All entries for Thursday 13 October 2005

October 13, 2005

iPods and video

Writing about New iPods from [Ux]

There's been a bit of chat on Steve's blog about the new iPods which can do video, albeit on a pretty small screen at a pretty cruddy resolution. A couple of posts on blogs elsewhere touch on this in interesting ways: from Boing Boing Glenn Fleishman observes:-

  • Can't transfer TV programs.
  • Not much content yet designed to play on it.
  • Battery life while watching video is rated at 2 to 3 hours, thus not long enough for even a half-country-hopping flight.
  • Can't burn the content you buy for it, so you suddenly have a storage and management problem.
  • So this is for Greenwich-to-Manhattan commuters with disposable cash who don't watch Lost or Desperate Housewives the night before because they're too busy playing squash. They can watch DH on the way into work and Lost on the way back without running out of battery life… just barely.

But on the other side of the fence, I think John Gruber is also absolutely spot on when he says :-

Apple is simply kicking ass with iPod hardware engineering. In just one year, they’ve dramatically shrunk the thickness, added a larger full color screen, increased capacity, increased battery life, and added photo and video playback. Which is not even to mention how much better the Nano is than the iPod Mini. I’m hard-pressed to think of any other hardware company doing as much innovative product design and engineering as Apple’s iPod division.

Even if, like me (and Chris, and others) you don't see the attraction of this particular iPod iteration, I think Apple's track record with the hardware is just dazzling.

Blackboard and WebCT to merge

According to this press release the two VLE vendors Blackboard and WebCT intend to merge. Hard to overstate what a big deal this is in the e-learning space; it's the equivalent of Microsoft and Apple merging, or Adobe and Macromedia… oh, wait.

Then again, how much difference will moving from two vendors to one really make? Institutions which switch from WebCT to Blackboard or vice-versa are very rare, because the cost and effort involved in migrating content is so great as to discourage the change in all but the most extreme scenarios. But it does mean that institutions considering a VLE for the first time will have essentially one commercial product available to them, without even the current possibility of weighing up the pros and cons of two competing systems, and perhaps using the existence of one as a bargaining tool with the other.

It also means, of course, that the arms race that exists when there are two companies competing with similar products in the same market will just disappear. The incentive to innovate will be gone, because there'll be no pressure to invent new features that the other guy doesn't have. And the next obvious consequence of that, I think, is that institutions should get ready, in a year or two, for some well-above-inflation rises in the annual subscription rates. If Monty Burns was CEO of Blackboard right now, he'd be rubbing his hands togther and saying "Eeeeeeexcellent…".

Slashdot has a thread on this which is interesting because there appears to be nobody who has used either system who has a good word to say about it, either in terms of its features and interface, or in terms of the engineering quality of the application.

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