Make Your Home Imporvement Projects Easier With These Quick Tips

Home improvement can personalize your home truly yours. You need to find out all of your research so that you don’t wind up losing a ton of money or even harming yourself or your loved ones.There are some wonderful tried and true tips listed below to help you begin.

The more personal your renovation is, the less likely you will have buyers that wish to purchase it for the price of your work.

If you are choosing a major renovation, engage a professional to design the work or draw up the plans. A professional designer can create meaningful plans that also meet safety restrictions and will add value to your home.

Think about inserting solar panels on your roof. The installation cost is not cheap, but over the long term this could be a very worthwhile investment. This can help you to save a significant amount on your money your electric bills. This is a good way to give your house the environment.

Use clear plastic boxes to organize items in your garage. Label these boxes and stack them. This tactic won’t cost you a lot and will protect belongings.

If you are thinking about buying a home, look for damage due to rot, chipped paint and more. However, issues such as structural problems, roof damage, and lousy ventilation can only be discovered by a professional home inspector.

Home Improvements

You ought to list what you need before heading out to a home improvement store.

Bathrooms are important for those selling a house. Other rooms are easy for buyers to fix up on their own, but bathrooms must be kept in good condition. Make sure the sink and tub/shower are in good shape, and if they aren’t, replace them. Swap out your floors for tile instead.

If you are going for a serene atmosphere in your home, pick light, including lighter shades of blue, purple, and green. Use cotton materials and linens instead of dark brocades and heavy patterns.

When thinking of replacing your cabinets, think about using wood. They are very durable and stand up well under heavy use. The most popular woods for cabinets are maple, cherry and maple. All of these can be stained, so if you feel like changing the color, this is easily accomplished.

Do you want an elegant upgrade to your home but are low on funds? A smart way to inexpensively add elegance is a new door bell. This is an improvement anyone who comes to your home again.

You can easily make your entrance look better and more attractive by simply replacing exterior doorknobs.This particular project requires less than an hour. The most complicated tool you will have to use is a simple screwdriver. You can buy nice doorknobs at your home improvement center.

Be honest with your contractor in regards to your budget for all remodeling projects. This will allow your contractor to use appropriate materials wisely for your project. The workers will also get a better value for their dollar. This is a win-win situation is optimal for both parties.

Make sure that you’ve got a solid plan when getting ready to do home improvement project. Decisions regarding costs and changes should all be done before you start your budget.

Make sure your budget as comprehensive and accurate as possible.

Keep water usage in mind when making home improvement plans. You can simply add water heaters, water heaters and commodes.

Change accessories to give each room of your home! It is amazing to see the look of a room. Get new draperies in a lush fabric and vibrant color, then add new pillows, a lamp and a vase in complementary colors, and the room will seem as if a professional designer did it.

You need to know what you are doing before demolishing anything.Look for electrical wires still attached. It may be costly to remove the entire structure, so it’s better to double check first.

Home improvement projects can be laborious yet rewarding. No matter what, as long as you have the knowledge about doing such work safely and skillfully, it is possible to have the house you always wanted. So, make sure you take your time to research and apply the tips you just went over so you can be better at doing home improvements.…

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Life After Robots: The Jobs Report

The giddy technology boosters of Wired magazine can’t wait for our robotic future, when we will give thanks to the robots for taking our old jobs away so that we can do more interesting and better-paying work: “Wow, now that robots are doing my old job, my new job is much more fun and pays more!”

Unfortunately, this optimistic wish-thinking shows an embarrassing ignorance of economic history, including recent history.
For the reality is that workers who lose their jobs to technology tend to end up unemployed or employed at vastly lower wages. Society as a whole may end up better, but the displaced workers generally do not, even if their children do. See Rust Belt, USA. Or Textile Workers, England.

I believe the premise is correct: software and robots will indeed transform the workforce and the professions. Quite possibly 70% of job positions today will no longer exist at the end of the century. According to other estimates, the number may be closer to 45% of jobs taken away by robots.

And whereas it took decades to render farming jobs obsolete with mechanical tractors and farm equipment, software and robotics are evolving so quickly that they are likely to change what skills and jobs are needed at a faster rate.

Unfortunately, evidence to date suggests that workers cannot retrain so easily, even when they’re motivated and interested in changing careers. How many unemployed middle-aged factory workers, truck drivers, warehouse workers, cashiers, clerks, administrative assistants and others succeed in going back to college and learning how to write and use advanced software and operate high-end robotics?

We know the answer: not many. Large numbers of displaced workers can expect to spend extended periods of time on the unemployment rolls, only to discover that companies don’t want to hire them because they’ve been out of work. If they are lucky enough to get hired, they may find a new job at lower pay, often part-time, with fewer benefits and a lower title.

Yet there are still at least three good reasons for optimism.

  1. Technology costs are dropping rapidly.
  2. Workers may be becoming more adaptable (though the evidence is not yet in).
  3. And 70% job loss may not be as bad as it sounds.

Technology costs are declining rapidly so that the same money can buy better, and more, and newer. Despite stagnating wages and outright declines for those whose jobs have been replaced by technology, flat income can, in fact, buy more.

A tablet computer today costs a few hundred dollars and provides far more functionality than a $2,000 laptop did in twenty years ago. Taking inflation into consideration, the same salary can buy a vastly superior computer for on the order of 1/10th the cost.

Could we be headed toward a future where most people live on minimum wage jobs, or on unemployment checks, and yet they live better than people at any other time in history? Where a small number of fabulously wealthy people live like feudal lords? This is the future imagined in The Lights in the Tunnel.

That brings us to the second possible reason for optimism. Perhaps workers today are becoming a different breed, whose skills can adapt more easily.

Switching from a semi-skilled job on a factory floor to a computer operator or programmer for new robotics may be difficult. Switching from a computer operator for one type of robotics to a computer operator for the new generation of robotics may be easier. In other words, certain kinds of changes — from physical labor to service — may be a one-time switch, whereas jobs within a given category may be easier.

People may be more adaptable, and the adaptation may already be underway for the younger generations. The cycle of rapidly upgraded computers and telecommunications may be rewiring our brains for the economic future.

If technology continues to lower costs, and if people are indeed becoming more adaptable, and hence less vulnerable to technological unemployment, maybe the painful downside of the robotic revolution will be reduced, even without government intervention.

And in case you’re worried by a 45% or 70% job turnover from robotics and computers, that number is actually small compared to the normal turnover from non-technological causes. Around 15% of all jobs are lost without replacement in a given year. In that case, robotics will bring but a blip in the digital photo of a bucket.

Even if you believe the problem isn’t so big, there will be many real people who lose out in the change, who see sharp drops in their standard of living, and never look back with happiness on when they were freed from their previous work and given new, higher paying and more meaningful work to replace it. Overall, the trend of increasing human prosperity is likely to continue. Robotics will be part of it.…

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Silicon Valley Housing Crunch

Rents and real estate prices have gone crazy in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. What’s going on? Is it sustainable or a high tech bubble all over again?

Housing Crunch
San Francisco residents are complaining about the high tech companies — Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple — that have contributed to a leap in rental prices, with the median one bedroom apartment now costing $2,795, and considerably higher in some neighborhoods.

Meanwhile condos and houses throughout the Bay Area are selling with multiple offers at prices above list, and above the peak pricesof the housing bubble. All-cash offers are common, and real estate agents recommend a 30% down-payment to even get considered.

Part of the housing crunch in San Fran proper is caused by commuters to high tech companies, enabled by the controversial luxury buses with leather seats and wifi that transport young technologists to the tech titans of Silicon Valley.

Commercial real estate is equally affected. With the influx of high salaried workers, expensive boutique shops and fancy restaurants are replacing more modest establishments, driven out by the high rents.

The Great Inversion
Isn’t it just gentrification? Same story happening everywhere. Yes, and no. San Francisco prices have been rising for a long time, and the merely upper middle class are being priced out by the even better off.

A demographic inversion is continuing, with the formerly decaying and crime-ridden inner cities getting richer and the suburbs becoming the new home of the immigrants, as in European cities.

It Will Continue
For multiple reasons, the trend is likely to continue.

The population is growing. That puts upward pressure on prices close to where jobs are.

Income inequality is increasing. There are no signs yet of a change to the decades long trend of rising inequality. As the rich get richer, the richest will spend more of their money on their homes, driving up prices in the most desirable neighborhoods.

Urban planning and legislation suppresses the supply of housing. Places like the Bay Area have restrictive development and zoning policies, and perverse tax incentives, which restrict supply. That inflates prices to the benefit of existing homeowners, reducing turnover.

Geography limits expansion. San Francisco is surrounded by water on three sides. There’s no room to expand, unlike in some cities surrounded by developable land.

Finally, the technology revolution inaugurated by the Silicon Age is not slowing down. The Bay Area remains the center of high tech investment, and as long as computing continues to transform more areas of life, more tech billionaires and multi-millionaires will bid up the prices.

Implications
If it were only Silicon Valley, the rest of the world could shrug and say, Who cares? But the patterns of rising prices can be found in many urban centers throughout the US and the world, regardless of the dominant industry. Where the local economy is vibrant, housing prices are rising in many inner city and inner suburban neighborhoods.

Multiple of the trends favoring rising prices can be found in other urban areas with a solid economy. The geographic constraints can be found in most coastal cities or cities bordered by lakes or mountains. Affluent and liberal areas everywhere tend to pass laws to restrict development. Only the technology trend distinguishes Silicon Valley, and even then, several other urban areas have a growing base of high tech jobs.

I’m not very satisfied with what I’ve read about the revitalization of cities, gentrification, and housing trends generally. I do recommend reading The Great Inversion for part of the story.…

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Where’s the Money in Big Data?

So asks NY Times writer James Glanz in his recent article, “Is Big Data an Economic Big Dud?”. The short answer to his question is no. Now for the slightly longer answer.

What’s So Great About Big Data?

It may not strike you as immediately obvious why more data should be a good thing. Does the world need more YouTube videos of cats, or Facebook posts, or tracking data from your web clicks? How does that create economic value?

Simplistically, of course, the companies collecting the data, and convincing users to generate it, are doing pretty well. Facebook stock has risen back to its already phenomenal IPO valuation. YouTube turns out to have been a bargain for Google at only a $1 billion price tag. And online advertising continues to grow at double digits.

Looking deeper, the data craze builds on a more fundamental observation, brought into the ranks of corporations by the likes of Peter Drucker in the 1940s and 50s: business decisions ought to be based on data. Or at least not to contradict the data.

In the sciences, the turn to data and quantification and mathematics has been on a centuries-long march that has recently penetrated into the social sciences, including psychology and marketing. One way to look at the Big Data hoopla is simply as the logical extension of this: if you have data, and you can improve business decisions — like the choice of advertising to show to users — you can make more money.

The premise is simple enough, and the results are indisputable in fields like advertising.

What’s Not So Great

Small businesses can’t benefit from data in the same way that larger ones can, because they don’t have enough customers of their own to extract trends, and improving their decisions on average may not help if they only have one store location to the average across.

Big Data will benefit big businesses first. From big box stores to Big Data to mega-airline mergers, the trend is toward bigger. That’s not so great if you care about the idiosyncrasy of the small if you like the autonomy of the mom and pop store.

As a result, small businesses have little choice but to rely on big companies to provide the data they can use. They must advertise using the aggregators, play the game of rankings and search engines and social media, and find a way to stand out in the noise.

They depend on the Amazons and Apples of the world to be their distribution channel, knowing that larger companies can copy their ideas and produce them at the larger scale and lower cost if they’re successful.

Drowning in Data

Data has become too easy to collect and store. Our memories are fallible and impermanent. Our photos on Instagram reveal more than we can recall.

With inventions like Google Glass, a future where every human’s every waking moment is recorded in high fidelity 3D video is not so far-fetched.

Companies, too, can collect more data than ever before, and they can actually search through it for trends, and adjust their product strategies, advertising, and pricing based on what they find.

It’s pretty obvious that there’s money to be made from not just collecting the data, but analyzing it and acting on it as close to instantaneously as possible. In economic terms, more accurate data can lead to greater efficiency, by detecting mis-pricing and missed opportunities.

The Big Data industry has risen up to provide the technology tools so that every company, in every industry, can harness, store, search, mine, learn from, and act on the data that can help it to perform better.

Why Big Data Might Not Pan Out

With such clear benefits, why would anyone doubt the economic contribution? Here are a few legitimate concerns.

Maybe Big Data will not primarily create new value, but mainly shift the value to those who collect and use the data better than the competition, in the process enriching the companies that develop the tools.

Maybe more data will face diminishing returns very quickly, rather than creating new sources of value. Smoothing out some suboptimal pricing, and luring in a few extra shoppers with better-targeted offers, could provide a marginal benefit, not a transformative and sustainable one.

Big Data could turn into an arms race, similar to high-frequency trading. Or, well, literal arms races. Big Data could be a more powerful weapon, and the best-armed companies will destroy the competition. Free market zealots will hail the Schumpeterian “creative destruction”.

In the past, the destruction has tended to create more opportunities than it has lost, over the long term, despite the undeniably negative effects on those immediately impacted, like the mill workers unemployed, or the auto workers whose salaries have halved.

With the rise in income inequality to levels last seen at in the gilded age, and with the “hollowing out” of the global workforce, the past may not be as reliable a guide.

Even if one of these skeptical scenarios come to pass, Big Data will not be a Big Dud, at least not for all.

Conclusion

In a more optimistic outcome, which I consider to be more likely, Big Data will be a net win, keeping the energy of economic growth thrumming at a pace to lift hundreds of millions more around the world out of poverty in the coming decades, bringing a higher standard of living, longer lives, and less misery to the world than at any time in history. Big Data can hardly take credit as the only or even the main cause. It will be but one minor contributing factor. But I believe it will contribute positively.

Ignore the data — like ignoring the facts — at your own peril.…

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Cities of the Future

Well-heeled liberals tend to assume that everyone should live in cities, and the world would be a better place for all. People would consume less energy for transportation and temperature control. They’d get more exercise from walking and taking public transit, extending their lives. Quaint Jane Jacobs-style neighborhoods would improve people’s daily routines with friendly local businesses and amenities.

All of that’s true. But here’s why it could go a different way.

The City Is Dead
Given technology trends, there will soon be fewer reasons for cities to exist.

  • Video conferencing improves so much that physical proximity becomes irrelevant — for socializing as well as working
  • 3D nano-printers one day can create any food near instantaneously, driving most restaurants out of business, because we’ll all be able to Jetson our dinners on demand. Assuming that virtual reality doesn’t render the physicality of food irrelevant first.
  • Online shopping continues along its trend toward beating the real thing.
  • Online dating utterly replaces the in-person variety, as the recent marriage stats suggest.

If all these come to pass, what reason will be left for living in a city? It won’t matter where anyone lives.

Long Live the City
And yet, some of the benefits of cities will remain.

  • Energy efficiency
  • Greener living
  • Lower cost delivery of goods
  • Virtual reality may one day provide an adequate experience of nature

In an especially science fictional future, people might end up living in Matrix movie style pods, plugged into virtual reality, living at a density to make Tokyo seem spacious.

What do you think will happen?…

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Can Computers Compose a Hit Music Single?

Computers can beat us at chess. They can beat us at Jeopardy-style trivia. They can out-calculate us and make fewer mistakes on rote problems.

Can computers write better music? What would it take for them to compose a #1 hit music single?

For ideas, I finally got around to reading Raymond Kurzweil’s book The Singularity Is Near, a touchstone of futuristic thinking.

surface-studio

Consciousness in the Cloud
In Kurzweil’s vision, the Singularity is the time when computers surpass people in intelligence — and not just intelligence, but effectively all ways. He believes that people will choose to merge with computers, and replace their biological bodies with other physical forms, or with pure software, uploading their consciousnesses into what we now call “the cloud” of computer systems distributed around the world.

Naturally, in Kurzweil’s vision, computers will be better than humans at art and music too.

But what would it take?

The Computer Music Challenge
Suppose that IBM were to build a supercomputer called Golden Ear, whose mission is to top the global popular music charts, beating out the Los Angeles music industry as well as the music industries in Korea, Mumbai, Tokyo and everywhere else.

IBM already developed Blue Gene for chess and Watson for Jeopardy. Now Watson is taking on other challengs, like medical diagnosis.

Is Golden Ear the successor to Blue Gene or Watson? Or a new class of computer?

Designing a Musical Computer
How can a computer know what melody or chorus sounds good to people?

By analyzing trends in music, popular culture, news, celebrities, vernacular language. Then choosing sounds and lyrics that capture the moment.

Consider that mobile phone apps like Shazam can already recognize music from a few notes and retrieve the title, artist, lyrics and more. IBM’s Watson can mine vast troves of text and guess about puns and trivia.

Is it a coincidence that the Lady Gaga hit “Poker Face”, released on Sept 2008, arrived not long after the peak of the poker mania? Look at the plot of Google searches for poker and you’ll find that the mania peaked in Jan 2007, close to the height of the housing bubble. “Poker Face” the song consists of upbeat music and that catch phrase, repeated often. The song title itself peaked as a search term in April 2009, 7 months after the album’s debut.

Could a computer have identified the poker trend, selected a catchy phrase timed to the bursting poker bubble, and produced and launched a song on iTunes earlier than Lady Gaga did? Could such a computer catch the next trend?

Would the music industry pay royally for computer software that wrote songs for a stable of bankable performers and generated a higher hit rate than human composers?

The Golden Ear Challenge
Previous efforts at computerized music composition have not met with much success. That’s an understatement, as a matter of fact.

But computers have improved rapidly, and continue their exponential improvements. As they did with chess and trivia, computers could overtake humans in this new challenge.

Kurzweil would not be surprised. The Singularity may be near for artificial intelligence. Is the #1 Single nearer?…

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A Modest Proposal for Silicon Valley Housing

A modest proposal to fix the Bay Area housing crunch: Fill in the southern part of San Francisco Bay with landfill and build a 21st-century city of earthquake resistant glass.

All of the land from the Dumbarton Bridge south could be converted from salt marshes and foul-smelling sludge to a glorious city of the future. That could solve the housing shortage and bring prices back to earth, simultaneously allowing Silicon Valley to expand and grow still more.

It’s no secret that Silicon Valley has the highest real estate prices in the US. The reasons are many, including high salaries, pleasant climate, beautiful geography, jobs — and a dire lack of houses.

Yes, Silicon Valley real estate prices are the highest in the nation for many reasons. And all of them could go away if governments just let developers build enough more, and limited the ability to existing property owners to block what other people can do on their own land.

Local communities exercise near veto rights over development near them, and city planners and developers find it difficult to win many small battles over tiny plots of land. Broad expanses of land abound in the ridge of hills and mountains between the bay and the ocean. But those are widely considered beautiful, and it’s near inconceivable that such stunning parkland will be developed anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the southern part of the bay is not generally considered beautiful. It’s filled with famously smelly salt marshes that serve the only modest ecological value. Their benefits could readily be offset with eco-friendly preservation somewhere else.

Even better, the water comes within walking distance of Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Cisco, and Tesla. It’s a prime location, much more so than San Francisco, so many miles further north, away from the high tech center of the Bay Area.

A new city, literally in the bay, would provide expansion area and take pressure off of housing prices. Better yet, an inchoate city would allow the vaunted technology visionaries of Silicon Valley to experiment in urban design, engineering the public transit, housing, and earthquake resistance of the future, supporting their own high tech economy and showing an example for the world.

And no human infants need be eaten or sold.

Why not? Please share your reasons.…

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Innovation Does Not Equal Success

Innovation is no secret recipe for success in business. In fact, innovation is not the most important ingredient for success. It’s not even necessary, but merely nice to have.

In Jim Collins’ best selling book, Good to Great, he and his research team explore what enables some companies to build and sustain successful companies that outperform comparable businesses in their industries. Innovation doesn’t even make the list of ingredients for success.

Innovation

What matters most for a successful company is the people. At the helm, the leader cannot be an egotist, interested primarily in exercising power and acquiring wealth. Rather, the leader must possess the humility to listen and cultivate people throughout the organization, including direct reports. In turn, the people in the company must face reality soberly, making decisions based on facts, not fiefdoms.

Once a company possesses the people and sense of teamwork and respect, they will find out what to do. And what they choose to do need not be innovative, in the sense that the innovation gurus would have you believe.

A successful company does not necessarily need to invent new technology. It needs a sensible direction, and the ability to single-mindedly execute on moving that way. If technology and innovation happen to help, the company will naturally innovate. If executing on the strategy doesn’t require any special innovation, employees and managers will not quit their jobs out of boredom. They will make the company successful by doing whatever it takes, without ego.

Consultants may come along after the fact and claim that innovation was the key to success. Walmart achieved economies of scale. Walgreens decided to open stores in convenient locations and stock what people wanted to buy. Starbucks introduced better quality coffee than gas stations and diners.

Were these great innovations? Of course not. Only those who see innovation everywhere could believe it. And only when innovation becomes a meaningless term can it bend to describe “whatever company X did to become successful.”

Startup companies are built on innovation. Most fail. Meanwhile large successful companies often lack the ability to innovate, yet many of them thrive as if they’ve never heard from the top business schools in the US that they must innovate or perish.

As technology accelerates the pace of change, innovation is worth studying. But the most successful companies may be those who ignore the topic, and instead focus on what they do best: running their business. Along the way, they’ll find whatever innovations they need.…

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What’s the Recipe for Innovation?

A growing body of research shows where creative innovation comes from. Here are 9 tips:

innovate

1. Look outside your field. Innovation comes from outside your field. Mix with experts in a range of specialties, a strategy cultivated at places like Bell Labs according to the recent NY Times article. Study widely.

2. Find the Eureka. The moment of innovation often feels like a eureka moment, according to Columbia professor William Duggan. It will never come if you’re not knowledgeable and prepared.

3. Get physical. Use your physical body as well as your mind, based on new research at University of Michigan and NYU.

4. Spend time alone. Brainstorming is best done alone, according to this New Yorker article, contrary to how most people have tried it for the past several decades. There’s truth to the lone inventor idea.

5. Engage with critics. Test your ideas on others — who are critical. Convince a skeptic like your sibling, not a loving fan like your mom. Talk to unhappy customers, who are possibly the single best source of new business ideas. A non-judgmental environment fails to bring out the best.

6. Start with what you hate. Find a product or experience that frustrates you. Figure out why it sucks and make it better. The iPod was not the first portable digital music player. But Steve Jobs the perfectionist found all of the ways the experience could be better, and created an iconic product. He may similarly succeed with the new Apple TV set.

7. Coffee and alcohol help. Especially in combination, I find. If you look at the habits of the most famous writers and artists, you’ll find ample evidence of legal and illegal substances, often pushed to life-damaging extremes. Don’t go that far. But there is a reason why many of the leading high tech companies in Silicon Valley do not perform drug tests.

8. Keep your day job. Drop out of college — or quit your job — after you’ve already created an amazing, growing business idea, not before. University life and the workplace can be rich sources of ideas — and recruits, which is why Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg visited Harvard again in November.

9. Make your workplace innovative. Companies can create innovation-friendly environments by following a few tips from McKinsey.

What other tips do you have for being creative?…

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iTV or Apple TV 3: A Perfect TV Set?

Can Steve Jobs reinvent the TV set and bring it closer to perfection, just as he helped perfect the tablet computer, the phone and the music player? From the recent revelations in the Steve Jobs’ biography and articles in the Wall Street Journal, as well as leaks from suppliers in Japan and Australia, the rumor mill is pounding the drums. Below are my own speculations about what the Apple TV set will be like, based on taking seriously Steve Jobs’ obsession with perfection.

apple_tv-q410-hdtv-sm

Full disclosure: I have a personal interest in the outcome. Back in the summer of 2010, I placed a $1 bet that Apple would announce a TV set during Mac World of Jan. 2012.

On July 24, 2010, I struck up an animated debate with classmates in a technology strategy course at Berkeley by posing the question, “When will Apple finally release a real TV?” Here’s what I initially wrote:

When will Apple finally launch a real TV? By that I mean an actual TV set, not a set top box. This is the one irresistible question I had…

Apple of course already sells Cinema display with screens up to 30″ and iMacs with screens up to 27″. Samsung makes the LCDs, if I recall correctly. Apple also sells the Apple TV set top box for streaming video and music. They have a remote control for Front Row, their media center software. They have a huge installed base of iPhones and iTouches and iPads that could be pushed a remote control app as part of the core OS. Why not roll it all up together and make an integrated TV? Does selling a TV solve any of the problems that have limited the success of the Apple TV set top box, which Steve Jobs calls a “hobby”?

What features would the TV set include? How would it integrate within the Apple ecosystem? Could Apple leverage its iOS without a touch screen on the actual TV? Would remote control navigation be acceptable? How should Apple price a TV set to gain widespread acceptance? Is there a magic price point, and at what premium to commodity TV sets?

Our debate drew more comments than any other class discussion. Ultimately I emailed a transcript of the discussions to Steve Jobs himself on Sept. 24, 2010. (I received no response back, in case you were wondering.)

Naturally, the fiercest detractor against my argument works for Google. More about that later. Also, a high level executive at Facebook replied, “I fail to see how any of this leads to Apple making an actual TV. I just don’t see the need… You are wrong.”

Preliminaries out of the way, what will the Apple TV, or iTV, be like? The supplier news suggests three screen sizes, including 32″ and 55″, as well as an intermediate size, most likely 42″ or 46″. It will run a version of iOS and support voice control using Siri from Apple devices including the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. It may include DVR functionality. Chances are that the interface will look similar to the current Apple TV set top box. These are all mere features, and don’t yet get to the core of what made Steve Jobs’ greatest hits so great: perfectionism

After all, Google TV could copy any of the list of features. In fact, based on what we saw with Android, they’re likely to rapidly copy all of Apple’s features and win the spec war. And that won’t be enough, because consumers don’t care about the specs, as a hilarious YouTube video pointed out.

Rather, they care about the sense of design perfection. “It just works,” as people like to say about Apple products. But how will the Apple TV set just work?

Here’s what I predicted in an email dated Sept. 17, 2010:

And I think we all recognize that set top boxes suck. Just because viewers are used to having 5 remote controls and a tangle of interconnects doesn’t make it a good solution.
There’s no reason why there can’t be a single display panel with a power cord and a wired or wireless network connection. It can transmit audio channels wirelessly and people can buy powered speakers.
If Apple bundles it all together with a content delivery deal with Comcast or ATT it would certainly be a radical rethinking of the TV.
I also offered some longer term predictions on July 27 that year:

And eventually the future holds:

  • A camera on every TV set
  • Video calls and conferencing from the TV
  • Interactive games using TV cameras
  • Audience participation in televised events via the cameras
  • Motion sensing technology for games and interactivity
  • TVs being replaced by computers, effectively
  • Set top boxes fighting to stay relevant as the TV-computer subsumes their functionality
  • All content delivered on demand (sorry, TiVo)

More recently, on October 25 of 2011, around the launch of the iPhone 4S, I wrote:
With Siri as the interface, a user can simply say, “Watch Delhi Belly”, and who cares where it came from, it will just play. If the user has access to the title through a monthly subscription, it will start instantly. If not, a payment screen will appear and the user will confirm. If it’s on YouTube or Netflix or Comcast, it’s all fine — as long as Apple can avoid getting blocked the way Google’s failed TV did — it will play in the same way, with the same seamless experience. People might not like the expense of having multiple sources behind the scenes; they’ll love the convenience. And Apple will gain ground against Netflix and Unbox.
It will be marketed as Steve Jobs’ creation, the product he had secretly worked on for years, the achievement of his final vision, a “hobby” that finally became a product. And even if it’s not as big a success as the iPad, it will still do well enough to create a market that previously did not exist.
My Google friend didn’t like the negative comments about Google’s foray into television, or the suggestion that content may cost money or be less available.

In another email from the same day, titled “and one more thing about the Apple TV set”, I added
And one more thing: the TV has no video inputs or outputs. The remote control has no number keys and no input selector. And as if that’s not bad enough, the TV has no audio outputs either.
Sounds like a terrible product… right?
Here’s what it does have. Its connections consist of a power cord and an optional network cable. All video content comes in from the network connection or wireless. The TV includes speakers and a camera for video conferencing and interactive games.
The interface is controlled by a tiny, almost button-less remote and by voice with Siri. An iPhone, iPad or iTouch app will also work.
For surround sound, it offers wireless audio. You can buy Apple speakers that consist of a power cord and a dial on the back to set what position the speaker is in (front left, right rear, subwoofer, etc). They’re powered speakers that get the signal and volume via wireless. Then it just works.
In response to this, my Google friend almost sounded interested, provided that the television set offered a DVR. Also, he worried about whether it would have enough content, perhaps of the bootlegged variety available on BitTorrent.

Regardless of the specifics, the key story of Steve Jobs’ life was the story of seeking perfection. He recognized that narrowly defining perfection based on a single product specification was doomed to failure, because a competitor could always beat the spec.

Instead, Jobs appreciated that perfection has an aesthetic side. Successful perfectionism requires meticulous attention to detail, of the sort that might satisfy the clinical definition of obsessive compulsive disorder. As he told his biographer,
“I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.” No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. “It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”
Perhaps he has done it again, conceiving and creating a carefully perfected product that becomes a category leader.

Regardless, Jobs possessed a rare ability. He could step back from an existing product and see all of the ways in which it failed. He knew when a product sucked, and he would say so bluntly, tactlessly, insensitively.

What about the current television experience falls short of perfection? It’s easy to start the list:

  • Multiple mismatched and often ugly devices
  • Multiple remote controls bubbling like pox with every imaginable button
  • Tangles of interconnect cables
  • The complexity of changing from one source to another, and bringing all devices into sync
  • Operating remote controls in the dark
  • Finding the channel you want to watch even when you know what show you’re looking for
  • Content comes from too many different places, too many devices and input sources

For comparison sake, which of these does the Google TV solve? None, really. That’s right. Read drill preess reviews through the list again. Consider the remote control for the Google TV. It actually made the situation worse. As if existing remote controls did not already have too many tiny buttons with unclear meanings, the Google TV added an entire alphanumeric keyboard. That’s 26 more reasons to reject it.

What could have been Google’s greatest contribution was bringing Google search to the television. Easy and fast search could overcome the nuisance of finding content among hundreds of stations and the YouTube catalog. However, it simply doesn’t work well on a television set using a minuscule keyboard.

That’s the single biggest reason the initial product was doomed to fail, even before the networks blocked Google TV from accessing their content. It didn’t solve any of the biggest shortcomings of our living room television viewing experience.

By contrast, voice command using Siri directly addresses the imperfection of remote controls. With voice control, a remote might not be needed at all, if a sensitive enough microphone can be embedded in the television

A closed system, Apple’s famous walled garden, does offer potential respite from the onslaught of set top boxes, including the existing Apple TV box. Eliminating all video inputs and outputs, as I proposed, is an extreme move. Ultimately, it’s what we will all have, whether with the first generation iTV or a subsequent one. Why? Because it’s more perfect.

Likewise, having a separate stereo receiver and remote control and interconnects and speaker cables is something only an audiophile could love. Eliminating all of them in favor of wireless powered speakers would be a more elegant solution. Ultimately, it’s what we will all have, whether with the first generation iTV or a subsequent one. Why? Because it’s more perfect.

For any audio lovers who are reading, no, sound quality need not suffer. High end audio manufacturers are already heading in the direction of simplicity with products like the THIEL zoet 3.7D, which brings one of Stereophile magazine’s highest ranking speakers into the wireless world. It’s easy to imagine wireless add-ons that would enable any high-end speaker to work with the iTV, bringing the best possible sound quality.

Regardless whether any of my specific predictions are correct, the iTV, or Apple TV set, will bring the television viewing experience that much closer to perfection. Of that we can all be sure.

Will it be a successful product? Will it escape the Perfection Paradox? We can only wait and see.…

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