This, the first of our regional blogs, is authored by the technology and financial journalist Dominic Basulto. Dominic is a New York native, has been a senior editor at Corante since day one and has written for a number of online and offline media companies. Send tips or story ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About this weblog
Here we'll report daily on the latest tech and business developments in New York City. Impossible we concede: comprehensive coverage of the city's every story. What we hope you'll find: tips, tidbits and perspectives you won't find elsewhere. As well as unique insights, original interviews and more that should be of interest to New York's vibrant community of technologists and those who track, invest in and report on them.
"Even the most straight-edged New Yorker will always find something to fetishize. In fact, as a city, we’re pretty good at turning ordinary objects and pastimes into downright obsessions... The first thing that comes to mind whenever I think of a strange, non-sexual fetish is the iPod. These little plastic cases that cost hundreds of dollars have become a necessary accessory. Nowadays almost everyone has one slung around his or her neck. Apple has found a way to make people not just want their products, but need their products. Sure, you could listen to your tunes on a CD player, but then you won’t have the little white player, nestled in your coat pocket, giving even the most grizzled old man instant street cred...
Heck, even the blog has achieved its own cult status. What was just the hobby of a few bored and possibly unemployed hipsters a few years ago has become its own big business. Weblogs. Inc was sold to AOL a month or so ago, and Gawker also agreed to a development deal with Yahoo! to feed some if its content to the popular search engine."
The New York Post has all the details on the high-tech gadgets and gizmos that you'll be seeing this weekend at the ING NYC Marathon:
"Gearing up for a marathon means more than making sure your shoes are tied these days. Runners in this Sunday's New York City Marathon will wear tinted contact lenses and space-age clothes, check their heart rate on a GPS watch and maybe even inject collagenlike substances into their feet. "
The article has some brief product reviews of some of the more useful items - like the Nike Triax Speed 100 watch, the computer-enabled Adidas-1 shoe, and Nike's MaxSight contact lenses.
Well, if it's November, it's almost time for newspapers, magazines and Websites to start publishing their holiday shopping lists, which will no doubt feature prominently items like the iPod Nano and the video iPod. On Friday, the Direct Marketing Association kicked off things with a preview of the upcoming holiday shopping season, estimating that Americans will spend $299 billion on holiday gifts this year. Internet retailers, rejoice! The trend is your friend:
More than two-thirds of Americans (70%) will shop from home, buying from catalogs, over the Internet, over the phone, or through the mail
Books/Music/Videos are the most popular online purchases, with 55% of online shoppers buying these items on the Web
63% of shoppers cite convenience as the reason they shop via catalogs, the Internet, mail, or phone
Oh, and 97% of Americans plan to shop for holiday gifts in 2005. The remaining 3%? Well, they're either waiting for the holiday discount sales in 2006 or they're just plain Grinches.
Smack dab on the front cover of the New York Post: the new video iPod. The paper calls it Apple's "most jaw-dropping iPod yet... a super-sleek gadget that plays music, videos and some of the hottest shows on TV like "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost." A 30-GB version will retail for $299 and a 60-GB version will retail for $399. At the Apple launch party, Steve Jobs offered an ecstatic review of the new video iPod: "This is the best music player we've ever made, We're doing for video what we've done for music — we're making it easy and affordable to purchase and download, play on your computer, and take with you on your iPod."
Curbed points out that Staten Island's first-ever Apple store is opening this weekend. There may not be the same type of hoopla surrounding the new Staten Island store opening as there would be for an Apple store opening in midtown or the Flatiron district, but it's still a newsworthy event. Within a week or so, there will no doubt be an upsurge in Staten Island ferry riders sporting white iPod earbuds as they commute into Manhattan each day and a brief article in The New York Times dutifully documenting this micro-trend.
In the Globe and Mail, Peter Svensson test-drives new in-ear headphones in the New York subway system. The idea being, of course, that if the sound quality is OK in the roaring, snarling, screeching New York subway, it'll be OK in some bucolic wonderland in Flyover Country:
"My testing ground was the New York subway. It not only provides plenty of bass rumble, but brakes that squeal like pigs having their backs waxed. In the middle range of notes, there's the yakking of my fellow New Yorkers, God love them. This is a very trying environment for ordinary headphones — I usually have to raise the volume really loud to understand a spoken-word recording, and the bass gets lost in music no matter what I do."
Svensson tested the Shure E4c ($299), the Shure E2c ($109) and the Etymotic 6i ($149) - all of which are a cross between iPod earbuds and standard earplugs - in addition to two noise-canceling headphones "of the more common kind, the bulky type that goes over the ear." The conclusion? Svensson says that the in-ear headphones are effective at dampening high-pitched noises as well as other noises over the full spectrum, but he's put off by the idea of ear wax remover. (ew!) He also mentions something about bodily orifices, and about putting things where they don't belong, especially if the fit is too tight. Way too much information, Peter, although big props for the advice about ear hygiene.
In today's New York Times, personal tech guru David Pogue reviews the new ThinkPad from IBM. Oops, make that the new ThinkPad from Lenovo. (The first four paragraphs of the product review deal with the "identity crisis" faced by Lenovo as it attempts to market the new Z-series ThinkPad.) The new ThinkPad, which is the first laptop to offer built-in EV-DO, also bills itself as the "thinnest and lightest" on the market. Overall, it's a winner, says Pogue:
"The Z-series laptop is an extremely attractive wide-screen model, loaded with features, cleverly engineered for light weight and reasonably priced. Some of its virtues, like the famous keyboard and the built-in EV-DO cellular Internet, aren't available from any other company. If its design and concept are as successful as they deserve to be, even Lenovo may soon grow comfortable with the phrase, "Lenovo ThinkPad."
In Central Park, Adam Balkin of NY1 caught up with Tiger Woods, who was in New York for the launch of his new videogame, Tiger Woods 2006. Tiger explains the newest features in the latest version of the game:
“We try to make it more realistic each and every year. We try and make the trees move with the wind, the grass move, the shadowing, try and get as the sun goes up during the day the greens dry out and get a little faster. It does the same thing in the game. I was a gamer all my life, going back to the Atari 2600 days and the 52, Nintendo, Pong, and I thought that was the coolest game ever then. We thought the graphics were incredible when Donkey Kong came out, so to see it now with the facial features, you didn't ever think that would happen."
Oh, and EA Sports has now included Central Park as a "new kind of fantasy course." EA Sports explains:
"In the past we've done locations such as Japan or the Caribbean where we bring in aspects of that country and do whatever we want, just making sure it kind of feels like that country. With Central Park, we've actually laid out the park, so the park is real. The bodies of water are all where they really are, the statues and monuments and all that stuff is where it belongs, and we just built a course around it."
The Wall Street Journal recently looked at the "etiquette quandaries" caused by Bluetooth-enabled wireless headsets. Not only do people wearing the headsets sometimes look ridiculous ("you look like a half-assimilated Borg"), social mix-ups are now commonplace, especially in busy urban environments like New York. If you happen to bump into someonone and are not aware that the other person is wearing a "robotic-looking" phone headset, the chance encounter could quickly turn into a comedy of errors. Anyway, these Bluetooth-enabled headsets range in price anywhere from $30-$150, and now there are even super high-end headsets for the fashion-conscious that are closer to $300 each. In fact, Oakley and Motorola recently teamed up to make a wireless bluetooth headset that clips on to Oakley's sunglasses.
This was only a matter of time: a market for cellphone pornography within the US. In Europe, after all, consumers spend tens of millions of dollars on cellphone porn. The New York Times provides details:
"With the advent of advanced cellular networks that deliver full-motion video from the Internet - and the latest wave of phones featuring larger screens with bright color - the pornography industry is eyeing the cellphone, like the videocassette recorder before it, as a lucrative new vehicle for distribution."
As might be imagined, some advocacy groups are already mobilizing their forces to fight any effort to make pornography available via phone. The FCC, too, is taking steps to keep the worst of the smutty material away from minors.
Greenwich, Connecticut already boasts more hedge fund managers and CEOs per capita than just about any other city in the U.S. Now, the mean streets of Greenwich are home of the metropolitan area's most sophisticated golf swing analysis tool: the Body Motion System. BioSport Technologies in Greenwich is pioneering the use of a wireless motion tracking vest developed at MIT that can help golf instructors point out all the flaws in the mechanics of a golf swing:
"It's looking at tracking the golf motion in real time, specifically the hips and shoulders in terms of the range of motion of the hips and shoulders, how fast each body segment is moving. This will quantify the motion in terms of how fast each body part is moving and how much. Video doesn't do that... With the quantitative information you know just how far the shoulders turned, how fast they turned, and what sequence, so there's no guesswork. And the body is moving so fast in golf the naked eye can't see it. Even on video you can be fooled at times as to what's going on, so this is kind of like taking an x-ray or MRI on a golf swing and looking deep inside the motions..."
Gizmag has more details on various wireless capture systems and how they can help golfers of all skill levels discover their inner Tiger Woods.
Ubiquitous laptop computing is coming to the Upper West Side -- at least for a select group of approximately 420 Manhattan school kids who will be receiving free Apple and Dell laptop computers as part of an innovative new program being rolled out by NYC Council Member Gale Brewer. The program is called "One-to-One in Ten," referring to one laptop for every schoolchild in the New York City Department of Education's Region 10. It's the first 1:1 program of its kind ever attempted in New York City, and is scheduled to be rolled out in seven middle schools on the Upper West Side just in time for the start of the new school year. (Apparently, there have been other attempts at 1:1 laptop programs in New York City, but none that have had both grassroots and administrative support and that cut across grade levels.) The price of the program isn't cheap - $787,000 (including close to $400,000 that will be raised from corporate donors) - but is indicative of what can happen when educators and government officials get together on the same page of the educational playbook.
The 1:1 laptop program is all part of what educators refer to as "total technological immersion," as students reap the benefits of toting around a laptop, both in school and out of school. With the aim of offering ubiquitous laptop computing, the program will also attempt to offer students free or low-cost broadband Internet connectivity at school and at home, so there won't be any excuses for not focusing on schoolwork 24/7. In other words, no more "the dog ate my broadband Internet connection" excuses. Kids from lower-income homes will now be on an even footing with their classmates from wealthier neighborhoods. As Councilwoman Brewer explains, "It is a model project to address the digital divide in the city."
In addition to improving school performance, the program also hopes to lower rates of absenteeism and decrease the incidence of disciplinary problems. In addition, who knows? Maybe parents will take more of an interest in their child's education if there's a laptop laying around the kitchen...
The New York Times has another story about "cool things to do with an iPod" -- this time, it's downloading sermons to an iPod for future listening in the car, at the gym or anywhere else. It's all part of what some men of the cloth are calling "Godcasting." According to the Times, the trend is catching on nationwide:
"Just as Christian organizations embraced radio and television, podcasting has quickly caught on with religious groups. Since the beginning of July, the number of people or groups offering spiritual and religious podcasts listed on Podcast Alley has grown to 474 from 177."
This made the front cover of the New York Daily News on Saturday: a cellphone snapshot of the subway pervert. It all started when a "smirking sicko" exposed himself to a 22-year-old girl on an uptown R train. The girl responded by "reaching for her secret weapon - her camera phone." After that, she took her story to cyberspace:
"She posted the degenerate's photo on the Web sites Flickr and Craigslist, and bloggers began linking to her site. Her photo and story drew a few juvenile snickers, but most of the comments have been positive... The NYPD, which confirmed [the girl] had filed a complaint, also was impressed."
We're big Netflix fans around here, and so it was interesting to find out that Netflix subscribers from around the country have been attaching yellow Post-It notes to the Netflix DVD return envelope. According to these images from Hacking Netflix, the messages range from the whimsical ("Free Winona") to the inane ("They sure do drive fast in Sin City"). Many may view these "notes to Netflix" as a waste of time and energy, but it's always interesting to see how people attempt to personalize a service or product offering that they love. Somehow, I don't think people are attaching yellow Post-It notes to Blockbuster DVDs...
The challengers to Netflix keep appearing like the heads of a multi-headed hydra that refuse to die. Just when Wal-Mart had exited the DVD rental business, it looks like Netflix will soon be doing battle with another retail giant with a worldwide brick-and-mortar presence: McDonald's. Yep, that's right. Mickey D's is on its way to becoming Mickey DVDs with the creation of a new subsidiary called Redbox Corporation that specializes in automated DVD rentals. So far, Redbox has only expanded to seven states, including five locations in Hartford and 19 in Washington, DC. New York, though, is only a hop, skip and shuttle ride away.
Dave Taylor of the Intuitive Life Business Blog, explains why Redbox could revolutionize the business of DVD rentals:
"It wasn't until I visited their Web site that I knew why this company is one to watch, and why agile little Redbox is going to redefine the entire world of DVD rental... It turns out that Redbox is a wholly-owned subsidiary of McDonald's Corporation, which was a delightful surprise: while McDonald's might not be where I personally go for something to eat, I certainly recognize that it's an omnipresent company with a remarkable reach into both our society and culture. Who better to tilt at the windmill of traditional DVD rental than a multi-billion dollar mainstay of the corporate world beloved by millions of people?"
With the goal of making cellphone snooping a felony crime, Senator Charles Schumer has introduced new legislation that would effectively close a legal loophole: "Stealing someone's cell-phone records is absolutely a criminal act and the fact that it can't be prosecuted as one has got to change." In addition, Schumer called on the Federal Trade Commission to set up a unit dedicated to the elimination of cellphone scamming.
The do-it-yourself media movement -- whether it is blogs or podcasts -- has been gaining momentum recently. Mix in the success of call-in voting on shows like "American Idol" and it's perhaps no surprise that NY1 is creating a do-it-yourself TV broadcast programmed entirely by viewers:
"NY1 News has introduced "The Call," the first television newscast to be programmed exclusively by viewers... The newschannel is providing web users with a tool just like the one NY1's producers use to program their newscasts: A computer-generated rundown of all the stories available for that night's broadcast. Users can drag-and-drop the stories into the order they desire, then submit their personal rundown to the show's producers. The 9 p.m. broadcast will reflect the average of all the rundowns received that day."
Oh boy, I hope that doesn't mean a lot of Jessica Simpson, J. Lo and Michael Jackson on the 9pm news.
Thanks in large part to strong growth in iPod sales, Apple Computer reported a blowout quarter yesterday that "far outpaced the expectations of financial analysts." Net income increased to $320 million, while total revenue increased by 75%, to $3.5 billion. Apple reported sales of 6.1 million iPod music players during the quarter, which amounted to $1.1 billion in revenue. That's an increase of 16% compared to the previous quarter and an eye-popping increase of 343% compared to the year-earlier period. For those doing the math, that's about 68,000 iPods sold per day. Business must be brisk at the Apple store in SoHo...
All that hand-wringing on Wall Street about falling demand for iPod players turned out to be overdone. As The Guardian (U.K.) points out, "the third-quarter figures should go some way to allaying fears on Wall Street that the digital music market had begun to cool."
"The imaginative program... allows tourists, technophiles, New Yorkers and budding directors alike to enjoy Samsung gadgets around the streets of New York, creating memories of their experiences in this dramatic city. Visitors can choose from Samsungs newest SportsCam camcorder, a digital camera, or the DuoCam combination Mini DV camcorder/digital camera to borrow for up to three hours at no charge. Once the unit is returned, users have the option to burn the image content they recorded on to a souvenir DVD or to print up to three free photos with Samsungs new digital photo printer."
Samsung says that this innovative "technology loaner" program is the first of its kind in the industry.
After running with the Howard Beach hate crime story for a few days, the New York Post has come up with something even scarier than a baseball bat beating involving a Gotti wannabe: the urban iPod slay. Apparently, two Brooklyn teenagers were arrested after stabbing a 15-year-old Pennsylvania boy twice in the chest in an attempted robbery of an iPod in East Flatbush. For the past six months or so, the tabloid press has reported on iPod subway thefts, but this is the first publicized iPod murder in New York.
Maybe you've seen the Segway on the streets of New York City -- the NYPD experimented with them for awhile, and they're still available on Amazon.com and eBay. The problem is, nobody really seems to know what to do about them. They're cool, but a menace on the busy streets of the city. Even environmentalists are not so crazy about them. So... state lawmakers are huddled together in Albany, cooking up some legislation on what to do about the Segway:
"Lawmakers are making progress on something else: the question of how to classify Segways, the odd-looking, scooterlike contraptions balanced by gyroscopes, and whether people should be allowed to scoot around on them on sidewalks across New York State."
The big question for legislators is whether to define the Segway as an "electric personal assistive mobility device" or as a "motorized vehicle." Does it really matter, though? As one insider points out, "It's not like there's any real clamor from the public on this. This is a lobbyist-driven bill and it's getting play at the end of session when there's a limited amount of airtime for really pressing issues..."
Feeling overwhelmed by technology and all the bells-and-whistles that seem to come standard with every electronic gadget or household appliance? Lee Gomes of the Wall Street Journal provides tips for keeping up with the Technology Joneses.
The #1 rule: "Insist on keeping the machines around you as simple as possible. The simpler things are, the less time it will take to learn how they work, to use them and to fix them."
Gomes also suggests actually taking the time to read the instruction manual for your latest technology purchase -- taking the manual with you on a long airplane flight, for example, or simply carrying it around with you on the daily commute.
Adam Balkin of NY1 previews RadioTime.com, which hopes to do for radio what TiVO did for TV. The new Web-based service "consolidates radio programming from all around the globe - music and talk - and makes it very easy to find, and then listen to it when you like and where you like." The annual cost is $39, which sounds reasonable, until Balkin reveals that "sound quality is considered one generation less than what you'd hear over the air."
It's still pretty cool, if all you want is talk radio and not music. Say, for example, that you wanted to hear live radio updates about what was happening with democracy in Ukraine. Well, there are a number of Ukrainian radio stations that are available via RadioTime (including 14 in Kiev!). Theoretically, you could time-shift these radio programs to East Coast Time and then listen to them at your leisure.
"Locking iPodders out of the public audio book circulation is inexplicable. I understand some of the motivation, of course. The NYPL has an existing relationship with OverDrive. Versions of Windows are also the most widely used OSes, particularly on commodity computers, so the eBooks will be available to many, many people who can't afford a DAP at all, let alone an iPod. If I were running a public Library that serves a largely impoverished population, I'd look long and hard at a Windows-based solution, too, especially if my facilities tended to have Windows machines installed as public workstations. But that's no reason to leave the millions (at least it seems that way, tens of thousands is probably more accurate) of New Yorkers with iPods out in the cold."
Wired News takes a look at how old fashioned street graffiti is merging with Internet technology to produce a 21st century, Internet-enabled graffiti:
"Next time you're walking down a city sidewalk, look out for the internet. It's all around you -- and not just in the phone lines and cables running under the streets or in the airborne Wi-Fi streams. In recent months, several services have sprung up to allow a communion between the real world and the internet, with cell phones acting as the medium."
One of the high-tech graffiti services profiled is Grafedia, created by a recent graduate of NYU's Interactive Telecommunications program. According to the founder of Grafedia, the world around us will continue to change as more people experiment with these kinds of interactive experiences:
"Digital signposts to interactive experiences are likely just the beginning as access to the internet becomes more ubiquitous. The boundaries of what we think of as the world wide web are arbitrary..."
The New York Daily News finds that New York dog lovers -- afraid that their pets could be snatched off the streets at any time -- are giving consideration to a new high-tech dog collar that makes use of global positioning system technology.
The $350 device -- available from Long Island-based GPS Tracks -- also includes a built-in temperature monitor that sends a warning message whenever the temperature around the dog becomes too hot or too cold. Moreover, by dialing F-O-U-N-D on any PDA, a user can get the coordinates of the pet at any time.
"Launching on June 16th and open to the public on June 17th is BreakThrough Wireless, "New York's BlackBerry Center." Located on 109 West 39th Street off of Sixth Avenue and across from landmark Bryant Park, BreakThrough Wireless will offer a variety of BlackBerry Wireless Handhelds from carriers including Nextel, T-Mobile USA, and Cingular Wireless."
Adam Balkin of NY1 takes the world's first single-use video camera -- available exclusively at CVS -- for a test spin:
"Using this camcorder, you're able to record up to 20 minutes of video. You then bring the unit to a CVS pharmacy, where they take the camcorder and give you a DVD of the footage in as little as one hour. CVS then recycles and reuses the camera after the video is processed."
Every month or so, the New York Times brings back "Circuits" in its full-section glory instead of burying it in the middle of the Business section each week. Today's edition focuses on digital photography: digital cameras, photoblogs, and 10 tips from tech guru David Pogue on how to get better pictures.
The article on photoblogs mentions the "Guess Where NYC" game at Flickr:
"New York photobloggers have created a group photoblog game called "GuessWhere" on Flickr.com, where people post photos from specific cities and others have to guess where they were taken (often with hints). The original, and most vibrant, is Guess Where NYC, with a hundred or so members... In New York, all five boroughs qualify. And the photos are sometimes well-recognized places with a twist - in a reflection, say, or close up."
By now, stories of iPod subway muggings are nothing new. The New York Daily News, though, has apparently found a new twist on the same ol' story: three urban teenagers tried to steal a subway commuter's iPod only to be busted a few minutes later by a Manhattan cop who happened to be sitting a few feet away.
Jason Gooljar of Daily Gotham provides a public service reminder on good cellphone etiquette:
"I hate those Motorola two-way radio cell phones! It is one of the worst inventions ever! Well actually it's a good invention it's just being used in a horrible way.
Just like how there is talk about possible legislation geared towards cell phone camera users, who use them for voyeurism. There needs to be talk about these little annoying two-way radios. Matter of fact Ill throw in those new phones that play snippets of songs when the phone rings! Sitting on a bus or a train that can really be annoying too. Not to mention these little phones can pack a wallop with that little speaker. It's enough to jar you out of whatever you were thinking or reading!"
Bookmark this for the Christmas shopping season: KidRobot NY in SoHo. The store offers "the best in urban vinyl toys, mini-figures, t-shirts, posters, accessories, action figures & more!" The lil' pink fella is called Fling the Monkey and retails for $59.95.
"Under the agreement announced Thursday, Wal-Mart will offer its existing online DVD rental customers the chance to continue their subscriptions with Los Gatos-based Netflix at their current price for the next year. Wal-Mart also will begin promoting the Netflix service on its Web site. In return, Netflix's Web site will remind its subscribers that they can buy DVDs from Walmart.com."
Wall Street loves the news -- Netflix's shares are already up 28% in pre-market trading. Someone taking on Wal-Mart and winning? That's impressive. Next up for Netflix: the destruction of Blockbuster's DVD rental business.
According to the creator of Blogpoly, "It is just a game. It is fun to use the board to lay out the Blogosphere Ecosystem. It helps me to think and learn about blogging culture by transforming the original game into this version. I had to think about which company and enterprise to choose and set up first on the board. The space is limited, so I picked well known names in blogging industry..."
Ad Rants describes a new Times Square billboard for Nike that uses SMS text messaging to create an interactive customer experience:
"The Nike billboard allows people to manipulate the board's imagery using SMS to build their own sneaker which can them be purchased online at a web address sent back to the person's phone. The board only accepts manipulation between noon and 1PM and 3PM to 5PM. It's an admirable effort towards increasing time spent with the brand."
The New York Times has yet another article about iPod subway crime: some people are becoming so afraid of riding the subway with their iPods that they are buying different types of earphones (the white earbuds are just too obvious), stashing their iPods deep into their bags and otherwise holding on to them for dear life. According to the New York Police Department, the steep increase in subway crime this year was "driven almost entirely by a sharp rise in robberies and thefts of cellphones and especially of iPods, which have become a totem of prosperous urban life."
The numbers are a bit deceptive, though: there were zero iPod thefts reported in 2004 and already 50 iPod abductions through the first four months of this year. Gothamist has more on why status gizmos make New Yorkers targets.
With this disturbing upswing in subway crime in mind, the MTA is now getting into the fray, with a series of safety announcements for riders. (Although it seems at times that the MTA is just as worried about their crime figures as they are about people actually losing their iPods).
Lenore Skenazy reminds us that it's TV-Turnoff Week... In order to celebrate the end of TV (at least for the next seven days), Skenazy picks up her TV-B-Gone and steps out on the town, zapping TVs in Penn Station and the Hotel Pennsylvania.
Anyone notice that iPod lingo is quickly making its way into our everyday lexicon? Take this example from the Chicago Tribune: "It's clear that Moby's career was in shuffle mode long before the iPod was a blip on the consumer consciousness." (italics added for emphasis) There's also been talk of "pod people" to describe self-absorbed iPod listeners -- a term that has roots in 1980's sci-fi horror films.
What's next? Boxers describing how they gave a "clickwheel" punch instead of a "roundhouse" punch? The "Icky iPod Shuffle" replacing the "Icky Shuffle" as a football endzone dance?
Picking out the perfect running shoe is harder than it sounds, so JackRabbit Sports in Park Slope has installed a video camera and a treadmill in the store so that runners can analyze their running form before selecting the perfect shoe for a particular foot, stride or weight. The sidebar for the New York Times article includes a summary of shoes that were selected by the expert salespersons for a cross-section of customers visiting the store on a recent Saturday.
If you need more than two or three hours' worth of power from the batteries powering your laptop computer, NY1's Adam Balkin has some good news for you:
"IBM and Sanyo have teamed up to create a prototype fuel cell battery for laptop computers that promises up to eight hours of life that's double, maybe even triple what you get now. If this all sounds familiar that's because this is the same type of fuel cell technology being tested out for cars right now, such as the Toyota Prius."
The article points out that Hitachi and Toshiba are also working on fuel cell batteries that may be able to power cell phones, PDAs and MP3 players.
The Globe and Mail points out that some tourists are now using their cellphones as tour guides:
"Move over dusty ol' guidebook, there's a new kid in town: the cellphone. Our beloved gadgets are now leading us through zoos, and allowing celebrities such as Steven Tyler and Sigourney Weaver to show us around Boston and New York."
Audio guides for the cellphone are available for $5.95 at TalkingStreet.com, which offers the option of Sigourney Weaver narrating a tour of Lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center site and Jerry Stiller providing audio commentary for a tour of the Lower East Side.
The creator of Talking Street, Miles Kronby, explains the appeal of using the cellphone as a tour guide: "Our interest is to make these tours as rich as possible, with other voices, not just dry readings from a guide book into a phone. We're aiming for something well beyond that. Something vivid and interactive, to make you feel like you're in the middle of it all."
Tom Watson has a great post on why the new "Thursday Styles" section of the New York Times (which replaced the popular "Circuits" section) is DOA after only one issue:
"The hapless, befuddled executive editor of The New York Times and his primogeniture-cursed boss have added the pathetic ThursdayStyles to their lineup of special sections, replacing the popular Circuits, which covered consumer technology. The result is a public humiliation for the newspaper, happy guffaws thumping from the chests of rivals, chump change from advertisers peddling luxe goods, and more evidence that the citadel on West 43rd Street is even further out of touch with the world than even its harshest critics previously believed..."
It's too bad that tech advertising has dried up for the Times. With a need to pander to a whole new class of advertiser looking to move product, the once venerable Grey Lady is forced to compromise her integrity with articles about "the new peacocks" (i.e. dandies) and shaving brushes.
MoviebankUSA is rolling out an "automated, anonymous, all-night movie rental outlet" on the corner of Houston and Wooster in SoHo. According to the New York Daily News, the all-night kiosk-style booths allow users to swipe a card, choose from a menu of movies and then pick up movies at a pickup window. Judging by early reviews, the system is easy-to-use, convenient and private. In fact, the new kiosk-stores are already so popular in Europe that an unnamed French company "has plans to install dozens of outlets around the city."
Tempted by the opportunity to download DVD-quality movies within 30 seconds or less, college kids across America have been illegally downloading music and video using Internet2 networks, says the Recording Industry Association of America. According to the New York Daily News, a total of 38 college kids at Columbia and NYU were among the 405 file-swappers nationwide who were caught red-handed: "At least 25 Columbia and 13 New York University students who thought they could get away with swapping movies and music over their schools' super high-speed Internet networks are to be sued today."
The head of the Motion Picture Association (which also plans to sue a number of students) has a warning for anyone else even thinking about illegal downloads:
"Our message to these thieves is clear - you are not anonymous and you will be held responsible. You can click, but you cannot hide."
"In the What box, type in what you're looking for, like "Italian restaurant." In the Where box, put your Zip code (or city and state). Click search, and boom Google shows you the Yellow Pages and Web results, in a list and even on a map (which you can scroll or zoom). By highlighting a result, you can click to place a phone call to that place, or get driving directions from your current location. It's all free, and there are no ads..."
According to the New York Post, Time Warner Cable is preparing a TiVo-killer: "Time Warner Inc.'s cable-television unit plans to test a service that replays a TV program any time during its broadcast, an alternative to digital video recorders from companies including TiVo."
And Newsday says that it's not only Time Warner Cable... It looks like Cablevision is also preparing to "offer DVR-like services without the DVR box."
Today marks the first Thursday issue of the New York Times without a full Circuits section. Don't worry, there's still an article by tech guru David Pogue on the front page of the Business section about DVD rentals by mail and two pages of gadget-related articles on pages C9 and C10. And, as always, J&R has a full-page spread next to the gadget articles -- apparently, J&R is the only tech sponsor who hasn't abandoned the New York Times.
Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal test drives two full-featured ultralight laptops: the Sony Vaio T250 and the Fujitsu LifeBook P7010. So which one does Mossberg advise the business traveler on the go to choose? "If the extra features and lower price matter a lot, go with the Fujitsu. But if lower weight, thinner size and better battery life are your key considerations, the Sony is the better choice."
In The New York Times Magazine, Christine Rosen writes that "ego-casting technologies" like cellphones and TiVo "have put us out of touch with the manners and mores of public life." After explaining how private cellphone conversations sometimes "makes our daily commute a living hell for our fellow citizens on the bus or a danger to other drivers on the road," Rosen wraps up with an appeal for a bit more consideration of others:
"As a society, we need to approach our personal technologies with a greater awareness of how the pursuit of personal convenience can contribute to collective ills... Rather than turning on, tuning in and dropping out, we might perhaps do better, individually and socially, to occasionally simply turn our machines off."
For a rebuttal of Rosen's arguments, check out Douglas Kern's essay at Tech Central Station, "iPod, Therefore i Am."
Self-service photo centers at convenience stores and camera shops are turning into places to socialize for customers, most of them women, who like the leisure of editing their photos in a cafe-like atmosphere. Some shops are so intent to tap into the high-margin digital printing experience that they are providing all kinds of perks for busy customers, like coloring books for children.
And it's not only the shops that like the kiosks - companies like Eastman Kodak are eager to regain their dominance in the film industry by promoting digital printing kiosks. According to Kodak, kiosk printing increased by 356% in 2004. What's interesting is that "even with the proliferation of home printers designed specifically for photos, many camera owners are content to go out..."
Status-conscious New Yorkers are finding out that it's sometimes possible to obtain a cellphone number with a 212 area code. Once they do, they'll stop at nothing to obtain one: "In part because of the cachet of a 212 number, some people fight hard to obtain one, either by converting a land-line number or nabbing one of the few recycled 212 numbers that have slipped back into the wireless pool..."
Randall Stross analyzes why Sony -- despite having invented the Walkman in 1979 and owning major entertainment companies like CBS Records -- was woefully unprepared for the success of Apple's iPod digital music player:
"On one side, Sony has 50 years of experience in producing portable music players, beginning with transistor radios in the 1950's and extended by its Walkman franchise that has sold more than 340 million players. On the other, it owns one of the world's largest music labels to supply content. Yet in the iPod era, Sony's headstart counts for nothing. It's as if the company were the Sony Graphophone and Wax Record Company..."
At the heart of the issue, says Stross, is the fact that "Sony is accustomed to thinking of itself as consisting of two well-matched halves: electronics and entertainment." But can the company be simultaneously an "entertainment company" and a "widget company"? If the two sides of the company talk to each other only grudgingly, the answer is no. There are a whole litany of other problems: a determination to use proprietary standards, fears of digital piracy, an inability to price new product offerings competitively and a naive belief in synergy.
The New York Daily News gives readers an advance preview of SongLink'd -- a new music recognition service from Manhattan-based MusiKube set to launch next Monday. According to Maki Becker, it's a "new service [that] can turn your cellphone into your own personal "Name That Tune" machine.
Say, for example, that you're shopping for new clothes at a store in midtown. A catchy tune is playing in the background -- you recognize it (kinda), but can't seem to make a positive ID. So you pull out your cellphone, dial 866-SONG-411, point the phone in the direction of the music, and within seconds, you'll get a text message with the name of the song and the artist as well as a link to a Web site where you can buy or download the song.
Now, Tyler is back with an independent project that he's doing on his own dime. It's called Chameleon Reader -- a Bloglines alternative blog reader that makes use of the Bloglines Web API. Tyler explains why he created Chameleon:
Do you like Bloglines? I do. But the number of feeds I was trying to deal with quickly got away from me. I don't think folders are the answer. Therefore, I've created this work-in-progress, which does a few cool things:
* Keeps track of which feeds you read, how often, and when
* Figures out which feeds are your favorites, using a few novel algorithms
* Identifies the top links in your feeds -- like Blogdex, but for your feeds only
* Shows you your usage scores based on the algorithms
If you're a heavy Bloglines reader, it's worth checking out.
A brilliant essay in The New Yorker from Sasha Frere-Jones explains why ringtones are so fascinating:
"The ringtone also teaches us how songs work. Which clip best exemplifies a song? Did the ringtones maker select the right bit? Do you even need to hear the singing? Perhaps the part of the song that arouses our lizard brain is the instrumental opening. It may be stranger and more sublime to hear a polyphonic impression of George Michaels voice than to listen to the real thing one more time. If a song can survive being transposed from live instruments to a cell-phone microchip, it must have musically hardy DNA..."
Clive Thompson agrees, calling ringtones "a curious artform, part metaphor and part metonym: both a version of the thing and the thing itself."
How Not to Blog notes that the South Huntington Public Library on Long Island has started lending out iPod shuffles loaded with audio books from the Apple iTunes store. No word yet on whether the folks "checking out" the iPod shuffles have any plans to return them...
"Circuits," one of our favorite sections of the New York Times that appears only on Thursdays, is apparently on the way out, says the New York Post. As if to add insult to injury, the section will probably be replaced by a new section dedicated to shopping, fitness and fashion.
At Micro Persuasion, Steve Rubel sees the demise of Circuits not as the final death knell of the dot-com era, but as a sign of the growing significance of gadget-oriented blogs: "Did the rising influence of the major gadget blogs like Engadget and Gizmodo play a role? This may be a sign of a coming shakeout in tech media..."
After apologizing for a 9-day blog absence, David Pogue of the New York Times dives right in with a glowing review of a piece of Tamrac photographic luggage -- the perfect carry-on for geeks with lots of electronic gear to haul around on vacation or business. According to Pogue, "Its absolutely perfect for anyone who travels with electronics gear; instead of lenses, boxes of film and so on, I loaded mine up with camcorder, power adapters and all the other stuff I mentioned. Everything is protected in a case thats small enough to qualify as a carry-on. And incidentally, at least half of the virtue is the locker-like design; everything is easy to find, easy to extract, and easy to put back."
Writing in the Times Online (U.K.) last week, Andrew Sullivan explains how the "iPod people" are changing the look and feel of the city. The usual insane mishmash of yells, chatter, clatter, hustle and chutzpah that makes New York the urban equivalent of methamphetamine" has been replaced by an eerie quiet as a growing number iPod users walk down the street in their own MP3 cocoon, bumping into others, deaf to small social cues, shutting out anyone not in their bubble "
It's no different underground, where iPod users exchange blank looks with one another: "Get on a subway and youre surrounded by a bunch of Stepford commuters staring into mid-space as if anaesthetised by technology. Dont ask, dont tell, dont overhear, dont observe. Just tune in and tune out.
Gizmodo points to a story from Wired News about some of the whizbang tech toys on display at the New York Toy Fair this week. One of the highlights: the Cyber Gear Expressions! Digital Radio, which "clearly took its design inspiration from the 1957 Gibson Les Paul Stratocaster or from someone else who is dead and not holding any lawyer on retainer."
Gothamist admits to being fascinated by the popularity of cellphone jammers, especially after an article in the New York Post speculated about certain illicit ways that these jammers are being used:
"The Post talked to a couple spy shops and jammer purchasers. Restaurateurs are buying them, and some suspect hotels buy them to make people use the expensive hotel phones... Would you jam people's cellphones? Or are you in need of jamming? Of course, jammers are illegal, but isn't music sharing, to a certain extent?"
Only in New York: the iPod subway mugging. In some parts of the city, the number of students who have been the victims of iPod robberies on the subways in recent months has almost doubled. In one neighborhood of Brooklyn, NYC transit cops even distributed fliers offering to engrave students' iPods and cellphones with ID numbers.
NY1's Adam Balkin reports on "high-tech twists" for some favorite gadgets and gizmos. According to Balkin, "a television remote, a USB drive, a computer, even a food scale - new technology can put a twist on just about anything to make it more useful for you, or at least try." One of the more useful items mentioned in the report is the Lexar Jumpdrive Touchguard USB drive: it gives users secure access to all websites that require a username and password -- even when "you can't remember what all those user names and passwords are."
"The Blackberry 7270 has Wi-Fi built in as well as a VoIP client, but theres no cellular radio inside... Instead, its designed as a campus-wide enterprise tool that combines voice and messaging. Campus-wide pager systems have been widespread and theres a growing use of VoIP over Wi-Fi; this is a neat combination of both. But it means some executives will now have to carry two Blackberrys."
If you've got the tsunami jitters, you might want to check this out: New York-based PubSub is now offering customers nearly instantaneous access to data on global earthquake and tsunami activity. Until now, the data feed from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was unintelligible to the layperson. Not any more: PubSub developed a system to translate the USGS technical feed into XML, a mark-up language easily read by PubSub's proprietary matching and notification system. In a few simple steps, a user can start receiving earthquake notifications via RSS or e-mail.
The Industry Standard reports that Interactive Taxi, a subsidiary of a New York-based advertising company, plans to install hundreds of wireless interactive devices in the back seats of cabs across the nation over the next few months. As a result, taxi passengers in Boston, Chicago and San Francisco will soon have access to news, movie trailers and restaurant listings via a touch screen.
By November, over 12,000 New York City cabs will have similar interactive devices. According to the New York Taxi & Limo Commission, in fact, it will be mandatory by late fall for each medallion cab to be equipped with vehicle location technology and an interactive passenger information monitor.
Big-box electronics retailers in the city like Circuit City, Best Buy and P.C. Richard are doing their best to convince New Yorkers that they absolutely, positively must have HDTV in time for the Super Bowl. Everybody else is doing it, the prices have never been lower, and if you don't have it, nobody will want to attend your Super Bowl party. That's the line being used by retailers around the city, if the New York Daily News article "Super Demand for HDTV" is to be believed. According to a senior buyer from P.C. Richard: "It's incredible what's going on out there, everyone has to have one..."
The real pull quote, though, comes from Best Buy: "We've come to see Super Bowl week as the second Christmas." That's the key. Not content with Valentine's Day in the month of February (what guy buys his girl a TV for Valentine's Day?), retailers are going full-out to create another made-up holiday: Super Bowl Day. Or, better yet, Super Bowl Week. A whole week of loading up on electronics, what could be better for juicing sales?
American Airlines plans to offer passengers flying out of LaGuardia Airport in-flight personal entertainment devices in an effort to rival hip, low-cost carriers like Delta Song and Jet Blue, reports NY1. The devices will be available starting this week on flights from LGA to Miami and from LGA to Dallas. (Hat tip: NewYorkology)
A spokesperson from American Airlines comments on the new product offering: "It's called a personal entertainment device but we're going to brand it later and what it does is provide passengers with a whole range of entertainment and information options. The device is yours to rent for the duration of the flight. All you have to do is slip a credit card through the slot and the credit card in this case will take $7.95 off your credit card. You will have 12 feature movies, out of first run, but not yet on DVD, you will have 12 music videos, you will have games, you will have music and a vast array of options."
Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees recently inked a multi-year contract to become the spokesperson and cover athlete for Take 2's licensed baseball simulation series. The move comes after Manhattan-based Take2 Interactive signed a long-term, third-party exclusive licensing deal with Major League Baseball that will give the company the exclusive right to distribute interactive, officially licensed video games.
Engadget points to a study showing that, worldwide, taxi passengers have lost 200,000 cellphones, 31,000 PDAs and 11,000 laptops in just the past six months. Oh, and 37 milk bottles, a pair of dentures and an artificial limb or two... The good news is that four out of five mobile phones and 19 out of every 20 computers found their way back to their original owners. Cabbies may be rude and may not have the greatest command of the English language, but they're honest -- especially in New York. Just two weeks ago, a Long Island cabbie returned $13,000 that he found in the back seat of his cab.
The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg takes the $99 new Apple iPod Shuffle for a test-drive and likes it: "I've been testing the new iPod Shuffle for a couple of days, and, in my tests, it fulfilled -- and even exceeded -- Apple's claims for convenience, battery life and song capacity. Sound quality is so good you can barely believe the music is coming from something so small." Of course, there are a few compromises to get the iPod Shuffle under the $100 price point, but so far, it looks like a shrewd move by Apple to win over more "lower-budget music fans."
The New York Post says that the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES) "isn't just the world's largest annual trade show for consumer technology it's the place where geek fantasies come true." With that in mind, the article takes a look at the Top 5 "innovative, gee-whiz highlights" of the show -- like the Sony PlayStation Portable and the Nyko Movieplayer.
As Jim Prendergrast points out in Vegas, Baby, Vegas, the show highlighted the numerous opportunities that abound for truly disruptive technologies: "The rumblings felt here at the Consumer Electronics Show this week were not the fireworks going off on the Strip. It was the sound of old business models crumbling under the weight of competition from new technologies. The disruptive nature of the new products and technologies announced here is a frightening development for long established businesses yet it provides tremendous opportunities for new businesses and consumers."
Finding a power outlet to recharge cell phones, laptops or other high-tech gadgets is a high priority when ducking into public places like Starbucks, says the New York Times. "Every day, millions of people are finding themselves scurrying about in search of wells of electricity they can tap so their battery-powered mobile devices can remain mobile. Dependence is growing on laptops, cellular telephones, digital music players, digital cameras, camcorders, personal organizers, portable DVD players and the latest hand-held gaming devices - most of which operate on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries - and finding available electrical outlets away from home and office has become more urgent."
Sometimes these mobile device users will take extreme measures -- the article cites the example of one Upper West Sider who "used to plug his laptop into an outlet hidden behind a large framed picture."
Sirius Satellite Radio has officially announced plans to offer video services for cars in 2006, using software from Microsoft. According to Engadget, it is just the most recent example of how Sirius has beaten rival XM to the punch: "This just after Sirius got Ford, Eminem, and Howard Stern? Its looking rough for XM, man, looking rough.."
The Wall Street Journal kicks off its Las Vegas trade show coverage with a (free) article on why HDTV hasn't arrived in many homes. Manufacturers would love to meet the demands of tech-savvy consumers, of course, but "shortcomings in existing products, battles over technical standards and fear of video piracy" tend to limit the deployment of many cool new technologies -- including HDTV. Help could be on the way since "progress in speeding the delivery of digital content and technology will be a major theme among industry giants converging at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas."
Over the weekend, Blockbuster launched its latest salvo at online DVD rental king Netflix with a $50 million marketing campaign promising the "end of late fees." Yep, no longer will users have to pay late fees on their DVD rentals -- or at least, that's what Blockbuster wants you to believe. How else can they compete with Netflix's policy of "keep it as long as you want"?
With $50 million already sunk into the effort, it's no surprise that Blockbuster is touting the plan as the greatest thing since VHS rentals. "It was a great weekend," Blockbuster's New York regional director of operations Ken Crivello told the New York Daily News. "The response from customers has been spectacular."
But read the fine print -- it may be the end of "late fees," but not the end of "re-stocking fees" or the end of "penalties." If a consumer fails to return a DVD within 9 days of the due date, guess what? He or she will be forced to buy the title at standard retail price, less the rental price.
A follow-up investigation from the New York City Council shows that young children can walk into nearly any store selling video games in New York City and purchase games that encourage brutality against women, the shooting of police officers, and the committing of racially-motivated acts of violence. That's not good, and the 45-page report recommends six steps to combat this problem, including new legislation and the creation of a new task force on violent video games. (Hat tip: Gotham Gazette)
Crain's New York reports that Nielsen Interactive Entertainment, in collaboration with Manhattan-based gaming company Massive, is launching the first in-game ad auditing service. The new service, scheduled for a mid-2005 launch, "pushes the digital game world closer to being a coherent advertising venue." As might be expected, a sales and marketing executive at one game publisher was enthusiastic about the announcement: "That a viable, respected measuring service is going to start qualifying games data and make it comparable to other media is very exciting..."
David Pogue of the New York Times reviews four competitors to the Apple iPod Mini: the Dell Pocket DJ, the Creative Zen Micro, the Virgin Electronics Player, and the Rio Carbon. The bottom line: "The iPod Mini's rivals aren't as elegant or as polished, they're not as thoughtfully conceived, and they may not fill you with as much pure, overwhelming technolust..." (But they're 50 bucks cheaper and each of the four has "some superpower that the iPod Mini lacks.")
David Pogue of the New York Times points to a company (iPodmyphoto.com) that will transform any run-of-the-mill digital photo into a vibrant iPod ad for $20. As these samples show, even the mundane act of catching a fish can be turned into a startlingly vivid iPod ad (complete with dangling white wires, of course). According to the company: "For less than the cost of two albums on iTunes, you can have an iPodified image of yourself, friend, family member!"
New York venture capitalist Steve Brotman argues that every start-up CEO should carry a Blackberry for responding quickly to partners and customers. Quite frankly, he says, "not carrying a Blackberry is stupid." By some estimates, a Blackberry ("the essential CEO tool") could save a high-priced executive close to 40 hours a month. The productivity argument is so compelling, says Brotman, that he's "contemplated making all our CEOs carry a Blackberry as part of our term sheet, no joke."
The first Big Picture Summit, hosted by NYU on December 8 and 9, brought together "an eclectic group of artists and scientists that organizers have dubbed the 'dream team' of imaging and visualization." The organizer of the event, Clifford Ross, explains that the goal of the project was "to bring closer to reality his desire to create a "you are there" photographic experience for those who have not personally witnessed the sublime beauty of natural scenes such as Mt. Sopris in Colorado."
You can find out more about the patented R1 camera system used by the project here. According to the article, the R1 camera system recently broke through the gigapixel barrier and has achieved "some of the highest resolution single-shot images ever created."
Sandy McMurray, who writes the Apple industry insider column for Corante, offers his take on why Apple's marketing campaign has been so successful: "The genius of the current iPod ad campaign is its emphasis on the white wires... There are many better earphones than the white buds that ship with every new iPod. Nevertheless, the white buds have become part of the brand. They're fashionable, and they're everywhere, even on non-Apple players. The clever ad campaign that focuses on those white wires makes people see iPods everywhere, even when they're not there."