Esquire Sells the Space Beneath Downey's Nuts...No Joy for TomTom's $US120 iPhone Car Dock...Amtrak Gets "Free" Wi-Fi, But You Still Have to Pay for the Subsidy, Er Ticket...Voulez Vouz QOOQez Avec Moi?
Esquire is one of the three magazines at the top of the journalistic totem pole — you write a feature for it, and a book deal falls in your lap with an old-timey leatherbound thud. Hallowed as the brand is, its leadership is having a deuce of a time getting digital. There was last year's humiliating venture into E-Ink-based advertorial. And then there's the December 2009 issue.
It will feature, among other actors, Robert Downey Jr. squatting awkwardly and gesturing towards his manhood, a human frame for what looks like a very basic 2D bar code. Yep, it's augmented reality, like they've done with Star Trek. Hold it the image up to a webcam, and according to the WSJ, you "trigger the video segments, which are similar to some video-conferencing technologies in their lifelike quality". Wow, a video segment as lifelike as video conferencing, springing forth from Downey's balls. So we end up with just one question: Who's the most shameless, Esquire's editors, its advertising department or Downey himself?
Oh TomTom, your comeback has come too late. While the record should show that TomTom's iPhone app certainly made up for many shortcomings of its portable navigators, the delayed iPhone dock with built-in redundant GPS isn't going to take things to the next level. Since it was announced, GPS apps have dropped to prices so low they are actually free in certain cases. There are enough decent cheap options—and then some—in the App Store to guarantee you won't be paying $US100 for TomTom's app. Since the dock sells for an additional $US120—with no bundle pricing in sight—TomTom's iPhone navigation experience is suddenly more expensive than any TomTom navigator currently selling to people who aren't idiots. Engadget's dock review highlighted these issues, pointing out that its only real benefit is bestowing GPS reception on 1st-gen iPhones and iPod Touches—even though TomTom doesn't support them with a compatible app. No matter what happens, this product seems doomed. [Engadget]
Sometime in early 2010, Amtrak will be giving highspeed wireless internet access to people who ride its highspeed Acela trains. Some remark that at the outset this will be "free", but I say nonsense: Just because you're not paying for it one way doesn't mean you're not paying for it another. I have fond memories of the year I spent riding the rails from NYC to DC and back again, but that's just because I've blocked out the overpriced tickets, the insulting frequent-rider program, the long lines for the snack bar, and the fact that, if the trains ran at all, they would be remarkably late. So you see the Wi-Fi won't be free, no matter how little money changes hands. [Wi-Fi Net News]
While the rest of the world is talking about how great a tablet would be for books, videos and comics and all other varieties of leisure, the French are building a tablet for cooking. Actually, if they built a tablet for cooking, we'd cover it. QOOQ (get it?) is just some gimped Linux box that happens to be programmed to receive and display food-related videos, recipes and articles and, apparently, not a lot else. Call me know when it's oleophobic, sink-rinseable, knife-friendly and can grind pepper rough or fine. [Electronista]