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off to vegas

it's my annual pilgrimage to the consumer electronics show
i'm so tired i can't even type the excitement
i'll try to blog from vegas but no promises. i'm putting together book three (the 2nd mojo collection) tentatively titled,

"thank you congressional pages (for being so damned sexy)"

also, jan 17 i'm hosting a cool laughing liberally lab show in cambridge

save the date.

CES: Google. Dun Dun Dunnnnnh!!

google keynote - 19 Here's my take on the Google keynote: it was ok, Larry Page shouldn't be let out in public, these guys are some serious geeks and Robin Williams is amazing So there was massive anticipation of the Google Keynote. The line was long, people were in overflow. Everyone wanted to know what they would release next: an operating system, a mobile phone, free Wi-Fi for all the world's children, a toaster/search engine, a bag of dog food? Actually, thanks to the Wall Street Journal scoop, there wasn't too much in the way of surprises. But before I get there, let's talk about the pre-product announcement part. So co-founder Larry Page rolled out onto the stage riding on the back of a robotic car. This is a car that Stanford built. It's the first one to win the Darpa Challenge, a race through the desert of robotic cars. Would google announce its own Robotic car? Did its search engine somehow help Stanley avoid desert ditches? No and no. Larry was just proud of his fellow Stanford geeks and thought he'd give them the world's biggest shout out. That's some ghetto ish right there. Geek-ghetto. google keynote - 3 Then does Larry get to the point, maybe describe the market like every other keynote speaker. "Consumers want things!!!" No. He rants. He bitches. He moans. And he lectures an audience of industry press, analysts and leaders on open standards. He argued for a standard power adapter, so we don't have to have all these different size power bricks and cables. He ranted about networking devices, about why I can't plug my USB-enabled camera into my USB-enabled hard drive and move the photos off. Why do I need a big ol' computer in between them? Why can't my bluetooth cell phone start my bluetooth car? And did he read off his nice teleprompter that all other keynotes relied on? No. He shuffled back and forth across the massive stage, wearing his google lab coat and reading from a stack of papers in his hands. The man who is essentially leader of the free (Internet) world, whose company "organizes the worlds information" and has the largest distributed computer network ever assembled, reads paper notes in front of a crowd. All I can say is, you go boy. Google is always buckin the system. They did it with their IPO, they did it with their initial search engine, and they even did it with their CES keynote. But now for the products Product Announcements Googe Pack
  • a collection of software we all need to maintain our computers, including antivirus, web browser, photo organizer and more. Available at
  • all this software would take a while for a user to find and download. Google puts it in one download
  • the download itself makes sure not to consume all your internet bandwidth, and the programs start installing themselves as soon as they've arrived
  • all the software keeps itself up to date automatically
Google Talk
  • this is the company's instant messageing and voice chat program
  • announced interoperability with AOL instant messenger and partnerships with lots of ISPs
Google Earth
  • this is the desktop application version of Google Maps which allows for flyovers and much better control
  • there's now a Mac version
  • Google is working with VW to embed this in their car GPS systems
Google Video Store
  • people who upload their videos to google now have the ability to sell them for as little as 5 cent
  • google announced partnerships with lots of folks including the Charlie Rose show, Fashion TV
  • oh yeah, and CBS. how could i forget
So now we have NBC and ABC in iTunes, CBS with Google and Fox I don't know where yet. Larry Page is a bad speaker, and the announcements were already known, but Google still had the best keynote, because they brought out Robin Williams. He messed around a lot and actually moderated teh Q&A. Oh yes, I forgot to mention, bucking another trend, Google offered time for Q&A with the audience. Robin Williams actually did a great job moderating. Not only was he funny, but he clearly understood what he was talking about. Hooray for Google. * * * Overall, I still think we should all be afraid of Google. Even though these announcements didn't reveal them as the Anti-Christ, that company has too much money and too many smart people employed. They can't help but build a death star.

CES: Yahoo

yahoo keynote - 11 Here's my take on Yahoo's Consumer Electronics Show keynote and displays. Hotness combined with crappy Tom Cruisaziness and hilarious Ellen DeGeneres-ness It should come as no surpise that glitches and Tom Cruise go hand in hand. That's a bit of what happened to Yahoo during it's keynote. They had some problem with their Internet connection, blamed Microsoft, then brought out Tom Cruise so he could promote his movie twice. I'm not going to mention the name of his movie here, because I don't want to support him like that. Here were the main points raised. The setup, if you will: Yahoo's users and community is hot
    400 million unique monthly users
  • 26 countries
  • 250 million email accounts; the largest email service in the world
  • 2 billion photos across Yahoo Photos and Flickr
  • served up 5 billion music videos last year
  • users rated 6 billion songs last year
Other relevant observations
  • "The Internet is an infrastructure and delivery vehicle for communications and experiences and entertainment and data"
  • What makes this possible is ease of use, open platforms and connections to devices
  • Today's user is his own media programmer. It's not mass media but "my media," and for kids today, this isn't even a shift. It's just the way things are
  • There's two types of content: established and the long tail
  • Consumers are becoming producers and generating a lot of content
  • There are 900 million PCs in the world but 2 billion cell phones
  • If we lose our cell phones, we lose our phone books!
  • It's too hard to get photos off the cell phone
Therefore, Yahoo introduced a suite of services under the umbrella, "Yahoo Go," trying to create a "seamless experience" across the desktop, mobile phone and television. Yahoo Go Desktop
  • They bought the company Konfabulator and renamed it Yahoo Widgets. These are a lot like the Widgets in Apple's Dashboard. And really, Apple stole the idea from the original Konfabulator. So there. Who says companies can't steal?
  • A desktop sidebar, just like Google Desktop
Yahoo Go Mobile This is where stuff gets interesting
  • local web search with click-to-call and user ratings on the results plus navigation. Basically, you search for pizza, and it will show you all the pizza joints nearby. You can call them, see the ratings and get turn by turn directions.
  • can get all email. not just yahoo
  • address book is synced live in the background to your Yahoo contacts
  • photos are synced in background to existing online Yahoo photo albums, and in the other direction, your pics are "downscaled" so you're not downloading a gigantic image on your itty bitty cell phone screen
  • initial partners are Nokia and Motorola
  • partnering with Cingular wireless
Ok, have you caught your breath? Auto-syncing of the phone book!! Never again do I have to get an email from a friend being like, "Um hi everybody, but I seem to have gotten a little drunk last night and left my panties and cell phone in a cab. Can you please send me your phone numbers and, while you're at it, tell me where I live." Finally, there was Yahoo Go TV
  • Intel Viiv-optimized
  • Includes Yahoo video search with community-driven navigation
  • access to your Yahoo music playlists
  • movie listings, trailers etc
  • watch television and do the TiVo thing
  • view Yahoo and Flickr photos
Unfortunately, they weren't able to get the demo working. CEO Terry Semel said, "Well, we know whose software this is running on." More bitch-slapping of the Bill Gates. I did get to see the demo later in the week, but what really got me excited was the concept for the next version of Yahoo Go TV. Check out this pic. Go ahead, click it: Y! TV future: metadata That's an image of the future of television. Yahoo demonstrated this: Whatever you're watching (DVD, video on demand, live television, TiVo-ed television), Yahoo will be able to identify it in the same way that iTunes IDs your CD when you rip it. They can pull the title, running time, actors, critics rating, Yahoo user rating etc. At this point, you can rate the movie yourself, recommend the show to a Yahoo Messenger buddy, find out what movies the other actors have been in and even buy the DVD, order it on demand or schedule your Yahoo DVR to record the show when it airs. That's tight right? But wait, there's more. Check out this pic: yahoo's tv future. RSS! That shows how you can access the news and other RSS feeds while you watch TV. You can just see headlines or read a whole story, and the ads are kind of personalized in the same way that the ads you see on Yahoo are. They will depend on what you're up to and not seem so random like TV ads. You can even shrink down that vertical bar to a little box on the lower left corner that shows you one headline at a time. No more watching TV with the laptop in your lap or running to your computer. All this is done with the remote. * * * Overall, I say Yahoo wins dammit!! Between the phone book syncing and the future TV thingy, I'm hooked. Yahoo for Yahoo!

CES: Intel - "I got Viiv on it!"

intel keynote - 7 Here's my summary and judgement of Intel's announcements from Paul Otellini's keynote at CES last week. Theme: Introducing the New Normal Intel announced two major products: Centrino Duo. This is intel's first major processor upgrade since the Pentium, and it's hot. Actually it's cool. It's built using technology known as "dual core" where there's a single chip but basically two processors on it. This makes for a faster, but also more energy efficient process, thus cool in both temperature and young people lingo. The result will be faster notebook computers with more battery life and smaller PCs overall. In fact, the model tiny PCs they showed looked a lot like the Mac Mini, and given that Intel is making chips for Apple too, I gotta assume the new Mac Mini and all those sexy Mac notebooks will have this new chip inside. Hotness Viiv. Every time Intel writes this word down, they mention "it sounds like five." So now you know the proper lingo. Viiv is a little confusing and hard to explain. Viiv is no single thing. It's a collection of technologies that includes a processor (often the dual core joint above), various media chipsets and networking capabilities. All this is in a nice little box powered by Windows Media Center Edition. That's the hardware. The real point of Viiv is to make it easier to distribute media across the Internet to the home and within the home itself. First, this means content. Intel signed up a bunch of content people (Yahoo MusicMatch, Movielink, AOL Radio, game services and more) and had them certify their stuff for Viiv. They even went international with a bunch of Bollywood stuff. And the big announcement was a deal with AOL for access to 10,000 backlisted TV shows which will be available for free download, supported by ads. These content people have made their source content Viiv-certified, which means something I still don't quite understand. Second, it means making it easy to move content around your home. All Viiv devices discover each other on the network. You don't have to fight anymore with WEP wi-fi access keys. Just Viiv it. You can watch your recorded TV shows on your Viiv laptop or desktop or media center PC set top in the living room * * * * To conclude, Intel is moving beyond making fast processor chips into creating a real platform for entertainment, or so they want us to believe. With all this TV I'll be getting over the Internet, I look forward to trimming back my cable package! I just hope my cable modem is fast enough to handle everything.

CES: Sony

sony keynote - 1 Here's my summary and judgement (yes, in a biblical sense) of Sony's announcements from Sir Howard Stringer's keynote (he's the CEO) at CES last week. Theme: Entertaining the Future Major points The relationship between content, technology and the consumer is changing. This is one of those vague, meaningless statements that is a requirement of every CES keynote. Seriously, I can say stuff like that. Watch. People will always be a part of the human race, but they will do different things in the future. See. So do I get to run a massive multinational company now? Content is increasingly pulled by consumers, not pushed by a central programmer. This is true and awesome. We live in a more on-demand media world. I don't have to wait for some "programming executive" and some "television network" to decide when I watch Everybody Hates Chris. Instead I can use my "computer" and my "cable modem" to "download" "it." Sony BMG's attempt at protecting audio CDS wasn't "anti-consumer." We were trying to protect the artists. We are aware of our debt to the artists that illuminate the screens on our devices. Shut up. He had an opportunity to apologize to the world for that rootkit fiasco, planting destructive software secretly on millions of people's computers. He did not. I will slap him with my glove when next we meet... when next we meet, Sir Howard, indeed! As a media company, we understand the process of creating content. As a consumer electronics company, we understand devices. Being in both places puts us in a unique position. Probably true. Product announcements (cool ones in bold)
  • Walkman phone Sony Ericsson W810. Cell phone with high quality digital music playback. Don't care.
  • New Cybershot digital camera. Smaller, better, whatever.
  • e-book reader. Sony has designed an electronic book reader that is stunning. The screen doesn't have a backlight, so there's no flicker, and the text is very easy to read. It looks like a great way to carry books without carrying books. I do a lot of audiobooks on my iPod, but sometimes I want to actually read with my eyes to remind myself that I can. To hype the new format, Sony brought out DaVinci Code author Dan brown
  • Locationfree technology allows you to stream video signals around your home or outside your home if you're online. It's a box you plug in to your broadband router and video signals (cable TV, DVD player, DVR etc). Once that's done, you can remotely stream that video content to a special 12-inch screen Sony makes, to a PlayStation Portable or to any Windows laptop/PC with some special software on it. The box can only send video to one remote device at a time, and you'll have to pay for each PC software license separately. They demoed the CEO watching programming both from Japan and the UK during the keynote
  • Digital cinema theatre projector. Since I don't own a movie theatre, I don't really care. The digital films I've seen kinda suck. I prefer the look of a movie shot on actual film. Digital movies in the theatre have all these pixels and whatnot.
  • Support for Blu-Ray DVD standard (rather than HD-DVD). Many of you don't know this, but your investment in a massive DVD collection is about to be made obsolete. Way faster than the shift from VHS to DVD, the tech people have created a new version of DVDs with way more capacity. The good news: they don't have a single standard, so "the market gets to decide." Whenever someone says "we have to let the market decide," that's code for, "we have to screw people over." Just my two cents.
Sir Howard described all these things and Sony's vision in terms of "four pillars": "e-entertainment". Doesn't just mean "electronic" but also "everyone." There's more personal entertainment out there "digital cinema". Both projectors and cameras. They previewed the DaVinci code movie, then Tom Hanks came out and said stuff. "high(er) def". Here they talked about HD television content and new high definition DVDs (and their support for Blu-Ray). They dragged out the sports Gumble, who I like to call Not-Bryant Gumble and made him act happy. Sir Howard made his HD point by saying, "When you watch golf in HD, you actually see the texture of the fairways." That's funny; when I watch golf in HD, I actually see how clearly I'm wasting my life. "playstation". I love how PlayStation got it's own pillar. It's that bomb, I guess. Want to hear some scary stats? There's a PlayStation in one of three U.S. homes. These stats are better though because they bitch-slap Microsoft (yes, stats can bitch-slap. Now hush!). With all the hype over Xbox 360 this CHRISTMAS season (see, I called it the right thing), the older PlayStation 2 sold more units than Xbox 360. That has got to hurt Microsoft's feelings. Here they go and get their brand new game console out ahead of the competition, and people decide they'd rather get and older PlayStation than a new Xbox. Coolest stat though: The PlayStation Portable (PSP) also sold more than the Xbox 360. Bill Gates, you just got punked! * * * * Overall, I dug Sony's presentation. It was way smoother than Microsoft's, and I'm pretty excited about the LocationFree stuff. I won't be getting it myself because I'm not gonna get a PSP, and the service only works on PCs, but it'll be cool for someone.

More CES writing on the way

I pronounce Yahoo the winner. I'll explain more later when I give you the extended rundown on some of the keynotes and my thoughts. Plus here about me racing around Vegas with Boston comedian Dave Russo.

CES: The Microsoft Keynote

Update Jan 12 2006: you must check out this parody of Bill's keynote. Points out how most of the features of Vista are ripoffs of Apple innovations years in the real world. bill sitting at future monitor last night I saw the bill gates keynote at ces. It was my third time seeing him open the show, and like a long lasting marriage, he just doesn't excite me the way he used to. for those who don't know, the keynote speeches at CES are a chance for big tech company folk (google, sony, microsoft, etc) to say how awesome they are ("we have changed how people work"), make vague, unverifiable predictions about the future ("the age of the connected consumer is here") and show off new devices and services ("gentlemen behold! this new video playing stun gun"). my main complaint on the msft presentation is that an hour in I felt like Hamlet's Polonius - "this is too long." they just spent too much time on the whole thing. Still here's my general review Stuff I liked They opened painting an interesting picture of our future. One word: NORAD. We'll have big LCD touchscreens everywhere with television, email, photos and the ability to track family members. Think of it like the NSA brought to you by microsoft. URGE music service with MTV. They're taking on all the existing music subscription and pay-for-download services with a 2 million song catalog and lots of "immersive emotional" features including MTV blogs, hella streaming music, and a ripoff of some auto mixing based on artist stuff (see: Pandora, Music Mixer, and many more) Windows Media Center Vista Edition. They're doing some awesome on-demand programming with Comedy Central, pulling video away from the web browser and onto the TV where it belongs. Did I mention they're partnering with Comedy Central? That's all i need to know. stuff I found interesting Windows Vista. the new operating system after XP. Basically MSFT looked at Apple and Firefox and said, "I want that." So most of the new features are picking up the superior aspects of those products. Really. Tablet PC. some cute upgrades, but when I went by the booth to see a demo, it was pretty crappy. Dude kept complaining that his pen was 'acting up'. Cordless home phones with MSN messenger built in. Think about those Skype phones that load your buddy list right on them and let you call. Now apply that to a place your friends really are, like MSN messenger. More bad news for the phone companies! stuff I thought would have been better if he just sent an email HD-DVD. There's a format war over the next generation DVD standard. MSFT didn't really acknowledge or directly say why HD DVD was better than Blu Ray. They showed some pretty video images and explained that HD-DVD will allow you to SEE the director as he comments on the movie. That's spooky. I don't want a bobbing head for two hours on my TV. That's why I have cable news. Spent 30 minutes talking about the xbox360. Dudes we know. You make it more realistic for kids to play out there columbine fantasies. Seriously though. Don't talk about stuff everybody already knows. I think Microsoft is just really scared of Sony's PS3, as well they should be. last words one, sony's keynote was better. more entertaining. more compelling. two, basically I want to see what Apple has to say next week. which will bitch slap everyone

I'm in vegas baby!!!

I took last year off, but right now I'm in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show baby!! Best quote of the day from some reporters talking about TV screen technology in cars: "I don't want my kids watching ANYTHING in the car. I want them talking to each other and lookin out the window. What's wrong with that??"