Category Archives: Opinion

Why I joined The Blender Cloud

Blender LogoYesterday, while I was receiving my 13th chemotherapy shot at the hospital infusion suite, I’ve spontaneously joined The Blender Cloud.

Full of pride I mentioned this on Twitter, and Ton Roosendaal asked me to sum up what got me on board in one tweet. That’s not an easy feat, considering what the Blender Cloud has to offer, and the more I thought about it, the more reasons sprang to mind.

Here’s why I did it (in slightly more than 160 characters).

Continue reading Why I joined The Blender Cloud





Hey there, Television! How’s it going?

What’s wrong with this picture:

Some organisation decides to broadcast a movie or TV show, at a time that they deem “the best” to maximise their profits. The organisation¬†has commissioned the programme at great expense,¬†and they decide to chop it up into little pieces and place a plethora of annoying adverts in it to make money.

In order for me to watch the programme, I have to pay my Cable TV company to see it. In essence, I’m paying to watch advertising. I’m paying to get annoyed.

This is the traditional method of delivering private TV stations into the homes of many hundred million people around the world. The way this happens is slightly different from country to country, but the principle remains the same Рor shall we say WAS the same Рfor the last several decades.

Because with the advent of services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, who is stupid enough to watch a mediocre programme live on air? Time Delay Technology (like DVRs, DVD and even VHS recorders) have really only delayed the inevitable. Even “we’ll send you DVDs by post” services didn’t quite make an impact and were quickly replaced by streaming services.

 

The Beginnings in 2000

I remember back in 2000, or around that time, there was a Chinese website – highly illegal of course – which for $99 per year offered anything from cracked software to movies and TV shows. Members could download as much as they liked, burn things to DVD and use such cracked warez.

Back then I thought, “imagine I had a legal alternative to this service – I’d sign up immediately”. The problem we had back then was not so much the devices at home, even though it wasn’t easy to connect them¬†to big TV screens as it is today. It was the connection speed to the internet that held us up.

I remember I was with Homechoice at the time: for ¬£40 per month I’d get a 512 kBps connection (another 512kBps was reserved for their abysmal TV on demand service). Nobody could offer anything faster at the time in the UK. But that wasn’t fast enough even to satisfy SD streaming really, and DVD and traditional television had the upper hand, at least in terms of quality.

Those however were the humble beginnings of a revolution which has only just begun.

 

Fast Forward 15 years

Today (2015)¬†streaming media services are commonplace. Even though iTunes and their iTunes Store were the first to offer an integrated experience from an online store to a device, they no longer hold the monopoly. Paying for music that you already owned again and again was working for the record industry for many years. It no longer does. Its time you realize that online is the world now, don’t stay local, Move Your Money Project online.

The same holds true for TV services: Streaming videos, even streaming video games, can now be had for less than the price of a cable TV subscription. There’s really no need to buy physical media anymore unless you feel nostalgic.

Where does that leave the cable providers – and more importantly – the private TV stations who existed for the sole purpose of eliciting money from advertisers? How long will advertisers pour money into a medium that nobody is watching anymore?

Where will Sky & Co be in 10 years time, or ITV, or any of the major US networks?

 

Fast Forward another 10 years

Soon there will be the point at which the classic “on a schedule” TV programming will no longer be watched, purely because there are cheaper and better alternatives out there. Without advertising.

A large broadcaster will no longer be able to commission high budget TV shows in the future, and instead the equivalent of Amazon Originals will be in charge of new shows (and how we watch them).

Industry professionals probably know better how much trouble they are in than I do, but I don’t see them doing anything to prevent their own demise. I see things like “watch it again online if you’ve missed it” type approaches, along the lines of iTV Player. Or the idea that people are charged for single episodes directly by the broadcaster.

But even the “iTunes approach” (buy once – own it forever) isn’t going to hold up much longer either: because what’s the point in paying $40 for one season of a show, if for $7.99 a month you can see thousands of such shows? There is no need to “own” anything anymore, neither music nor a video file as long as we subscribe to a service that will make it available if and when we want it. How much more convenient is that?

In the audio world, Spotify has been leading the way for a while, but there are many other similar services available. It didn’t take long until this business model (pay per month, unlimited streaming) was available to videos too, which brings us up to date to 2015.

To me it feels like FINALLY a form of TV watching has arrived, or taken over, that I had dreamt of for many years. I embrace it and I haven’t watched “traditional TV” since 1998 (other than in hotels once a year).

 

Where does this leave traditional broadcasters?

That’s the $100.000 question, is it not? Where will the multi million dollar broadcasters¬†around the globe be when nobody tunes in anymore? When that rerun¬†from 20 years ago at 3am doesn’t cut the mustard anymore? When once loyal viewers switch off for good and invest their time elsewhere? And when advertisers¬†aren’t prepared to pay thousands of dollars per second anymore?

Perhaps they should create several other channels with the same content, maybe even exactly the same, but delayed by an hour or two. Yeah, that’s a great idea. Dave Plus 1. Awesome!

Putting programming – including adverts – online for a limited time is a good start, but it doesn’t really solve the long term problem of how to make money. Maybe preroll and overlay ads are the solution…¬†cast your mind back for a second and tell me:¬†when was the last time you’ve clicked on an overlay ad on YouTube? How about NEVER?

I wonder how they will be able to tackle this dilemma. Or if they won’t be able to do this at all. Perhaps broadcasters will simply die a slow death,¬†cutting personal costs and programming budgets further than they have already, until there’s really nothing left for them to do than sell the real estate they own for a quick buck.

How many years have they got left? Five? Maybe ten? Who will be around in 2025?

The clock is ticking, and I’ll be watching.





What I’d like to see in a potential Apple iPad Pro

Rumours that Apple are working on a larger version of the iPad go back at least a couple of years. In fact I had secretly dreamt up something I felt they should call the iPad Air around 2013, before Apple had actually come out with the “real” iPad Air.

See, my idea was to make an Apple version of what Microsoft did successfully with the Surface Pro:

  • take a MacBook Air
  • take off the keyboard
  • and add¬†a touch screen
  • give us a real Wacom stylus
  • keep the size of 12-13 inches
  • and voila!

That’s precisely what a Surface Pro is – and I love using mine. But there’s room for improvement, and although I’ve not used the latest Surface Pro 3, or a Wacom Intuos Companion, I’d still like to see something along those lines running Apple software.

Specifically for graphic intense tasks, a stylus is a must – Wacom or otherwise. Ultimately I want a portable Apple-powered Intuos Companion, for drawing as well as “real” handwriting. And with rumours of what the media now dub The iPad Pro, we may see such a gadget at some point¬†in 2015.

But here’s the problem: Microsoft have one version of Windows on the Surface Pro. Therefore desktop apps run great out of the box. And Apple don’t have that. iOS and OS X are worlds apart, even if you can use similar code and turn it into two applications. Xcode supports that.

The iPad Pro as I envision it would seriously benefit from running OS X and make use of the full array of desktop applications such as Photoshop, SketchBook Pro and many others. By which I mean existing apps that we know which are ready to go. Not specced-down versions that don’t deliver.

If however Apple were to bring out an iPad Pro type device and instead have it run iOS, then all we’d really have is a large iPad. There would be no benefits to it whatsoever, other than yet another screen size. Granted, over the next few years apps will emerge that will¬†find uses for it, but that’s in the future and not usable from the get go. And sure, we’ll be able to enjoy Procreate on a very large display, but squishy rubber-tip styluses are not the same as using an Intuos pen on a real tablet.

So if the iPad Pro is to come out, what will Apple¬†put on it? Here are four options I’ve dreamt up.

Continue reading What I’d like to see in a potential Apple iPad Pro





Mac Mini 2014: If that’s the future, you can keep it!

Over the last few months I was considering buying a Mac Mini. I’m currently using my high-spec MacBook Pro 2.8GHz Dual Core i7 on a 27′ Thunderbolt Display, but it’s awkward to unplug every time I want to use it as a laptop. The Mac Mini would streamline my desk and add some more power to those 3D apps I’m using.

Or so I thought.

When the refreshed 2014 Mac Mini line was introduced this week¬†I couldn’t quite believe my eyes: Appe have¬†made the little guy much slower than his predecessors!

Granted, the graphics card is better, the IO ports are faster¬†– but the Firewire 800 port has been removed¬†– which is not such good news for video editors. And in terms of processing power, all we¬†can get now are Dual Core i5 models which are slower than my current 3yr old laptop. The 2012 models featured Quad Core i7’s at 2.3GHz, something I had really looked forward to.

The Mac Mini 2012 lineup
The Mac Mini 2012 lineup wasn’t bad at all

For many buyers the Mac Mini was a cheaper alternative to the overpriced Mac Pro: get the medium model, increase the RAM, replace the 1TB drive with an SSD, and for about $1000 you’ve got a super small desktop with more processing power than most people know what to do with.

It was a blessing for professionals: You could buy 4 such machines for the same money as a single Mac Pro which is less than twice as fast.

Apple aren’t stupid. They know this too. Notice that the current line-up of Mac Mini’s no longer includes a Server model, probably because nobody ever bought it. Buyers like me would opt instead¬†for the $200 cheaper model with an empty hard drive slot, ready for aftermarket goodies.

Perhaps such a powerful¬†2012 Mac Mini was hurting Mac Pro and iMac sales, and¬†I guess the decision was made to relegate the Mini to be a cheap “web and email machine”. No professional should ever look at it again.

And to bring this point home with a baseball bat, Apple have removed the ability for users to upgrade the RAM or the hard disk after purchase. Even though there is room for a second hard drive in there – just like before – the Mac Mini is now unopenable for mere mortals.

So NO¬†Tim, not “everything is great”.

This leaves me with the decision to quickly get one of the 2012 models, or rethink the way I do things with my MacBook / Thunderbolt setup.

The new Mac Mini 2014 lineup leaves you wanting more. Or rather less.

Continue reading Mac Mini 2014: If that’s the future, you can keep it!





Dear Microsoft, is everything OK in Redmond?

20140621-124416.jpg

Hello Microsoft, I hear you have announced that on the 20th of June 2014 you’ll release a new version of your tablet device, the Surface Pro 3.

At first I thought those auto-completed search results were generated by fanboys looking ahead into 2015. It couldn’t be true, and it didn’t make sense I thought. Because the last Surface just came out a few months ago. But then I searched myself and found it was true. Press Release and everything. Microsoft are serious about it.

Confused I read a “preview review”: Surface Pro 3 is thinner and lighter (both in weight and colour), it’s faster and it’s even cheaper than the previous model. It also no longer features Wacom digitizer technology. Instead it has some other non-brand thing built in that makes touch input less accurate, but makes for more natural handwriting from what I understand. You probably know this better than I do.

What I couldn’t quite understand is why? Why replace a solid device so soon after it’s been released?

By my count that gives the Surface Pro an 8 month release cycle!

Continue reading Dear Microsoft, is everything OK in Redmond?