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What I'm Excited About

A well known former record label executive publicly criticized me recently for appearing to be negative 99% of the time. I believe what prompted his criticism is the vocal position I've taken on the ridiculously high royalties record labels have imposed on music companies such as Pandora, imeem, Slacker, Spotify, etc. which will drive them to bankruptcy. Having said that, however, there are many things that I am excited about in the technology business. The following are just a few:

Mifi - A battery powered device the size of two drink coasters makes your wifi device work anywhere your mobile company offers 3G service. I use it to stream music in my car, make VOIP calls, let my kids play flash games on their laptop, or as a network connection in airports, hotels and companies I visit. The Mifi is $59/month for 5GBs of data which, unless you're downloading video, is ample. Get it on Amazon with no upfront money by committing to a 2 year service contract.

VOIP keeps getting better (and keeping telcos honest) - My phone company (AT&T) wants to charge me an outrageous $3.50 per minute to call a mobile phone in Singapore. Luckily VOIP options are proliferating, thereby giving people options. Check out noSIMcard.com with instructions on how to use an Android phone without a monthly fee to make free or low cost calls. Gizmo5 (my company) has low per minute rates with no connection fees from any desktop computer and a growing number of dual mode mobile phones which allow calls over wifi like the Nokia N95, e71, 6300i, Android G1, and wifi phones.

Upcoming legal cases going to trial - Many times net companies are overwhelmed by record label lawsuits who apply massive pressure to company management, boards, investors and partners, forcing them to fold or settle under onerous terms. However, a few net companies have been able to withstand the pressure, funding a multi-year legal battles. Their cases are coming before Judges in the next 1-6 months so the court will decide whether the DMCA law protects internet service providers for acting as search engines or hosting material at the direction of the user. The cases are: UMG v Veoh (trial begins Sept 28th), UMG v Divx (trial begins Nov 24th) and EMI v MP3tunes (trial begins in January). The DMCA is a critically important law which should protect net companies, but until Judges say it means what it says labels will continue to sue. Of course, Google will be watching these cases closely because Youtube is using the DMCA as their defense in a billion dollar suit with Viacom.

Meraki - Wifi in my home has always been spotty until I deployed Meraki units. Plug in these card deck-sized devices and they'll automatically connect to each other, and providing complete wifi coverage in even the most troublesome areas. If you find dead zones, or need to expand coverage, simply buy another device, plug it in and extend your network using mesh technology with zero setup. There's a convenient browser based management system and alerts can send email anytime a device become disconnected.

500 Channels, big screen, HD and a good DVR - Anyone who says there's nothing good on TV needs to explore channels beyond the double digits. Spend an hour scanning the programming guide then instruct your DVR to record a couple dozen promising shows. Revisit the accumulated shows a week later and you'll uncover some gems. Be sure and have a DVR that can record multiple shows at the same time, preferably in HD quality on a big flat screen. TV has never been better! I'm closely watching several intriguing "watch TV on your PC" initiatives. Try Miro or Boxee to see the state of the art solutions.

Kindle - I detest the DRM and revoking previously purchased books illustrates why ALL DRM "purchases" are nothing but rentals. HOWEVER, the built-in, always-on, no-monthly-fee, seamless-network access is how all devices —from your fridge to your eyeglasses— will work in the future. My wife uses her Kindle for novels and I use mine for newspapers (yes, I will continue to read those while they last). Lets hope future devices ape the network access and lose the DRM.

These are a few of the products, services, and things that I'm excited about. Feel free to email me YOUR list!

--MR
michael@michaelrobertson.com



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