Five Years Too Late

January 31, 2010

My Friend Who Hates Tech

Filed under: Uncategorized — fiveyearstoolate @ 12:05 pm

Eric Wiesen

Last week I was at party held by my wife’s coworker. The coworker’s husband is a friend of mine who I usually see at these types of events. He runs a hedge fund and is always worth an hour of interesting conversation. Among the wide variety of topics we discussed was why he “hates tech” and why he thinks the lack of an IPO market is the tech industry’s own fault. We’ll call him John.

I should be clear – John doesn’t hate technology. He has tons of it. He doesn’t hate the people in technology. What he hates is the governance he’s observed as a public company investor that he views as commonplace among tech companies. His specific gripe? Tech companies never pay out their earnings as dividends. His view is that there is no way to be a truly long-term investor in tech companies because management never allows companies to transition from growth companies to mature, income-oriented ones. The only way to win is to get in and trade out when you think the cycle is peaking.

I’m not sure John is wrong. The nature of technology is such that for most (not all) companies there is a period of extraordinary value creation followed by a period where the market moves on, at least partially. The rational thing to do at that point is to alter the strategic objectives of the company from rapid growth to efficiency and profit-maximization, but this almost never happens in tech. To use John’s examples, look at Wang, Yahoo and Palm. Each had an extraordinary story at one point and generated significant cash flow. And each in turn reinvested that cash flow into unprofitable businesses rather than pay it out to investors.

Why did they do this? You can take it from one of several directions. The canonical argument is that tech companies always need to be reinvesting, that if they pay cash out they will be left behind. And yet … these companies got left behind anyway. Wouldn’t their investors (in whose interest management supposedly runs the company) be better off with dividends than the outcomes they’ve received in these companies? The alternative argument is that management would rather empire-build than reward shareholders.

Perhaps the best example is Microsoft. Microsoft is a mature tech company and has been operating for about 30 years. It is profitable ($4.5B in operating profit in the most recently-reported quarter). It has been profitable for years. Yet Microsoft, as of today, pays just 1.8% dividend yield and holds $52B in current assets. Why does a business with relatively low CapEx have so much cash? Because it can. And what are they doing with that cash? Mostly they are (in my view) “investing” it in an unprofitable attempt to be an internet company, which they aren’t and never have been. They are buying share for Bing but it’s negative-NPV growth.

I would argue that Microsoft is the perfect example here because it utterly dominated the best businesses to be in from 1980 to 2000 – desktop software and operating systems. For that 20-year period Microsoft was the most profitable company in technology. Now, however, these businesses are flat or in decline. If I’m an investor, do I want Microsoft spending all those retained earnings trying to beat Google or Apple in areas where Microsoft has no advantage? No. I want those retained earnings paid to me, and if I want exposure to the web I’ll go buy Google or Apple stock (or any other company who I think is poised to dominate an important area).

This is a classic agency problem. It is extremely unappealing to Microsoft’s management to acknowledge that the company’s dominance is waning and that the shareholder-maximizing course of action is to run the company efficiently, decrease investment in the web and run a desktop software business as profitably as it can for as long as it can while paying out as much cash to shareholders as possible. How much fun would that be? “Killing Google” is much more fun. Except it doesn’t really work.

Ultimately, I had a hard time disagreeing with John that tech companies fundamentally break the implicit agreement with their shareholders. I’m not at all sure I agree that this is the reason for the weak IPO market (in fact I think it’s a small component at best) but his points were thought-provoking. Tech companies almost never acknowledge that they are dividend stories even though it’s frequently appropriate.

January 29, 2010

iPhone vs. Android vs. Mac vs. PC

Filed under: Uncategorized — fiveyearstoolate @ 10:58 am

Eric Wiesen

This post has been rattling around in my head for a while, but Chris Dixon’s always excellent blog inspired me to put this down and get my thoughts organized. Chris talks about whether or not the “open vs. closed” question about app store environments is as simple as it seems. I’ve been thinking about two things in this general vein over the past few weeks (really ever since the Nexus One came out).

  1. iPhone vs. Android” is not really like Mac vs. PC
  2. Why Mac vs. PC played out the way it did is badly misunderstood.

I’m actually going to take them in reverse order, because the second sets up the first.

Everyone knows that for most of the lifecycle of personal computing (let’s just call it 1980 to 2010) Apple and its Macintosh platform got its ass kicked by a collection of offerings known as “the PC”. The PC was an assembly of interoperable parts with an Intel CPU (and compatible system chipset) running a Microsoft OS. Apple’s market share typically fluctuated from bad to worse and generally declined the first two thirds of this period.

These days most people talk about how Apple lost because it was “closed”, while PCs were “open”. I think that’s simplistic. There are a bunch of reasons why Apple lost for most of this period.

1. The “PC” had several important applications in the 80s and 90s. They were used in homes, in schools, in government and in business. One of these markets (business) was dramatically larger than the others. Which company had a vendor relationship with essentially every company in the US who bought technology? IBM. Which company was the original vendor of Wintel PCs? IBM. In the early 1980s when the “PC Wars” began IBM was the largest technology company in the world and Apple was a startup. The PC won the early rounds because their distribution into business accounts wasn’t just better, it was several orders of magnitude better.

2. Apple arguably gave up its best weapon in 1985 when Steve Jobs was fired. Chris notes this by looking at Apple’s market cap in 1985 and then in 1997 when Steve returned and finally today and illustrates just how little value was created at Apple without Jobs. Apple was phenomenally innovative in the early days, then released a decade’s worth of boring products (with a few exceptions, like the original PowerBooks) and then started innovating again in the late 90s (the original iMac, the iPod, iTunes, etc…). Apple lost in the middle rounds b/c it was poorly run.

3. When people consider the Mac vs. PC question today it’s largely a question of a premium product versus an ordinary product. You can get better specs for less money on the PC side, but most people agree at this point that Macs run better, are more secure and are more enjoyable to use. A point that gets (badly) forgotten is that for a long stretch of time (let’s say 1990 to 2000 just to use round numbers) Macs were awful. They were 2x the price of equivalently powerful PCs, ran buggy operating systems and had essentially no software available unless you were in the graphic arts business. Apple lost because the product sucked.

4. And yes, Apple lost because they had implemented a proprietary set of choices. Apple had their own bus for cards. They used SCSI hard drives instead of IDE. They rolled out Firewire while others were rolling out USB. Their peripherals all used Apple Desktop Bus instead of commodity PS2 ports. And this meant that Apple’s hardware was more expensive. True. I list this 4th out of 4 because I think this only hurt them so badly for the other reasons listed here. Apple was a company that produced products that were simply priced as premium products but didn’t perform. If NuBus, Apple’s proprietary (not really, but no one else used it) 32-bit bus really was better than PC’s ISA cards (it was for a variety of reasons) users would have been fine with it. And they were, for a while. But then Apple stopped innovating and all of sudden PCs had PCI which was just as good. So the price difference wasn’t justifiable anymore. SCSI hard drives actually were much better than IDE for a long while, until they weren’t. The PC “organ bank” followed exactly the Christiansen-like progression that Chris alludes to: it undershot customer use cases, then improved faster than their needs. Today the collection of standards that make up the PC are fine for virtually all needs. And it should be noted that for the last several generations of this, Apple has also recognized the reality of it and no longer uses many differentiated hardware standards. Note also that it took Steve Jobs’ return to effect this change.

Looked at today, Apple isn’t losing the “Mac vs. PC” war anymore. Apple has been gaining market share for years and does so with greater profitability than any PC vendor. Last time I checked, Apple was around 9% of new PC shipments. That’s a great market share for a premium products company (compare to Mercedes-Benz. Or Gray Goose. Or All-Clad.) Its market cap dwarfs most PC companies and is on the same plane as Intel and Microsoft, both of whom are in what should be inherently more profitable businesses.

Apple lost the first 10 or 11 rounds of the PC Wars because they had an inferior starting position, were poorly run and produced mediocre products for most of the war. Once they fixed management and started producing great products again they immediately began gaining share and making a lot of money. And yes, they also began to use commodity hardware, so there is an “open vs. closed” coda to this story, but I don’t think anyone really argues that the resurgence of the Mac is primarily the result of using Intel processors or SATA disks.

The second big piece of what is turning out to be a very long post is the question of whether iPhone vs. Android is going to follow the same playbook. I’ve said at the outset that I don’t think it does, and the rationale maps pretty closely to the reasoning above. I don’t think the same set of conditions are at all present here. Apple isn’t starting from a weak position. They aren’t poorly managed and they are producing excellent (although certainly not perfect) products in the iPhone, iTunes, the App Store and now the iPad (about which I’m generally unenthusiastic, but that’s not the purpose of this piece). So the dynamic that remains is – will they lose because they are “closed”?

There are two ways one can make this argument. The first is that Apple will lose because the App Store itself is “closed” insofar as Apple approves their apps. I think this is a relatively poor argument. Good apps will get approved. Is it a pain in the ass? Yes, definitely. Do consumers look at the iPhone and say, “I’m not sure I want to buy that because developers have to go through an annoying approval process”? No. Definitely not. Are developers going to refused to develop for the iPhone/iPad platform with it’s fifty million and growing users because the approval process is obnoxious? I seriously doubt it. On the flip side – are there going to be a bunch of crappy apps and security problems on Android because no one is curating which apps get in and which don’t? I’ll bet there will be.

The second piece of this is that Apple will lose because the iPhoneOS itself only runs on Apple hardware rather than on an ever-growing range of Android devices. I think this is the far stronger argument. Android is going to have a lot of different form factors and markets as different hardware vendors integrate it. And so from that perspective I do think there’s a pretty good chance that it winds up in all kinds of interesting places that Apple won’t ever go, like cars or CE devices or other single-purpose personal gadgets. What I also think is that each of these will have little “quirks” as each Android environment is a little bit different and as people find different ways to expose it. And so some apps will work well on some devices or poorly on others. And generally speaking users will have lots of choices but it will also be work and will require research and customer service involvement. In fact it will look a lot like … a PC.

What I think iPhone vs. Android really looks like is Mac vs. PC TODAY rather than ten years ago. Today Apple produces high-functioning tightly-integrated products that people really like. But you are limited to those devices Apple chooses to produce. If you want a netbook, you can’t buy one from Apple. You want a phone with a physical Keyboard? Apple isn’t going to help you. And if I’m Apple, I’m perfectly fine with this. I’m perfectly fine if I sell 30 million iPhones a year and tons of 30% margin media and apps. Who cares if Google is giving away Android on 100 million cars? Apple can be a big profitable company by releasing terrific products for those who care to have the simplicity, style and curation Apple brings to the table. I’d argue that’s what they’re doing now and it’s working pretty well.

I think ten years from now there are more Android devices than iPhoneOS devices. Probably a lot more. But I don’t think that means that Apple will have “lost”.

January 16, 2010

Point solutions or general-purpose ones?

Filed under: Uncategorized — fiveyearstoolate @ 7:56 pm

Eric Wiesen

My friend Jon Steinberg had an interesting post this morning on Yelp’s decision to include “check-in” functionality in the new version of their iPhone app (his post here). In the comments section Jon, Fred Wilson and I got into a discussion about whether or not single-purposes products or services (like Fred’s investment Foursquare or Gowalla) tend to win over more general-purpose products (in this case Yelp, which is not a single-use application for checking into places but is rather an extension of their broader offering, including reviews, proximate choices, compliments to other users, etc…).

Fred wrote:

we’ve also noticed that point solutions often beat more full featured ones.

And Jon responded:

Yes, point solutions (focus) do seem to often rule the day. Especially, when I am free to knit them together on a platform (my device).

Upon reading this – I paused to wonder if I agreed with them. There is an intuitive rightness to this. A chef’s knife is a much better tool than the knife on a leatherman or Swiss Army device. An old-school manual espresso machine is much better than the $4,000 self-cleaning Rube Goldberg job that supposedly makes any coffee drink you want without any effort, cleans itself and then transforms into a robot that saves the earth. So it resonated with me that yes – single point solutions are often superior at the (axiomatically) narrower set of functionality they perform than general-purpose devices.

But then I realized that even as an early-adopting technology purist, I use general-purpose devices and solutions all the time. The best example I can think of is the iPhone. The iPhone is a general-purpose media and computing device that occasionally serves as a phone. As I thought about it, I use my iPhone for eight basic operations:

  1. Email and text messaging;
  2. Listening to music;
  3. Talking on the phone;
  4. Browsing the web;
  5. Interacting with data via apps;
  6. Reading books via the Kindle app;
  7. Watching videos; and
  8. Taking pictures.

Then I realized that for only two of these things (browsing the web and interacting with apps) is the iPhone actually the best device available to me. If I really wanted the best option for each of these functions (all of which are quite important to me) I’d actually carry, in addition to the iPhone:

  1. A blackberry for email and messaging (for those who carry blackberries they are essentially point solutions around activities that require typing);
  2. A 160 Gb iPod classic if I cared most about capacity (even the 32Gb iPhone doesn’t hold all of my media – not that close actually, and that’s just counting music) or an iPod Nano if I cared most about portability;
  3. A Motorola RAZR (on Verizon) for talking on the phone;
  4. My Kindle;
  5. An Archos 5 or some other tablet for watching movies; and
  6. My DSLR for taking pictures (but even an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera takes dramatically better pictures than my iPhone).

And yet despite my view that this collection of devices accomplishes a bunch of stuff I care about better than the iPhone, with the exception of the Kindle (which I carry when I take my bag with me) I don’t own most of these devices (and only carry the DSLR on trips when I know I want to take pictures). Why not?

Because sometimes good enough is good enough. Is the iPhone the absolute best device for listening to music, taking pictures or sending text messages? Definitely not – but it’s good enough for what I need. For some of these things (particularly talking on the phone) good enough may actually not be good enough, and I may add a device, but generally speaking I’m very happy to throw just the one device in my pocket and know I can do everything I want to do throughout the day.

I think this applies to web companies as well. To again pull a very mainstream example – Facebook is a general purpose social website. It includes messaging (but email is much better than my Facebook inbox), status updates (but my gchat message is more persistent to my friends), photo sharing (flickr has a better interface and tools) and a bunch of other secondary features all of which are done better somewhere else. And yet Facebook has well over 300 million users, is still growing, and has become one of the most important companies on the internet. Why?

I think the answer is that for mainstream users, general-purpose solutions are almost always preferable unless they are really bad (I’m looking at you,Yahoo…). Mainstream users don’t want to carry four or five devices because they are better if there’s an 80-20 rule general device that does enough for them. They don’t want to go to a bunch of different websites if there’s one that will do the majority of what they need. Ultimately, most consumers aren’t actually that picky about anything except this: convenience. If something is more convenient for consumers, they will do it.

So while this isn’t really about Jon’s “Yelpsquare” post, I guess my point of view is – if consumers have a choice between a really good app that’s just for a check-ins, a really good app that’s just for reviews and a really good app that’s just for messages, or a general purpose app that does all three pretty well, they’re likely to choose the latter. Because it’s more convenient.

Does that mean Yelp becomes the way people check into venues by default? Not necessarily. Not at all really. Because ultimately Yelp itself is a pretty specific application – it lets you look up restaurants (and other stuff but most people I know use it for restaurants) and see what other people thought about it. Now it also lets you see which other people were there. I’d argue that this is a pretty adjacent feature for them and that they are still a relatively focused application. I’m agnostic on whether the check-in UI is as good as Foursquare’s (or Gowalla’s) or not. But I guess where I come down is – if that’s the only question there is, I’d lean toward the more general-purpose product being the preference of the majority of consumers.

January 12, 2010

More Platforms?

Filed under: Uncategorized — fiveyearstoolate @ 1:52 pm

Eric Wiesen

I’ll be telling no one anything by noting that mobile is hot right now, particularly native mobile apps. And I would be remiss not to also note that I’m no skeptic of this trend – we are recent investors in Hot Potato and a number of our companies are finding meaningful extensions of their functionality, audience and other capabilities by releasing native applications on the iPhone or other platforms.

But as I see increasing numbers of pitches for companies whose core business is mobile applications of various sorts, I am repeatedly seeing the same strategy for the next 9-12 months. When asked what the next year holds, I keep hearing “Well, by this time next year we’ll be on Android, Blackberry, and possibly Windows Mobile and Symbian”. This horizontal platform expansion seems almost assumed by those in the mobile space today.

I am often concerned when I hear this strategy if it’s the central method the company is relying on for user expansion. Why? Frankly, because user behavior around applications hasn’t yet been proven out on any platform other than the iPhone. There are 55 million iPhones/iPod Touches out there. Android is much much smaller. Blackberry, WinMo and Symbian have big footprints, but nowhere near the level of application engagement that we see on the iPhone.

What’s the upshot? It’s worth stepping back and analyzing what the objectives are: More users, more engagement, more data, more revenue. So the question that emerges out of these objectives is – is a mobile developer better off spending their resources and time on a better iPhone experience or developing Android and other clients? Generally speaking, I tend to be in the former camp today, and advise our companies as such. Billions of apps are purchased in the iTunes store – how many in these others? I tend to think one is better off trying to increase presence and quality of experience on this platform, where users are hyper-engaged (even given the more competitive app environment) rather than try to be present on platforms where there are few users actively engaged with apps. In a nutshell:

  • Android is going to be huge, but it isn’t today. There aren’t very many users and it’s changing quickly. Chances are whatever you build today will have to be rebuilt before very many people use it.
  • Blackberry is a meaningful platform, but the current app experience kind of sucks, and most of the Blackberry users I talk to don’t use or care particularly about native apps. This will probably change, but for the time being the bang you get for your development and marketing buck isn’t great.
  • Windows Mobile – about as worthy of your development time as it is of my commentary.
  • Symbian – Unless you’re focused outside the US, wait.

Startups have limited resources. If you are care about your mobile app, build a great app that can and will be used by the people who use apps all the time. Today, those people are iPhone users. Unless your app is deeply specific to another platform (like Viigo, for instance), you are better off trying to really succeed in the low-hanging fruit garden that is the iPhone. The flip side of the oft-cited truth that development is much easier and more faster today than it ever has been is that you can afford to wait to start projects until the market needs them. For our companies making tough choices about how to spend their time, I am usually of the opinion that until other app stores have momentum, focus should be in the environment where the users are.

January 11, 2010

VC Expiration Date

Filed under: Uncategorized — fiveyearstoolate @ 12:26 pm

Stuart Ellman

Lately I have been thinking a lot about my age. I’m 43 years old and I have been in venture capital at RRE since I co-founded it in 1994 when I was still 27. At 27 I was always the youngest VC partner in the room. To say that the information technology business and the venture capital business have changed in this time period would be an understatement. Since I began, the industry has experienced the greatest bubble in its history and the greatest crash. The number of venture capitalists has tripled and then halved with perhaps more to come. These days I’m often the oldest person in the room. Two of my portfolio company CEO’s were pre-teens when I started at RRE.

What really got me thinking about age was something I experienced on vacation in Anguilla with my family. I met a restaurant owner who had spent his high school years in NYC. I asked how old he was, assuming he was in his mid 30’s. He told me he was 55. I was blown away. I told him how young he looked compared to me. He said, with all obviousness, that of course that would be true. He lives in a tropical paradise while I live in NYC and work in venture capital. It really got me wondering how long I can stay current in venture capital.

There are certainly venture capitalists who are older than myself but still current and active. My partner, Jim Robinson III and his contemporary, Alan Patricof, are testaments to vibrancy and enthusiasm past the age of 65. Fred Wilson, my friend who I consider one of the best VCs, has five years on me. But here are a few reasons that I wonder when I will be out of date.

  1. Age of startup entrepreneurs. I look at my work with my entrepreneurs in a very specific way. They are usually friends, either before I invest or through our work together. They are people who I can relate to. They are people that I respect. And they are people that I trust. For a guy like Martin Tobias, CEO of Kashless.org, or Gary Steele, CEO of Proofpoint, that is very easy. They are people that are about my age that I have grown up with in the industry. For a person like Sam Lessin, CEO of Drop.io, who is 26, it is a little harder. I trust Sam but it is helped by the fact that I have known him since he was 12. There has to be a huge amount of trust. I cannot help but wonder if this will continue to get harder as I get older but the entrepreneurs remain in their 20’s and 30’s.
  2. Age of business development relationships. Part of this industry is being able to do deals with Google, Cisco, Yahoo, Oracle, etc. It is being part of the ecosystem of people that you can call to do the deals for your portfolio companies. Most of the people in these roles are a few years out of business school. My friends had these jobs. They have moved on to bigger and better things. For example, my college friend, Jonathan Schwartz was just CEO of Sun. My former peer in the venture community, Brad Garlinghouse, is now President of AOL. But the guy I need to cut a deal with at Cisco. They change and remain about the same age as I get older. The ecosystem changes and I no longer have as many of my peers doing these jobs.
  3. Time commitment to be really involved in the NYC tech community. The NYC tech community is really vibrant. There is a ton of startup activity going on. Between the various tech meetups, Betaworks brown bags, the hatchery, startup alpha, entrepreneurs roundtable, and various conferences there is something going on every night. To be in the flow of everything going on, I would need to be in Manhattan and Brooklyn every night, drinking beer and eating tapas. But that gets a lot harder when you have little kids. People in their 40’s are married and have children. Do you ever want to see your kids? Do you want to watch them play sports or go to a dance recital? It just gets a lot harder to be as involved.
  4. Willingness to continuously reinvent. I and everybody who stays on top of their game in technology needs to continuously reinvent themselves. I have, at various times, been very up to speed on enterprise software, B to B exchanges, B to C commerce, e-commerce, payment systems, clean tech, consumer green tech, mobile hardware, mobile software, consulting, wireless safety, Location Based Services, Wifi, Zigbee, RFID, and everything else that has been relevant in the past 15 years. The only constant is that, what I need to be focused on will change about every year. This gets harder as a person gets older. People in their 40’s are supposed to use wisdom to make up for the lack of time or aggressiveness. But that doesn’t work as well when everything keeps changing.
  5. Willingness to stay cutting edge. Do you want to really know what is going on in technology? Then you have to constantly be on the bleeding edge. You had to get rid of your Blackberry the day that the iPhone came out. Why, because it was the future. But the future, back then, worked terribly with Microsoft exchange and many of the apps worked poorly with the available bandwidth. OK, now you have your iPhone 3gs humming. Now you have to get the Nexus One. Why, because you need to see what is going to happen there. But, I guarantee, there will be early adopter or 1.0 problems. Yet you need to go through the pain of doing it. Wouldn’t it be easier to keep the iPhone rather than spend 40 hours this week to get the Nexus working. Sure, but you will not see the second level consequences of the shift to the Nexus. That amount of time and annoyances are much harder the older a person gets. My partner, Jim Robinson IV, always spends the time and keeps way ahead of the curve. I believe he is both a genius and a saint for doing this.

In my heart, I know what the right answer is. I still love this business and am willing to sacrifice much to be very good at it. I have much wisdom about starting and growing companies that I use to help younger entrepreneurs. I will not neglect my family but will continue to find a balance between a very demanding job and being an involved father and husband. I need to make sure that my firm, RRE, has people that are younger and will go to every event that I cannot make. We need to see every interesting deal in NYC and make sure we choose the best ones. So, do not put a fork in me yet. I have at least another 10 years to go. But, we all know somebody in every industry that everyone else knows should have left a few years ago. I will not be that guy. Let’s discuss when I am 53.

January 7, 2010

Why would you buy a new TV?

Filed under: Uncategorized — fiveyearstoolate @ 4:39 pm

Eric Wiesen

I’m not at CES (and kind of happy about it) but all the social media coming out of Las Vegas this week has me thinking about TVs.

Televisions are a big business, and the companies that make them think constantly about how to convince you that whatever you have isn’t good enough, and that you have to upgrade. Historically, they’ve come up with a handfully of pretty good reasons why you’d really just have to update:

  1. Your TV is B&W but all the new ones are color
  2. Your TV is old and doesn’t have coax so it doesn’t “support” cable.
  3. Your TV has a convex screen but the new ones are kind of flatter.
  4. Your TV is big and has a tube, but now flat screens can hang on the wall.

Truthfully, only #1 and #4 are truly generational transformations that require virtually everyone to upgrade, but there have been plenty of incremental improvements that encourage the marginal user to buy a new set. So what are we likely to see the manufacturers come up with to entice us to toss what’s likely a functional unit for something new?

  1. 3D: If you haven’t seen Avatar, go see it (even if you think the plot looks cheesy, which isn’t the point anyway). See it in 3D. Then realize that 3D is interesting and potentially very engaging. And your TV can’t do it. 18-24 months from now there will be a good number of TVs that can. Will you want one?
  2. Wireless: I’ve set up a lot of home theater systems over the years, and wires can get to be a huge pain in the ass. Look for more and more of these wires to be removed from the equation over time. Will that be enough?
  3. Watching web content on your TV: This will be an interesting one, because you’ll have the TV guys putting web content access into the set and lots of others (set top boxes, third party services, etc…) trying to pipe that same content into your non-enabled set. But last year at CES it seemed like every TV had widgets built-in.
  4. LED backlighting: better, greener.

The TV industry has a lot of things to think about. We’re late in the transition to flat screens (at least in the US and other tech-forward countries) so they need to figure out how to kick-start the next upgrade cycle. They also need to think creatively about the threats coming in from the web and mobile, but frankly if the latest Nielsen numbers are accurate, this is far less of a problem that all we techno-weenie Hulu-watchers would suspect.

As for me – I don’t actually own a TV. We hung a projector on our ceiling and that’s all we have. When my brother-in-law came to stay at our place while we were away, he actually called us to tell us someone had stolen our TV. We kind of like it that way.

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