Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, January 22, 2021

steeling a victory
Weeks ago, I made a couple of observations about this year’s NFL playoffs:

Since the Steelers just knocked off Denver, 34-17, my assumption of AFC supremacy is now flying through unprecedented territory.

Pittsburgh impressed me. The Broncos were my pick to win the whole she-bang; I gave them a slight edge over Indianapolis even before the Colts were knocked off. There was something about Denver, from midseason on, that told me they were going to cash in on the entire thing. They had a swagger that seemed to hold a lot of promise.

But Pittsburgh took care of that. They looked as dominating as they have been during the postseason, and put it away decisively. They may have come into the playoffs as the No. 6 AFC team, but they’ve earned the top spot now.

So, I’m sticking with my AFC prejudice. In fact, I’m even more sure now than I had been. Whoever wins the Carolina-Seattle game will be little more than a strawman. In two weeks’ time, Pittsburgh will be bringing home the Lombardi Trophy.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/22/2006 06:26:17 PM
Category: Football | Permalink | Feedback (3)

Above is Mernet Larsen’s Icon, one of the pieces in the “Dragon Veins” exhibition at the University of South Florida’s Contemporary Art Museum.

Why “Dragon Veins”?

The title refers to the term in Chinese art meaning the unseen connections within a painting. The show aims to explore the connections artists are making between Eastern and Western painting traditions and the contemporary flow of cultural exchange.

Which is why I like Larsen’s painting, because it’s evocative of Soviet-era graphic artwork: Heavily cubist-inspired, with textured colors. Russian media interpretation historically has been very Eastern-inspired, and images like this strike me as the modern distillation of that sensibility. I’ve previously expressed a fondness for this school of art, so it’s easy to guess what’s going to appeal to my eye.

I won’t have any time to swing by USF for this show. So I’ll just have to enjoy what I can glean from the newspaper.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/22/2006 05:47:50 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Creative | Permalink | Feedback

How much is an iPod, or any other digital media player, worth if it’s empty? The question comes up in relation to the likely copyright suit coming against TVMyPod, a startup that offers customers iPods pre-loaded with customizable popular TV, movie, and other video content.

There’s not much doubt in my mind that TVMyPod is going to lose any court battle versus media copyright holders. They’ll be a blip, notable only for bringing the value-added issue of digital content to the fore.

As far as the tactic of selling iPods “fully loaded”: This has been going on for at least a couple of years:

I’ve noticed that many used iPod listings on eBay tout the fact that the devices are “loaded”. Loaded in this case means the iPod is filled at or near capacity with music, and the sellers make a point of advertising this in their listings. Obviously, the idea is that an iPod, or any digital music player, preloaded with music is worth more than an empty one. From the time I’ve spent today and yesterday checking the listings, it does appear that the iPods that had music already on them were drawing higher bids than the ones without. Is this a new eBay strategy?

I should note that this could open up another digital rights issue in the music world. Does an iPod seller have the right to sell the music that’s already on the device? Even if all the files on it are legitimately ripped copies instead of files obtained illegally through a fileswapping network (that’s unlikely in any case), I’m sure the music industry would look unfavorably at a money transaction like this taking place; it definitely goes beyond fair use. Plus, it’s apparent that the preloaded music adds value to the transaction, so if this practice really catches on bigtime, it’ll attract the attention of the lawyers, and some sort of action will happen. Could be an interesting development.

Liz provided her legal opinion on this back on my old blog; unfortunately, her comment is long gone, as it was on HaloScan. But as I recall, she said something about fair-use provisions covering this sort of transaction. Judging from the anticipated legal action versus TVMyPod, I’m thinking that’s probably not the case.

The notion of selling digital players with content already on them isn’t something to be dismissed, however. As successful a product as the iPod has been, it’s not reaching the entire consumer market. The reason: It still is, at root, a computer peripheral. Meaning it’s not a stand-alone device — you need to own a computer, and have a library of digital music/video files, in order to make use of it. Out of the box, the iPod is mostly useless; a basic package doesn’t even allow you to charge it up without hooking it up to a computer.

The idea of a computer-less household may be difficult for some to comprehend. But they do, indeed, exist. There’s still a good chunk of the population that doesn’t own a computer. The reasons are either economic or demographic, or both. Basically, poor people and older people probably don’t own a computer, either because they can’t afford one, or else don’t see a need for one. In both cases, they’re cut off from the casual consumer experience, aside from using a computer at work or school.

So those markets are probably not the ones to target for sales of digital media devices or content, as they don’t have the household infrastructure to effectively use them.

But why should that be? As a consumer product, the iPod sells not so much because of what it is, but because of what it does: Providing a portable way to carry around music, video and pictures. Whether it does that through computer interfaces or magic is largely irrelevant to the average consumer. As long as it does the job, it’ll be in demand.

The idea of hitting the “Play” button on the iPod as soon as it’s unwrapped is an alluring concept (ignoring, for the moment, the need to charge a brand-new unit). It removes the complicated, do-it-yourself technical aspect of the buying experience. Which is why TVMyPod’s business model holds so much appeal: It offers an iPod that you potentially never have to mess with, content-wise. A 60-gig iPod can be filled with enough music, for instance, to provide practically endless variety, to the point where a computer-phobic owner would question the need to ever alter what’s on the hard drive. It’s the no-fuss iPod, with no computer or wires needed.

With that in mind, the issue of what can be done with that pre-loaded content is beside the point. Currently, content on an iPod can’t be transferred easily to another device (aside from hacking, which isn’t a mainstream method), to prevent another avenue for file-swapping. This would mean that pre-loaded players would be somewhat inflexible: You wouldn’t be able to experience the content on it anywhere but on that iPod. But, if they’re targeted toward consumers who would never use their iPods with a computer or other devices anyway, it wouldn’t be a problem; in fact, it might never even occur to such an owner that such a thing would be possible, or even desirable.

So there’s quite a bit of potential behind the idea of pre-loaded iPods as value-added commodities. The key is to include content providers as partners in such a venture. Three years ago, Morgenthaler Venture’s Greg Blonder put forth a structure for this, basically using digital content as an incentivizing agent in product sales. It’s an idea that I took a shine to, and now think that the time might have arrived for its implementation.

Much like the cycle that digital music sales went through, the marketing of pre-loaded iPods would serve to expand the market for digital players. It would also re-shape the concept of what you’re buying — primarily the content, versus what it comes in.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/22/2006 04:36:51 PM
Category: Media, Tech | Permalink | Feedback