Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Tag: Consumer

Stern Pinball

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 7:59 PM on January 24, 2013

Stern Pinball I am old enough to remember a time when if you said you were going to an arcade you were going to be playing pinball. I played occasionally. I wasn’t very good, but I loved the watching the balls fly and the sound of a pinball machine. If you are a fan like me you now can have a professional made pinball machine at home.

Stern Pinball the worlds only current maker of traditional pinball machines is now making pinball machines for the consumer market. They have two models the Transformers and the Avengers. They are made of quality Stern parts including flippers, tilts and multi ball capability. The top can be lifted up to get to a stuck ball or do some cleaning. It has LED lighting for the scoreboard with Hi Def cabinet artwork and decals. Both weight 125 lb. and use home current. There is technical service from Stern Pinball and a network of repair shops.

Both models were released at Christmas time and run $2500. They are available through the Stern Pinball website and selected merchants.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine.

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Fanny Wang Fashionable Headphones

Posted by tomwiles at 10:27 AM on February 4, 2011

Debbie Park and Mariel Mendosa from the Fanny Wang Headphone Company present fashionable headphones designed to appeal to young female consumers.

Interview by Esbjorn Larsen of MrNetCast.com and Andy McCaskey of RV News Network.

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OTT And Paid Content

Posted by tomwiles at 11:41 AM on July 9, 2010

OTT, short for “over-the-top-television” is an up-and-coming acronym that we are all likely going to become familiar with in the near future, provided someone doesn’t come up with a different marketing name. The concept is simple – it’s TV that comes “over the top” of traditional channels on a cable system via the Internet delivered in digital packets. It can either be live streaming video, on-demand streaming video, or in the form of a pre-recorded on-demand podcast.

There are many aspects of over-the-top TV that have yet to be shaken out. Specifically, here in the early stages there are some still-murky areas when it comes to details of how advertising is going to work.

Things that we know about how OTT works successfully so far:

People are willing to pay for bundled on-demand professionally created OTT content in the form of Netflix on-demand streaming of movies, TV shows, and other content. The bundled Netflix price for all-you-can-eat on-demand streaming OTT offers the consumer a real value. In most cases, a great deal of marketing money and effort has been spent promoting the majority of individual movies and other content that are available on Netflix, so the consumer has a fairly high degree of familiarity with much of the on-demand streaming content they offer. These are essentially repurposed movies that are already on the shelf.

People are willing to watch on-demand streaming OTT of professionally-created content with embedded ads as demonstrated by the ongoing success of Hulu.Com. The consumer is likely already familiar with a portion of the content, but Hulu also allows the consumer to discover and explore previously unknown TV show content in an on-demand stream with embedded ads. These are essentially repurposed TV shows, some movies, and other content.

Live streaming OTT of live content is still catching on. The most successful live OTT content as typified by what Leo Laporte and company are generating still offers an on-demand podcast version that can be downloaded later. Currently, on-demand, after-the-fact podcast versions of live OTT generated content end up with many more downloads than people watching via live streams. Both live streaming OTT and the on-demand podcast versions can contain ads. For the ads to be effective in this format, they need to be relevant to the audience’s needs and desires. The old “shotgun” advertising approach does not work in this format. This specific type of content is closely associated with word-of-mouth promotion.

There are a few questions that remain to be answered. Will consumers pay for on-demand streaming of TV drama-type content they are unfamiliar with — in other words, will consumers pay to watch an on-demand stream of a new TV show drama, documentary or reality show? Using myself as a gage, I wouldn’t pay for individual on-demand episodes of a TV show or movie I wasn’t fairly familiar with. Promotion and word-of-mouth still has to take place.

If consumers will pay-per-view for an unfamiliar on-demand TV show, can the content still contain ads? I think the answer to this depends on the content and its perceived value – i.e., how well it is promoted, and the resulting perceived value that is generated in the potential consumer.

Once “Lost” was a hit TV show, would the fanatic fans have paid for on-demand streams of new episodes? Probably they would have, if they could have gotten them, say a week or so in advance of the actual broadcasts. “Lost” fans would have also put up with ads in the advance on-demand stream. They might have grumbled about it, but if that were the only way it was available in advance, many of them would have opened-up their wallets and paid the price monetarily and with their attention to the embedded ads in order to satisfy their “Lost” habit. Clearly, the producers of “Lost” – ahem – “lost out” on a time-sensitive revenue stream opportunity.

Bottom line, I believe it all revolves around the content and the real and perceived values that the content delivers.

I liked last season’s remake of the old “V” television series. If I could be assured the production values remained just as high, I might pay to subscribe in some manner. If the “V” series is picked up again by ABC next season, I would also pay to subscribe if I could get episodes via on-demand streaming before they were broadcast.

In the meantime, we are still dealing with the death-throws of the old broadcast model with its old appointment based viewing schedule combined with the old shotgun advertising approach. ABC broadcast TV affiliates would have had a cow if “Lost” episodes had been made available as a paid on-demand OTT stream before the episodes were actually broadcast via the network.

The final destination of OTT and when it ends up at that destination depends on what is right for the time. Both delivery infrastructure capabilities and consumer demand will make that determination.

Should You Pay For Content?

Posted by tomwiles at 6:05 PM on July 8, 2010

I was listening to a podcast where the hosts were chatting back and forth about the newly offered Hulu Plus, where for $10 dollars a month, you can get Hulu on a wide variety of devices including smart phones and over-the-top Internet TV boxes. Hulu is also offering a somewhat wider, but still incomplete back catalog archive of shows. One of the hosts was saying he wouldn’t pay for content, he wanted it “for free.”

Whether we realize it or not, we are all paying for content, either directly or indirectly. Even if we have only a TV antenna and watch only the local TV channels, we are still paying for content indirectly via advertising. When we buy consumer products of virtually any kind, part of what we pay goes for advertising, which pays for content creation.

If we are paying indirectly only, someone else is deciding for us as to the quality of the programming content. We can either consume that content or not, but we still pay as consumers buying products. We have very little indirect control over what gets put on the air. On the other hand, if we pay for content directly, then we have far greater control over the quality of the media we are consuming.

If Hulu can offer value for the money, then it will succeed What they have to do is figure out what people are willing to pay for. Perhaps that value revolves around putting highly-sought-after content on as many devices as possible. Perhaps it revolves around coming up with the absolute best back catalog of old TV shows. Imagine having instant streaming access to every TV show ever produced in every country in any language, and every movie ever produced anywhere in any language. Something like that would be well worth paying for. Imagine a site such as IMDB.Com that lists every movie and TV show ever made, except as a subscriber you could instantly stream it – now you’re talking. Hulu, anyone else out there – are you listening?

I personally would be willing to pay for a service such as Hulu, except for one small glitch. There are no back catalog shows on the site at the moment that really excite me. Network drama shows can sometimes be quite good, but my tastes are somewhat different.

When I had Dish Network, I was watching a few selected shows on only 3 channels – Discovery, TLC and History. I can get most of these shows if I really want them at some point via Netflix. To my way of thinking, Netflix is a much better value. Netflix has a far wider variety of content, plus they also offer the handy rental service of DVD’s and Blu-ray discs.

The verdict is currently out whether Hulu will be able to figure out what value it needs to best serve its customers. If people are paying Hulu money directly, then Hulu had better quickly figure out exactly what those customers want and do its best to deliver it to them.

Hey Hulu, here’s an idea to try. Offer first-run streaming movies, but do it the Hulu way. I would be willing to pay for a first run movie streaming for a nominal pay-per-view fee, say $5.99. Vudu is offering streaming first run movies, but you have to have a big fat Internet connection to be able to use Vudu. The Vudu service demands way more bandwidth than my Internet service can currently deliver.

Here’s yet another idea for Hulu – offer exclusive, Hulu-only content consisting of well-produced material revolving around the “Entertainment Tonight” type of concept. Do exclusive interviews of movie and TV stars. Do exclusive interviews of directors. Give people real value for their money. Make your customers want to not only see you succeed, but motivate them to help you succeed.

Will You Survive The Coming Changes?

Posted by tomwiles at 2:11 AM on July 5, 2010

Get ready for a world where everything is on demand and à la carte. Traditional broadcasting is going to change whether it wants to or not. Marketing will be forced to change in profound ways. As a result, content-making will also go through a major metamorphosis.

Marketing and traditional broadcasting have long had an interesting relationship that has had a potentially detrimental effect on the quality and quantity of available content. Television in particular has long been known as “a vast wasteland.” If one thinks about how this lowest-common-denominator programming can exist, the realization emerges that anxious, aggressive television advertisers have often been willing to sponsor junk programming content to capture passive viewers. In the pre-Internet world of broadcast TV, people would surf channels in order to find what was often the least-boring programming. Also because of the hypnotic potential of this type of TV watching, many viewers were willing to sit in front of virtually any programming without really caring about what they were watching, using TV viewing itself as a sort of nightly drug. Marketing messages get programmed into viewer’s brains, but more importantly using this type of passive TV viewing as a drug has definite detrimental side effects to both the individual, the family unit, and society at large.

After a few months of agonizing, I recently cancelled my Dish Network account. I was already a Netflix customer and was watching more stuff from Netflix than I was from Dish Network, so it has been a remarkably easy transition.

There are differences. One of the differences is that I’m now forced to choose what I want to watch when I want to watch TV. Being forced to choose necessarily forces me to choose something I find personally interesting. The net effect is I’m making a conscious choice of my television influences. Of course, another difference is that streamed Netflix content has no ads.

Hulu.Com offers streaming content with ads, and recently started offering an inexpensive monthly premium streaming content option, which also has the added benefit of vastly expanding the list of devices they will stream to beyond the desktop/laptop computer to include media extenders and cell phones. Like Craig’s List cannibalized the local newspaper ad business, Hulu.Com and similar emerging streaming services are going to further cannibalize the now-breaking and broken broadcast TV model. I say this not to blame Hulu and other services as I believe this push for choice has been well underway for a long time and these emerging streaming services are simply accelerating it.

The ad-supported content will be forced to change because the programming must be appealing-enough to consumers to get them to choose the particular content. Non-ad supported content will continue to have a market but will be forced to appeal just the same to induce consumers to choose that content.

Could Android Suffer The Fate Of Windows?

Posted by tomwiles at 7:21 PM on June 22, 2010

Windows AndroidThe beauty of Google Android is that it operates on a wide variety of devices that appeal to differing market segments, yet those devices can utilize the Android Market Place and run general apps written for Android. This is similar to what happened with Windows on personal computers. It’s an analogy worthy of exploration, however there are a few noteworthy differences that are actually rather revealing.

Android is nimble, stable and solid, unlike many attributes of the various versions of Windows. Over the years, something went horribly wrong with Windows. Is it possible that Android could eventually suffer the same fate?

Perhaps one difference is that phone manufacturers have a direct incentive to make certain that each Android phone model has a solid implementation. After all, phones simply have to work. Computer manufacturers, on the other hand, have often had a tendency to churn out new computer models without always fully vetting the hardware/Windows OS combination. Google seems to have taken the approach with Android of providing a basic, bare bones phone OS, whereas over the years Microsoft has taken the kitchen sink approach with Windows.

Another difference in the Android/Windows/open hardware analogy rests in the fact that Android is an embedded OS. Hardware manufacturers are forced to make it work. The better it works, the more phones they can sell. If a particular phone model is buggy, word spreads quickly and the model is a bust.

If a particular computer model has problems, its manufacturer often points the finger of blame at Microsoft, and Microsoft typically points back to the manufacturer, leaving the troubled consumer with a spinning head.

The consumer is also partly to blame. If you think about it, we tend not to look at particular computer models running Windows in the same way we look at particular phone models. We tend to look at boxes running Windows as just that – a box of hardware based on price.

Yelp Makes Some Changes

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 6:09 PM on April 13, 2010

This is a follow-up post to an earlier entry I wrote back in on March 21, 2010, titled Trouble with Yelp. It was about Yelp being sued for manipulating reviews and pressuring businesses into buying advertisements with them.

Last week, Yelp announced some changes in its policies. The first change they made was to start showing all reviews, even those they believe are spam or have inappropriate language. The regular reviews are shown at the top. Those reviews that would not have made it through the previous review process are shown in a separate area. There is a link at the bottom of the page you have to click on to get to them. I suspect that unless someone has been following this story, they will never see this link or if they do know what its for. Its on the right path, but I doubt Yelps critics will think it is enough. Yelp also got rid of most favorite review option. Under the old policies, businesses who paid for advertisements had the option to pick their favorite review and have it highlighted. This has also led to complaints from the business community that they are being pressured to advertise through Yelp. Those that didn’t were only not having favorable reviews highlighted, but according to the critics they were actually being removed.

Yelp insisted they did nothing wrong and that much of the problem was a misunderstanding on how they dealt with reviews. That no one was being favored by the process, they were simply weeding out spam and false reviews. This maybe true, however critics will point out that Yelp could have made these changes at anytime, but didn’t until they were faced with a law suit. As a user do think the changes will make a difference on how you see Yelp reviews. If you’re a business do feel better about Yelp now or has it made no difference.

Where Did You Shop This Christmas?

Posted by Andrew at 9:59 AM on January 5, 2010

In GNC #539, Todd related the problems that brick’n’mortar stores were having competing against the online retailers and I agree entirely with Todd’s sentiments. While I’m happy to use Amazon et al for specialised purchases or gifts to faraway relatives, I now regularly buy from local stores to try and keep them in business.

And do you know what?  Although it started out as a point of principle, I’m actually discovering that I can sometimes get things cheaper or else I get some freebies thrown in.

To illustrate, while shopping this Christmas, I would price goods on Amazon and then go into town to see what I could get in the real world.

1) In a local toy shop, K’Nex was being sold 2-for-1 at a price only 10% more expensive than Amazon.  Gift just went twice as far.

2) In a sports shop, a “brand name” golfing jumper was being sold with a free box of six golf balls, again at a price very similar to online golfing retailers.  The recipient is always in the water with his shots anyway….

3) The main bookstore was offering best-sellers on three for the price of two, basically a third off, pretty much matching Amazon.  Great for stocking fillers.

So I encourage you to get off your backside and at least see if your local stores can come close to matching the online retailers.  Sure, if they’re wildly uncompetitive, walk away, but at least try to keep some of your money in local circulation.  Local businesses support other local business and we need them to keep our communities thriving.

Unscrupulous Scruples: Watch where you click.

Posted by J Powers at 9:51 PM on September 28, 2009

antivirus

I’ve been seeing this more and more. You have to upgrade a product – a home (free) edition or something. You press the link and it sends you to a page that talks about upgrading. In fact, everything this page screams is “We don’t have the free version, you must buy an upgrade to continue”.

But if you scan the page, you see on the bottom in small print “No thanks. Register the Free version”.

Another case in point: I was searching for Drivers for a friends computer. I got to the companies webpage and selected what I thought was the driver. Instead, it shuttled me to download a program that would then collect information on my PC and find the right drivers.

It was not malware, but more of Bloatware. And that program wasn’t afraid to do the same thing – ask to install more Bloatware.

This practice is on the verge of misleading. You have to really scan pages to make sure you are selecting the right option.

Case in point #2: There is a great website out there that helps webmasters. We won’t get into the name, because this is not a witch hunt. I will say that when you purchase something on their site, you are taken to a page that looks like you have to press an “OK” button. However, this button is not to OK the purchase, but to add additional services. By scanning down the page, you find the “No thanks – Continue” option stuffed in the bottom part of the page.

In advertising creation, you learn a little trick. When an eye hits an ad, they instinctively start in the middle and work clockwise around the ad. Therefore, you put your “Hook” in the middle and the other items on the sides, including the name of the product.

What these sites have done is made the ad, but then put the “No thanks” in a spot where upon first glance, the eye will miss.

I just bought my ticket for Blogworld / New Media Expo. I used a discount site to purchase the plane ticket and hotel. After making the initial purchase, I was inundated with options I should look at. I suppose it’s so the discount site can offer lower fares. Once again, I had to carefully scan for the “No Thanks” option, although those other buttons looked like they were part of the processing.

Recently, people have been finding extra charges on their credit cards. They went to an online shopping site and chose the great deal of the day. They then pressed a button that looked legitimate to sign up for monthly deals (or something like that). Of course, those deals came with a price.

I really think that the FTC needs to start recognizing these little nuances in websites. It would be like if you went to the grocery store and the clerk started asking “Should I also add in a gallon of milk?” even if you didn’t grab milk.

As for this upgrade – I understand you need to make money off the product, but being sneaky about doing it is only going to make me go somewhere else. Put the “No thanks” in a more visible area. The consumer will buy your product if they don’t feel they are getting swindled.

Google can help, Google can hurt

Posted by J Powers at 12:23 AM on September 28, 2009

There are many great things that Google has come out with in the last couple years. I have been all for what they accomplished, even if I don’t use everything. But the last couple ideas haven’t been warmly accepted by the IT populous.We’ll take a look at a few of the ideas, Good, bad and indifferent.

The Good

We’ll start with the one thing that Google has been doing right for years: Search. I remember when it came on the scene – I was pretty much torn between Metacrawler and Dogpile; I was never a Yahoo or MSN search user. Google just seemed to fit better. The later additions like images and news helped out a lot. Add to it the fact the default search on Firefox was Google. Even when i used IE I would switch it over.

Bing is a nice alternative nowadays, although I like the Google vs. Bing site. They do have to think of another name. google-vs-bing is a bit long and if you forget to put in dashes, you will not be on that site.

Gmail: I switched to Gmail a few years ago. I didn’t like the fact that Yahoo was holding my email hostage – even if it was a free service. Hotmail is no different; if I don’t pay the yearly fee, I don’t get to download my mail.

Gmail let me control my mail the way I wanted. It had some great features to connect with others and I really wanted my mail to come through in Thunderbird. Now with the iPhone, it just seems best to stay in the cloud, although i still download to TB for another way to archive.

Toolbar: I have to admit, I haven’t used the toolbar since the newer versions of browsers had the search feature added on the top. Why add another layer? It might just slow down the experience and clutter the screen.

I remember using the highlight tool a lot. Now with Firefox, I just use the highlight add-on. Works pretty well, especially if you are using webpages for reference – highlight the key points.

Maps: This has grown immensely in the last few years. It’s even changed the way I search maps. Satellite view, street view, even hybrid maps have enhanced my use.

I remember when first found out the map could be moved by click-dragging or re-sized by scrolling. I think I played with those features for hours. And yes, I tried to find my house when the Satellite feature first came out.

Labs: This was an impressive feature. No closed beta testing – the ability to put something out in public without giving to everyone. I could then use the “soon to be” features at my discretion.

Analytics: What can I say? I need help with my websites. Being able to have someone help me understand where problems lie is key. Having it come from the place that pretty much wrote the rules on how search is done is even better.

The Bad

SideWiki: Google’s recent choice of SideWiki is not a good one. It takes away from a website. As an administrator, I want comments on my site to be on my site. I don’t have sidewiki setup and I don’t want to confuse people as to where they comment on.

I also don’t like sites that steal my comments. Digg is a good example. While I don’t like Facebook or Twitter stealing comments for tweets, it does promote my brand a lot better with replies on posts.

Chrome Frame: As an IT professional, I hate this idea. It would be like having the Ford dealer put in Ford parts into your Chevy. Once they were done, they cannot really guarantee it’s not going to fail.

If  your company runs IE6 for some reason at this point, they may have legitimate reasons to keep it that way. It’s not that a company doesn’t want you to have the latest version of software. It’s all about how it works with the other programs you have to use.

The Dead Pool: Jaiku, Video, Notebook and Dodgeball were all parts of Google that didn’t work out. However, they sometimes did enhance other areas with the technologies within. Notebook helped with Docs, for example.

Indifferent

Docs: I use Google Docs, but only for simple items. Documents I have to share that are not sensitive, for example. There is a lot of functionality in Office and OpenOffice that Google Docs hasn’t even touched. There are even some quirks in Docs that make it tougher to switch over.

Reader: I guess I just haven’t gotten the gist of this idea yet. I’ve used feed aggregation before, but sometimes I like to “Hunt” for news. When I used newsgator, I found that I was going back to the same items time and time again.

Blogger: I used Blogger when it first came over to Google. I remember that year I decided to give up meat for 40 days (a personal choice, although I did it during the same time as “Lent”). I used Blogger for my personal journal. And yes – this was before “Supersize Me” came out.

I like to control my own brand, though. Therefore, I moved off the platform. I also wasn’t serious about my Blogger profile. It ended up being pushed to the wayside and forgotten until it was removed by the system. I won’t get that data back.

Feedburner: There are a lot of people who live and breathe by this item. I personally don’t use it, although I do have my site up on Feedburner. You never know where a lead will come from.

YouTube: This was a great item, but then they put too many restrictions on the site. I don’t like being told what I can or can’t say or promote. Nonetheless, I know that being on YouTube is a powerful marketing tool. Therefore, certain items go on YouTube, like promoting a new show or item.

Chrome: The browser is an interesting one. It’s got a lot of great features, but as an IT pro, I cannot recommend it for business. It’s like I said with Frame – You may have to control the environment. Chrome doesn’t always give you choices on updates.

Book Search: Of course this is new to a lot of people. I still like the feel of a paperback while I sit in bed just before I fall asleep. I think there are a lot of people out there that are just like me, too. Digital books haven’t really found the happy medium yet – But when that someone comes out with the way to read a book online that is more inviting than the paper copy, the proverbial pendulum will swing.

There are a lot more products out there. It really is interesting how many pots Google has their hands in. It may someday get them in trouble with the FTC or EU, but for now, there are some great free alternatives to items you need to use.