Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Great Blu-ray Rip-off!

I spoiled myself this Christmas, and bought myself a new PS3 Slim. With a 250GB HD and 1080p output it seemed like the best choice (over the Xbox and Wii). However, it was the Blu-ray player that sealed the deal for me. I recently upgraded my TV to a Full HD LCD, and wanted something that would let me appreciate the HD technology.
This blog is not meant to be a review of the PS3 (there are lots of those around), but I must say I'm very happy with my choice. The console exudes quality, the games are a huge step up from the PS2, and the media capabilities are a great bonus.

Blu-ray is a fantastic technology. Even normal DVDs look great thanks to the upscaling built into the PS3, but true 1080p output is simply stunning, and has to be witnessed to be fully appreciated!

However, I have to ask myself why, every time there is a new format introduced, the studios feel the need to up the price so radically. Locally, has the District 9 DVD listed at R145.30 and the Blu-ray at R270.70, an 86% increase. The studios will ague that they have included a whole lot of additional material on the Blu-ray, but honestly, who wants this extra material. I almost never even look at the additional material on DVDs; I don't see that changing with Blu-ray. And is that additional material really worth the 86% on-cost?
To my mind, the cost of a movie, regardless of format, can be broken down into the royalty, the physical media, the manufacturing, and the marketing and distribution. The only differences between DVD and Blu-ray are therefore the physical media, the manufacturing and the additional material. Personally, I put zero value on the additional material, and, with volume, the media and manufacturing cost difference is negligible. So why the huge on-cost?
Well, we are being charged more for the 'perceived' value of high definition. The same thing happened when CDs replaced vinyl, and again when DVDs replaced VHS. And this is a huge rip-off, and a huge mistake!
Do you remember how people started building CD and DVD collections to replace their LPs and VHS tapes? That isn't happening now with Blu-ray, because the price is just too high. Instead, the format is battling to get a real foothold in the market, despite there already being a huge number of Blu-ray capable machines out there.
Sure, in the US especially, 'video on demand' services like Hulu offer an alternative to physical media, and these services have put a dent into both DVD and Blu-ray sales, but the fact remains that Blu-ray has not been the phenomenon it deserves to be.
So why should the studios do anything differently? Well, the security features built into Blu-ray make the discs much harder to copy. Almost anyone with a PC can copy a DVD; not so easy with Blu-ray. So, as a deterrent against piracy, the studios should be encouraging people to switch to Blu-ray, and they could do this by offering a 'movie only' version on Blu-ray, at a price point even lower than the DVD. People would flock to the new format, I guarantee!
That's what I would do.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Google Music - An Opportunity Missed

The following is pure speculation, with a touch of hopeful optimism, and not based on fact or any insider knowledge.

Google's plans to dominate your every online move is well documented, and considering their basic business model, it makes a lot of sense. Their main revenue stream is from advertising, and quite simply, the more people they can get online, the more their advertising will be seen. So how to get more people online? Simple; create a set of applications, add a 'cool' factor to lure people in, and then give them away for free. They started with Gmail, added calendar, docs, photo editing and management, earth, maps, and so the list keeps growing.
People's acceptance for working in the 'cloud' is growing, and their concerns over privacy are diminishing. Next year they'll launch Google OS on machines that are simply a vehicle for the Chrome browser, and I have no doubt people will buy them in their millions.
What are the 3 main uses for a computer?

  1. Research - This is where Google started; their search engine dominates worldwide.
  2. Work - Google already has this covered with Google docs, and several large corporations have already made the transfer to the 'cloud'.
  3. Recreation - Google has a very popular photo application in Picasa, and has video wrapped up with YouTube. They have also been active in Social Networking, although Orkut wasn't as successful as they would have liked. However, Friend Connect continues to grow, and rumours about Google's interest in Twitter keep resurfacing.
Where it falls short is music. How Google OS will handle music has not been fully addressed, as the machines intended to run Google OS are not intended to have the huge memory required to store thousands of MP3's. Although their are plenty of options for streaming music on the web, these sites have been faltering under the burden of fees paid to the music labels, and are more and more turning to subscription based services.

Lala had a great model, and would have been a perfect fit for 'Google Music". On one's main PC, you access your Lala account and upload your entire music library to Lala, and then access it from any machine, via the web, for free. And legal. And the beauty of the system is that you don't have to physically upload your entire collection which would use many GB of bandwidth (and take days, if not weeks) - Lala scans your music library and registers each song in it's system. Then, if you want additional music, there is a nominal charge to allow streaming, or the option of downloading the song at a cost comparable to iTunes.
Lala sounded like they had the perfect model for Google, and they were for sale. But Apple beat them to it, and we will probably see these features being rolled out in iTunes at their next release.
The unfortunate problem with that is Apple's notorious 'walled garden'. You can only access iTunes with your iPod or iPhone, and although there are millions (and millions) of such users, supporters of Google's own Mobile OS, Android, will not be able to access Lala on iTunes. Google really slipped up on this one. Hopefully they have an even better solution!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nokia Comes With Music Party Bus

As part of their 'Comes With Music' brand promotion, Nokia is taking to the roads of South Africa this summer in the Comes With Music Party Bus, featuring some great local bands along the way.

The tour kicked off yesterday (9 December) in Umhloti, north of Durban, and will travel down the coast to be in Cape Town for Christmas and New Year.

So if you want to support local music, find out more about the 'Comes With Music' offering from Nokia, or see what freebies are on offer, get down to your local beach on one of the days listed below.
From the Nokia press release:

SA’s hottest bands tour with the Nokia Comes with Music Party Bus

Nokia will be taking the South African coast by storm this festive season with the launch of the Nokia Comes with Music Party Bus. Beach-goers down South Africa’s South Coast will be serenaded by some of South Africa’s hottest bands on tour with the Nokia Comes with Music road show.  The tour will kick off in Umdloti, Durban on the 9th of December.

The Nokia Comes with Music Party bus, which will be making stops at beaches and shopping malls throughout the season, will showcase live performances from some of South Africa’s top bands which include Ashtray Electric, Taxi Violence, Mix n Blend, Straatligkinders, aKing and Loyiso.

Sarah Crowe, head of marketing for Nokia South Africa says that the bus is just another way in which Nokia is showing its support of local talent.   “Nokia has exercised support for the local industry throughout 2009 with the launch of the Nokia Music Store and then the Comes with Music service. The Comes with Music party bus is a great way to end off the year and we look forward to giving fans a chance to see their favourite artists perform live over the festive season.”

As part of the tour, Nokia will be handing out free Nokia Music Store vouchers giving fans access to tracks from their favourite performers. Tracks to be included are ‘The Dance’ by aKing, ‘Quite Overstared’ by Ashtray Electric and ‘Shall We Swing (feat, Fletcher)’ by Mix n Blend. The tracks will be given away at each performance of specific bands per day. You can hear previews of these tracks from Nokia Music Store’s latest Podcast Episode at

The Nokia Comes with Music Party Bus starts its tour in Durban following which it will travel to Margate, Port Elizabeth, Plettenberg Bay and Cape Town. 

Tour route:
9th December – Umdloti, Durban: 11h00 Ashtray Electric and 15h00 Taxi Violence
10th December – Westbrook Beach, Durban: 11h00 Taxi Violence and 15h00 Ashtray Electric
11th December – Anstey Beach, Durban: 11h00 Ashtray Electric and 15h00 Taxi Violence
12th December – Amanzimtoti, Durban: 11h00 Mix n Blend:DJ and 15h00 Straatligkinders
13th December – Amanzimtoti, Durban: 11h00 Straatligkinders and 15h00 Mix n Blend:DJ
14th December – Margate Beach, Margate: 11h00 Ashtray Electric and 15h00 Taxi Violence
15th December – Margate Beach, Margate: 11h00 Mix n Blend:DJ and 15h00 Straatligkinders
17th December – Hobie Beach, Port Elizabeth: 11h00 Mix n Blend:DJ and 15h00 Straatligkinders
18th December – Hobie Beach, Port Elizabeth: 11h00 Straatligkinders and 15h00 Mix n Blend:DJ
19th December – King’s Beach, Port Elizabeth: 11h00 Mix n Blend:DJ and 15h00 Straatligkinders
21st December – Beacon Isle Beach, Plettenberg Bay: 11h00 Mix n Blend:DJ and 15h00 AKing
23rd December – Ratanga Junction, Cape Town: 11h00 Mix n Blend:DJ and 15h00 Straatligkinders
24th December – Cape Gate Centre, Cape Town: 11h00 Taxi Violence and 15h00 Mix n Blend:Band
26th December – Ratanga Junction, Cape Town: 11h00 Mix n Blend:Band and  15h00 Taxi Violence
27th December – Somerset Mall, Cape Town: 11h00 Taxi Violence and 15h00 Mix n Blend:Band
28th December – Blue Route Mall, Cape Town: 11h00 Ashtray Electric and 15h00 Mix n Blend: Band
29th December – V&A Waterfront, Cape Town: 11h00 Mix n Blend: Band and 15h00 Ashtray Electric
30th December – V&A Waterfront, Cape Town: 11h00 Ashtray Electric and 15h00 Mix n Blend: Band
31st December – V&A Waterfront, Cape Town: 11h00 Mix n Blend: Band and Loyiso