Monthly Archives: November 2012
TV is boring. Not the 57 Channels and Nothin’ On kind of boring, the kind of boring you experience when you’ve been using the same old technology for far too long.
It’s always the same story: a flat panel on a wall or table, a viewer on a couch and a remote control that connects them. Sure, remotes have changed over the years but regardless of how many buttons or touchscreens you slap on them, the way users interact with their televisions is the same. And that’s why Apple’s (AAPL) upcoming reentry into the living room is so compelling.
I could not possibly be less interested in an HDTV from Apple. I like my TVs and if the various rumors we’ve read for more than a year now are to be believed, I’m not convinced television hardware from Apple would offer any real advantages over market leaders like Samsung and LG. What I am very interested in, however, is Siri.
Siri is pretty great on an iPhone. The ability to speak conversationally to perform functions, get answers or find points of interest is a nice value-add. Siri is somewhat less useful on an iPad. The functionality is the same but the tablet form factor makes using Siri much less convenient.
But Siri on a TV remote? Now we’re talking.
Using voice commands to interact with a cell phone is feasible only for a fraction of the functions one might perform with a smartphone. Siri’s utility is further limited by the user’s situation and surroundings. Speaking to a phone is not ideal while in a meeting, while eating in a restaurant, while in close quarters with other people, while exercising, or in countless other scenarios.
Despite a whittling away of consumer debt that has been underway since the recession, many Americans are still entering the holiday season unprepared to cope with the expenses that crop up around this time of year.
Think Finance, a provider of payday loans and other financial services for consumers with limited or no access to banking services, recently surveyed 1,000 Americans across all income levels who use various forms of alternative financial services — including payday loans, prepaid debit cards and direct deposit advances.
Although many of these consumers are on better financial footing and optimistic about their economic future this year, the holidays are still a source of stress and strain on their precarious finances, Think Finance said in the poll.
Some 45 percent of those polled said the holiday season brings so much financial pressure, they would prefer to skip it altogether. Almost half said their level of stress related to holiday expenses is high or extremely high.
That’s probably because nearly the same amount — some 45 percent — say they do not expect to have enough money set aside to cover holiday expenses.
Larry Hagman may have played television’s most famous evil oil baron, J.R. Ewing, but in real life the “Dallas” actor was a fierce proponent of solar energy.
In July 2010 I interviewed Hagman, who died Friday in Dallas at age 81 while shooting a sequel to the long-running television series, when he agreed to revive J.R. in a commercial promoting solar power. As I wrote in The New York Times:
J. R. Ewing returned to the small screen on Tuesday, and the boys down at the Cattlemen’s Club just might need a double bourbon when they hear what he has to say.
“In the past, it was always about the oil,” Mr. Hagman says in a TV commercial that was unveiled Tuesday at the Intersolar conference in San Francisco. “The oil was flowing and so was the money. Too dirty. I quit it years ago,” he growls as he saunters past a portrait of a grinning J. R. in younger days and a TV showing images of an offshore oil rig and blackened waters.
Putting on a 10-gallon hat, he heads outside into the sunshine and gazes at a solar array on the roof of the house. “But I’m still in the energy business,” he says. “There’s always a better alternative.”
“Shine, baby, shine,” he says, ending the spot with his trademark J. R. cackle.
“We love the message of thanking our customers for supporting independent businesses during the Thanksgiving holiday,” Libby Cowles, community relations manager for Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, Colo., told the cleverly named newsletter ShelfAwareness.
The Christian Science Monitor reported Saturday that sandwiched in between Black Friday, a big box store discount extravaganza, and Cyber Monday, the Internet retail attempt to not be left behind, is Small Business Saturday, a sort of “me-too,” for independent store owners.
With those shopper-friendly puzzle pieces in place, the American Booksellers Association decided to go with “Thanks for Shopping Indie,” a week-long discount prices event that celebrates stores that cater to browsing customers.