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Mobile Pop Culture Technology Thoughts Tips

Weekly Rewind: Toys, Gadgets and Talk

Apple steals the headlines again. This time with their relaunch of the MacBook Air. Though the first MacBook Air wasn’t a big win in the sales department it did test the waters of the uni-body design that became part of the entire MacBook Family. This time around Apple is trying out a new idea, no internal drives. At 64GB of internal storage the low-end model (11″) is clearly targeting the netbook crowd. While the 13″ comes in 128GB & 256GB flavors, which are much more manageable in today’s world of digital everything. The flash only memory allows “instant on” and sleep/hibernate to be one and the same providing 30 days of stand-by life. The other upgrade was the resolution of the monitors, both models get Apple’s new higher density screens giving each one step up in the resolution game (1366×768, 1440×900 respectively).

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After mailing over 2 billion disks Netflix announced they are now primarily a streaming media service. In simple terms this means they are now providing more content via streaming then they do via DVD/Blu-ray discs and will soon offer a streaming only plan to US customers. Their Canadian service is already streaming only and with the growth of Apple TV, Google TV and smart TVs the demand for streaming only will only get stronger. Keeping in step with improving their streaming service they’ve also gone disk free on the Wii & PS3 (Xbox to follow in Q1) a simple addition to an already great product. For the Wii there’s a bit of a UI upgrade offering search. I can’t say I noticed any difference but I may have had a newer version of the disk based version that had this already. For the PS3 you also get 1080p and 5.1 surround sound.

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Windows Mobile 7 went live last week and picked up a number of good reviews in the process. Engadget goes pretty in depth with their review covering everything from the basic UI to the camera to the Zune/Xbox integration. I have to say it’s great to see Microsoft, or anyone for that matter, work on a unique solution rather then just playing the “me too” game. The core UI hasn’t changed much since they announced their Metro guidelines back in April. From everything I’ve seen WInMo7 is attempting to take mobile smart phones to the next level. The question is whether the masses will flock to WinMo or did that window already pass Microsoft by? If nothing else, I can see Android developers incorporating some of the new thinking that went into WinMo as the two battle Apple for the top.

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There are some things that though we learn and it makes sense, people seem to need to be remind of them time and time again. Flowtown has a great infographic about the value of keeping an existing customer. And though some of the facts contained in their poster are well known it seems that big companies still reward the new customer over the old. Just about every cell phone service service, gym etc all give deep discounts to lure customers but do little to encourage the current customers from jumping for a competitor’s deal.

Another example of things we know but need to be reminded of is Jeremy Toeman’s editorial about the future of connected TV is not about the apps. It’s about the experience and apps are just a tool in providing those experiences. To sell those TVs you’ll need to entice and connect with the people through stories rather then just a list of apps.

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Two weeks ago Google launches Google TV, this week ABC, CBS, Hulu and supposedly NBC have all decided to block their content. It’s not a technical limitation but a licensing one. Having worked at Comcast for the last few years I’ve seen licensing get in the way of progress more then once. In the case of Google TV the networks are suggesting that web content displayed on a TV is different then web content displayed on your monitor. I find this logic to be a bit of a stretch and stinks of desperation. Regardless of my opinion Google is in talks with all the networks in order to remedy things.  Though I doubt Google will be able to make any headway with Hulu, besides being direct competitors, Hulu wants to push their Hulu Plus service (currently $9.99/month).

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With all the talk about smart TV’s, Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee, Ruko, blah, blah blah. I’m pretty sure the average American glazes over when they start hearing about all the latest gadgets and the tech talk that surrounds them. While many Americans will buy one of these, as the real goal is to get their favorite TV shows and movies onto their TV’s in the simplest and cheapest way possible. Simply put, when it comes to vegging out we’re lazy. As it stands now Cable has the convenience thing down. While the internet has the best pricing plan (for most it’s free). So while each of the many connected devices and services battle it out the Internet already what the people are looking for. HTML, Flash, Silverlight and it’s accessible everywhere.  Pretty sure this was part of Google’s thinking with their Google TV bringing the web to your TV. Well, Andrew Baron is suggesting The Future Of TV Is HTML and he makes a strong case for his logic.

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The end of an era , as Sony announced that they will stop manufacturing their iconic Walkman. I can still remember my first Walkman and it coming everywhere with me. Then I upgraded to the Sports model.  It was big, clunky and yellow with high-tech features like auto-reverse. Though that one didn’t last long as it’s bright yellow attracted a few school mates to free it from my locker while I was in class.  It’s replacement took me through the dawning of the MP3 player. I even sold my Rio 64 because it couldn’t compete with the simple convenience of the portable cassette player. That was until the iPod came along. Last year there, for the Walkman’s 30th anniversary BBC magazine gave a 13yr old the original Walkman for a week. Not only was it entertaining, but some great insights into how much technology is integrated into our lives even while it’s so transient.

And now for a moment of silence for the Walkman.

Categories
Creative Design Entertainment Mobile Pop Culture Social Technology

Week in Links: Facebook Groups, Windows Mobile and Google TV

The Social Network still commands the box office but that’s not the only reason Facebook is toping the list this week. Earlier this week they announced they were adding Groups, a tool to download your data, and tighter privacy control over apps.

The idea of groups isn’t anything new but unlike Yahoo or Google’s offerings this one is connected through Facebook. And though this is an obvious fact, this little factor is a huge differentiating point between the services. With the other group services you would have to go out of your way in order to participate. It wasn’t part of most users daily routine and slowly but surely members would trickle away beginning the group’s downward spiral into obscurity. Facebook on the other hand is where the people already are. It’s simple, integrated and most importantly it’s where your friends are, so there is no searching for emails or additional sign-ups needed to get started. Additionally their new groups feature provides a way to control who sees what. This alone is a huge step forward for Facebook and for those that could really use some discretion. See the SNL skit above for an entertaining example of this problem.

The second new feature is less of a dramatic but another big step forward in Facebook privacy.  Granted downloading all your activity, photos and posts doesn’t increase your privacy but it does provide a window into all the information Facebook does have on you and may change how much info you post in the future.  I don’t see many people making use of this feature anytime soon, but should a new social service spring up the ability to import some of this data may give that service a pretty big jump start. Also related to privacy and controlling your data is Facebook’s new application dashboard. The new dashboard provides users the ability to see and limit what applications have access to and what they’ve accesses last. Now you can see if Farmville is going to market with your personal data.

In a related note, according to a recent study of 10 modern countries most children will have an online footprint by the age of 2, this includes baby photos. The study was conducted by AVG, a security firm that deals with identity theft. The firm suggest people be more cautious when posting information online and to make use of available privacy settings.

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Also high on the pop culture meter is Gap’s crappy new logo (shown on left). It doesn’t take an art/design major to see how big of a step bag this is from their earlier logos. The only positive thing I can say about it is it’s generating a ton of promotion. My favorite quote regarding the new logo comes from Brand New, a design blog, “I’m not one to critique something by saying it looks as if it were done in Microsoft Word but this one is just too unsophisticated to warrant anything more than that.” Can’t get enough of the new logo, check out craplogo.me to make your own Gap inspired logo.

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Even on the eve of Microsoft’s release of Windows Phone 7 the Android platform is dominating the mobile press. Even without the skyrocketing success of Android (top selling smartphone in the US – GigaOm), Microsoft has their work cut out for them if they want to be a player in the mobile market. Newsweek did an extended article on the Android and how it came to be. One interesting factoid in the article was how Google has made enough on mobile search to pay for the development of the Android OS.  So sometimes giving something away is a great way to make money. Also, by Google making Android free, handset manufacturers are more apt to a device to support it as the reduced cost means more profit for them.

On Monday (10-11-2010), Microsoft unveiled 10 devices that support WP7 to the masses and from the early reviews they’re a competitive option. Wp7 is a complete overhaul of their mobile platform and is based on their Metro UI guidelines which influenced this year’s youth targeted Kin, which died a quick death. Hopefully WP7 won’t suffer the same fate. Though I haven’t gotten to play with a device personally, it offers a new paradigm for mobile UI’s that has me intrigued. The bright, flat colors aren’t my favorite, but the split structure of the main desktop, the transitions, the use of type in the design are all unique…but are they enough? Will they resonate with consumers? Working against them is the success of both iOS and Android, while the current lack of a Verizon or Sprint based phone means they’ll still be pushing Android as the ultimate mobile platform to their customers. Top that with confirmation that there will be a Verizon iPhone in early 2011. For more details on the WP7 launch check out Engadget’s WP7 launch guide.

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Apple seems to be in everyone’s sights, with Android and WP7 going after the iPhone. Now the big wigs are Microsoft and Adobe are meeting though what’s to come of the talks is still unknown. And Google just launched the website for their Google TV, that competes with the AppleTV. Like many of the set-top boxes they support Netflix, Flickr, YouTube etc., but what new is that there’s a full featured web browser (including Flash 10.1 support), so theoretically it supports any online service. Though surfing the web on your TV has never been a hit, so Google is requesting sites to make a “lean back” version, which YouTube has had in Beta for some time. Some of Google TV’s big wins include: Android OS based, use of your phone as a remote control, surf-and-browse (a P-i-P of web and video), personalization, and a playlist feature that works across various video sites. Not sure what the price tag is looking like, but I assume it’ll land in the vicinity of the AppleTV, if not the war may already be lost. The potential $400 referenced in Engadget’s guide to Google TV seems excessive, especially with Xbox, Playstation and mini PC’s are all cheaper and do more.

Categories
Links Mobile Pop Culture Technology

Week in Links: Land Grabs, New Territories and Stats

The big news of last week was AOL buying Techcrunch. I first read it on GigaOm and it was followed up with a ton of tweets in the morning once it went public at Techcrunch’s Disrupt event. Less shocking they also bought Brizzly and 5min, picking up all three for @ $100 million. The funniest tweet I read about the purchase “TechCrunch: The sound you hear when you break those AOL CDs you got in the mail.” Hopefully this doesn’t mean the beginning of the end for Techcrunch.

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After the new AppleTV was announced the other set-top devices will need to increase their offerings if they want to compete. Last week Roku and TiVo announced they would be supporting Hulu Plus, a premium subscription service for $9.99 a month. There has already been support for Netflix, also subscription based ($8.99+) which provides instant streaming of content across multiple platforms. So why Hulu? Hulu Plus has the latest TV shows while Netflix covers the back catalog. It won’t be long before Hulu Plus makes it’s way to the other internet connected devices but for now it’s Roku and TiVo which isn’t a bad place to start. Personally, I think Hulu Plus is a step back for the consumer. As Hulu Plus expands what’s available for Hulu’s ad supported content will shrink. Especially when the Plus still comes with ads.

Then there’s Google TV, who launched their website on Monday and officially throwing their hat into the ring. Some of the big features include a full web browser, ability to show TV and web at the same time (PiP), “Fling” from your phone to your TV, and expandability via the Android app marketplace. Below is Google’s promo video giving a quick walk-through of it’s features. If you’re looking to figure out which set-top device is for you check out this comparison chart.

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After looking at the newTwitter via my coworkers and screen shots, I finally got to play with the newTwitter myself. It’s a much improved experience, it rivals that of some third party apps though it’s not enough to make me switch. Other then bringing the web app back to the web, the newTwitter is smartly designed. With relevant info displayed directly next to the content it relates to. One complaint is conversation view as it only shows one step of the conversation at a time and requires you to keep clicking in order to read the entire thing. Another is it took me forever to find the URL to a specific status (it’s the publish date). There’s keyboard shortcuts that is a huge perk for power users. One thing I didn’t know was that it’s design is based on the Golden Ratio.

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Interesting data coming out of LukeW’s Data Mondays, this time around it was about the disproportionate activity that comes from iPhones. With only 4% of the global market the iPhone is 33% of the world’s mobile browser activity. See these and more on his post. Though I’m sure Android will start sharing some of this traffic as it’s market share grows. T-Mobile will be annoncing their G2 phone and Samsung’s Galaxy line is already wooing people. If you’re looking for an Android phone Gizmodo has a quick flow chart to help you figure out which one is right for you.

Categories
Entertainment Music Pop Culture

Jawbox Perform Savory on Jimmy Fallon

Last night Jawbox performed for the first time together since 1997.  They did one song, Savory, live on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in support of the re-issue of For Your Own Special Sweetheart.  Great band.  Great song.  Would love to see more but Jawbox were very adamant that the reunion was one and done.

Update:
Seems they did a few more songs just not for broadcast.

68 (Fallon – web exclusive)

FF = 66 (Fallon – web exclusive)

Categories
Creative Entertainment Personal Pop Culture

We’ve come a long way since 1977

In 1977 computers were far from personal.  They offered 40/80 lines of green or amber text.  Around that time I got my first computer, the Commodore Pet.  It was all metal, big and heavy with a giant stand alone hard drive that held nothing in today’s standards.  There was also a separate cassette player for loading/unloading programs.  It’s graphics were limited to that classic shade of green and the alternate characters displayed on each of the keys of the keyboard.  I would spend hours either drawing pictures with those alternate characters or writing programs in BASIC and saving them on my cassette drive.  Even the highest end systems of the day were less capable then my iPhone.

Also in 1977 Star Wars was released.  Star Wars is a classic film.  I was too young to see it in theaters or remember much of it even if I had.  Still, as a child I loved the original trilogy and always loved it’s visuals.  For the time and may years after it’s visual effects were still some of the best.  George Lucas and team did amazing things with film to create all those special effects.  Computer generated EFX wasn’t even an option back then.  Well, I stand corrected.  The computer projections of the Death Star were actually done on a computer.  Below is a eye opening video of both their process and the technology that was available at the time.

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Creative Entertainment Links Music Pop Culture Video

Hooked on the Method

Back in the day The Crystal Method, Chemical Brothers, Underworld, The Prodigy and others were the captins of cool.  Essential parts of MTV’s Alternative Nation’s life blood.  Known for both their innovative visuals as well as their hypnotic beats.  With their mixing of sources, styles and sounds everything felt new, electronic and energetic.  Times and tastes changed, as did their sound.  Well looks like 2009 may be come back time.

Earlier this year The Prodigy returned with some new tracks and a new album, Invaders Must Die.  The first single, Omen is an updated version of the classic Prodigy attitude and sound.  The title track continues that trend, if nothing else it may even have kicked it up a notch.  Thanks to the Internets you can rock some samples from ThePodigy.com

The Crystal Method have returned to dropped some new beats as well. Their first single Drown in the Now is a bit more or a departure from the TCM of yesteryear. Visually the video ups the cool quotient, though I need to take in a few more listens before casting an opinion on the new sound. Got to say it’s growing on me. In both cases they sound nothing like any of the other new tracks I’ve been listening to which is refreshing all its own.

Links:
ThePodigy.com
The Prodigy – Omen
The Prodigy – Invaders Must Die
The Crystal Method
The Crystal Method – Drown In the Now

Categories
Advertising Creative Design Links Pop Culture

Some Quick Internet Treasures

by Jorge Colombo - The New Yorker - June 2009Not sure how many people have seen this months The New Yorker magazine’s cover (shown on right).  What looks like a water color painting is really an illustration created on his iPhone.  The app is called Brushes along with a companion app that will provide an animation/video of the process.  The New Yorker’s blog offers more details and a video of the illustration being made using the companion app.

GI never had a reason to go to Gatorade‘s website before but the link was sent to me from a designer friend of mine (Neuarmy).  Once going there it was obvious as to why he shared it.  Sporting the new aesthetic of the Gatorade “G” the site takes it to another level of sophistication rather then pure simplification.  It’s an all Flash site boasting lots of black, simplified layouts, vibrant images and large video headers.  Navigation is through the use of large black and white silhouettes for both the products and the athletes.  Which acts as a great accent to a highlighted item and it’s inline videos.  While you may learn more then you ever needed to about Gatorade check out the site for a great sample of extending a brand’s aesthetic across media.

Another gem sent my way from Neuarmy is by Boone Oakley and their use of YouTube for their website.  Ok, so it sounds a bit like Skittles attempt to use Web 2.0 tools to stitch together a web experience…well this isn’t that.  It’s literally their website embedded in humorous and (a touch) twisted little videos.  Very innovative use of such a common medium and a great way for them to show off their conceptual/strategic muscle.  They also feature some great work from that last few years, I’m sure you’ll recognize a few.  Well worth checking out.

Links:
The New Yorker’s blog
Brushes iPhone App for painting
Gatorade
Boone Oakley
Skittles
Neuarmy

Categories
Advertising Code Creative Design Entertainment Pop Culture Thoughts

Apple revisits New York Times’ homepage

Apple/New York Times - Ad integration 5-18-2009

Apple/New York Times - Animated - Ad integration 5-18-2009Once again Apple has paired up with the New York Times to create an ad users actually want to see.  This time it’s for a homepage integration/takeover featuring multiple ads all working in unison.  Similar to Apple’s TV ads, this site integration features John Hodgman (PC) and Justin Long (MAC) talking about their differences.  In this case John is commenting on the results of a Forrester Research poll, shown in the ad space above theirs, when two characters from yet another ad space join in on the conversation.  Before they start talking they seemed to fade into the pages background drawing little to no attention.  When the main ad is complete the two secondary ads fade to an unobtrusive white panel with a floating Apple logo.  Allowing those that keep the NY Times open all day (to see news updates) not to be barraged with Apple, Apple, Apple.

Though this isn’t the first time for Apple it’s still worthy of the viral attention is getting/has gotten.  It’s cleanly designed and executed.  Continues the sense of humor that has made these ads a hit for the last few years.  Makes great use of its environment.  It may only run a single day but I’m sure both parties make out as winners each time they meet.

Links:
Apple
New York Times
John Hodgman
Justin Long

Categories
Pop Culture Video

Swine Flu Seventies Style

So with all the hype surrounding the Swine Flu, or now the more pork friendly H1N1, this isn’t the first time there has been a swine flu outbreak.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the 1918 Flu Pandemic was associated with the H1N1 strain of influenza, as well as an outbreak in the US in 1976.  This does not mean that the version of H1N1 that we have today will be as catastrophic as in 1918, but this may be the reason for the increased hype over something that is currently effecting such a small number of people.

During the 1976 outbreak US health officials strongly promoted the immunization programs and released these PSA’s, which feature a Hitchcockian style.

BTW: Eating pork does not pose a risk of infection.  So break out the bacon and enjoy some Pork, the other white meat™.

Categories
Entertainment Pop Culture

Swine Flu, why all the hype?

Cute PigEvery news channel is talking about the Swine Flu as if it’s already a pandemic.  In reality there are a few cases scattered about the globe, and somewhat randomly at that.  So out of the 7 Billion people there are say 1 hundred people that have been diagnosed.  That’s 1 person for every 70 million people (1/70,000,000), far from freak out territory. That’s not stopping the news services from hyping it to no end, as they did with Avian Flu last year and SARS a few years ago.  Both of which turned out to be nothing close to what was hyped.

Some may say this is all a conspiracy, to distract American’s short attention spans from the economy and other more important/challenging/demoralizing news stories.  Others may suggest this is simply a ruse to get people to watch more of the 24 news stations and up their ad revenues.  Less conspiritory would be that this is just filler content with all the stations trying to one-up the other.

On a more entertaining note, all this hype has provided The Daily Show and Colbert Report some great (non-political) fodder for their shows.  Stewart had multiple sketches regarding the hype.  He closed his coverage of the Flu after he deduced that since this flu strain is a mix of Swine, Avian and Human sources that it’s origins must have been from a guy F’ing a turkey club sandwich. Followed by an even lowerbrowed visual.  And with that I’m done.

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