FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2004
I can't tell you how many times I did stories on the amazing rise of AOL. From 1995 to 2002, it seemed like every month AOL had hit a new level of subscribers, a level nobody else was even close to: 10 million, 15 million, 25 million, 33 million. Then the press releases stopped coming.
Here are the numbers we talk about today: 2.3 million new U.S. broadband subscribers were added last quarter. And 1.3 million of those were cable subscribers. One million went to DSL. Amidst all this, AOL is slipping out of the broadband business.
AOL stopped accepting new broadband subs months ago and will be dumping its customers in the Dixie states by top of next year. eMarketer says this is all part of a move to focus on dial-up.
AOL does still offer its AOL For Broadband, which is a BYO-ISP model that gives you access to AOL through your own broadband provider. At $15 a month on top of your broadband ISP, I don't think so. AOL was never the ultimate source of any kind of content, it was just dumber, so it fit the early days of the Net. But today even my mother knows that she just needs IE, a live LAN port, and the keys G-O-O-G-L-E to get anything she needs online.
AOL's hovering at about 23 million users these days, down about 8 or 9 million from the heyday. Admittedly, that's more than the population of any U.S. state except California, but did anyone expect the giant to fall this far this fast? I didn't.
Are you on AOL? Why?
TalkBack | Read all comments THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2004
I'm making a big switch this week.
I already moved from Knob Creek to Woodford Reserve years ago, from Shell to Unocal back in the '80s, and from T-Mobile to Sprint a year ago (which I still haven't forgiven myself for). But this is the big one: I'm switching from DSL to cable.
That's a big move for me, since I'm a person who has always thought of the cable company as feckless. I'd seriously rather have the garbage collector diagnose my cable TV connection than the cable company. The phone company, on the other hand, seemed like a real tech company. So I went with DSL back in those days.
But I live at the far end of a DSL loop, something like 17,900 wire feet from the central office and in a subdivision with 40-year-old wiring. In the DSL world, that's like the cans being rusted and the string being loose: It doesn't work real well. On a good day, I can see 270Kbps of download speed. Most of you reading this get three to five times that.
To add insult to injury, the phone company pretends I don't even have a DSL account (not that it's stopped billing me for it). When I called recently to move the line to a different copper pair in the house, the company said I would lose it altogether and never have DSL again.
"DSL is not available in your neighborhood, sir."
"Funny, I just used it to look up the phone number for the surly boiler-room operation with which I am presently speaking."
So they're getting seriously disconnected.
When I called to order cable Internet, I asked the Comcast guy if there was a choice of download speeds. "No, there's just one for residential." I said, "And what is that speed?" He said "Three." Three what, I thought? I've been suffering with 270K for so long, I had no idea what in the hell units he was even talking about. "Three megabits?" "Yes, sir." I literally giggled. Even in real-world conditions, I'm about to get at least a 300 percent speed boost this afternoon.
So I'll let you know how my prejudice against the cable company fares after my installation appointment this afternoon. I could have ordered a self-install kit, but that would deprive me of really seeing how Comcast handles its broadband customers.
Besides, I've been so inundated with the recent feel-good radio ads by Comcast, I figure the installer guy's going to install the modem, do my dishes, capture an IP address, cure cancer, tweak a few firewall settings, and send flowers to Arafat's widow before he finally asks me to sign a bill.
What kind of broadband are you on, and how do you like it?
TalkBack | Read all comments TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2004
Power to the Palm
And I'm not just talking about the Palm OS, but the Pocket PC too. We launched our Holiday Help Desk
live Webcasts yesterday, and several of the calls were related to using a palm-size device to access PCs and servers. IT pros and others are discovering that they can successfully run terminal services or other remote-access stuff, such as GoToMyPC
quite well on shirt-pocket-size gadgets. And it's all thanks to brawnier processors, faster cell networks, portable Wi-Fi, and high-res screens.
I was just hanging out with Klaus Schauser, founder of GoToMyPC, and he showed me his service running on a Pocket PC
. The throttle response was amazingly smooth. I, in spite of being a big GoToMyPC fan, am unable to join the fun because I use Palm OS devices, and Klaus says the company just hasn't found a way to run its service on that scrawnier level of computing power.
That's a shame, because palm-size remote machine access is really cool and elegant. How many of us would lug a laptop around if we had access to a large screen, high-res Wi-Fi pocket device? Only the masochists.
Today on the Holiday Help Desk
, we take on digital cameras. I'll be sitting up there with Aimee Baldridge, so jot down the number and watch the show: 888/599-CNET. I'd love to talk to you and take your questions about digital cams. We stream live at 11 a.m. PT.
TalkBack | Read all comments MONDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2004
Warming up to fancy stereo wire
I got some questions last week about cables for home entertainment systems. It seems that a couple of my readers bought new systems and hooked them up with the included cables and a mess of lamp cord. Let me tell you, having to use that method is like getting so-so tires on a new car: it's where the corners get cut.
Most people I know still scoff at buying fancy wire for their home entertainment system. They use lamp cord for the speakers and those mediocre patch cords from Radio Shack.
I think part of the resentment is subliminal; after all, everything cool in tech today is wireless
. How do you get excited about wire? (And it annoys people more--at least Bay Area residents--when they learn that the Monster Cable folks
, who invented the fancy wire sector for home entertainment, just bought naming rights to the stadium where the 49ers play. I just hope Monster's reputation will survive that particular association.)
The rule of thumb we use here at CNET when pricing out a new home entertainment system is to spend 10 percent of your budget on wire and cables. On a moderate $6,000 home theater, that's $600 worth of wire. And that's about where I lose most people completely. I don't think it's even possible
to spend that much money at Radio Shack.
If it helps, here's some perspective. You can spend as much as $9,000 just for a pair of 8-foot speaker cables
. Seriously. But that's not necessary.
Spend the 10 percent on wire. Good wire is a good thing. It helps the subtleties show through, and like HDTV and high-end audio itself, it's all about subtleties. Most TVs and sound systems out there are 90 percent as good as each other. We're not talking about major differences in the products at this point in history. If you put in a new home theater, you're working in the margins already. So buy some good wire to make up the difference.
TalkBack | Read all comments