A World With Free Hardware (Google/Motorola)

This is a 2010 cartoon. A lot's changed in a year, huh?

Why did Google buy Motorola Mobility? For the patents, or in preparation for a world where hardware, like software, is free and ad supported? This is a tricky thing to consider in the Mac Era where, “Apple needs people to congregate around a very small number of designs–phones that are placed on altars, so that people can genuflect beneath them before touching them with respectful gingerness.”

That’s a direct quote from a fascinating perspective of Mac vs. Google titled So Google now wants to be like Apple (Wait, what?). It’s written by Technically Incorrect writer Chris Matyszczyk, who spares no sucker punches on Google either: “Google is to emotional sustenance what Jessica Simpson is to opera. The company has always existed to impress–then please–engineers, with real people being a secondary market.”

But here’s where it gets interesting. Matyszczyk raises the question of whether Google wasn’t after Motorola patents as much as designing for a “free hardware” generation, which is no less plausible than a once-RIP Apple reviving digital purchases, fashionable, mainstream devices and demand so strong people were even willing to suffer AT&T to get an iPhone. Right?

“Apple needs people to pay good money for hardware. So why wouldn’t Google consider a world in which the hardware is free? Apple needs people to congregate around a very small number of designs–phones that are placed on altars, so that people can genuflect beneath them before touching them with respectful gingerness. So why wouldn’t Google march in the direction of allowing people to design their own phones, so that suddenly a Googorola phone is less the product of a brand and more an expression of the person who both created it and bought it? Aiming to be like Apple feels unimaginative, almost depressive. Inspiring real people to think that there is a world beyond Apple–one that might be even better, even more original– is something that ought to be Google’s challenge.

Hmmmm... free hardware? Sounds scary, but so did "free Microsoft" cloud-based alternatives a few years ago. Use Google documents lately?

Consider the possibility of free hardware, or even free ad-supported cellular coverage. Like me, you may imagine cheap disposable pre-paid phones (itself no stranger 5 years ago than space cars). Or you might imagine an intrusive ad thrust before each phone call, like a pre-roll before a video.

Perhaps you pride yourself on being frugal, and willing to suffer through ads for free stuff, or even defeat them with hacks. Otherwise you might find yourself willing to pay a premium for that portable brain you carry and interact with for hours upon a day.

Matyszczyk’s characterization of Google is well founded. The culture is amiable but somewhat intellectually arrogant (or as he puts even better, “Google fancies itself as having brains bigger than Mars”). Sure we all use Google, but would we pay for it? Google has loads of users, but few that pay for the products and services. Is that by design or because it’s “good but not good enough?”

The Mac vs. Google battle has always fascinated me because I like them both for different reasons. I had almost forgotten about Microsoft until I grabbed that cartoon above (although it was funny hearing my son ask about Bing last night after seeing an ad the Glee Project). Google is like a smart friend, always better at helping me find stuff. Mac is like the fun friend, almost always more intuitive, friendly and integrated. It’s easy to imagine the Mac bubble bursting, and it’s also easy to imagine a “free everything by Google” era. But in the short run, I’d expect the next 5 years to be far less black and white. We’ll make important tradeoffs based on convenience, budget and user-experience.

Why? Consider these observations:

  • We’re feisty. Blackberry has shown that establishing corporate info-tech (IT) relationships as “barriers to entry” is a non-sustainable strategy, and that ultimately even dull business people’s devices are too important to. They’ve flocked to Droid and iPhones, and the faster hardware/telcom hybrid to appease nervous IT leaders will have a non-trivial advantage (ludicrous example: I can use my iPhone and expense $20 per month to my employer, but I bought a stupid Blackberry because then almost my entire voice/data plan can be expensed).
  • There’s probably a free alternative to most things you’ve bought digitally in the past year. I believe most WVFF readers are trend-setters in this space. But sometimes “free” is too much work. Remember that cable “cord cutters” remain in the significant minority.
  • Pick Mac. Pick Google. Just keep depending on technology, and don't mind me.

    Our lives are becoming increasingly dependent on technology (thus of course preparing the machine to takeover humanity). That means that our expectations are higher, and we often value our time and experience more than an upcharge.

  • So sure the future will have free options, just like there is a lot of free television and video content available if you’re inclined to chase it down. But we’re irrational humans who dish out our money for emotional needs than wrap rational excuses around them. So as long as the humans still run the technology companies, there will still be un-free and we’ll run to them like lemmings.

I see three strategies for the whirlwind ahead: The “charge a premium and make the service and product a delight,” the “reasonably priced, and highly personalized,” and the “free and you get what you pay for.”

Hulu’s New Owner: Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo?

Lots of speculation in the news about Hulu’s new owner. The Hulu peeps (Disney, NBC) opted against an IPO (initial public offering), and have an investment banker looking for a buyer.

Are we surprised that Hulu is for sale? Nope. In 2006 (give years ago) we posted that “Networks Pretend They Can Rival YouTube.” These types of things, I said, typically fail without “a STRONG intermediary is taking the lead and the individual players give authority and accountability to that player. Otherwise the interests of specific participants will almost always trump to collective goal.”

The news was dense with suggestions that Google might acquire Hulu. But despite suggestions Google and Hulu are in preliminary discussions, I’m finding that unlikely. Hulu is rumored to be trying to fetch $2 billion, which seems awfully high to me. I would suspect MSN or Yahoo would find far more interest than Google. The search giant paid less than $2 billion for YouTube ($1.65 billion), and I’m sure there is at least one tech company that would pay $2 billion simply to keep it out of Google’s hands.

What do you think?

Microsoft Catching Up: Bing and Video

Thanks to “Seeing Through the Windows” author Preston Gralla and SFGate’s Matt Rosoff for pointing out what I’d missed.

While YouTube/Google retains its massive lead in online-video viewing, Microsoft is catching up.

I’ve written about comScore’s newest rankings, but failed to recognize that Microsoft quietly crept from #7 (last month) to #2. That fact went largely unnoticed by many of us… is it a variation or a trend? Neither Gralla or Rosoff offer, from my perspective, a solid explanation for Microsoft’s sudden ranking. Perhaps people are using Bing’s video search engine? But why?

This hardly makes sense to me. Today the Bing video site featured Jessica Black (Friday) song. It might have been titled, “search what was popular on YouTube last month.”

Getting Blog Text Into Book? WTF?

I hate to use a blog to solve for this, but everything else including MOTHER GOOGLE has failed me.

I am writing a book, and I want to leverage the text from this blog… three years of crap here. Not too schabby. I can export from WordPress (this blog’s software) into an XML document. But it’s got some errors or can’t easily be turned into text… even with some word editor.

My goal is to pull 400 posts from this blog (that Jan, thank you, has identifies as potential content for the book). Alas, it’s looking like I’m going to have to pay someone to manually do that horrendous job.

Ideally I’d like to export the 400 blog posts from WillVideoForFood.com into a word document that preserves only the title, the copy (perhaps the hyperlinks and date). No comments or photos… sorry backrow.

Damnit I thought that would be easy, but it’s sent me into a spiriling of nothing.


Cell Phone Parody Videos: iPhone, oPhone, Blackberry and Android

It’s July 3, which is annual “bitch about your stupid cell phone day.” Don’t verify that on Wikipedia yet.

So let’s step back, but not rate or compare the Microsoft oPhone, iPhone, Android and Blackberry for a moment. But let’s not debate Mac versus Microsoft versus Google versus Blackberry. It just divides humanity, and that’s what politics are for.

So instead let’s debate not the cell phones but the quality of the video parodies they spawn. Given that I did three of these four, I’ll offer up some unbiased thoughts: And before you bitch about me using this post as “self promotion” read my damned tagline above. It’s my mission in life.

The Microsoft Mobile oPhone video (not mine) was Filet Mignon in a blender. Although it was a bit drawn out, there were a few great gags (the circular message text and the notion of programming for a circle). Nathan Weinberg, who runs the InsideMicrosoft and InsideGoogle blogs, is behind it (see him on YouTube).


The iPhone was, as all Nalts videos, was too long. But for a guy with no budget and in a hurry to get to work, that Nalts gets a B plus.


The Android video was a collaboration with Slater. I thought it would viralinate more, but in hindsight I think it was a bit too “inside Madison Avenue.” It didn’t help that my good camera was in repair so my part looked and sounded like ass. Slater and his wife cracked me up, though.


Finally there’s Blackberry/Crackberry. In retrospect I think most of these gags were too obvious. But it did garner a lot of media attention (a bunch of national networks ripped it… maybe I’ll have a judge audit that) because I released it just before a study confirmed that Blackberry’s are evil.

You know as I look back at Crackberry Blackberry, it got a lot more media attention that views. Counter that with this crappy video I posted last week (“Scary Maze“) which has been viewed 180K times — while Crackberry (now 2 years old) has only about 100K views.

Hey! Nalts is just like a cell-phone provider. Providing crappier quality but getting more business!