Netflix is a diabetic eating at MacDonalds & HP has a brain September 2, 2011
September 2, 2011
This week, I have repeated two statements I thought I would never utter. No, I didn’t say “hey, that’s one badass Camry you have there” — but it’s damn close.
Statement 1: HP is perceptive & brilliant. Realizing they had made a fatal decision with their tech platform (webOS tablet), they did not opt for the dumb decision that so many US companies go for. Usually, a company rides a bad tech decision down, like a very slowly sinking ship. Submitted for your approval: Motorola’s RAZR which turned into the ROKR which turned into a failed division which turned into complete patent liquidation. Yikes, failure on an epic scale and it can all be traced back to an awful tech decision. And this is all over the place:
Apple’s attempt at allowing 3rd parties to build Macs (upside: allowed Jobs to buy back into Apple for dirt cheap)
Border’s stupid, junky, and expensive Kobo e-reader and now, bankruptcy
Sirius & XM had great ideas and just couldn’t quite make the tech small or easy enough for anyone (if I can’t use it … then you’ve got a prob)
Could Palm make a cool phone? ever? technological darwinism. Too bad, because their Exchange & Outlook integration is still unparalleled
Lotus Notes, 1-2-3, and everything else they made. Lotus dominated in the DOS era and then just sort of sat on their butts once Windows came along. Phhht!
Anyway, HP decided not to follow that path and dumped their tablets for $100 and scored a massive win. WebOS is kinda ok and also kinda not (big reason is the lack of apps), but it’s just one of many low-resource OS’s out there now … iOS, Chrome OS, Android, Moblin (now MeeGo). App developers can probably only build for 1 or 2. So webOS is probably not one of them. Dying platform webOS was formerly a punchline, but within a week, it’s relevant because of suddenly huge market saturation. A major manufacturer has a $100 tablet? Hell yeah, I’ll buy one, I don’t care what’s on it. It’s cheaper than a baby camera or a GPS.
So HP put on a clinic on how to bail out a slowly sinking ship. The same CEOs that I previously mocked are now acting in an impressive manner … yikes!
Statement 2: Netflix is a dying dinosaur. My favorite company ever made a disastrous choice when they decided to increase & complicate their fees by creating one fee for streaming video and one for physical DVD rentals. Archaic and complex billing is the domain of the most reviled of all industries — phone carriers (AT&T, Sprint, and all those vomitous pigs). Can you decipher your phone bill? Why do you sign up for a contract at $70/month and end up paying $90/month? I hate them, like we all do, and yet I pay them, like we all do. Deep loathing is the natural universal response to complex billing (loans, telephone, cable, etc.).
Netflix has proven that the honeymoon is over by unnecessarily eliminating the simplified billing. Their service may even be worth what they are saying it is … but you can’t pull that shit and not expect an immense and immediate backlash from your client base. If they just would have let existing customers get grandfathered in on the old billing and then apply NEW billing to NEW users, all would have been dandy.
The downward slide began there and now Starz (who provides Netflix with rights to stream new movies from Disney and Sony) is bailing out on Netflix. I bet 30% of streaming video is kid’s stuff and 99% of THAT is Disney. When you are in line at Costco and your 3-year-old begins getting that shifty frown that means “tantrum ahead”, you’re five finger taps away from getting her Cinderella fix from Netflix. You might even deal with that crappy billing system to have a surefire meltdown-stopper at your fingertips. Oh, but not anymore.
Why did Starz do it? It cannot be coincidence that Netflix made a hugely backhanded and crappy maneuver with its userbase. Perhaps, Starz is savvy enough to realize that the unsinkable behemoth has momentarily exposed a weak side. Now is the time to strike or, with all of the recent expensive infrastructure and asset acquisition, Netflix is over-extended. I would never characterize Netflix as a particularly vulnerable company, but due to a series of poor decisions, they might have just given themselves the ultimate smackdown. They can’t afford to battle a large competitor … SOOOOO Starz may be angling to launch their own streaming service, after realizing just what a monster pile of internet gold they are sitting on. Might they be prepping to feast cheaply on the corpse of Netflix’s streaming infrastructure.
As Radiohead sang in “Just”, “You do it to yourself, you do, and that’s what really hurts.”
I may have figured out how Lala works their licensing mystery. When synching your music collection, the service somehow matches mp3 tags like artist, album, and song title. I think song length may also have something to do with it. If it finds an “approximate” match AND the song is licensed for Lala’s use, the song gets dropped into your online music collection. I bet this is somewhere in the FAQ on their web site, but I never read that nonsense … do you?
Why did I only find this out 6 months after I started using Lala? Very good question … glad I asked it. It takes forever to upload songs, so I only uploaded the first 20 gigs of my music collection. I never processed the whole collection because I have 500+ gigs of music. Because of how I originally converted all my CDs, my music collection is organized in an odd manner. It’s very complex, but let’s just say I uploaded the most mainstream music first. All my music matched and so I blissfully used Lala for 6 months. Now that I am so enamored of Lala, I’ve decided to upload the rest. Much of this current music that I am uploading is eclectic and indie. So it’s not really matching. See, I may be uploading a live or demo or rare version, and Lala mismatches it with the production studio version of the tune! If it doesn’t match, Lala omits it from the album entirely. This isn’t so bad, except you don’t know until you go to play an album and the last track isn’t there or track 5 is not what you’d expect or way too loud compared to the rest of the album. I’m obsessive about music and my spidey sense tingles when something is out of whack. However, I breathe deeply. count to 10, and then move on. Oh … the other issue is that on CDs with unnamed hidden tracks, I’ve edited out the silence and re-saved the track under a new name. Green Day’s “Dookie” has that with the “All By Myself” song. Lala doesn’t recognize this sort of thing. Bummer.
So consequently, my Lala collection is incomplete and mismatched. Probably 10% of my Lala collection is askew. I have an enormous quantity of weird music, however. So although my OCD has been tweaked a bit, I am willing to overlook the slight problems in favor of the enormous convenience. For the great majority of the population for whom Meatloaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell 2″ (you know “I’d do anything for love, but I won’t do that!” … you have it on your iPod and you LOVE it) is the weirdest thing in their iTunes, this won’t matter. All the Kanye West, Christina Aguilera, and Black Eyed Peas that you need is covered with Lala’s library. Enjoy it!
There’s a great music website called Lala which I have been using for about 6 months now. It allows you to upload your music collection and listen to it anywhere that you have a computer (or iPhone) and an internet connection. You can set up playlists and share them. And, of course, you can sort your music collection any way you want. [ Example: Show me just the Heavy Metal albums ... yay!] The web application is absolutely phenomenal. It’s drag & drop and very, very visual — a model of “complex simplicity”. It’s more or less a web-based iTunes before iTunes tried to do everything. I’ve stopped liking iTunes because it’s doing too much — Genius, video, and now Facebook integration … why oh why? Call me a curmudgeon, but I kinda tolerated it about 2 or 3 years ago when all it did was organize and play music. It did that well. Lala reminds me of the happy, friendly iTunes of 2006.
I’m not going to sit here and describe every aspect of Lala because honestly you should be using it right now. I have not a single complaint after 6 months of daily use. Normally I am very critical, but this just kicks ass. Seriously, stop reading this crappy blog post and just sign up at http://www.lala.com. Download the tiny desktop application. Pick three or four albums to upload. Although the upload process is automated, it takes a long time to upload all your albums (I have 180 gigs of music!!). So at first, limit yourself to those few albums. It took about a day to upload 9 gigs / 1800 songs, but it did all that nonsense in the background. Anyway, if you like it, then endure the lengthy upload for the rest of your music.
One of the coolest features that I cannot get over is that I can be listening to some ridiculously long playlist here at work. Then I turn off my computer at work, go home, boot up the home system (workaholics, unite!), and pick up the playlist right where I left off. It’s awesome. I giggle to myself every time I get to do that.
The big mystery that lingers over this whole utopian system is how Lala gets around licensing. Will the RIAA axe fall as heavily as it did with Pandora? — By the way, Pandora, awesome bounce-back. Y’all have a godlike CEO over there. – Apparently, Lala gets around licensing issues by comparing your music files with albums that they already have legally in their library. Then Lala uploads only the music that they don’t have. Yeah, I know, if you do the math, it doesn’t really add up. Shhhhh!
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