Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

 

iPhone Nano

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

So apparently September 10 is the day that new iPhones will be announced. And everyone seems to be expecting a new iPhone that is fully capable, the same size as the existing form factor, but maybe with a plastic back that is cheaper to make. This is foolishness. I am sticking with my original prediction for an iPhone nano, and what I’ve been seeing in the marketplace has only confirmed my expectations.

Recently, I’ve been seeing a number of young women carrying old Motorola Star-Tac type phones. Why are they doing this? Because existing phones are too big and unwieldy for them. iPhones have gotten bigger, and Android phones are ridiculous. But also, these women have taken to carrying iPad Minis in their purses. So they don’t feel like they need a full fledged phone on them at all times. They prefer the larger iPad Mini for app related stuff, and the phone they just use for talking and texting.

This combination, of an iPhone Nano, whose features mirror that of the original iPhone plus Siri, and an iPad Mini, tethered to the iPhone Nano, could be VERY attractive for many women. And it could be priced as free with a contract, or at $150 stand alone (with a corresponding price-drop for the existing iPod Nano). That would make the combination of a iPad Mini plus an iPhone Nano still cheaper than a single iPhone 5S purchased without a contract, and for a lot of people the combination is more compelling.

So that’s what I expect to see. Take a look at that iPhone Nano and figure on something maybe slightly thicker but looks an awful lot like it in every other respect. I expect it will be a HUGE hit.

 
 

Apple Maps, Search Engines, Siri, And The Command Line Social Network

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

So I’ve been giving a lot of thoughts to Apple Maps, and I have to agree with my friend Calzone, Apple has been taking it on the chin needlessly. He writes:

Yes, Apple Maps has issues, but someone needs to speak up about the upside. The issues, as I understand it, can be itemized very simply: (1) some satellite images are warped; (2) searching for locations by name is flawed and risks taking you to the wrong place. No one cares about item 1 — and even Google has had the occasionally funny happenstance with their satellite imagery, so woop-di-doo to everyone with their panties in a bunch over that. Satellite view is very useful on occasion (as a mountain biker I depend on it often), but hardly used as much as map view. And for item 2, yes, everyone cares about this. But I’d venture to say that nearly half of the critical navigation use cases for maps on the iPhone consist of the user entering an address, not searching by name. For the situations where you have to search by name, the workaround is simple: lookup the address first and then ask Siri to take you there. Apple will straighten this issue out over time, as we all know.

But the advantages for using Apple maps (as a user, not even regarding Apple’s corporate needs) are HUGE. Why isn’t anyone talking about these advantages?

Do you remember what it was like zooming in on Google maps and having to wait for the tiles to load? Do you remember zooming in and out and seeing blurry pixelated stand-ins while you waited for discrete zoom steps? How about those awkward in-between zoom levels? How about tiles that never refreshed and you were left with a map that was half zoomed in and half zoomed out? Or tiles that never loaded at all and all you get is a gray square? With Apple Maps, this is a thing of the past. The maps are INSANELY responsive. Zooming in and out is seamless and smooth. Panning is seamless and smooth. No more stutters, no delays, no dropped tiles. No fragmented imagery. No more waiting for something that eventually times out and then your connection sucks and you can’t get it back. Ok, part of that is me switching to Verizon instead of AT&T, but part is also Google’s stupid tech. I know this because I suffer the same some-tiles-that-never-load on my desktop computer even over a high bandwidth cable modem.

Do you remember walking around downtown somewhere, trying to find that bar five blocks over, and being lost… so you pull out your iphone, but north is on top and you’re walking south-east so you get confused about turning left or right at certain intersections. What did you do? You enabled compass mode so you could tell which way you were going. But now you need to zoom in or out again. Bam, compass mode would disengage and you’d lose your orientation again. Now that’s a thing of the past, just rotate freely and pinch to zoom in or out without losing your rotation.

Turn by turn? We got it now. 3D view (not even talking the flyover stuff here, just basic 3D view) kicks butt and pans really intuitively and helps give you a feel for the layout.

In short, usability — Apple’s hallmark — has increased a hundred-fold. Google maps was practically useless for me. Really, it was. Apple maps on the other hand, is everything I ever expected from a mapping app and it’s obviously only going to get better. Google, their supporters, and the screaming anti-Apple banshee contingent can suck it.

Yes, Apple’s database needs some filling in, but much of the criticism has been based on errors Apple maps generates that in fact Google and other maps also generate. When I first saw people were having issues, I asked Apple Maps to show me the Tobin Bridge, only to have it show me a bridge in Kentucky. I assumed that this was a problem with Apple Maps alone, until a friend showed me that Google Maps also got it wrong/ Only Bing Maps got it right. (Bing Maps, in my experience, is the currently the best of breed in terms of mapping content, both in terms of knowledge and in terms of directions.)

So why do Bing and Google maps both have better databases? I think the answer is obvious: they are connected to search engines, which provide all sorts of address data to the search engine, which in turn feeds the mapping database. If Apple is really going to catch up, I’m afraid they are going to need a search engine of their own. There are a number out there worth buying (I wouldn’t try starting from scratch) and I’ll tell you my pick in a bit. But suffice it to say, Apple needs a search engine if they’re ever going to get Maps right.

So let’s spend a moment to think about an Apple search engine, and what it would be like. The first think it needs is to be ad free, and respectful of privacy. They should introduce it by saying that “you have a right to search without being tracked and having your searches sold to sleazebag marketers” or something like that. Then, I would say, “because we believe that things are better when they’re open, we’re opening the search algorithms to people who have an Apple ID. So if you’re on an Apple device, and you want to customize your search in some way, you can do that. Because open is better than closed.” Something like that, kick Google right in the nads.

Because if you really want to conduct thermonuclear war against Google, then you need to give their main product away for free. What’s good for the goose, all that…

The search engine they buy ought to be one that already works largely by text input. Sounds silly, but there is in fact a lot of clicking around on most search engines. I like blekko myself. Everything can be entered in on a command line kind of way. Which is important, because I think we’re all going to be using the command line quite a bit more, orally, by way of Siri.

Because Siri is the new command line interface.

And really, you want to be able to do everything via the command line. So the Siri API needs to be available to other apps, so you can make restaurant reservations via Siri while cruising down the highway. Or pay bills. Or rate the song you’re listening to and tell the world about it. Or tell everybody how much the traffic you’re stuck in sucks.

Or maybe not.

Maybe what you need is for Siri to have access to a command line social network that can handle all of these things by way of apps that reside on it. The command line social network, of course, is Twitter, and I’ve already described how Twitter should be making money by selling commands for apps to run on itself. I only wished I’d coined the phrase “command-line social network: when I’d written that piece.

So yeah, Apple would probably have to buy Twitter to make that happen. So they should do that too.

Such a combination of services would be powerful in the extreme. A search engine, customizable to your needs, and completely private, feeding information to a maps database, which is also feed by users with iPhones all over the world. An auditory command line, into which you can run social network apps via Twitter. And with Twitter, you also own the ultimate universal login. All integrated, making the database stronger. And none of it to sell advertising. All of it to make a better phone experience that you’ll want to buy and upgrade again and again.

So what am I missing here?

 
 

Apple Products Not Announced

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

I couldn’t possibly be the only one struck by the new iPod nano, released yesterday, pictured here. The old nano was more or less square, and about the size of a watch face. In fact, it looked so much like a watch face that Steve Jobs on stage suggested that people might want to make watch straps for it. And they did, many of which would up being carried by Apple’s own store. It was an extremely successful product. When they last updated the nano a year or so ago, I asked a friend what he thought the update would be, and he responded “I can’t imagine, it seems perfect as it is.” And indeed, it’s hard to imagine improving on it.

The increased size is in no way an improvement. Yes it has bluetooth, which I was hoping to get in the previous form factor. But instead they made it rectangular, like for playing video. So what’s going on?

Here’s what I think is going on. Apple is planning to release a watch, and probably an iPhone nano as well.

Let’s start with the watch, which I think is more likely. When Apple introduced the square nano and Jobs suggested it could make a nice watch, that was a trial balloon, to see what would happen. From my vantage point, it would appear to have been a successful trial balloon. Not only are there no shortage of watch bands for the nano, but there is now a newfound interest in smart watches, lead by the rather unbelievable success of the Pebble watch on Kickstarter, of which I am a backer. Clearly, there is an interest in a product like this.

One thing which struck me about the Pebble watch was this fact right here:

Android users can also receive Text Messages (SMS) on their Pebble. Unfortunately iPhone does not expose this data.

Now why would that be? My guess is that is because it’s being reserved for the actual Apple iWatch.

Tim Cook has repeatedly said that Apple would only enter a market where Apple can bring significant innovation, and which is large enough on a global scale to warrant entering. So can Apple bring innovation to the watch market? I think they can. Let’s try to figure out what features an iWatch might have:

  • Bluetooth Connectivity, to play music and stream content via the iphone which remains in your pocket, and display and dismiss text messages, calendar reminders, scroll through and view emails, and other items from your notification center
  • Local Storage to be an iPod on its own.
  • Airplay, to be able to send music out to boomboxes and the like
  • Front Facing Camera, to do Facetime over bluetooth to your iPhone
  • Accelerometer, for fitness and other items
  • NFC for payments
  • Apps, not native, but ability to interface to apps on your phone

There may be other things I’m missing. Such an item would be almost a must have for anyone currently carrying an iPhone. And even for people not carrying an iPhone, just as an iPod in a watch form factor, it would be an extremely attractive piece of electronics.

So how about the second criteria for entering a market? Is the watch market big enough for Apple to want to enter it? Well the global watch market is $46.5 billion annually. That looks big enough to me. My guess is we could see a watch announced, maybe even before the Christmas season. Imagine if that were the “one more thing” announced at the iPad mini/air event? It would be truly explosive.

The other thing that i think Apple will release is an iPhone nano. I use the term nano because it will be comparable to the iPod nano, same basic form factor. Analysts have been calling for Apple to release a cheaper smaller version of the iPhone since the original was released, and I think the new nano portends of its imminent arrival. In fact, I think the iPhone 5 was elongated precisely to make the newly coming iPhone nano seem just that much smaller. I suspect that this new iPhone will be more or less app free, namely it will run on iOS, but it will be more like the original iPhone, what you see is what you get. It will also work with the new iWatch, but more or less it’s target market is the price conscious android buyer, who never loads apps on their phone anyhow, and just wants something small, pretty and easy to use. This is not for the hard core Apple geeks, it’s for mom and dad. Or even for kids whose parents don’t want to monitor which apps they purchase. And it will eliminate any price umbrella that the iPhone currently provides.

I’m guessing the new iPhone nano comes out after the Christmas season, so as to not bigfoot on the sales of the iPhone 5.

And that’s it. Let me know what you think.

 
 

iOS 4.2 – What’s Missing

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

So Apple has put up a new page detailing what to expect in iOS 4.2, which is the unifying os for the iPhone and the first version of iOS 4 for the iPad. It contains a number of features, including advanced picture taking, a game center, and printing.

So let’s take a moment to review what it doesn’t contain:

  • No integrated form of cloud computing. No MobileMe offering that would act as a cloud-based file manager. Every mobile device Apple sells should come with a free MobileMe account. Android essentially comes with this already (albeit for a price, your privacy). Apple should up their offering to compete.
  • No revamped file management overall. Even putting MobileMe aside, it would be nice if we could use Dropbox, or Google Apps to save our documents online from any app we want. As it stands, I can open a doc from an app, but I can’t save back out to the cloud from any app. Any sort of centralized file manager would make me happy, frankly.

It could be that no announcement along these lines has been made because it’s a surprise, which would be nice. I kind of feel like the iOS3 iPad has basically been a beta product, and that fixing the file management issue would bring it out of beta and into maturity. OTOH, given how many iPads they sold, I tend to think Apple likely disagrees, and may do nothing to fix the file management shortcomings. We shall see.

 
 

Several Days Ahead Of The Big Name Blogs

Friday, May 28th, 2010

So engadget says today that the new appleTV is going to be based on the iPhone OS:

The new ATV will do away with its current OS X-lite variation as a operating system, and will instead adopt the iPhone OS for the underlying experience. There’s no word at this point on whether apps and the App Store will be coming along for the ride, but it makes sense given the shared platform. Of course, scaling iPhone apps to that 52-inch plasma in your living room isn’t exactly a no-brainer. Perhaps not surprisingly, Apple won’t deliver the ATV news at the upcoming WWDC — that event will be focused on the capabilities of the new iPhone — but development on the product is most definitely full steam ahead.

They also mention that the device will only have a power in and a video out port, that it will put out a full 1080p and it will be priced at a $99. This doesn’t sound at all quite right. I have trouble imagining that any device meant to stream video at full 1080p wouldn’t come equipped with a gigabit Ethernet port. And while $99 strikes me as a low target price, it’s doubtful that apple has already established a price for a product that does not yet exist.

Furthermore it seems to me that the existence of an appleTV based on the iPhone OS is the best explanation as to why iPad apps are referred to as “HD”. My guess is that the resolution of the iPad is enough to display an app on an HD television screen. Moreover, if it weren’t then it would almost be required that apple announce the device in advance so that developers can get started working on apps for it. The only reason not to announce it early is that apps already work on it. Which I suspect they do.

More curious to me is the absence of a video-in port. This tells me that the device is not meant to act as a pvr. Could it be that they plan on selling streaming television provided directly from cable networks and other producers? Remember, Steve Jobs is the largest shareholder in Disney which owns ABC, who made an iPad app that basically throws all of the network’s content online Hulu style. In fact, only Comcast owned NBC seems to be resisting the move at this point. I think this device may be designed from the outset to make both broadcast and cable tv obsolete in one fell swoop, all the while facilitating the purchase of more content from the iTunes store and enabling the streaming of iTunes content from your PC. If that’s the case then it’s a bold move, and one that makes Google TV look like Child’s play.

I just wonder if Apple isn’t opening too many fronts against too many competitors at this point. Let’s just list briefly who apple will be competing against if the appleTV is delivered as described:

  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • Adobe
  • Nintendo
  • Sony
  • Comcast
  • RIM
  • Nokia
  • Motorola
  • HP

Am I missing anybody?

Finally I wrote this entire blog entry on my iPad using the web interface of WordPress. Not ideal, but it worked. I’d rather have had a dedicated WP application, but I really can’t stand the stretched iPhone versions of apps. I should hope that an iPad specific blogging tool is developed relatively soon, and if it already exists, plea keg me know what it is.

UPDATE: just discovered the WordPress app for iPad. Must have just been released because I looked for this a few days ago. Anyhow, looks decent so far. I’ll Include a review when I write a thorough review of my iPad, which I’ll do in late June after my vacation.

 
 

On the iPhone “Openness”

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Is the iPhone “open” or “closed”? In a sense it seems like a silly question. Clearly it’s both, the iPhone has a proprietary layer built on top of an open source core, FreeBSD. The fact that its API is published and that they let 3rd party developers write software for it makes it open as well, though not open source. Which is really the only critical difference between it and Android. Android makes the layer they build on top of Linux open source. But this really shouldn’t matter anyone other than network operators.

The real question is does Apple support open standards, and it’s hard to argue that they don’t. HTML5 is fully integrated, and developers are free to build HTML5 apps and have users install them with shortcuts on their iPhones and iPads. In fact, when the iPhone first came out, that was how Jobs wanted all development on the iPhone to occur. AT that time, the iPhone really was a closed platform since it had no public API to write native applications to it. But Apple changed direction, and now it’s hard to say that the iPhone isn’t an open platform in that sense.

But what about Flash? Well Flash is a proprietary standard, and Apple has no obligation to develop a Flash plug-in or executable for it. They do prevent Adobe from developing a version for the iPhone, but this is largely due to battery life and CPU issues. Which brings me to my next point.

Mobile devices have constraints that desktop devices do not. Constraints include battery life, storage, and CPU. An application that hogs the CPU, runs down the battery and eats up all your memory is going to ruin the mobile computing experience. And the party that will get blamed for that is the brand name on the device. Just witness the row over tethering. The iPhone has had tethering since iPhone 3.0 was announced over a year ago. iPhone tethering is available internationally, but AT&T forbids it. But who gets the blame for a lack of tethering in the US?

Apple.

Hence the App store, ostensibly. Apps which would ruin the mobile experience are essentially forbidden from being installed on the device. And that includes anything that would run down the battery quickly or hog the CPU. For that reason, runtimes are not allowed. This much I understand.

What I don’t understand is the censorship. What does stopping porno have to do with assuring a decent mobile experience? I agree that such apps are a stupid waste of time, that there’s more porno to be found using Safari than anyone could ever want from buying iPhone apps. But still, why ban them? It only creates confusion as to what the App store is about.

But what’s worse in my mind, what’s truly unforgivable, is the fact that there are no shortage of apps out there that have bad reviews not because people didn’t enjoy the app or anything, but because the app crashes or is buggy. That I do NOT understand. If Apple isn’t testing these apps to see that they work, to see that they don’t ruin the mobile experience, then what the hell are they doing? In fact the opacity of the App Store approval process is the only element of the iPhone ecosystem that truly is closed.

So Apple needs to do two things, pronto. 1) they need to provide a clear set of guidelines as to what is being tested in the App Store approval process. That set of guidelines should be published somewhere on apple.com for everyone to see and understand. And 2) they need to stop censoring for content. If that means they need to open an adult section of the app store, so be it. But censorship can never be a black and white, open affair. Just look at the legal definitions for obscenity for an example.

I think if they take those 2 steps they can end this “open vs. closed” debate and put it behind them. But so long as the app store approval process remains opaque and broken, this openness question will continue to dog Apple.

 
 

Google vs. Apple

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

I have to admit that I’m deeply confused about Google’s moves right now. It seems to me that a war with Apple can only be destructive towards Google’s ends. Google appears to be letting the acquired Android division lead the company, rather than vice versa. I do not see this ending well for Google.

Google bought Android in 2005. That’s 2 years before the iPhone came out. The logic at the time was sound. Namely, Google is in the advertising business, and since nobody had hitherto come out with a smartphone that could display mobile advertisements in a reasonable way, Google would just go ahead and build the platform for that to happen, and then give it away to anyone who wanted it. It held a certain logic.

Even after the iPhone was released, it acted as a certain insurance policy. It in effect said to Apple, “Don’t mess with us, because if you don’t let us put our services and ads on your device, we’ll release our phone OS to the world…” And Apple seemed to make every effort to integrate the iPhone into Google’s services, like maps, email, and search. So there really should have been no conflict.

But now Google has declared war on Apple, over principles that really, make no sense. Google has always been about open standards, and yet they choose to take a stand over supporting Flash, a proprietary standard if there ever was one? They choose to support Flash despite the obvious battery life problems it causes? Just to stick their thumb in the eye of Apple? What?

They call their platform open because they release the source code? But then they tell developers they shouldn’t use undocumented APIs? How is that open? They have an app store, just like Apple, which 99% of installed apps come from, and yet they’re open because of the 1% that come from elsewhere? What?

In reality, the issue for consumers isn’t the phone and how open it is or isn’t to developers, it’s the network, and the extent to which they cripple the hardware that they sell and try to funnel users into using bullshit “Vcast” type online music services and whatnot. Apple’s biggest coup with the iPhone wasn’t just the hardware and the software and how well it all works (though that is no small achievement). It’s that they got AT&T to let them sell the phone that they wanted to sell. From all accounts, Verizon wouldn’t let them do that, so intent on selling Vcast crap they couldn’t abide by a phone that let people install stuff (like music even) not bought from Verizon. So no iPhone for Verizon.

None of what Verizon is up to benefits the consumer in any way whatsoever. The consumer wants a phone as designed by the phone engineer, not as crippled by the network. And Apple was the first to deliver that. Now an open source phone will have appeal to a network operator, because it will allow the network to build their Vcast crap right into the OS, and to cripple 3rd party software and whatnot. But that doesn’t appeal to the consumer. To be crystal clear about this, consumers, myself included, would rather have phones built and designed by the likes of Microsoft that are sold as originally conceived and designed than have the best phone ever built that was crippled by the network operator.

Google’s open source “advantage” is that it lets the network operator cripple the phone. Good luck with that business model.

Meanwhile, Google pisses off Apple, and throws away the ability to sell ads on the iPhone. Google may not strictly speaking be forbidden from doing so, but they will never get the well-oiled integration that Apple provides. What’s more, Google may well be thrown off the iPhone in every other capacity. I’m predicting that maps and search will be gone within a year. And will Google even be allowed to sell ads on their own Android phones? I wouldn’t count on it. I would think that Verizon and company will get into that business themselves. “V-ads” they’ll call them.

I don’t quite see how this ends well for Google. I suppose their strategy may work better in the international market where carriers can’t dictate which phones are allowed on their networks, and thus crippled phones are not an option. But domestically, I think Google is hanging themselves for the sake of glory for the Android division. Seems really foolish to me.

 
 

Misdirection

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

When magicians use the term “Misdirection” they are referring to the practice of directing the audiences eyes to one location, while the trick is actually being performed elsewhere. Misdirection is precisely what Apple is doing now.

I simply can’t believe that all these leaked iPhones are accidental. Yes, the front facing camera is cool, and it looks like there will be a white iPhone. But other than some minor difference in form factors, what else is there? Frankly, Apple already released the big news in announcing iPhone 4.0, which will have multitasking. The front facing camera is interesting, but really, what else is there? We always knew that the next iteration would be faster with more memory, so who cares?

No, Apple is intentionally leaking images of the iPhone at this point. They may have figured the jig was up after a prototype was stolen some weeks back, but I suspect that these leaks were always in the works. Because Apple has something much bigger they’re announcing.

Now what that is I don’t know. But I can guess. And I suspect it’s that AppleTV will cease to be a hobby. I suspect that the new AppleTV will be based on the iPhone OS, and that it will run iPad apps beautifully. It will probably come with a new touch screen remote that enables you to “touch” your tv screen from a distance. And it will put Google’s TV efforts to shame, and put Apple and Nintendo on a much more direct collision course.

The new AppleTV may be a PVR or may even provide some sort of streaming TV service over IP. It will be offered in a stand-alone box, but it could be integrated into a television set sold by Apple. Whatever it is, it won’t be on sale until the fall, and dev kits for the new Apple TV will be distributed at WWDC.

I have no inside information obviously. But Steve Jobs himself is saying that something big is coming down the pike. Which leads me to wonder what it is that nobody is looking at. And I think the answer is AppleTV.

 
 

5 Years Ahead Of The Big Name Pundits

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Rob Sama, in a blog post that originated in a letter to Bob Cringely, back in July 2005:

Apple is clearly coming out with their own office suite. But the question is why? I had originally made nothing of this, thinking that it was just a gap in their product lineup that they were looking to fill, that they couldn’t afford to be reliant on MS for an office suite as they had been in the past. Now I think that they may be doing two things: enlarging the halo and kicking the box.[...]

As I mentioned at the start, MS gets 1/2 of their bottom line from Office. Microsoft has been harvesting profits from a product that they basically have 100% of the market for, and which has been around long enough that it should be something of a commodity. And MS has been way too reliant on this source of income for far too long, with nothing new to replace it. I can almost imagine a guy standing on a rickety old box, reaching for a jar on a shelf, only to have someone walk by and kick the box. That’s what Apple needs to do. If they came out with a version of iWork for Windows (Ok, that’s a sentence, so maybe they’d call it something else), at a low price point of say $99, they may not take the market, but they would force the price of office suites down. That’s kicking the box, destroying the 1/2 of MS’s bottom line, and opening the way for other companies, the MacTel alliance included, to better compete.

Point being, Apple is trying to destroy Microsoft’s ability to charge what they do for MS Office. Doing this grinds down Microsoft’s cash reserves and will eventually turn them into roadkill.

Now here‘s Bob Cringely today:

What Bill Gates didn’t count on when he declared Jobs a loser back in 1998, was the Californian’s tenacity. It took 12 years to do it, but Apple is well positioned now to take Microsoft’s crown.

I mean it. Look at the downward price erosion of Microsoft Office caused by a combination of Open Office and iWork, which is down to $30 on the iPad.

How long will it be until Apple is giving iWork away to sell hardware — an option Microsoft doesn’t have? Not long. By then a bit more of Redmond’s goose will have been cooked.

Digital market leadership is now Apple’s — not Microsoft’s — to lose.

I’m 5 years ahead of the big name pundits. Don’t you forget it.

 
 

Online Movie Pricing

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

The central problem with movie pricing today is that it’s buy before you try. This is probably unavoidable in the pre-online world of visiting theaters and buying and renting discs. But in the online world, this is entirely unnecessary.

Because you can not try before you buy, people are inclined to pirate content in order to try it out. But once they’ve pirated it, they have no incentive to go back and pay for what they already got for free. What’s needed is an easy and convenient way to try a movie and get sucked in (assuming it’s good).

So here’s what I propose: Online services such as iTunes should make watching the first 20 minutes of any movie free. Sort of like how listening to the first 30 seconds of a song is a free sample on iTunes. If you like what you’re watching, go ahead and continue watching, uninterrupted, and you’ll automatically be billed for a rental. If you like it a lot, upgrade your rental to a purchase and keep a downloaded copy.

That’s a billion dollar idea right there, given away for free. SJ can thank me later.