Sony, I’m Speechless…

”Sony Tech: We know about this problem. Its our new copy protection that’s making these discs unplayable in some players including our own, we do not intend to change the copy protection. The only correction to this problem is a firmware update to your player. The electronics division know about this and should have given you this information."

Somebody tell them to just stop! The best part is that the new DRM that Sony is using prevents the discs from playing on some DVD players, including their own, but does nothing to stop DVD ripper software from accessing the content. Really, I can’t make this stuff up.

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Makeover Hacks – A New Industry?

I was surfing around last night and found two very cool makeover hacks.
The first is a redesigned site theme for Google Reader that is built on the Stylish Firefox extension. The theme essentially mimicks a OSX application and, IMO, improves Reader quite a bit.

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The next makeover hack is actually far more straightforward, it’s a Greasemonkey script that vastly improves the look of Gmail’s tired interface. I love this, I really do think that Google should hire this guy.

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What I find fascinating about these projects is that they are individuals who are just doing them for no apparent economic reason, and that the extendibility of the browser means that these hacks are developed completely independent of the entity hosting the applications.

Insofar as there being a business here, I really doubt it because 1) they depend on a browser that is still has a small share of the market, 2) most people don’t really care about modding everything like I do, and 3) I doubt I would pay for this. Having said all that, there exists a possibility that companies could emerge that do nothing but provide a better user experience for mainstream applications than what the provider themselves makes available.

I was also thinking about SAP’s Project Muse evolving to the point where it is a general purpose UI framework that companies use to create custom interfaces to SAP that are purpose specific for users or just much better than what SAP itself is capable of delivering.

Perhaps the model could evolve to where application providers don’t actually build a UI, they deliver a UI framework to the marketplace and then select the best 3rd party UI to deliver to customers? I rather doubt that will ever come to pass, but it’s interesting to think about nonetheless.

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Freshbook Report Cards

Freshbooks, the online invoicing and time management application, released an innovative new feature called Report Cards.

This is a really interesting feature that takes advantage of a unique aspect of hosted applications, namely the ability to aggregate data across a network of customers. Putting aside the permissions and security issues that this raises, what this gives SMBs is the ability to benchmark their performance against their peers and do it from within the application they are already using without having to resort to time consuming data upload/download issues.

SMB users have traditionally not had access to these services because of cost, but also because the market research firms tended to aggregate markets at a macro level and that meant that the benchmarks were not reflective of the real world environment the client was in. With Freshbooks a users can see a peer group that is dynamically built to reflect the characteristics that the user determines is relevant, rather than the faceless business analyst they never met.

This is a genuine innovation on several levels and reflects a customer focused approach that this company has become known for. This is also representative of a shift in how we, as an industry, look at SMB markets, which up until now have been viewed as “the thing Intuit does” when in fact these are increasingly sophisticated businesses that have an aggressive attitude to technology but won’t invest heavily in IT.

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