October 27, 2015
August 25, 2015
Microsoft hopes its new five-story flagship store will create stronger consumer connections, reports Keiko Morris in The Wall Street Journal (10/26/15). “It is a concerted push to become a consumer brand as opposed to a brand consumers know,” says Greg Portell of AT Kearney. While Microsoft is well-known “for its office software products,” some customers are unaware that “the Xbox system is a Microsoft product.” Microsoft also hopes to create stronger awareness of its “tablets, its new Surface Book laptop and its new fitness device, Microsoft Band.” The new store is designed not only to display these product but also give shoppers an opportunity to “hold and test them.”
Microsoft is pursuing its goals with “a five-story glass storefront at 677 Fifth Ave. in Manhattan,” that will reach “a global audience of tourists and local shoppers.” “We believe that they will leave with an experience of understanding who we are,” says Microsoft retail chief David Porter. The sides of the store’s first floor is lined with LED digital panels, and a 20×40-foot “culture wall” projects an “exterior display of non-commercial digital imagery that will change and complement the architecture and facade of the building.” The company’s newest products are presented on wood tables and stools, and customers will be able to “play Xbox on an 84-inch monitor in space that’s visible to passers-by.”
The second floor has “large areas for playing Xbox games, as well as an answer desk and community theater” featuring some “70 hours of workshops a week.” The third floor is dedicated to the “Dell Experience at the Microsoft store” while the fourth floor “provides space for employees and other back-store operations.” The fifth floor is dedicated “space to host meetings and events.” “Experiential retail is the wave of the future,” says Robert K. Futterman, a real-estate services executive. “Keep the customer in the store, keep them engaged. The longer they stay, the better chance you have they will buy stuff,” he says. Fifth Avenue rents, between 49th and 60th Streets, reportedly exceed $3,000 a square foot.
July 22, 2015
A $295 Ralph Lauren T-Shirt is designed to be the sportscar of apparel, reports Ray A. Smith in The Wall Street Journal (8/20/15). “This is our Porsche 918, our ultimate shirt that is going to halo Polo Sport,” says David Lauren, evp of global advertising, marketing and corporate communications for Ralph Lauren Corp. The PoloTech shirt, says David, is the first smart shirt from a “major luxury fashion brand,” following those introduced by “big sports brands like Adidas or smaller, niche performance brands.” The PoloTech is “embedded with sensors that read vital signs like breathing and heart rates, stress levels and calories burned.”
The PoloTech is a collaboration “with OMsignal, a Montreal-based maker of wearable-technology products. The compression shirt made its debut last year at the US Open tennis tournament worn by several ball boys and during practice by player Marcos Giron but wasn’t available to the public.” The shirt “will go on sale August 27 at the company’s one-year-old Polo flagship store on New York’s Fifth Avenue, Ralph Lauren’s website and a Ralph Lauren store at the US Open, which runs from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13.” It features “silver fibers that track a range of vital statistics and stream them” to a free app “via a snap-on module.”
Additional sensors are “knitted into a band across the chest” that “read biological and psychological input.” The app “reacts and sets cardio, strength of agility workouts based on those data,” and adjusts the intensity of the workout accordingly. The shirt is machine washable so long as the tracking module is removed first. David Lauren says the PoloTech shirt is just the first of more garments to come. “We are setting up divisions within Ralph Lauren to focus on developing all kinds of products across all of our brands,” he says. The brand may line-extend into “ties, polo shirts and suits.”
June 19, 2015
The ‘Internet of Things’ could be a very good thing for cybercriminals, reports The Economist (7/18/15). In addition to the potential benefits to humanity, “smart devices offer exciting new opportunities for the authors of the malware that is common on today’s Internet.” The difference is that while “antivirus software may detect their handiwork and begin scrubbing infected computers clean,” similar software is typically not available for “smart” cars, televisions, refrigerators or thermostats because they are “not designed as general-purpose computers.”
This means that it could be possible to cause a car to crash by disabling its brakes remotely, or even murder diabetic patients by shutting down their pumps. Burglars could plan their break-ins by reading energy-use patterns from smart thermostats and figuring out when a family is away on vacation. Users of such devices would have no way of knowing that their gadgets had been compromised, and even if a problem were detected “their manufacturers can’t use the Internet to distribute fixes for any security flaws that come to light after the device is sold.”
For the most part, “such worries remain theoretical,” but already there is “ransomware, in which malicious programs encrypt documents and photographs, and a victim must pay to have them restored.” “Imaging trying to bleep open your car one day, but then you’re told your car has been locked, and if you want back in you need to send $200 to some shady Russian email address,” says Graham Steel of Cryptosense, a maker of “automated security-checking software.” Since such threats are not quite here, “companies have few incentives to take security seriously,” and likely won’t until big breaches occur.
June 1, 2015
Going shopping before or after store hours — digital-free — is going mainstream, reports Ray A. Smith in The Wall Street Journal (6/18/15). The opportunity to go shopping when the store’s doors are locked “has long been around in high-end stores, but it used to be just for customers in the know. Now, it is spreading to more mass brands, and some stores are being more public about their private shopping hours.” J. Crew, for instance, “has offered private shopping hours for years,” but only relatively recently has begun marketing the service to the general public — you don’t have to be anyone more special than one of its customers.
In many cases, the shopper has an emergency, like needing new clothes for a next-day business trip not being able to get to the store during regular hours. Others simply like the solitude: “Having the store to yourself often means a more peaceful, quieter, less frustrating experience. No crowds, no lines, and no awkward interactions with aloof, harried or unhelpful sales associates.” “Many of our clients enjoy the personal attention and relationships they have with our style advisers and love coming in for a cocktail,” says Sand Ceppos of the Mitchells Family of Stores.
Mitchells — a high-end retailer — actually includes “personal phone numbers for a key executive at the store in case of a fashion emergency. The executive is typically a Mitchell family member or store manager who has keys to the store.” The practice certainly helps build a strong bond of loyalty. It does tend to put pressure on the shopper to buy, of course — although that’s exactly the point. “It’s all about the efficiency, not dillydallying,” says Celine Kaplan of The Webster in Miami and Le Bon Marche in Paris. “You know these clients, you know it’s going to be worth it for you.”
May 8, 2015
A MoMa exhibit simultaneously parodies the pretense of technology and art, reports Ken Johnson in The New York Times (5/29/15). This is accomplished by an art installation based on “a high-tech trade fair” and is intended to get at “what’s causing the sociopathy infecting both industries.” The work of Simon Denny, “a Berlin-based artist,” The Innovator’s Dilemma, at MoMa PS1 through September 7, “takes down irrational exuberance about technology” while also jabbing at “the high-end art world’s inflationary mania.”
The art world parallel may be imperfect, as the value of artwork may fluctuate but “usually doesn’t become worthless the way obsolete devices do.” That said, the exhibit is composed of four installations, starting with All You Need is Data, which showcases “the sort of breathless banter” typical of the tech sector. For example, “an actual invitation-only get-together where, as the conference website puts it, ‘scientists, creatives, entrepreneurs and investors came out to play’.”
The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom highlights Megaupload, as “an example of how enormous wealth can be accumulated” by bringing little or no value to the world. Disruptive Berlin makes the point that “slight modifications of existing technologies” can yield big profits. Finally, New Management re-creates a hotel room where Samsung’s chairman gave a three-day speech in 1993, known as the Frankfurt Declaration, which propelled the company to market leadership, and has “assumed quasi-religious status within Samsung culture.”
April 1, 2015
Ron Johnson is back with a bid to re-invent the e-commerce experience, reports Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times (5/7/15). Ron, as you’ll recall, is both celebrated for his role launching the Apple stores and maligned for his time as CEO of JC Penney. His new venture, an e-commerce play called Enjoy, is designed “to create the friendliness of an Apple Store in people’s homes and offices.” The concept is to “send an expert to hand-deliver tech products” ordered online and help people set up and learn how to use them, “at no additional cost.”
Ron calls the concept “personal commerce.” “E-commerce today is primarily logistics and convenience — you order today, and, boom, get it tomorrow,” he says. While he believes that the traditional model isn’t going anywhere, he also thinks that the smartphone, and “local delivery networks” has introduced new possibilities. The idea does not fall far from the hugely successful Personal Setup service Ron “created at Apple that offers free in-store assistance to people who buy new products.”
“I remember when we launched that, Steve said, ‘Are you sure you can do that? Your stores are busy’,” says Ron. “But I thought it was the right thing to do. And within a matter of weeks of launching it, well over half the purchases were being set up in store.” The Enjoy model calls for a limited selection of “only about a dozen or so high-margin” items. Ron “believes that by limiting selection,” Enjoy can “squeeze enough out of each purchase to cover delivery and personal consultation.” Enjoy initially will be available in New York City and San Francisco only.
March 23, 2015
The “soul of Siri” is entering the body of Barbie, reports Natasha Singer in The New York Times (3/29/15). The concept has legs largely because children have observed their parents carrying on conversations with their mobile devices. “To converse with a mobile device is an assumed truth if you are 10 years old today,” says Oren Jacob of ToyTalk, “a company that creates conversational characters for children.” Mattel plans to use ToyTalk technology in Hello Barbie, “a Wi-Fi enabled version of the iconic doll” this fall.
The ToyTalk system analyzes “a child’s speech” and provides “relevant responses.” Oren thinks Barbie is a natural for this. “She’s a huge character with an enormous back story,” he says. “We hope that when she’s ready, she will have thousands and thousands of things to say and you can speak to her for hours and hours.” The concept does have its critics, of course. “Is this going to be some creepy doll that records what is going on in your home without you knowing it?” asks Nicole A. Ozer of the American Civil Liberties Union.
ToyTalk has implemented a “privacy process intended to give parents some control over their personal information.” Mattel also says that parents can record and delete conversations and any stored data will be secure. Others worry about the doll’s potential “to powerfully affect children’s imagination, learning and social development.” However, Dr. Sandra L. Calvert of Georgetown University suggests the potential is positive. Her studies have found that children respond better to personalized toys, and are more likely to learn from them.
March 10, 2015
Big technology companies are snapping up small design firms, reports Molly Wood in The New York Times (3/19/15). “Google, Facebook, Adobe, Dropbox and Yahoo, for example, have all bought design-oriented startups since 2010,” according to a report by John Maeda, a venture capitalist. The primary reason is recognition that design — not just of products but of user experiences — is the crucial competitive advantage. “If you can make this amazing bracelet and the software is bad, you’re going to throw it away,” says John.
The primacy of function over form is spreading because really good apps are highlighting the potential of good user design in new categories. “Let’s say you’re a doctor and electronic medical records are really terribly done as an industry,” says Ben Blumenfeld, another venture capitalist. “Doctors are starting to use iPhones and they’re saying, ‘Wait a second, why doesn’t my electronic records system work like my iPhone apps?’” The potential has been particularly heightened by well-designed apps like Uber’s, which make a hard task easier.
However, “the real design victory is in carefully considering exactly how someone will want to navigate an app, communicate with another person or conduct a transaction. That’s a big shift for the tech industry, which has long prized engineering acumen and product management.” John Maeda says the traditional focus on product design alone is “just surface-driven thinking,” adding: “It isn’t that design is more important than technology or the business model. You need both.”
February 25, 2015
Some vacationers are willing to pay a premium to be free of wi-fi, reports Cecilie Rohwedder in The Wall Street Journal (3/6/15). Such travellers are often parents who want their kids to have a screen-free holiday. It took Joanne Halbrecht “about a month” to find “a destination with little or no online access” before booking a trip to the Black Mountain Ranch in Colorado. Her two kids hated the idea. Daughter Jarrett, 16, says she texts “pretty much all day” and son Kent, 14, plays video games at nearly every opportunity.
The surprise was that Jarrett got hooked on horseback riding and Kent “enjoyed feeding cows and baby goats. Neither missed their devices, they said. It was mission accomplished for their mom, who enjoyed the children connecting with her instead.” While connectivity is generally “a coveted perk at hotels and getaways,” some properties are actively making a luxury out of disconnecting. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in the Caribbean, are launching “a family-geared version of a three-year-old ‘Digital Detox’ marketing campaign.”
The Four Seasons in Costa Rica also has a program called Disconnect to Reconnect, in which “guests hand in their phones in exchange for a list of ‘25 things to do without technology’.” An outfit, also called Digital Detox, “runs four-day, all-inclusive tech-free retreats for adults called ‘Camp Grounded’.” Some parents have found the tables turned. When Daniel and Jennifer Voss tried to sneak a peek at their screens during a tech-free family holiday, their kids busted them. “They became the cops,” says Jennifer.
February 20, 2015
Smartphone designers need to stop thinking thin to truly satisfy customers, writes Christopher Mims in The Wall Street Journal (2/23/15). The basic conflict, notes Christopher, is this: People want both really thin phones and really long battery life. The solution, he says, is "a company brave enough to persuade users that one of the things we’ve come to expect from phones and other gadgets — that every year, they become thinner and lighter — is a trend that has outlived its usefulness."
Christopher says "a little math reveals it’s more than reasonable that if the iPhone 6 were as thick as the iPhone 4, the iPhone 6 could have double its current battery life." The problem for Apple is that if it introduced a phone both thick in size and battery life, "it would be suicidal … Thinness and weight have become proxies for excellence in design, a shorthand for high-tech." Critics reinforce this to the point where "you start to realize that unrealistic beauty standards aren’t limited to judgments of other humans."
In short: "The battle for ever more svelte smartphones isn’t about utility; it’s about bragging rights." As phones have grown slimmer, our usage has grown fatter: "The average amount of time Americans spend on their mobile devices is up more than 60% in just the past three years, and we now spend more time looking at our phones than at TVs … Being alive in the 21st century means expending a meaningful portion of our limited cognitive capacity maintaining low-level anxiety about the length of a tiny green bar."
February 12, 2015
A $35 computer is intended to help kids "learn more about how computers work," reports Joanna Stern in The Wall Street Journal (2/18/15). Called Raspberry Pi, the computer consists of nothing more than "a green board covered with chips, circuits and ports. There’s no keyboard, monitor, or power cord. There isn’t even an operating system." The idea, says Eben Upton, co-founder of The Raspberry Pi Foundation, is that while kids these days "have wonderful technology in their lives … they are deprived of learning how it works."
The adventurous might have to spend a little more to get much out of this computer, although it is possible to use keyboards, monitors and power cords you already have kicking around. No hard drive is included, which means you can either buy "a $10 card pre-loaded with Raspbian, a basic Linux OS optimized for the Pi," or download the free software and put it on your own card. You might also want to buy a plastic case to house the computer — which can be purchased online along with the Pi at adafruit.com.
While the Pi isn’t necessarily easy to use, a pre-loaded web browser enables users to "check email, Twitter, and Facebook." A free LibreOffice suite provides word processing, etc. Another free program, OSMC, lets users access YouTube, Pandora, ESPN and stream videos from an iPhone via AirPlay. Others have used the Pi to create "game consoles, printers, even Internet-connected dog feeders." Lima Fried, aka LadyAda, writes tutorials to help users along, and says "you’ll learn skills you normally wouldn’t learn, and hopefully have fun."
November 13, 2014
The decline and fall of American leisure time tells the tale of RadioShack’s demise, reports Christopher Mims in The Wall Street Journal (2/9/15). Hard as it is to believe now, in the 1960s, workweeks were growing shorter and Americans had plenty of time on their hands. "Leisure time is opening markets to us," said Charles D. Tandy, who bought RadioShack in 1963, when it had just nine stores. "Everyone’s spare time is our challenge." This began to change in the 1970s, as RadioShack opened "three stores a week."
At the time, "citizens’ band radio hobbyists" drove RadioShack’s growth. This changed in the 1980s, with the rise of personal computers, and RadioShack was an early leader with its TRS-80, for which "Bill Gates himself wrote the operating system." Steve Wozniak bought parts at RadioShack, and "a teenage Michael Dell saw his first PC" at a neighborhood RadioShack. The retailer’s mistake was that it "unwisely decided only to offer its own software on its earliest PCs, and so it was soon eclipsed by Apple and then the IBM PC."
At that point, RadioShack had little choice but to become a consumer electronics retailer — besides, hobbyists were turning their attention from hardware to software. One might think it could have re-gained its footing among today’s DIY crowd, but that’s a niche market: Make Magazine "has a circulation of only about 125,000." RadioShack in many ways is a reflection of America’s "culture of disposable everything," which became dominant precisely because "we no longer have time for anything else."
October 1, 2014
A Chinese company is producing the "Model T" of drones, report Jack Nicas and Colum Murphy in The Wall Street Journal (11/11/14). "Back in the day, you could talk about cars, but pretty much every car on the road was one of the Model Ts," says Matt Waite of University of Nebraska, drawing the parallel. The ‘Model T’ of camera-equipped drones, popularly known as the Phantom, is made by Shenzhen-based SZ DJI Technology, which is "selling thousands of its 2.8-pound, square-foot devices for about $1,000 each."
This not only makes DJI "the world’s biggest drone maker by revenue," but also "the first Chinese brand to pioneer a major new global consumer product category." The Phantoms are attracting all kinds of interest, having "garnered fans for their aerial footage of extreme sports, fireworks and Niagara Falls, and famous users," including Steve Wozniak, Jamie Foxx and Martha Stewart. They are being used "in filmmaking, farming and construction — all in defiance of the FAA’s effective moratorium on commercial drones."
Founded in a university dorm room in 2006 by Frank Wang, DJI had "90 employees and $4.2 million in revenue in 2011." It now has 2,800 employees, three factories, and this year expects to post sales three to five times greater than in 2013, when it posted $130 million in revenue. This has led to growing pains, including lawsuits and customer-service issues. "Their innovation rose them to the top very quickly,’ says Stephen Burtt, CEO of Aerial Technology, a drone retailer. "But then it was: ‘Oh wait, how do we clean up the trail we just blazed?’"
September 8, 2014
The Des Moines Register hopes virtual reality will reinvent the news experience, reports Lukas I. Alpert in The Wall Street Journal (9/22/14). The newspaper is "incorporating the technology of Oculus VR, computerized game platforms and 360-degree cameras." In this way, a story about "how a sixth-generation Iowa farming family is struggling to maintain its traditions in an increasingly globalized world of agribusiness … takes a viewer into a computerized world of cows, soybeans and grain silos."
Basically, the reader gets a sense of "roaming around a farm in Page County, Iowa." This does require "strapping on Oculus’s virtual-reality headset," but it allows viewers to "walk up to the family’s machine shop and click on an icon that places them inside a 3-D video feature about maintaining high-tech farming equipment," for example. They "can view the information in any order," not unlike a videogame. If they don’t have an Oculus helmet, they can still interact in 2-D "on any computer."
Roy Peter Clark of Poynter Institute says it has limitations. "Although we call it multimedia, most of these stories are hybrids that use the visual elements to amplify the underlying narrative," he says. "You can take a virtual tour of a building where an event occurred, but that is a different thing than having characters who are fully explained." Other limitations are that the "virtual-reality technology" makes some people dizzy, and currently only 125,000 Oculus headsets are in circulation.
August 18, 2014
Eytan Adar has "collected hundreds of examples of deceptive design" in technology, reports Kate Green in Pacific Standard Magazine (9/3/14). For starters, "the standard user interface on your computer — a desktop with folder and trashcan icons … hides a universe of code behind a simple, ‘usable’ facade." Then there’s "the progress bars presented on computer screens during downloads, uploads and software installations maintain virtually no connection to the actual amount of time or work left before the action is completed."
There’s a long history of such deception in technology: "In the 1960s, the hardware that comprised the byzantine switching systems of the first electronic phone networks would occasionally cause a misdial. Instead of revealing the mistake by disconnecting or playing an error message, engineers decided the least obtrusive way to handle these glitches was to allow the system to go ahead and patch the call through to the wrong number … most people assumed the error was theirs, hung up, and redialed."
So-called placebo buttons are another common example — "many crosswalk and elevator door-close buttons don’t actually work," but do "give the impatient person a false sense of agency." In the future, "true artificial intelligence systems will alter the game significantly," and may get a sense of "biological cues (variations in heart rate, skin conductance, eye movement)" and respond accordingly. This is not unlike the way humans "suss out whether it might be best to fudge the truth with someone we care about."
July 31, 2014
The magic of the emerging shopping experience — online or off — "comes from the data," reports Molly Wood in The New York Times (8/15/14). For e-commerce enterprises, the data enables a level of personal service that approximates — or potentially improves upon — that which can occur naturally in a store. "In traditional retail, they have the benefit in that they have real people who in theory could offer a very personalized experience," says Katrina Lake, founder of Stitch Fix, an online women’s clothing retailer.
Stitch Fix "sends its customers boxes of clothes picked by a combination of personal stylists and big data." The advantage over, say a mall or a traditional e-commerce play, says Katrina, is that it eliminates the often overwhelming array of choices. Bill Gurley, a Stitch Fix investor, says the data science involved in making this happen is significant. "There’s a 15-page profile, there are over 66 characteristics tracked and there’s a predictive heat score for every single item against every single user."
Birchbox uses a similar approach with beauty products. "We use curation and personalization as a way to make the internet have some of those fun and satisfying elements of shopping," says Birchbox co-founder Katia Beauchamp. "There is still this desire to work with somebody that you trust." Birchbox takes a similar approach at its sole physical store, where Birchbox’s online customers can provide their email address to an employee, who then directs them to relevant items, based on their profile.
July 21, 2014
A new kind of shoe buzzes to let wearers know "where to turn to reach their destination," reports Dhanya Ann Thoppil in The Wall Street Journal (7/26/14). Made by Ducere Technologies, an Indian startup, the Lechal running shoe syncs "with a smartphone app that uses Google Maps and vibrates … in the left or right shoe" to "lead the way." "The shoes are a natural extension of the body," says Ducere co-founder Krispian Lawrence. "You will leave your house without your watch or wristband," he notes, but not your shoes.
Originally, the shoes were intended "to help blind people who rely on walking canes. Canes can help the visually impaired detect obstacles, but they cannot tell them which way to face or when to turn … While testing the shoes, the company realized their potential for the sighted as well. Joggers, mountain bikers or tourists can plug in their destinations and not have to stop to check their phones as they move; they just turn when their shoes buzz. The shoes can also be used to record distances traveled and calories burned."
Lechal means "take me along" in Hindi, the shoes are protected by a total of "24 international and Indian patents." This apparently has something to do with Krispian’s past as a US patent prosecutor. The shoes "will come in red or black" and cost $100 when they go on sale in September. Krispian "says he already has orders for 25,000 pairs and expects to sell 100,000 by March." Runners aside, there are about 250 million visually-impaired people worldwide, with about 90% "in developing countries, including India."
June 30, 2014
David Rose thinks household objects should "mimic the qualities found in magical tools of fantasy and folklore," reports Penelope Green in The New York Times (7/17/14). He means things like "the swords of Arthur and Frodo, say, or the talking mirror in ‘Snow White’." The goal, he says, is to fulfill "human drives with emotional engagement and elan." His concept is to embed, for instance, "his keys, his musical instruments, his wallets and his pens … with special powers."
David refers to such devices as "enchanted objects." For example, "an umbrella that tells you when it’s going to rain, a trash can that orders food, a table that displays your Facebook photos." In his own home, he has "talking pill bottles, a teleporting cabinet (open a door and it connects by Skype to his parents in Wisconsin)." An instructor at MIT’s Media Lab, David envisions the home as a kind of "app store." This is now possible, he notes, because the "computer has atomized … and its functions can be distributed."
The limiting factor, some say, is the inherent connection to the Internet, the data it collects, and the companies that might have access to it. Among the critics is Sherry Turkle, also of MIT and author of Alone Together, who decries what she calls a "regime of memory." "We didn’t get to vote on this regime, there’s no law and there’s no going back … The new regime comes with an extravagant language of gifts and miracles … Well, that’s the way people in fairytales talk. But if you remember your fairy tales, there is always a cost."
June 10, 2014
GoPro is successful not because of its camera, but rather the experience of using it, reports Issie Lapowsky in Wired (6/26/14). GoPro, as you’ve likely heard, is a small, high-definition, wearable video camera that people have used "to record their every sky-diving, drone-flying, shark-riding adventure." It raised $427 million in its IPO — unusual for a camera-maker because smartphones are not only cameras but also a GPS, video game console, stereo … "and, oh yeah, a telephone."
However, as Ben Arnold of NPD Group notes: "They don’t just sell a video camera, they sell the memory of the wave or the ski trip down the slope … I think we are entering the age where lifestyle in technology is becoming very important." The power is in devices that "say something about the people who wear them … when you see someone with one of those GoPro Hero 3 cameras strapped to her chest, it’s a signal to the world that she is about to do something awesome."
The result is that in "2013 alone, GoPro users have uploaded 2.8-years worth of video featuring GoPro in the title. In the first quarter of 2014, people watched over 50 million hours of videos with GoPro somewhere in the title, filename, tag or description … And so despite the fact that GoPro only sells cameras … it became better known as an adventure sports brand than as a camera manufacturer." Among other things, GoPro now plans "to launch a GoPro Channel on Xbox Live" and "turn itself into a media company."
"Fans will pay top dollar for a music accessory or a music event … They just won’t pay for, oh yeah, music," writes David Carr in The New York Times (7/9/14). This emerging reality is a direct result of cost-free music streaming on Spotify, Pandora and similar services — the "outbreak of free" as David calls it. This is a bonanza for music fans but a crippling blow to artists who make the music they love, as royalties on streaming are beyond the scope of "the 73-year-old agreements that govern" music licensing fees.
The Justice Department is looking into this, but in the meantime, "the musician Van Dyke Parks" recently told The Daily Beast "that in the good old days, a song he recently co-wrote with Ringo Starr would have provided him ‘with a house and pool.’ But at current royalty rates he estimated that he and the former Beatle would make less than $80, which means he would have to choose between a dollhouse and a kiddie pool and then share it with Mr. Starr." (link)
Some complain that the sound quality also suffers, but NYU’s Clay Shirky notes that, for most, "good enough is good enough." Especially if it’s free — which frees up cash to buy "expensive Beats headphones — $300 and up in a variety of colors so they also serve as a fashion accessory" or pay hundreds of dollars for live shows. Spotify, meanwhile, "has doubled its number of subscribers, paid and unpaid, in the last 18 months, and reached a milestone of 10 million paid subscribers worldwide last month."