Google ChromeCast — Fabulous product or fabulous demo?

chromecastYesterday Google announced a product called ChromeCast — a $35 HDMI dongle that’s essentially YouTube’s answer to Apple TV. While the event was more Googlish than Applesque (the venue was too small, the screens were too small, the presenters weren’t polished, and as a result the laughs and applause didn’t come) the product itself was astonishing — or appeared to be.

The press today picked-up on the most obvious headline item in the announcement — the $35 selling price which drops to $11 if you factor in three months of free Netflix per dongle even for existing Netflix customers. That’s Google attaching an $8 bill to every ChromeCast — something Apple would never do.

But […]

The Startup Channel

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 6.40.46 AMWe interrupt this book for a quick update on what’s happening in my so-called career. Shortly before beginning this serialization of Accidental Empires I explained that I would be doing some new projects including a book and a startup about startups — The Startup Channel (thestartupchannel.net). The latter project will now launch in April so it’s time to explain.

The Startup Channel will be an online video channel about startups and startup people. You’ll find it probably on YouTube unless some other Internet video outfit makes me a better offer (hint, hint). We’ll be launching with 40 hours of pre-produced content, which is a lot for online video where the […]

Apple’s challenges require leaving Steve Jobs behind

new_apple_campusThis is the second of two columns about the future of Apple. My last column looked at Apple’s immediate challenges in the iPhone business, while this one looks at the company’s mid-to-long term prospects and how best to face them. The underlying question is whether Apple has peaked as a company, but I think the more proper way to put it is how must Apple change in order to continue to grow?

Even as some analysts are downgrading Apple based on reported cancellation of component orders, saner heads have been crunching the numbers and realized that Apple still has a heck of an iPhone business. So if you are a trader I […]

Silicon Valley conquers Hollywood, part 3 — think small, not big

Some readers of my last column in this series seem to think it was just about the movie business but it wasn’t. It was about the recorded entertainment industry, which includes movies, broadcast and cable television, video games, and derivative works. It’s just that the movie business — like the mainframe computer business — learned these lessons first and so offers fine examples.

Whether from Silicon Valley or Seattle, technology companies see video entertainment as a rich market to be absorbed. How can Hollywood resist? The tech companies have all the money. Between them Amazon, Apple, Google, Intel and Microsoft have $300 billion in cash and no debt — enough capital to buy anything. Apple all by itself could buy the entire entertainment industry, though […]

Silicon Valley conquers Hollywood, part 2 — There’s no business like show business

theproducersA friend of mine who is a securities lawyer in New York worked on the 1985 sale of 20th Century Fox by Marvin Davis to Rupert Murdoch. He led a group of New York attorneys to Los Angeles where they spent weeks going over contracts for many Fox films. What they found was that with few exceptions there were no contracts. There were signed letters of intent (agreements to agree) for pictures budgeted at $20-$50 million but almost no actual contracts. Effectively business was being done, movies were being made, and huge sums of money were being transferred on a handshake. That’s how Hollywood tends to do business and it doesn’t go down very well […]