Waiting for Mac OS X Leopard: Why no digital download option ?

OS X Leopard imageThe newest version of Mac OS X “Leopard” is out in the wild, but my Amazon.com order has an estimated delivery date for next week.

Not a big deal, but made me think: In today’s world of broadband and on-demand user behavior, why doesn’t apple offer a digital download option ? On top of it, it’s environmentally more responsible to do away with all the extra packaging, fuel costs for shipping, etc.

As far as expertise and DRM issues, Apple has the experience with it’s iTunes store and .Mac service to offer this kind of option and make it secure.

In the gaming space I’ve seen Valve‘s digital efforts evolve over the last few years into a really impressive offering. They have a service called Steam (gigaom review) which essentially allows you to purchase games and download them instantly. They also use the service to foster online gaming, do auto patching, premier game trailers, and fight against cheats. It was initally conceived because they had trouble with 3rd party distribution, and ironically today Steam is used as a distribtuion platform for other game publishers.

The other company that could also facilitate this would be Amazon themselves. They distribute music digitally with their new amazon mp3 store – so why not do the same for software ?

Congrats to dpreview.com & my thoughts on what it means to be niche

Dpreview.com has been purchased by amazon today.

I have spent ridiculous amounts of time researching cameras over the years, and I very often found myself coming back to dpreview for the best reviews and detailed analysis.

What jumped out at me while reading the details on techcrunch, was the traffic #. Dpreview.com gets 7 million unique vistors a month ! Wow.

If you showed this site to most people and they clicked on a review, like the new casio ex-v7:

Announced back in January at the CES show, the EX-V7 is the latest in a long – and generally successful – range of slim, feature-packed Exilim models from Casio. As well as an impressive set of specifications (CCD shift image stabilization, 7x / 38-266mm equiv. zoom, MPEG movies and a wealth of features) and a super-slim all-metal body (under 21mm thick at its thinnest point) the EX-V7 boasts a new version of Casio’s image processing engine.

I think you could safely bet that most would people would click back and look for a review that is a bit less detailed, and more of a recommendation than a detailed analysis and inspection of the specs.

You could also bet that most people would think of this dpreview site as “niche” and probably not “mainstream”. But is it really niche at that level ? And more importantly, isn’t the takeaway that the way to grow an audience is to actually go super niche ? How many general, high-level camera reviews sites do you really need ? maybe one or two at most. But it’s much easier to envision a camera review site aimed at hobbyists, another for those who cover sports, a third for new parents who want to capture the first ‘swim class’, a fourth for travelers, and on an on.

For comparison sake: at 7M unique users/month dpreview is only 900K visitors/month smaller than the washingtonpost (7.9M) according Neilsen ( we don’t know if the 7M is Neilsen or from logs — but you get the idea ), and is bigger than all entertainment sites except TMZ (7.9M for TMZ, 4.2M for people.com, and 3.2M for E!)

Aggregators of content, search engines, and social networks may gravitate towards a winner take all model ( still not clear, but perhaps ) — but content may in fact be going in the other direction. Dpreview, dogster, drudge, and of course the explosion of UGC/blogs (those who love the mets all read metsblog.com religiously) are proving out this model that people who are passionate about a topic will find like minded people online.

Embrace the niche ! :)

New York Tech Meetup – May 1st – Review

meetup

I finally made it to my first NYC Tech Meetup last night. This meetup is billed as an event where ” … each month at 7PM, 6 people get 5 minutes each to demo something cool to New York’s tech community (geeks, investors, entrepreneurs, hackers, etc)”.

A bunch of my friends who wanted to attend couldn’t make it for various reasons, so I promised to post some notes … so here goes:

Setting:
- Large room @ The Great Hall on the NYU campus (east village)
- I think over 600+ RSVP’d … I estimated about 400 people showed up
- like so many tech events, the pre show including the obligatory beatles soundtrack
- meetup google mashup on the projector was impressive, reminded me of twittervision.com

Intro:
- the CEO (or was he a co-founder ? ) kicked things off with the announcement that meetup is hiring smart engineers.

First presentation: Ventbox
- “everybody vents – this site is for angry people”
- vent about any topic, vent with other people
- pull a widget of vents onto your own blogs/myspace/etc
- on the newyork mag approval matrix – Nate wanted to know if his site was “lowbrow” – got a few laughs
- biggest current “vent” topic: george bush
– bottom line: interesting, but I don’t see the demand or the real monetization play here,  although there is a larger platform idea that could be cool.

Second presentation: Gatsb
- “Gatsb allows you to post pictures and notes about what you’re doing from your mobile phone to share with your friends and the world…”
- all about mobile sharing and social networking
- find popular places
- track friends / places
– bottom line: seems like twitter w/ pix, or dodgeball, and maybe some yelp style opportunities if people post reviews. Cool stuff, but not sure it’s that innovative.

Third presentation: MOUSE and the OLPC ($100 laptop project)
- students from MOUSE presented their experience with the OLPC.
- MOUSE supports school tech
- feedback on the OLPC “girls loved the design”
- ease of use: “keyboard is really small – have to use one hand sometimes”
- linux feedback on OLPC: sugar is a ‘weird’ flavor of linux
- learning curve when students first use the OLPC: 30 minutes
- challenges with OLPC: “no manual” or help docs, only a wiki for developer. MOUSE decided to put up their own wiki to help students.
- benefit of MOUSE: “nyc kids will help kids around the world”
- students view of social networks, “I ‘hate myspace and facebook”
– bottom line: great to hear feedback on OLPC — we all have high hopes for it.

Fourth presentation: House Party
- Gene DeRose presented (current founder, and former head & founder of Jupiter )
- they organize, plan and execute on house parties with a viral/marketing angle
- includes photos/ social networking aspects
- brings together disparate events
- bring marketers to audience
- introduce new products, viral, non profits, mobilize, breast cancer awareness parties for example
- turnekey in home event production
- host screening and data mining
- tivo hook
- templated pages
- they are also a small agency, fast process via great tools
- credit card to qualify/screen 18+
- typical price: $100k, 6-8 weeks to organize nationwide
- coming soon: party to save the planet …largest party ever
- what do guests get: ‘exclusives’ ..new movie footage, new song, giveaway, etc
– bottom line: moveon meets evite for the home — really slick. easily the most polished presentation of the night

Fifth presentation: hitchsters.com
- presented by terry and jason. One guy ran the demo, the other was the founder/idea guy.
- basic premise: meetup to share a cab to the airport or back and save money
- you can select gender preference m/f
- part of the pitch, “save cash and/or meet women/men”
- alerts via sms text
- business model: sell leads to car service
– bottom line: could be something people used, and biz model is fairly simple. some privacy issues came up, and the founder/idea guy had a hard time answering questions about who built in, platform, etc.

Other announcements:
-zipcar founder will be at the next meetup talking about his new car pooling service (5th june)

more feedback/reactions.

All in all, definitely worth going to, and great to see young businesses trying to make-it.

Why I love in-car GPS, and how it can be made better

GPSLast week I drove down to DC and made sure the Hertz rental car had GPS.

The drive from new york to DC is fairly straightforward, but I still don’t know my way around DC that well, and after living in new york all these years, any city that’s not setup as a grid of streets and avenues just seems extra difficult to navigate :)

So the GPS unit — I believe called NeverLost V3 — worked pretty well, although it got a bit confused on 95 a few times reminding me to “keep to the left FOLLOWED by a keep to the left” even though there weren’t any exits or turns to take.

But I really do love GPS navigation. Not having to be on the lookout for exits that have a starbucks ( it’s all displayed in the GPS dashboard ) is huge, and also not needing anyone else in the car to help navigate is a big win.

But the big missing feature is traffic info. Selecting “shortest time” really is just a guess. Google Maps on my blackberry includes some traffic info, but not enough to help me avoid delays. A few companies like Dash have introduced traffic info in their GPS devices by using historical traffic information, and adding a novel approach of getting traffic info from other cars on the highway that use the Dash system — very cool. ( update: Dash is looking for beta testers )

The flaw with this system is that you need everyone using the same manufacturers GPS system, and that’s just not going to be a reality anytime soon given all the various companies that are putting out GPS devices.

What we need, in my opinion, is an opt-in, open standard for sharing in-car/traffic information that any device and any opted-in person can tap into, plus a commercial consortium or W3C style governing body to maintain and evolve a standard. This data would then be stored centrally or perhaps in a non-central torrent style cloud of people within a 50 miles radius ( this needs more thinking and flushing out :) ).

And as GPS is incorporated more and more into our mobile phone devices, that should give us a huge installed user base of in-car and mobile devices sharing information about traffic and other conditions. That would be infinitely better than participating in the manufacturers small group of users, and would dramatically increase the chances of having tons of good data on the highway you were looking to avoid b/c of traffic.

The manufacturers would then compete on interface design, features, UI, etc. In addition I would require people to share info from their car if they wanted to get access to the data – think bittorrent like in that you can’t get data without sharing data. That way you could opt-out and simply not get traffic info if you were worried about privacy/tracking.