Saturday, December 22, 2007

HULU beta opinions

2008-01-24 Update: TechCrunch wrote Hulu Discusses Private Beta, Suggests Public Launch Time Frame

HULU works!



However, as I participate in the beta I find a few things are lacking.

A simple little annoyance is the placement of advertising within the stream. For the 49 minute Alfred Hitchcock show above there are 4 internal commercial breaks (other videos had more) and 1 additional one at the start (pre-roll). The internal ones break up the show because they are not placed at logical flow transition points. They are distracting. More recent videos have the commercials placed at better breaks. The ads are noted with dots along the stream time line so you know when they are coming up. The show above actually has natural commercial points but these are not used. You have the ability to jump forward and backward along the time line, but not to the point of avoiding the ads. Even if you jump past the ads, they play and the stream then continues back at the time location you clicked. Once played during the viewing, the ads are not played a second time as the time marker crosses their location.

Also missing is the ability to download for synchronization with offline players. This is another big deficiency. Not surprisingly, external downloaders can grab only the pre-roll commercial. Noted on the screen is "SHOW is available for purchase on DVD or electronic download", but these are not active at this point. The statement implies that the download must be purchased. These options are not shown for all shows.

The videos cover recent and "ancient" shows. That's right up my alley because I love watching the great old shows. My machine of preference is a laptop connected via an 802.11g network. The quality of the show compression is excellent and the wireless network is sufficient to feed to stream without jumps and starts.

Creating a play lists is simply. The site remembers which videos you are watching and will pickup in the stream where you left off. The interface is logical and appears on cursor rollover. It provides the ability to play the video and navigate some of the other features. Whenever the other features are accessed the video is paused, this doesn't accommodate all of us multi-taskers. It would improve the experience if you could get info and perform sharing all while watching the show.

Several interesting capabilities are the ability to share via email, embed (as done in this post, but not all videos can be embedded), display in a pop-up browser window, although the quality suffers in the pop-up window for some reason.

Opinion: This method of delivery works. If this remains a free service supported by inline commercials and border ads AND they develop a download scenario, then Hulu will be successful. In addition, they need to keep in mind that more and more people are using their cellular devices for this purpose, so a mobile player or format needs to be added. It should also be noted that Hulu is currently in beta, so things could improve significantly as time moves forward. If you get the opportunity to give Hulu.com a try. I would recommend trying it, however, if the model becomes a subscription service then it would not be worth it.

Personal Note: This service allowed me to catch up on the "Chuck" series that I missed recording. Starting with episode number 1 and proceeding as if I had my own private DVR. Excellent!

Disclaimer: Hulu was tested using a Windows OS machine running Hulu in Firefox, Opera and Safari. Each of these browsers worked but not all features functioned equally in each one. When using IE, most tests were not successful, hopefully this was not due to some default security settings.

If you try Hulu (request beta account via email on site) and have experiences you would like to share, feel free to comment on this post.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Blyk - free phone service in Europe, but there is a catch!

Now here is an absolutely insane concept. It's so insane, it will absolutely work!

To get free text and minutes in some European locations -

You must be between the ages of 16 and 24. As stated in a recent interview, if you're 15, then you have hope. If you are 25, they are so sorry. If however you are lucky enough to be old enough and young enough, you can sign-up with Blyk and they don't kick you off at the ripe old age of 25...

Oh yea, and it is by invitation only, but that isn't the catch.

The catch is the interactive advertisement which supports the free offerings.
What is interactive advertisement you ask?

The young person's phone will receive ads which pay for the 217 text messages and 43 minutes of talk time per month, no contract. There's more... said young person answers a few questions at sign-up about their interests and then is presented with several types of advertisements during the month.

First type of ad is the simple text or picture ad. More importantly the second type of ad is a dialogue ad, a commercial with a response opportunity which helps Blyk learn more about their interests and finally the ad which is targeted precisely from the response. They believe that this interactive exchange is what this age group is comfortable with and expects.



From the About Blyk:


For both young people and advertisers, Blyk represents a totally new proposition.

Blyk has built a service around what young people want and need – free communication, ease of use and relevant messages from brands. Blyk has developed its offer by finding out what its members consider most valuable – this will evolve over time as their needs do.

Blyk allows advertisers to reach young people using the only channel that they carry with them everywhere. They can engage them in a dialogue, one that they are uniquely ready for, because they’ve opted in.

Blyk’s advertising products are based on the most dominant pattern of mobile behaviour among 16-24 year old consumers: getting a message and responding to it. Its offerings create awareness, build relationships and drive sales.


Blyk
went public at the end of 2007 and has recently expanded into the UK market.

For more info about the pan-European offering and the company, refer to the links below:

- Press
- Blog

Opinion: Could the Blyk method work elsewhere in the world? Time will tell. This concept targets one of the mysterious demographic groups. If it catches on in Europe, why not elsewhere. Hmmm, open networks, open mobile platform, targeted advertisements; does this sound familiar to anyone?

Jott - call, speak, get more done.

So what is Jott? Bottom line is that it takes speak and translates it to text.
But wait there's more...

How are people using Jott?

I signed up for the Jott beta when it was first announced (next week, Jott turns one year old). However, up until recently I had only used it for the occassional reminder text message. Today, they announced the ability to connect with Google Calendar. Since I use Google Calendar for tracking everything, this is the killer option that makes Jott extremely useful for me.

For others the usefulness lies in the ability to:

- post a blog
- delegate tasks to an individual or a group
- record business expenses and mileage
- create travel and vacation notes
- search for items on amazon.com
- and much more...

The application works well in its translation and the usage is straight forward with little to remember. The video below is a quick demonstration of how one person uses Jott.



Another online demo of Jott in action is available on the jott.com site.

What other bloggers are saying about Jott

Opinion: Jott is yet another link in the chain that is being forged by the various mobile phone application developers. With Google and Microsoft developing more app's for mobile platforms; the Android standard adoption; and the carriers hopping on the open network bandwagon, it is possible we may finally have what is needed for the big shift to always connected, ultra-mobile devices. Look for huge news in Q3 of 2008 for this market.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Security Now Tip - Do you really know where your cookies are?

Did you know that some web sites use objects called Flash cookies to make sure information isn't lost when you clear your browser cookies cache?

Based on the Security Now information, I confirmed that a few banking institutions are using Flash cookies to keep track on my information.

The only way to determine what is being tracked is to use the Marcomedia web application. I will not detail it here, but another blog by Victor Laurie has some excellent instructions on both viewing and changing the Flash player settings. Victor also wrote a newer blog on the subject after listening to the Security Now podcast.

Opinion: This little known and not all that obvious use of "cookies" is very real and it needs to be exposed so that your information is not compromised.

Bug Labs new concept in mobile device


Bug Labs has recently come back into the news with the announcement of a 2007 Q4 availability for their snap together modular device concept called BUG.

As many have already written about this, it is revolutionary.

Okay, maybe.

Not really. This is a simple concept.

What is revolutionary is that they are making it work! Also, this concept could be taken to areas other than just the entertainment or GPS market. Depending on the plug-ability of hardware and software modules this could extend into the cellphone market; medical devices and the like. To be embraced by the additional markets, miniaturization will be required. However, this shouldn't be a big issue, no pun intended.

To find out more about the company, its members and the concept behind the BUG, checkout their About BUG Labs

To see the various real life modules, hop over to their Flickr photos of the modules.

Opinion: This concept could also help in similar ways to the OLPC program. One Laptop Per Child is attempting to provide low cost, reliable technology to everyone anywhere. The BUG concept lends itself to this as well. Think about a OLPC laptop with plug-able modules. The possibilities are limitless!

Verizon to embrace Android - whata change!

December 4, 2007

Yesterday BusinessWeek reported the following:

Verizon Embraces Google's Android
How Verizon Wireless learned to stop worrying and love open access. Step one: Realizing it's a way to add low-cost customers


This is significant! Very Significant!

Verizon isn't stupid.

IF you spot the 800 pound gorilla in the room, it is always a good idea to keep an eye on him.

IF said gorilla is about to pound your lame old ass, be sure to appear agreeable, friendly and willing to feed him.


Verizon isn't stupid!

Of course, Google's Android "play" won't destroy Verizon's market share nor will it cause thousand of new subscribers to avoid Verizon. What it does is setup up a reluctant symbiosis.

Verizon wins by getting a cheaper way to GAIN market share by both allowing the Android handsets AND perhaps even utilizing the Android OS on their own handsets.

Google isn't stupid either!

Google wins by getting more and more platforms to provide advertising, and surprise, then share some of the spoils with the other monster in the room.

Is this a win for consumers? Yes, although as consumers we must keep something in mind. Recalling the movie King Kong, when Mr. Kong protects our movie heroine from the T-Rex. Sure she isn't eaten by the T-Rex, but her situation does not improve much. We the mobile phone consumers are about to be protected by "King Google" and he isn't going to kill the V-Rex, merely calm him for now. It will be in both their best interest to play nice, for at least some period of time.

Just remember, as consumers, we still look pretty darn appetizing to both of them and I am confident in saying that they are looking out for their best interests first. How this will play out is anyone's guess, but for me I would love to see the following:

Google's Android standard succeeds (or a mutant of it)thus providing a common platform for providers to build upon.

Verizon truly embraces the standard, which in turn causes their profits to increase while supplying more and more service at an ever decreasing price.

{Remember your economics! You can sell one thing for $200,000 or you can sell hundreds of thousands of things for $10 each and make far more profit than you ever thought possible}

The flies in this ointment are greed and the ever popular "territorial pissing match". Working together using a standard and creating products consumers actually want rather than bludgeoning them with advertising until they succumb, the main players can thrive. If either of the flies buzz too loudly in their ear, they may lose track of what their real purpose is. What is their real purpose? To make money! But rather than monopolizing the market, they keep making us "golden gooses" happier and happier so we keep laying eggs for them... lots and lots of eggs!

Opinion: If a mobile OS standard is adopted, then many companies which are now on the brink of oblivion could actually get a piece of the action and survive. It is right in the Palm of their hand, they simply need to embrace it rather then attempt to choke it to death.

Nice move Verizon! Way to go Google!

Just remember, we are watching you!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Purpose of Back Page Tech

In the coming months, I plan to supply the tech news that doesn't make the headlines. The stories that by themselves could be overlooked, but when combined with the rest of the news demonstrate what's coming next.

Sorry, there won't be a cute female host nor much flash, just common everyday facts and a bit of speculation.

Thanks for stopping by.