iWatch Wearable Technology — Smart Watch Race between Apple, Google and Microsoft Heats Up

iwatch-iphone-smart-watch-new

Movies for years, especially sci-fi, have featured small portable touch screens. It’s still kind of amazing with the iPad and others, we now get to have that technology. So what is next? Although the smart-watch label has been set now, it’s really about wrist communicators and wearable technology. Watch-like devices that allow us to get data, watch video and communicate. We’ve seen these for years too, most notably starting with “Dick Tracy,” but how close are we now to getting our hands on, or in, one?

Here is a new piece for Broadcast Engineering Magazine that I wrote which goes over what the future could look like:

iWatch Wearable Technology — Smart Watch Race between Apple, Google and Microsoft Heats Up

PS4 vs. Xbox One: We Have A Winner

Which will you choose? The battle of console heavyweights has begun and we can begin to see who is going to attract the masses and who will be struggling. Once the consoles are launched this holiday season, they will most likely be sold for close to a decade before being upgraded, much the same way Xbox 360 and PS3 have lasted. So far with the information that has been released, we have a fairly clear picture of who the winner will be, but lets break it down to the details.

xbox one vs ps4 winner console battle

Xbox One

Xbox 360 is currently the reining champ of consoles. The Playstation 3 is close behind in sales with the Nintendo Wii pretty much dried up and the Wii U struggling with low sales numbers and lack of compelling Nintendo branded games. Microsoft launched Xbox One, its next generation console, with a pre-E3 press conference that was almost entirely centered on the box being a living room device the whole family would use. Kinect motion and voice commands would control the unit and you can watch TV live via an HDMI input, as well as via many apps featuring content, such as Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. At E3 Microsoft brought out the games and made an attempt to win gamers hearts.

It did not work.

Microsoft stated that the Xbox One would have some limitations and restrictions surrounding used games and on-line requirements. First MS put a hook in the operating system that allowed publishers to not allow sales of used games. Meaning that if you bought a new game on a disc, and wanted to sell it to Gamestop, or loan it to a friend, it would likely not work for the next user. This eliminates renting Xbox One games as well. Trading, selling and giving games on disc is a huge market, because after putting down $60 you would want to get some return on your investment if you decided the game was not for you. The market may shift to downloadable games now, since Xbox One (and PS4) will have games also available to download when they come out, but there will still be millions who want to purchase actual discs. Microsoft also added a gaming stipulation in that your Xbox One console must connect and be verified once a day via the internet. Watching DVD movies on the included blu-ray drive and live TV will work fine without internet, but gaming requires an internet connection.

microsoft-xbox-one-launch info holiday

Gamers were not happy at all. Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree when the news of these restrictions hit the fan, and it has not let up since. Aside from being more restrictive, it also negatively impacts a console’s life time value. Older systems from Nintendo and Sega and even Microsoft and Sony allowed buying games and playing no matter how old the system was, even after they were discontinued. Now in 10-15 years, Xbox One servers may be cut off, either on a game basis or on a console basis. With everything so closely tied to authentication to online servers, it could ensure that games in the future will not even get past a loading screen.

Think of a movie on DVD. Now you can buy them, collect them, sell them. But what if you bought a movie from a small independent publisher and to play it, your DVD player had to verify the movie and be connected to the internet at least once every 24 hours. Now imagine 5 years from now, that publisher goes out of business, closes down the server and your DVD does not play at all. It would not make me very happy.

Microsoft also is making the Kinect a required part of every purchase. It is no longer an option. Which has driven the price up to $499. I don’t want or need a KInect. But like everyone, if I have an Xbox One, I need to get one.

Specs wise the Xbox One is slightly less powerful than the PS4, not a deal breaker, and this is mainly because the box is built for more always-on performance. MS wants this to be the center of your digital living room, so they have sacrificed some power for lower energy requirements. Again not a huge deal but I would think they would want to pack as much processing in as possible for the hard core gamers. But this does not seem to be their focused mission. Gamers are great, and have made the current console number one, but Microsoft wants more. They want this to be your DVR and DVD player, your streaming box, your Apple TV and Roku, an all in one entertainment device. It’s a big bet, one that may or may not pay off.

Playstation 4

Sony’s launch of the PS4 was also split into two separate press conferences (pre-E3 and at E3) and it was certainly a one-two punch to Microsoft. First came the mantra that PS4 was built from the ground up for gaming. Plain and simple. Sony is not trying to make a console that appeals to everyone, they want to directly target gamers, hard core and casual, and make that their primary focus. It does not matter that for things like video, the PS4 has many of the same apps as Xbox One (Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Crackle, Vudu, etc), the primary focus is games, games, games. This one move already swayed many gamers who would choose only one console over to the Sony side, but then Sony kept on going. They stated that the PS4 would work offline for games, except of course for multiplayer, you can play games on DVD with no connection needed. No daily check in, nothing.

Gamers cheered. Loudly.

sony ps4 playstation launch details vs xbox one

Jack Tretton at the PS4 launch also stated that the PS4 would be free of used game limitations and/or mandatory online authentication. In addition the console is region-free, meaning you can order PS4 games from other countries to play. Xbox One games are locked into different territories. Gaming fans were beyond enthusiastic with all the PS4 news, seeing the unit as much less locked down than Microsoft’s option. But then came the icing on the cake, the price.

Sony came in at $399 for the Playstation 4, $100 less than the Xbox One’s $499. Sony has a more powerful machine, with less restrictions and at a less expensive price.

Does that make the PS4 a winner over Xbox One? It does. For now. I should mention that I am actually an Xbox guy. I have had both an Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 since launch, and use them both, but always veered more towards the Xbox for a few reasons. I think their online users and avatar setup is more advanced. I have many friends on Xbox Live (add me: franklinmcmahon) but far fewer on PS3 (add me there too: franklinmcmahon), so I think MS did a better job of being able to add friends more easily. Also I love their on demand selection of game downloads, I find most disc based games I want or have are available for download a few months later. And I love the Xbox controller, the PS3 controller still fells not too comfy.

But I am more excited about the PS4 than Xbox One at this point. Which surprises me. I don’t need a media hub box to run in live TV. Who watches live TV? I watch my DVR and Apple TV or my iPad. I don’t want to speak voice commands and wave my hands, I just want to use my Logitech Harmony Ultimate remote. I think both consoles have some interesting games coming up, and I will probably get both units, but for now the PS4 has gotten far more appealing than the Xbox One. It’s still early, and news is more spin than facts, but PS4 is easily in the lead for now.

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But how do the two match up when it comes to being an all in one entertainment box? Read on to hear my opinion on the entertainment side of this heated console battle:

TV Entertainment Console Battle: Xbox One vs. PS4

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UPDATE:

Literally within hours of my releasing this blog post, Microsoft reversed or eliminated several of the bad features I had pointed out in the above review. Coincidence? You decide. 😉

Here is coverage from The Verge:
Microsoft reverses Xbox One online check and used games policies following backlash

As well as the official blog post from Microsoft:
Your Feedback Matters – Update on Xbox One

Very interesting to see Microsoft backpedaling so far, but in the end it does show that they are listening, and responding, to their future audience.

Streaming TV Battle for Living Room: Roku 3 vs. Apple TV vs. Xbox One

streaming TV roku apple tv xbox one amazon

Lots of moving and shaking in the quest to own the living room TV this past week. Although streaming channel Hulu Plus may be sold soon by interested buyers including Yahoo, DirectTV and Time Warner Cable, and Netflix is pulling record numbers from the reborn semi-original series “Arrested Development,” the real movement is how consumers actually see these streaming channels. Roku has just raised a $60 million dollar round of funding led by Fidelity, Apple TV could be poised to advance via the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) next week, and the just announced Microsoft Xbox One is committed to taking over the entertainment duties of the living room.

Different strategies, but who will come out on top? I did a feature article for Broadcast Engineering Magazine this week that goes over the landscape of what may just happen next, check it out:

Streaming TV Battle: Roku 3 vs. Apple TV vs. Xbox One

Is Your To Do List Getting Too Cloudy?

cloudy_day

Part of the problem with us creative people is it’s very hard to turn off the flow of ideas. Many of us come up with new ideas seemingly hourly. It’s not a bad thing, in fact it’s quite good to continue the flow of ideas coming to keep things energized. The problem creeps in when there are so many ideas that it crowds out important missions. Or when an idea comes up that sounds fresh and exciting and you end up shifting away from your core creative career strategies to jump on to this new brainstorm. If the flow of ideas keeps you off track, then there needs to be a system in place.

First look at ideas as clouds. Imagine a bright sunny day with a couple of clouds. Ahh..soothing and pleasant. Nothing wrong with a few clouds here and there. But the more ideas you have, the more clouds come in, and what was once a sunny day is starting to become mostly cloudy. Then overcast. Then it could become really overwhelming. You’ve got so many clouds it becomes dark, you can’t even see the sun.

When you get an idea during your work week, you need to capture it and put it away. Refer to it at a later time. This part is important. The system could be a notebook and pencil, it could be on your phone or laptop, a digital device. When a thought occurs, jot it down and file it…away.

The reason you file it away is because you don’t want to assign it sudden importance. The same reason when the phone rings and you are working on a project, it’s better to not drop everything and switch to the phone. Not assigning sudden things as important, just because they are sudden, is one of the cornerstones of productivity. It’s the difference between a higher productive creative professional getting things done and a frazzled worker trying to catch up while immediately jumping on every distraction that appears. You’ve seen the stressed and frazzled workers and well…it’s not pretty.

Ideas should not be assigned any importance yet. They are merely ideas. They don’t immediately go on to your task list. They are not put into action while you drop what you are doing. They are captured and filed. You will explore them at a later time.

What happens if you assign immediate importance is you put them on the same level as your mission critical tasks for the day. The more ideas you have, the cloudier it gets and the harder it is to focus on doing what really matters. So don’t just add ideas to your growing daily to-do list. Capture and file. Then refer back at a later time. The idea will seem urgent, will seem important since it arrives so suddenly, but trust me, it almost always belongs in your idea file. And if you don’t have an idea file, start one. Otherwise you’ll have many ideas rattling around in your head on a continuous cycle. This is often more distracting than anything else you can do. Just jot them down.

Each week should be tightly focused on big goals and projects with an exciting and separate idea file you build that does not distract you. Avoid a huge jumbled, sprawling and ever growing to-do list that lacks priorities. These types of lists often wrongly give priority to the newest brainstorm.

Are you focused on your main tasks and goals for the day with a solid idea capture and file system?

Logitech Harmony Ultimate Remote Control Review

Are you ready for a universal remote that calls itself “Ultimate”? Logitech has been making universal remotes for years now and has nicely covered the mid and higher end market with a range of options. But they’ve now released a unit called Ultimate, so of course if you want the best they have to offer, this is the one to get. But how does the Logitech Harmony Ultimate Remote Control stand up to the competition, does it truly do it all?

Logitech Harmony Ultimate Remote Control

Last year I got sick of having a basket full of remotes. Like most people I had done some consolidation, mainly mapping devices to my Time Warner Cable Universal Remote. It was not bad, but still a bit cumbersome switching buttons and modes. I have several devices such as a Denon AVR-791 7.1 receiver, Sony BRAVIA XBR65HX929 TV, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Apple TV and on occasion a Roku 3 is also in the mix. I decided to purchase the Logitech Harmony 900 and was very happy with it. It quite literally consolidated all my remotes into one. In fact it turned on just what I wanted, when I wanted, and worked great.

The main drawback was it was a very slippery remote, made of glossy plastic, that always seemed to slip out of my hands as well as attract fingerprints. Also the unit did not support my Playstation 3 out of the box, I had to buy a separate hub just for controlling that with the Logitech Harmony 900. But it did have a nice touch screen interface and worked well, so I stuck with it for months. But when I saw the Logitech Harmony Ultimate, I knew they had worked hard to refine an already excellent universal remote. I decided to get one and have been very impressed. It rights some of the wrongs of the previous model and contains many improvements.

harmony ultimate side view

The Ultimate remote is shorter and much grippier to hold than the 900. While the front is semi-glossy plastic, the back is a matte hard plastic with texture and ridges, and is very comfy to hold. The unit controls thousands of devices and does IR and Bluetooth, so there is PS3 support without a separate hub. Setup is via USB and the Logitech website, which has improved since last year. You input your device model numbers and go step by step and the programming is very easy. The interface has tons of options, so you can really craft how you want devices to work with the remote. But at the same time it is very user friendly, making setup a breeze.

The biggest advance is the new touch screen. Clearly inspired by Apple’s iPhone, the new touch screen works just like a phone, you can access menus and swipe to switch screens. You can set up all your buttons such as Watch TV, Play Xbox, Watch Apple TV, and have them all accessible with a tap. There is also a screen for gestures, if you want to control your devices with swipes instead of the actual remote buttons, and the screen is motion activated, it turns on when you lift the remote and goes to sleep once you set it down. There are new channel presets on one screen, so you can set up a button for say HBO and hitting that will turn on everything needed and go straight to the channel. The previous remote beeped but this one actually vibrates. The subtle vibrations provide excellent tactile feedback to let you know when a touch screen button has been clicked.

harmony-ultimate-features-icons

As for actual buttons, each has a short press and a long press option, so now you can assign two commands to each, such as short press to pause and long press to fast forward.  The remote has a free app called “Harmony” in Apple’s iTunes app store or on Google Play. It’s pretty cool and works great through your wi-fi system to send commands. The app pretty much recreates everything on the physical remote, so you could get by with just using your iPhone for a remote. The Logitech Harmony Ultimate remote has a nice dock with it for easy charging and the screen updates to let you know when it is fully charged.

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The Harmony Ultimate does not really have any downsides, only one that I could find. For some reason the DVR remote buttons are on the very top of the unit. It’s odd that the touch screen was not on top since that would be the logical place I would assume it would go. As such, when you use the top buttons you need to reorient and slide your hand slightly up the remote. They have even included a second smaller ridge to make holding this way easier. Again it’s odd that some buttons were moved separate, and it slightly reduces the great ergonomics of how the remote feels in your hand.

Plus with using the top buttons, your hand is now over the touch screen, so you need to slightly raise your palm so as to not active any screen commands. Not a deal breaker by any stretch but just some odd design choices in what is obviously a very well thought out, solidly built and slickly designed product. The only other detail for some may be the price, it’s a little on the high side. However I have to say, it is so worth it. But Harmony remotes traditionally go on sale and the prices dip over time on sites like Amazon, so keep an eye out.

The most compelling part of the Harmony Ultimate Remote is how it simplifies your life. It’s important to note that this isn’t just a universal remote, it’s a universal remote taken to the next level. Where you hit one button, say to watch Apple TV, and your TV turns on, your Apple TV goes on and your audio receiver activates. The remote already knows that the volume buttons control your receiver (not your TV) and the button pad on the bottom of the remote is already mapped to mimic your Apple TV remote. Literally one button to start everything, no modes, no tricky hacks, just pure remote control bliss.

Logitech Harmony Ultimate Remote Control Apple TV Xbox Cable

It’s not a stretch to say that this is the best investment that anyone who is even remotely (see what I did there?) interested in having a smooth running entertainment center. Plus there is zero learning curve for other family members, they can just pick it up and start using it.

The Logitech Harmony series has produced some great all in one remotes, and their new one is the best one ever, I highly recommend you check it out. It truly earns its title of “Ultimate”.

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Read more on FranklinMcMahon.com:

iPad mini vs. iPad 4 with Retina Display Review

iBooks App vs. Kindle App: Best E-Book Reader for Apple iPad mini?

What is 3D Printing? Learn Everything You Need to Know in 8 Minute Video

4 Secrets to Taking Great People Photos

Bioshock Infinite Review – Saving Elizabeth

The Secret to Getting Anything You Want in Life: Just Ask

iCloud vs. Dropbox: The Final Verdict

Roku 3 vs. Apple TV Review

Google’s Gmail vs. Apple’s iCloud Email: Here are the Top 4 Reasons to Switch

How to Buy Kindle Books on iPhone

Where is the Kindle bookstore on iOS, iPhone and iPod Touch? It’s very easy to get to. This has to be the biggest question people have for me asking about Ebooks, where is the app to purchase Kindle books. The answer is there actually is no app, and you can’t purchase books directly within the Kindle app on iPhone.

Any store that is in an app on iOS has to give Apple a 30% cut on each purchase. Amazon decided they did not want to give Apple a percent of their profits, so they did not include a store in their app. However they have created a web-based store where you can easily make purchases, download samples and check out reviews. The link is here:

Amazon Kindle Bookstore for iPhone:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/kindle/storefront

Now you will need to actually be on an iOS device, such as an iPhone or iPod Touch, for that link to work. But once you click it, the web interface will load right up.

In case you are also wondering how to get to the Amazon Kindle Store on your iPad, that we covered here.

how to buy kindle books on iphone ios

If you want to add the Kindle Store to your iPhone home screen, just click the arrow down at the bottom and select the “Add to Home Screen” option.

When Amazon first decided to not include their bookstore in the Kindle app, I could see why they would not want to give a chunk of their profits away. But now I think is the time that they should include it. Amazon has not been known to focus on profits, they lean more towards casting a wide net to capture customers and marketshare. They often want to make purchasing as easy as possible, as they have done with their own Kindle Fire HD tablets. Even though it would take some of their profits, it is inconvenient for Kindle fans on the iOS platform. Many find it easier just to use iBooks and grab samples and make purchases from there.

If Amazon wants to make Kindle the #1 ebook store on iOS, than adding it to the iPhone app, and making purchases as easy and seamless as possible, would be a very logical step. I often go back and forth between the iBooks App vs. Kindle App to decide which is better, but I have to say having a built-in store in the Amazon app would be very compelling and could tip the scales. For now at least there is a web version, so we’ll have to settle for that for now.

How to Learn Photoshop CC and Graphic Design

Where do you start? One question I get constantly is how to learn Photoshop and how to learn graphic design. I’ve seen a lot of people take the incorrect route with this and I’ve decided to do a short video explaining the process. Especially if you are using Photoshop CS6 or the new Photoshop CC via Adobe Creative Cloud, or going through tutorials, these tips can help. It can make you better at the tool and better at graphic design, particularly if you are just starting out.

Watch on YouTube: Ask Franklin – How to Learn Photoshop CC and Graphic Design

how to learn photoshop cc creative cloud free tutorials

How Can You Market Your Business To Be Different?

creative career advice

When you start your business and begin offering services, chances are you are offering a lot of the same things your competition is. There is much common ground, similar options, services and features. The hardest thing to do is also the most important, which is be different. Being different gives you leverage. It sets you apart from the competition. You begin to offer something that can’t be had anywhere else. It does take some time with a pencil and sketchpad to really map out what you can offer that cannot be found elsewhere, but it’s one of the most important brainstorming sessions you’ll ever have.

A great classic business book is “Differentiate or Die” by Jack Trout, which explores the topic in great detail. You don’t even have to read it, the concept is right there in the title.

Bear in mind you have more competetion than you realize. There are companies that are on your radar but there are far more you have yet to discover. Most strategic moves you do can be replicated by others. Lower prices? Others can do that. Higher? Yep. Add more services? Others can double theirs.

What is a move you can make, something you can do that cannot be copied by your competition?

It’s not an easy task. But with enough thought, there will be things you can offer that no one else can. Look at it from a potential client’s view. With so many options, who would they choose? Successful businesses branch out to be different and then multiply the moves. Pretty soon they become a local, national or international leader and then competition is more focused on catching up and mimicking the changes.

Try making a list of items that you could offer that your competition has not even thought of yet. Just sketch them out and think of as many as possible. Then start to think how you could weave this into your empire.

What sets your company apart? How can you outmaneuver the competition by being compellingly different?

How to Use Emotion and Market Pleasure for Your Creative Business

the pleasure step in your creative career business

How you market yourself has a big impact on perception by a potential client. Often your creative business grows not because your skills get better (although that always helps) but because you start to rethink how you position what you are offering. This typically happens in three steps:

1. Services

We all start out this way. When you first set up shop and provide services, you almost always list them in very basic terms. Web design, photography, music creation, marketing, social media, graphic design, etc. You list just what you do. I take photos of your event. I will design a website for your needs. I will market you on social media. You have a need, I fill it. Simple and to the point.

2. Solutions

The next level is when you start to look at the big picture. Instead of just designing a website, you sit down with a client and figure out how this will fit into their marketing. You position it as a solution to many problems. Instead of just doing logo design, you begin to research how the logo will be used, where it will be shown and how it can extend the client’s brand. You move from providing just the mechanics of a service to being a partner in your client’s strategy.

3. Pleasure

This is when you tap into a client’s primal desires. People want to avoid pain and move towards pleasure. You take them there. Most modern advertising is based on this. Cosmetic companies like Revlon are not just selling a service (this will make your lips red) and not offering a solution (this and other elements will make you fashionable) they are selling the pleasure (this product will make you beautiful and desirable). This step is when the client is buying on emotions. From a floor cleaner to a frosty ice coffee to a new car to insurance coverage, thousands of products and services are positioned to appeal to people’s feelings, not their specific needs.

Many business owners and creative media artists are only around step two of the three steps. But start to think about how you can move to the third level. Years ago I was one of the first photographers to get a digital camera in my area. It was an exciting time, shooting as much as I wanted and not worrying about film. I promoted it heavily on my website, in ads, everywhere that I was a full digital studio. Over time I realized, people did not care about megapixels and workflow, they just wanted to look amazing in great shots. I started focusing on the aura of the process, the feeling, as opposed to the mechanics of the craft.

You may be thinking, I code HTML, how sexy can that be? I do a print ads for a hardware store, I am not Revlon! But remember it’s all story telling, every creative artist and business owner is telling a story with their work and client projects. The key is to tell a story that is not mechanical and straight-forward, but one that is visually involving, has a dramatic narrative and taps into people’s emotion.

This goes for all your promotional materials as well as your paid projects. It is the difference between what a new freelancer may do and what a top agency produces. The agency works to create an emotion or reaction out of the viewer, it is where the standard mechanics stop and the compelling story telling begins.

Basic clients are looking for a basic task, bigger clients are looking for the solutions of the larger picture and huge clients are looking to tell an emotional and theatrical story that moves people. If you want bigger clients, you often have to tell bigger stories as well as ones that provide pleasure and emotion.

Look at your client work, your website and your promotional materials, are you telling compelling and emotional stories?

What step are you at now? What step do you want to move to?

Generate Some Mystery In Your Creative Career – Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol was famous, and infamous, for saying very little. In the press, on TV, during interviews. But instead of the public losing interest because he was boring, the opposite happened, they became more and more intrigued.

It’s hard not to be chatty these days, with so many digital ways to get your words out there. But having an element of mystery can really help you rise higher in people’s minds. You can often leave them wanting more. Warhol was an extreme part of the spectrum obviously. It would be difficult to have a televised interview or web feature and answer in either one word answers or repeat the question back to the person doing the interview (as Warhol often did).

andy warhol advice creative arts career

But keep Warhol in mind. Google him and check out YouTube. He was an astute listener and observer. And the more he seemed unfazed by the proceedings, the more the public wondered about his opinion, making him world famous for several decades. The less he talked about his next move, the more people thought about what his next move might be. Our eyes were on him, because we wanted to see the world through his eyes.

You can’t build an audience by being quiet, but as your circle grows, mix in some mystery, keep people guessing. Keep people on the edge of their seats and away from glancing at their watch. Rather than always telling people, position it so people are always asking you. Generate some mystery.