What an irony if the “relatively simple and straightforward” treatment for Steve Jobs’ hormone imbalance revealed this week is for the lifelong vegetarian to eat meat. I have no way of knowing that’s his treatment, of course – the idea just sprang into my head.
But given the press and stock market reaction to details of Jobs’ health problems, I’d say he’ll make a cameo appearance at Macworld a few hours from now even if he has to send his good twin to do so.
I further predict that Apple will make a substantial product announcement or two. This won’t be the minimalist Macworld that people had feared. If Jobs won’t be doing the heavy lifting this time he’ll at least leave Phil Schiller with a product or two to announce.
And speaking of products to announce, readers have been wondering whatever happened to the disk drive I was working on with stainless foil media? It’s still coming along nicely, thanks, but startups without money tend to take longer to succeed OR fail than startups with money.
The recording media is more or less perfected, which was harder to achieve than any of us expected, and we should see prototype drives within the next couple months. They’ll be comparable in capacity to similar size conventional drives but less expensive to make, more shock-resistant, and require vastly less energy to run.
For an example of how much energy savings is possible with Metal Foil Drives, consider the duty cycle of a traditional glass platter drive inside a media player like an iPod. The way such media players work is they read data from the hard drive into buffer memory then play from that buffer. First the drive spins-up, which takes about five seconds. Then the data is read from the drive, which takes about a tenth of a second. Finally the drive is turned-off until the buffer memory is depleted and the cycle starts all over again. Each cycle, then, involves powering the drive for 5.1 seconds.
The Metal Foil Drive (MFD), however, has a LOT less mass to spin up than the heavy glass platter it replaces. Hard drives moved a few years ago from primarily aluminum to glass platters because glass can be polished smoother allowing lower flying height for the read-write heads and resulting higher arreal densities. But glass platters are also more expensive than aluminum and heavier. They are a LOT more expensive and heavier than metal foil. As a result, an MFD of comparable capacity spins-up in a tenth of a second and reads the data in another tenth of a second. Not only is 0.2 seconds a lot less time (and energy) than 5.1 seconds, but the lower mass of the MFD platter allows the use of a smaller, cheaper, and lower-power motor to do the work – yet another win.
But why even bother with hard drives with flash memory prices dropping so quickly? Because the more storage capacity we have available the more stuff we’ll want to store. I see MFD’s carrying HD movies around for years to come. Maybe your Nano doesn’t need one, but video will keep us buying drive-based media players, too.
There will always be people who don’t want to carry all their movies around with them, of course, and to keep those folks happy Netflix seems determined to stream its B movies to as many consumer electronic devices as possible. This week we hear about Netflix streaming direct to certain LG HDTVs, which is cool. But a financial analysis of the product as it will be initially offered is cool only for LG – certainly not for LG customers.
The Netflix-capable LG TV’s, we’re told, will cost about $300 more than LG sets that can’t do such streaming. The difference between the two TV families is that the streamers have a System-On-Chip to run a minimal operating system and handle H.264 decoding, an Ethernet adapter chip to connect to your home network, and some buffer memory. That’s three extra chips costing at most $20 extra plus a little software, giving LG a gross profit margin of around 1500 percent for this particular improvement!
If consumers will actually pay $300 more for a TV with Netflix streaming built-in then I predict that EVERY HDTV manufacturer will install Netflix on every set by the end of this year. They won’t even care if people actually watch Netflix content as long as they just buy the more expensive sets.
The jury is still out, I’d say, on whether people will actually pay this price difference when, for $99, they can simply plug in a cheap media streaming box like the one from Roku and achieve the same result. Still it’s worth a shot, the folks at LG must be thinking.
It’s what Steve Jobs would do.