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Apple Development docks need some suck minused

Apple hides information in their documentation forcing you to hunt and peck your way through pages that PROBABLY have the information you need. Case in point, if you visit the CVPixelBuffer Reference page, press command-f to do a search on the page in Chrome and search for “kCVPixelBufferPixelFormatTypeKey” you will get zero results. How ever the documentation for that is in this page, it is just hidden. If you scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Pixel Buffer Attribute Keys” right there is “kCVPixelBufferPixelFormatTypeKey”.

What they have done here is designed the functionality away. By collapsing (and apparently removing from the DOM) the sections, they have effectively disabled search in their documentation. I know it is old school, but if they had instead used anchors to uncollapsed below the “table of contents” search would be useful and functionality would be effectively the same. Never forget that function is an integral part of design.

Tell people the details of your event

The Minnesota Sea Life Aquarium gives a great example of how to get people to NOT go to an event. Check out their news and event section, they list all of their upcoming events but they give no details of what goes on at these events. For instance, at the time of this post, they are listing “Sharks After Dark” but not even a summary of what this event is about. What the hell? So this is like some soft core porn shark action or something I am not so sure that is all that appealing to me.  If I do the work (which the customer should not need to do, btw) I can see that the hours are later than their normal hours, but is that all? I mean what makes them think that if I am not interested in there normal offerings before 8pm that suddenly after 10pm I will have a burning need to see a shark? So I am guessing there are some adult-oriented offerings at the Sharks After Dark event but if there are, I don’t know what they are and if I don’t know what the event is offering, I am not going to the event.

So the lesson here is: if you are having an event, include the details of the event or a link to the details every where you promote the event.  Giving the details of the event is simple and well, really, should be obvious, yet as you can see even large companies with significant marketing budgets fail at it.

Get a book about running events if you have to.

Limiting Features to Increase Perceived Value Makes Revenue Not Suck.

Managing the perceived value of a company’s product is often instrumental in providing for a company’s success.  Controlling how customers perceive the value of your product can be tricky business and can even seem counterintuitive at times, but failure to do so can have dire consequence for a product and the company that produces said product. A great example of this is Twitter, they released a product that is absolutely free to users, with no limits and with no ads and now despite being one of the most visited sites on the web, the company is struggling to figure out how to become profitable. Perhaps an even greater example of this is the Newspaper industry as a whole, many newspapers were in a rush to get in on the internet and in their rush they did not create a long term plan for creating value in their online products, they essentially gave everything away for free. It was not long until the newspapers began seeing a decline in print subscriptions but not an equivalent rise in digital product revenues. What happened is that the readers lost their perception of value in the content produced from the news papers because it was free online and advertisers never developed a perception of value in the online ads (for various and sundry reasons).

One of the counterintuitive elements of producing perceived value is to make a lesser product or at least what may seem a lesser product at first glance.  Withholding features helps control how much value consumers place on each product release. A company may have a new product with all of the features a consumer could every want and if that product is released with all of those features it will be very difficult to make an even better future product. What was released first is perceived by the customer as the standard product, not the premium product. Since all of the features the company had in its pocket, were released in what is now perceived as the standard product a premium product will be difficult to produce.

To manage product value by withholding features, each release of a product should have the minimum number of features and greatest number of feature limitations that will produce compelling product release. This product becomes the standard by which future releases and product variants will be measured.  This allows limitations of features to be lessened/removed or features to be enhanced in order to make premium products, as well as allowing feature sets for future releases that are compelling by comparison.

Some great examples of products that do a good job of controlling perceived value:

iPhone: The first iPhone had just the fewest number of phone features required for a mobile phone and a new touch based interface. As a matter of fact there were fewer features on the first iPhone than most feature phones. Each release of the iPhone had just a few big features a number of little features and some feature enhancements.

Hulu: The free version of Hulu limits the numbers of shows in a season to the last 3, new shows are delayed by at least 12 hours, video quality is never better than standard definition. Hulu Plus only adds HD at 720P and all episodes of current seasons; they don’t include some networks in Hulu Plus. They still have room for bigger packages that give access to new shows when they show on broadcast, to add other networks, 1080P, etc…

Starting out with a good plan of how each feature will contribute to the consumers perception of value is a solid first step to planning the features and pricing of a product. Before making a feature free or unlimited consider the future monetization of that feature, even if it seems reasonable to give it away put reasonable limits on the feature, increasing the limit later will will engender good will from consumers, where taking away or charging for what the consumer perceives as free will only serve to do the opposite. Keeping these basic tenants in mind while planning a product will go a long way toward ensuring that customers will value your products and therefore be willing to part with their dollars for your products.

Logitech Revue with Google TV makes Google TV suck

The Logitech Revue will be the first Google TV set-top box available, but its $300 price tag takes it right out of the game. I just don’t see how consumers are going decide to pay $300 for a device who’s sparse features page has fewer features than the other contenders that are already in the market… and priced at $99. They are not helping themselves with the whole keyboard thing as People are NOT looking to add a big clunky keyboard to their coffee tables. Frankly this device has done more to make Goolge TV look like the next Web TV than any thing to date. The writing is on the wall: consumers are looking for a $99 price tag on their set-top box, maybe a $149 price tag on a premium set-top box. At this price point the Logitech Revue with Google TV won’t even produce enough market pressure for Apple TV to step up their game and release their Apple TV App store let alone expose Safari on the Apple TV. One other thing to note, the specifications page indicates that a cable, satellite or telco box with HDMI out is required, I am going to assume that, that is a mistake because if I need a Television service to access Internet Television you can take this device and put it…  well, somewhere creative that is not in my home.

Based on the Logitech Revue’s product page this device is definitely NOT 3 times the device so I don’t understand how Logitech thinks it is worth 3 times the price.

Apple TV, Roku and Hulu subtracting the suck from Internet TV

It seems that 2010 is going to be the year of Internet Television. With devices coming out of the woodwork to get content onto your TV via the interwebs, the options for receiving content from somewhere OTHER than the cable cartels is quickly growing. There are, however, a few notable surprises happening through this mad rush to gain dominance over your HD window on the world.

Apple TV

First, there is Apple. They have been off their game in this arena even though they ostensibly had the first contender in the market with the Apple TV. Instead of forging new ground, however, Apple pulled an Internet Explorer and simply never updated the device allowing up-and-coming contenders to get the jump on them. Cue the underdogs: Roku and Hulu (If you can call a Internet service created by multiple television network powerhouses an underdog).

The Roku Player

In the beginning, Roku only offered  Netflix streaming, but soon added Amazon VOD. Not long after the addition of Amazon VOD, Roku rolled out their developer SDK and Channel store. Although the original Roku SDK was focused on audio and video to a fault, making Internet applications difficult or impossible to develop, recent extensions have increased the versatility of the SDK allowing more application-like channels to be created. One of these new more versatile applications allows Roku owners to stream media from other devices on their home network. With Netflix, Amazon VOD and the ability to Stream media from other devices the Roku player is at 100% feature parity with the Apple TV. When you add in the channel store (read: App store) the Roku easily jumps ahead of the Apple TV. Arguably, the current version of  Roku is minimally at 110% feature parity with the Apple TV; add to that the upcoming addition of Hulu Plus and the Roku player’s advantage over the Apple TV goes up considerably.

Hulu Plus

Hulu Plus, does not compete directly with the Apple TV device but it does compete with the iTunes offerings available on Apple TV. For a $9.99 monthly subscription users of the Hulu Plus subscription service can watch every episode of most network televison, by comparison, with the Apple TV $9.99 per month will allow you to watch exactly 10 episodes of TV per month. Granted there are ads on Hulu Plus and none on iTunes rentals, but when “the average American television viewer is watching more than 151 hours of television per month” I believe most will opt for paying $9.99 with ads on Hulu Plus instead of $149.49 with out ads through iTunes. One could also argue that Hulu Plus does not have the amount of content that iTunes does and you would be correct, but given the price and soon to be nearly ubiquitous distribution of the service on devices you can put money down on Hulu Plus gaining more content very rapidly.

One of the big questions being asked around the internet: “Is Hulu Plus coming to the Apple TV soon?”. Many responses cover the obvious points that Hulu Plus is already on all other iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad), which is usually followed by statements of how Hulu tends to be picky about the devices they allow Hulu Plus to be on. I think that it is more likely that Apple will be the one blocking Hulu from the Apple TV. Strategically speaking it would be a huge win for Hulu Plus to get on Apple TV right now, Hulu would effectively be snatching the subscription model business right out of Apple’s hand.

It seems fairly obvious to me that the subscription service model is going to win out in the long run over the ala cart model at least for television shows and right now Hulu has a lock on that market with Hulu Plus. The question is which device will be delivering that subscription, one of the existing contenders or one of the many announced but not yet released set top boxes? One other thing to consider is what effect will the wildcard of Goolge TV have on this emerging market? Whatever the outcome it is a very exciting time in the Television delivery industry.