Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope Santa was nice to you all.

Thursday, December 08, 2011


I like to keep an eye on the Apple rumour and gossip sites to see what new technology I will be lusting after in a few months. The current favourite product that doesn't exist yet but is being designed by rumour is an Apple iTV. Like all things Apple, if it's on a website and someone has a "reliable" source who says the new product "will have feature X,Y and Z" you can be reasonably certain that is is either all made up or a proof of concept device that wont actually make it to development so the security teams stopped watching it.

Apple have a track record of producing products that answer a problem in a way that no one expects and I hope that this will be the case an iTV. Personally I don't see Apple producing a range of large screen TVs. They would be entering a market that is saturated with good products already available at every size, price and quality range. How would an Apple screen be different from a Sony screen? The problem is not the physical TV itself but the content and how it is managed and controlled. We may be better looking at existing the Apple TV 2 for an idea of how any iTV could work.

First content will need to be addressed. The current Apple TV is useful for renting movies or streaming content from my MacBook or iPad but I cant get TV on it in Ireland. If Apple enter the TV market in a strong way they are going to have to improve the content that is available outside the States. Apple could sign a deal with the studios to provide world wide access to their shows and the back catalogues at a reasonable price for the viewer then they would be onto a winner. Next they are still going to have to make it possible for the local channels to get content onto the box. For example, I may not watch RTE much but I'll still want to watch the news and special shows like the Late Late Toy Show live and not on an RTE Player type service.

Second, how that content is managed will also need to be looked at. My broadband like many others is not the fastest so movies take a while to download, even for streaming. The user will need to have the ability to store some shows locally either downloaded or "recorded" in advance and can be viewed on demand. The Internet is great but Internet providers are not. You don't need to be able to store 100 hours of The West Wing for those days when you are bored but you do need to be able to press a button and watch tonight's episode of The Walking Dead when you get home late. Waiting for a download to complete or the stream to buffer is going to ruin the experience.

How its controlled is a more fun but potentially more annoying issue. Voice recognition with Siri is not going to work on its own, especially when you want to browse randomly through the channels. Try sitting in front of the TV tonight browsing channels and every time you press channel up say "Channel Up". You'll get pissed off very quickly, though not as quickly as the other people in the room with you.  The existing Apple Remote is quite nice and simple but it is difficult to type in anything. A combination of the two would work but the more interesting controller would be a Kinect type motion sensor. Waving your hand left or right in a page turning motion to spin through a coverflow of channels and shows. If you have an iOS device look at the coverflow of music and imagine if each cover was showing a live feed of a TV channel. Then there could be a press type motion to select the channel. If the volume is too loud just gesture down with your hand as if you were telling a friend to lower their voice. Other motions would need more work, off/mute/pause but perhaps that's where Siri would come in.

(Update: I wrote most of this post last night and then this afternoon I saw this patent application from Apple)

If Apple produced that devcice similar to the existing Apple TV 2 hockey puck, with a microphone, video/movement sensor and access to a huge online library of shows I'd buy it in a heart beat. That way Apple could deliver a new TV experience to a mass market without having to produce the TVs themselves.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Not so bad after all

All the speculation and spin in the run up to the budget was that we were about to be crucified and I fully expected lots of pain but instead Michael Noonan pulled a delaying tactic by getting just enough out of consumption taxes and other changes to avoid hitting income. 

It's probably a smart move for two reasons. People spend what they think they will have, a 2% increase in VAT will hurt but if people saw their pay packets 2% lighter in January that would have hurt more and many would have cut spending even more. Secondly we are not really in control of our financial future. This budget is a side show on the collapse or not of the Euro. The government could have made a series of unpopular decisions only to have the situation deteriorate or improve at the next EU summit.

To a degree they have kicked the can down the road hoping that by the time budget 2013 comes along things will be better but if they are not then they will be able to blame the EU for unpopular income tax increases.

The Metro Herald headline summed it up this morning "It could have been worse"

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

3 Day Budget

So the government has started well on it's 3 day budget. It's clear that the simplest way to tackle the issues faced by the nation is to divide up the budget into 3 separate parts and announce the cuts and pain that particular income groupd in the population will suffer. 

Day 1: The Poor - Cuts to health, social welfare, justice and education. 
Day 2: The Middle Income - Probable increases in VAT, excise, motor tax, carbon taxes and a new property tax on homes.
Day 3: The Higher Earners - This is the big one, a new higher income tax bracket. Cuts to senior civil servant and politicians pensions, taxes on bonuses... 

Oh, whats that you say? There is no time for 3 days? Well I suppose we'll just hit the poor and the middle this year and next year try to fit in something for the higher earners. In the mean time if you are a Fine Gael supporter Enda will be giving out jobs and pay increases round the back of Government Buildings after the budget speech, just dont tell anyone.

I have nothing against the idea cuts and tax increases, we need to do something to fix the economy. But it feels to me like the pain is not being shared equally. You only need to look at the cuts in yesterdays budget and compare it to the cuts in politicians pensions then look at the proposals for tax increases in todays budget and compare it to a PR consultants salary increase to see that there really is a two tier economy, the governed and the governing. If we do not spread the pain fairly and evenly then the resentment and bitterness that is built up will be the main legacy of this government.

Update: Wow, I got that completely wrong.