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They're baaaaack: Super Bowl Commercials selling out

The Hollywood Reporter reports that 65% of the 2010 Super Bowl is already sold out, including all of the first-half "A" spots. The prices are running in the $2.7-2.8 million range - just off the 2009 rate (as high as $3 mil, but largely in the $2.8-2.9 mil range), but still ahead of 2008.

It's not that CBS doesn't have its hands full, and its work cut out for it. Last year at this time, NBC had already sold 85% of its spots - but they're feeling good about getting there in fine shape. It's certainly far from the cratered, post-apocalyptic vision painted in most of the press.

Now, I'm not much of a football fan, but I never miss the Super Bowl. It's an even bigger deal for commercials than for sports, at least for me. But I think it's true for the world at large. Yeah, most people tune in for the game or the half-time show...and the shows have been getting bigger and better of late, with unforgettable sets from Prince, Paul McCartney, and Bruce Springsteen in the past few years.

But the ads are important for US in this business for several reasons. One, they're a look at the state of the art. When somebody spends roughly $100,000 to show a commercial, you can be sure that they're spending a lot more than that to get absolutely top-shelf production. You want to see the technology that's going to shape the next few years of our industry? Start with the Super Bowl.

The other reason is that they're often inspiring. The best of them remind me of the power of storytelling, and that that power can often be increased by packing it into a short span. The commercials in the Super Bowl make me glad I'm in this business. If you're not watching the Super Bowl, I frankly don't think you care enough about your trade. Otherwise, how could you even imagine missing the best of what the best can do?

Hopping off my high horse, here's one of my all-time favorites...which has other folks on THEIR high horses. GREAT rotoscoping and compositing, and a great story too. I wish I could find a higher-quality version, but this one's pretty dang good.

Cat Herding - Click here for more free videos

There's a higher-quality version at the director's page at his agency website, John O'Hagan at RSA -- which also contains pages for directors including Joe Carnahan, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott and Sam Mendes among many others.

Here's also a little piece on the "making of" Herding Cats, at The Inspiration Room.

And since we're talking inspiration, here's a Super Bowl commercial by Ridley Scott that's also not too bad.

You can see it even bigger and in higher quality here.

Posted by: Tim Wilson on Aug 30, 2009 at 8:21:27 pm commercials, super bowl, apple, economy, creativity

Why is there Air?

I was reminded about our MacBook Air conversations (including the comments on a recent post from Walter) by seeing it as one of the minor stories on the cover of Laptop magazine. So I did some poking around the web to see what platform neutral and PC-oriented pubs had to say about Air.

By far the most often-cited reason to love it is how cool it looks, and how much fun it is to use. "An undeniable sexiness," says Gizmodo. PC Magazine tested it running Vista under Boot Camp, and says it's "hard to pass up." The reviewer at Ars Technica says, "I won't be able to go back to a MacBook or MacBook Pro—despite the Air's other downfalls."

I found a bunch more along these lines, and planned to keep going along the "pull quote and link" style, but got a little bored. The fact is that EVERY review I found said that they either wanted them, or had already bought one with their own money...even after much of their reviews were quite explicit about Air's shortcomings, including some you've never heard about, like the discovery that watching movies in iTunes destroys battery life.

These aren't consumers. They're people who work with computers for a living. Of course the one thing they had in common is, not a pro app in sight. And they ultimately love Air.

Which brings me back to my peeps at Laptop magazine. Look, there are a million ways and places and reasons to use a laptop, and the folks in our neck of the woods count for about a dozen of those million. I love Laptop's assessment because it very much agrees with my own -- why else?

This work of art is worth considering for corridor warriors who attend lots of meetings, as well as for commuters who do a fair amount of work while traveling to and from the office.

The last company I worked at was barely mid-sized, around 2,000 people worldwide, maybe a tenth the size of a corporate giant like Apple. And I saw scads of people spending their own money on super-light, super-small computers that they preferred to the corporate issued dogs. Not one of the disadvantages of Air mattered a whit:All software was on the network, and even the wireless was fast (g speed then, probably up to n by now) and accessible (the only place in the buildings you can stand without being in sight of 2 AirPorts was in the bathroom).

I personally loaded software from disk TWICE - one was Final Cut Studio. That feature where you connect to another optical drive, Remote Drive, works great even if the computer you're connecting to is a PC. Connects automatically when there's one in the vicinity. You can even use the option key to BOOT from a Remote Drive. And that's without buying the $99 USB DVD drive. Which, by the way, can't be used with any other computer, including those from Apple.

Which also reminds me, I'd be more interested in an ethernet adapter than an optical drive. Oh wait, THERE IS ONE, and it costs $12.99. Pushes up to 100BaseT full speed through a USB 2 port. Did I mention that it's only $12.99?

From Tiger Direct. Look it up.


The biggest benefit, as noted above, is the crazy portability. It wasn't unusual for me to be in meetings in 6 or 8 different rooms in a DAY, or that many CITIES in a WEEK. (No kidding. Sometimes more.) I'd have freaking KILLED for a computer like Air. If you think that cutting the thickness AND WEIGHT more or less in half doesn't make all the difference in the world, it's because you haven't gone through this.

Oh wait, one more reason. Every technology company, including the couple I worked for, is paved wall to wall with gear lust - cars, home theater and on and on. Laptop envy is darn near the top of the list, and tiny was always prized over powerful because, frankly, for business, they're all plenty powerful. This tiny computer would make any corporate weasel carrying it the absolute biggest of gear lust dogs.

And why buy a Mac at ALL if this isn't part of the reason you do it? 'Fess up. You know it is.

I can think of a whole bunch of other use cases scenarios where Air is absolutely ideal, but that's the one I lived in. Did I mention that I'd have KILLED for Air? You can find other scenarios at Amazon, where all 9 reviews so far are 5 stars.

Heck, if I had $1800 laying around, I'd buy one. Of course I'm very happy with my MBP, and there are a bunch of things I'd rather spend that kind of money on, all the rest of which my wife would enjoy every bit as much as me. Still, I don't mind being alone again -- naturally -- in my opinion on this, but after chewing on this for a couple of months, I think this is the most interesting Apple machine since...

...well, since the Cube. This ain't anything like that, but I'm just saying. Apple gets big when they do small, and I think this one's a lot likely to be bigger for Apple than smaller.


PS. The "Why is there air?" title is a reference to the 1965 classic comedy album by Bill Cosby of the same name. It's easy to forget today that he won an unprecedented SIX consecutive comedy Grammies, and he did them all IN A ROW. This one starts a run of truly indispensible discs that include Wonderfulness, Revenge, and To My Brother Russell With Whom I Slept. Not really a comic but a storyteller, he was the best at it since Will Rogers, and maybe since Mark Twain.

PPS. Look at the picture for Mr. Cosby's take on the answer to his own question.

Posted by: Tim Wilson on Mar 16, 2008 at 9:39:14 pmComments (7) apple, computers

Blu-ray drives in MacBooks soon, or...

...or so some observers believed in 2006! This was upon the news of the second laptop to include Blu-ray drives, this one from Dell. And why not? When Apple joined the Blu-ray Disc Association in 2005, they said they were committed to promoting the format. Seen anything to back that up since then? Anything?

I think Dell makes better computers than a lot of people think, and you certainly have them to thank for the idea of truly custom configurations and computer sales over the internet, both of which they practiced years before many others did. But their stuff is nothing next to Sony's. The VAIO line is pretty elegant, and introduced thin form factors, wide screens and 1920x1080 res back before the turn of the century.

Oh wait, Apple still doesn't support 1920x1080. In fact, the current fave res for PCs is 1980x1200, to allow player controls on a 1920x1080 movie. I love my MacBook Pro - I use it for 90% of my computing, 100% for the last few months, and I am of course typing on it now. But I've long ranted about how far behind the curve Apple's display technology is, and this is one of many examples of what I mean.


So back in MAY OF 2006, they introduced a laptop with these specs:

1920x1080Blu-ray reading AND WRITINGHDMI out, so you could play those Blu-ray disks out to your HDTVBuilt-in TV tuner4 GB RAM standardGeForce 7800 with 256 MB VRAMBuilt-in camera

At least the 17" MBP has those last 2 now.

The price of that Sony laptop 2 years ago was $3500, very much in keeping with the $2500 price of the MBP plus 2 more gigs of RAM when you add back in the 2 years of price decline for today's MBP...which 2 years later has no TV tuner, no HDMI, no Blu-ray reading or writing, and no 1920 res.


And then just about a year ago, Sony introduced a later VAIO that unambiguously smacks on the MBP, with a few tweaks from the previous year's model to bring the base price under $2000.

15 in. screen (check - second lightest in the game after the MBP)Santa Rosa Intel (check...wait, a YEAR ago?!?)No longer standard 1920x1080 res, but you can upgrade to that! I HATE that MBP's video options aren't upgradeableHDMI 1.3 a YEAR agoBlu-ray burner/readerUpgradeable to 400 GB storage with 2 internal 200 GB hard drives a YEAR ago

Did I mention that the base price was under $2000?

Again, I love my MBP, and am using it now. I've never owned a VAIO. I'm just saying that Apple has a long way to go to catch up to the state of the art. Oh, and lest anybody suggest that Sony brought these models out because they had such a large stake in Blu-ray's success, I say, not so fast. The exact numbers are hard to pin down, but most of the sources I've found place Sony's stake in the format at somewhere around 20%. (Look it up - plenty of references.) The job of the laptop team is NOT to support the Blu-ray team (Japanese companies don't work that way). Their job is to sell laptops, and with this kind of price-performance, they're keeping themselves at the top of the PC game.Couple of other notes as I write this on Sunday March 2 aught 8, Acer has also announced Blu-ray enabled laptops in Q2, supporting 1080p in both 16 and 18 in configurations. (I have no idea what's up with those sizes.)And in a "you had to see this coming" announcement from the week before, Toshiba has confirmed that it isn't ruling out Blu-ray drives on its laptops.  I'm not sure what "confirmed" means in the context of "maybe," but there you go. The "see this coming" part is because Toshiba still has the biggest laptop market share...and see above re: Sony. These guys couldn't care one flip about the outcome of the format war. They have numbers to meet, and they'll do what it takes. 

Now, to see why this would be cool, check out the specs on T's HD DVD laptop last summer. HD DVD-r of course, and the usual suspects (802.11n, webcam, bluetooth, etc.) but check out the rest:Santa Rosa 2Ghz Core 2 DuoGeForce 8600 with 512 MB VRAM (!!!)included HD tunerfingerprint reader (a big deal for business computers, trust me)2 160 GB drives4 Harmon Kardon speakersEarly last summer, for $3199 stock. You might not care about some of these features, but the price-performance is once again, well ahead of the current generation of MBPs, and maybe the next.

The fact is that I DO own a Toshiba laptop from my PC days. After 4 years, I still love it, a true entertainment powerhouse -- cable tuner, built-in (and very good) DVR with one-click burning to DVD (from 4 years ago, so SD of course), and the best sound I've ever heard on a laptop...with only 2 Harmon Kardon speakers. You know they sound great since HK was the first, and still the best, mfr of matched external speakers for the Mac.

My point isn't to pee on my own MBP...ewwww....a computer that I truly adore. Just an addition to Walter's admonition to Apple, to shake a leg and add the features that have existed on PCs for years.Final notes from our peeps at Wired:Later this month (3/08), Dell will ship a sub-$1000 Blu-ray enabled laptop. Wouldn't it be a kick to see this introduced in the MacBook, or even iMac, before the MBP? It's happened before. And btw, if it would work with the Pro Apps, I'd use a 13" MacBook in a heartbeat. Still the biggest bang for the buck in the Mac universe, and a great form factor.

The bulk of the article focuses on what an energy pig the Blu-ray drives are for laptops. The big thing is that Blu-rays decode is currently processor-intensive, but efforts are underway to move that to the GPU. I suspect that this is how Dell is pulling off the sub-$1000 price: a less expensive CPU, and as is ALWAYS the case (grrrr), a less expensive, higher-performing GPU than the MBP has.

So, to invoke the Prophet Biscardi again, Hello Apple! What about it?


Posted by: Tim Wilson on Mar 2, 2008 at 7:52:18 amComments (1) apple, bluray, hd dvd, computers

Best AirBook Accessory EVER!

Seriously. Check it out. Be sure to click on the image to see a close-up detail.

The story comes courtesy of "Steve Jobs." His blog and The COW are all the internet you need.

Posted by: Tim Wilson on Jan 21, 2008 at 6:49:10 amComments (3) apple, blogs, computers

ModBook named Best of Show at MacWorld...., uhm, 2007. It really did make a huge splash at that show: in addition to MacWorld naming it best of show, I love this article from Ars Technica called "ModBook Rules MacWorld." It's easy to see why - this is the super cool thing that Apple should have released this year...if not last year...if not before. Yeah, yeah, laptops get all the buzz right now, but I'm telling you, tablets have been rocking the PC world for years because for a dramatic part of the laptop market, tablets work so much better. By such a long shot it's ridiculous.

Perhaps not for most folks here, but nobody here, including me, is in anything more than a teeny tiny niche of the market, even with the Apple ecostystem. So when I tell you that tablets are better than laptops for a large part of the market, "large part" by definition excludes us. :-)

(BTW, our boy Gates is on record saying that the tablet form factor will surpass all others....of course he said that would happen by 2006. Yeah yeah, evil empire, borg, whatever. The man knows something about selling massive numbers of things.) 

One of the easiest ways to understand the ModBook is as a cross between a laptop with a rotating screen, and a Newton on nuclear-strength steroids: touch sensitive screen designed by Wacom, handwriting recognition that actually WORKS, 25% higher contrast ratio than any MacBook, a bigger screen and faster processor than the Air, GPS, and on and on.

As for the Newton part, the CEO of Axiotron is the guy who KILLED Newton, so if nothing else, he has a good idea of what DOESN'T work.  And along the way, he's picked up on some things that do. Here's a more recent Ars Technica article, an interview with said CEO, Andreas Haas.

One of the most interesting things about this story is that Apple signed these guys up as an official Apple Proprietary Services Provider, and have made clear that they're just not interested in tablets.

"Apple just isn't interested in this type of thing, and that's why we're fulfilling that need. We're thrilled about it, and we are not going anywhere."

Of course the folks at Digital Voodoo and Matrox probably said the same thing, so whatever.

In any case, I think one of the things this shows is that Apple is only marginally interested in expanding its reach into new markets in the computer biz. Even if it's not at all useful to YOU, I think that the ModBook will be around longer than Air, which I think is destined to join Mac models like The Cube on the list of interesting failures.  

Posted by: Tim Wilson on Jan 18, 2008 at 9:35:32 amComments (3) apple, technology, computers

Apple buying Adobe? Again.

Robert Cringely is one of the higher profile tech pundits, and like all pundits, is only barely credible based on predictions coming to pass.

But he brings up again the possibility of Apple buying Adobe

Actually, he says flat out it's going to happen. His reasons are a teensy bit more interesting this time, plus "inside sources," but I wasn't persuaded before and I'm not now.

He uses the Final Touch acquisition as an example of Apple's commitment to pro apps, and it is...but Final Touch wasn't a $36 billion purchase, as Adobe is likely to be. 

Another example he uses is just flat out wrong: "Of course content creation has been the heart of Apple's business ever since the original LaserWriter and the invention of desktop publishing...."

Sorry, try again. Apple didn't own any desktop publishing software. Clarisworks was interesting, but they killed it for good reason. It was a distaction from their core business of building computers and OSes.

Although Apple's core business is changing -- which Apple acknowledged when it dropped "Computer" from its name -- but look at how it's changing. 

The first big clue was QuickTime, which is still being used far far FAR more as a distribution and consumption platform than a creation platform. Seriously, QT is critical to us, but are there hundreds of millions of us? No. And the most compelling content being sold in the iTunes Music Store is sometimes only marginally created with QT at all. (I said sometimes.) And even there, the big money is in distribution and consumption.

iPods? Distribution and consumption.

The iPod/iTunes infrastructure is especially interesting to me. It used Mac users as a beta test before rolling it out to the whole world...which is frankly what non-Mac users comprise. Although Apple is growing far faster than the rest of the industry, it'll still be a while before it breaks out of single digit market share, and will likely never reach the heights Apple had before Mac.

(In fact, until stabilized at 3%-ish for a while, and starting a meaningful rise this year, Apple's market share has plummeted at least 90%. Discuss.)

My point here isn't primarily about market share, but about strategy: nobody, and I mean NOBODY, who's playing for keeps can do it on the Mac alone. (Sorry FCP.) Apple's iPod/iTunes business didn't change the world until the whole world could use it.

iPod. iTunes. Distribution. Consumption.

Not creation. You can barely use 'em to create anything.

Add iPhone to the mix: one-to-one distribution, if you will, on a massive scale. 

Look, I'm an idiot. I don't know a thing. But I only barely see Adobe fitting into this. Macromedia? Absolutely. I was among the thousands of people who thought Apple should have bought the whole company when they bought FCP from Macromedia. They could have gotten it for a song compared to what Adobe paid.

(Speaking of which, I believe that Adobe paid to be taken over by Macromedia -- the best money that Macromedia never spent. Discuss.)

I say that because Flash is a far bigger distribution platform than QuickTime, and because of its dynamic nature, is part of business infrastructure in ways that QT never will be. Websites are just the beginning. QT may never be useful in a database driven infrastructure. Flash is already being used as an actual driver interface in cars! 

So where does the rest of Adobe fit into this. Photoshop might seem like a big fish, but I've heard Adobe folks tell me that they see this as the most vulnerable app in the portfolio: being undercut by digital cameras, iPhoto, Aperture and the like. Those apps are forcing Adobe to change their game to meet Apple's challenge. So why buy it? Maybe to get at Pshop's science and medical business, but that's awfully niche-y.

After Effects? Meet Motion. Encore? Premiere? Encore? Buh-bye. Not that these don't all offer some superior aspects, but $36 billion?

After Flash, PDF is the other central Adobe technology...and Steve spent a full 45 minutes spanking Flash at the WWDC a couple of years ago. Included side-by-side comparisons of performance, image quality, the whole deal. Apple's flavor of PDF came out on top.

I think some of this was a shot over Adobe's bow: yes, PC has been your dominant platform for a decade, but leave Mac development behind at your peril. But how could he not have also been saying, we'd rather have you do this for us...but we can do it ourselves very, very easily.

Again, PDF has powerful features like built-in desktop sharing, video conferencing, etc. -- but I'm still waiting to see anything here that adds up to $36 billion.

Cringely says it will be announced this week. Do you? 

Posted by: Tim Wilson on Jan 14, 2008 at 6:12:04 amComments (3) photoshop, flash, apple, adobe, itunes, macworld

More advice on software upgrades

First, I want to underscore Shane Ross's outstanding, super-critical advice on upgrading your operating system. Although he wrote it in the context of upgrades to Leopard affecting your Final Cut Pro installation, it applies much more broadly of course. What he recommends is the right thing to do for any OS update, on either platform.

(Yo, Mac users...of whom I'm one. Following Shane's directions, the upgrade to Vista is smooth as silk. Certainly no more disruptive than OS 10.2, less disruptive than the migration to Intel architecture, and FAR less disruptive than the first OS X....which doesn't even hold a candle to the transition from System 6 to System 7, the worst OS update EVER. If you were using Macs then, you know I'm right.

BTW, this is neither a pro Vista or anti Mac observation. I'm just saying.)

Since Shane covered the OS, I'm going to focus on applications.

I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve heard that Thomas Jefferson said something along the lines that nobody who loves them should ever watch the making of sausages or democracy.

The same is generally true of software. It can be fun, but it’s always messy. My observations below don’t necessarily reflect anything I saw at the companies I worked for. I've had product manager pals of both software and hardware in a variety of industries for 10 years. They've told me stories far worse than these.

These are bad enough.

1) Nobody has tested your configuration.

Think about what you've got at the absolute core of your system. Drives and drivers. IO, QuickTime. OS, plug-ins... You think anybody inside a company has a configuration exactly like yours? I can tell you now THEY DON'T.

I'll go in reverse order, and start with the computer. Companies don't get these for free. They MIGHT get a loaner when they're testing the computer itself...but don't count on it. The absolute worst, worst WORST for this is Apple.

Which means that most third-party vendors, Windows or Mac, has to BUY EVERY configuration they want to test. Every computer, every array, every IO. What do you think the odds are that they've tested a system even a LITTLE like yours? Trust me, they probably haven't even gotten close.

No need to ask whether they’ve tested every camera and deck. You know the answer


2) Nobody has tested your workflow.

Yes, there are plenty of things every workflow has in common….and those are pretty much the only things you can guarantee have been tested: cut, copy, paste, save, open, close, capture, render, output.

Every format? Every frame rate? Every conversion between them? If you live in Europe but your software is developed in the US, I'm telling you now: PAL gets nowhere near the testing NTSC does, and yes, PAL-only bugs pop up plenty. I've never even heard of SECAM being tested...but surely somebody does, right? Right?

The other obvious thing every conscientious NLE developer tests is the export/import tango with Adobe After Effects. Beyond that, maybe yes, maybe no.

We’re mostly talking about NLEs here, but let me add a speedy note about OS software for pro users. Not registered users of the big pro software packages, which is north of a million each. I’m talking about real live editing pros – no more than a few tens of thousands, maybe a couple of hundred thousand tops, for everyone combined.

Any of you kids beta tested an OS? If it was Windows, you might have. Love those public betas, baby.

But Mac or Win, you think they’ve gone through everything you might do with their shiny new operating system?


3) Nobody has tested your features.

Shhhhh. Not every new feature is tested in every new release. The big ones, yes. One hundred percent, in every possible way they might be used? Uhm, not so much.

You'd be amazed how often you hear the phrase, "It should just work" bouncing around the software world. We don't need to test everything because "It should just work."

So let's pretend that all the new features get tested. The new ones get most of the attention. Everybody loves shiny babies. But what about the gawky adolescents known as old features? Which is to say, THE FEATURES YOU USE MOST.

Maybe the old features work with the new ones. Maybe not. Early adopters will find out the hard way if older features get broken by new ones. They do. Do you want to be the one who first tries to get it fixed?

Which brings us to,


4) New software can break your old stuff.

This one truly doesn't happen much at all, but when it does, it's heinous. I've never heard of things like entire projects getting torched, but presets? Absolutely. Keyframes? It’s happened with software I’ve bought. Thank goodness it’s rare, but it really is a heinous experience.

Don't forget: if things get hairy in your new version and you decide that the only way you can finish your project is in the old software, you're hosed. Opening new projects in an old version is a no can do.

Bailing on a new OS to go back to the old one that worked? Truly ugly, unless you followed Shane's absolutely critical advice for upgrading.

OS or app, back up everything. Trust no one.


5) Where'd I put that thing?

Unless you need a new feature or a specific old problem is fixed, adding new software is a guaranteed productivity killer.

Among the best-tested, most-reliable applications ever is Photoshop....which is the WORST application about moving features, changing toolbars, changing what's on menus. That would all be survivable if keyboard shortcuts stayed the same. Oops. Photoshop is the worst ever about this, too.

(Love ya, P-shop. I’m just saying.)

It’s just one example to illustrate the rule of Upgrade Inverse Proportion: the importance of the software is inversely proportional to the speed with which you should upgrade it.

In other words, don't upgrade if you need to get work done NOW.


6) Testers? What testers?

The industry's dirty little secret: many applications barely get any testing at all. One Very Famous Product has had outside testers in the single digits.

A product manager from the same Very Famous Company bragged to me about a release that “nearly 24” testers. Nearly?!? He clearly didn't want to just come out and tell me the real number...but he thought I should be impressed.

I was DEpressed that anyone thought this was a good idea. See numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, above.

BTW, if you're reading this, you almost certainly use this Very Famous Software.

(No, not that one. Not that one either. Yep, THAT one.)


7) There are lots of reasons to ship a product. The product being ready isn't always one of them.

Did you ever say to yourself, "Wow, who tested this stuff?"

My observation from many, many companies, is that even the best beta testers are nowhere near as diligent and thorough as the company’s internal QA (quality assurance) folks. They find a ton of problems that beta testers don't.

(You’ll also find a ton of problems they won’t. See numbers 1, 2 and 3, above.

There's even sophisticated, AI software to automate the testing of every single button and slider, as well as stability across hundreds of hours. In fact, they generate a number called MTBF, or Mean Time Between Failures. They almost know EXACTLY when and where things are going to go wrong.

Which is why I’ve seen QA folks practically chain themselves to the loading dock to try to keep software from shipping.

You should let developers off the hook a little here. I'll bte that everything you've ever "finished" -- term papers, projects for clients, mopping the kitchen -- could have benefited from more "finishing." Sometimes you have to say "enough already" and move on.

As they say in the game, "Shipping is a feature." Maybe shipping is what will give the company money to actually finish development.

How badly do you want to find out?


8) Third parties get the final product when you do.

There’s the software itself, then there’s all the people besides you who rely on it to create drivers, plug-ins, and all that good stuff. When they ship their compatible products, they need them to actually BE compatible.That’s why the REAL testing for those applications begins when the shrinkwrapped version of the software or hardware hits the streets. There's simply no other way development and testing can happen with a realistic chance of success.

Yet another reason to avoid overly-early adoption.

[edit, 10/30] A number of sites (here's one) report that Apple first released its developer build on 10/26....the same day YOU got it.

As mentioned above, there are obvious exceptions, but not many...and for Apple, far fewer than with other companies. Not passing judgment here, because it really is true for everyone. I’m just saying.


9) They don't always tell you all the bugs they know about. But they tell you plenty.

This one isn't as bad as it sounds. There really truly are edge cases, with combinations of genuinely obscure circumstances. They hope that you don't have them. Odds are better than even that it's not in the release notes.

There are other bugs that they hope to have fixed not long after shipping. The odds are about even you'll see it in the release notes.

If you don’t read the release notes, thoroughly, TWICE, before you even THINK about installing an upgrade – well, as my man Scooby Doo would say, “Ruh-roh.”



The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The actual process is scary, but you know what? Things mostly turn out okay. Developers are almost all very smart people full of the best intentions. I know it can seem hard to believe when you’re on the receiving end, but they have more at stake in the product’s success than you do.

Upgrades usually go fine. As long as you’re only changing one thing at once.

Upgrading an OS, though? That's a whole lot of moving targets to hit.

You can avoid almost all of the pain by doing two things. The first is following Shane’s advice to the letter.

The other way to avoid the pain? Keep reading the Cow, and learn from all the people who’ve ignored all this.


PS. I'm about to install Leopard, and install Vista into Boot Camp. Two new OSes on the same day, on the same computer. Woo-hoo!!! Can't wait. Obviously. Stay tuned.


Posted by: Tim Wilson on Nov 12, 2007 at 9:08:49 pm mac os, apple, technology, windows os

DRM: Updates from Apple, EMI, Microsoft and more

I'll be honest, I thought Steve Jobs was blowing smoke when he encouraged the end of DRM. I still think the timing around the unfair business practices investigations in the EU is way, way too convenient to be a coincidence. It really did have all the hallmarks of a diversion and little more. So I'll give him all the credit in the world for actually making it happen.

You've heard the news by now of course, but I have to tell you, reading the transcript from the press conference with Steve and the guy from EMI is a gas.

Some highlights that I haven't seen mentioned widely yet:

  • The DRM-free tunes will be at twice the data rate.
  • Your current EMI downloads from the iTMS can be upgraded to higher-quality, DRM-free for the difference in price. (This is a no-brainer purchase, IMO.)
  • EMI is making their DRM-free music available to any music store to sell. And why not? They want the money, and more stores offers the potential of more money.

Anyway, you definitely want to check it out.

In the meantime, Microsoft followed this up with their own story about working on DRM-free music themselves. I still kinda like Microsoft. But this is just sad.

OTOH, the article I cite above is riddled with errors, starting with four of the first five words. It calls Apple a "digital music pioneer." What?!? Apple came late to the game, and aren't even close to the first to offer DRM-free music. They've also offered among the lowest bandwidth music for a long time, so stop with the pioneer chatter. There are other errors, too. You could make looking for them a drinking if you don't have enough of those already.

Now here's the thing. None of this is even close to the "death knell" for DRM, which will surely be around even longer than cockroaches.

It's also easy to forget that there's a large-ish industry that makes money selling DRM technologies, and they're not about to give up their livelihoods without a fight. And since their customers are almost all much, much bigger than EMI, well, the cockroach thing.

DRM Watch sounds like it would be keeping their eye on DRM mongers. Nope, it's keeping an eye on DRM foes. You'll want to take a shower after reading this, but you should read it anyway.

The headline says the story's about Microsoft jumping on the DRM bandwagon, but it's actually an overwrought screed. Here's one of several money quotes: "As far as EMI is concerned, the deal was shortsighted, risky, and possibly irresponsible to the company's shareholders."

Here's another: "A more effective arrangement would have been with a major multinational retailer, like Amazon or Target, that has no current digital music strategy."

Actually, not quite true. I know for a fact that Amazon has a digital music strategy...or the beginnings of one. One of the coolest recuitment pitches I ever got was from Amazon, who asked me to head up their digital music strategy and create their online music store. We had several phone conversations where they put the full court press on me. Ridiculous money and benefits, in a good way. It was pretty overwhelming. But I think when they got my resume, they realized they were looking for another Tim Wilson.

Last one: "Apple...stands to benefit most from any additional unauthorized copying resulting from the lack of DRM." Maybe, but only to the extent that they sell the most music players. As Steve J. points out, the vast majority of iTunes owners have never purchased a thing from iTMS. Their iPods are filled with the legal, DRM-free rips of their own disks. I think he's absolutely right.

No, here's the last one: "we believe that the number of consumers who would truly benefit from "interoperability" is small." Riiiiiiight.

Choose what you drink carefully when you read this, because you'll surely be shooting it through your nose with laughter.


Okay, after raining on DRM Watch's parade, the article makes some interesting observations.

One is that EMI is getting a cash advance of $5 million from Apple. He says that, combined with the new sales of online tracks, we're talking about 3% of EMI's annual digital sales of $290 Million from digital revenue (really? that sounds high to me), and a tiny fraction of the company's overall revenue of about $3.4 Billion. He's not at all clear if this is simply music revenue or includes publishing, etc. -- but that's to be expected. His goal isn't clarity as much as it is to protect his own DRM business.

That said, this squares with my own impression of the impact of online music store downloads relative to hard-copy sales -- in the low single-digit percentage range.

He also has some interesting speculation that the real intent of EMI's move was to drive up the price of Warner's attempt to acquire them. I'm not buying it, but it's still interesting.

Anyway, I have to agree with him that DRM is far from dead.




Posted by: Tim Wilson on Sep 13, 2007 at 2:21:53 am apple, microsoft, business, itunes, drm

Of leopards, rumors and getting it right

So on March 23 we hear that Leopard's coming in October rather than spring, to wait for Vista compatibility. Later that day, Apple's official response is that we don't respond to rumors. The same day, someone says that Apple says Leopard'll come out on time. Three weeks later Appple announces that Leopard is coming out in October, but the reason is iPhone, not Boot Camp. So there you go. Wait. Did somebody say they're delaying Leopard to wait for Vista compatibility?!?!

Taipei-based DigiTimes was first on the scene. On March 23, they cited "industry sources" who claimed that the reason why Leopard is slipping is "not due to software design problems with Leopard but instead is attributed to Apple's plan to have its new OS support Windows Vista through an integrated version of Boot Camp."

So ZDNet asked Apple straight out for a comment that day, and got the very straight-out reply "We don't comment on rumors and we've made no announcements about Leopard availability more specific than Spring 2007."

Alas, nobody asked the obvious question: Delay Leopard for Vista on Boot Camp? Are you kidding? "We're keeping Leopard off the streets until we can support Vista" is a story that not even Jose Chung would buy.

(Please tell me you know who Jose Chung is. If not, follow that link, then check this one, too.)

Just when it seemed all was lost, up stepped our boy Michael Gartenberg from JupiterResearch Analyst Weblogs, with just the sanity we needed. He kept sniffing around the story, and firmly reports on the very same day, March 23: Just spoke with Apple who confirmed the reports are wrong and Leopard is still scheduled to ship in this spring as they previously announced. The rumor mill is wrong again.

Oops. Way to get it right, dude. The rumor mill is wrong, but so's your source.

Okay, back to actual news.

Anyway, once Apple announced the delay themselves on April 12, I like how very plainly they say that Leopard is running late, and they say plainly why: to ship iPhone on time, "we had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from our Mac OS X team."

Actually, I love it. Crystal clear. No excuses, just an explanation of the way it is, and the steps they're taking to get it all done.

While Leopard's features will be complete by [the Worldwide Developer's Conference in early June], we cannot deliver the quality release that we and our customers expect from us. We now plan to show our developers a near final version of Leopard at the conference, give them a beta copy to take home so they can do their final testing, and ship Leopard in October.

Getting it right takes as long as it takes. Love it. I've had to help craft similar statements, and they're much harder to get right than they look. Apple gets, as always, maximum style points.

The trade-off also sounds about right to me. They'll have iPhone out on time, and a tardy OS won't delay the sale of a single OCTOMAC (hey, that's right! Apple has new CPUs out!!) C'mon, it's not like we're talking about a release as disruptive as Vista....or even System 7 and OS X. Wink

For the record, I liked both of those releases...but don't try to tell me they weren't disruptive. Leopard'll be a walk in the park.

But my guess is that Apple will make more money from the first six months of iPhone sales than they might ever make from selling boxes of Leopard. The more I think about it, iPhone's sales in the first month will probably beat Leopard's total sales. I'm sure it'll sell plenty, but not iPhone plenty.

So my next guess is that this wasn't even a very long conversation around the ol' whiteboard...if it even got that far. No brainer.

PS. The address for you cats to send the iPhone? Right there on my business card. They'll sign for the delivery at the front desk. Thanks.

Posted by: Tim Wilson on Sep 13, 2007 at 2:15:42 am mac os, apple, iphone, web

Fake Steve Jobs revealed!

I've made no secret that I think Fake Steve Jobs has the funniest blog on the web, and that he's also a consistently outstanding (and entertaining) source of Apple news and commentary, and uncannily accurate predictions.

Today, he unmasked himself as Dan Lyons, a senior editor at Forbes who lives in the Boston area. As that article notes, he was contacted by the New York Times' Brad Stone, who'd noted strong similarities with the blog Lyons keeps at Forbes.

And WHERE did Brad unmask Steve? Why, at the NYT's Bits blog of course.

Needless to say, Fake Steve's response is hilarious.

Forbes says FSJ will be relocated to starting today, but it's not there yet.  Anyway, they tell a great story about the story

The real Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (who publicly denied being Fake Steve) are among FSJ's readers.

Even knowing who Fake Steve is, this is still absolutely essential reading, no matter how you feel about Apple. Other than The COW, and, this is the site I check most often. Check it out yourself if you haven't. To make it easy, you don't even have to scroll up: here's the link again for your convenience.


Posted by: Tim Wilson on Aug 6, 2007 at 4:52:40 am apple, blogs

iPhone makes the cake...but Apple makes the battery

From Fake Steve Jobs, who remains the absolute best resource for Apple information, and by far the funniest blog on the web:


The nice folks at Sugarcat Cakes sent along this photo of their latest cake creation. They call it the Jesus Cake. Feeds a whole party of hungry geeks, but alas, you can't remove the battery.


You know that you can't remove and replace the iPhone battery yourself, right? Just like the iPod, you have to send it to Apple, and pay $79 plus $6.95 for shipping for them to ship it yourself.

On top of wiping off the fingerprints, they throw in erasing everything stored in your phone for free. Classy.

You're probably a couple hundred charge cycles away from need to replace the batter, but seriously, back your stuff up before you do.

Posted by: Tim Wilson on Jul 31, 2007 at 6:35:34 am entertainment, apple, iphone, blogs, web, food

Fun with WWDC predictions

Check this out: The Unofficial Apple Weblog features an AppleScript for opening major WWDC news sites!!! 

Anyway, I've been meaning to get to this for-freakin-ever, but here we are. It's the morning of Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference. There was a time when this was nothing but code geeks and the like, getting their dev ducks in a row. It has since become a key venue for rolling out products and announcements. Some of these have been development-related (move to Intel), some not (iSight, new flat panels), but increasingly, a good time will be had by all.

(Hey, Macworld is a show named for a magazine. No way is Apple going to save all their good stuff for them.)

There are acres and acres of WWDC predictions out there -- look it up, you'll be amazed. You might also be amazed at how many of them are from blogs, but not me. Blogs are the number 1 source of news on the web, by a long long long shot. Seriously. Long shot. What surprised me, though, was how many, uhm, no-name blogs ranked higher at the google than name-brand blogs.

Still, here are some sources of note to check and score against as the week goes on.

Fake Steve Jobs, in classic fashion, begins with Steve at a meditation center getting a high colonic, and getting accused of smoking cannabis, which he denies. Unusual, since he's quite explicit recommending it elsewhere. (I'm not encouraging this sort of thing, but a truly hilarious entry.)

Anyway, he talks about his prep for WWDC, and concludes "this one is going to be the most awesome WWDC we've ever had. Seriously."

Jason O'Grady is another of my daily reads at zdnet. He's been making WWDC predictions for weeks. One of those, new MacBook Pros, has already come to pass. How's he do with the rest? We'll see in a few hours.  He begins with a tantalizing come-on: Apple has publicly stated that Steve will demo a “feature complete” version of Mac OS 10.5/Leopard, so that’s a given. But if you remember back to the Stevenote at Macworld Expo in January Jobs mentioned that many of the features in Leopard were “top secret.” Presumably WWDC is where SJ will produce the proverbial rabbit from the hat.

He also reposts Apple Gazette's predictions:

1. Multi-Touch in Leopard2. New GUI for OS X3. New iLife w/iTunes HD4. Blu-Ray Support5. Leopard/iPhone integration6. New Mac Minis and MacBook Pros,

and one more thing…

7. Ultra Portable iMac w/Multi touch screen

Some other notables:

MacNN has been a premiere site for Mac headlines for over a decade. They quote analyst Shaw Wu (please tell me he's a doctor) who mentions a recurring wish, a true Apple virtual machine for Windows. Interesting to me if only because it allows Apple to more explicitly go after Dell and the like for Windows computing market share. I'm not convinced, but hey, we'll know soon.

Apple Insider is another venerable news site, although unlike MacNN, there's some hardcore reporting here, consistently the best I see. They make several common observations, but here's one bit of hardcore reporting, this one razor-sharp:

A new track, named Content and Media, is tailored just to those developers who need to focus on getting their media to the Internet. Though offline production will be covered, most tracks will focus on blending Apple's latest software with the web -- ranging from web-only AJAX and WebObjects code to the mixed-media Dashboard in Mac OS X or even crafting websites made just for the iPhone.

Finally, you're going to want to get your WWDC Keynote Bingo card from Ars Technica.

If you're going to the keynote in person, print out the bingo card and play along live. The first person in the audience to win the game is expected to yell "BINGO!" loud enough so that the rest of us can hear it when we watch the keynote webcast video later. If we can't actually hear you, it's also acceptable if Steve Jobs hears you on stage and indicates this in some way...perhaps, by having you thrown out or "disappeared." Hey, no guts, no glory!

Fun for all.


Posted by: Tim Wilson on Jun 11, 2007 at 4:54:00 am apple, blogs

Back-Side interface!! Apple said it. Not me.

Apple is notorious for filing bogus patent applications, but this one looks kind of cool. Ars Technica points to the Apple-filed patent application 20070103454, Back-Side Interface for Hand-Held Devices.

Dude, they really said "Back-Side Interface." 

An electronic device uses separate surfaces for input and output. One of the surfaces (e.g., the bottom) includes a force-sensitive touch-surface through which a user provides input (e.g., cursor manipulation and control element selection). On a second surface (e.g., the top), a display element is used to present information appropriate to the device's function (e.g., video information), one or more control elements and a cursor.

The idea is pretty slick. Instead of wasting the back side of the iPod, the patent application imagines the back side as a touch-sensitive navigation surface.

As is often the case, Apple is coming late to the game. Touch-sensitive surfaces have been around in other MP3 players for a while. (I can name names if you want.) But as is also often the case, Apple's idea sounds more interesting.

SOUNDS more interesting. As Ars Technica points out, holding an iPod and spinning a wheel with your thumb is one thing. Try holding your iPod and using your index finger on the back-side (stop laughing). It feels much more awkward to me than navigating with my thumb. Here's my favorite quote:

Sometimes a patent is just a bad idea that's original

The example they use is the easily-smudged iPhone -- they realllly don't like it -- but I'm not so sure they're right about that. Does anyone besides Walter Biscardi really know how the iPhone really works yet?

But given how easy it is to scratch some surface or another of an iPod...if not most of the's an interesting question. Just as interesting as the question of whether this thing will ever see the light of day. Wink

Posted by: Tim Wilson on May 15, 2007 at 2:53:50 pm ipod, apple

What else the Green letter told us

There were a couple of (wholly legitimate) nits I had to pick with Apple's green announcement, but here's something I totally missed until Jason O'Grady pointed it out: Apple also divulged a technology advancement currently in development – LED backlight technology. (His emphasis.)

He continues:

Backlit LEDs provide higher brightness, significantly larger color gamut (greater than NTSC and EBU) – expanding the range of reproducible hues by as much as 45 percent, lower voltage and emissions. LED backlighting technology is currently integrated in Sony's 40" and 46" QUALIA series televisions. The technology, also called "Lumileds," is also known to reduce motion artifacts without a brightness or lifetime penalty.

He points out that Apple says very plainly We plan to introduce our first Macs with LED backlight technology in 2007. Not displays, but Macs. That means that we'll be seeing LED iMacs or notebooks by December 31, 2007, folks.

(BTW, Jason is one of the net's very first bloggers, with the O'Grady Power Page. Both this and his blog at cnet (linked above) are two of my daily stops.)

It could well be iMacs first. I might be remembering wrong, but isn't that where the Intel chips showed up first? I think so, because I remember a bunch of Avid engineers with iMacs on their desks saying yeah, it's crazy fast, but the screen is too small to do any real work. (I don't think that part was coincidental either, but that's a discussion for another day.)

Now here's the thing: I don't think Apple let that in "accidentally." Since nobody I know, or have seen in print, has been demanding that Apple hop on the LED bandwagon...because there's not one. So who's the announcement for? And seriously, make no mistake. This is an announcement. My guess is that it's aimed squarely at other developers: we may be behind you in greeny-ness for the next few years, but we're firing a technological shot over your bow as of today.

Of course, another side effect, maybe even the primary effect, was to make people start salivating for a new machine already. It worked for me.

Posted by: Tim Wilson on May 7, 2007 at 11:08:41 amComments (2) apple, blogs

AT&T CEO: 1 million inquiries for iPhone

That's from AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson, in his keynote speech at the CTIA wireless technology conference. But made "the audience snap to attention" was when he pulled one out during his speech. Before the speech, the chairman of the FCC grabs the phone from Stephenson. "He spent more time with it than I did," Stephenson said in an interview afterward. For a minute, "It seemed like he wouldn't give it back."

The part of the story I find most remarkable is that there a million people who've taken the time to get on AT&T's radar. Doesn't that seem low to you? I swear I've heard at least a million people talking about it myself, and I doubt any of them have also spoken to AT&T about it.

While they're not taking pre-orders yet, Cingular has set up a page on their website for you to enter your email address. When the iPhone's ready to order, they'll let you know. That and a picture of the phone is pretty much all that's there, but chances are that you've already heard plenty from your millions of friends.

BTW, we've mentioned that The COW's podcasts do pretty well. That's not just in the software how-to section of the iTunes music store. Our business podcast debuted ahead of The Wall Street Journal and Business Week. And the debut of our Serious FX podcast went to #3 in the overall technology category...just two spots behind the keynote speech introducing the iPhone. Gotta love that....

Posted by: Tim Wilson on Mar 29, 2007 at 6:48:28 am apple, iphone, podcasting

Apple TV shipping!

CNN reports that Apple has started charging credit cards for the shipment of Apple TVs. They continue, "Analysts say it's likely to sell well initially." Wow. You think so? The same analysts believe that Apple has taken pre-orders for more than 100,000 units, and, well, since I read it on the internet, it must be true.

Blog pioneer (he was doing it 10 years before blogging had a name) Dave Winer reports that one of his readers says he got a notice from Apple that his has actually been shipped. I got Dave's link from NewTeeVee, who quotes Dina Kaplan of Blip.TV: “The impact of Apple TV is going to be pretty big.” You think?

I'm not mocking Apple TV, just the analysts. And not even all the analysts. Jonathan Hoopes is an analyst for ThinkEquity, and has been bullish on Apple for a long time. (He rates Apple a buy, with a target of $120/share. You can look it up.) He sent a letter to his clients with a slightly more articulate take on the potential impact of Apple TV:

"In addition to sharing digital content within the home, we believe investors should understand the value of the various potential business models that Apple TV could enable.

As a digital media content delivery vehicle positioned in users' living rooms, we think the AppleTV/iTunes combination could become as disruptive to legacy video purchase-and-consumption behavior as the iPod/iTunes combination has been to the traditional music business model."

Ah, disruption! Now we're talking.

Jeremy Horwitz adds another dimension to the picture:

Apple has quietly added an “Export to Apple TV” feature capable of creating high-definition videos viewable on the Apple TV accessory. Unlike Export to iPod, which currently creates sub-DVD-quality 640 by 480 videos,

Export to Apple TV creates not only full DVD-quality 720 by 404 videos, but also 1280 by 720 videos.

He's done a little experimenting with this, and observes that a 90-minute movie weighs in at about 3 gigs. That sounds about right, but it also sounds a little heavy for Apple TV's initial offering of a 20-gig hard drive. (Oops.)

Still, check this out: the video from Jeremy's experiments so far only plays back in iTunes! It seems to herald HD delivery through iTunes. I don't think our boy Hoopes was even aware of this when he wrote in the article linked above that Apple TV is poised to blow Netflix clear out of the water, and is a step away from torching TiVo too.

That said, Apple is quick to admit that the average iPod user has bought 20 tracks from the iTunes music store. Which suggests to me that the stunning majority of iPod users have bought nothing from iTMS.

So this is one area that Hoopes is clearly flat-out wrong. iTunes isn't disrupting the music industry's basic business model. I don't think it ever will. Disrupted the portable music player industry that iPod was so late to join? Absolutely.

Is it going too far to say that iPods have taken off because you don't need to buy anything from iTMS to get a dandy experience? iTunes is awesome software for ripping your entirely legally purchased CDs and elegantly getting them on your iPod.

Unlike the iPod, Apple TV will require payment to view content on a big screen. Apple can't include DVD ripping tools in its official software so you're going to be limited to viewing content purchased from the iTunes store.

That's Jason O'Grady, one of the hardest of the hardcore Mac users ever. Like Hoopes, I think he lets some of his arguments take him off course, but I think he's zeroed in on this: Apple TV takes off when I can use it for my media.

Anyway, we're about to find out, ain't we?


Posted by: Tim Wilson on Mar 21, 2007 at 5:32:13 amComments (1) ipod, hd, entertainment, apple, technology, itunes, apple tv

Apple gets its game on?

One of the favorite games of Mac Kremlinologists is looking under the hood of new releases to find "hidden" text strings for hints of what's coming. Monday's release of QuickTime 7.1 hints at a whopper: Apple TV could be doubling as a game hub.


What Apple has not yet said, but is quite apparent from Monday's iTunes release, is that Apple TV will also sport some rudimentary gaming capabilities. "Are you sure you want to sync games? All existing games on the Apple TV," reads a localized string file hidden in the software. Another reads, "Some of the games in your iTunes library were not copied to the Apple TV [...] because they cannot be played on this Apple TV."


In total, iTunes 7.1 includes a little over a dozen text strings relating to game management on the new Apple device. In addition to syncing, the strings offer user prompts for various other operations such as removing games, preventing unauthorized games from making the sync, and warning users when their Apple TV can no longer accept new games due to a lack of space.


Note that this is still a long way from becoming a full-bore gaming console a la the Wii, et. al. Instead, it looks like a way to sync your iTunes games with your Apple TV.


Wait, iTunes games? Apparently so. On the one hand, this suggests something pretty lightweight, not nearly as intense as a console experience. On the other hand, two developments shed still more light on this.


In an interview with Wired, the former general manager of Xbox's online download component now works for a gaming company in a role that includes porting games to new platforms:



It will be about taking the stable of franchises and games out of PopCap's studio and adapting, customizing it for different platforms -- adding multiplayer, new play modes, HD, customizing the user interface and display for Zune, ipod, Apple TV, Nintendo DS, PSP.


And how's this from Apple Insider?



Students at the Savannah College of Art and Design reported today receiving an e-mail from a recruiter working directly for Apple, Inc., who appears to be actively tracking down skilled graphics designers among those enrolled in the school's Fine Arts programs. Those hired for the summer program would be tasked with creating "consistent, high quality 3D and 2D art for games," the message said.


This is clearly the beginning of something big. I predict that when it starts to happen, it will be moving fast. It's not like the iTMS launched with just a couple of songs to buy.

Posted by: Tim Wilson on Mar 9, 2007 at 5:11:41 amComments (1) entertainment, apple, technology, gaming, itunes, apple tv

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