Thursday, October 21, 2004
I blogged 9/23/04 (click on this post title) about Star Wars Battlefront on the Xbox. I finished the single player over the weekend, and I had a great time. But as I said, I got the game for the Xbox Live battles, and that has been a thorough disappointment. LucasArts released a patch about a week after the game came out which supposedly fixed some problems, but in the successive times I have played the game, Xbox Live plays just sucks. Servers can't be found, after you find a server you get dropped, if you actually get in a game, performance is atrocious. I might give it a few more shots, but with Halo 2 fast approaching, this one might find itself on eBay mighty quick.
Monday, October 11, 2004
With rumors of a 60GB iPod with Photo features already in production for release before the holidays and an update to iPhoto to enable synching capabailities just like iTunes, I started thinking about the big picture on what Apple could do with iPhoto. iPhoto is currently all about storing and sharing pictures you take with friends and family. iTunes is all about storing and listening to music you have purchased. What if Apple created an iPhoto Picture Store? I am thinking of iTunes Music Store but with "digital prints" from professional artists. I am a huge fan of Digital Blasphemy. The site contains both free desktop wallpaper and also members content. Members is a subscription based thing, and I don't need Yet Another Subscription™. If I could buy individual pictures for decent prices, lets just say, $0.99, I would have bought a bunch of pictures already. Another example is the Roger Dean Store. I don't know if $9.95 is worth it for a pack of wallpaper, but I surely would have bought a few wallpapers already at $0.99. Just think of all the prints in college book stores, print shops, and framing shops that could be rebuilt for desktop wallpaper use. But that's only the tip of the iceberg. The iPhoto Picture Store could also provide print to canvas or poster services. Apple already has a photo book ordering service, they could put high-quality framing services available in the store. For the consumer, you buy rights to the print, and you can always get another size digital print. I think you probably need a different file format because artists will want DRM, though this is debatable because artists like the examples I mentioned already sell their work without DRMed files. Licensing art for sale through the iPhoto Picture Store must be easier for Apple than licensing music. As a regular end-user, I could also upload my own photos to sell. Think of iMixes, but I think Apple has to approve you picts for sale to avoid the pornography issue. Effectively Apple becomes your gallery, so maybe it's like the iTunes Affiliate program, not everyone can try and sell their own photos. You also can provide subscriptions, perhaps to unlimited numbers of photos, but also to individual artists. Two different price points would obviously make sense here. You could then set your screen saver to the iPhoto Picture Store subscription and get constantly updated pictures. Can Apple make money doing this? I think they can because the licensing fees have to be smaller than licensing music. Will this help sell PhotoPods? This is more difficult to say, but it takes buying art in all forms to an innovative new level that opens up to just about anyone. Storing and sharing digital art with the PhotoPod would be a breeze, so I think it increases the value of the device. If Apple does launch a PhotoPod, I think it pretty much means that iPhoto gets ported to Windows XP. That by itself is pretty intriguing because that's almost half the iLife suite. I wonder if this counts as Prior Art when contesting a patent.... :')
Sunday, October 10, 2004
Paul Thurrott asks Apple fans if we think the rummored photo iPod is "just right" compared to MS Portable Media Center based devices. Here is my response. It's obvious that viewing photos on a 1.8" (digital cameras) or 2" screen (iPod 4G) is too small to see detail. The 3.8" screen of the Creative Zen Portable Media Center is large enough for viewing some photo detail, but you are giving up a lot on the form factor. Here is a picture of the device: This beast is designed to be held with 2 hands. The iPod is designed to be held and all controls usable with just one hand. The Zen is far larger than even the speculated dimensions on the PhotoPod, which is designed to fit in a pocket, not a backpack. The Zen only has a 20GB HD, the PhotoPod is going to have a 60GB HD. The Zen has between 7-22 hours battery life, the iPod 4G has a 12 hour battery, I think it's likely that the PhotoPod has the same, but you never know, Apple may have a trick up its sleeve. No question the iPod is not going to do video or TV shows, but I question the usefulness of these features in such a small form factor. Everyone has music and pictures, taking video or recorded TV is still not as commonly done as listening to music and viewing photos with friends and family. I am curious what the sales are like on the whole Portable Media Center category.
Friday, October 08, 2004
I have been using the video and audio chat features of MSN Messenger on Windows for 4-5 years to keep in touch with remote relatives. My experience with the software has always been mixed. Sometimes it would work perfectly, other times I would see it be unable to make connections, dropped connections, poor audio, dropped video, etc. etc. I don't totally blame MSN Messenger for this, this stuff was definitely bleeding edge, but my expectations were always low for the user experience. And then I tried iChat AV and a friend's iSight. Wow! The video quality was phenominal, my first reaction was: "That is getting close to TV quality". The other truly surprising thing was that audio just worked and was in sync with the picture. MSN Messenger always makes you run through some calibration wizard, boy did my parents hate that! But this stuff would be totally useless if iChat AV didn't interoprate with AIM. Let's face it, an IM network is most valuable when you have a lot of people on, you get the network effect. If iChat was Mac to Mac only, the iSight would never have come home. So my complete smoke test was iChat AV to AIM on Windows, and I thought this was a good enough experience for the relatives. Since I recently completed elimination of all PC hardware from my home computing experience, I had to acquire a webcam for the Mac, and my positive experience with the iSight test made the decision easy. After I got the relatives setup on AIM, we just start making connections and it just works. Using iChat and iSight does consume all my outbound DSL bandwidth, so I might need an outbound bandwidth upgrade. Getting this whole rig setup was really done to keep the grandparents of my 4 month old son happy, one set is in FL and the other in PA, I am in CA. And I may just have started the ball rolling on another switcher. My mother-in-law using the AIM client only gets a small window of incoming video. When I told here that iChat can go Full Screen and the video if you have an iSight looks great, she is definitely enticed. This would be where my other suggestion that Apple needs a headless sub-$1000 machine makes so much sense, my son's grandparents would have already replaced their PC towers with Macs.
I have been using Mozilla Firefox on both Windows XP and Mac OS X since the 1.0 Preview Release came out. On Windows, I wholeheartedly recommend Firefox over IE 6.0 SP2. I have one caveat though. If you have to work routinely with a lot of Microsoft specific properties (SharePoint, Microsoft.com), you are probably better off leaving IE as your default and manually choosing Firefox whenever you can. For non-work browsing on Windows, I always recommend Firefox and it's the reason I have the button on the bottom right hand bar of this blog. On the Mac, the browser recommendation is not so cut and dry. I almost always use Safari for a few reasons: - I like the elegance of the interface - All my bookmarks are already defined in Safari - I want sites to know that I am on the Mac, in case they don't break out Firefox for different platforms - Safari performs better for me. I do however have to use Firefox from time to time, mostly because some sites work on Firefox (www.citibank.com) that don't work in Safari. The reverse is also true, www.sharebuilder.com was an example I ran into the other day. I love the idea of having the same browser on both platforms, but it seems like I will be using 3 browser for the forseeable future.