Random Tech Thoughts
Here's a bunch of stuff that I would normally blog about individually, but don't have the energy right now.
Email 2.0 - Ross mayfield was right when he said the other day that much of Web 2.0 is dedicated to trying to figure out how to improve email. All these web-based communication platforms make you wonder why we don't come up with a better spec for secure email already. This is even more relevant when I see Nokia launching a bunch of email-based phones. My first thought is, yeah, that's great. Mobile Email is hot, yeah, but it's basing next-gen messaging on such a shaky platform. If only email worked like Lotus Notes where you can send field-level secure forms from identifiable people.
Microsoft Bribery - Microsoft is using it's $60 billion cash reserves to buy out everyone who it has stomped over in the past decade. Sun, Netscape (AOL), Novell and now Real. Do they really think that cleans up their image? The value they get from their illegal monopolistic practices far outweighs the pitances they're paying out in renumerations. This round of settlements is just clearing up loose ends so they can start another round of aggressive business tactics (look at Sendo for a recent example). They're also doing things like "embracing" open standards like RSS, opening up their Office doc XML stuff, licensing their mobile OS to Palm, and doing IM interop? Sorry, it all looks good, but is mostly an effort on MS' part to improve its public image, no less. As soon as they can crush their current competition, they'll be back to their same old ways.
XBox 360 - Along those lines, it looks like Microsoft has succeeded again in taking over another industry by using its cash horde to buy its way into your living room. Forbes said they've lost like $4 billion on the XBox so far? This wouldn't mean much as the XBox hasn't been much of a success outside the U.S., but the 360 is going to change this I think. It's comparable to the PS3 specs, but is available soooo far ahead of Sony's launch, it's incredible. And all the reports I've seen say that developing for the 360 is incredibly easy, yet doesn't limit the game developers at all either. It's going to take a long time for developers to grok the PS3's Cell multi-core system, if ever. Also, Microsoft groks online services far better than Sony or Nintendo, and that's going to play a huge role in the upcoming system. I guess the Xbox is going to come with several pre-installed or downloadable "casual games" which are pretty good as well. Since that's supposed to be Nintendo's area of expertise, it looks like the 360 could be *the* console of its generation.
Mobile Video - I own a Sony PSP, Nintendo Gameboy Play-Yan, ZVue, Zodiac, and smart phones which all have the capability of playing mobile video. I've been messing with the process of getting movies down to the respective formats lately and I have to say it's a time-consuming pain in the ass. Even using some of the auto-conversion apps out there, it's not easy. There are tons of confusing options: Video and audio codecs like MPEG or DivX, container formats (MPEG, 3GP, ASF, etc.), frame rates, key frames, bit rates for audio, and most importantly screen resolution. The general file sizes make the whole process incredibly time and processor intensive - ripping a DVD takes the better part of an hour, and snagging a movie from a P2P site takes nearly as long, the results vary and conversion is always needed at the end anyways which takes even longer (if its even possible). Don't listen to the naysayers, viewing mobile video is compelling (especially on a screen like the PSP) - Sony has sold over 9 million UMD movies so far which proves this pretty easily - but the process is akin to what MP3 downloading was like before iTunes came around. Maybe iTunes with Video will help this, but I have my doubts. 200+MB for a QVGA video is orders of magnitude larger than the equivalent MP3 - that puts a definite stress on broadband and CPU infrstructure already in place in the PC world. We may need another hardware and network generational improvement before this stuff becomes really mainstream.
Time-shifted Video - in general I think the whole market for TiVo like services is ready to go boom. TiVo, Comcast, MCE, and now Apple are in the mix along with startups like Orb, Avvenue and Slingbox. Sony just released a new PSP update which supports their LocationFree TV streaming tech and support for P-TV downloads. The TiVo deathwatch is still on, I have to say. As soon as someone comes out with a mass-market Airport Express-like device which uses my Computer's hard drive and OS in the other room as the brains behind the system, instead of having to have a dedicated box, there's going to be serious trouble for TiVo. Sony is trying to brand the PS3 as some sort of media center as well as a game machine. You have to wonder what Microsoft has up its sleeve for the hard-drive enabled XBox 360 as well. Regardless, Comcast is doing a pretty great job at providing video on demand so I almost never have to bother recording hit shows any more on my TiVo, just the odd rare program. This to me is just beginning. I've written before my amazement at how well and fast online movie download services work. As soon as I can hook that stuff up to my TV without hassle? Man, I wonder if we'll ever see that Netflix/TiVo mashup that's been rumored for so long?
Casual Multiplayer Games - The other gamenight, the Ning guys and I were playing multi-player Tetris on my GameCube (which still rocks, by the way, and looks incredible even on Diego's huge HDTV) and it was really fun! There's soooo much to be said for "casual multiplayer games." Games like Lumines and Tetris and Zookeeper take no time at all to pick up and learn, and yet are super fun. This has been the secret to Nintendo's Mario Party games for years, I just never noticed it before. During CTIA Nokia announced a bunch of mobile multi-player casual games developed by Octopi and powered by their SNAP service (I think), and though I haven't played them, I have no doubt they're going to be a relative success to what we've seen so far. This stuff really harkens back to more innocent days, no? When we used to play board and card games and Trivial Pursuit around the table with family or friends? It was super fun then, and then a decade or so of video games came in and that sort of fun was lost. Being able to have fun playing with the people you know without seeing blood and having to be a Halo/Doom/FPS god is really nice. Digital Chocolate seems to get this as well (as do our Y! Games guys). I wonder if anyone's made a multi-player Suduko yet? I bet it'd be a huge hit.
Casual Services - I wonder if there's a way to apply the lessons of the success of Casual Games to Web 2.0 type services? I think this is what the 37 Signals guys are really doing with their suite of apps, no? Backpack, Ta-Da and Writely are all easy to pick up and start using, easy to share, and yet are compelling in their own functional way. Yes, there are more advanced, all-encompassing services out there like Salesforce.com, but though they're the same thing in a way, they meet completely different needs. I need to think about this more, but I think there's more analogies to be made along these lines.
Mashups - I really dislike the whole Mashup meme going on lately. I just don't think they're adding much value to the web. Open services like eBay and Amazon are great because their ultmate goal is to provide value and monetization both for them and the developers taking advantage of their APIs. But all these mashups snagging maps from Google and images from Flickr and data from Craigslist for example aren't doing much besides creating what are essentially elaborate prototypes. There's very little real IP being created, and very little in terms of new ideas being put forth. And all these vertical search companies!! Especially the ones that just refine other engines results. Come on! This is all just seems so lazy and ultimately non-creative. The world needs more next-gen innovations, not just re-hashes and mixing/matching of other company's IP. Check out Emily Chang's eHub for a bunch of examples of what I'm talking about. At first I thought it was amazing... but as soon as the list grew and grew, I realized it wasn't such a neat thing after all, all these "Web 2.0 mashups".
Splogs - I can't believe how many splogs are using snippets of my content to attract advertising. At least its snippets now (which is a legal use of my content). Jason Shellen at Google helped me get one moron's site taken down at BlogSpot who was copying my entire feed. He just popped up a day later with another url (almost exactly like the old one) but with snippets of my site (and other mobile sites) instead. The only solution to this is to take away the monetary incentive. There's got to be a way of reporting these types of sites and get them removed from their ad-programs. Obviously, this would be fraught with peril as there's a bunch of link blogs out there as well that would also seem to qualify, but since I'm not a big fan of link blogs anyways, I'm not that worried.
Infinite Loop - I caught the West Wing on television for the first time in a long time (since the election, I think, I stopped watching it since then really). It dawned on me how ridiculous it is to focus a television show on such a unique individual as the President of the U.S. And now they're doing another one with Gina Davis? So wacky. I was thinking after this morning's Apple keynote that Hollywoood should create a show loosely based on Apple computer, no? It'd have a enigmatic, yet complex leader, various VPs with ranging agendas, crisises would not involve asteroids hitting the earth or Norht Korean terrorists, but blogs leaking confidential product plans and competitors launching similar products, IP theft, etc. You could have cameos by luminaries in tech. You'd have a picture-perfect antagonist in a Gates-like Billionaire of a competing company, etc. Quirky programmers and French-born directors of Engineering would add a light element. How much more drama could you want? :-)
Did I mention that Email sucks? - I guess I just have no idea how to handle the volume of email I get, both personal and at work. I don't think I've responded to an email in over a month. This may be my own personal psychosis at the moment, but wow, I just can't figure out any good way of managing the flow, so I guess I've essentially given up until I figure it out. Does it make sense that as soon as I get an email today that I need to answer, I think, "If I'm going to answer this email, I should really get the old ones out of the way before I respond to any new ones," and then I get overwhelmed with how many hundreds of emails are pending and just end up finding something else to do instead? Yeah, didn't think so. I may need a shrink.
Octobers - I've never, ever gotten the hang of October. Something to do with the seasonal change. It doesn't look like this year is any different.