Roku XDS Week 1

Roku LogoWe’re a week into it with the Roku XDS. Let’s take a moment and review a few of my initial impressions of bringing Internet video into my living room.

NetFlix experience is quite good, but I find myself playing with my Instant Queue almost as much as I watch actual movies. The NetFlix recommendation engine is amazing, and it exposed me to several movies and documentaries that were right on target. Streaming NetFlix through the Roku is a pleasure.

Hulu Plus is definitely attractive, since I am a big fan of well-produced television shows. Something about a serialized story appeals to me in both comics and TV. However, adding another $7.99 monthly subscription on top of the NetFlix sub is going to get expensive fast.  At this point, NetFlix seems to have an adequate collection of TV shows, so I’ll stick with that for a while.

Adding custom channels is pretty easy, so I have updated the Roku XDS with Blip.tv and Revision3. Here the experience is rather uneven. The connection and content are fine, but some of the programming is barely a step above cable access. It’s too bad because I like the idea of watching long-tail TV shows.

That said, I am happy to watch iFanboy on Revision3 much more than I do on my laptop. Big improvement.

NetFlix LogoIt’s worth noting that this whole Roku and NetFlix upgrade traces back to the local movie theater raising prices last year. The ticket price of a first-run movie increased one week from $9 to $11. Just to be clear, I typically went to the movies on a Tuesday and the price increase was on regular 2D films. I can understand the price increase on 3D movies because there are special projectors, glasses, and good stuff like that.

It’s not like I couldn’t afford the $2, but it was kind of annoying that they skipped over $10 and went right to $11. Product pricing and perceived value is certainly a psychological game in every industry. In this case, the price jump bummed me out, and I was in the habit of seeing a new movie just about every week.

But I still need my movie fix…and good luck trying to find a local video rental store. Okay, we have a RedBox near us, but for whatever reason, I just never remember that when I am in movie mode.

So NetFlix on the Roku has filled the void left by regular movie theaters. It’s not quite the same, but the combined depth and variety of their library of movies, TV shows, and other content is truly impressive.

I’m looking forward to exploring more channels on the Roku, just to see what’s available. There are a few premium paid channels, and if the content is good and the price is right, I may give them a try.

Well, one week in and I am pretty happy with the Roku. I haven’t really explored it fully, nor have I tried plugging anything into the USB slot. Check back again for more Roku, NetFlix and other streaming reports.

More good readin’:

iPad for Student Health

The more I use this iPad, the more I am convinced that it is the logical and necessary next step for students. It may not be the Apple brand iPad, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that students will benefit on many levels from these ereaders.

We’re in the back-to-school mode, which means the inevitable articles about backpacks being too heavy. There’s this one about a kid who’s carrying a backpack that’s 27% of her body weight. Or this one that weighs out how much each item in a student’s backpack weighs.

Schools and textbooks are as necessary as they have always been, but the way we transport them is beginning to evolve. Even as I get my kids ready for school, I can see that they have too much to transport.

Here are a few things necessary to make ereaders viable for kids:

  • Tough devices – Kids are not going to take good care of ereaders, particularly since they represent school and other “not fun” stuff. The device needs to be nearly indestructible. Even if it bulks up the device, a durable rubberized coating is probably necessary. Maybe the people who design the Panasonic ToughBook can help with a school-grade device.
  • Controlled web access – As it is, parents have a tough enough time monitoring what their kids see on the Internet. A device like this would need to have parental and school control built right in, so that kids aren’t surfing inappropriate content when nobody is looking.

There are many, many reasons why we should be having serious discussions about ereaders for students. But it’s almost that time, and I have to get my kids off to school. And we’re renting a forklift to get their backpacks into the car.

Additional reading:

3D, TV Apps, Web TV & the Jetsons

“We need to do something with 3D TV,” your clients will soon say. If you work in advertising, get ready for questions about 3D TV, TV Apps, and the next generation of Web TV devices.

The future of television is happening right now. The Jetsons TV has arrived.

Widespread adoption of new technologies is probably being slowed by the recession. In boom times, you’d see consumers with more disposable income for fun technology upgrades.

So, if you’re in marketing and advertising, this is the time to get ahead of the curve. If you wait until the client asks you about how to leverage 3D television or TV Apps from Yahoo, or Boxee, you’re going to be reacting.

You want to be educated about new technology and helping the client to make the right decision for their brand. In some cases, you may need to steer the client away from some hot new technology and into something that makes more sense for their marketing strategy.

Believe me, friends, I plan to find a way to use this television-based technology in something profitable for my clients. But it has to be the right client with the right message.

Just ‘cuz it’s snazzy and fun, doesn’t mean it will convert. We’re not here to entertain. We’re here to connect message with target audience, and motivate them to take action.

If that message works in 3D, so be it. If it’s a TV app, great. If it flows through the Boxee, terrific. If not, well, then leave the futuristic stuff to the Jetsons, and get on with delivering results to your client.

In the meantime, get one for home and watch Jetsons reruns. And let me know why we don’t have flying cars yet.

Links, Not Necessarily Endorsements:

10 Marketing Tech Predictions for 2010

2010-PredictionsI’m a total nut for tech predictions. Love ’em. Not only does it get me excited about the future of technology, it warms my marketer’s heart. Every new tech channel represents a new way for marketers to communicate with their target audience. And for people to discover brands and solutions that they actually want.

Since I primarily write about tech trends that affect marketers, here are my:

The Words + Pictures = Web
10 Marketing | Tech Predictions for 2010

1. Widgets and Apps Will Explode
Yes, we saw a pretty big year for Apps, thanks to the iTunes store servicing the iPhone and iTouch. But with Android and Kindle and even HP having stores, we’re going to see a big, fast expansion of useful apps. And people will want these apps to synchronize across devices and platforms.
What it means for marketers: A lot. Brands that create useful apps will see adoption rates soar. It doesn’t matter if it’s branded. If people need something, they will use it. If it happens to keep your brand top of mind, well, then good for you.

2. Web Analytics Will Improve
Every marketing initiative needs to have some sort of measurable ROI. Without a strong analytic package, you can’t tell what works and what doesn’t. The tools that we use are probably (hopefully) going to get better now that Adobe owns Omniture. Even free packages like Google Analytics are getting better, which pushes paid solutions like WebTrend and Omniture to innovate to remain competitive. Expect to see better tools for measuring Flash.
What it means for marketers: Good news for marketers who like numbers. Now, you will have even more numbers.

3. Microsoft Will Strike Back
Signs of life are bubbling up again from Redmond. Microsoft took a beating from Google, which has reinvigorated their competitive spirit. Bing is turning out to be a pretty decent search engine, which is encouraging for search marketers.
What it means for marketers: Microsoft is serious about making money in search, so they are actively courting search marketers. We’re already seeing them push Google to release new features, which is good for everyone. If you are using search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns, you can expect more options from Bing. And from Google, who will continue to maintain their lead.

4. Tech Will Move Off the Desktop
In recent years, everything has been focused on the desktop. But powerful mobile tools have changed the way we interact with websites. The traditional desktop will survive 2010, but it won’t be the only way people interact with the web.
What it means for marketers: It means that every new device — from the Kindle to the television — is now a new channel to communicate with customers. Smart marketers will be putting messages everywhere.

5. Newspapers Will Slip Further
Okay, this one is almost a little mean. Like teasing the short fat kid in school for being, well, short and fat. But newspapers are going to slip even more rapidly than they did in 2009. In the end, it’s likely that we’ll end up with a few national papers (like USA Today), a few regional papers (like New York Times), and maybe a few weekly local papers.
What it means for marketers: It’s a mixed bag. If you have a good PR team, you can get a story on the wires and have it syndicate to a lot of readers. That’s very encouraging. But with fewer reporters and papers, it’s going to get harder to get some ink. With less print out there, it will get a little more challenging to communicate with older demographics.

6. Mobile Marketing Will Get Sophisticated
We’ve been marketing to mobile devices for years now. Some agencies are quite good at it, but sadly, many more are not. Most mobile marketing is pretty lame. This year we’ll see the good agencies roll out marketing campaigns that make full use of mobile devices. Right now, mobile marketing is still rather simple. Look for more sophisticated and personalized applications.
What it means to marketers: It means that mobile content and incentives will need to be formatted for multiple screens. Don’t expect users to wait for your massive homepage to load.

7. Electronic Coupons Will Become Location Aware
Everybody loves a good discount. But if you forget your coupon at home, you may wait until the next trip to the store before you make a purchase. That’s a missed opportunity for brands. Many new devices have location-based software, so more marketers will figure out how to use this for offering coupons and incentives at just the right moment….like when they’re in close proximity to a store.
What it means for marketers: More sales and happier customers. Also, brick and mortar stores will star to win back customers from online shoppers.

8. Content Marketing Will Matter Again
Traditional media is slipping fast. That doesn’t mean people don’t need content. People want to know more about the product you sell, but also about how your product compares in the category. Content marketing will mean that your content must be fresh and vital for your target. Set it and forget it? Forget that. Write more content and make sure it’s formatted properly for the channel.
What it means for marketers: Make friends with a good copywriter. Try to tap them for ideas on how to update websites and other resources, so that your are providing proactive content for your audience.

9. Social Media Marketing Will Mature
Over the last few years, social media channels have become an effective way to connect people and products. But as the audience grows and diversifies, Facebook (and other social channels) will offer more mature and measurable ways to talk to targets. Banner ads? Sure, for certain awareness campaigns. But also look for more powerful fan-page types of services that give more flexibility and power to the brand.
What it means for marketers: Social media is probably going to get more expensive, but you’ll get more for your dollars.

10. New Hardware Will Change Brand Messaging
Kindles, iPhones, and the eagerly anticipated Apple tablet will give us new and interesting ways to tell people about our brands. But as the hardware becomes more powerful, it takes longer to figure out how to truly use it effectively. Initially, we just mash up existing technologies with new technologies (look it’s video…and now it’s on an iPhone!). New hardware will give us some immediate and measurable ways to deliver messages. But this year we’re going to peel back another layer to these devices, and discover new applications and opportunities.
What it means for marketers: Figure out how your message scales to new hardware before the competition figures it out first.

So there you go. Those are some of the tech trends that I believe will affect marketers in 2010. I’m sure I’ve missed a few things, but now you know what sort of stuff I’ll be working on this year.

Did I miss anything? Let me know your thoughts.

Kindle Sells Big for Holidays

Kindle DXAmazon’s announcement that they sold a lot of Kindle 2 ereaders comes as no surprise. The big news was that, according to Amazon, the Kindle was the best selling item ever on Amazon.com.

Okay, that’s big news for several reasons. For starters, the obvious is that the reading public seems ready for another tech toy, even if it’s kind of expensive and primarily a single-use device. It’s also big news for Barnes & Nobles, which seems to have missed a big opportunity by not being ready with their Nook ereader for this holiday season.

I went to the B&N store near my house and checked out the Nook. It was, as I expected, just like the Kindle. I mean, other than the somewhat minor difference in navigation (that little color strip at the bottom), it looked and felt like my Kindle. Except…well, except I couldn’t buy one on impulse. Ironically, I did leave purchasing a Sudoku book as a Christmas gift. Print, for my analog father.

Borders recently announced that they’d be selling ebooks. It’s sort of sad, though, since the Borders near my house is now going out of business. I’d purchased a lot of books from that store over the years and I’m sad to see them go, but Borders is starting to look like a casualty of a much larger war being waged among bigger, better armed opponents.

And, addressing the 800 pound gorilla in the room, everyone is talking about the eagerly anticipated Apple tablet. The tech press thinks that it will be dubbed the iSlate or iTablet, since Apple seems to own the domain name iTablet.com.

Anyway, if Apple actually enters the tablet PC market — and offers ebook reading software — this could have a significant effect on how we read and consume books. And if you read comics, a color tablet will quickly change how you buy and collect comic books. The aspect ratio of a vertical tablet will complement how current comic books are formatted.

If the iTablet is like a giant iPod Touch or iPhone, as some experts predict, it will be an amazing, game-changing device.

Lots of excitement out there. Sad to see Borders go. Looking forward to the iTablet. Hope the Barnes & Nobles near my house stays in business.

Forrester: eReaders to Take Off in 2010

eReaders to reach 10 MillionForrester Research just released a report that suggests eReaders — like the Kindle, Sony eReader, and the Nook — will take off in 2010.

According to Forrester, “we expect sales in 2010 to double, bringing cumulative sales of eReaders to 10 million by year-end 2010.” Wow, that’s a lot of eReaders, many of which will undoubtedly be sold in this coming holiday cycle. (“Merry Christmas, grandma, here’s 1,500 books. Don’t forget to charge the battery.”)

Most people have a hard time imagining the potential of an eReader. That is, until they hold one in their hands or take a long flight. My guess is that these first eReaders, including my space-age Kindle 2, will seem rather quaint in a few years.

Right now, the eReader is just another single-use device. But pretty soon, we’ll see them double as digital planners, video players, and web devices. With more eReaders, there will be more reading options.

Yup, this is the start of something great.

Flexible Future – Readius eReader

Readius-hand-smRight now, we’re in the early stages of ebook technology. The playing field is rather flat, as consumers haven’t truly made a decision about who will be the leader in the field. Mainly because the grass in the field still hasn’t matured enough for a real game.

A new ereader by Readius shows a lot of promise because — get this — it rolls up. Yeah, like a little newspaper. How cool is that?

Okay, in concept, it’s really cool. In practice, the first Readius is chunky and uninspiring. It’s sort of like early “portable” computers that weighed 20+ pounds. My first portable was like lugging around a cinder block

But this is new technology. And if you’re willing to squint a little and tilt your head to the side, the darn thing looks a little like the future of ereading. Because after all, isn’t an ebook supposed to be about breaking out of rigid standards and into a more flexible future?

McCloud Talks Tech on TED

Scott McCloud is a comic book creator who wrote a brilliant book called “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art,” which is an amazing read, even if you don’t like comics. He masterfully breaks down the medium so that it becomes clear why comics connect with the brain to communicate stories.

A few years back, McCloud gave a talk at TED (Technology Entertainment Design), which is an annual conference in California. Not only is McCloud a smart guy who knows a lot about comics, technology, and science…he’s a terrific presenter.

Check out this video as he discusses how comic books and computers are evolving to leverage new technology. Good stuff. It’s especially compelling considering the implosion of traditional print publishing.

Chrome OS & You

google-chrome-logo-25kGoogle announced their plans to evolve their Chrome web browser into something of an operating system. Geek-folk were abuzz (including myself) at this potentially huge news of Chrome OS.

And the rest of you just yawned.

Here’s the deal. Your computer runs on software, right? And that software that boots up your Mac or PC is the operating system (OS). Now, for a very long time there’s been, like, two and a half operating systems.

  • Number one is Windows. Big, omnipresent. If you run a PC, you probably run a version of Windows. (Vista, XP, stuff like that.)
  • Number two is Apple. If you have a current Mac, you run Mac OSX.
  • Half is Linux. This only gets a half because you have to actively work to put Linux on a system, even though it’s a pretty amazing OS. Plus it’s mostly free.

Google aims to introduce their own little OS to basic PC computers…computers that would ordinarily run Windows. And in our techno-centric world, Google challenging Microsoft is a big deal.

Microsoft’s Bing search engine is a direct challenge to Google. Google’s Chrome OS and Google Apps is an even more direct challenge to Microsoft. Now that everyone is connected to the ‘Net, this battle of the titans becomes more epic.

But for now, don’t worry about it. Hit snooze. We’ll wake you up in 2010 and let you know how it all turns out.

LINKS (Not Necessarily Endorsements)

LeapFrog PDA – Stress Training for Tots

Attention, Parents!

Mildly disturbing, totally logical, and unbelievably cheap. It’s…the LeapFrog PDA.

LeapFrog PDA for Kids

LeapFrog PDA for Kids

Yup. Now you’re kid can have that same “I’m here, but I also have one eye on email” type of tortured always-on-call existence. Just like you.

In fact, when you whip our your Blackberry to respond to an email, now you can feel better saying, “well, she checked her LeapFrog first…”

This summer, your child’s last carefree moments are now as doomed as analog televisions. And not a minute too soon. It’s about time your three-year-old starts to deal with work-related stress. Starting…now.

If you’re a good parent, you’ll subscribe him to RSS feeds (including my blog). Never too soon to start the child on a path of non-stop media consumption and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Better yet, your child can begin practicing valuable Blackberry skills including:

  • Half listening & nodding
  • Speed scrolling
  • Thumb typing
  • Sneak-peeking at incoming messages (at meetings and red lights, only!)

Hurry. Act now. Don’t let your child to fall behind on a single email message!

LINKS, NOT NECESSARILY ENDORSEMENTS: