Friday, October 22, 2010

Get it when you want it ... Get rid of cable, create your own "On Demand"

So we cut the cord in our household 2 years ago and went cable-less. But why? With all the amazing shows that you can watch and ensure you are caught up around the water cooler, why would anyone not have cable?

Let's do some numbers ....

Digital Premier = $110
HD = $8
DVR = $15.00

Cable = $133 ... $130 for good measure

Number of hours per day that TV is on in an average U.S. home: 6 hours, 47 minutes ... 7hrs for rounding's sake.

Let's use 30 days for a month ... so 210 hours of television. Assume each 1hr block represents a show.

So you are paying $0.62 per show, which is great if you really sit down and watch 7 hours of television every day for 30 days.

Let's put some brackets around this ... let's just say I can only watch TV for 3hrs a night and because of a busy weekend schedule, I don't watch on the weekends.

Let's use 4 weeks for a month ... so 60 hours of television a month.

Now you are paying $2.16 per show. That's pretty expensive considering I'm probably watching commercials in about half of those shows I'm watching. That was a loosing proposition for me.

If we were to strip away everything and start from scratch ...

Over The Air HD (ABC, NBC, CBS, WB) = $0.00
Tivo HD DVR = $10.00 per month ($200 up front for the box)
Netflix 1 DVD At A Time + Instant Watch ($8.99) + Blu-Ray ($4) = $13
Apple TV (just because you want a little extra) = $0.99 cents to rent a TV show, $4.99 to rent a movie in HD
($99 up front for the box)

Alternative Setup = $26 bucks a month ... plus any shows I may watch, round to $30 for shows or a movie here and there.

What are you missing. SPORTS ... Sports have been the one thing that has kept many folks from cutting the cord.
Live streaming of just about every game that ESPN covers.

Now how do you get that on your 100" reach through and grab someones popcorn HD screen? There are several computers that do HD straight to the back of your TV.

What else are you missing ... sitting in your living room and watching any fresh episodes of BIG cable shows like True Blood or The Big C. You get them later (on netflix or Apple TV). Stars did something different with their show Spartacus where they had it available immediately on Netflix the week it aired. More than likely cable networks will do this more often.

One could argue that to do the alternate you have to have good internet

= $60 if you are starting from scratch
= $20 if you already have it and are dropping cable television

So your savings could range from $40 (no internet at all) to $80 (had cable before and dropping it now)

Either way it's cold hard cash back in your pocket every month. A good way to be thrifty, no?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Unlikely metaphor: Computers, Cooking and the lie of Price

Just about everyone has one these days. Starbucks and local coffee's houses have their livelihood through scores of people hanging out with their laptops sipping their coffee's with uber long names. What is the right one for you? Not sure. Hopefully this will help you be more informed.

SO ... remember these commercials?

Processor ... Think of it like the cook in the kitchen. Some cooks are slow and some are fast at processing information. The other piece is something called the "bus speed". Think of it like the servers at a restaurant. If the servers are slow and the cook is fast; well, we know how that meal usually ends. A fast processor and a fast bus are important.

Memory ... Bytes. kilo, mega, giga. RAM (Random Access Memory). If process and servers are as to cooks and servers then memory is as to ?? Kitchen space. Although it's called Random Access Memory, it's purpose is far from random. If you don't have enough kitchen space, you can only take so much out at a time to prepare a meal. The meal takes longer to prepare. If you have the chef's kitchen with 4 islands, then meal prep is a little faster.

Hard Drive ... ok folks, stay with me. We've got cooks, servers, kitchen space, and now ... Refrigerators. Yes for long term storage of information you have hard drives. Just like a fridge, the bigger the better. You also want to be concerned about how fast information can be pulled from the hard drive. you have RPM (like your car) speeds, but some hard drives don't have any moving parts (solid state). Best thing to do is ask about the data transfer rates. If the person attempting to sell you a computer gives you a blank gaze. Walk away immediately.

Graphics / Audio ... you don't hear much about this piece, but it's like the restaurant ambiance. This can easily go under the radar as the differentiator in price for most computer buyers. On a daily basis you are interacting with one of 4 forms of media (1) text, (2) images, (3) video, (4) audio. And we all know if the place isn't friendly or too messy or down right boring, then you probably won't come back.

Most folks are writing papers, emails, or novels and for this, all of the above can be purchased mid-range and you will never have buyers remorse.

Audiophiles will know that it's either Dolby 5.xx or it's poor. Yes computers can output Dolby. Just ask if yours will.

For images and video, you can't shirk your duties on buying a computer that can handle it. This is usually the price differentiator on laptops. If you plan on airbrushing your favorite photo of yourself before you post it to Facebook, creating a movie from all those clips you took over the summer, playing World of Warcraft, or watching Netflix Streaming you don't want to have a cheap graphics card. If the person in the store can't explain to you why a graphics card is important, speak to their manager before they cause another person to have buyers remorse.

So that is the meat and potatoes .... but you have to have some other sides, right
Wireless ... if it's not included, you are living back in 1995. Make sure it's N ... it's that speed thing again.
Bluetooth ... again ... 1995
Webcam ... ok ... living in 2001 if it's not integrated

Operating System. We won't cover this here. Such a touchy touchy subject and people have their preferences, just like with their food.

If you are like me and are skeptical of the hype when you see the above commercials, you should do a side by side comparison of machines. What you will find is that the lie of price is a good one. If you were to go on HPs, Apples, or Dells website and customize a laptop you will find that creating comparable configurations that price becomes pretty much the same. So now that you are armed with this information and are probably starving from my food references, head to the mall. Grab some mall food and be a smart shopper about your laptop.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Our love affair with media ...

The dusty 45s, the milk crate of LPs, the rack of CDs, VHS, and DVDs, the shoebox of pictures, and the shelf of books. For the last 50 or so years we have had a clear (mostly) relationship with the media we consume. The human culture bought and owned "copy's" of media. Aside from TV, the library was the only real model we have of "renting" media (books) to consume an then give back. Television was completely free given commercials were shown same for radio an music. Along came cable TV and paying for video content you didn't own but could watch. This model still had the "watch by schedule" model. Along came the video store and then suddenly I could rent video's and then give them back. Fast forward 20yrs and along comes subscription services that allow me to listen to what I wanted vs what what was being pushed. Move forward another 10 years and now I have music, movies, books, And TV I can buy, rent, subscribe and see over and over all digitally. So now we are faced with our own personal style of media consumption. Media companies would prefer a 1 size fits all: buy 1 per device you plan on consuming your media on. Some consumers would like. The " buy once consume anywhere" (BOCA) model. Add to this the buy vs rent vs unlimited subscription payment model and you have confounded most companies on how they will deliver media content. The "watch by schedule" model isn't valid anymore. With netflix, hulu, and iTunes I will watch when I want. If I am a media company how do I manage a release schedule for programming? As a publisher, which writer do I back when some who is self publishing is more popular?

Media creators / content owners are at a crossroads of figuring out a mesh of delivery and payment models that will only get more complex as technology evolves ad our desires change for how we consume media. Will they survive for much longer? As long ad they own the majority of the consumed content.... Yes.

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