Thoughts on technology, investing, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

Category: Technology

Doctors playing video games

Doctors playing video games? That’s exactly what this New York Times article proposes. Apparently, research shoes that surgeons who play video games improve their skills.

Dr. Rosser…keeps an Xbox, along with PlayStation 2 and GameCube consoles, just a few strides from the operating room so he can warm up with a favorite, Super Monkey Ball, just before surgery.

Last year Dr. Rosser was a co-author of a study that concluded that surgeons who played video games for at least three hours a week were 27 percent faster and made 37 percent fewer mistakes than surgeons who did not play video games.

As many medical simulators are too expensive, researchers have been looking into PC and console games to improve their operating-room skills.

Skype coming on strong

After hearing more and more buzz surrounding Skype, I finally downloaded the software to see what it was all about. As far as VoIP providers go, I think Skype has a great business model – free calls to existing Skype users, cheap rates to everyone else on a per minute basis. Unlike other VoIP providers that allow customers to simply plug in their existing phones, to this point Skype has relied on an all-computer setup. This worked for a set of users, but couldn’t really hit mainstream usage in that form. New developments may be changing that reality. Skype recently announced a strategic alliance with Motorola. The announced partnership goals:

The initial focus of the collaboration will be on co-marketing of new optimized Motorola ‘Skype Ready’ companion products, such as Bluetooth(R) headsets, dongles, and speakerphones, as well as delivery of the Skype Internet Telephony experience on select Motorola mobile devices.

Skype is not without its challenges though. Poor performance of both Skype and SkypeOut have been reported. Although this is to be expected with any newer technology (especially as all VoIP providers have documented issues), it will be interesting to see if Skype can make the leap from an an all computer based server to one more integrated with how people are currently familiar with making voice calls.

As far as my experience with the service, Skype really looks like vocal instant messaging. When you sign up, you select a username. This username then becomes your “phone number” in the network. Much like IM, another user either needs to know your username or look it up in a directory. Unfortunately, my own trials are incomplete, as i don’t know anyone using Skype yet!

Related resources:
Skype, Xandros Bundle VoIP, Linux
Skype to provide WiFi VoIP service to Motorola mobile devices

Digital music players market penetration report

A recent from shows that 11% of U.S. adults (or approx 22 million people) have or MP3 players. The study didnâ??t take into account teens or younger as the survey was only taken from those 18 years or older. Some of the other interesting stats from the survey:

– iPods/MP3 players are gadgets for the upscale. Fully a quarter (24%) of those who live in households earning more than $75,000 have them; 10% of those living in households earning $30,000 to $75,000 have them and 6% of those living in households earning less than $30,000 have them.

– Those who use the internet are four times as likely as non-internet users to have iPods/MP3 players, probably because internet users can get much of the music they enjoy online. Fully 15% of internet users have iPods/MP3 players, compared to 4% of non-internet users. And the more advanced the internet user, the more likely it is that he has an iPod/MP3 player. Those with six years or more of internet experience are twice as likely to have them as those who are relative internet newbies (those with less than three years experience).

– Broadband access is strongly associated with ownership of iPods/MP3 players. Some 23% of those with broadband at home have iPods/MP3 players, compared to 9% of those who have dialup connections. And those who have broadband access at home and at work, are the most likely of all to have iPods/MP3 players. Almost a third (31%) of those with broadband all around them have iPods/MP3 players.

Additional details can be found here. The study illustrates an impressive market penetration for these devices, but Iâ??d be interested in seeing some trends. Is the market growing? Has it stabilized? Iâ??m especially interested in seeing how digital music player usage correlates with the gains in the satellite radio market. Are these complementary markets or are the mutually exclusive? I own both, but as weâ??re starting to see convergence, it will be interested to see how it all plays out.

Marketing satellite radio

This morning on I heard that is considering entering the satellite radio business. Who knows what level of accuracy this report has, but I made me think about the current media coverage of the satellite radio industry. Most of the hype surrounds the recent signings of big-name talents and content providers to the two main players: and . Iâ??m talking about Howard Stern (Sirius), Major League Baseball (XM Radio), the National Football League (Sirius), Opie & Anthony (XM Radio), NCAA March Madness (Sirius), Dr. Laura Schlessinger (XM Radio), G. Gordon Liddy (XM Radio), NASCAR (XM Radio), and the list goes on. As a subscriber to XM radio, the feature that actually sold me on the service was the music programming itself(shocking, isn’t it?). Granted, all the other features and programming allowed me to justify the monthly subscription fee, but what struck me was the tremendous music selection on XM. Now, this is not to say that Sirius doesnâ??t have great music, but the key is the human factor of actually creating the play lists and having excellent DJ’s run the show. When I initially listened to XM, there were a handful of stations that made me say, “hmm, if I were to personally put together a radio station and play the songs that I wanted to hear, this would be it.” Now isnâ??t that the point of radio? Maybe itâ??s the original and most pure point of radio from a listener’s point of view? Why do we listen to any particular station? A radio station is selected that best suits one’s listening interests and preferences. So it was with XM Radio for me. Everything else was fine – the technology cool and the programming extensive – but the selling feature was great music 24/7 that freed me from trying to find it myself. Iâ??ve found I spend less time messing with my MP3 player and more time just enjoying music.

With that point made, it strikes me that none of the coverage on these satellite radio services actually speaks to the music. This point specifically strikes me as significant when there is talk of DirecTV getting into the market. I’ve had DirecTV for years (specifically for the NFL Sunday Ticket to watch my beloved ) and the service has always provided 30+ digital music channels. In the most generous terms, these channels were bad. I hope there wasnâ??t any active human intervention in the programming. So, if DirecTV plans on entering this business, I surely hope they have plans to upgrade their current music offerings. For this nascent industry’s sake, I hope a little more emphasis is placed on the music.

Innovative online storgage business model

I just stumbled on a new service from a company called Streamload. It essentially provides online storage for files, but with a unique twist on the business model. Instead of charging for the amount of total storage, Streamload users pay for the amount they download. Primarily aimed at heavy music users, this service could also be a cheap alternative to backup limited amounts of crtitical files. Zero cost to store data on their servers and in the case you actually need them to be backed up, you pay for the download. Not a bad idea.

Apple launches low-end MP3 player and PC

Walt Mossberg’s personal technology column has an article about Apple’s two new products. The first is a stripped down Macintosh starting at $500. The second (and much more interesting to me) is a $99 iPod. Named the iPod Shuffle, this is an iPod with less functionality. Instead of a hard drive, the Shuffle uses flash memory. In addition, the iPod Shuffle limits users to around 120 songs versus the iPod’s thousands.

Mossberg gives it a so-so review, praising some features while questioning missing features that made the iPod a smashing success (no screen, no scroll wheel). From what I’ve seen so far, there are numerous competitors with quality products at this price point. In contrast, the Apple iPod, for the functionality delivered, has much less competition. I’m sure this will be another success though. Simply because of the aura and buzz currently surrounding anything iPod, the Shuffle will sell very well.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Apple or its products, but I give credit where it is due. You have a hot product that has spawned its own mini-industry providing everything from music sites to accessories. With the nature of the consumer electronics market, Apple is doing the smart move to strike while the iPod is hot and milk its success for all its worth.

Additional Resources:
Apple Launches Low-End PC And $99 Digital Music Player
Macworld ’05: A New Direction?

The Apple iPod Shuffle

Yahoo desktop search (YDS)

It looks like Yahoo is finally entering the fray. Joining Google and Microsoft, Yahoo now has its own free desktop search tool providing users the ability to search their entire hard drive as well as the internet. I have only used Googleâ??s version so far and found it to be somewhat slow. Yahoo promises to be fast and support over 200 files types, so Iâ??ll have to see.

Apparently, YDS is based on technology from X1 which has had a great reputation for some time now.

Blackberry 7100t from T-Mobile

Despite the recent legal troubles for , there seems to be no stopping the momentum of their product. Though its popularity has been primarily confined to the corporate world, RIMâ??s newest entry is targeted towards a somewhat new market for RIM. The new BlackBerry 7100 (7100t through BlackBerry in the US) appears to be aimed at either the consumer market or simply those looking for a scaled down smart phone that contains only the essentials.

The best way to describe the is that it is designed for people who want email and capabilities on their phone and not the other way around. Many of the other smart phones on the market appear that they were designed with the PDA functionality first and then the phone was added as an after thought â?? â??Hey, how can we cram a phone in here?â?

Where the BlackBerry 7100t excels is in its simplicity. Iâ??ve always loved the thought of a PDA â?? I owned and used Palm, Windows CE, Pocket PC, and now the BlackBerry OS. The issue with all the others was twofold. One, I never used any of the functionality beyond calendar, contacts, to do list, and basic notes. Second, as a separate device from my cell phone, I never actually had the PDA when I needed it. The cell phone was always in my pocket, the PDA on my desk. The BlackBerry 7100t, in addition to its much heralded email functionality, contains the above basic functionality (calendar, contacts, to do list, and notes) that synchs seamlessly with Microsoft Outlook. I now have all the functionality I actually use, always on my person.

After using the device exclusively now for almost two months (the 7100t was released in October, 2004), I have few complaints. The sound quality is not the best (though itâ??s quite good) and T-Mobileâ??s network is now as expansive as some of its competitors. That being said, if youâ??re looking for the basic PDA functionality with email in a phone, the BlackBerry 7100t is hard to beat.

As I use it more, Iâ??ll add some more thoughts on its uses and capabilities. One Iâ??m currently using now and will post more details in the future, is that the 7100t can easily be used as a modem via itâ??s USB sych/charger cable. With a reasonably priced unlimited mobile plan from T-Mobile, this feature alone could be worth the price of upgrading to the BlackBerry 7100t.