Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The new DVDs?

So I've had this idea for a little while. How long, I'm not really sure. I have a lot of ideas, and they all kinda get jumbled after a while. This one was pretty good though, and when I came up with it wasn't really that cost effective. Things have changed over the last 3-5 years though and I think now is the perfect time for it. So what is it? Well let's start with a little background info....(cue starwipe)

DVDs have been around for several years now, and even the most recent sales numbers show they're the medium that most people still use. DVDs hold approximately 4.7 GB of data. This works well for putting a full movie, along with quite a bit of bonus material. Now since the DVD was born (~1993 in case you were wondering) they've naturally been looking for its successor. Of course if you want to talk high-definition we can discuss blu-ray, etc. But as already mentioned DVD is still selling far more than all high-definition so for the moment we'll say that DVD is king and that will be our first Claymation frame (it's a metaphor...you'll get it later). Not all that long ago Sony came out with the PSP. This nice little portable gaming device had something they called a UMD slot. What is it? Basically it's a DVD on a smaller disc that they call the UMD, which they also could put the games on. They tried hard to make this work and get studios to release movies on it, but people just weren't buying. New hardware and a small market are not easy to do. The most recent rumors suggest that Sony will be releasing a nice upgrade to the PSP, which does not include a UMD slot, but will instead focus on downloadable content. This is the second Claymation frame. And it brings up another point, downloadable content videos. You can now download video at very familiar places like iTunes and Amazon.com among others. You can stream things for free on Hulu.com or most network websites. But are people really buying movies online to watch on their tvs? Well sure, some are. But not that much. We'll call this the third Claymation frame.

So here we are, the debate raging on about the next form of media and will blu-ray take hold and give us that great picture in an affordable way, or will internet providers give us the speed we need to just download media before blu-ray has a chance. Here are my thoughts: Blu-ray is too expensive, at least right now. I'm not paying $200+ for a decent player only to then have to spend between $20-$30 per disc to get a movie. I do now, however, believe that digital downloads are going to be the wave of the future just yet. Eventually, yes. The problem here is that where the music industry was able to make this work came from the portable player (most notably the ipod). At the moment people don't want to watch movies on portable players that much. Unlike music you actually need a nice screen, preferably a big one, and most people have spent enough on their tvs that they aren't going to purchase a super nice video player to watch movies on the go like an ipod. People like to experience their movies on their tvs (Claymation frame 4). Now there are digital video players for your tvs, and even tvs that can hook up to the internet, but there's a problem with that too. I can't take it over to my girlfriends' house to watch on her nice big tv (Claymation frame 5). And thus you have my thoughts.

So where's the solution? Well I have two ideas. First, building off of the 4th frame I metioned before, you could make a digital portable video player. Think ipod with a lot of memory, but mainly you need to give it a video out. Preferably something high end like HDMI so it can play high-def movies on my girlfriends tv with a simple cable plug. That's pretty easy right? There is DEFINITELY room on the market for this item right now. If you're a manufacturer and you want to do this, please please do. And remember, it doesn't need to be fancy, just make it affordable and make it work.

My second idea is I think pretty much golden. Putting together all of our Claymation frames, we start to see our own video (get it yet?) of something affordable, easy to transport, and easy to play on multiple devices. My solution is to create SD card movies. I'll call them SDM (Secure Digital Media) cards. A quick search on Amazon tells me that a 4 GB SD card can easily be found for around $10. I know from my own experience that you can find them cheaper if you look around. So if I were a company and decided to sell movies on these cards and could buy them in bulk for say $5 a piece (which I think is reasonable), then that could work. You could conceivably create these SDMs, have them secured (to prevent copying easily) and sell them for around $20. Probably you could for less, but we'll say this is reasonable. This is a good solution because as they become popular and prices go down they can quickly match the price of most DVDs and you don't have tons of development costs (as with blu-ray). On top of that, as the technology advances the capacity goes up. I bought a 2 GB card a few years ago for $25. This year I bought a 16 GB card for $25. In a couple of years you'll be able to get a 32 GB card for around $10 probably, and that is even a little bigger than a blu-ray disc (25 GB for single layer, single side). Talk about scalable. Without adding anything to the cost of production you can all the sudden have high-def movies. And finally let's talk portability. They're small and stable for sure, more so than DVDs. On top of that is the realization you should be having that you can probably play one of these SDMs in your home right now. You most likely have an SD card slot on that laptop you're reading this on, and if not $10 buys you a reader. Even some tvs have SD slots on them. Now I know that there's no software in there to play these things at the moment, but that is super simple to fix. Plus, you could come out with a player that is about the size of your ipod to hook up to the tv to play them on (which wouldn't cost much at all). And on the topic of ipods, you could even put them on microSD cards and have them playable on phones and other portable media players that already have slots for these cards. Even my own Creative Zen has an SD slot that would play these possibly right now. Both the Nintendo Wii and the new DSi also have SD card slots. Talk about portability and ease of integration.

This was kinda long, and probably doesn't mean much to anyone, but I really like the idea of having movies on a nice small little card that I can take anywhere and watch. It just seems so simple and I can't believe I'm the first one with this idea. I even read an article where they had the idea for CDs to come out this way. Now the article said it's way to late for that with digital music now, which is true, but not for movies! So I say, bring on the SDMs!!!

Update: Two additional things that came to mind. First, the idea of digital downloads doesn't exclude my idea from having a place. Even if digital downloads take off, plenty of people will want to be able to take them on the go (i.e. burn a DVD or put them on a video player). The SDMs could be sold blank and written to with already existing readers.
Second, I talked about this being scalable and that works in another way too. If you don't need the 32, 16, or even 4 GB of space you don't have to get a card that large. On a Blu-ray or DVD when you don't fill up the disc it's wasted space. On an SDM you could just get a 2 GB card (or whatever is appropriate) and not have all the wasted space allowing you to save some money. A lot of "budget" DVDs I've seen have no extra features, just the movie. That should easily fit on a 2 GB card that costs less, allowing for companies to make budget SDMs of the movies that aren't selling like hot cakes.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Build a Band

I know most of you have probably played or at least seen either Guitar Hero or Rock Band in some form or another. So it wouldn't really come as a surprise that a new game is coming out in this intensely popular series'. If you haven't been paying close attention then you may have missed that the biggest news so far was the announcement of Beatles Rock Band.

That's right, the Beatles, hits and all in a video game. Lots of rumors circulated around about how this will work and what songs will be included, etc., etc. Obviously this is huge, and I have no doubt that this edition of Rock Band (the first band specific version) will be bigger than any before it. However, what you might have missed is the other new version of Rock Band coming out later this year. That's right, another Rock Band game. What is it you ask? Who is the featured band? Well, prepare yourself.......It's LEGO Rock Band!! That's right folks, all the building blocks you love with none of the frustration of being unable to get those two stupid bricks apart. And all amidst the background of some popular music.

Now rumors of this supposed game came out a while back, but almost every site that carried the "leaked" news hoped that it was a hoax. After all, the Lego brand has made some quality useful games that everyone loves. They said there were coming out with a new one, but of course it would be from the ever popular Harry Potter Legos or maybe a sequel to the Indiana Jones game. It would not...be..Rock Band. Oh how wrong they all were. Let's talk about why this game could be awesome, and what I hope as a true Lego fan it will be.

First of all, everyone loves building stuff. Secondly, these games are notorious for how awesomely amusing they are. Nothing makes me laugh like seeing a Lego Chewbacca character put a Lego Storm Trooper helmet on top of his head. So how could it be awesome? Well by being amusing of course. You get to build your own Lego rocker. Awesome. Then you get to build a Lego band. Awesome. Then you get to build your roadies and all your other cool stuff. That's right, awesome. What do I hope for? Well, for one thing it has to have good music. I mean I can love taking the heads off of little Lego dudes for a solid half hour, but if the music isn't good I'm not sure it's worth more than a cheap rent for kicks. They haven't released the tracks yet (other than the few in the article linked to above), but The Final Countdown makes me optomistic.....I think....At least all of my friends that love Arrested Development will appreciate it.

One thing to notice is that this game is presumably for kids. Like all the Lego games it should have some great easy fun for kids and some nice humor and nostalgia for adults. Hopefully the track listing will be of the same vein. Of course slated for the holiday season makes sense even though it is close to that Beatles launch. So granted they're not going to set any records, but I really think this could be a fun game. I'm not sure what it is, but for some reason the idea of building up my band out of Legos sounds like a unique experience that you could do over and over for a least a little while. Getting to play with the legos and enjoy some music sounds like a great time. Here's hoping that they include the Star Wars theme to tie it all together (fingers crossed)..........

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Girls vs. Guys Tech Style

I'm always fascinated with trends and statistics in the tech world. It amazes me how they can change so rapidly, much more so than in a lot of other industries. What's even more amazing is that in this tight economy people still don't want to give up their tech. Sure things are slowing down a little, but not nearly so much in the tech world as in other places. Apparently you people really love your cell phones and computers. I guess it is a somewhat worthy form of entertainment, and will last you longer than one night. And on that note comes an interesting new study on singles and their tech. If you're a single guy or girl, you'll want to keep reading. If you're not....well keep reading anyway, they'll probably publish the non-single version in like a week and I don't want to do this all again....haha.

I came across this study in my usual cnet perusing and thought it was quite interesting. The notion of technology among singles is worth a closer look. After all, communication is key for any single whether it's trying to find that special someone or just complaining that they don't exist to your friends. So what's the article say? Well the big news is that girls are just as tech savvy as guys are. Now I can hear all you ladies out there wondering why this is news....of course girls are just as big into this stuff as guys. After all, you pretty much invented cell phones with all your long conversations carrying those corded phones around your house.

So if you look at the wonderful chart in the article you'll notice the first line is on cameras. So yeah, nearly everyone and their brother owns a camera. The girls slightly edged out the guys in this one, but just barely which is suprising considering I think you're 10 times more likely to catch a girl actually carrying around her camera to use than you are a guy, but maybe that's just me. Also not a huge surprise that they were pretty even in the MP3 player department. Everyone loves music, right?

The real shocker comes after these in the video games department. That's right, I said video games. Not only are girls playing video games nowadays, they're buying and owning their own. And while you will find this was the biggest difference between the sexes, it's still only 9%. So what's the reason behind all this? Well you could say it's new games like those "let's raise a virtual puppy or kitty" or "I'm going to pretend to marry Ashton Kutcher" in the Sims. You could also say that it's that hip Nintendo Wii with all those wonderful "you don't have to be a hardcore gamer to play games", and "I want to get in shape without having boys stare at me at the gym" games. Certainly those things all help, but if you ask me it's about more than that. People realize today that not all games are about shooting aliens and playing football. I definitely believe that things like the Nintendo Wii have opened up the lines of communication to previously unreached masses (girls and guys alike) to see what possibilities are out there. This is the time that all the girls you thought didn't like video games are looking back and saying I loved saving the princess in Mario. Now they're asking when the princess is going to save him.

You can take this study how you want, but believe me girls are a huge market out there. And not just for those cute games. My girlfriend only wants to play a few games when she comes over, Mario Kart and Guitar Hero. So you can say what you want about guys dominating in the tech world, but trust me, there's a reason all those new little devices come in pink.

Update: A news article on Yahoo! this morning apparently contradicted the article I linked to about Ashton Kutcher, which I now see has been edited so that the Yahoo! article must be correct.....I know this has nothing to do with the post, but I see a twitter scandal a brewing....

Update 2: After some investigating I discovered I was not going crazy. On both the 404 podcast page as well as the Loaded from Thursday CNN is mentioned as the 1 Million Twitter followers winner. It looks like a Twitter glitch showed the wrong number of followers sometime Thursday morning, but Ashton Kutcher officially won sometime Thursday evening. Congrats to both of them.....I think....