As Video Extends its Reach Across the Web, What Is TV?

I haven’t blogged on the SAP Community Network for work in several months, so I’m happy I finally wrenched that elusive set of hours away that it took to put together my report on my recent trip to Los Angeles for video-related conferences:

As Video Extends its Reach Across the Web, What Is TV?

Usually when I go online at conferences and events, I’m reporting on Web 2.0 events or social justice activism or just plain existing. In Los Angeles, the landscape was both unfamiliar and immediate, and it was and still is for me a bit of a reach to put together the growing, stunning implications of the past, present, and future of streaming media on the Web and what it could mean for television — whatever THAT is. I could think of no better place from which to contemplate this disruption than from this center of stardom, the birthplace of celluloid dreams. I welcome your read and thoughts!

Family watching television 1958
By Evert F. Baumgardner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Aye, Paddy — She’s Not Quite Ready for the Enterprise, Captain

Alice in Wonderland

(not the only one to photograph their child with the ipad)

As I write this I’m sitting next to the iPad, ’tis true. Not using the iPad — sitting next to it.

I had no idea an iPad would be arriving at our house on Saturday, April 3, the very first day they became available (my wife needed it for her Web QA and usability business, so my first experiences with the iPad were blissfully unprepared and unanticipated).

While reports of the iMugging in the iMission near where I live were later corrected as a hoax (or at least, not quite as topical), with the first shipments of the promised devices hitting the town on Saturday, the whole city seemed nevertleless under its spell the entire weekend.

Though I have yet to overcome my primary association with iPad as introduced by MADtv, I did actually get to touch and poke and swipe and use it fresh out of the gate during the weekend. I should correct that slightly: my daughter used it the most, and I watched (and I am far from the only one standing by patiently with my kid using the iPad).  My snap judgment is that I generally concur with these first reviews that talk about how kids — or those thinking like kids — “get it” more immediately than adults. As my 5-year-old daughter exclaimed, “someone left a ginormous iPod TV on the stairs” – “getting it” instantly – and immediately all our other mobile devices are rendered instantly miniaturized, Alice-in-Wonderland “drink-me”-style.

In my (granted limited) hands-on exposure, my thoughts are that it’s BINGO for entertainment. We spent the most satisfying time watching (HTML5) videos – even already successful on (non-Flash) YouTube – as well as episodes seamlessly, instantly, and beautifully streamed via Netflix. News also stands to get a boost by this device: sites like the Times and ABC – both “printed” and video – render beautifully and perhaps, as my neighbor suggested, this will revitalize the ‘printed’ newspaper. For books however? Not an immediate replacement for the Kindlers out there – the backlit screen is still too harsh with which to spend that kind of novel time.

Leanne (faithfully testing applications as is her job) says many of the applications that are righteously hyped on the iPhone, notably including Twitter interfaces best known for being minimal, have not yet re-written their interfaces to capitalize on the extra screen real estate.  Other applications did fill up the whole screen, but awkwardly.

What I also found noticably odd from a physical perspective was being able to tune into the online – and hence tune out the offline (that means “the real world”) – seemingly more places inside the household than ever before, and more adeptly than with the more conspicuous mobile smartphones. Why did I really need to try to shop online for those shirts on Easter Sunday on the living room couch when I could have been talking with my family? Since the device is larger, though, it does lend itself to more “social viewing” within groups of people than does the smartphone.

In short, I felt it seemed great for pulling information and content – especially socially and severally; but for pushing it back — which for me is the important thing about the mobile generation of devices: not so good. No camera, no mobile carriers (yet), apparently some sensors, but no video. And the keyboard? The iPhone keyboard doesn’t work for me yet, so I hardly could have expected it from the iPad despite increased size, and I threw my hands up in defeat rather than type into all the fields required to finish my iShopping spree on the iCouch during iEaster.

Most profoundly for me at present, the “human as sensor” revolutionary element that we’re finding so key in worldwide civil rights demonstrations and current events seems apparently missing with this nevertheless-take-anywhere device. So, iPad, are you a mobile device or not? Are you a bit more like an interactive take-anywhere but still push-only TV?

Granted, perhaps my hands have yet to pull the Darwin in the right direction to adapt to the keyboard, but I’m a little surprised at folks who are already foreseeing giving up their laptops in favor of the iPad. Have they done a lot of typing on the ‘pad already?  I feel the major hurdle is still going to be digitization of text – perhaps the key will be in the evolution of usable speech-to-text.  Leanne says we just have to hook up the keyboards in the meantime — but I think it’s really a keyboardless and mouseless paradigm ahead.

For THAT enterprise-readiness — and we geeks remember when Scotty walks up to the computer in Star Trek IV and says “Computer?” — we’re not ready for prime time.  Maybe when my daughter is my age.

The Original iPad: MADtv ca. 2006

Confessions of the Neither Cool Nor Corporate: Treo to Tour

Inwardly, my heart sank when I read the recent SFGate discourse on the polarization between iPhone and BlackBerry users and what it says about you (in a nutshell, I read it as Cool vs. Corporate ), because I knew my old Treo had broken for the last time and I was about to become an accidental and perchance reluctant early adopter of my first “cutting-edge” hardware device since the Sony Walkman — namely, the BlackBerry Tour. Thusly I heaved a big sigh and released my exclusive grip on the “neither/nor” don’t-label-me Treo world, and Became Corporate.

I had been happy with my old trusty Treo, not finding itself anywhere on the Cool to Corporate spectrum, but I had dropped it one too many times (making it a bit untrusty after all), and though I of course tried to keep using it, the shattered glass of the touchscreen posed the danger of lacerating my face whenever I answered the phone.  Plus, it stopped working, there’s that.

My Last Treo

My Last Treo

After a brief odyssey through a number of refurbished Treos, each mysteriously breaking in some other essential way, my enormously patient gadget-queen wife arranged to upgrade me to a BlackBerry Tour.  It arrived to me *the day of its release* — and she even heroically fought through apparently known BlackBerry/Mac issues and synched it for me while I was bathing and reading to our daughter that night.  And I promptly began my odyssey.

For all my online complaining about the difficulty in shifting smartphone paradigms — going from something so familiar and ubiquitously used to the “who moved my cheese” experience of misplaced keys is akin to the electric cool-aid acid test on unwitting lab rats — I actually did pretty well just playing around without (of course) even cracking the handy Getting Started guide (which I did AFTER I switched my BlackBerry off — at least I think I switched it off — that is, I’m not sure why I have to switch it off coming from the land of the nearly-always-on, insta-response Treo).

My New BlackBerry

My New BlackBerry

After trying to use the device like a Treo — which meant using a sub-standard mobile Web browser to launch minimal mobile Web applications in the place of all those Cool and/or Corporate device-native cutting-edge applictions such as bubble pop or whatever (does anybody even write applications for the Treo – anymore?) with a nevertheless comprehensible keyboard and near instant response in the applications (I had lived in and — I finally was assimilated and downloaded the respective device-proper applications such as Facebook for the BlackBerry, ÜberTwitter, and Gmail for the BlackBerry.  I even pined unsuccessfully for for the BlackBerry and learned I was not alone.  I learned to swim in the floaty interface as best I could, and I tweeted with my geo-location.  I even stopped — momentarily — trying to touch the touchscreen to get it to do things and let go of “Liking” on Facebook. And lapsed briefly into brickbuster (or whatever it is).

So I should hardly rant, and I hate to rant, but I’m going to rant.  After two weeks now, these things still drive me to absolutely NUTS:

  • Where ARE my text messages anyway? On the Treo, It was simplicity itself — it merited a special key, and it was simply SMS — simply threaded, simply reply-able, simply alerting and lighting up the device with the incoming messages themselves.  Not so on the BlackBerry, apparently.  If I can even tell apart the multiple BlackBerry messaging options.
  • And please by the way don’t make me register YET ANOTHER email address!
  • Somehow, at least by default, the nature of “alerting” on the BlackBerry levels text and email messages in the same playing field — and this is not what I want! (Think of all my BlackBerry friends I pestered the first few days, freaked out that my phone was ALWAYS vibrating! “WHY, why does it do that?”)
  • I can’t use trackball as insertion cursor effectively.  Can anyone? The trackball motion also skips and messes me up in brickbuster!
  • Who Moved My Keys!? Especially the questionmark and period!
  • Most disturbingly, why do my wrists hurt?
223K and still ticking

223K and still ticking

I’ll probably become second-nature with this strange new device soon and maybe I’ll even start to feel like it makes me seem Obamalike instead of corporate and conservative.  Maybe I’ll even feel like it’s highly featured and grow to wonder how I ever got along without it.  Not yet.

The first morning after, I awoke from dreams about trying to use the dang device.  I was trying to learn to use the trackball *just right* (ahem) to roll the umlauts over the “U” in UberTwitter).  Plus, my hand hurt.

I guess now a new car to replace my 223K-mile car can’t be too far.  Please just don’t let it be a corporate car.  Unless it’s also a fuel-efficient yet powerful RACECAR!