Tag Archives: iTunes

Traditional Cable is Dead: Long Live The New Order

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The numbers are increasing: more and more are cutting the cord and getting away from cable / Fios.  As for me, it’s been several months that I’ve functioned without traditional cable television – and I wouldn’t want to go back.

When I first undertook this approach – dumping cable services – I did so with the intent to save money while ensuring a decent means of cheap entertainment we’ve come to expect from our TV set. Would my kids be able to enjoy the show(s) they like to watch? Would they miss out on new shows? Would I do likewise – enjoy the old, experience the new – and importantly, what potential could come of cutting the cord?

I’m happy to report that all of the above – and more – has been achieved.

First of all, my costs have dramatically dropped. I now pay half of what I was paying for earlier, and yet not only enjoy the shows that I usually indulge in, but now have even greater access to more shows that I didn’t before.

My kids also enjoy their regular shows, but now have access to new shows they weren’t aware of.

We can enjoy anything we like at any time regardless of scheduling as there is no schedule: it’s all on demand.

We now gain greater access to more educational shows, shows of interest and more importantly, tap into previously unexplored realms – such as YouTube – that previously were not readily noted.

So let’s talk about the details.

1. Costs

Traditional plans – whether you’re using cable or FIOS – cost anywhere from $90 to $170 per month, depending on what you’re using. What many folk do is get a ‘cheaper’ package in an effort to save money – limit the number of channels they can watch so as to lower monthly costs. But the providers are ready for that: I noted that whenever I shopped for traditional cable/Fios, the fees would shift about. Generally speaking and as an example, what the providers will do is charge you more fees – such as ‘set box’ monthly rental’ – whenever you try lowering your monthly costs. In my case, when I tried to negotiate for a lower monthly fee, I saved some $40 for monthly channel access, but wound up paying more – from $3 per month to $12 per month – for the set box rental! In fact, I was looking at paying $144 per year ($12 per month) for set box rental. Right,…

Also, ask for the lowest speed possible. You’d be surprised what you can do with 10/10 + upload/download speeds: don’t fall for the hype of faster being better (unless you’re a serious gamer addict and your life revolves are playing the latest and greatest online games).

And beware: sometimes what happens is the providers will play with you, offering you speeds but in the end, you can find that (by testing and logging your results over a period of time) that you’re either just reaching those speeds or are just hovering below them. In such instances, you consider keeping a log, doing regular speed tests and print out screen shots of your test results so as to bring these results to the attention of your provider and, if need be, filing a formal complaint with the FCC and the BBB (Better Business Bureau).

2. Platform

Congratulations, you’ve dumped traditional cable. So now what?

For some folk, it’s the Apple TV while for others, it’s Roku.

With Apple TV, you get access to a number of steaming services, but not nearly as varied or richly populated as Roku. Apple TV is great if you’re an Apple user (and if you are, I’d recommend it: the ability to readily link your iTunes and your MacBook / Desktop to your TV is rather cool) but Roku simply offers a whole lot more of freebies.

In that vein, it’s worthwhile to get Hulu and/or Netflix (which is available for both Apple TV and Roku). For $8 per month, Hulu is a bargain: there are literally hundreds of shows with their respective seasons that’ll entertain you and your family. Lots of choices and most of all, for the price, you simply can’t beat it. Consider comparing the cost of getting Hulu for $8 per month versus getting the same shows via traditional cable at $45 per month (just the cable / Fios service portion of your monthly bill) and do the math.

Also, you’ll find that this approach cuts back on ‘channel surfing’. No more hopping around looking for your show(s) on the multitude of channels. Log in, go to your show (you can set up Hulu to create your own programming of shows you like) and enjoy.

3. New Realms

YouTube is getting interesting. Try searching for movies or shows and chances are, they’re on YouTube. In addition, creators are getting wise to YouTube and increasingly, you can watch shows you’ll only find on YouTube (my personal favorite is “The Great War” where viewers can watch weekly updates about World War I as they happened on the week you’ve watching a hundred years ago. And this from a group of ‘amateurs’!).

It’s all changing,…

Let’s understand something: traditional channel viewing is geared to carry the shows you enjoy. Take the shows into a different medium – say, via ‘streaming’ services – and you’ll find there is little reason to remain with traditional cable / FIOS channel lineups. The providers know this. When asked as to why I was dropping my regular cable service, the cable rep asked me, “are you intending to stream?”

“Yes, I already do.”

Sigh. “Yeah, a lot of people are saying that.”

The results are getting interesting. Large entities (such as NFL and Disney to name two of the bigger ones) are already playing hard ball with such folk as Comcast. And rightfully so: for years, the providers held the upper hand, offering the only primary means of delivering quality entertainment to people’s homes and business, changing more to the studios / commercial entities and passing the costs on to you in the form of increased monthly bills while they pocketed the difference. Now that’s changing.

The fight over Internet ‘freedom’ that’s been taking place at the FCC is not so much about freedom per se, but it’s really about the providers’ bread and butter. Providers seek (among other things) to control access and charge people more money for Internet access and speed in an effort to recoup losses incurred from folk abandoning traditional channel delivery. But it’s too late: as much as they are pushing for this, the more the entertainment ‘houses – NFL and Disney to name a few – are pushing back, gradually cornering Comcast, Time/Warner, Verizon, etc. – into difficult negotiating positions. Simply put: aside from Internet access, what’s there for the providers to offer? And if they insist upon pressing home the need to limit and/or charge more for Internet access, the more they’re going to undermine themselves. After all, all it takes is one provider to buck the pack and offer more competitive fees for their customers leaving the others to scramble.

The writing’s on the wall; it’s a brave new world. The company valuation of provider’s companies are in flux and with that, unless they move fast and adjust to the changing market realities, cable / Fios TV providers going to find things challenging.

Change is good, especially if you’re the consumer. All it takes is a little research, planning and a willingness to save money to get better quality home entertainment.

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The Personal Computer is Dead; Long Live The Personal Network!

Zardoz speaks to you, the chosen ones! Ah, wither the PC. With the rise of the tablet, rapidly dissolving profit margins and the rising costs of operating software as a percentage of the total PC value (save for Linux PC’s) it’s not surprising that the PC is now fading away. In prior years, one obtained PC’s owing to laptops not having the adequate processing power necessary to manage larger programs (not to mention PC’s having larger screens). Now, with the rise of tablets and laptops, building, selling and marketing PC’s is now no longer a viable business model.

Duh.

In the immortal words of Gomer Pyle: “surprise, surprise, surprise.”

Laptops (i.e., notebooks, MacBooks, Airbooks, etc., etc.) have tremendous processing power – in fact, most laptops today generally match or exceed a number of PC’s out there now. Between operating systems cost, the constant threat of viruses (and the ever-constant cost to keep up with the latest anti-virus software) it’s enough to make one look for other options. And frankly, why do you need all that processing power to support an entire array of programs that chances are, you will rarely – if ever – truly use? And if you’re checking out the laptops, chances are you’re finding out that your needs are going to be largely met.

For businesses, PC’s are increasingly no longer a viable cost item. As just discussed, a PC is an expensive notion. Better to issue laptops – or, as some entities are already doing, issuing tablets.

This is all part of a far greater, more significant trend. It’s not just so much the end of the PC, but rather the evolution of the network – more specifically the rise of the personal / focused network. For the past decades, PCs were stand alone islands who just happened to link to other PC’s via network connections whereby the nature of any given network was determined by the users and the PC’s. Now, it is how you control and access your network(s) – and not the PC – which defines you through service offerings (music, iTunes, video, picture files, etc.) as networks are no longer simply wires and routers: they are living ecologies.

It’s also no coincidence that the PC’s are doomed, for with the advent of Cloud computing who needs a big box to hold your data? Who needs to get a dedicated (large) viewing screen when you can simply interface with your flat screen television and do your homework, give a presentation or conduct a Skype call? Your files can be stored remotely through a subscription service or on a dedicated 4 or 5 Tb home network drive, allowing you to set up your very own VPN (Virtual Private Network) allowing you access files regardless if you’re in Philadelphia or Paris, Moscow or Montevideo, Beijing or Benjaymi?

What clearly holds greater importance nowadays is the network and the speed by which you connect to any network – and, more importantly, how you organize and access your information. Really, aside from screen size why do you need a regular PC? Get a tablet, watch YouTube videos; do your homework on a MacBook and text away on your Android. Or, for that matter, kick back and download your Netfix or iTunes – and if you’re really clever, rip some DVD’s and store them on your network drive (Whoops! Sorry, I disavow any such action for fear of the RIAA zombies).

You get the point. It’s no longer about the box: it’s about the ecology. And it’s all about how you define the ecology you will live, work and play in.

Networks are living things: they have hiccups, have good days and bad days and depending upon your flavor, allow you to do things that previously – hell, hardly five years ago – was not possible. It all depends upon the nature of the services, routine and platforms you’re seeking: IOS / Apple, Android or otherwise how you want to work and play determines the network you’re going to be using.

In days past, it was how and what you put on your PC / box; now, it’s how you set up and develop your network and its ancillary services / routines.

For those of us who are science fiction fans, none of this comes as a surprise. John Boorman predicted this kind of thing (along with Star Trek and a host of others) from his (rather intense) film “Zardoz”, with Boorman’s notion of everyone being connected to a vast impermeable computer network known as the ‘tabernacle’. Made of crystals imbedded in users’ heads, the tabernacle linked users along with an extensive series of libraries (and not just one library, mind you) enabling users to access data, communicate and interact within a community of their peers 24 x 7 x 365.

Looking back, such notions were considered the domain of the ‘weirdo’ or the ‘fanatic’ – or simply the result of smoking too much pot and listening to Yes’s ‘Starship Trooper’ over and over and over: now, it’s gradually becoming true within our lifetime that what was talked about is actually happening (and for the record, I never really got into Yes).

So, if you’re wondering about taking that dive off the deep end and getting into Windows 8, that’s your call, but the Vegas line on this is not good – and the numbers are continuing to drop. In the meantime, this is great time to take advantage of services and sales that are now getting really cheap, offering options that previously were unheard of five years ago. As the old timers will tell you, it was cool to ‘build your own personal box’; now the cool thing is to build your own personal network.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to check out my iTune’s account and see if they ever got around to getting ‘Space 1999’ on for viewing on my iPad while getting ready for my webinar which I’m offering to potential clients.