Podcast 157: Bill Gates Funds Private Water Cannon Navy

"Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire, is funding research into machines to suck up ten tonnes of seawater every second and spray it upwards. This would seed vast banks of white clouds to reflect the Sun’s rays away from Earth... A fleet of 1,900 ships costing £5 billion could arrest the rise in temperature by criss-crossing the oceans and spraying seawater from tall funnels to whiten clouds and increase their reflectivity."

Apparently every cloud has a Silverlight... sorry, silver lining.

Podcast 100 - Anniversary 1, Episode 100, The Centennial Screed

Thanks to everyone who's listened to podcast over the past year. On the first anniversary of Episode One of the lovehatethings podcast, I present Episode One Hundred, including discourses on the stagnancy of the Blu-Ray format, the reverse evolution of the remote control, and a summer list to get you a speeding ticket: The Top Ten Classic Arena Rock Summer Fast Driving Songs of All-Time.

thinglets: Why Blu-Ray Player Prices Aren't Dropping

“The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That's the deal.” C.S. Lewis

(The following is not based on ANY proof. It is simply a collection of inferred conclusions from a tenuously logical construct.)

The Premise...

Snakebitten by a generation-old loss in the VCR market when Beta loses out to VHS, Sony vows that they will not lose again in the High Definition DVD war. They are willing to cut ANY and all deals necessary to ensure the success of the format. They set upon contacting major electronics manufacturers and studios to ensure a buy-in to the Blu-Ray format. The resulting cost: selling out on the hope for Playstation 3 marketshare.

Connecting the dots...

Sony (the king of proprieta ry technology) tries to buy the battle against HD-DVD, which the Xbox 360 had already bought into, in the hopes of taking a stab Microsoft. With several Southeast Asian manufacturing powerhouses they open up manufacturing specs for Blu-Ray while assembling the following partners:

Apple Inc.
Dell Inc.
Hitachi, Ltd.
Intel Corporation
LG Electronics (Lucky GoldStar)
Mitsubishi Electric
Panasonic (Matsushita Electric Industrial)
Pioneer Corporation
Royal Philips Electronics
Samsung Electronics
Sharp Corporation
Sony Corporation
Sun Microsystems
TDK Corporation (Tokyo Denki Kagaku)
Thomson SA
20th Century Fox
Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.

Missing, of course, from the above list are Microsoft (Sony's only real gaming competitor at the time) and Toshiba, the last supporter of HD-DVD. Presumably Sony believes that by assembling this coalition, it can ensure a win in the HD media war, and, in the long term, put up a real battle against the Xbox 360 for gaming supremacy.

Flies in the Ointment...

Broadband: The ability to download content and get it to a gaming system has saved Microsoft from a higher demand for removable media with greater space. Removable media is seen by many to be dead or dying. The successes of interactive "live" gaming over networks has also shifted the core demand of gaming systems to better network play. Console gaming is becoming network gaming.

Upscaling DVD Players: People are happy with "good enough". Upscaling DVD players have given new "leases on lives" to old DVDs. They're not as good as Blu-Ray, but when you don't have a Blu-Ray, you'll never know it. Also, you don't have to re-buy your entire collection. The lower than anticipated demand for Blu-Ray players and discs further ups the options for upscaling DVD players which every low end player manufacturer pumps out with glee.

Risk of Mass Production Locks Prices: All of the manufacturers in the list above start to worry about taking the plunge. Sony WANTS everyone to take the plunge. If the Blu-Ray component prices go down through increased manufacturing, players will shoot down to $100 and the PS3 can follow to a $200 price point which would threaten the Xbox 360 market share. I honestly think Sony was ready to go there over a year ago and take the loss, but knew that the Blu-Ray coalition would ostracize them. If the PS3 drops to $200, no one else can sell a player for above $100 - EVER! This formidable corporate assembly could kill the Blu-Ray format in six months if they wanted to; Sony takes the hit, instead, by not being able to reduce PS3 prices and losing the gaming war.

Nintendo Wii: Coming out of nowhere, Nintendo reopens the console gaming war to a three ring circus with the Wii (notice how they're not on the list either). Nintendo not only kicks Sony's ass, but kicks the Xbox 360's ass as well: (as of June 30th, 2009 - units sold)
Wii – 102.49 million
Xbox 360 – 33.20 million
PlayStation 3 – 27.73 million

The Oven Timer Rings...

Blu-Ray has largely been a flop from a market share perspective. That's not to knock the technology, but, as with any removable media, technology, it's transitory, and the evolution of networking may render removable media obsolete altogether. And the final, perhaps the most disturbing, death knell to Blu-Ray could be that people really just DON'T CARE about HD for much of their "disposable" content. For the same reason that tens of thousands of people watch pirated film downloads from a shaky camcorder, or watch on their iPhone, is a pretty strong indication that there are a number of people who prefer quantity and free availability to cost and quality.

If Sony and the coalition could afford to make the $100 player, Blu-Ray would evolve and take. Until that happens: stagnancy.

lovehate: Belated Thoughts on Google Chrome OS

When Google made a late-night announcement earlier this week that they would be releasing a lightweight Linux-based OS that booted in seconds and allowed users to live in the clouds, I was all YEAAAHHH! And then I thought about it and I was all YEAAAHH... I think.

In as much as love the big software, hardware and webware giants pushing each other around in order to push innovation and refine user needs and concerns, the Chrome OS is probably a good thing. Will this OS effectively help to redefine the OS concept or just essentially become an OS lite for cloud-dwellers? I really don't have a problem if this is the case, but somehow even this move doesn't have me stretching my mind to applaud where the OS has become.

For instance, while I have no doubt that 90% of what I do on my PC now could be accomplished by web apps, the other 10% cannot and, even though it's only 10%, they are things that need to be done. In fact, I can probably do almost 99% of my PC activities via online apps, but many of these things would be a pain in ass as the interfaces have not reached the ambitions of the backend web developers.

Aviary is a great tool for online photo manipulation, but it is just that, an online tool. If anyone is to spend serious time working with dozens or hundreds of photos on a regular basis, a desktop app would be hard to give up. While I've there are even options for online editing of audio and video files, I would imagine the process would take way more time that a regular desktop app.

And this said, Google is not (at least yet) proposing to take over everyone's PC with the Chrome OS. The first moves are in the "netbook" field which is a PC format that I consider a vast waste of money anyway. Why are people paying what only amounts to $150 less than a full out laptop for hardware that is limited at best and ridiculously restrictive and proprietary at worst? If a netbook is being purchased in addition to a laptop and a desktop, just for kicks, go for it. But please don't the netbook replace one of the above. Honestly, even though the form factor and interface abilities of my iPod Touch are incredibly narrow compared to a laptop, I would rather carry it in my pocket than a netbook under my arm or over my shoulder.

But back to the next phase of the OS. Hadn't we all expected more by now? Is every new feature OS essentially "window-dressing" on slightly modified backends? Are we only buying into interface updates?

How different is the end user functionality of Vista or Windows 7 compared to Windows 95 - after all it's been 14 years? [Alright all you tech-heads, there's obviously a TON of development going on to ensure speed, loads, and efficiencies have improved, but I'm thinking more interface issues here.] If I want to find a file, I still browse to a folder/directory. If I want to install a program, I still double click an executable. I'm still stuck with a mouse and cursor. I've been promised voice interface for generations, but it's still not perfect and far from ubiquitous. I see great "proposed" UIs at developer's conferences and on the Discovery Channel, but hardly anything that has moved the masses from the keyboard and mouse. And maybe this is all because, other than the prominence of interacting with the web, with PC apps, we're still doing the same things: games, word processing, spreadsheets, document handling, audio/video production/editing, email and porn.

So if the prominence of the web is the grand mover behind this alternate OS by Google and probably others soon to follow, I suppose I can cheer with a certain amount of buy-in. It'll be cool, I'm sure, but it won't be game-changing... unless the game is Bejeweled 2, then I'm sold. Until then, bring on voice or thought-based interfaces and scary-cool AI with a dose of thought-based networking and fully-immersive VR to boot. 

C'mon Google! You've got all the money. Bring it on home... or, dare I say, bring it on Chrome!