Archive for March, 2010

Air over San Diego

March 28th, 2010, 11:41am by Kelvin

Just saying hi from sunny San Diego.

Lock-In, Content, and Pricing on the iPad

March 23rd, 2010, 2:01pm by Mike

(Meant to post this here, too…)

Quick review: Traditionally, Apple likes their hardware, and they use content (music, apps, etc) to sell hardware. It’s not clear to me whether this has changed recently with the tremendous success of the iTunes Music/App Store, but in the past, content has been a carrot to lure users to hardware.

Recently, content providers (music/TV/movie execs) have been angry at Apple, predominantly because Apple (a) has been successful at delivering their content at a price that both agreed to beforehand, and (b) content providers now feel that, having proven that the market exists, they should be free to raise the price and/or control distribution of their content. The same fight is brewing over book publishing — we’re at a much earlier stage, but Amazon has proven that a (relatively small, but growing) market exists, and Apple is poised to potentially become a big player.

There are two big issues around books on the iPad: lock-in, and pricing.

Lock-in is related to the fact that Apple’s ebook format(ePub) is different from Amazon’s, so the iPad won’t natively read Kindle ebooks (though Amazon and Barnes and Noble are both supposedly working on iPad apps, which Apple may or may not approve for distribution to iPad). While this stinks if you’re a current Kindle user who wants an iPad, I don’t see that it really affects users too much. In an ideal world, every format player would play every format, but outside the realm of desktop computers, we’re used to the idea of lock-in. My Garmin GPS won’t display TomTom maps. I don’t own any music devices that can play Sony’s MiniDisc or ATRAC formats. Games on XBox, PS3, and Wii are not interchangeable. In all these situations, you accept the limitations of the hardware when you buy it. I’m not that bothered here, it’s Apple’s call what they allow on their hardware. Vote with your wallet if you don’t like it.

(In my opinion, Apple did right by choosing ePub, and on their site, they say that you can sync free ePub format files to the iPad via iTunes.)

The pricing issue is much more complex. In summary, Amazon already has deals with publishers, who now want to get in bed with Apple. Apple is giving the publishers the chance to charge more than the $9.99 that Amazon currently charges for ebooks — pleasing the publishers, and giving them leverage in future negotiations with Amazon to raise their prices, potentially even withholding content from Amazon if they don’t raise their prices to match Apple. End result, we all pay more for ebooks (assuming that this sort of price fixing by publishers doesn’t get hammered in the legal system). The NYT summarized this when the iPad was announced.

Consumers feel that the price of a book is calculated by the sum of the costs of producing it, and that printing and distribution are the major costs — so reductions here (in producing and distributing ebooks) should be reflected in the final price. I don’t want to try to analyze it here, but there are other considerations in book pricing, and Apple demanding 30% of gross revenue off the top doesn’t help drop the price.

Taken together, along with Apple’s other recent issues surrounding app approval in the App Store, Apple is looking more and more like a juggernaut, approaching Microsoft’s status in its heyday. It’s no secret that I’m a big Apple fan, but their strong-arming the market definitely makes me uncomfortable. I’d certainly consider alternatives to the iPad, were they available, but currently, there doesn’t seem to be anything comparable. And I have a feeling that, for me, I’ll be OK with the iPad.

Free the Dune/ Save the Park!

March 22nd, 2010, 8:37pm by Jake

Free the Dune

I’ll just provide a link to my dozen posts on the topic. Clearly the 1st or 2nd most successful protest of my brief career.

Twin Sundaes

March 20th, 2010, 10:50pm by Kelvin

B and L enjoying a nice reward after finishing dinner…

Palm Update

March 19th, 2010, 9:49am by Mike

palm-webos.jpgI realize that a lot of the discussion around Palm (particularly the financial stuff, which I don’t really know anything about) has moved over to Twitter, but there have been some big developments in the last couple of days. Not unexpectedly, Palm announced that revenues weren’t what they had hoped, and that of the nearly 1 million phones they shipped, they sold just over 40%. The Verizon deal hasn’t really done much for them, and it sounds like one of the reasons may have been a restrictive deal regarding Sprint exclusivity, which prevented Palm from debuting on Verizon until after the Droid launch/marketing blitz. The webOS story is sounding more and more to me like a series of badly timed announcements and releases, which is too bad.

Now, most analysts have downgraded the stock as it has fallen, and AT&T is rumored to be delaying the launch of their webOS handsets. There’s much speculation about the future directions for Palm, with many indicating selling out as an option (e.g., to Google).

It’s not all doom-and-gloom, though — seems like every day there are more apps and platforms getting ported to webOS, and with the plugin development kit, Palm has stated (and some developers have agreed) that porting iPhone apps and platforms to webOS is simplified. webOS version 1.4 sounds like it fixed lots of things and added new features like video recording (but also unexpectedly changed some stuff under the hood). And there is some chatter about new hardware (on Sprint, ugh), even the appeal of a webOS-based tablet.

So, Palm guys, what’s the feeling out in Palm-land? Are they going to make it? What do you think about a Google-Palm buyout, and what does that mean for webOS?

Casual Web Surfing

March 12th, 2010, 12:59pm by Kelvin

Mike recently asked Jake what user scenarios would be better served by a Courier rather than an iPad, and it got me thinking about how I would ever use either one. Primarily, to me, these devices are good for consumption of internet content, so I thought I’d brainstorm a bit about when and where I do most of me casual web surfing, and what device I imagine would be best suited for each scenario. Is there a place for a device between a smartphone and a netbook/laptop? 


Target Coupalms

March 11th, 2010, 12:39pm by Kelvin

This definitely would have infringed our business model patents…

TARGET: Sign up for Target Mobile Coupons!  Visit to sign up now. Msg&data rates may apply

Missing Menu in Paintr

March 9th, 2010, 12:26pm by Kelvin

Hate to kick a dog when it’s down, but this just seems like another Palm misstep. When WebOS 1.4 came out a week ago, I lamented that a “forward swipe” gesture in the gesture area no longer went forward in the web browser. Not a huge deal, I guess I figured Palm was just killing a little used feature for consistency. Today, I noticed that Paintr Lite, a great webOS drawing app, is also affected. Once you are in full screen, Paintr Lite uses the forward swipe as the command to bring up a drawing toolbar. Surprisingly, this command no longer registers as of 1.4. Maybe the forward gesture was never part of a documented API and has been intentionally removed system-wide, but it just seems like an oversight. Anyway, here’s a drawing of one of Lucas’ imaginary friends, Tomboos.

Testing Video, Part Deux

March 4th, 2010, 11:50pm by Mike

Jake tried to embed a YouTube video in his last post, and even though the site seems to be set up to embed the video, it didn’t work (strangely, it didn’t even linkify the URL). My first thought was that it was his blogging client, and Lance pointed out that my troubleshooting may not have worked because I tried to embed videos in a comment.

So, let’s see what happens when I try several different ways to embed a YouTube video, like Jake did:

…and the same from Flickr:

Did anything work?

** EDIT, 5 March. Trying what Lance suggested below. Using the syntax didn’t work, and when I use the WordPress post editing tool (rather than my blogging client) and insert the video using the method described on that page, it looks like HTML:

Jake's Pre video

Testing Video

March 3rd, 2010, 2:27am by Jake

Just a quick test, to see if I can embed a video using WordPress tools. The code on YouTube didn’t seem to work. In all its cheesy glory, my first Palm Pre video.

Well, that didn’t work at all. Mike, can you take a look at this page, and see what happens when you change this setting, ‘(Check the “Auto-embeds” check box in Administration > Settings > Media SubPanel.) ‘ Thanks.

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