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Sunday, October 30th, 2005

Sammy and I took a look at the new iPods up at Lenox last week, and they’re cute, cool, all of that…although at this point not quite cool and cute enough to compel me to reach walletward. If our venerable first-generation iPod suddenly died, I would buy with gusto, but until then, I’m treating our geezerPod with all the gingerness and TLC that I am our Powerbook, which is considerably more on-its-last-legs.

But the model of a la carte TV show purchasing Steve Jobs and company introduced along with those new iPods really is (for me) the seed of something way more interesting…a way to move away from the tyranny of ad support and somewhat closer to those who want the content (no more and no fewer) paying the freight.

Nathan Alderman on does some very interesting math:

Suppose Fox announces that it’s cancelling Arrested Development. Now suppose that Apple and the show’s producers put up a whole new season on iTunes for preorder, promising to crank out the episodes if enough folks pay up to see it. Say the same 2 million or so folks who watch Arrested each week sign up for a 22-episode season at $35 a pop. If Apple gets, oh, 25 percent of that, it still works out to roughly $2.3 million an episode for producers to crank out the further adventures of the Bluth clan. (A quick Google search suggests the show currently costs $1.5 million an episode to produce. Does anyone else hear cash registers?) If those episodes also air on TV, the ad revenue would kick in even more to the budget. And even more money would trickle in over months and years as new folks discovered the show and signed up to download the newly made episodes.

This could be big. This could be Veronica Mars never getting cancelled big. In my sad, sad little dreams, this could even be new episodes of Firefly or Farscape big.

That sound you hear is several thousand die-hard fans rushing to their keyboards, looking for someone, anyone to bombard with e-mails. Be afraid. Or excited. Or possibly both.

Now, of course, the supposition that stands out here begging to be challenged is that the “same 2 million or so” folks have access to broadband, the iTunes store and a way to play the videos. I’m quite sure that at this moment that’s not the case, but I’m also comfortable envisioning a day when that might be the way the world works. So I’m very happy that two big’ol’corps like Apple and Disney/ABC are testing the waters. And I hope they’re happy with what they’re seeing this early in the model.

Update:Apple today announced that its iTunes Music Store has sold more than one million videos since it began selling them on on October 12. That’d pay for an episode or two of Firefly…

It’s a start.

Friday, October 28th, 2005

I remember sitting in my high school newspaper office in 1973, learning about exactly how serious obstruction of justice is. Misdeeds are bad, lying about them under oath is worse. It’s that simple. Now, another generation has a chance to read and learn.

I look at today’s indictment of the Vice-President’s chief of staff as some sort of start toward a more complete national discussion of how the current administration imperiled the core values of our democracy by authorizing secrecy without accountability, torture without limits, and tacit campaigns against anyone who threatened to expose the lack of reasons to go to war and sacrifice 2000 Americans and countless others.

Read the indictment (PDF) and the prosecutor’s statement (PDF) for yourself. (Thanks, CNN. I tried to find them, as advertised, on the Department of Justice website, but I guess the attorney general didn’t want to make it too easy.)

Our muffled outrage is beginning to be heard.

Cool music.

Saturday, October 1st, 2005

I guess since people have been leaking pictures of the other “iTunes Everywhere” initiative products, from Windows Mobile to PSPs to even a specially enhanced Apple Newton, I can share with you a unit we’ve been beta-testing for an unnamed Cupertino-based computer company for a couple of months now. Based on a 1989 Frigidaire side-by-side refrigerator, this low-temperature-tolerant flat-panel display and integrated iTunes interface is powered by G5-style liquid heat-exchange coils grafted into the refrigeration system, replacing much of the icemaker assembly.

(Click on the image at right to see a larger version.)

The smart playlists feature comes preset with ambient music selected to match the temperature in the compartment—by special arrangment with the artists, the unit comes bundled with 15 selections from Zero 7 to get you started.

The iFridge can send notifications via a clever integration of Delicious Library and iCal when the number of eggs available drops below a certain level or the expire date on certain products in its UPC database is nearing or has been reached.

We’ve learned a lot during the test period…for example, ketchup bottles and other “tall” leftovers can really take a toll on the system’s ease-of-use. And, of course, it’s best to have your music choices in mind before you open the door.

The entire unit is designed to sleep when the door is closed…we think.