Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cord Cutting Stats Show Rise in Free TV

Today's NY Post article continues to confirm that consumers are pushing away from cable subscription, especially given the current economy.  "Nearly 18 percent of all US households with TVs are watching old-fashioned broadcasts delivered for free over the airwaves, up from 15 percent of homes last year, according to research firm GfK Media."  This 3% rise from last year follows a rise of 1% from the year prior.  With cable costs rising and digital antenna and online providing a lower cost alternative, this may be the start of a growing trend.  Should we find that next year, the increase in over the air rises greater than 3%, then we can clearly say that this shift is becoming a growing trend.

But cord cutting is only one indication of trouble in cable subscription.  The other is cord shaving or cord shifting, the reduction of services to lower monthly charges.  "GfK’s report also found that 16 percent of households downgraded TV service this year through March, while only 11 percent of TV households said they had increased service."  Is this a trend too, probably so.  When the  economy eventually does improve, it will be interesting to see if these same households go back to cable again or have found enough satisfaction from over the air and online.  I suspect that they will.

Microsoft Announces Surface Tablet, But What Does It Do

The announcement of Microsoft's latest tablet, Surface, seemed to follow the Apple cookbook, little notice, no advance word, and then the talking heads.  Microsoft seems to be embarking on more of a follower strategy where once in their life cycle they were seen as more the leader.  In this case they are copying the Apple playbook and may soon decide they need their own retail presence.

What surprised me most about Microsoft's new tablet is that I get very little about what differentiates it from other tablets, most especially the iPad, and what unique benefits it offers to consumers.  "The software giant could incorporate its Skype Internet phone software in a tablet, which could make for a compelling rival to Apple's FaceTime video-calling feature on iPhone and iPad. And integration of Microsoft's popular Kinect camera, used on Xbox, could give a tablet an unusual twist — voice and motion controls."  But none of this seemed to be confirmed attributes of the Surface.    How strong will the synergy be to other Microsoft operating system PCs; how quickly will a back office app store be started to provide the applications to make the Surface function?  Will Microsoft hold off on an iPad friendly Office suite to give its Surface an extra edge?

Some speculate that the USB port on the Surface gives it an immediate edge.  Apple continues to believe that the cloud and wireless are the ideal connections.  As more and more devices come equipped with blue tooth, the need for any wired ports may become ancient history pretty quickly.  As for the future of the Surface, we will wait for its actual release to determine if it is the next Xbox success or Zune failure.