Ineffective “truth” in advertising

I saw a Google ad today that took me to Danny’s Scam Review, which links to two, er, questionable sites. (Hmm, let’s see, they use the same exact floating banner as Danny’s Scan Review. Could they possibly be related?) Anyway, the noteworthy part is when “Danny” writes, “I was scammed by 37 different ‘get rich quick schemes’ and I lost over $4800 in 3 months.”

Right, that’s just the type of savvy individual from which I’m eager to take advice.

Point and shoo, disposables

Vivitar’s forthcoming waterproof camera has pretty weak specs (why is the SD card limited to 1 GB?) and a deisgn aesthetic a bit reminiscent of the late KBGear’s JamCam for kids, but a cheap waterproof camera may be just the thing to address one of the last refuges of disposable cameras — the casual underwater photographer on vacation. We’ll see if the image quality is up to it. At $233, it’s not there yet, but at $99, many consumers might just take the plunge, so to speak. That price would also put it below many underwater casings for more popular offerings.

From TGDaily via Engadget

Who’s watching the watchmakers?

I’m delighted to see that my college friend, fellow former Cornell Daily Sun columnist, author and economics commentator Daniel Gross is. (I’ve been, too.) Dan runs some numbers in Slate and determines that the market for functional wristwear is on the decline. Indeed, the humble watch is often overlooked when thinking about competition among portable multifunction gadgets, especially cell phones, that have more glamorous cannibalistic features such as playing digital music and games, taking video and even GPS capabilities.

Dan focuses attention on Fossil, in particular its now somewhat ironically named Relic brand of basic timepieces. Dan provides a strong case that — unlike with digital cameras, iPods or DS Lites — cell phones and their tethered digital rivals may indeed be cleaning the clock of watches.

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Palm vs. the iPhone

John Markoff writes in The New York Times (registration required) that Palm has brought on former Apple engineer and Pixo founder Paul Mercer to work on “a new line of products”. The Times’ take is that this is in direct response to the iPhone. This could well be correct, or it could be the long-awaited “third category” of product to spring from Jef Hawkins’ mind. It’s certainly wise to take any new competitive threat seriously, particularly one from a company with the design expertise and marketplace momentum of Apple, but I find the Times’ characterization of “shaking up the cellphone industry” premature despite Apple’s claim of handset reinvention.

In any case, what needs shaping up is the Treo form factor, which appears on the shelf as a chubby Blackberry alternative. Treo pressure is coming from the sudden wave of popularity enjoyed by cheap Windows Mobile smartphones such as the Q, Blackjack and Dash. Differentiation from these workalikes is more important than matching the iPhone’s new directions.

Putting Palm in HP’s hands

Forbes runs through the usual suspects in terms of which company is best-positioned to snatch up Palm, which has met only with busy signals in its quest to find a permanent owner. Nokia seems to be the mindshare front-runner but I’d be surprised if the global market share leader broke with its strong Symbian support. Besides, like Palm, Nokia has taken heat for the relative girth of its handsets.

In fact, I don’t like the fit for any of the big handset guys. However, HP would be a complementary new owner. HP understands platforms. Unlike Dell with its channel conflict dilemma, HP is already in the smartphone market. And HP has a strong digital lifestyle position from which it could scale down the Treo platform, accelerating the path Palm is already on and must must pursue to compete with inexpensive smartphones from Samsung, RIM and others. Garnet OS and Windows Mobile also still retain strong PC ties — which makes sense for HP. In short, Palm would round out HP’s “three screen” strategy.

Cornice switching to flash memory

I missed this story a few weeks ago about miniature hard disk maker Cornice allegedly losing investor interest, but it’s not surprising. The iPod nano replacing the mini was the milestone in the demise of the 1″ and smaller hard drive for portable products and of course flash price-performance improves constantly.

Seagate and other manufacturers put on a brave face about hard drives continuing to reign where maximum capacity or best price-performance is key, but in a few years the SSD is going to be as strong a competitor in the laptop market as flash is now in the digital audio player and — more significantly — cell phone market.

Today I need a relatively large hard drive to store my digital music collection, but flash price-performance is growing faster than my music collection is.

Bluetooth: Sony’s new Memory Stick

This week Sony unveiled more of its lineup for 2007, including a number of traditional audio products such as boomboxes and a variety of shelf systems that can use Bluetooth to stream audio from a cell phone or Sony Network Walkman. Bluetooth has also been shown as an option for Sony’s digital media port on its receivers and new Bravia (nee DreamSystem) home theater systems.

It’s good to see Sony getting a jump on Bluetooth for home A/V integration. The company arrived late to the iPod speaker dock game, ceding much of that market to the likes of Bose and Altec Lansing, but has an opportunity to capitalize on A2DP Bluetooth audio. Bluetooth is a standard, of course, but implementation of it has had a disproportionate share of incompatibilities. A cheap example is the Fossil/Sony Ericsson Bluetooth Caller ID watches, so there’s room for optimization, particularly with Sony Ericsson mobiles.

Since Bluetooth audio is streamed, it avoids some of the messy DRM file transfer issues on memory cards. Meanwhile, the memory card format wars have reached detente, with Sony supporting SD in more products such as the PlayStation 3, Sony Reader, and of course Vaio PCs.

Speaking of Bluetooth stereo audio, I believe Apple will support it in the iPhone even though it has been reluctant to do so in the iPod. The competition here is too great and Apple has traditionally executed well on standards such as USB, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in Macs. Consider it another carrot for today’s iPod user.

Back online

Out of the Box had a day or two of downtime due to some plug-incompatibilities with a WordPress upgrade. We have found and terminated those responsible (the plug-ins, not the people) and apologize for any inconvenience.

Where analog TV will live on

Robert Scoble sounds a little confused about the difference between digital and high-definition TV and what implications it will have on the analog cut-off in 2009, but over-the-air analog broadcasts will indeed end soon. I don’t know if Robert is familiar with the extensive debating that occurred regarding a hard cut-off date but we now have one and we should stick to it.

As his commenters point out, those who want to continue receiving over-the-air signals with their old TVs will continue to be able to do so with a subsidized converter box. That said, I also think Robert underestimates how quickly prices will come down on LCD televisions by 2009. Hey, that TV is going to die some day.

Ultimately, though, analog TV will live on for many years via analog cable, which still makes up a high percentage of cable subscriptions.

Camcorders become Canon fodder

The just-announced Canon PowerShot TX1 is a strong candidate to become my next everyday digital camera. An image-stabilized 10x zoom and 720p video recording in a compact form factor should be a highlight of PMA.

HD was supposed to save the camcorder market, and of course products using discs and hard drives can store a lot more than the 13 minutes a 4 GB flash card can for the TX1. But the TX1 already supports SDHC for higher-capacity cards, and I’ve never shot anything close to 13 minutes of video with a digital camera. That said, low-light video performance on most digital cameras is still far below those on dedicated camcorders. I’m also hoping that Pure Digital will go upscale with its Point & Shoot line.