Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Viva la Revolutione! Sony announces a sub $200...

Viva la Revolutione!

Sony announces a sub $2000 HDV camcorder for consumers the HDR-HC1. They also announced another prosumer model the HVR-A1U with features that videographers require like XLR audio Input/Output.

What's interesting is that Sony has been a big manufacturer of CCD but these new cameras use CMOS sensors. My guess is that a 4:3 sensor large enough to crop to 16x9 is likely cheaper to manufacture with a CMOS process than CCD.

This should really bring HD recording to the masses. As of now Apple's lineup of digital video editing tools all support HDV. There is good support on Windows based editing apps as well. While I'd love to see 3 dedicated sensors to RGB I'll take the increase in resolution that HDV offers.

With HD-DVD and Blu-Ray looming I see HD taking of rather quickly. HDTV sets are becoming quite affordable and playback of HD files on computers is already here with Quicktime 7 (coming for PC soon) playing back the hot new h.264 codec that will be in both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray players.

I am a little shocked that Sony beat JVC to lower cost consumer models. JVC being the progenitor of the HDV format should have hit the consumer market first IMO. Perhaps they have something in the works for release later this year. If they could hit $1495 MSRP that would be great.

Looks like my JVC MiniDV camera will be my first and last SD camera...that feels great to say.

New Game Consoles

I must say I'm very impressed by the new Games Consoles. My fav so far is the Playstation 3 followed by the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Revolution. I may have to own all three but we'll see. Nice to see them morph into devices that do more than just play games. More later.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Should Apple buy Tivo?

Tivo Tivo Tivo
It's not necessarily that Apple has to buy Tivo to get into the market. We know Apple has to enter this space and offer a DVR solution. They've even called DVR capability a "commodity item" . However Tivo as a company has a weakness in that if a DVR is a commodity then you have to make your money elsewhere.

So what has Tivo done? Started packing their UI with adds and selling their customers usage patterns on the backend. Not too good. It's obvious that they cannot survive with Comcast and TW offering lowcost DVR options as a monthly rental for less than half the Tivo sub cost.

If Apple were to purchase Tivo this is what I see happen.

Tivo's contract with Directv lasts until 2007. I wouldn't expect to see Apple make many changes other than beef up Mac support for Tivo2go and Home Media Option.

The fun would start up late 2006 when we'd finally see and expansion to the lineup. Here's how Apple might work it out.

Basic Unit -

$199 This unit would be for the basic consumer that wants DVR service. It would require that you get a .mac account for the Guide at $5 per month or you could opt for the .mac+ service at $8 per month which would include all the services that the current .mac includes like storage space, email, sync features etc. You would be able to listen to your iTunes store music on all devices.

Mid Unit -

$299- This unit would contain a larger HD and built in wireless capability. You would have the ability to link to your own personal audio and video files on your computer as well as photographs.

Power Unit -
$499- This would the the unit for AV aficionados. Large 300+GB hard drives. Built in DVD Burner. Firewire ports for adding more external hard drives. This unit would be based on the Sony/Toshiba/IBM Cell processor. It would have an OLED screen built in so that the tag data from the music tracks or annotations added to pictures would be displayed without the need to pipe them through to the TV.

The basic features of these units would be. A standard width casing. USB 2.0 on all units. Firewire on the top unit. The top two units would playback your files on your home network. Ethernet would be included on all models. HDMI connectors and analog connectors would be on the back. SPDIF audio as well. Wireless standard on top two models 802.11n. The top unit would allow for better encoded video due to the Cell processors power. CableCARDS standard on top two models.

Software -
The software would look similar to Tivo's UI and contain all the great features like Wishlist and Season Pass however you would have new areas of the software(depending on model) the beefier units would have pages for managing your own files, broadband internet files and cable content. Support for stores would be built right in. The units would launch with Netflix download support, Amazon.com CD/DVD store access and of coure Apple's very own iTMS. Each page would be branded. Eventually the store API would be opened up to other companies who want to pay the license fees associated.

The beauty of this setup is that Apple doesn't buy Tivo to "simply" become yet another company with a DVR. They would beef up this strategy so tha they are supporting iTunes Music Store, your own personal files and broadband content all in one device with one remote (bluetooth on top two models). Consumers won't buy into "just" a DVR but they will buy into something that manages "all" their media. Apple can either create this on their own from scratch or build off of the start that Tivo has created. Sign me up for the $500 model!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Do you get sick of the Tech Press at times?

I'll keep the scope narrow here. I'm mainly talking about some of the Press response to the iPod. Apple is certainly in an enviable position right now. As numero uno in the digital media genre they have a large and bright bullseye sitting squarely on their back. When you are sitting in rarified air on your pedastal everyone wants to knock you off and assume your position. This "frenzy" regarding the iPod has led to some very interesting tech reports. Mind you it seems like not a day can go by without someone launching their FUD campaign against Apple. Let's look at some recent posts however.

Mike Goodman from the Yankee Group seems to think that Apple is missing an opportunity of such dire importance that it could threaten their very lead. Perhaps. He seems to base his assertions on Apple's "lack of interest" in subscription model. We are told that the subscripton model is "gaining popularity" yet we have no press release to quantify this. Like many articles from the people who are supposed to "Analyze" we are left with a dearth of actual info. Every Apple press release is met with FUD but never any hardcore evidence showing that the subscription model is gaining any ground whatsoever.

Goodman insists that there were technological barriers present which led to two distinct forms of downloads. We'll yes if your tech barrier is DRM. Consumers don't seem to enthused about DRM but they remain enthused about music. Goodman says that he expects Apple's marketshare to drop down to about 50-60 percent if they do not employ a subscription based service. This is fair to me. I think over time Apple's marketshare will likely hit that naturally. However, the market will be so large in a few years that 50-60 percent will represent probably 3x the amount of hardware and software revenue they get today. Either way this funnels to one company and is not spread amongst a bunch of bit players.

I don't think "tethered" downloads will be as popular as these pundits state. While we all want access to as much music as possible tethered downloads will require people to purchase new devices that handle Janus (Microsoft's portable players DRM). That can be daunting if compared to an open and thriving iPod market that is growing. The inability to back up files and make copies is being severely underplayed by those who would benefit from "rent a music" schemes.

Janus has to prove a lot to consumers before it becomes the world beater that analysts are predicting. The iPod has been such a runaway hit journalists and analysts are falling over themselves to out FUD(Fear Uncertainty Doubt) Apple's position. It's been this way since the beginning. No one wants to hear nothing but good news, people thrive on a little drama. It'll be interesting to see just how well subscriptions do. Especially after that monthly fee lapses and people see their music go "poof".