September 29, 2005

Play Nice: Blu-Ray and HD DVD

OK, we once again see vendors jockeying to drive the de facto standard for the next generation of DVD technology. Now, that Intel and Microsoft have embraced the HD DVD standard, it would be so nice if at least the other computer vendors would agree, however Dell, HP, Apple, Samsung, and Sun, amongst others, are backing BlueRay. This is to say nothing of the movie studios format approval schism. Competition and innovation are wonderful things, but at times, overlooking one’s investment in innovation excellence in favor of the broader marketplace good is essential. Without this, the cost to the marketplace will be high, as it will unnecessarily stymie deployment. Even if others follow Samsung’s announcement that it would ship a dual format reader in case of a standards impasse, this would create a lot of unneeded confusion in the marketplace. Who wants to buy a DVD with the fear that the format could become unsupported in a couple of years? No thanks. Additionally, backwards compatibility must be preserved. DVD players read audio and video CDs, and the next generation must do the same with existing DVDs, and the now quaint CD. At the same time, the shift to digital television will only drive the need for ever higher disc capacity since storing an hour of NTSC, PAL, or SECAM video takes significantly less space than ATSC or other higher definition formats.

However, there may another issue at play that is causing Microsoft and Intel to break from the other PC vendors — home media servers. These two would love people to base their home entertainment systems on a platform that is heavily dependent upon software, processor power, and hard drives. This is in contrast to consumer electronics companies, server centric computer vendors, and many movie production houses that are focused on selling hardware or software (movies and music) in the form of hardware, with scant concern for end user software or manipulation of content. These folks would like to restrict moving or copying content from a DVD whereas Microsoft insists on the portability of movies on to a hard drive, preferably one in a media center. Microsoft and Intel would also like to sell software and hardware upgrades that allow people to edit and produce their own digital content, whereas movie distributors may see this simply as a smokescreen for copyright infringement and piracy. While both sides have valid arguments as to their claimed superiority and flexibility, they simply must agree to come together and present a unified front to the marketplace. If they do not, the cost and opportunities lost to the industry will be substantial, and set back this advancement by moths or even years, not unlike the unnecessarily slow deployment of HDTV.

September 28, 2005

Google: Noun or Verb?

One of the goals of any business is to have their company or product become a household name. It is invaluable when people start associating a particular brand name with a product or activity. However, a potentially damaging line sometimes is crossed when a brand name transforms into a generic noun, or even worse, a verb.

Jell-O, Q-Tip, Kleenex, Scotch Tape, Ziploc, and Jeep, amongst others, all know about being victims of their own success. When was the last time someone said, “Please pass the facial tissues?” When the generic usage supersedes the branded experience, the company can easily become lost in the competitive shuffle. Xerox and Hoover have fought battles over their brands becoming generic terms for activities. Likewise, in the condiments aisle, there are quite a few bottles of “catsup” but there is only one Heinz Ketchup. Now Google is facing the same danger of becoming a generic term for Internet searching. Who among us hasn’t used the phrase, “I’ll google that and see what I can find,” even though we might be using MSN search? “Googling” has become a verb in Internet’s lexicon. While catsup is sitting on the shelf next to Ketchup, and therefore benefits from its proximity, Google’s searches are not available at MSN, so it doesn’t benefit from someone “googling” their new professor at MSN.

So what can be done? Sanctioning everyone that misuses a brand name as a verb is an impossible task, so perhaps brand reinforcement is the only logical course. Xerox once launched an ad campaign reminding people that only Xerox copiers can “Xerox” something; all other copiers only copy; yet the name of Xerox is still a household word and firmly entrenched in people’s minds. This sort of campaign may be advisable for Google, provided it can make that campaign positive, even funny.

The Case for yet another Blog?

Technology is a wonderful thing! Where else can one relish the thought of acquiring the latest and greatest new toy, research its features and price (using other technology), purchase it, and then watch with horror as the price drops 30% a week later and a new leapfrogging replacement hit the streets shortly thereafter? In the years that we have been following, and -- I would argue shamelessly -- often leading the technology curve, the market has continued to shift, with one upstart outsmarting another (at least temporarily) following by a competitive rebound, and the endless mostly virtuous cycle of innovation and competition. Remember the good old days without video camera mobile radio phones with GPS, laptop computers, the Internet (no annoying email from the office!), and telephones that were so expensive to use no one would dare call? Well, those days are gone forever, and actually, that is OK.

Today we are more 24/7 than ever, the half-life of information continues to shrink, and there is a strange, yet oddly beautiful movement at foot, namely Open Source. Rather quickly, this mindset has taken hold in many places IT whereby community contribution, multi-faceted participation, and a new attitude about what is and what is not proprietary, value-add, or trade secret has emerged. As a group of folks who comment about this and other matters IT, it is high time that eat some of our own dog food. Thus, we are announcing the Sageza Blog. Oh no, you may be thinking, the last thing the world needs is another blog from some group of people who think they know it all. We would like to counter that thought.

In this blog, we plan to capture the great ah-ha's, brain farts, or simple counterintuitive silliness that we find so often plaguing our beloved IT industry. Here you will read off-the-cuff, of-the-moment ramblings from us about important issues and trends. We are not going to pretend that we will present fully thought through diatribes, but rather expose some of that leading-edge thought that is seeping under our skin, just waiting to leap out on the unsuspecting. But this alone won't be enough: we view this blog as our Open Source contribution to the community. Read our thoughts, challenge our thoughts, comment on our thoughts, agree/disagree with us, and call us the craziest bunch of idiots you have ever met, but please be sure to spell our name correctly. We will pull some tidbits from our syndicated works and at other times share some things exclusively here.

Regardless of where the ideas and impending discussion originate, we hope that our efforts will stimulate your thinking, make you smile/laugh, or at least annoy you enough that you will keep commenting and coming back for more. At a minimum, we will guarantee that if you print out our blog, it will be as suitable for wrapping dead fish as any pristine condition Alfred E Neuman "What me worry?" poster.

So then, get this thing rolling and have some fun. We look forward to your comments, and oh, please be sure to tell your friends, link to our pages, and send us a nice box of cookies at Christmastime. Cheers!