Death of Cable Subscriptions?

This week at work we took an informal poll on who still paid for cable TV.  It was not surprising to see a few people had been living without cable TV for 2+ years.  I am confident that I could never give up cable TV simply because of the sports.  Now we have ESPN signing an exclusive agreement with the University of Texas to join forces on creating the Longhorn Sports Network.

This is not the first university to make an exclusive broadcast arrangement with a network, but it is the first in a long time.  Typically a conference makes an arrangement to have games broadcast on a network, but usually it is not exclusive and usually it is only for football and men’s basketball.  The Longhorn Sports Network will show more than just football and men’s basketball, it will feature all University of Texas sports.

For the first time we have a single channel dedicated to official video for all sports of a given university.  I now can see my cable subscription future becoming clearer.  Over time, I think you will see more and more universities do these exclusive deals where ALL varsity sports will be broadcast.  The next leap is that this is all available online, where I simply subscribe to university channels that I care about.  Throw in professional sports, and say bye bye to cable TV.  If only I can convince my wife that The Bachelor is not worth having cable for.

Day After the Deal Heard Around the Internet

One day after the deal heard around the Internet, with LivingSocial’s Amazon 50% off coupon, the deals offered returned to normal with half off SCUBA lessons, vein treatments, and pizza.  It was amazing to see how many people were sending links to the coupon yesterday.

Here is my issue with these coupon services.  They are turning into a commodity, whereby, anyone can enter the market.  Heck, when I was at AOL, I was sharing a cab with Ned Brody, who is head of Paid Services, in July and he was telling me about launching a local coupon service.  By October we had the service up and running internally and by November it was out the door.  That is scary fast to get a service up and running that is almost identical to a company that is about to file a $15B IPO.  Tonight, thanks to Mashable, we now know Google is launching Google Offers in the near future as well.

So while one day does not make a coupon service, I am not sure if LivingSocial did 10 days of Amazon coupons that it would ensure their financial existence either.

What Happened to AIM MusicLink?

At peak AIM MusicLink had nearly 10M sessions per month on the AIM Windows client.  I am confident to say it was the most successful AIM plugin of all time.  Looking at the latest data, there are still a lot of people who are still using the plugin, for which I am thankful.  It was the community that drove me to make this plugin, and it was the feedback from my old blog that helped drive features.

Looking at the analytics from this blog, it is clear that people are still looking for info on AIM MusicLink.  So what happened to the plugin?  In the middle of 2009, when I was working on AIM, it was decided that we stop supporting plugins in the Windows client.  There were a variety of reasons for removing the support, but as soon as we did I stopped working on the plugin.

So what started out as a test for OpenAIM 1.0 in the JAMS plugin package, became a real user favorite.  I even got a designer to give me a fancy icon for the plugin see at the top of the post.  Before there was, Pandora, Ping and music scrobbling, there was MusicLink.  Hopefully it made the experience of sharing music with friends a little bit more interesting.

You can still download the latest AIM MusicLink plugin here.

Google goes all in on WebM

I really applaud Google for pushing all their chips into the center of the table on ON2 VP8 (otherwise known as the CODEC that powers WebM) rather than continue to support H.264 in Google Chrome.  I know a lot of those in the tech community think Google is crazy to do this.  However, when you stop to consider the cabal that the patent holders of H.264 have enjoyed, it was time someone stepped in to break it up.

The move does not come without risks.  One of the main reasons H.264 was adopted as the standard was, believe it or not, the porn industry.  As soon as Adobe added H.264 decoding in its Flash Media Player 9, video could be consumed at a super high quality and done so cheaply.

In the last 12 months Google has purchased ON2 technologies to compete on the CODEC front and Global IP Solutions (GIPS) for video and audio processing.  Wiring this all up Google can offer real time peer-to-peer audio video sessions to go up against Skype and Apple in the space.  We have to assume that Google has crunched numbers and that using ON2 plus HTML5 is cheaper to serve video up as well.

As I mentioned late in December with the Skype outage, the battle ground is shaping up quickly between Google, Apple, Skype, and to a degree Microsoft and Mozilla with their browsers.  With H.264 going royalty free until 2015, in the end the user wins as more HD video is available on the internet, unless you are still using Chatroulette, because no one wants to see that in HD.

The iPhone and Verizon, Can you exercise self control?

Courtesy: (Chris Hondros / Getty Images)

The long awaited announcement today of the iPhone being available on Verizon brought great relief to sufferers of AT&Ts sputtering network.  But there is a catch, isn’t there always a catch?

At least initially the iPhone will only be available for Verizon’s CDMA spectrum and not the next generation LTE spectrum (Verizon 4G).  As soon as I heard this, it reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend who works at Apple on the iPhone back in the fall.  That person mentioned what a pain it was to work with Verizon’s CDMA network as the user experience was different than the current iPhone.

Why is that you may ask?  Well with Verizon’s CDMA network, iPhone will only be able to do either a phone call or data but not both at the same time.  Also, if you are an international traveler, your iPhone is a paper weight overseas.

It is not all bad news.  The most important part of the announcement today is that we have a choice in networks.  Choice hopefully will result in better quality networks and potentially pricing.  Even though I will not be switching, enough people will that hopefully my experience on AT&T will improve.

The key for people wanting to buy the iPhone on Verizon is patience.  As Verizon fully rolls out LTE, the safe assumption is that Apple will build an iPhone with an LTE chip in it.  Apple and Verizon’s immediate goal is to get the earliest adopters to buy in, and then 3 or 4 months from now when the next generation of iPhone is released, those users pay a premium to upgrade.  At least that is my prediction.

Can Quora Go Mainstream?

If you read any of the usual suspect tech blogs, everyone jumped on the Quora bandwagon at the end of the year.  For the uninitiated, Quora is a website where the community can ask and answer questions.  The founders are former early Facebook employees, and the idea behind the site is that the answers to questions will continue to get better over time as more people use the product and answer questions.

The product which launched a year ago has mainly been used by early adopters in the technology crowd.  The questions that have been asked are, for the most part, well written, and get into technology issues.

As more people join Quora the question quality will not remain as high as it has been.  As a result Charlie Cheever, one of the founders, took to the Quora blog to explain the commitment to keeping Quora high quality.  Now before being able to ask a question, users will be prompted with a quiz before they can proceed.  The quiz confirms that the user can answer a question about the format of question that Quora is looking for.

The challenge is that mainstream users are not always going to do what you want them to do.  If my Mom is ever going to use Quora, she may ask a question like, “How many cords need to be plugged into my computer for it to work?”  Questions will become less interesting over time, and potentially less intelligent.  Keeping Quora high quality is antithetical to having more mainstream users ask questions.

The Mac App Store…Does it Change Everything…Again?

I spent time with the Mac App Store this weekend, and right away I found myself downloading apps (both paid and free).  Apple has re-created the platform that taught everyone it was easy to single click to buy music, then movies and TVs, and now applications.

Apple is smart in lowering the prices on apps like Aperture, obviously they will sell more since users are conditioned to click the buy app button, then go on the Apple store website and purchase the boxed version of the application.

The store is going to re-invigorate the OS platform for Apple and not because I can play Angry Birds on my 27 inch iMac.  Games which may have only been popular on gaming consoles like XBox or iPhone now can be played on the Mac, and soon I am guessing on Apple TV.  I can’t wait to get the latest EA Sports’ Madden Football game on the Mac or Apple TV.

The fact that the store had 1 million downloads in the first day according to Apple, shows that Mac owners are more than willing to re-purchase apps that they already downloaded once for their iPhone.  Does this buying behavior really surprise anyone?

Why I am Grateful for Google Chrome

Over the past few weeks I have gotten a couple of new computers.  I have an iMac at home, and at Clearspring I have a MacBookPro and the set up for the machines could not have been easier.  Years ago when I would get a new Windows machine and when I was writing AIM Windows or the core cross platform IM library, the level of pain to get the machine set up was unbearable.

The biggest change, beyond not having to install all the developer tools like Visual Studio and corporate tools like Microsoft Office, is that most of my tools are via the browser.  Now before this sounds like a complete infomercial for Google Chrome, know that this is more of a thank you note to the Chrome team.  Installing Chrome on each new machine all of my bookmarks and plugins easily synced.  Total set up time, 15 minutes…

While Xmarks and other tools could have solved this issue with Firefox and other browsers, it was painfree with Chrome.  Let’s not even get started with IE, which at both AOL and Clearspring we still see users with IE6.  In the case of Safari, one would think Apple could make this work via MobileMe, but how many people want to pay money each year for a feature that Google gives away free.

Google Search Quality and Why Local Matters

I guess the holiday vacation gave a lot of people time to examine search results they were seeing from Google.  More and more has been written about Google’s search quality and the fact that spam is appearing in search results more often.  I don’t pretend to know the algorithm that powers Google search results, but the basic rule of thumb is data in and data out.  The more data you put in, the better the data you would get out, or so you would assume.

That brings me to local.  Location, when available, should always be used to help with the data that goes into search.  I am most intrigued by Google’s Near Field Communication (NFC) test going on in Portland, Oregon.  The idea behind this test is that you can go to a business, hold your phone up to the sticker in the window, and get reviews on the business.

Google is taking location so seriously that Marissa Mayer is now in charge of their local strategy.  The key is realizing that location and proximity are not the same thing.  The use case Google is giving for their NFC test is not so valid to me.  I usually search for a restaurant review or business review before I leave my house, but a use case that may be interesting is to know what has happened at a given location via rich media (photos, videos) or if the business is a previous Groupon participant.

Location is a huge component to the data in for search.  It is used today on the iPhone as well as Android to help find places nearby.  It can be used for things other than places however.  Location can help find results based on what others in your area are clicking on as well.  Can local solve spam in search?  Definitely not, but it can be part of the data in that makes search results more relevant.