Thursday, March 17, 2011

Morning Brief: Are the different messages coming from Japan and the US officials simply explained by cultural differences?; iPad users overload Time Warner servers

Reading the New York Times and then international news sources concerning the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station the past two days has been quite confusing. For the past two days the Times has been sounding alarmed, using words like "bleak", "ominious" to describe the situation at the reactors.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government and other officials have been more calm and circumspect. Can this all be explained simply by cultural differences? Even the Times noticed that its tone was very different from what was coming out of Japan. Hiroko Tabuchi, reporting from Japan, made a TimesCast that tried to explain the understated way Japanese officials talk. But at the end of the video piece Tabuchi suggests that the Japanese government is speaking in public in a calmer tone simply to prevent panic, inferring that the situation is indeed more dire than the government is letting on.

Emperor Akihito speaking Wednesday
to the nation on Japanese television.

But is the Times right? Is Japan on the verge of a nuclear catastrophe?

The Guardian certainly noticed the change in tone coming from the Times saying in its live blog that the paper "has gone big today".

Until comments from Greg Jaczko, chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, that said "we believe at this point that Unit 4 may have lost a significant inventory, if not lost all, of its water" there were no statements coming out that directly appeared to contradict what Japanese officials were saying, only speculation from academics.

It will interesting to see if the Times has been getting off-the-record information from US government officials, or whether the editors are merely playing this somewhat differently than what we have come to expect from the NYT.

In yesterday's Morning Brief I wrote about the new Time Warner cable TV app for the iPad. The free app, TWCableTV, is the equivalent of the same kind of apps from Comcast, AT&T, DirecTV and Dish. But Time Warner, being late to the party, seemed to think launching an app for the iPad market was no big deal because they were unprepared for the rush of users that were about to flood their servers.

"We were pretty sure that our iPad app was going to be fairly popular," wrote Jeff Simmermon, Time Warner Cable’s Director of Digital Communications, on the Time Warner corporate blog Untangled, "but we had no idea that it was going to be the most downloaded app in the iTunes store yesterday. The demand was overwhelming, in more ways than one. At about 8 o’clock last night the app crashed under a much heavier load than we anticipated."

What followed was the usual "oops, sorry about that, we're working on it." Time Warner is not the first company to fail to anticipate a flood of users that can follow the launch of a new app. On the other hand, there are plenty of apps that end up falling flat.

But this should serve as more proof that consumers want to be freed from their living room sofas to watch content everywhere. The Time Warner app, like the other TV provider apps, simply allows you to watch limited programming within your home, on your own WiFi network, on you iPad. Imagine if a company gave consumers want they really want: a cross between DirecTV (or another provider) and a Slingbox.


Michael S. said...

How is it the equivalent to my DISH Remote Access app? As a DISH Network customer/employee I'm able to watch my live TV and DVR recordings on the go (outside of my house), on top of all the remote functionality/DVR management. I just find it ironic you mention the Slingbox since DISH's sister company, EchoStar, owns Sling Media and DISH has been rolling out an entire presence based off of Sling's placeshifting technology.

Douglas Hebbard said...

"Equivalent", as in equal in purpose, not quality.

It would impossible for anyone to compare the different apps side-by-side unless that person subscribed to all the services . . . ouch, that would be expensive!