“It’s Tough to Make Predictions, Especially About the Future”*

Netflix CEO Chairman and CEO Reed Hastings predicts that within 10 to 20 years all television will be headed to the Internet.

Speaking with Mad Money’s Jim Cramer, Hastings cited the success of Netflix’s original programming such as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” as prototypes for the future of all television. “The Internet is changing so many sectors of our economy, and we are Internet TV; and that sector has grown from very small 15 years ago to starting to be significant now.”

Hastings stopped short of saying that cord cutting would be the end of traditional television. “There are a few people who have cut the cord, but it is very, very small still today.” He said that cord cutting will be more of a long-term problem.

Hastings believes that sports networks will be the first to go to an on-demand format, to be followed by an increasing number of linear networks. HBO has already begun to move in that direction; Hastings expects they will be followed by many more.

Is this too much to ask?

Is this too much to ask?

While Hastings’ remarks raised eyebrows in the industry, the business of prognostication is not nearly as easy as it might first appear. I can’t help but think of October 21, 2015–the date in the then-distant future that Marty McFly visited in the movie “Back to the Future II,” released in 1989. Though it’s amusing to look back with modern eyes at the late-80s vision of today, whenever I think about the film I can’t help but feel a pang of regret that we don’t yet have hoverboards. Darn it, we were promised hoverboards. Read more

The Quickest Way to Network Collapse, and Some Ruminations at 201

whiteback08794598rAbout a year ago, my neighborhood list-serve featured some posts (none of which were confirmed) about burglars who were disabling telephone lines before breaking into houses. The trope was that no matter how many redundancies were built into anyone’s home security system, a cheap pair of wire cutters could be the difference between central station notification and the disappearance of your new TV.

To be sure, I took a look at my own system for vulnerabilities. Wireless notifications and some other safeguards can beat the wire clippers. But, regardless of whether the events actually occurred, the thesis was sound – the most secure systems can be brought down by the smallest, most seemingly insignificant vulnerability. Read more

That Sound You Hear? It’s Minds Being Blown….

For me, the most exciting technology is the stuff that I never considered before, but suddenly absolutely must have. Korean technology company LG demoed two such game changing technologies at the recent IFA show in Berlin.

First up is a massive 111 inch Ultra-HD OLED television. And as if that wasn’t enough, the set is double sided—you can watch coming and going.

I'm not really sure what it is....but I want one.

For when watching one side of your TV set just won’t do.

The set is actually comprised of three separate 65 inch OLED displays. According to LG, OLED technology facilitates perfect blacks, vivid color, wide viewing angles, and allows for displays as thin as 6 mm. Dr. Ching W. Teng, a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the University of Rochester—and widely recognized as “the father of OLED”—claims that “the OLED display is fundamentally less complicated compared to LCD, and in time less costly to manufacture. I have no doubt…OLED is the display technology for the next generation.”

The next potential game changer is a 55 inch, 1 mm thick, “rollable” TV.  That’s right—the TV is flexible and can be rolled for whatever purpose the owner wants it to. The TV is ultra light, and can be attached to a wall via a series of magnets. It is, by far, the most portable 55 inch TV ever created.

You didn't even know you needed a 55" rollable TV, did you?

You didn’t even know you needed a 55″ rollable TV, did you?

So far, the nagging details—such as price points, and launch dates—have not been made available. But far more important is the fact that we now live in a world where such products are reality. And we’re all just a little bit better off for that.

What market niche will these products fill? At the moment, probably none. But that’s not the point—they’re out there (or soon will be), and people will want them. And someday, in the not-too-distant future, we’ll wonder how we ever got along without them.

Product Review: Satellite Rescue


Tent Rocks, top of the trail.

Several years ago, I hiked a short trail at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, having noticed the park entrance while driving by. It was late in a hot New Mexico day with a fairly thin margin until sunset, but I calculated that I had sufficient time to take the trail. I was about half-way in when I thought that if I became incapacitated on the trail (slip and fall, heat issues, etc. – as a lawyer, I tend to see the hazard), I would be up there alone as night fell, and probably remain there alone until morning. My realization became a bit more pronounced when I recalled that until that point I had seen only two other souls on the trail, and they were on their way out. Last month, I recounted noticing a lack of cell service on a well-traveled highway. Swap the highway with a steep gravel path and the potential hazard comes into focus. Of course, people have hiked through history with neither phones nor service, but we become accustomed to certain conveniences and then take them as necessities. And, for what it’s worth, at Tent Rocks I was alone, so a signal, had one been available, would have been a lifeline (spoiler alert: I made it out OK).

download (2)Enter the SPOT Gen3. The SPOT Gen3 is a satellite-enabled tracking device that can send pre-written messages as well as emergency SOS calls. About half as large as a pack of cigarettes, it is designed to hang off a belt loop or backpack and offers a measure of security for those traveling outside of mobile phone coverage areas.

The SPOT Gen3 works on a purchase-then-subscribe basis. The unit can be found on Amazon for about $150, but  deep (to the tune of 50 percent) price cuts can be found by visiting the manufacturer’s website directly; the annual subscription fee is about $150. Users register the unit and create a personalized, password-protected account that can accessed from anywhere one can obtain web connectivity. The unit can be set to record its path as it moves, as well as to send simple, pre-written messages to designated email accounts when the user desires. These messages can be altered from any web-connected device, but not from the SPOT Gen3 itself. So, if you program the device to “check-in” with a message that reads, for example, “Arrived and all OK,” you cannot amend it when you reach your campsite to say, “Send more matches,” unless you have phone or internet access (in which case you might either simply call, text or email). Read more

Two Quarters on Defender (and Telehealth)

imagesTwo nights ago, I rolled up summer, somewhat literally. June and July saw particularly rainy months in the Washington region, particularly on weekends, which meant that my plans to unfurl the tent were always deferred the weather. I finally managed to get some camping in two weekends ago, and last Saturday night saw the tent pitched again, this time in the backyard where a half-dozen boys marked the last free weekend before school begins tomorrow. On Sunday evening, while some remnants of the previous evening’s campfire were being recycled in the smoker, I did my best to tightly roll a 17′ x 10′ tent into a bag barely longer than a yardstick. And with each blade of grass and and bit of dirt that rolled up with it, the summer glided to its natural, if not too-soon, end.

The title of this post refers to a summertime practice of a time that I was about the age of the backyard campers – biking about seven blocks to Cochran’s Drugs and playing Defender, widely considered to be one of the best video arcade games of that era. Prospective players secured their place in line by placing a quarter on the console, two if you were about to challenge a friend (a commentary on the Internet – when I googled, “Cochran’s drugs,” the results reported the arrest of a Congressional staffer for possession of meth). I was reminded of “Defender days” by this article from Motherboard which describes convention for arcade fans and features hundreds of games brought in by collectors (for a great retro flash, view this video of “Starcade,” a TV game show based on . . . arcade games). Read more

Somewhere, Emily Post is Not Well Pleased….

Emily Post spent the vast majority of her 87 years instructing the ill-mannered and the boorish how to behave in polite society. At the time of her 1960 passing, the mobile telecommunications devices that we have become so enamored of were still decades away.

If Emily Post had ever used a cellphone, she would have done so politely.

If Emily Post had ever used a cellphone, she would have done so politely.

Pew Research Center has recently examined Americans’ beliefs about mobile etiquette. Suffice to say, the results would have upset Mrs. Post greatly.

Pew finds that 77% of American adults believe it’s “generally OK” to use a cellphone while walking down the street. (Apparently, these same folks believe it’s “generally OK” to walk head-on into innocent bystanders.) Seventy-six percent believe it’s acceptable to use a cellphone on public transportation, and 74% while waiting in line.

The numbers shrink considerably where more intimate social situations are concerned. Only 12% believe it to be acceptable to use a mobile device at a family dinner, 5% at a meeting, 5% in a movie theater, and 4% at church or worship services. (So why is it that those 5% seem to consistently attend the very same movies as I do?)

While 89% of cellphone owners say they used their phone during the most recent social gathering they attended, a large number of these individuals justified their actions by noting that they used their cellphone in a manner tied to the gathering. For example, 45% used their phone to post a picture they had taken of the gathering; 41% shared something that had occurred in the group; 38% got information they thought would be interesting to the group; and 31% connected with people who are known to the group. Read more

Post Office, Sprint Try Something New (But Not Together)


In the spirit of Cliff Clavin, the first drink is “on me” if you can identify what is special about this post.

In case you missed it . . . Sprint became the third major wireless provider to turn away from two-year contracts and will instead require customers to either purchase or lease their phones. Sprint’s announcement came only days after Verizon unveiled a series of new plans in which phones will no longer be subsidized in exchange for a two-year contract. Instead, customers will be able to pay a monthly fee toward the purchase of the phone. T-Mobile has operated under a similar model for several years, leaving AT&T the last bastion of the subsidized smart phone.

Sprint is also tapping into a population of Apple devotees, offering the “iPhone Forever” plan which for $22 per month will permit customers to upgrade to the latest iPhone each year when it becomes available (as a staid Blackberry user, I respect the interests of Apple fans but nevertheless marvel that Sprint can offer a plan built solely around the need to have latest iPhone) (and I say that as I await the Blackberry Venice . . .).

Verizon has stated that its “no contract” model simplifies account management for consumers. Arguably, it also simplifies matters for the carrier by cutting the subsidization factor out of the picture and structuring some phone purchases as an installment plan. It also shifts a greater proportion of phone cost to the customer. A retrospective view of the industry could argue that subsidies were necessary to build large bases of customers who, once captured and acclimated to (if not nearly dependent on) wireless services would then be reluctant to relinquish the benefits of mobile services. Read more

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