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Google's $1.6BB Ticket to the Future

“If you believe it’s the future of television, it’s clearly worth $1.6 billion,” Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, said of YouTube. “If you believe something else, you could write down maybe it’s not worth much at all.”

So says Uncle Fester, and he's right.

I suppose everyone's got a take on Google's purchase of YouTube, so here's mine: $1.6 billion is an insane amount of money for Google to spend on YouTube, the stand-alone business model, but it's a pretty cheap way to buy yourself into the future of entertainment.

Google's core business is putting an audience in touch with the information they want, and slathering the whole experience with ads that are somehow tuned to the individual reader's interests. They're quickly dominating that business with regards to text, but the web sure isn't limited to alphanumeric characters. Since YouTube is beginning to dominate the way people search for, discover, watch, and share video on the internet, it makes sense for Google to bring that network into the fold. As I've said before, the new network looks more like Google than it does ABC, CBS, or NBC.

And while the existing dominant players in video entertainment (the broadcast and cable networks, and their production partners) slowly adopt digital distribution strategies, I suspect smaller independent producers will start to see the large reach, digital word-of-mouth, searchability, and potential for revenue presented by a Google/YouTube-mediated network as an increasingly interesting option.

Link.

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SiteKreator

SiteKreator: A nifty tool deserving of a spot at DEMO, but with one (to me) flaw: the fact that SiteKreator hosts your site (if you want, you can point your DNS records at their IP addresses). I'd like to see something like SK help me design and manage sites on my own hosts.

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WidgetWatch: MySpace Whacks Webcam Widget?

In another bamboozling move, MySpace has now blocked Stickam webcam codes. At the end of last week, the team reported that newly-created Stickam widgets wouldn’t work on MySpace, and yesterday I was forwarded an email (thanks James) from Stickam that claimed the widgets had been “blocked” by MySpace. I assumed that they were being affected by some kind of glitch that prevents Flash embeds working properly – something along the lines of the MySpace update that broke many Flash widgets (it was supposedly a reaction to the MySpace hack). As it turns out, there’s something more sinister afoot: today I logged in to MySpace and realized that all links to Stickam are being blocked. If you try to link to Stickam.com anywhere on your profile – either inserting a widget or using a plain old link, it will be removed. Apparently it’s been this way for a few days. Since only links to Stickam.com are affected, it seems that MySpace is intentionally blocking the service.

Never underestimate the potential for greed to cloud the vision: MySpace could indeed be wondering why they should let some third party build a business on the back of their popularity. Of course, the response would be that MySpace's popularity is, at least in part, due to how these widgets add to the MySpace user's experience, allowing them to truly customize their MySpace pages.

On the other hand, never underestimate the potential for fear to cloud the vision, either: MySpace may not actually care about Stickam's widgets from a competitive perspective—they may very well want to play an open game here. They may, however, care very much about what images may be broadcast through these widgets; imagine the headlines when a parent finds out their teenage kid has been flashing their friends. Whose name do you think the media will sieze on: Stickam or MySpace?

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Intel Suggests You Get A Little Bit Pregnant

Speaking with reporters on the opening day of the CEATEC exhibition in Chiba, Japan, Eric Kim, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Home Group, today praised Apple Computer Inc. for successfully integrating computers and consumer electronics with its iPod digital music player and iTunes online store, which use proprietary standards.

However, at the same time, he also called on Japanese consumer electronics makers to adopt open standards centered on Intel's own Viiv platform for PCs running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system.

Intel's going to have a lot of these "Lost in Translation" moments, where they attempt to serve (and praise) one small customer (Apple) who has been pummelling a lot of their larger customers in the converging consumer electronics business (Everybody Else).

Take, for example, this business of "open standards." If Viiv was really an open standard, then I could mix and match chip suppliers (swapping out Intel for AMD) and operating systems (Ubuntu Linux rather than Windows XP Media Center or Vista). Sure, Viiv is more open than the iPod/iTunes/iTunes Store system, but not so open as to release a company like Sony or Dell from vendor lock-in with Intel and Microsoft.

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Official Google Mac Blog debuts

We're thrilled to have our Mac team in place, and they're just getting started. Watch this blog to keep up with the latest about everything Google is doing to support Mac users.

Google? Mac? Blog? Three words I like individually, together at last.

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Guitar Hero II's Tracklist

Although I find the very strong tendency of videogame recycling annoying — Ooh! Another gangster game! Hey, here's one where I can be a special ops guy! Yowza! Another big-haired dungeons and dragons game with more townspeople to get hints from! — I am pleased to see the final list of tracks from the upcoming Guitar Hero II.

The sequel, viewed in combat game terms, could simply be viewed as “more missions”, and when you really boil it down to its essentials, Guitar Hero (and its cousins, Dance Dance Revolution, Karaoke Revolution, Donkey Konga and others) is really a dressed-up version of Whack-a-Mole. That would be missing the point, which is to fulfill our rock star fantasies. I have yet to meet anyone with a serious emotional connection to Whack-a-Mole or fantasies about being a world champion at it, but George and I have fond memories of the music and rocking out in our capacities as DJs and bandmates during our crazy college years.

Take a look at the track list, and you'll find both tracks you'd expect — Carry on Wayward Son, You Really Got Me, Sweet Child O' Mine, and (groan) Free Bird — as well as some unexpected treats, including Rage Against the Machine's Killing in the Name Of, Butthole Surfers' Who Was in My Room Last Night, and Suicidal Tendencies' Institutionalized (“All I wanted was a Pepsi! Just one Pepsi!”).

Guitar Hero II is scheduled for release for the PlayStation 2 on November 7th, and the XBox 360 version is expected in spring 2007. Alas, Accordion Hero remains but a dream.

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iPods Aren't Made in Sweatshops

AppleInsider has a coda to the issue of the conditions under which Apple's iPods are made in mainland Chinese factories. First, things don't appear to be as dire as the original newspaper report made out and, second, Apple's going to take action to fix any issues nonetheless.

Going forward, Apple has enlisted the services of Verité, an internationally recognized leader in workplace standards, to ensure that its manufacturing partners around the world are in compliance with its Code of Conduct.
By the end of the year, Apple said it will complete audits of all final assembly suppliers of its Mac and iPod products.

“Apple is committed to the highest standard of social responsibility in everything we do and will always take necessary action accordingly,” the company said. “We are dedicated to ensuring that working conditions are safe and employees are treated with respect and dignity wherever Apple products are made.”

It's a happy coincidence when the morally right thing and the optically smart thing coincide. Although you can never really tell if the mass market pays attention to these things (Kathy Lee Gifford got raked over the coals, but Nike doesn't seem to be doing too badly), Apple couldn't afford to be tarred with the “sweatshop” brush. It would have been especially disappointing for the true believers—those who think their buddies in Cupertino really do Think Different.