It's been an exciting week for TiVo watchers (the company, not the content), with most of the events hinting at the costs of TiVo's failure to design a venture that built partnerships quickly in today's technical and business climate.
But let's start with with good news, a jury just awarded TiVo $73M in its suit against Echostar for infringing its patents "covering a method for playing one television show while recording another and a storage format that allows the pausing of live television, among other capabilities." (WSJ, 4/14/06, TiVo Wins...). This is good news for TiVo, obviously, because as the WSJ journalists put it:
TiVo is facing blistering competition from much larger cable and satellite companies that have the advantage of already-established relationships with tens of millions of television subscribers.
A plan by Cablevision Systems Corp. to let cable television viewers pause and store programs on the cable system instead of living room set-top boxes drew the ire of some programmers, two network owners said on Sunday
Episodes of the ABC shows -- which can be paused, rewound and fast-forwarded -- will contain commercial breaks that viewers can't skip, making Disney hopeful it has figured out a way to turn the delivery of programs over the Web into a profit-generating business. Ten advertisers, including Ford Motor Co., Procter & Gamble, Universal Pictures and Unilever, already have signed up.(WSJ, 4/10/06, Disney will offer...)
Though Fox has lagged behind the other networks in taking the step to make its shows download-friendly, its plan is different in that it plans to share the revenues generated by the move with its 187 affiliate stations, something rival nets ABC, CBS and NBC do not do.
Once again, the victor will not be the one with the best technical solutiuon, but rather the one who figures out a way to give everyone a little (or a lot) of what they want: the advertisers, the networks, the cable and satellite companies, the set-top (and PC) manufacturers, and--oh yeah--the viewer. Apple figured out the way for digital music, who will pull it off in video?
Yesterday, we launched the first academic Center focused on the commercialization of energy efficient technologies. The Energy Efficiency Center (EEC) was created with a $1M grant from the California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF) represents a rather unique and interdisciplinary collaboration across the colleges of Engineering and Agriculture and the Graduate School of Management. California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger gave the opening remarks (for related articles, I've provided links below).
The Center represents a new direction in the development of energy efficiency and, I hope, other sustainable technologies, as it brings the perspectives and resources of the entrepreneurial community into the conversation--the voices not only of the end-user, but also of investors, suppliers, resellers, and countless others.
As the founding Director of the Center, I gave these brief remarks:
In 1882, Thomas Edison threw the switch at his Pearl Street Station and created an energy revolution. But history can be deceiving. Edison neither invented the light bulb nor perfected its performance. That technology was 40 years old by the time Edison got to it.
Edison’s impact came not from inventing a new technology but, instead, from finding the right business model that would bring this emerging technology into the marketplace--a business model that would be embraced by customers, yes, but also investors, suppliers, regulators, and a host of other eventual stakeholders.
Thanks to the vision and support of the California Clean Energy Fund, the Energy Efficiency Center at UC Davis represents the first effort solely focused on bringing the emerging technologies of energy efficiency into the marketplace.
With the support of CalCEF and in partnerships such as we have now with PG&E, this center will be a catalyst for raising energy efficiency and reducing energy costs in California transportation, building, and agriculture—by bringing rigorous science and practical solutions together with sustainable business models.
Researchers at UC Davis and partner institutions already lead the nation in much of the science and technology of energy efficiency. This work can be seen, for eample, in the Institute for Transportation Studies where innovations are bringing the power of information technology and the internet to problem of traffic congestion and trucking logistics.
Other similar innovations are coming from the California Lighting Technology Center, where they are working in partnership with utilities, manufacturers, and customers to develop new technologies and standards for lighting—some of which can be seen in this building. And from research in Agriculture and Food Processing, where new sensors can improve the efficiency of irrigation pumps and reduce water consumption.
Dan Sperling, in particular, has been a driving force behind the formation of this center and his work has made UC Davis a national and international leader in energy-related research. He will play a key role in this center as its Associate Director.
This center will change the way we study energy efficiency, the way we teach it, and the ways in which we work together with the public and private sector to develop real and lasting innovations in energy. Keep an eye on us.
Bruce Sterling, BusinessWeek writer (author, blogger, etc...) wrote a nice piece today on the experience and transformation of the design education. He spent a year at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, teaching. His comments on the design education and its effects on students then and later are quite insightful. A snippet:
I imagined that as a teacher I might be grading their exams, running boot-camp drills, hell weeks, pop quizzes — but no, at Art Center the way is the rigor of practice. Demo or die. Practice is the crucial difference between people who can talk (like myself) and people who can design (like my best students). The Art Center kids were challenged with a small budget, a tight schedule, and a need to do something really good for their portfolio — something impressive, something worthy of public display. It was never made entirely clear to them what "good" meant. They had to sop that up from the thick smog of cultural values in the Art Center air while shut up tight with their teeming fellows in the Modernist steel monastery.He also has some nice ideas about design and the relationship between thinking and action:
Design, as Charles Eames said, is a method of action. It's not a method of "vision." A designer, as Henry Dreyfuss said, is an artist who leaves the ivory tower and takes the elevator down to the ground floor...Today I find design to be thoughtful and sensible, while the daily texture of my previous life seems muddleheaded to me now, sluggish, vaguely trashy, vulgar even. Why was I like that back then? Why did I make such half-assed decisions about my tools, my possessions, and my material surroundings? Why was I so impassive, such a lazy, inveterate slob? I wasn't any happier for that. Why did I allow myself to do little or nothing about the gross inadequacies of my personal environment? Why didn't I take action?In the end, Bruce catches something essential about the effects of a design education--in essence, it is about overcoming the "learned sense of personal helplessness" that possesses most inhabitants of the modern industrial world and creates a passive acceptance of our tools, possessions, and material surroundings. Not to put too melodramatic a note on it. The recent attention to design and design thinking is in many ways an attempt to teach people about their own latent abilities to change their worlds.
There's been a lot of writing lately about the valuable role that a firm's customers (and others) can play in generating innovations. Chevrolet tried this recently, and found out what happens when you ignore a large part of your (potential) customers and then, finally, give them a voice in your innovation process. Autoblog just posted a very interesting set of videos created by "users" for GM:
As part of a creative new ad campaign for the new Tahoe, General Motors has teamed up with Donald Trump's 'The Apprentice' franchise to create a website that allows prospectives to make their own commercials online. The website allows readers to select backgrounds, video shots, and input text in an attempt to win prizes ranging from a Jackson Hole Getaway to a trip to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.