Owen Lei's KING-5 life technology blog. Suggest a better name. Please.


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Netflix becomes Quikster… and Netflix

In a move that appears to be a bit of damage control mixed with a bit of new-product marketing, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings posted an apologetic message on the Netflix blog Sunday that has received mixed reviews.  

And by mixed, I mean… mostly not great.

Hastings apologized for the PR fiasco that ensued following Netflix’s announcement in July that they would be charging separately for DVD-by-mail and streaming services. 

The message begins with Hastings saying “I messed up” and “It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming, and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology.”

But then it moves to an announcement about splitting the two components of the business into different websites and different names and NO integration between the two (meaning if you’re searching for a movie, you have to look for it on two sites instead of one).  Streaming = Netflix.  DVD = Quikster. Current subscribers will now get two charges on their accounts, but with no more price changes. 

What do you think?  Good move?  Bad move?  Does it matter?

1991 vs 2011 — what do you think?

Yes, there’s an obvious plug for Windows Phone 7 in this… but you can’t argue the nostalgia.  Although, reading this again… doesn’t this technology make us a bit creepier of a society too?

(from http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_phone/b/windowsphone/archive/2011/08/25/memories-of-old.aspx)

Angry Birds gets Seattle partner

Seattle-based startup Medio is partnering with the company that makes those wildly popular birds of destruction. 

Rovio, makers of the 300-million-times-downloaded Angry Birds, will be using Medio technology to track who tosses those birds into the pigs (or monkeys or whatever enemy is stealing their eggs).

Says Rovio:

"… our games generate a gold mine of consumer behavior across every demographic, from kids to senior citizens. Figure out a way to crunch those data in real-time and the result will be much better game play for all to enjoy."

"With more than 200 million people world-wide playing games like Angry Birds, Rovio and others are presented with the gift of “Big Data” 24 hours a day. Over the span of even just a few months, these data sets are massive – from dozens of terabytes to many petabytes – unstructured and complex. But they contain a gold mine of information that we think can increase our fan engagement and satisfaction."

Oh, and marketing dollars.

Now Bing-able: Seattle’s major malls!

In a battle to rally search engine market share, Microsoft is taking their fight… to the mall. The Redmond giant (I know it’s cliche to use that phrase, but for some reason it amuses me every time) now offers detailed maps of hundreds of shopping centers around the country, including all the major ones in the Puget Sound.

Southcenter, for example:

From a person who is always looking for a directory to find that elusive-but-ever-present watch repair store (psst, it’s next to the nail salon and the tux rental shop), thanks.  And it’s not a bad way to win over some fans, especially of the younger demographic.

(Now… what to do about those aerial photos… I mean, come on, it still shows the movie theater being built, which means it’s at least four years old.  And the other aerial pic is even older.)

via Microsoft Blog

One week into Google+ and counting: An analysis (or… “BECAUSE EVERYONE IS WRITING ONE OF THESE”)

Okay.  Bottom line: Yes.

Yes, I like Google+.

Yes, it has some amazing bells and whistles.

And yes, it kind of scares me.

I’ve told many people G+ sure seems like the Buzz Lightyear of social media, the new must-have everyone wants to play with to the detriment of the old Woody the Cowboy (psst… I’m talking about Facebook). 

But at some point, many of us will finish trying to figure out this new behemoth and go back to the tried-and-true white and blue.


Considering I’ve had at least 30 people ask for invites in the last two days, and nearly all signed up within minutes of being added to my Circles, it’s safe to say the g+ears are turning.  Some estimate ”Plus” may already have around 5 million users (see below for more on that).

So here are my first week impressions:

THE “+1”S OF G+

  • Google Hangouts - To quote my friend Josh, an aircraft engineer, “How is this is free???”  Hangouts may be the most awe-inspiring thing about the Google+. Over the weekend, I extended an open invite for the multi-person video chat function. 

    We got a maximum of six people at one time, mostly journalists (apparently we tend to stay up the latest), from Anchorage to Toledo to an SUV navigating the streets of San Jose.  I’m told up to ten can simultaneously chime in, and it’s an nice technological detail that whoever is speaking the loudest takes the big window. 

    You can also share YouTube videos with everyone, though that part still seems a bit awkwardly implemented (You had to click on the “Join” button before it disappeared, and even then it didn’t always play the video the person was watching immediately). 

    Still, considering Skype charges for multi-person teleconferencing and XBox Live is still experimenting with multi-person “Avatar” chat, color me impressed.  Oh, by the way, the video hardly lagged on any of the webcams.

  • Circles - I would have put this first if not for how much fun I had with Hangouts. Circles, it seems, is the fundamental pillar of Google+.  In order to add friends to your list, you drag them into a labeled circle, be it “Friends” or “Acquaintances” or something else of your choosing.

    To be fair, Facebook has “circles” in the form of Groups, which even has some settings and features similar to Google+ (How many of us knew you can tailor who sees your status updates or photos?).

    I think the difference is that by prominently featuring Circles rather than making it a sorting afterthought, Google+ encourages cliques. Facebook, it might be said, would rather you be friends with everyone. Google+ keeps your friends close and your enemies, well, in their own circle.

    But Circles can also be a bit problematic (see below… again).

  • Integration - One interesting side effect of Google+? My old GChat list has exploded.  It’s more than doubled in size, which speaks to how much Google has integrated its different apps.

    As someone pointed out, teleconferencing, news feeds, and photo/document sharing are not new concepts to the ole’ World Wide Web.  It just really takes someone with Google’s clout to turn it into one big social network. 

    To continue with the Disney analogies, it’s like taking all the classic animated features, the ones we revisit time and again anyway, and looping them into one massive “Princess Collection.”  Not that.. um.. I have… said collection… (anymore)…

The Google+ Minuses

  • Privacy - With Ancestry.com founder Paul Allen already estimating more than 4.5 million Google+ users using his unique method, you expect Google to face the same privacy questions that Facebook has dealt with over the course of its own explosive growth. 

    ZDNet notes the new social network’s privacy policy is “extremely broad.”

    Judge for yourself. Google+’s Terms of Service includes this tidbit:

    By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.

    Granted, I’m pretty sure Google+ isn’t trying to be uber-private.  They want you to have a public profile.  I’m just not sure they tell you just how public some of your stuff can be. 

    As soon as some “acquaintances” I know signed up, Google+ started posting photos from their previously established Picasa albums.  While they’re okay with it, it did catch many by surprise.
  • Circles - If you understand them, Circles have the potential to rock your world.  But if you don’t, they can really make your head spin.  That’s the part that worries the folks who don’t want others to be able to add them into a circle sans mutual consent (a la FB).

    You have to realize that Google wants to know who you want to see virtually everything you post.  That means paying attention to the green versus blue:

    Blue is a constricting circle, so to speak.  Green, on the other hand, means people you haven’t sorted will be able to see what you’ve posted. If you’re not paying attention, it’s tough to know who is seeing what on your page.

  • Beta - In the end, most of the knocks on Buzz Lightyear relate to the fact that he’s shiny and new and simply inexperienced. In this parlance, that means Google+ is glitchy+.

    Tech superstar Chris Pirillo lamented that 200 people unfriended him after his photos started posting automatically. Apparently, due to a miscalculation by Google, his pictures would float to the top of people’s feeds every time someone made a comment about them.

    On a smaller scale, I had friends texting me to stop emailing them every time I posted on my stream.  First of all, I wasn’t aware at the time that I had added people who were not already Google+ members.  Second, I didn’t know the default setting (cleverly enough, because it encourages people to sign up for G+) is to notify those non-members via e-mail every time I hit the “Share” button.

    But Google tends to fix things (except for letting me sort GMail by file size, but that’s a fight… sigh… for another day), so I’m just going to be patient for now.

I wrap up with a philosophical question I posed on a G+ comment from Ted Kim of the Dallas Morning News, regarding the difference between Facebook’s “like” and Google’s “+1.”

Do they have different connotations?  I venture you’d be more likely to “+1” a witty yet negative comment than “like” it.  Eh, what do I know?

So.. for now, yes.

Yes, Google+ gets my +1.  But Facebook still has all my food photos.

Story we did based around the Facebook (co-)founder’s impromptu visit to the Seattle office.


Huge rock slide on Mount Rainier is caught on video. For more on the slides click here.

First look at Windows 8, which appears to be tablet-centric and very much in the vein of Windows Phone 7.  Not necessarily a bad idea, considering how much praise the phone OS has received, as well as a pure marketing and branding standpoint.  I hear you can run Windows 7 apps on it, but that it may not be backwards compatible beyond that. (and yes, the video is courtesy of Microsoft)

Microsoft to Acquire Skype

Pretty huge deal. Not only does this help MS potentially leap-frog Google’s voice and video capabilities, but a potential Skype on the XBox LIVE network would make that Kinect web cam function immediately more appealing to millions of Skype users around the world. 
The official press release from MS:

REDMOND, Wash., and LUXEMBOURG – May 10, 2011 – Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: “MSFT”) and Skype Global S.à r.l today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will acquire Skype, the leading Internet communications company, for $8.5 billion in cash from the investor group led by Silver Lake. The agreement has been approved by the boards of directors of both Microsoft and Skype.

The acquisition will increase the accessibility of real-time video and voice communications, bringing benefits to both consumers and enterprise users and generating significant new business and revenue opportunities. The combination will extend Skype’s world-class brand and the reach of its networked platform, while enhancing Microsoft’s existing portfolio of real-time communications products and services.

With 170 million connected users and over 207 billion minutes of voice and video conversations in 2010, Skype has been a pioneer in creating rich, meaningful connections among friends, families and business colleagues globally. Microsoft has a long-standing focus and investment in real-time communications across its various platforms, including Lync (which saw 30 percent revenue growth in Q3), Outlook, Messenger, Hotmail and Xbox LIVE.

Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities. Microsoft will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.

“Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world.”

Skype will become a new business division within Microsoft, and Skype CEO Tony Bates will assume the title of president of the Microsoft Skype Division, reporting directly to Ballmer.

“Microsoft and Skype share the vision of bringing software innovation and products to our customers,” said Tony Bates. “Together, we will be able to accelerate Skype’s plans to extend our global community and introduce new ways for everyone to communicate and collaborate,” Bates said.

“Tony Bates has a great track record as a leader and will strengthen the Microsoft management team. I’m looking forward to Skype’s talented global workforce bringing its insights, ideas and experience to Microsoft,” Ballmer said.

Speaking on behalf of the investor group that sold Skype to Microsoft, Egon Durban, managing director of Silver Lake, said: “We are thrilled with Skype’s transformation during the period of our ownership and grateful for the extraordinary commitment of its management team and employees. We are excited about Skype’s long-term future with Microsoft, as it is poised to become one of the world’s most dynamic and comprehensive communications platforms.”

Founded in 2003, Skype was acquired by eBay in September 2005, and then acquired by an investment group led by Silver Lake in November 2009. Skype has made impressive progress over the past 18 months under Silver Lake’s leadership, increasing monthly calling minutes by 150 percent, developing new revenue streams and strategic partnerships, acquiring the intellectual property powering its peer-to-peer network, and recruiting an outstanding senior management team.

Other members of the selling investor group led by Silver Lake include eBay International AG, CPP Investment Board, Joltid Limited in partnership with Europlay Capital Advisors; and Andreessen Horowitz.

The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. The parties hope to obtain all required regulatory clearances during the course of this calendar year.

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