Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Security Verse Privacy Act 2

Like the election, there are clearly sides in the Apple verse Justice Department debate about privacy and security.  Apple wants to protect its own security and privacy issues while the Justice Department wants to force Apple to unlock an iPhone to enable entry.  As the Justice Department tries to couch it as protecting national security interests in a standalone case, we now learn that this is not just a one off ask.

According to the NY Times, "The Justice Department is demanding Apple’s help in unlocking at least nine iPhones nationwide in addition to the phone used by one of the San Bernardino, Calif., attackers."  Last week it was one phone, now it is 10, and as Apple suspects, the ask will continue to hack its security protocols on its iPhone on even more cases, not just Federal, but State as well.  And once the "master key" is built, many suspect that other countries will also want to have it.  This slippery slope continues to slant downward.

Not that Apple hasn't helped the Government in other cases, it is just that this particular ask raises many more issues than it prevents.  As citizens, we continually worry that our identity, our bank accounts, our medical and other personal information, is being hacked.  It was never as simple as one iPhone, one case, and Apple's arguments continue to resonate to those that wish to have their privacy protected.  It is why I stand behind Apple in this standoff with the Justice Department. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Unlocking Set Top Box Won't Come Quickly

So the FCC agrees that it is time to let consumers choose which box they want to use to access their cable TV programming.  Good news for TiVo, bad news for cable operators making tons of dollars by "renting" their cable boxes to subscribers.  But don't expect that the FCC vote means anything changes anytime soon.  According to Multichannel, an addition vote won't come til Spring at the earliest.  And then it will take time to implement.

As Multichannel tells us, that could take another 3 years if not longer.  Of course cable operators may simply take the fight to the courts, delaying the start for more years.  Till then, some cable operators have already enabled TiVo as an alternative cable box, others have not.  Some allow a CableCard to unscramble signals but limit the boxes ability to use all the features, notably on demand.  The bottom line, the unlocking of the cable box is many, many years away. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Content Not King Confirmed By Yahoo

In last weeks blog, I speculated that content may no longer be king.  Well it seems that Yahoo also doesn't think content is king either.  They have just announced plans to shut down original content sites, including digital magazine sites covering food, parenting, travel and more, while cutting 300 jobs.  As to the original content sites they are keeping, news, finance and lifestyle, they will likely rely on more third party content sites then their own created material.  Ring the Content Is King death bell for Yahoo.

So original content costs more than syndicated content.  And proprietary content is more valuable to a site than open content.  And some combination of each makes a successful digital content strategy.  Just ask Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.  But Yahoo couldn't make it work with its Yahoo Screen app, another killed idea by a company that is declining quickly in the digital universe.  A once promising brand with a easy to remember brand name has lost its cache and its way.  What happens next to some of their remaining "stars", like Katie Couric and David Pogue?  The hour glass indicates their time at Yahoo may also be nearing an end. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Security Versus Privacy

If you have been seeing the news lately, then you may have heard that the federal courts have ordered Apple to enable the FBI entry into the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter.  A fairly simple request at first glance, but one that has serious repercussions.  It is a question about democratic freedom and the right to privacy verse security and the greater welfare.  As of today, Apple is defying an order to comply and create a means to get around its security features.

Security verse privacy is not just limited to this particular case, it is an issue that we face every day.  Our right to privacy, up to a point, but lost at times for the sake of security.  We face that test ourselves every time we go through a security line, at the airport, at a concert.  Whenever we are a part of a crowd, our privacy gets squeezed for the purpose of security.  When police go after potential threats and possible criminal behavior, they get judicial authorization to enter homes, to tap phones, to secure computer hard drives, and other means to restrict privacy for the security of the greater population. 

It seems they are on a scale that slides back and forth from one end to the other, from full privacy to full security.  There is little black and white these days in our world but many, many shades of gray.  In Apple's case, it is their Enigma Code, a proprietary security feature on their devices to remove threats of illegal entry.  Privacy AND personal security.  And to find a solution to such a code opens Apple up to removing consumer trust in their product and our personal data. By creating such a "master key" as Tim Cook says in the re/code article, all privacy could potentially be lost.  We face security issues and privacy invasion every day as hackers try to steal everything from credit card and bank information to social security and health records. Creating such a key could potentially open us all up to more threats. 

For the specific iPhone involved in the San Bernardino case, what answers the iPhone may yield are hard to know unless it is unlocked.  And what future privacy issues become created should Apple create a means to unlock its device, could be at stake.  It is a slippery slope and one that cannot be taken lightly.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

If Content Is Not King, Then What Is

It seems that content is no longer deemed so kingly.  Viacom shares are down, as are CBS, Time Warner, Fox, and Disney.  The future TV viewer cares little for linear TV channels and we are all growing tired of intrusive and too many commercials.  Even this year's Super Bowl ads, usually the cream of the creative crop, were duds.  And given how fragmented viewership is these days, harder than ever to determine what successful content is.  It seems that content may have lost its crown. So who is King of Media?

In the tug of war between content and distribution, the distribution side has to now be carved out into different verticals.  Cable operators saw a reversal in their subscriber numbers, showing growth and a hopeful long term trend away from cord cutting.  But that will take a few quarters to decide.  The cellular companies have been pulling no punches in their ad messaging, with T-Mobile going hard against Verizon.  And digital content platforms like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu may need to find more revenue streams when subscriber growth wanes.  Of the three, Amazon may be more stable given its diversified business that goes beyond content distribution. 

So who is King?  If content has given up the crown, distribution has yet to show that it has more power.  Perhaps Comcast had it right all along; be both content and distribution, NBC Universal and Xfinity, and stay the course. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Cord Cutting, What Cord Cutting?

Have the winds shifted?  Is cable television rebounding?  Are households watching cable TV and television advertising?  A look at the top 3 cable operators might indicate that the cord cutting trend has reversed.  According to each of their fourth quarter reports, cable subscribers, as well as data and phone are all increasing.  Charter announced that they increased subs by 33k in the last quarter and 11k for all of 2015.  Last month, Time Warner Cable announced that it gained 54K in Q4 which will make its soon to be owner Charter Cable very happy.  And Comcast Cable added 89K in Q4 although down for the total year by 36 K in 2015. 

Is this reversal simply a Christmas present to the top cable providers or an indication that 2016 could be a growth year for them?  Not raising rates to households might be an encouraging sign.  But should greed get in the way of a better marketing a customer service approach, these sub gains may be short lived.