BarackBerry: The new Washington status symbol.
- The appeal of being in an exclusive group is that you know there are a bunch of people who are just dying to get in but can’t. Scoring an invite to Vanity Fair’s post Oscar party meant you were one of the entertainment elite. Having a black card aka the American Express Centurion signified you had reached the upper echelon of success. The coolest clubhouse was Herb Allen’s annual mogul fest in Sun Valley where business and political titans like Bill Gates, Barry Diller, Tony Blair and the Google boys rubbed shoulders and talked shop. Well no more. Reality TV stars can sneak into Vanity Fair, every bank now offers an above platinum card and in this economic climate the depressed attendees at Sun Valley will probably be snorting lines of Xanax. There is a new it group one so ultra exclusive that the usual “masters of the universe” couldn’t buy, beg or bribe a membership.... Read More
Survival of the Fittest: How the meltdown benefits the web.
- Unless you have been living under a rock in the most impenetrable depths of the Amazon rain forest you have heard a something about the current economic downturn. It is not just Wall Street that is under siege, markets as far flung as Japan and Australia have taken hits as well. You may be familiar with the butterfly effect in chaos theory…a butterfly fluttering its wings in one place creates a tornado in another. It is an overly simplified way of illustrating the idea that the minutest changes to an intricately connected system may result in larger scale occurrences in another part of the same system. Though the butterfly does not literally cause or prevent climate change its action contributes to a myriad other factors that when combined become more than the sum of their collective parts. Well the inescapable fact is that no nation’s economy is an island; instead all are linked in a complex web of codependency and ... Read More
The Microsoft campaign about nothing
- I can just imagine what those guys at Microsoft headquarters up in Redmond were thinking. "It's so like totally unfair" While Apple is a media darling and gets all this great press the only time anyone ever talks about us when they are complaining about its shortcomings. True the folks down in Cupertino seems to have been on a roll lately churning out improved versions of both their coveted iPhone and its predecessor the iPod which virtually owns the digital player market (just recently re-launched in a series of colors reminiscent of a 60's acid trip.) Even their computers though much more costly than equivalent Windows based PCs are considered status symbols that no serious creative can live without. The Apple brand is liberal, innovative and nonconformist (ironic considering the-Steve Jobs can do no wrong-herd mentality of Apple fan boys). And most annoying of all to Microsoft must be... Read More
IE is tarnished, Chrome sparkles
- Today Google is making its’ Chrome shine. Launched in 43 languages and in 122 countries simultaneously as a beta for PC (Mac and Linux version soon to follow) the web world holds its breath as it takes Chrome for a test ride. Before anything else it is necessary to define what Chrome is exactly. Chrome is a browser… What is a web browser you wonder? It is the interface you use every time you surf the worldwide web. Nothing more nothing less, even though Microsoft, Apple and Mozilla will tell you a browser is much more than that, it really is simply the interface, a complex interface of course, you use to hop skip and jump from one web page to another, surfing the web as you please. That said the question is what does one expect from such an interface? Simplicity and ease of use, of course; speed, more than likely which requires a good understanding of source codes so that search results are correctly displayed and ... Read More
An App a day
- Dear coders, you know the idea that's been marinating in the back of your mind for the last year or so? That thingy you think is so innovative that no one will be able to resist. The one which if only you could get in front of the right people would free you from the purgatory of your cubicle, let you finally tell your boss exactly where he can go stick his crappy IT job and make you the kind of money that allows for regular vacations in Tahiti? Well now's the time to go for it. If this sounds like a pitch for some get rich quick scheme, it is in ya way. The latest trend for programmers with champagne wishes and caviar dreams is coming up with hot new applications for smart phones.
To help them the iFund, a $100 million investment pool, was created this year by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Bythe. Its raison d'etre is investing in start-ups that dream up applications for the iPhone. Of the over 2,400 submissions the fund has ... Read More
Much ado about Facebook's yard, sale.
- Secrets don't exist in Silicon Valley. News travels along the grape vine at broadband speeds, the latest tech gossip being parlayed from local rag The Mercury News; to online journal Silicon Alley Insider; to investment bible Venture Beat until it ends up at the local geek watering holes where it is talked about over a cold beer after a hard day and night of coding. Whether the topic du jour is the birth of a new startup, the mind boggling sale price of an established one or the axing of a top executive from a troubled one, it's dissected with the morbid fascination of kids pulling legs off of a beetle. So understandably tongues were wagging when the news leaked that some current and former employees of Facebook including social networking wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg and executive Matt Cohler were quietly shopping some of their shares in the vaunted company... Read More
A Cuil new search engine.
- An old PR quote states that any publicity is good publicity. The idea is that no news is a fate worse than bad news when it comes to promoting a product. It's this school of thought that made sex tapes and stints in rehab de rigeur for any D list celebrity looking to move into A list territory. An opposing adage states, nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising. Essentially meaning too much attention on your product can set unrealistic expectations. Take the 1998 remake of Godzilla which was overhyped and fell flat on its face at the box office. So which of these two philosophies will apply to the latest entry in the competitive search engine field, newcomer Cuil which launched on July 28? Cuil is pronounced "cool" and supposedly means knowledge in Gaelic but I think it sounds a little too much like a rather rude French word. Even though it was barely out the gate it was already generating... Read More
Retailer vs. Renter: Amazon thinks outside Unbox.
- I watch an average of seven movies a week and before you comment let me say I'm fully aware that this is well above the norm and I need to consider some form of rehab. It is not my fault entirely; there are a number of enablers who conspire to help me feed this shameful celluloid addiction. I implicate the local multiplex theater as a culprit but the two drug dealers that bear the most guilt are Amazon and Netflix. I get DVD's from the former and have a long running rental subscription with the latter. So I was especially interested in a recent development with one supplier that will significantly affect our current business arrangement. Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, is dipping its’ not insignificant toes into video rentals, the domain of my other dealer Netflix.
The announcement this week sent Netflix into a panic, or at least their nervous investors who, like rats leaving a sinking ship, unloaded the company's stock.... Read More
Creating a bold new online model for Hollywood
- If there is one word that has become all too familiar in Hollywood it is strike. Currently the entertainment community is crossing its fingers hoping to avoid a possible actor's walkout. It seems like only yesterday that Hollywood's scribes exchanged their pens for placards and decamped to the streets of Burbank and Culver City picketing outside the Disney, Warner and Sony studios. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) walkout lasted 100 days and cost the Los Angeles economy roughly $3 billion ($772 million in lost wages for writers and production crew, $981 million from ancillary businesses that service Hollywood such as set caterers and rental companies, and $1.3 billion as a result of strike affected people tightening their wallets.) Loosing $3 billion over 100 days is peanuts when you consider that LA makes about $1.3 billion a day but it still hit the Hollywood community hard since the entertainment industry employs about 250,000 in the LA region alone... Read More
3G or not 3G: WWDC 08 answers the question
- Early summer in San Francisco has a lot to offer a visitor; there are the famous landmarks, music festivals, stellar restaurants and endless outdoor activities. But for one group of out-of-towners June in the bay area means only one thing, the Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC). This week long event calls the Apple faithful to the Mecca that is San Francisco's Moscone Center where the conference has been hosted since 2006. The WWDC is the smaller, nerdy brother to its more glamorous sister event, the Macworld Conference and Expo held at the same location in January. While Macworld is a huge tradeshow featuring hardware and has seen the unveiling of everything from iTunes to most recently the MacBook Air, WWDC is a series of seminars that tends... Read More
Bridging the Divide: Social networks become more social.
- It does not matter whether their users number 1 or 100 million, whether their niche is live video or texting or even if their demographic is serious post graduate networkers or precocious tweens exclaiming 'OMFG did you see what happened on Gossip Girl'. All social networks once stripped of their layers can be distilled to one governing raison d'être 'No man is an island'. They are the global village, the small world or what have you to the nth degree. But while they purport to be connecting the world these builders of bridges were themselves locked into a mode of operation which confined them and their subjects in isolated citadels that discouraged interaction and forced users to start from the ground up if they wanted to join another different social community. It sort of defeated the whole purpose, creating massive isolated islands in a sea of social discourse. But it seems the times are changing, the drawbridges descending: the notion that one has to log onto each individual site in order... Read More
Moving Pictures: Movies, mobiles and the new auteurs.
- Filmmaking is about the most expensive creative expression one can have. The cost to produce an independent film starts in the thousand dollar range for a short and just escalates to ridiculous levels. Say you coerce your friends into being actors and crew on your production for free; you still have to rent the camera, purchase 35mm film stock which costs about $80 a minute to shoot-you'll need about 25 minutes of coverage to get a good 5 minute finished edit. And all that is before you yell 'Action" Even the cheaper digital route adds up when you factor in cost of a camera, computer hardware plus software for your non linear editing bay and tape or DVD mastering equipment. This forces aspiring filmmakers of modest means (almost everyone) to choose between paying the rent or realizing their cinematic ambitions. But a Finnish mobile company wants to help you indulge your inner Spielberg for the just cost of a phone or as they... Read More
Hollywood threw a party and forgot to invite the audience
- Hollywood's most powerful citizen has more people fawning over him than a studio boss or a marquee movie star. A nod from him can bump a movie's earnings into the stratosphere as effectively as anything the marketing team at Warner could dream up. He gets obscure actors more roles than super agent Mike Ovitz could in his heyday and his 'bling' is a more coveted status symbol than Harry Winston's. When he throws a party they come. Since his birth in 1929 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he has been the yardstick of by which the industry measures excellence and winning him is the pinnacle of a career in Hollywood. Oscar became an octogenarian this year and held his annual celebration, the Academy Awards featuring its traditional red carpet parade of screen idols dripping in diamonds and couture last Sunday. But the audience didn't show up.... Read More
What a Microsoft Yahoo! merger adds up to
- When you think about online shopping the thing that usually comes to mind is whipping out your credit card and browsing sites like Amazon or eBay for hot deals. But if you are Microsoft when you go internet shopping you buy a portal. This week the software giant flexed its financial muscles and reaped a ton of press by making an unsolicited bid for Yahoo!. Their opening salvo of $44.6 billion would make it the largest that the company has attemptepd.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang the night of January 31 to 'discuss' the proposal. The time to strike was right: U.S. regulators had just approved Google's acquisition of DoubleClick, and this reassured Microsoft that its own massive deal could actually go through. Microsoft had already tried to acquire the company last year when Yahoo"s stock price was much higher but that overture was rebuffed by Yahoo"s management who felt they needed no help in improving the sad state of their company. Now a year...Read More
Five Who Thrived: The success stories
- 2007 has been less than easy for many. It started promisingly enough with Nancy Pelosi becoming the first female Speaker of the House and ended on a sad note with the assassination of another female politician, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Between those two bookends, we saw a credit crunch; Paris paralyzed not once but twice by major strikes and Malibu caught on fire proving that not even the privileged and their beach front homes were safe from the spate of bad luck. But least I sound like a pessimist let me point out that not everyone had a bad time. Fortune favored the brave and made last year a profitable one for a select few. So in the interest of lifting everyone’s spirits and proving that cliché about clouds with silver linings I will offer up my list of the five who made good in 07. It is not exhaustive, merely a glimpse of who or what had reason to be grateful for 2007... Read More
Still out of ink! - The WGA Strike
- I left work early today, tired from my trip. The writers strike complicates things; productions are stopped running out of material to shoot. If nothing is written then there is no direction to follow, nowhere to go, everything grinds to a halt. It is hard to determine which side is right, especially knowing both sides of the argument and having friends, associates in both camps. It is hard not to understand the reasons motivating WGA demands even as I worry about long term consequences as pinpointed by the threat of not allowing material to be written for the award shows. After all the awards will take place, material will be needed and if the material is not written by guild members and if said material tickles funny bones… what would that mean for the WGA and us members? What does all this mean for the future of scripted television? What does all this have to do with the act, the need to write?... Read More
An A for Effort: Microsoft's Annual Report Card
- If tech companies were school students, Apple would be that cool guy who's the center of attention, dates the head cheerleader, drives the fancy sports car and is invited to the hottest parties. The one who talks big and even though he doesn't always live up to his promise we forgive him for it. Teachers favor him because they can't resist his eloquence and good looks. So if Apple is the popular kid where does that leave Microsoft? That's an easy one, he would be the committed student, the one who is no genius but will do something over and over until he either gets it right or you give him a grade just to make him stop. He doesn't care that he's not a natural talent and he'll beat you to death with his determination. Yes he lacks the charm of Apple but he has studied both the game and the players, calculating and weighing each outcome before moving them around like chess pieces. We've head technology pundits going on and on about how brilliantly Steve Jobs and Apple have... Read More
Barbarians at the gates: The MPAA vs. the Pirates
- This summer Hollywood raked in well over $4 billion in US box office alone. An impressive financial achievement defying claims by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), that the industry is being gutted. The MPAA is obsessed with pirates and not the rum drinking, treasure hunting, charming anti-hero Captain Jack Sparrow, that Johnny Depp made famous. Though with the $2.7 billion that the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' franchise reaped from its three movies and related tie-ins, I'd say being preoccupied with Depp would be more understandable. No, the MPAA lives in fear of big bad movie pirates who are waiting to plunder all those hard earned move profits off their backs. They have been sounding the alarm that the pirates are attacking since 2005 when there was a shocking 5.7 percent slump in box office revenue. Rather than blame that year's poor showing on the turkeys they released like 'Alone in the Dark', 'Dukes of Hazard' and 'Stealth' they found another culprit. Now don't get.... Read More