Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A remedy for Apple's nay-sayers

Despite announcing record results for the latest fiscal quarter, Apple stock took a nose-dive this week. Many think that the financial analysts blame "slowing" iPod sales. Apple can revitalize the iPod and simultaneously enhance its content business in a few easy steps by adding a model or two, and beefing up iTunes:

  • Add audio encoding via line-in and built-in mic.

  • Add direct A/V input, via Firewire and/or USB

  • Add a model between the iPod Touch and the MacBook Air: a content-centric tablet-like device that combines multi-touch and a pen interface, so users can capture, edit and share their own User-Generated Content (UGC).

  • Since Apple would be late in joining the UGC community, they could jump start themselves by running contests for creators and give winners exposure in the iTunes store. If other UGC Web sites can do it, why not iTunes?

  • Give iTunes the ability to distribute content from YouTube and other UGC sites, as MPEG-4 so it can be distributed to iPods and even AppleTV

Unleashing the creative capabilities of the Mac to put UGC over the market-leading iTunes store could be a boon to Apple and users alike.

None of this is impossible technologically. It's just a matter of setting revenue-splits with the content owners and distribution partners. Most of the user interface work is done, with multi-touch, WaCom tablets, etc.

The ABC TV network, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company (of which Steve Jobs is the largest shareholder), could monitor this user-generated content as a way to scout both for content and for new acting talent for its TV shows. NBC Universal has been doing this with YouTube since mid-2006 (as I was told by George Kliavkoff, Chief Digital Officer of NBC Universal). It's possible that ABC has been doing something like this too.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mainstream portable computing, circa 2011 - today

The computer industry pundits are all a-twitter about Apple's new MacBook Air laptop computer. It's a brilliant design. I tend to buy a new laptop ~every 3 years, so I'm not running out to buy one, but perhaps variants on this form-factor will proliferate across the Mac line by the time I'm in the market again.

People are complaining about lack of Ethernet and FireWire connections, lack of CD/DVD drive. But wait, hang on!

--> Today, wireless is almost ubiquitous, so I don't really need Ethernet.

--> As for FireWire - unless you use it to hook up your video camera, most use it for backups to an external drive. But Apple intro'd another truly ingenious product this week for backup, called Time Capsule.

--> If I'm using a home media server or am wirelessly networked, I don't need the CD/DVD drive for movies or music (or backups, see above)

Also, Apple was first to deep-six the floppy drive - when's the last time you used one of those? Similarly, there's no modem in the current generation of Mac laptops: you must purchase a $50 external modem for the current generation of MacBook Pro machines. But when's the last time you used dial-up?

No, I think Apple has a very interesting product that seems like sort of a "niche" head-scratcher product now, but is a harbinger of mainstream portable computing, circa 2011.

Ziff Davis has published a review and commentary about the MacBook Air - it's fun to read the reader responses.