misunderstands new technologies and confirms his Luddite status he so quickly denies. The privacy issues he raises may be real, but they have nothing to do with mobile phones.

There are plenty of higher resolution digital cameras smaller than phones and posting photos on the Internet has been easy for years. The idea that manufacturer’s be forced to make the camera flash is absurd, how difficult is it for someone to put a piece of tape over the flash?

Blogs and moblogs represent a new wave of personal media creation, but they’re no more invasive than the press pack getting stuck into a media victim. Does giving a photographer press credentials allow them the right to invade someone’s privacy?

Like it or not, our technological world is becoming more playful. Humans like to play (witness the iPod) even if we’ve been brainwashed into believing adult life should be serious. Those “toys” Castle dismisses are the future of a connected culture, like it or not. Trying to legislate against their use is more likely to curb human rights than save them. The next thing we’ll hear is that mobiles should be banned because protesters use them.

Understanding VORN and the work of Jon Harris

The article I wrote about Jonathan Harris is out in Desktop now. Go buy it!

Harris was the creator of the brilliant 10×10 site, which gives a snapshot of current images and words in the news across the web. He also created a similar work called Understanding Vorn.

I noticed a lot of activity on Blogdex about his information graphics work he did at Princeton University’s International Networks Archive. Good for him, his work is great.

Screaming Fans – New iMacs and Apple’s tech support

My friend Toby (check out his audio work, it’s great) recently bought a new iMac for his audio work (he and his wife are expecting a baby so he couldn’t splash out on a tower) . The problem is, it’s pretty processor intensive and it makes the fan whine, which isn’t great if you’re working with audio. But it was the online Apple support guy that really took the biscuit. <br/> Here’s the transcript, check out the guy just giving up in the end: <br/>

Agent: Okay Tobias

tobias:
i undertsnad the relationship of cpu load vs fan spin speed and also accept the trade off when using a mac designed in a small enclosure – ie the fans are smaller and spin faster anyway to make the same cooling of a larger slower fan like in a G5 tower, but its the higher pitched whine that kicks in and changes pitch, above the fan sound…i can live with the fan sound…i am happy to use the mac for a week and really test it all out and see how much it does my head in (dont get me wrong, i am very excited by this new iMac….) Have others commented on the hight pictched whining sound on top of the fan noise?

tobias:
i dont want to sound perdantic or anal…just seeing if this is normal.

Agent:
Tobias, dont worry i understaand the situation, people have had issues with fan but in those cases the fan noise was always present,

Agent:
To be honest

Agent:
when processor intensive applications are run then the fans are going to rotate at high speeds and there might be a whine noise, i apologise for the inconvinence

Apple’s Tipping Point

Paul Nixon has created a great bit of information design describing Apple’s product development/market strategy. The Mac mini and iPod Shuffle in the sweet spot of the mass market.

The “Halo Effect” is something well used in the fashion industry. High fashion nonsense filtering down into mainstream styles. Companies like Armani make far more money from their Jeans ranges than the top end of town. The difference being that in the fashion world, most of the high end stuff on the catwalk is unwearable and ridiculous whereas the Apple products are just, well, even better.

Thanks to Knotty for the link.

Bastardstone’s – Waterstone’s employee sacked for blogging

So, Waterstone’s bookshop have just fired Joe Gordon, an employee of eleven years, due to his blog. Pretty stupid move and another example of a company/brand (blah!) in need of reading the Hughtrain.

Okay, it is perhaps a bit dumb to publicly insult your place of work, but really, unless Waterstone’s have a case for defamation, surely they don’t have a leg to stand on apart from the fact that the Joe probably doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on legal help. He was blogging in his own time, on his own machine and it was hosted on his own site. It was also clearly satirical, which in my limited understanding of libel is one of the key factors in not getting sued. Saying Bill Gates is demented warthog clearly isn’t true (thus satire), saying he’s a child molester could be taken as such as would constitute the marring of his good (ahem) name, etc. For the record, that’s not what I’m saying about Bill of course.

Of course thousands of bloggers are indignant about the whole thing and many of them will probably spam Waterstone’s. It’s only part of the point though – Joe’s unlikely to take his job back even if they were forced to offer it to him. But it does show an incredible ignorance of blog and online culture as well as real heavy-handedness in terms of corporate behaviour. It’ll damage their reputation a bit too, especially if the mainstream media get hold of it and it goes round the blogs all over again.

What they should have done is made him the Waterstone’s blogger – they would have officially ‘owned’ him and would have looked smart in the process. Not only that, he probably wouldn’t have time to write his own.

Where and how to donate to Tsunami victims

Anders Jacobsen has laid down the challenge that he’ll give $1 per trackback to his post of all the aid agencies. Seems like a good idea to me. So here are the details:

International aid organizations: Australian Red Cross UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) United Nations’ World Food Programme Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors without Borders (donate!) CARE International The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

UK/Europe: Disasters Emergency Comittee (DEC) – comprises a raft of aid agencies, including the below and others British Red Cross Save the Children UK

North America: American Red Cross Canadian Red Cross Save The Children

Anders Jacobsen: Webloggers: Give to tsunami victims and I’ll give too!

The raging BitTorrent

There’s a good story on BitTorrents over at Wired at the moment by from Clive Thomson based on an interview with Bram Cohen, BitTorrent’s creator. Thomson writes a few entertaining anecdotes about the entertainment industry’s lack of understanding of the area and makes a similar point to my previous post about Apple and the idea of iTorrent:

“The music industry watched songs get stolen for years, yet as soon as it gave people what they wanted – a reasonably cheap and easy way to pay for individual tracks – customers swarmed to the legal option: the iTunes Music Store. What if the movie industry pursued a similar model?”

Okay, so we don’t even have iTunes Music Store in Australia (because the copyright laws are so antiquated here), but the idea holds firm. I had an interesting experience with The Bourne Supremecy. I missed it in the cinemas, went into a DVD shop and nearly bought it but decided I might rent it instead. Then, on a spur of the moment impulse, I went into a Blockbuster last night that I was passing with the intention of buying it. They’d sold out. Lost sale. Can’t be bothered. Might rent it sometime instead.

Now, if it had been legally available online I would have bought it, no question about it. Paid my, say $5, downloaded it and all would be good. But the mechanics of the physical product being on the shelf (or not) lost the sale. It’s really not a question of if this will happen, but when, and the movie industry need to get their skates on.