Xbox 360 to offer movies and television via Live

Post ImageMicrosoft has announced that starting November 22nd, which just happens to be the one year anniversary of the Xbox 360, users will be able to download standard and high definition TV shows and movies. This is a big deal, make no mistake about it. Engadget has some more details on the service, dubbed Xbox Live Video. Pricing has not yet been announced, but we do know payment will be made in Microsoft points.

Here are some choice quotes from around the web. From Microsoft Monitor:

Rental is something Microsoft offers that Apple doesn’t. And Microsoft will offer HD content, too, which is really smart. It’s not just differentiating from iTunes or other services, but preserving the user experience. Xbox 360 is very much about the HD experience.

From Don Dodge:

Stay tuned for more Live services. It is going to be tough to keep up with all the announcements coming from Microsoft over the next few months. It just gets better every day.

And not as positive, from GigaOM:

With just 20 gigs in the consoles standard hard drive set-up, youre talking about 10 high definition TV episodes or five HD movies. Most gamers can churn through that content in days.

I would not be surprised if Microsoft announced a larger hard drive in the near future.

All of a sudden, owning an Xbox 360 is about more than being a gamer. It’s great news for people like me, a fairly casual gamer. I knew the 360 would be big on media when I bought it, but I had no idea this was coming. I can’t wait to see what they launch next!

Read: Xbox.com

Windows Media Player 11: Not Impressive

Post ImageOn Monday, Microsoft released the latest update to Windows Media Player, affectionately known as version 11. Apparently the release was supposed to happen a week earlier, but was delayed due to concerns about the quality.

They should have delayed the release even longer.

I wrote about Beta 1 and Beta 2, and in general, the final release hasn’t changed my opinion about the software. Here’s what I like about it:

  • The interface is clean and looks modern and attractive.
  • Searching is excellent, and really becomes the main way you interact with your media library.
  • Synchronization with portable devices is superb.

And pretty much everything else falls into the “indifferent” or “don’t like it at all” categories. They have tried to make the app easier to use, but as a result, they have taken out some of the functionality that advanced users such as myself want. The best example here is adding media to the library. I want to have explicit, tight control over what goes into my library and what stays out, so forcing me to monitor folders or play a file completely sucks. Give me multiple different ways to manage this kind of thing!

What else: lots of visualizations are missing, there aren’t any Canadian stores supported, sometimes it appears to freeze, and a bunch of other minor things.

The biggest problem of all? Windows Media Player 11 is not an “oh my god you must get the latest version” kind of update to previous versions. As far as I am concerned, WMP11 is the first such release of Windows Media Player. I think WMP9 was an excellent improvement, and WMP10 was better still. It sucks that I can’t say the same about WMP11. I was really hoping for something better.

I guess I’ll have to wait for version 12.

Read: WMP11

Teenagers listening to less radio? I'm shocked!

Post ImageIn case you missed it, that was sarcasm in the title. A sort of recent study by Edison Media Research shows that people aged 12 to 24 are listening to far less radio than they used to. I found this study via Podcasting News, but I hate the fact that they do not link to their sources, so I am not linking to them. Instead you can read about the study right from Edison Media Research (because they deserve the traffic):

A new study by Edison Media Research shows sharp declines in Time Spent Listening (TSL), Persons Using Radio (PUR) and most importantly attitudes about radio among the 12-to-24-age group, the listeners who represent both terrestrial radio’s future and its greatest challenge.

Perhaps of most concern, tracking of questions on attitudes about radio among this crucial group trend down as well. Fewer young people expect radio to be an important part of their future lives.

Almost every teenager I know owns an iPod or some other sort of portable media device. I don’t find it surprising at all that time spent listening for this age group is down. Teenagers today make their own radio station every day by creating playlists.

Read: Edison Media Research

Google buys YouTube for $1.65 billion

Post ImageThe ramifications of this deal will be felt for quite some time. CNET News.com is reporting that Google has purchased video sharing site YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. The deal has been rumored for some time, but I didn’t think it would actually go through:

“This is one of many investments that Google will be making to put video at the heart of a user’s online experience,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt on a conference call after the deal was announced. “When we looked at the marketplace and saw what was going on, we saw a clear winner in the social networking side of video, and that’s what drove us to start the conversations with YouTube.”

You can listen to an audio interview with Eric Schmidt and YouTube CEO Chad Hurley here.

Also today, YouTube announced some major distribution deals with the big record labels. All of a sudden, the threat of a lawsuit looks much less likely, doesn’t it? I wonder what the MySpace people will think of this deal. I’m sure they are a little scared now that YouTube has Google’s backing.

So the deal is done, Google is now king of video. Still, I can’t help but wonder if a simple, exclusive ad-deal with YouTube would have been a better investment for Google? I guess time will tell.

Read: CNET News.com

Has TechCrunch lost its edge?

Post ImageI’ve been subscribed TechCrunch for quite a long time, and I rather enjoy reading about the various companies and technologies they profile. Lately though, I’ve noticed that TechCrunch seems to be reporting on “big company” or “big media” things far more than the little stuff. A good example of this is what happened today. I opened up my aggregator for the first time today, and there were five posts in the TechCrunch feed:

  • Live.com and Yahoo! bulk up for local search brawl
  • Zune Unveiling Tomorrow
  • NBC to put new primetime shows online for free
  • Major Google/Intuit Partnership
  • Skype Video For Macs Launches Today

See what I mean? These look like headlines from CNET News.com, not TechCrunch! Now don’t get me wrong, these are all very interesting posts, and TechCrunch always has some inside information or extra analysis which is worthwhile, but they didn’t get to 113,000 subscribers by covering the big guys. They got there by finding and sharing the smaller companies and products that no one else could find.

Which begs the question – is TechCrunch becoming more like a mainstream business news site? Can we expect more of the “big company” type posts? Has TechCrunch lost its edge?

I still like magazines!

Post ImageDon Dodge asks whether newspapers and magazines are dying. I’ve been in this discussion before, at least for newspapers:

I hate almost everything about newspapers. I don’t like the size of the paper. I don’t like the way it makes everything black. I don’t like that every page has to be jammed full of stuff. I don’t like that the pages are not full color. I don’t like that once I find something interesting, I can’t do anything with it (like send it to a friend, or blog about it with a link, etc).

Needless to say, I think newspapers are a dying breed. Or if not dying, at least drastically changing (I still read newspaper websites online, for instance). The physical newspaper as we know it, won’t be around too much longer.

Magazines, on the other hand, will be around for a while I think. I’ll give you two pieces of evidence to support this. One is Chris Anderson’s mainstream media meltdown which shows that while newspapers, television, music, and others are losing eyeballs and subscribers like crazy, books and magazines are somewhat mixed. This suggests to me that people find magazines more valuable than say, a newspaper. Not the content itself (I am not suggesting that people don’t find a TV show valuable) but the medium – I think people like physical magazines and books.

Which brings me to my second piece of evidence – the magazine itself! Despite still not being able to do anything with the content in a magazine, the size is usually comfortable, and the pages are cleanly laid out and colorful (and don’t make my hands black). I often will refer back to a magazine article (and the articles themselves are usually longer and more indepth than your typical newspaper story). Don thinks the outlook for magazines might be worse than newspapers because newspapers are local focused. Perhaps he’s right, but I think it takes longer for a magazine article to be out of date than a newspaper story. There’s hope for magazines yet.

Don also asks: “What are your reading habits? How do they compare to your parents reading habits?” Probably not fair for me to answer that question, as my parents are fairly young and very tech savvy. My Dad subscribes to the Edmonton Journal online, and I doubt they read any other physical papers except the local “Inuvik Drum” (which I think is probably the norm in towns of only 3000 people).

Bottom line – newspapers will disappear and I won’t be sad to see them go. Magazines may disappear too, but it will take longer, and until we have digital books or magazines*, I’ll be sad to see them go.

Note: I’ve never actually subscribed to a magazine. I’m very a much a “buy on the spot when I see one that looks interesting” kind of magazine shopper.

* – by this I mean a physical book or magazine that looks like one today, except that it wirelessly connects to the Internet to update the content to be whatever I want to read. So pages don’t have “print” on them per se. This gives you the full benefits of say, a laptop, but with a form factor that is more natural and easy to read. And believe me, it’s coming.

Read: Don Dodge

REVIEW: Windows Media Player 11 Beta 2

Post ImageThe second beta version of Windows Media Player 11 has been released. I downloaded and installed the update yesterday, expecting to see something amazing! I was thinking, “ah beta 2, let’s see some great new features!” Alas, I got nothing.

With the exception of a few minor UI details, beta 2 looks a heck of a lot like beta 1. I can only hope this release contains some under-the-hood improvements to justify it’s existence. Performance seems pretty much the same as beta 1. Features look pretty much the same as beta 1. And beta 2 is still missing the things I want most:

  • Why can’t I add a single file without playing it? Give me a damn “Add file to library” menu option that lets me select a specific file! Sometimes the folder monitoring takes a while (especially when you have as many songs as I do) and I just want to add a file. Why this was removed from version 11 is beyond me (it existed in v10).
  • My favorite visualization, Plenoptic Vox, is still missing.
  • Statistics! I liked how in v10 I could click “All Music” and eventually it would show the total number of tracks in my library. That feature is now gone (or if it does exist, I can’t find it). Why not give us a great statistics view that tells me everything about my library?! It can’t be that hard, seriously.

Podcasting is also nowhere to be found, as a few people have noted.

If you’d like, you can read my review of beta 1 here. My advice remains the same – despite the fact that I am running beta 2 pretty much 24/7, I still recommend you wait for the final version (or at least a release candidate).

Read: WMP11 Beta2

Paramagnus in AlbertaVenture

Post ImageIf you pick up a copy of the July/August issue of AlbertaVenture magazine, you’ll find an article titled Entrepreneurial Idol, which is all about VenturePrize. While I think that title is better suited to the upcoming Dragon’s Den on CBC, the article is still really good. Indeed one of my favorite memories from the entire VenturePrize experience was talking with Marina. She has a knack for asking the right questions.

Here are a few notable quotes related to Paramagnus from the article:

“Sitting in the front row of Steier’s class are Mack Male and Dickson Wong, 22-year-olds who look like they’ve walked into the wrong classroom. But looks are deceiving; these whiz-kid computer undergrads at the U of A have already raised a hundred grand to fund their baby, Paramagnus Developments.”

“Last to go is Paramagnus which, because of Male and Wong’s youth, is the judges’ sentimental favourite.”

Marina ends the article with a quote from yours truly:

“I can’t believe how far we, and our business model, have evolved since day one of this competition. We’re going to go all the way.”

That sentiment is still true, even today. The story isn’t over yet though, not by a long shot. We’re inching closer and closer with each passing day to releasing Podcast Spot. And when that happens, we’ll really have something to be proud of!

Google passed on MySpace

Post ImageThe July issue of Wired includes a feature on News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch, and what might be his current crown jewel, MySpace. The main value that MySpace provides the company is “the power to make hits.” Ever hear of Dane Cook? He’s a really popular comedian probably because of his MySpace page. The Arctic Monkey’s are becoming popular in North America with help from their MySpace page. Lots of celebs have them now. MySpace is huge, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Of particular interest to me, Murdoch claims that Google passed on the opportunity to purchase MySpace, for about half the price News Corp. paid (which was still a steal). Murdoch says:

I like those guys, but theres a bit of arrogance. They could have bought MySpace three months before we did for half the price. They thought, “Its nothing special. We can do that.”

This, dear readers, is what happens when you’re a media company that thinks you’re a technology company. I’m not sure it’s arrogance, so much as it is this incredible desire to be a technology company that blinds them from making any rational decisions. Google’s big three (Larry, Sergei, and Eric) all have technology backgrounds, yet Google is very clearly a media company. Almost all of their revenue is derived from advertising, and they increase that revenue with more eyeballs, not necessarily great technology.

As Om Malik points out, Google really, really, should have bought MySpace when they had the chance:

As widely reported, MySpace is now the largest source of search traffic for Google, accounting for over 8% of their inbound traffic as of early May. That essentially means that MySpace is responsible for about $400 million of Google’s annual revenues. Knowing this, MySpace is trying to capitalize by holding an auction for its search business. If Google wins, it will end up sharing a significant percentage of that $400 million with MySpace… John Battelle thinks the split to MySpace will be close to 90%. And Google would need to pay it every year. Needless to say, had Google acquired MySpace, no such payments would have to be made.

Om also points out that Google+MySpace=Largest-Site-on-the-Web. Or at least, that’s what could have been. More eyeballs than anywhere else. A media company thinking like a media company would have purchased MySpace, no question.

News Corp. doesn’t have any such delusions. They’re a media company. They purchased MySpace.

[In case you’re wondering, my very plain, very boring MySpace page is here.]

Read: Wired

Commercial Free CBC?

Post ImageVia iloveradio.org, I came across a post on the Canadian Journalist blog which explains that a recent senate report on Canadian media is recommending an ad-free CBC:

A Senate report on Canadian media recommends that CBC-TV become a commercial-free broadcaster. The report also recommends measures to prevent private media conglomerates from dominating newspaper, radio and television audiences in a single market.

The CBC proposal would mean the federal government would have to boost the corporation’s almost $1-billion annual budget to make up for the loss of advertising revenue.

First of all, have these people not heard of the Internet? There’s your solution to one media conglomerate dominating a single market. And then more importantly – more money for the CBC?! I don’t think so.

The post also mentions that the senate committee spent more than three years travelling the country, hearing from witnesses. I find it hard to believe these people gave them the idea that CBC needs more money. Maybe more money to produce something worth watching, but certainly not to have more of the crap we currently find on CBC. Seriously, there’s sports, crappy CBC shows, and decent BBC shows.

Here’s my recommendation: keep the radio and Internet properties, and get rid of CBC television. I’ve been thinking about this for a while actually, especially since CBC lost the contract for curling (there, even a cbc.ca link!). Here is my reasoning:

  • I don’t think a publicly-funded organization should be allowed to compete with private companies for contracts such as curling or the NHL broadcast rights.
  • I don’t agree with a publicly-funded organization running a for-profit entity, like Country Canada.
  • There is no compelling reason for CBC Television to exist. CTV, Global, City, and the other stations are all quite capable, and often cover news and events far better than CBC does anyway.
  • We could probably do far more with the budget currently spent on CBC.
  • We could get rid of Don Cherry and those other idiots, and Ron MacLean could move to TSN!

Okay that last one isn’t really a serious reason, but it would be awesome! The only time I ever watch CBC is for the hockey, and I don’t think I’m alone.

My only other suggestion would be to make CBC Television an entirely, 100%, Canadian-content channel that is not allowed to bid on sporting broadcast rights, play Hollywood movies, etc. No budget increases either. Then we could relax the requirement that Canadian broadcasters make sure at least 30% of their content is Canadian-created, and we might actually have some competition for American networks.

However, with our media becoming increasingly global, I wonder if we need television stations like CBC. I’m of the opinion that private enterprise will do a far better job of providing local and national content in the long run anyway.

Read: Canadian Journalist