my ideal tablet

19 January 2010

If rumors are true, Apple will be releasing the details of the next great “consumer tablet”.  Speculation has whipped up into a frenzy and has a lot of people wishing and hoping.  Needless to say, I’ll be very surprised and delighted if they actually build something that I’m willing to wait in line to purchase.
If someone does come out with a tablet, here’s my simple wish list:
  • Entertain when I have a few minutes between other activities
  • Inform of what is going on in the world around me (news, blogs and my social network)
  • Be easy to hold, read and interact with, in a wide variety of posture
  • Small and light enough to transport with my other things
  • Real world battery life of over 8 hours
  • Does not incur any reoccurring or additional charges (e.g. no subscription, no fees for content, etc.)
  • World class user interface that allows me to simply and elegantly interact with the device
There’s a lot of ways this can be accomplished, but the devil is in the details for actually making something that is usable, useful and needed.  I’ve had some conversations with ODMs who can definitely produce the hardware, but lack the vision for putting together a comprehensive hardware, software and content ecosystem for a total device solution.  Apple is uniquely positioned to do so, but will they?  If not, here’s hoping that someone will soon!

CES and Tablets

14 January 2010

Last week was the annual trek to Las Vegas where everyone is vying for the spotlight with their latest gadgets and technologies.  As I reflect on what I’ve seen at the show, it was clear that on the show floor, there really weren’t any break out products or new technology that was dramatically different.  It’s true that Intel and LG did have a tiny PC-phone running a Moorestown processor, but honestly that’s something that isn’t ready for primetime nor is it really all that interesting, yet.

Plastic Logic did have their e-reader QUE on display and while the technology behind the display and physical device is impressive, the end application wasn’t all that impressive.  The basic concept has been around for at least 10 years — A Xerox company, Uppercase, created a very similar device “eCase”.  All of a user’s documents were printed to this portable device where they could be marked up with a pen and synched back to the PC.  For eCase, the target market was executives who were not big on email and thus would have all of their email and other documents printed to this portable device where they could ink their reply and their secretaries would then respond appropriately.  This was primarily born out of the costs of such a device at the time (> $1500) and from an understanding of Xerox’s executive culture.  So what has changed since then?  The overall weight of the device is significantly less, greater connectivity options (3G), longer battery life, new screen technologies, a bunch of 3rd party content providers and a wider breadth of marketing for the device (e.g. business users rather than executives).  The device is still going to be rather pricey and black & white only.  All of that said, I think that there is a huge potential upside for devices like the QUE, but the value proposition to the user still requires a lot of work.  Other than a bunch of early adopters, I don’t know too many people who are going to pay $649 and up for this particular device.

The buzz about the show, more from the online community and private showings was about Tablets or Slates as they now seem to be called.  Slate and JK on the Run had great articles about the overall situation.  Many of them appeared to be rushed for CES as a hedge against whatever Apple might be cooking up, from the $117, 5” tablets from Chinese companies that few have ever heard of before to the behind the doors presentations from Dell, none of the devices were all that compelling.  That is to say, from my perspective as a founder of the Tablet PC at Microsoft, what I saw was stock solutions with narrowly focused UIs that don’t take into account the purpose, functionality or potentially unique aspects of what a Slate can become.  What manufacturers and OEMs are missing is a rich targeted experience.  If you want to make a great slate, customize it around a particular set of content and functionality!  And then do your homework and make sure that the solution you’re providing really is something that is needed, useful and usable.
The New York Times is indicating that Microsoft and HP are going to be presenting a new consumer tablet at CES.  This could be the rumored Courier tablet or it could be some other slate type device that is more geared for consumers.  HP has been experimenting with touch screen based computers for the last couple of years in addition to being one of the earlier OEMs releasing a Tablet PC.  However the rumors are now going that this multi-screen Tablet is going to be launched in order to take some of the pizzazz away from Apple and their tablet.  Only have to wait until tomorrow to find out – and if the rumors are true, I’ll definitely be trying to get a look while I’m at CES.

CES bound

5 January 2010

This week is the biggest consumer electronics conference in the US – CES.  Many of the companies have already started their PR wars with the news release and leaks of their new products.  While I’m sure there will be some surprise products in the mix, that will be introduced in the next few days, there are 3 particular products that have caught my interest and I’ll be spending some time investigating.

Marvell’s Plug Computer
While not mobile technology in the normal sense of the word, this is an interesting device since you basically attach it right to a plug in your home / office and you now have a network capable device.  Obviously you need to connect to it in some fashion or another since it’s really a “headless” computer (e.g. no monitor or keyboard), but for those users who spend a large portion of time on the road and use a laptop as their main computer, this could be invaluable as a mini-home server providing access to content at home rather than having a larger standard PC for this activity.

Lenovo’s Skylight One Pager
This is a Snapdragon based Smartbook.  It’s superlight, thin and supposedly has an all day battery.  I’ve had some thought in a previous posts about Smartbooks, but what is different about this one is the widget interface and that there is supposedly built-in content stores for movies and media.  If the execution on this is as good as it looks initially, this could be a surprise winner once the initial pricing goes down.

Freescale Tablets
This is really a Smartbook with or without the keyboard, but here Freescale is promising significantly lower costs for the devices.  However Freescale doesn’t seem to be providing any content integration stories, so I will be looking for those ODMs/OEMs who are looking to take these to market.  I’m positive there will be quite a few at CES, the question is whether any make the leap to provide real value-add to the device.

I’ll be at the show Friday – Sunday, so if you have something you think I should see or want to chat, feel free to send me an email evan (at) efeldman (dot) com.

WinMo hasn’t caught any breaks recently… the latest version of the operating system is just a minor improvement on what came before, all of the main competition has implemented technology such as capacitive touch displays (e.g. finger touch) that is built into the OS, the next version of the OS is terminally late, the application store was late to the platform, etc. On top of all that “snapdragon”, Qualcomm’s newest and most powerful mobile chipset is getting deployed mostly on competitors’ OS where speed and intense new graphic experiences rule and where it appears many at Microsoft had hopes that this chipset would help to dramatically improve the flailing perception.

Of course all is not lost; HTC (arguably Microsoft’s best friend in the hardware business) created a beautiful if not large phone in the HD2 with all of the bells and whistles that aren’t in the current phones. HTC however has spent a lot of their own time and effort on WinMo not only in pushing the bounds of the hardware (e.g. by implementing a capacitive touch display) but also by including “Sense UI” which is an almost complete shell of the standard interface. Both of these were absolutely necessary since the standard interface for WinMo is dated, not suited for touch based interactions (most of the controls are too small) and is overly complex!

The real issue for WinMo is that was designed as a general purpose computing platform capable of doing whatever the developer envisions as long as it fits within the generalized UI framework and the generalized functionality of the device. Thus every road leads to the mediocre center unless an extraordinary effort is made to create a new experience. HTC had lead the way, but Sony, Toshiba and Samsung have also followed to some extent by creating new UI on top of the OS. For Apple, RIM and Android (to some extent), this is an unnecessary activity which saves these OEMs a large amount of expenses.

Does it have to be this way? Unfortunately if the OEM wants to differentiate their product, they will want to customize the interface and offer specific applications to create value-add then this requires some level of a generalized platform on which to do this. Think of it this way, in the ideal situation, Microsoft provided the plumbing for a city, most of the buildings and some blue-prints for how to build the city. But Microsoft had to go a little bit further and create an example completed city, so that others could see how it was done. Unfortunately the task of “creating a new city” from the blueprints is just too hard for most and thus you get the generic example over and over again. Some OEM/ODMs have been able to follow the blueprints to add a little bit of functionality here or there and to provide a new veneer, but it’s mostly superficial.

But there’s yet another complexity… the carriers. There’s a not insignificant cost for supporting a new handset and when the handset is highly customized, the cost is obviously increased since some commonality between handsets can be lost. This of course leads to attempting to standardize on phones either from specific OEMs who have created an experience of their own or on generic devices that all share the same user interface.

This is a problem of perception – an iPhone is an iPhone is an iPhone; just as all Blackberries or Palm devices are virtually the same from an OS perspective. The only real OS comparison for WinMo is Android since like Microsoft, Google only creates the OS and not the particular phones on which it is implemented. As more OEMs create more devices based on Android, there will be greater differentiation in the operating system as a result. The core difference WinMo and Android is mostly around the infrastructure “plumbing”. WinMo is much more general purposed and robust compared to Android (which is really just the Dalvik Linux distribution with a special Java Runtime application environment). However the Java functionality that is built into Android actually allows for rich graphic interactions to be created more easily plus there are fewer built-in features in the operating system so each of those areas are tightly built and relatively modern. In addition, for many developers, Android is sexy since its new, open source and being distributed by everyone’s darlings – Google.

So can Microsoft ever hope to regain in this space? Yes, but it’s a long road that will require a lot more partnerships with OEMs and ODMs to create excitement, innovate and capturing the OEMs (and carrier) requirements into the overall development of the Windows Phone project (rather than bolting them on afterwards). In addition there needs to be a more cohesive story to the press, bloggers and analysts that really highlight the hard work that is being involved and what it means to the Microsoft’s partners and not just to Microsoft since unlike Apple, Microsoft is just one piece in the overall handset solution.

If you’re interested in competing or steering a course through this space or want more details about the particulars of what’s necessary; feel free to contact me and we can discuss how I can help out.

multiple sites…

27 December 2009

I haven’t decided where I want my blog to end up… either on blogspot or over here on wordpress. If you want to see what I’ve written in the mean time over, feel free to head over.

I have a very strong pedigree with both Tablets and consumer devices.  Long ago (in the early/mid 90’s) at Compaq I was involved with pen-based computing and mobile devices.  While the Concerto was finishing up when I joined, there were plenty of efforts afoot that were looking at new devices such as the General Magic’s Magic Cap, Microsoft’s first foray into a PDA with WinPad, the EO and a few other devices that have been lost to time.  Then in the late 90’s, I switched groups at Microsoft to become one of the founding members of the TabletPC team.  I later moved on to AOL where I was orchestrating AOL’s digital assets, audience, technology platform and mobile assets to create a mobile consumer entertainment platform.  This work led to the formation of Varia Mobile where we combined the technology (minus all of the AOL assets) into a portable media player and some demonstration cellular phones.  Had AOL stayed the course with their investments in content (and content solutions) or if Varia had been able to sell a larger visions and get funding, I’m willing to bet that we would have launched a product that would have been similar to the rumored mythical “iSlate” or Apple Tablet.
Over the course of this post, I’m going to layout the basic ingredients that are necessary for a successful product in this space.  And as you might know, I am available to be hired if you want to know how to actually mix the ingredients!  But before I can start, I need to make a clarification about Tablets.  There are several different types of Tablet devices and each were designed for specific niche needs – Microsoft TabletPC was designed for the knowledge worker and was first and foremost about capturing productivity while in meetings and other mobile situations.  UMPCs are about miniaturizing Windows and leaving it up to the user to figure out what to do with it.  MIDs or Web Tablets are generally being built as web devices that let the user connect over broadband (cellular, though some are WiFi) so that they can get access to the websites and data that they want regardless where they are at).  “Consumer Tablets” don’t exist quite yet, but the best examples of devices that are close to this space are the iTouch and the ZuneHD.  It’s from this Consumer Tablet space that iSlate or next great device will be born. 
The ingredients:
         Killer hardware
Most of this is obvious, but the key factor is to make sure that the overall weight to power consumption ratios is balanced.  Today this probably means a screen between 7- 11” utilizing an ARM-based processor rather than an Intel Atom or similar x86 platform.
         Purpose built user interface and OS
The OS for this device needs to be thoroughly optimized for both performance of the particular hardware and for ease of use for the main tasks.  Generic Windows or Linux shell (including Android as is) aren’t robust enough at creating the ease of use experience necessary.  This device needs a world class interface!
         Engaged developers / partners
Steve Balmer chants “Developers, Developers, Developers!” and Steve Jobs does as much as possible to entice and excite development partners to build custom applications.  This is absolutely necessary for the device to move forward – it doesn’t, however need 100,000s of applications, but rather it needs an interface that allows the techno-geeks to build some strong and compelling examples of what can be done (and get paid to do it!).  The good and great applications can come later (as long as there are a few to begin with).
         A media ecosystem
Just having access to a media library such as Amazon on Demand, NetFlix, EpicHD, Hulu, Flickr, YouTube, iTunes, Rhapsody or Zune isn’t enough.  These services need to be built directly into the user interface of the device in compelling fashions. A link to them isn’t sufficient; the user needs to have the experience of the media be not only seamless but effortless.  And of course media isn’t just music, movies, TV and photos, it encompasses a wide breadth of the entertainment (and communications) users enjoy – Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, AIM, etc.  And of course all this media needs to be deliver to the device with an intelligent and efficient architecture.
         Intelligent utilization of other network devices
Just because you built this one device you can’t ignore all the others that the user may have!  Content, data and other important information exists throughout the technology sphere of the user.  Their phone, their home PC or Media Center has a role to play with this device.  If you don’t capitalize on it, than you’re missing out on the role that can be played here.
         Marketing pizzazz!
If you build it, they won’t come unless you’re ready to spend some cold hard cash to market this device to those who don’t realize what they’re missing.  It’s an obvious fact, but often times the inventor or manufacturers think that just getting it into the market is enough.  Plenty of great devices have been built over time, but have never succeeded since they weren’t marketed to their audience
         Willingness to wait until the ecosystem is ready
Even if you build the absolutely-most-insanely great product of all time, if the market isn’t ready, if the technology isn’t ready, if you’re ecosystem partners aren’t all there or if you’re not ready to market the device properly – then for this class of device you should wait.  Releasing without all of these factors ready is likely to backfire since the purpose and greatness of the device will be lost on the majority of people for whom it was destined.
Guess what?  Apple already has or knows how to do all of these things and already has the fundamental building blocks to execute.  They clearly have the hardware, software and developers already primed.  Their integration of media is beyond most with not only access to iTunes, but all of ABC/Disney’s content plus all of the rumors of talks with magazine publishers and other studios.  Apple has devices in the living room with which to integrate – wouldn’t this product be a great control/companion to an AppleTV product?  Does anyone know marketing better than Steve Jobs?  And finally Steve clearly understands about not releasing products until they are completely ready!
Does anyone else?  Microsoft can get pretty close to most of these things, but clearly doesn’t own or control a media empire nor is it within Microsoft’s DNA to wait on a project – usually it will keep iterating in the market place until it gets it right.  This leads to some great ideas failing prematurely (e.g. the market wasn’t ready) and others floundering around and getting marginalized by others who can do it better.  This isn’t Google’s forte, but they seem willing to take lots of risks if the overall rewards are worth it in the end (e.g. increase the advertising revenue).  Intel, Acer, Asus, HP, Dell?  No, no, no, no and no.  Sony could be an interesting entrant in this space, but for one reason or another they don’t appear to be willing to take the large risks lately.  What about companies like Nokia, HTC, Sagem or Archos?   Nokia outside of the US might be able to get pretty close to this ideal, the N900 is pretty good and their entry of a netbook while expensive was also well executed – they do have all the raw ingredients, but definitely don’t get much credit in the US.  HTC is interesting and clearly has the design capability and is a quick learner whose recent marketing efforts were quite well done, but they lack the developer reach and media ecosystem.  Sagem has a lot of the relationships to get it done, but again no one in the US knows how they are.  And finally Archos has a small name brand presence and has been trying to dabble into this space, but I believe they lack the creativity to pull this off.
This isn’t to say that someone can’t take all of the ingredients mix them together properly and execute on it, they can and I’m available to help!  If you want to learn more about what it takes to succeed in this space, feel free to contact me and we can go from there.

input versus price

24 December 2009

I was reading today Kevin Tofel’s post on jkOnTheRun where he’s totally dismayed by the fact that the Archos 9 net tablet runs Windows Starter Edition and thus doesn’t have any of the functionality that is included in all of the other SKUs of Windows where there is built-in input mechanisms for pen (ink) and speech.  The result is that Archos had to bundle in a bunch of additional 3rd party tools to give some set of rudimentary functionality for things like a soft keyboard.  For those that don’t know, all of the TabletPC functionality exists in EVERY version of Windows except the Starter Edition.  The TabletPC bits gives the end user a whole lot of functionality:

  • Soft keyboard
  • Text input panel (handwriting and single character)
  • Natural speech input
  • Gesture support 
  • Touch input improvements
  • Handwriting optimization tools (let’s the system learn your handwriting!)
  • Plus more…
So why would anyone who’s building a PC-based tablet that is going to ship a version of Windows choose the Starter Edition?  One word …  “Price”.  Microsoft makes the Starter Edition extremely attractive to OEMs since this version is being used as a hedge against Linux — e.g. Microsoft wants to make the Starter Edition as close to $0 as possible since that’s the price an OEM would pay for a Linux distribution.  While this may make sense for those that are marketing a $250 or less netbook, to me this makes no sense at all for a device that’s retails for over $500.  The additional cost of the upgraded license for the device is of so much more user benefit than trying to market at the lower price point.

Of course this is just my opinion, but I’m also willing to bet that the majority of practitioners out there who run focus groups or other marketing surveys of users would come to the conclusion that Archos should save the money and get a couple of 3rd party tools rather than paying for the more expensive license.  What?  After having spent a long time with the Tablet PC all the way from the beginning and looking at user value, usability, marketing, technology and the competitive features, the key issues facing adoption of the technology is around recognizing the long term value add.  While there is an initial “wow” around the technology, it’s more the subtle things that over time actually provide the unique experiences that users appreciate.  The 3rd party tools also give a lot of the initial “wow” but are relatively superficial and don’t have that much behind them.  Thus if I were to say give a demo of the Archos tablet with some 3rd party tools and a demo with the built-in tools from Microsoft, users probably wouldn’t monetize the difference enough to justify the more capable version of Windows.  On the other hand, if I found key target users and let them both use the device for an extended period of time (maybe as few as 8 weeks), I’m willing to bet that the users who had Starter Edition would be significantly less satisfied.  I’d also be willing to bet that this wasn’t in the research plan or budget of Archos 🙂 

However I think this is all a moot point since I’m not relatively bullish on this or any particular UMPC, consumer Tablet, net-Tablet, MID or whatever you want to call them on taking off quite yet (soon, but not now).  I alluded to the reason in this post.  And in the near future I’ll talk more about the problem in detail, but in short, it comes down to lacking the necessary services and infrastructure for content delivery and management to make this into a truly compelling consumer experience.  The solution here requires a lot of coordination, but its simplicity will not only benefit users, but make the device a hit.  

In the world of Android phones there sure are a lot of versions out there in this very short period of time that the OS has even been released!  And Google’s Android OS has only been out for about 15 months, it’s no wonder that critics and some of the developers are relatively perturbed by all of these different versions.  Plus to top it off some of the phones are not getting the latest and greatest builds. This is either due to a lack of resources on the carrier’s side to perform complete testing of the OS updates on handsets they’ve already shipped to make sure that they perform appropriately on their network or it’s simply a means to force users who want the latest and greatest to upgrade to a different handset model.  (It’s more the former than the latter, but where carriers are concerned, anything is possible!)  For most developers who are sticking to the core functionality within the Android SDK and not trying to build anything other than a vanilla application the multiple versions are a minor nuisance.  For those developers who are really trying to weave many of the complex features in new and exciting ways, the fragmentation and introduction of new core features in the OS at this rapid pace can really be maddening.

But this isn’t the real problem.  To me, the bigger issue is the fragmentation of Application Stores.  In this, I don’t mean that you’ll have applications that are built for one version of the OS and not another, but rather Google’s application store is only available to the handset if and only if you meet certain device requirements set forth by Google.  For example, the Archos 5 which is a portable media player that runs Android not only doesn’t have the Google Market but is also missing the other Google specific applications (GMail, Google Maps, etc).  This is a result of particular licensing requirement by Google that are in place in theory to make sure that the user isn’t confused by some random application that wants functionality that isn’t present.  For example, there is no camera on the device, so Google doesn’t want the user to be able to install ShopSavvy which uses the camera to scan barcodes since there is no camera.  However it’s an all or none proposition – don’t meet the Google specs no Google Market nor other applications.

Just this morning there were posts about further fragmentation of the application store and this was from some of the providers who have Google’s blessing!  So why would manufacturers want to get into the Application Store business?  Obviously it’s about money.  When a handset is sold either to a retailer or a carrier, the manufacturer gets paid.  They never see another cent for that handset ever again (excluding repairs).  Where as Google, the carrier and the application provider are making “easy” money.  At least that’s the view that Apple provides with the Billions and BILLIONS of apps served message.  There definitely is truth in the fact that Apple does see a fair amount of income from the apps.  However their applications aren’t competing against one another on multiple different networks with different manufacturers over a range of handsets.  Wow, that’s a mouthful!

In the Android world, you have Motorola, HTC, Sony Ericcson, Samsung and a bunch of others manufacturers all competing across all of the different carriers.  Everyone wants to not only differentiate their handsets with services and offers, thus we have lots of different versions of Android from official sanctioned ones from Google to one-offs.  Since everyone is competing and there isn’t necessarily a standard across all of the carriers and manufactures (partially to Google’s own dismay), the revenue opportunity becomes much more limited since it has to be split in multiple ways with everyone wanting to get a piece of the action!  

And then of course you have Google and some other smart developers simply giving away cool new applications for free just to help move the Android application along.  For example Turn-by-Turn navigation in the 2.0 release (and it was brought back to the 1.6 release as well!). Lots of application value given away for the chance to attract more people to the platform which in turns strengthens the advertising revenue and position of Google.  Not a bad gig if you can get it!

Unfortunately the users are going to have to continue to suffer while the ecosystem sorts itself out and when Google matures to the point where the platform isn’t undergoing so many major shifts and modifications in such a short period of time.  It’s easy to iterate all the time when there is only one device on which this all lives, but once you get multiple manufacturers and carriers each with their own set of requirements … well you get what you’ve got now!

content mobility

22 December 2009

Is your content mobile?  Do you store all of your data locally and have it replicated to the cloud and formated in a way so that you can access it on any device at any time in any location?  I’m sure that there are some people who can answer “yes” to this question but I’ve yet to meet anyone who can really live this dream all the time.

There are a lot of limiting factors that make this difficult:
  • Formatting content
    • Does it size to the screen appropriately?
    • Does it need to be re-encoded (e.g. video format and size)?
  • Permissions
    • Is it DRM protected?
    • Can the DRM be transferred or does it need to be removed?
  • Storage
    • Do you have a service that allows you to maintain storage?
    • Do the costs of storage make sense?
  • Retrieval
    • Can your content be retrieved quickly?
    • Is the cost of retrieval economical?

In our household, all of our television content (and most of the movies we watch) are available to any PC and some smartphones – and what’s not readily available is usually available to be streamed via services like Hulu.  In this case there are 2 pivotal products that help to make this type of content mobile.  First a DVR (e.g. a TiVo or in my case an older piece of tech called a ReplayTV).  This allows for time shifting of your content.  I’m sure everyone is familiar with these type of devices by now, so I don’t need to extol the virtues here.  The second piece of technology is a Slingbox.  While they have been around for at least 8 years now, they’re not as widely known as you might suspect.  These devices basically act as a TV but instead of putting the wires to a physical display, it transmits the signal over the internet to your laptop or iPhone or other device.  Thus you’re basically watching the content from your TV (or DVR) as if you were sitting in front of it and changing the channels etc.  When combined with the DVR you can now not only time-shift but also place-shift which to me is the ultimate ability to for getting your TV content on the road.  

Okay so in my house, I happen to have 2 ReplayTVs (DVRs), one of them is hooked up directly to the Slingbox and nothing else.  Since the ReplayTV device can network with each other, I have the ability to record and view the content from either of the boxes.  In addition at one time, I set up a server in my garage that contained all of my other media and ran a software program that emulated the ReplayTV which let me network the server with the DVRs and thus have oodles of available content anywhere and anytime I wanted.  Of course this was long before the days of Hulu, Fancast and the others and I wanted to be able to entertain my kids with the shows they liked when we were travelling so it was a good solution at the time.  In addition, there was a 3rd party program I ran that allows me to extract the content from the ReplayTV so that it can be downloaded onto any of the device in my household, thus letting me either stream any of my content in real-time or transfer the content for later viewing.

Just this morning there’s rumors that iTunes is going to offer a subscription service for ABC and CBS content.  The number being floated is $30 a month – but in typical Apple fashion, I’m sure it’s going to be wrapped in Quicktime which means that for a mobile device it’s got to be an iPhone or iTouch — no other phone or portable media device will do.  And of course you don’t have NBC content and some of the other producers so it’s only a partial solution.

I’d be happy to give up cable and just get my content directly through my internet pipe whether it’s on my phone, laptop or desktop – but I have to be able to view that content when I’m not connected (e.g. sitting on a plane) and I don’t want to have to pay outrageous prices per month or per MB in order to get it.  Today I’m already paying for my phone, a data connection surcharge on the phone, cable monthly bill and  internet monthly bill.  It all adds up real quick.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could get more for less?  After all much of my content can come over the internet, but if I’m having to pay multiple providers to get it and can’t move it to the mobile devices of my choice, then my content really isn’t mobile!  Plus my home solution while elegant in the abstract isn’t something that most people can setup effectively nor is it something more than a hack to make do with what we’ve got…

And of course there are other types of media too…  Think about all of the NPR/CBC shows that I and my family listen to — Car Talk, Marketplace, Vinyl Cafe, Says You!, etc.  For those that have podcasts, I need to have an active podcast client to pull them down automatically; yet some shows still don’t podcast so I have to listen live or put together more technology for time-shifting radio shows (RadioShark never worked for me).  Then there are photos, documents, etc — everything locked away in it’s own space with it’s own technology and issues.

While I’m not advocating to move everything out to the cloud nor do solutions like Pogoplug seem like the right long term path; this entire space has to be rationalized and made simpler for everyone involved.  It’s way too complex and everyone is focused on the technologies, bundling or point solutions…  If we were to focus on delivery of personalized content directly to the devices desired by the user (no device limitation), in real time or cached, and without any unnecessary extra fees, I’m willing to bet that users would happy flock to this kind of service.