Particle Debris and Hallmark (Week of July 21)

/> Before I get on to the debris from this week, I must say something about what the Hallmark Channel did last night. My wife loves horses, so we watched a fairly delightful movie with Stephen Collins called "Every Second Counts" about a young woman and her horse.

The movie was fairly complete when, at 45 minutes past the hour, an ad came on that said something like, "To see the rest of the movie, go to our Website." A very old "Murder She Wrote" then abruptly started.

I don't know about you, but my feeling is that when a viewer invests in a movie, withholding material and redirecting to another medium doesn't sit well with me. It reminds me of a not-so-funny event years ago when a TV industry spokesperson said that skipping commercials violates the implied contract between the viewer and the show. No one took that seriously, but in this case, there was an implied contract.

The contract goes like this: "We schedule the show, arrange for a listing, and run the show to completion." That's unless, of course, the show is clearly marked Part I. Even a "to be continued" is accepted and legitimate in the TV industry.

In this case, however, there was a 2-3 minute snippet that showed what happened when the young veterinarian grew up. It was short, essentially a tease, but the viewer doesn't know that. They just know that content has been interrupted and they've been redirected to another medium, the Internet, to see what followed.

That's the first time I've ever seen that kind of puerile shenanigan, and I wrote the Hallmark Channel about it. The next time I think about the Hallmark brand, I'll remember that dirty trick.

End of rant.

I noted on Wednesday that several sources were reporting a downturn in NAND flash memory prices. I really believe that NAND memory has been a game changer in the industry and has enabled all kinds of neat products.
What I have been calling the "iPod supertouch" is now being called the MacBook touch, and it won't be long before we're all toting around a modest-sized flat screen chock full of the Internet and gigabytes of NAND flash. Is the notebook computer, as we know it, about to come to and end?

Speaking of that kind of thing, I have to go back a few weeks to a David Sobotta blog in which he lamented the current state of industrial design of Macs. The current Mac Pro design dates back to the PowerMac G5 from the fall of 2003. The MacBook Pro design dates back about five years.
Mr. Sobotta hadn't been in an Apple store for some time and was appalled at how little things had changed and how uninspiring the designs are.

I note that BMW keeps its designs stable for a long time too, making only tweaks below the hood (ahem). That keeps customers from being annoyed with new designs too soon and serves to protect their investment. Also, these days, there are a lot of switchers, and it probably comforts them to see both good design and stability in the Apple products as they periodically check in and make plans for the switch.

That said, I think Apple has gone too far. Has the company lost interest in futuristic Mac designs? Do they feel that with soaring Mac sales, nothing further need be done? Do they feel that Very Soon Now, SSDs and gestures will make the notebook computer obsolete? I don't have the answers, but I sure would like to feel that Apple is moving ahead soon with designs that have been five years in the making.

As a testament to Apple's ability to engage the customer at the retail level, it was reported this week that Gateway is exiting the direct PC sales business. I believe that when people have confidence in a product, they're willing to purchase a commodity via mail order. But when customers are increasingly aware of problems, they want to touch and feel the product before they buy it. Maybe that's not technically enough to make a valid decision, but who said that a lot of these PC purchases are devoid of emotion.

Gateway's bad fortune may also have something to do with all those Internet and print ads for pretty PCs that show a blank screen. "Here, buy our pretty hardware. The OS? Oh. Ahem. We don't want to talk about that. But, isn't that notebook pretty?" That kind of game just makes the buyer want to touch and feel before buying a computer even more.

Finally, I note that another company has jumped into the fray with a Mac OS X compatible PC. They think they've found a loophole that inoculates them from action by Apple. Namely, you install Mac OS X yourself.

Apple can probably devise ways to have the OS "phone home" with a report that it's not running on Apple hardware. I hope Apple's attorneys will figure out better ways to deal with those obnoxious, pirate-happy customers than the RIAA has.

I can see a day, forced by by these so-called entrepreneurs, when we won't be able to buy a boxed copy of Mac OS X. It'll be available pre-installed on a Mac and only updatable via the Internet.