Monday, February 19, 2007

Tivo Meets Amazon

I'm more than a little frustrated about how very long it's taking to get a user-friendly online movie source that delivers films and television shows directly to my television. We've been talking about television/internet convergence coming "soon" for quite a few years now. So I was very excited about the recent anouncement that Tivo and are linking up for a new service. I've been speculating about Tivo for quite some time, as it seemed like such a natural partner. I believe that the reason the Windows Media Player hasn't taken off is because of the consumer fear factor: come on, quick, what are the two most challenging new home electronics devices to install? Your computer and your VCR/DVR, right? So, convincing people to try to hook the two together invites total panic. Whereas Tivo, while still having many of the key components of a computer (a hard drive and modem), looks like an old-fashioned VCR, albeit with this funny little telephone cord attached. So, my hope is that this partnership will overcome the obvious barriers and move the ball forward quite a bit.

The reality seems to still be fairly far off, however. Most of us are still using that telephone line to access Tivo's programming, so you'll have to get a wireless adapter and move Tivo to your home home network to get started (not surprisingly, they actually developed their own and suggest that you buy it, I would have thought that this train has been coming for long enough now that Tivo could have included standard wireless cards in the DVR, as with most laptops sold today, but apparently not. Then you'll need to download Tivo Desktop. And apparently, even after all this, initially you won't be able to order the Unbox videos directly through the Tivo interface. So, my guess is that we're still at least a year away from what seems like a fairly straightforward request. Anyone wish to place a bet on who will get there first, and how long it will actually take to create a seamless user experience for video downloads using a made-for- television interface? Me neither.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Vista's International Test Families

Amid all the news on the recent Microsoft Vista release, one story was of particular interest to me. That was the angle outlining how Microsoft had utilized 50 families of “regular users” to help refine Vista. By “regular users,” we’re not taking about the self-selected power users normally invited to beta test pre-release software. These were regular folks with regular hobbies, giving Microsoft daily feedback on areas of confusion or undue complexity. Microsoft stated that these users’ input was invaluable, yet the cost was relatively minimal -- new computers and a few small incentives such as pizza coupons.

All too often clients cut corners on user research, or cut it out entirely, because they feel that it is too time-consuming or costly. Yet fundamental product breakthroughs often come with this kind of in situ research (meaning in the environment of the user, for example their home or office). Even more exciting is the fact that Microsoft chose families from across the globe from the very beginning of their research, ensuring global relevancy. We salute Microsoft, and wish them the best with Vista.,1895,2081624,00.asp