Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Hulu, Boxee and the Adorable Notion of Venue.

So the Wife and I have moved in to our lovely new home in Marin Country. With so much natural beauty right outside our front door, we weren't sure we'd want a TV keeping us tethered to the sofa. Then Nicole went out of town and I went to Best Buy. Enter the 32" Sony Bravia.

Towering over the room like some Kubrickian monolith, it demanded content and I complied. Only problem is, our house is down a canyon so there's no chance of Satellite TV, and I wasn't about to step into the Comcast pain-cave. So I dusted off an old PowerBook, installed Boxee and hooked that bad boy up.

Let me just say right here that Boxee rocks the house. Its interface is perfect for an across-the-room experience. It's super easy to load content. Any medium that can come down an any sort of feed - Last.fm, BBC iPlayer, NPR, Picasaweb, Flickr, YouTube - will happy play through Boxee. Think of Google Reader for your living room. 'Bliss', you'd think. And you'd be right.

And yet.

The suits at Hulu had a colossal brain fart and decided that they don't want people watching their content via Boxee. Anyone who thought that NBC and Newscorp were visionary for rolling out Hulu will be re-appraising them now. It seems that some can't get past the quaint notion of venue. Once, a spot on the dial, now a URL; by any other name venue rules the school. And if viewers would rather enjoy this content elsewhere - commercials included?

Sorry kids. Hulu doesn't deliver.

Hulu is not alone. Marketers of all stripes routinely opt for venue over volume, delivering content on their own closed servers instead of injecting it into established communities. They create "Youtube Lite" or Flickr Lite" instead of just embracing the real thing. They prefer a restricted audience in a controlled environment over a larger one that operates on its own terms. Venue trumps volume.

But for how much longer? And will it be the brands or the content aggregators (we used to call them channels) that first realize that the tide has turned?

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Watching My Stolen Mobile on Google Latitude

Recently I signed up for Google's new location based mobile technology, Latitude. I figured I'd play with it a while and then uninstall.

Then last night I came home and realized that I didn't have my phone with me. For a second, I was actually kind of excited. After all, I was running Latitude. I had visions of rolling up to a nice house somewhere in the 'burbs, knocking on the door and asking the stunned homeowner for my phone back. (It had to be the suburbs. Preferably a house on a few acres of land, since Latitude isn't all that accurate.) But no joy. It was off the grid. Then this morning I checked again.


My phone is in Boston. Somewhere near Hannover Street. It should be pointed out that I live in San Francisco and have never been to Boston. My best guess is that I left it in the cab on my way home and the cabbie took someone to the airport. And that someone took my phone to Boston. Not that I blame them. What are they supposed to do, give it a fat Nokia E71 to the cabbie? Like he'd bother tracking me down.

While it's amazing that Google can reveal my phone's fate, they can't yet help to do anything about it. Or can they? And no, I'm not hoping they develop a Remote Mobile Detonator.

You see, Blogger is a Google property. Maybe this post will get picked up, go viral and find it's way to the person who has my phone. I hope so, because the auto-lock feature means that whoever found it won't be able go through the recent calls list and contact me.

And if you do read this, Mister Whoever-found-my-phone, do the right thing. At the very least it would make a good story.


Update: It seems that the fetching Jemim Kiss, every thinking geek's crumpet, has picked up this story. And kindly put it in the Guardian's PDA blog. I may see my phone yet.