Hewlett-Packard�s quest to become more like Apple falls flat

“Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina presents a range of new products by the high-tech pioneer Monday in New York City. The company is attempting to integrate more entertainment and media devices to their computers and printers. Investors were hoping for a more dramatic line of products,” writes Terril Yue Jones for Los Angeles Times. Hewlett-Packard Co. called it a ‘Big Bang 2.’ To industry analysts, the company�s long-awaited unveiling of more than 150 consumer products was more of a bust.”

Jones continues, “As expected, HP on Monday introduced a host of gadgets, including a device that copies videotapes to DVDs, a computer with a built-in camera docking station for easy transfer of digital photos, and a scanner that works like a giant camera. The Palo Alto, Calif., technology giant modeled the launch on last year�s introduction of more than 50 new printers, an event the company dubbed the ‘Big Bang.'”

“This time, though, the elaborate product launch and celebrity appearance by Chief Executive Carly Fiorina failed to generate excitement on Wall Street. HP shares fell 12 cents in trading Monday to close at $19.96 on the New York Stock Exchange. ‘A lot of investors were expecting Big Bang 2 to be a more revolutionary set of announcements,’ said technology analyst John Jones of SoundView Technologies in San Francisco,” Jones reports. “‘Why does it have to be so complicated?’ Fiorina said at the unveiling. ‘It shouldn�t be.'”

MacDailyNews Take: Carly, you’re so right. The uncomplicated solution already exists, though. You sound like you want a Mac really badly. Go ahead, give in to the temptation – you only live once.

21 Comments

  1. “MacDailyNews Take: Carly, you’re so right. The uncomplicated solution already exists, though. You sound like you want a Mac really badly. Go ahead, give in to the temptation – you only live once.”

    I had to chuckle at that. The stakes are huge here folks. He who controls the road controls much. If a company can make the standard their design then they control it all.

    Cinque

  2. To be totally rhetorical here – how can simultaneously introducing more than 150 different products not be “complicated” and contribute to a more simple way of doing things? There’s a really good take on this at http://www.appleturns.com – read the third story from yesterday, Monday, Aug 11 – it’ll be up until later today when the next episode airs, when it will then be listed under “yesterday’s news” – much like HPaq…

  3. Dell, now HP, seem to be doing pretty well in making the spokes of the wheel, but they all seem to lack the “hub” part of the digital hub. In some ways they try to skirt around it by selling peripherals that they KNOW will work with their system because they made and tested their own drivers on their own system.

    But, what they don’t understand is how to make a smooth user interface for it all. People don’t operate the peripheral, they operate the application and OS that drive the device. At this point, if you go with all Dell or all Hp, all you get is color-matching peripherals and a single 1-800 number to call with your problems.

    Apple has even “hubbed” their applications into iLife, so you can easily access the data in one ap from another without relearning 8 different ways to import data.

    It is very obvious that Dell and HP “don’t get it”. Apple can hub ANY digital camera, printer, scanner, etc. The user is not limited to one brand to insure that his/her system is as stable and reliable as possible.

    Personally, I like the idea of buying products from companies like Epson for scanners and Nikon for digital cameras that have a long history and specialize in those areas, and having such excellent equipment work smoothly on my highly compatible computer system.

    Once again, Apple allows the user more FREEDOM, in this case the freedom to choose, where the Wintel world imposes more restrictions in a feeble effort to make it more Mac-like!! I don’t think they will ever understand the real beauty of owning an Apple.

  4. As a long time Mac user I find Apple’s digital lifestyle path slow and frustrating. Apple has a long way to go to become a true “digital hub”.

    e.g. To qualify as such there should at least be built in “Tivo” like functionality, compressing video to MPEG 4 or MPEG 1 and 2 (they can even use dotmac for a Tivo-like subscription service). When has Apple ever made it easy to convert ANY video source, like video tapes etc to Video CD or DVD format or even to the industry standard MPEG 4 format they are pushing? Every Mac should have seamless built in analog video/audio in/out (RCA, SVideo etc).

    Where is the video iPod? I’m not buying one until it can record, play and output to TV Quicktime movies and digital still images. I had to go somewhere else for something like that – an Archos jukebox.

    Quicktime, as useful as it is, is also awkward when it comes to MPEG 1 editing, and in OS X it can’t even play .dat files on a VCD. Not what I would call a “digital hub” at all. You have to search hard for thrid party solutions for that.

  5. kmoa:

    the fact that you need to search hard for a third party solution means it is not something that the vast majority of the populace needs or is even interested in and therefor makes sense why it’s yet to implemented by Apple.

    Good business design involves services the larges segments of your consumers first and working your way down to the more obscure niche areas later.

    You can’t fault Apple for that.

  6. rageous:

    I hope Apple doesn’t think that way about it’s customers. It would be quite arrogant and a big mistake. Well, in fact they have on occasion had that mind set..realized it and eventually had to make up for their own mistakes (see below).

    If I have to search hard for third party solutions because Apple won’t provide them, it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with elite or obscure useage. Quite the opposite in fact.

    e.g. More people probably own TVs, and VCR’s than digital video and still cameras. However, only the latter group has been Apple’s target. Apple hasn’t yet made it easier and slicker to use these existing appliances (used by the majority) but has focused on new appliances instead (elite, cutting edge users).

    On the other hand something like HP’s video to DVD device is targeting the majority with a solution that makes more practical sense – preserves video better (DVD) and eliminates the space needed to store tapes.

    Or a built in Tivo type functionality would also target the majority’s desires in a practical way – to time shift TV and do it better than a VCR (and, unlike Tivo, there should be no fees!, or as I said before, if fees are an absolute necessity, include it in dotmac).

    I know plenty of people who have digital video cameras but don’t use them due to lack of time or interest etc. But I know of very few who have given up on TV and VCR’s i.e. the majority.

    So who is Apple’s current incarnation of the digital hub for? Basically those specialty users who have a digital video camera and/or digital still cameras and iPod, DVD player etc. Nice cutting edge stuff but not the majority…yet. The majority are still more interested in more passive activities like watching and recording TV shows, listening to music etc. This is also why wireless streaming from PC to multiple TVs or Stereos in the home is likely to be popular if it is done right. Microsoft is attempting this with their “living room” media software approach. Apple can do it better. Why they haven’t and yet claim to have the “digital hub” is baffling.

    Apple has been late to the party many times. CD burners were popular on PCs for a long time before Apple made them standard on Macs. Hard disk mp3 players were also out long beofre the iPod etc.
    Although I applaud Apple for their design and innovation they are also paradoxically slow to catch on to many new trends.

  7. As for my having to specifically search for a way to watch VCD’s under OS X (when it was built into Quicktime under OS 9), that’s also an example of OS X being a downgrade from OS 9 – actually a lesser “digital hub” experience. A lot of people have been frustrated up by that one, especially in Asia where VCDs are very popular.

    Apple has pushed DVD recording – there’s more money in it perhaps in the media and the hardware. But for whatever reason it is again specialty users that are targeted, not the majority. If Apple actually made it just as easy to make a VCD (Video CD) which is cheaper, only requiring CD R and a CD burner to make maybe more Mac users would be using that instead? But we’ll never know because Apple has never tried it.
    Likewise, to play a VCD is equally egalitarian (or it was until OS X arrived) – on a PC it only requires a CD drive (still the majority), no need for a DVD drive at all. They will also play on many DVD players too.

    When Apple announced iDVD I immediately wondered, OK great, but where is iVCD or at least the option for MPEG 1 compression and editing for a VCD or MPEG 2 for a Super VCD? Why focus exclusively on MPEG 2 for DVD when that is clearly for the cutting edge, being expensive and high quality? MPEG 1 is similar to VHS quality and the majority seems pretty happy about that. Only recently has a third party created that software and called it…iVCD. Toast can do it too, but not Super VCD.

    That’s plenty of examples of Apple focusing on cool cutting edge, specialty technologies but sadly, ignoring the majority’s practical needs.
    A true digital hub should be all inclusive, facilitating ease of use for older technology used by the masses as well as cutting edge technolgy used by the specialty users.

  8. Kmoa, Rageous has a good point.

    The Apple cannot…
    – set the time on my digital watch.
    – import readings from my car’s diagnostic system and then make necessary changes to the on-board computer.
    – convert my parent’s 8mm home movies to DVD.
    – control my stereo.
    – operate my coffee pot with a digital timer.
    – display the battery status of my PaceMaker.
    – detect my nephew’s stereo playing Rap music above a predetermined volume level, and then lower it when necessary.
    – remotely operate my machines at work so I do not have to physically be there.
    – detect when I am hungry and automatically order a pizza to be delivered (it should be able to do this being that it already has a modem and my credit card number).
    – etc.

    No, it’s not a hub to everything digital in my life. Besides, TiVo works rather well autonomously without needlessly sucking up my Mac’s CPU cycles. It is not up to Apple to create obscure spokes, but to make a hub that is ready for you to add your own spokes in your personalized digital universe.

  9. Kmoa, I don’t know of anyone that uses VCD for anything but as a novelty on their computer. This must be a Wintel thing.

    I have converted many of my family’s and friends’ home movies and photos into a DVD. I have never had a problem with anyone viewing them, especially when I didn’t know what sort of player they had. In fact, everyone loved them as they were all able to gather around the tv and view it; forward, backward, faster, slower, zoom, etc with the DVD player controls they are accustomed to using on the remote. Even if all DVD players could play VCD, what are the advantages besides being on a smaller and cheaper disk? Personally, I have a difficult time trying to keep from overloading the 4.7Gb DVD. I can’t imagine spending so much time trying to edit something down to such a small size.

    Perhaps if I had some sort of short movie that only needed to be played on a computer, I might choose that format to save $4 per disk… nah, I wouldn’t. I don’t think saving a few $ on disks is worth limiting the disks playability, and causing customer aggravation.

    What is the big deal with VCD and who uses it?

  10. The mac is a “Digital hub”. read that again. The “digital” part is important.

    TV and VCR signals are analogue (vinyl LPs are analogue), interlaced formats (more on that later), as opposed to DVD and DV which are digital (like audio CD) and progressive-scan streams. The typical resolution of TV, VCR and VCD typically is around 384×288 pixels, DVD and DV splurge on 720×584 pixels. (size examples in PAL, NTSC has respectively 320×240 px and 640×480 px resolutions)

    Analogue video formats are “interlaced” at 50Hz (NTSC) and 60Hz (PAL), meaning that for every cycle (50/60 cycles per second), the picture is “spliced” into two separate line-fields (half-frames, if you wish), each field being displayed every other cycle, (50/60 cycles divided by two, hence the common 25/30 full frames per second framerate) thus giving the illusion of a higher resolution. If you have an old TV set with the standard 50Hz refresh rate, you’ve seen the image flicker (same as pausing a frame in old VCR) especially when displaying fixed text. Modern TVs typically have a refresh rate of 100Hz, dramatically diminishing the flicker.

    The analogue TV signal being limited to a certain bandwith, it gets to squeeze more information through the airways by interlacing the low-res image which will be “blown up” twofolds on a TV set.

    If you’ve seen a DVD based on TV media (sitcom collections, for instance) on a progressive scan display (as opposed to interlaced TV screens) such as an LCD screen, you’ve certainly noticed the “tearing” of the image, i.e. a horizontal line “raster” that’s most noticeable if there’s a lot of quick motion in the footage. That’s a digital artifact of an analogue interlaced video source. Future digital TV (HDTV, for instance) will be progressive scan, but development and introduction of that technology is taking a lot more time than projected, so interlacing and the necessity of analogue/digital video conversion will be around for the foreseeable future.

    (as a sidenote: the freeware video player VLC has a de-interlacing option, but requires at least a G4 or a very fast G3)

    Major motion picture films are shot at 24 frames per seconds, each frame being at full resolution. That’s why feature titles on DVD have excellent quality (IMHO best viewed on an LCD), specifically because there’s no analogue fiddling with the frames. Feature DVDs are fully digital and fit for progressive scan displays.

  11. Convergence has its limits.

    It’s a bit unjustified to tie down a computer’s resources (processor time and disk space) only to record the Simpsons, a VCR or a digital set-top box will do remarkably and save a lot of disk space: “Ooh, there’s no space left on the computer to record today’s DeadZone show, maybe I should spend an hour or two to archive my whole photo collection to make place…”

    Devices such as the TiVO are dedicated resource-intensive units, with built-in soft/hardware codecs and a “deinterlacing” feature: they unsplice the 50/60Hz half-frames into 25/30 full frames per second at 320X240 pixel resolution. If played back on a TV set (the internal circuitry of TV being hard-wired to interlace any video input) the perceived resolution is suitable enough for comfortable viewing. If you extract a recorded show from a the TiVO to be played on a computer, the low resolution of the compressed footage will show; as anyone who has played a 320X240 MPEG file in full-screen on a 1024×768 display can testify, image quality is blurred and/or blocky. Remember, Apple is in the game of selling quality solutions for the home user, but doesn’t sacrify choice of lower-quality 3rd party tools.

    The TiVO and consorts are “analogue/digital low-res video conversion hubs” tied to the TV, computers are “universal hi-res digital hubs” linked to everything digital, and should both remain that way. There’s always the possibility to transfer TiVO media to a computer (easy interconnection thanks to RendezVous), so arguably, TiVO-like devices should (and have) analogue video inputs to enable the user to archive VCR tapes before transferring to the computer.

    If your main interest isn’t TV but digitising your old VCR footage, there’s a choice of 3rd party USB/FireWire solutions, IMHO a minority of users need this. Remember, FireWire is just a fast port that happened to be adopted by DV-camcorder manufacturers as the standard I/O port, but it has many other users. Apple isn’t forcing the customers to go all DV, but supplies a tried and trusted provision for digital video. VHS is treading the path to the analogue junkyard, like plain old vinyl was forced the same by audio CD, so FW is a forward-thinking standard. On virtually all modern Macs. External analogue input devices are a transitory solution, as the outcome is inevitable: all homes will be all-digital. Anytime soon… maybe tomorrow… like 2010-ish ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  12. MPEG-1, MPEG-2…

    The MPEG-1 codec (VCD) belongs to the Frauenhofer Institute/Thomson, and has somewhat prohibitive licensing procedures and fees, deploying MPEG-1 to all QuickTime users would be a headache. Older versions of QT had some related capabilities, but I guess at that time Apple had some kind of deal (or not) but decided to stay out of that particular game for now. MPEG-2 (DVD) is fiercely guarded by Hollywood moguls, as no self-respecting (money-grabbing) major film distributor likes the idea of millions of users being able to rip easily rip DVD video titles, same as the recording industry saw the advent of the CD-R as a potential menace, and justly so. It’s downright lucky we can even view DVDs on our computers. Right now, the true rights of a customer to archive (copy) her/his paid-for DVDs is still debated, “is it piracy or fair use” ask the naked emperors… Until this question has been settled, there’s no way Apple will make MPEG-2 manipulation easy for the lay man, you have to pay top dollar for dedicated tools and professional software titles to do this.

    A case for the VCD.

    The VideoCD format was the forerunner and testing bed for DVD, it flopped in Europe and the US, but has caught on in the Asian market, where you can rent feature films on VCD. Thailand, for instance, has a very popular karaoke culture, one can buy full-fledged multimedia HiFis with AudioCD, VideoCD, karaoke and MP3 compatibility, so the market for VCD is enormous. DVD players and disks are too expensive compared to VCD, mainly because there’s a lot of piracy. MP3 is the native sound format of the VCD (MPEG-1 audio layer 3 = MP3) so we should show some sort of respect to the ageing video disks…

    VCD is a low-cost alternative for people sans G4 or Superdrive, as a modest configuration with a CD burner is all you need to create budget video disks. However, apart from Roxio’s Toaster, in conjuction with a bundled MPEG QuickTime plug-in, MPEG-1/VCD authoring titles are hard to find, and they’re mainly beta-wares or GUI hacks for obscure UNIX commands and exotic-sounding codecs.

    OS X is late to that party, granted.

    VCD playback is feasible without QuickTime player. BTV and BTV-Pro are dedicated VCD players for OS8/9 and OS X. OS X-only freewares Mplayer and VLC can also play VCDs, so there’s no shortage of solutions.

    Many posts (sorrreee), hope to have made things clear…

  13. Oh, and more to the topic:

    HP making it easy on the customers by drowning them in seas of peripherals is like teaching a centipede to tap-dance…

    Customer: “Ooh, there’s the zy4000 and the xz2300 and the nn5192 and the yh9811 and… (gasping for air)”
    Centipede: “With which foot should I start?”

    HPs printer selection alone was a jungle… They’re playing the “Japanese Conglomerate Game”: There’s Mitsubishi cars, Mitsubishi industrial robots, Mitsubishi HiFis and TVs, Mitsubishi batteries, Mitsubishi sowing machines, Mitsubishi canned tuna… (and possibly heavy metals from leaking Mitsubishi batteries in the Mitsubishi canned tuna, that’s convergence!)

    So long, while you’re wondering why your HP digital camera isn’t as good as the serious brands’ offerings…

  14. Some good comments here, some sarcastic ones too but that is to be expected.

    To expand on what I’d like to see regarding TiVO/VCR type functions from Apple and in response to comments such as…

    “It’s a bit unjustified to tie down a computer’s resources (processor time and disk space) only to record the Simpsons, a VCR or a digital set-top box will do remarkably and save a lot of disk space: “Ooh, there’s no space left on the computer to record today’s DeadZone show, maybe I should spend an hour or two to archive my whole photo collection to make place…”

    1. Hard drive resources – Or you could, for instance, just as easily archive your recorded shows off the Mac onto a CD or DVD in MPEG 4 format in a few minutes. Perhaps the Mac could do it for you before space got to a certain limit or directly to a CD or DVD (like my Terapin, except it is MPEG 1).

    Storage is also an issue with a VCR or Tivo. What is lacking (yet again) is the ability to easily pull data off a Tivo onto a CD (say MPEG 1, 2 or 4) or DVD (MPEG 2). Even Tivo’s announcement of rendezvous networking with Macs talks about photos and music but NO video. Ridiculous. Same goes for VCRs – I’d prefer to archive shows onto a CD or DVD than a bulky tape that is going to degrade faster than digital format (which brings me right back to the new HP video to DVD thingy).
    Actually I do the latter already with a Terapin (makes VCDs) because my Mac can’t do it (well not efficiently anyway).

    2. CPU resources – The above comment is a little like saying “I’m not going to use my Mac’s resources to encode mp3 or play them in iTunes” Or “it is unjustified to tie down my Mac’s resources just to watch a DVD when a dedicated DVD player is cheap and can do the job better”, or “I’m not going to use my Mac to fax documents when a dedicated fax machine will suffice” and so on. My point is, what is convenient for one person may not be for another but I for one like to at least have the option do as many things as possible with the Mac I already have and then decide if I have to invest in a dedicated device for a specific function.

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