What I want from an Apple TV

I’ve been reading some articles about what the new Apple TV — or iTV or whatever it’s called — will offer: Siri, motion control, cinema display…

That’s all well and good, but what I care about is the user experience. 

So as a user, let me provide a brief example of the experience I want to have with an Apple TV.

[Feet up, relaxed.]

“Siri, I want to watch Community.”

“Would you like to rent it from iTunes, watch it on Netflix, or find it playing live?”

“Find it playing live.”

“It’s going to be on tomorrow at 8pm.  Would you like me to put a reminder in your calendar?”

“No, but please record it.”

“Okay. I’ve set to record Community on channel 606, Tuesday May 8 at 8pm.”

“Perfect.  Actually, I also feel like watching it now, can you please bring up episodes of Community on Netflix.”

“Here are episodes of Community on Netflix.”

“Play Community season two, episode seven on Netflix.”

“Playing Community season two, episode seven on Netflix.

[Feet up, still relaxed]

If the new Apple TV is in the hands of providers like Rogers and Bell right now (as the rumours say it is), they’d better be integrating this kind of functionality into their “TV apps.” 

If anything, I’m sad Telus isn’t in on this right now.  I use Optik TV and their Optik TV app, and I think this would be a great adaptation.



On Why iOS Should Be Worried About Google+

After a week of using Google+, it’s become clear to me the platform that should really be afraid, is iOS. 

There’s been lots of talk about “social network” comparables.  Is it Twitter?  Is it Facebook?  It’s a bit of both, but thruthfully, it has the potential to blow them both out of the water.  How so?  One word: Android.  Mobile isn’t just how Google+ will survive, it’s how it can explode.

I’m an iPhone guy, but I’m not an Apple nut (though they’re close to making me one).  I like iOS and iPhone because the UI / device compatibility is almost flawless (the virtues of which I’ve extolled) and the ecosystem they’ve created — I also have an iPad — is easy to get sucked into.  Hands down, it’s the best phone on the market.

But, as most everyone knows, Android is the mobile OS market leader.  Sure there are compatibility problems, it’s open source.  But the fact of the matter is, more people have Android phones in their hands than iPhones and that’s the key here.

There’s a reason why there have been rumours of a Facebook phone.  There’s a reason Apple has strategically aligned iOS with Twitter.  Social isn’t just about sharing.  It’s about sharing in the moment.  People don’t want to have to wait until they get home to tell people what’s happening, because by today’s standards, that makes it ancient history.

Before Google Buzz’s (failed) launch, The Tech Journal posted an article that contained some interesting stats about mobile social sharing:

  • There are more than 100 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices.
  • People that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice more active on Facebook than non-mobile users.
Heads up: the future isn’t just mobile, it’s social. 
Google hasn’t been able to get a foothold in the social sphere and it’s no doubt been frustrating for them, which is why Google+’s success (so far) is as exciting to early adopters as it is threatening to Google’s competitors.
I’m not sure how much Apple and Twitter knew about Google+ when they struck their partnership, but if they didn’t know much, then they were prescient, lucky, or both.
If Google can effectively and seamlessly integrate G+ into the Android platform as the default method for social sharing…?  Well that’s the sound of Apple, Twitter, and especially Facebook, shaking in their respective boots (collective, in the case of Twitter and Apple).
It’s the step Blackberry couldn’t make.  This could be Google’s BBM.  Sure they’ll have the iPhone app available, but its real power will be in its integration with Android.  And if Android users can bring their friend networks over to Google+, then guess what: people are going to want a “Google+ phone”. 
Or, you know, the phone Facebook wanted to make.
Apple’s in a better position, having Twitter in its corner.  It’s an established social network and Apple’s facilitating the ability to use that network.  Facebook is still the giant, but hey, so was Friendster at one point. Its biggest asset might also be its biggest risk: not being strategically aligned with a mobile platform.
We’ll see how this all plays out over the next year or so, as iOS 5 is realeased, a new iPhone(s?) comes on the market, and Android brings a newer version to the party.  Google prides itself on being open, so we’ll see how developers take to the API.  If I can post to Google+ from Twitter with a “#g+”, maybe it won’t be such a big deal, but quite frankly people don’t need this many social networks (I know I don’t).  Someone’s going to come out ahead.  The question is: will it be a social network or a mobile patform? 
Because right now, Google’s got both.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!

On Mike Gillis and Marketing To His Audience

Of all the Canucks honours up for grabs this season, the most deserving is Mike Gillis for Executive of the Year.  Or perhaps Marketer of the Year.

While his acquisitions and re-signings (all of which have been analyzed ad nauseum over this playoff run) have been great,  as head of the entire Canucks organization, Gillis has done a phenomenal job of changing the culture and attractiveness of the NHL’s Pacific Rim outpost. 

And all of it, in my estimation, has essentially been an effective marketing and re-branding exercise to attract his most desired audience: good hockey players.

Build it, and they will come.

As a former agent, Gillis has the unique perspective of knowing what players want from an organization.  Just like any employee, players want to work for a solid organization that has a commitment to success and a commitment to its people. 

Remodeling the dressing room, hiring sleep and nutritional experts, creating season-end reviews with off-season improvement regimens — yes it all adds to the on-ice success, but more than anything, it’s a clear message to all players in the league that the organization is dedicated to winning and to improving its players’ experience. 

Birds of a feather flock together.

Integrity, intelligence, and accountability.  Gillis was very clear about the culture he wanted to cultivate; he wanted men of character on his team.  That’s what Gillis wanted and that’s what he went out and got.  With a vision of the Canucks organization in place, he sought out attracting the right personnel, from senior advisors right down to draft picks.  

Talent and skill would no longer be enough to make the Canucks’ roster.  There’s a reason Manny Malhotra arrived at training camp already running drills.  There’s a reason Gillis told Dan Hamhuis that they only wanted him if he was willing to give back to the community.

The impact this had on the Canucks’ reputation is immeasurable.  It’s brand building at its finest.  When you show the league and its players that you only want and will only accept the best, that’s who you’ll attract.  The whole process is brilliant in its simplicity.  It’s the easiest marketing any businesses can implement: do an exceptional job, and the audience you seek will start seeking you.

Word of mouth. (You know, the original social media.)

Players talk.  Casual off season conversations between friends happen all the time.  Who doesn’t want to know if the grass is greener on the other side?  “What’s it like to play for that coach?  What’s your travel like?  What kinds of amenities do you have?  How does the organization treat you and your family?”

As the saying goes: “Reputation is what people say about you when you’re not in the room;”  the way those questions are answered is precisely what builds a reputation.  There’s a reason Mike Gillis patterned his template for the Canucks organization after the renowned Red Wings franchise.  Detroit is the team everyone wants to play for.  They have a reputation for structure, stability, championship pedigree and league-wide respect.

So how do you get players talking positively about your hockey club?  

Gillis and Malhotra chat at practice

Well, basically what Mike Gillis has done to take this franchise to the next level.  Everybody in the league and their mother knows exactly how Manny Malhotra was treated over the course of his terrible eye injury.  And if you don’t believe the word of mouth, then just listen to the cracks in Malhotra’s voice  during his recent press conference when asked about his team and the organization.

Players know these things.  They hear the talk and they know where “the good places” are.  You better believe Gillis heard that talk while he was an agent and I believe he’s done an admirable job of getting the Canucks into that conversation.  He had a brand and a message, and he’s effectively gotten it through to his target audience.

The result speaks for itself.

Creating an organization that players want to join and work hard for is, aside from winning a championship, arguably one of the hardest tasks in professional sports.  It takes vision, attention to detail, creativity and an understanding of how to attract and retain the best players possible.

During these Stanley Cup playoffs, the Canucks’ “talent and depth” have been praised by virtually every major media outlet.  I’d say that’s a job well done.

It’s a testament to the success of Gillis’ moves that the Canucks are in their first Stanley Cup Final in 17 years, but it will be a testament to his strategy if we can see them there again sooner than that.

On Why WWDC is More Important Than the Delayed iPhone

There’s been a lot of kerfuffle about the potential iPhone push back to September.  Is it a good thing?  Is it bad?

In my opinion, it’s a great thing.  And that’s not just because I don’t want to have to afford a new iPhone this summer. 

Dan Frommer wrote an excellent article about the positives of the iPhone delay that appeared on Yahoo Finance recently.  Building on his comments…  

Apple is OS driven, it’s why they prefer a closed ecosystem.  For them, product design is the process of creating the best hardware to leverage the OS.  In my estimation, June’s OS announcement will be pretty big.  They don’t just tease stuff like this for fun, people — Apple takes their OS very seriously.

Is it a closer linking between iOS and Mac OS?  Maybe cloud-based sharing for all Apple devices?  Steve only knows.

Apple fanboys and casual consumers alike are probably disappointed, if antsy about the delay. 

And from a marketing perspective, Apple’s getting exactly what they want.  

If they can follow through on some new, potentially revolutionary features and functionality, it’ll almost guarantee demand for their product(s).  It’s tough to say if the hardware will necessarily be all that new, but we can be sure they’ll be able to fully realize the new OS features, which is what Apple’s all about.

A few other reasons:

  • Let the Verizon / CDMA user-ship increase before pushing an upgrade on them.
  • Let AT&T and others (I’m looking at you, Rogers) catch up and implement their LTE 4G network so that the new phone and likely iPad (could be the “September iPad / iPad 3” some have been rumour mongering about) can leverage multiple carriers. 
  • Give developers time to play with the new OS features to make the
    product(s) more robust at release.

There are lots of potential reasons for Apple to delay the product release, but none more important than ensuring the OS and features are at the centre of it all.  iOS, the apps, the user experience — it’s always been what drives the line of iProducts, not the hardware.

As for the iDevices?  They know we want them.  They know we’ll probably buy them anyway.  More importantly, they know that making us wait won’t change a thing. 

Except maybe build anticipation (read: frothing frenzy of fanboys) once we see what they can do.

On The iPad 3

Everyone please hold their horses and, if necesary, their friends’ horses as well.

I still want an iPad and I was waiting on iPad 2, now they’re telling me I should continue to hover my hand over my pocketbook in anticipation of the iPad 3 in September? I don’t buy it. (In the figurative sense — because I’m definitely buying an iPad of some variety in the literal sense).

A few months ago I posted On iPad 2 and iPhone rumours. While my call on the iPhone 4G was off, I’m still confident in its eventuality, and now I’m pinning my iPad 4G call to it as well.

Just this January, the Verizon iPhone was released to no one’s surprise. That said, I was surprised that it wasn’t 4G capable. But now I see what they’re doing (in the same way I read tea leaves and animal entrails — which is to say I don’t really).

The iPad 2 (or whatever it’s called) will be released in March/April as everyone has been “speculating,” but it won’t be the “iPad 4G” as I have uncouthly labelled it. It will no doubt be improved, but will still only have 3G models.

Instead, my guess is that this now much-buzzed about September release may be Apple’s 4G coming out party.

With the iPhone 4G likely debeuting in July and AT&T trying desperately to catch up and be ready, I suspect they will launch a 4G compatible iPad to capitalize on its GSM/CDMA capabilities at some point. That said, they won’t want to steal the iPhone’s thunder, but guess what Apple product line doesn’t get as much attention anymore and therefore could use some sizzle while keeping with the Cupertino Co’s predictable release schedule?

If you guessed something that’s a vowel removed from “iPad,” you’d be right.

So there it is. I don’t think the “iPad 3” is really anything to get too worked up about, unless you really care about 4G connection. I honestly don’t think Apple is going to do a major hardware upgrade in the same calendar year, especially since they didn’t do it for the Verizon iPhone.

This “iPad 3” will likely be similar to the Verizon iPhone launch — amazing news for some, but an option for most.

On The NHL All-Star “Guardian Project”

It sucks.

A harsh two words for The Guardian Project, I know, but let me explain.

The concept of marrying hockey with comics is a dream come true for me, because I’m a fan of both.  Take each NHL team and create a superhero scenario around it?  Great!  A nice opportunity for the league to piggyback onto the prevailing “comics are cool” zeitgeist.

How could it fail?  Let me count the ways.

First of all, the NHL is late to the party on this one.  Both Major League Baseball and the NBA have gotten some comic book treatment in the past year or so.   The difference is the other leagues were featured by magazines (Sports Illustrated and ESPN Magazine respectively) with competent marketing deptartments who knew how to leverage the cross-marketing platform potential — something seemingly over the heads of the NHL’s powers that be.
A video on the making of the Marvel/ESPN NBA Preview
It’s a sad NHL trend to latch onto a successful idea, only to execute it poorly and laughably.  I love hockey and the NHL and want to see the league’s popularity grow, which is why it pains me to see an idea with so much potential fall short because of poor understanding of the medium they were getting themselves into.
Their second problem was going to Stan Lee.  Yes, he’s the founder of Marvel comics and an industry legend — but he’s also outdated.  The guy hasn’t had a good idea in over 30 years.  So what’s the idea he fed the NHL?  “Let’s take all the team names and turn them into superheroes with powers based on their namesakes and cities!”  Eeehhmm… <tug at collar>
I looked at all of them.   They all suck.  Even the ones that should have been cool.  Each one a parody of the concept instead of an homage to their team.
My personal insult?  Well, since I’m from Vancouver: The Canuck
Really, Stan Lee?  Really?  You took the lamest parts of Aquaman, awkwardly shoved them into a poor excuse for a Batman costume, then said “he likes rain”.  You gave him a whale cape.  [sigh]
That one image is pretty symptomatic of the entire project’s poorly-thought-out, effort-lacking, boat-missing, cash-grabbing, wasteland cast of costume-wearing misfit concepts.
It’s a shame really.  If the NHL had asked the right people, it could have been pretty good.  Instead they went with a recognizeable name that no longer produces acceptable product. 
Kind of like the All Star game, I guess. (Zing.)
[UPDATE]  A good article by The Puck Daddy, Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) explaining the background of the Guardians Project and why those of us who find it laughable are not the target audience.  Also of note, comics writing legend Chuck Dixon was tapped to write all the inital stories.
I’m sorry — I love Chuck, but The Canuck one still sucks. (That wasn’t supposed to rhyme so much, but it did anyway.)

On Word Processing Mark Twain

What’s next, putting a leaf on Michaelangelo’s David?  Oh, wait, The Simpsons already did that.

First off, I think it’s ridiculous that someone’s actually letting this person remove the words “nigger” and “injun” from a classic work that is meant to challenge the racism facing turn of the (last) century America.

Secondly, given the attempt at less offensive sensibility, is referring to African Americans as “slave” really that much better?

The bigger question, though, is: how does someone get it in their head that it’s okay to copy and paste over classic literature?

Is our turn of the (current) century mentality so immediate and entitled that we think it’s fully within our rights to change the intent of what is widely regarded as a seminal work of art?

Heaven forbid this gentleman ends up an editor at National Geographic magazine armed with a copy of Photoshop.

True, there’s a long history of academics editing and interpreting classical works, but that was to find fidelity of intent, not to mask it.

At the end of the day I suppose it’s not so bad.  It’s not like they’re “fixing” every edition of the book ongoing. 

It’s just sad that a supposed scholar would try to change a work of its time instead of using it to teach facets of a history not meant to be repeated.

I like Russel Brand’s take on it best: “@rustyrockets I’m editing the words “Huckleberry Finn” out of all my NWA albums.”