Monday, May 24, 2010

If Google TV were a bicycle..I'm a fish

I need another box around my TV like i need a hole in my head. Well, I probably can do with a search bar on my TV. But do i need to balance a keyboard on the armrest of the couch while holding a beer in one hand and a baby on another? And then wait for search results to show up, and when I click on one of them, be reminded about codecs I don't have. Or holidays that I can have, also pizzas, jeans and cars. Or be informed what my 100 odd "friends" are busy watching. Or sieve through finance bonds, junk bonds and chemical bonds before I get my quantum of solace?

If Google TV were a bicycle, I'm a fish.

TV watching is not hunting-and-gathering. It is a lazy buffet from which you take your pick. Normally, the spread is large enough to satisfy most eaters. But one can beat the spread easily. And complain. The buffet targets the average audience (called TRP). Gourmets get nothing special in this spread. You can partake of it as much as you wish. But the spread will hardly change just to mollify the pesky eaters. If you come late and miss your dish, well, hard luck. You can always get to a gourmet restaurant and order one "a la carte".

Of course this is not always ideal. There is always a seeming need for an occasional mail-order. VoD is just that. However, it is not (yet) the most natural way of consuming entertainment on the TV.

The most natural way to consume TV is using the P+ and P- buttons of the remote control. You can reduce that further to only one of them - say, the P+.

P+, arguably, the most pressed button on the remote control, represents how most people have spent their evenings all their lives. Will Google TV change this, with the plethora of android apps? And succeed ? Or, will it "enrich" your P+ experience by suggesting friendly ads, listing your friends who are watching the same channel, recommending related content etc ? And how much of this enrichment would you love? And for how long?

Google needs to detail out a number of aspects of their Google TV. What value do they bring to consumers, to advertisers, to content creators and to their own shareholders.

Of these, the key question of course is about consumers: Why would consumers prefer Google on their TV? (Aren't we happy enough googling on our PCs and phones?). Or, as explained earlier, aren't we happy pressing the P+? If you happen to be the "lean forward" types, you always have the option of using a PC. If I hear you complaining about the hassle, then you are actually a "lean back" person. So go back to your lazy, lean back, channel surfing habit. And stop pretending that Google TV is what you always wished for.

Secondly, it might make sense for Google to ask themselves why would they succeed any more than Yahoo with their TV widgets... given the following facts. The widgets are a lot more light-weight than Google TV. And there are thousands of widgets out there, suiting almost every need! Yes, Google has more credo, although Yahoo claimed the advantage of pioneering this whole concept! And still Yahoo widgets on TV is not exactly hot cakes.

Thirdly, but as important as anything else (if not more) is: Who makes money from Google TV and why? Google should have held their technology horses until the business guys come clean on this. Going by the recent history at Google, the urge to spin new technologies seems to over-power the need to underpin it's viability. "This is cool stuff", they seem to say. "Let's do it and then hope to find a way to make money from it". C'mon guys, you are not a start-up anymore, hunting for a rich-n-greedy investor to buy you out, based more on your tech credo than the weight of your biz-model.

There are more reasons to doubt Google TV. But then there is still a possibility that Google has the last laugh. For sure they can pull this off. But most likely not in it's current shape.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Social web is not an ordered set

With social web, it is often easy to conclude that it is a mess - just point to the fable of a million monkeys on a million keyboards. Extrapolating from here, aggregating islands of mess will only make it a bigger one. Right?

Could we be more wrong and more right at the same time ?

Social web is not an encyclopedia of human knowledge. It is not meant to be. It is the collective noise of the human race, each saying "hello, am doing good. how are you" and a zillion variants of this same message. To expect order in this is futile. To claim that this is cluttering our otherwise prim-and-propah lives is akin to calling the Tajmahal a white building.

But, as we all know, there are golden nuggets hidden in this humongous data mine. Just because it is so big or so difficult, should we give up looking? Should we not try to decipher patterns here, infer who are potential friends, what they are up to, what they have in common, or how our relations can be strengthened ? Should we not seek to better our lives by exploiting technological possibilities?

I think Yahoo is doing the right thing. The purpose of aggregation is not to seek nirvana (neither intellectual nor commercial), but enable easier social contact over the web. The nirvanas mentioned may arrive (ref: but even if they don't, the purpose of social networking would have benefited.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Is Shashi a tweet chap ?

Jug believes Shashi Tharoor (ST) is a "tweet chap". I'm not sure. There could be more to ST's tweeting than meets the eye...but I'll leave that for another day. For now, let me question Jug's belief.

ST has the right to tweet and the right to disagree. However, as a minister, he has the obligation to retain in public, the sanctity of the governmental view on policies. In private (within the four walls that SM Krishna has mentioned), he has the obligation to criticize policy proposals and ensure that the country gets the right policies.

In his eagerness to use his rights, either he clearly has forgotten his obligations, or (worse), has discovered that his views and policy criticisms do not seem to matter.

There's nothing wrong in ST tweeting, nor is there anything wrong in the message itself. But there is clearly something wrong when a minister chooses to go the public route to criticize a policy. Either he is naive enough to be unaware of decision making loop (and hence is unable to contribute his valid positive criticism of the policies while they are still being prepared) or has not earned the trust of his fellow politicians so they disregard his criticism (even if it is presented well in advance of the public announcement of the policy).

Jug, you could do your old buddy a favor by reminding him of his obligations..and advise him on how to go about achieving his obligations. He clearly doesn't need any support for exercising his rights (and wrongs).