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Amazon Prime Instant Video Catalog Grows

Such is the online video content war: catalogs grow, compete and find their way into the homes / devices of as many eyeballs as possible.... after all, content wants to be seen and ultimately the economics for all are dictated on content being seen by as many eyeballs as possible. It's why I believe that over time libraries will exist and overlap on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, web, app stores, etc. It's inevitable... And here is:- continued proof of that trend - and yet another reason to be bullish on Amazon, Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant Video

And most importantly: Yo Gabba Gabba is now available with unlimited streaming from Amazon. Attention parents - this alone is reason enough to buy the Kindle Fire!!

HBO Go: Delightful, Albeit Inefficient, Exploration. And That's Fine By Me.

Below is a screenshot of HBO Go's iPad App. It's gorgeous, fun and highly dynamic. It represents the shift of paid content to mobile: HBO Go, ESPN Watch, Netflix, Hulu, etc. And it represents the visual opportunity presented by the touch-based device (smaller screen, different format).

And lastly, it shows the design similarities with e-commerce iPad apps like Gilt and eBay. Why do the apps look similar? Sure there could be some flattering mimicking... but more importantly: e-commerce and digital media hubs often struggle with findability within huge universes of product / content. Big visuals and touch-based exploration are a good way to conquer.

Specifically within the HBO Go app: it is interesting that 95% of the screen is dedicated to dynamic, visual tiles. Buried at the bottom is a persistent navigation footer: category, title, etc. In a world of funnels and tools to drive efficiency, HBO has made the clear choice to value exploration and engagement.

Hulu Gives Away a Month of Hulu Plus for Facebook Connect

After my rather public Netflix cancellation , I was lured into Hulu Prime with their Facebook Connect promotion: a free month of Hulu Prime if you connect your Hulu account to Facebook. Smart for Hulu because it's smart for me: - Hulu Prime is a better product with Facebook Connect. Browse is better. Recommendations are better. And it is more fun.

- The value of me being socially connected is absolutely worth a free month to Hulu. Again, better data and virally shared content.

- It is an instant reward (of decent value) for a instant social share (of greater value). The moment I start my account, it is shared on Facebook and that alerts my network that I am a Hulu Prime user and that I got a free month (so they should too).

- ... And the math obviously says that the cancellation rate must be far lower than the continuation rate.

Consequently, this is a better way for Hulu to run an introductory promotion (as compared to 25% or 1st month free) and it's a more compelling experience for me (even better for Hulu).

Netflix's Fascinating Cancellation Questionnaire

I love Netflix. - They have revolutionized the way we think about movies and media - They have created a slew of new company ideas and models: "the Netflix for XYZ" - They have defined streaming content and challenged a traditional, massive industry - They should be credited with making new platforms and devices desirable: iPhone, Android, Google TV, Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Wii, etc - And they are brilliant marketers with a terrific recurring model ... but after years of being a Netflix subscriber, I recently canceled my account. The reason is very simple: Netflix Instant doesn't have enough depth / inventory. We have watched the handful of documentaries that Netflix has (by far their most impressive category) and I even wrote a semi-popular Quora answer to which Instant movies are best: Exit Through the Gift Shop, Man on Wire, The Modernism of Julius Shulman, The King of Kong, The Universe of Keith Haring, Beer Wars, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, Food, Inc., Bigger, Stronger, Faster.

But the catalog hasn't expanded. Meanwhile, Comcast and Redbox have delivered great products / experiences (Redbox is a short-term business - but as a consumer it is absolutely delightful, cheap and easy). The future is clearly the Netflix Instant / streaming model - but it requires a worthy catalog to justify ~$100-$175 / year.

So I canceled my account.... with the hope that I will return as the catalog grows. Good news: Netflix keeps your queue and preferences in tact so that restarting is easy. Maybe they shouldn't do that - but I appreciate it and it certainly helps conversions for re-started memberships.

The most interesting part of the cancellation was the questionnaire (shown below in full). The attention to competition is fascinating: Comcast, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, bit torrents, piracy, etc are all mentioned. Also noteworthy are the answers to the question "why are you canceling?" One answer is "I have an Internet usage cap (or monthly download limit) and using Netflix puts me close to or over the limit." Unfortunately, over the next few years, I worry this will be an increasingly selected answer...

It is absolutely worth browsing the questions and available answers:

Amazon Instant Video Good for Google TV

It was my immediate reaction to hearing that Amazon Instant Video would be available: 1. Will it run on my Google TV? (check) 2. How quickly can I cancel my Netflix subscription? (immediately) 3. Does Amazon VOD work on the iPhone / iPad? (no) 4. Should I keep my Netflix subscription? (yes, for now)

I love this timely promotion by Google / Google TV... which is a product I will continue to rave about:

Streaming Netflix on your Gym's Cardio Machine? Awesome.

In December of 2009, I wrote about local fitness company Expresso - the maker of an interactive workout machines that I was blown away by. Here's the next wave - which should become more commonplace and eventually will be built into all sorts of machines. Our local gym (the Palo Alto JCC) has the iPod / iPhone connectors for their cardio machines. Those adapters charge your device while working out... but more importantly, they allow you to run media to the machines' individual screens (which can be attached or built in monitors - both examples are below). So, users can stream Netflix to their machine's monitor, access iTunes files, or supply a soundtrack to the native fitness application.

It's proof on just how prolific Apple devices are (this is not merely a mini-usb port).

It is also an indication of where fitness machines are moving - it is not difficult to imagine the machine being able to push content to your phone... or to a specific application.

And lastly, it is not difficult to imagine that this occurs via bluetooth in near future (just as it does in new cars and in products like the Jambox).

It's All About the Living Room (2011 Predictions)

To see more of my 2011 tech predictions - click here This will be the year where the internet finally makes it's way into the living room... and I don't mean as a laptop or iPad as you watch television. For many homes, the TV is already the focal point of the living room and it's been a matter of time before the web and the television hook up in an intelligent, simple way. To date, this has mostly been accomplished by bulky solutions geared towards techies: ie connecting a Mac Mini to the television. But all the trends point towards 2011 being the year that the living room begins to go digital in a more mainstream way: - Television prices have gone way down. You can now buy gorgeous, large TVs for under $1,000 (less than many laptops). Those TVs have numerous inputs are are plug-and-play for other connected devices.

- You can spend more and get an internet connected television... which comes equipped with widgets, apps, etc.

- The content is there: Netflix and Pandora and beloved by millions. Along with a growing number of other great apps and content sources (ie: ESPN3, Hulu,, etc) - the web plays an important role in your media consumption. This trend will continue in a massive way (which is why folks like Comcast and ESPN are racing to address it).

- External devices are readily available, relatively inexpensive and are easily integrated: Google TV, Boxee, Apple TV, etc.

- The web now runs in the air. Think about most of your daily computing needs (certainly those that would run on the TV): email, browsing, search, light documents, Facebook, etc. All of this can be done from a browser and does not require a fancy machine... thus enabling lightweight 'computers' like the Google TV to be super effective.

- Someone(s) will figure out more compelling ways to watch TV... which is becoming a passive activity (our TV is frequently on but I am rarely ever fully engaged). Google TV is close: the screen-in-screen approach is compelling. The solution may be appearance related (ie Google TV) or perhaps activity (ie GetGlue, Facebook integration, etc). Whatever it looks like - there is lots of opportunity for innovation... and our TV-watching habits encourage it.

Comcast Uses Xfinity.TV and iPhone, iPad App to Move Online, Counter Netflix & Hulu

It is popular to hate Comcast: mostly because so many of us spend lots of money with them ... and have few choices otherwise. Between cable, internet and phone, the monthly Comcast bill can be one of your largest recurring payments (behind house / rent and car). But let's give Comcast some credit: they are releasing better products (even if it should have happened sooner). Two examples:

1. effectively Comcast's on-demand product with a deeper library and access to your home DVR. Quality is excellent and the library is extensive. For Comcast subscribers, this makes you think twice about Hulu Pro and Netflix (additional monthly bills). Also worth noting: does a pretty good job integrating Facebook and works very well on Google TV:

2. Comcast's iPhone & iPad Applications

It arrived much later than DirecTV's - but the applications are certainly useful. It has several features which are probably unused for most (Comcast email, phone, etc), but the TV Guide and DVR control are great. And for the Xfinity application, the ability to control your television is terrific (and is a challenge to high end bluetooth / IR remote control systems).

These two products (and the ad campaigns supporting them) demonstrate that Comcast is thinking / worried about the migration from TV to web, mobile and tablet. It also demonstrates the impact that Netflix, Hulu and others represent.

9 Guiding Design Principles

Thanks to the iPad, I have been on a documentary kick: both Netflix and iTunes make it easy to access interesting content that I otherwise wouldn't think to watch. Combined with the iPad's portability, consuming documentaries like Art & Copy (highly recommended!), Food Inc (recommended), A Lawyer Walks into a Bar (mildly recommended), etc. The latest is Gary Hutwist's Objectified. Hutwist previously released Helvetica, "which looked at the worlds of typography and graphic design". Objectified is a direct relative, focusing on "industrial design and product design, and our relationship with the manufactured objects that surround us."

It is well done and focuses on a combination of analog and digital brands/products (most significantly Apple). While Objectified concentrates on physical product design, it is highly relevant to web and software design.

Below is a list of guiding principles spurted out by Dieter Rams, former designer director Braun. I am sure that he has thought long and hard about these principles previously - but it was nonetheless impressive how intuitively and calmly he spurted the following out. Again, they pertain specifically to physical creation - but each of the following are traits that exist in the best designed products as well as websites, experiences, navigations, etc. For instance, Apple's iOS and Facebook can check each of the following:

Good design should be innovative.

Good design should male a product useful.

Good design is aesthetic design.

Good design will make a product understandable.

Good design is honest.

Good design is unobtrusive.

Good design is long lived.

Good design is consistent in every detail.

Last but not least, good design is as little design as possible.