Sharp Announces New Smartphone-Linked TVs

  • Sharp announced it will launch new Internet-ready TVs next month in Japan that can interact with its smartphones.
  • The new Aquos L Series will enable Internet access via a new online platform called Aquos City.
  • The platform plans to offer “news, entertainment and weather forecasts, among other content and services.”
  • The TVs will also link with Sharp’s Aquos cellphones and smartphones (but not with non-Sharp handsets).
  • “Users will be able to take videos with their mobile handsets and send them to the TV, for example.”
If successful, will we see this in the US? Or will adoption be contingent upon interaction with other devices?

Best of D9: All Things Digital Conference

Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher of The Wall Street Journal hosted the D9 (D: All Things Digital) conference May 31 to June 2 in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. The annual event featured compelling interviews and demonstrations from an array of top media and technology executives representing companies such as HP, Twitter, AT&T, Nokia, Netflix, Disney, Adobe and many more.

The D conference was established in 2003 by columnists Mossberg and Swisher as an annual showcase for technology innovators and big names from the worlds of business, entertainment and occasionally politics. This year the title was “D9” (indicating its ninth year). The conference is known for hosting influential heavy-hitters and its somewhat exclusive nature. Typically, attendance is limited to about 500 guests.

ETCentric readers were quick to forward relevant news items and announcements that emerged during this year’s show. The following is a collection of links to articles and videos submitted by our readers, accompanied by their comments:

 

D9 Video: Eric Schmidt Highlights

  • Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook are successfully exploiting global platform strategies.
  • Challenge working with entertainment companies since taking content from scarcity to ubiquity.
  • Also need to deal with disintermediation and piracy. On privacy, Google will remain a place where you can do anonymous searches. And committed to insuring you have control over information they have on you.
  • We’re seeing the consumerization of IT that will lead to the death of IT as we know it.
  • There are not sufficient resources to develop for more than the two largest players: Google and Apple.
  • Search is moving from link-based answers to algorithmically-based answers using artificial intelligence.
  • Concerned about a balkanization of the Internet, which will lead to an Internet per country.
  • If you’re concerned about security, use the Chrome browser and use a Mac.

 

Google Shows Off Its Groupon Killer, Launching Tomorrow

  • Video of Eric Schmidt’s demo of Google Wallet and Google Offers.
  • Google is not charging a processing fee but is taking a share of the offer.
  • Credit card companies are willing to upgrade the POS terminals to get benefits of higher security.
  • Lookout Groupon, LivingSocial, etc.!!!

 

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason on Google, Clones and Hubris – But Not on an IPO

  • CEO sees Groupon evolving in three phases so far: One – the Daily Deal, Two – Personalized Deals, and Three – a technology company where they become more integral to a person’s daily life (i.e. wherever they are and whatever they want to do, they can get a deal right now based on the inventory of available deals).
  • Could you use Groupon to sell media?

 

D9 Video: Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky on Windows 8

  • 95 percent of how the world gets on the Internet is through Windows.
  • Windows 8 will be a “modern” rethink to enable PCs and tablets to satisfy “things they say are solved in an iPad” and still bring all the benefits of Windows.
  • Video demo of Windows 8 showing touch-based UI (can still use mouse too), live tiles.
  • Targeting 2012.

 

D9 Video: Fanhattan Demo

  • Free video discovery app Fanhattan launched at D9 this week.
  • The iPad app serves as a directory and discovery engine, sourcing reviews and ratings from Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, while organizing related content from the likes of YouTube, IMDb and Amazon.
  • Also shows pre-release version running on an Internet TV which is capable of creating a branded movie page in this case for Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • It connects to iTunes, Netflix, Hulu and the ABC Player to view TV and movies.
  • CNET review: “This free iPad app sounds simple–it finds stuff about movies and TV shows you want to watch–but the depth of the content, utility of what the site does, and clarity of the interface just puts this app on a different level than anything else I’ve seen.”

 

D9 Video: Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker

  • WebOS will be available to other companies and enterprises for their own use.
  • Goal is to create an end-to-end ecosystem that figures out on a single device in the Cloud whether you’re doing enterprise or private work.
  • HP can create a large ecosystem of printers, PCs and tablets amounting to 100 million devices a year itself. They hope to interest others as well.

 

D9 Video: Reed Hastings Highlights

  • On Netflix’s virtuous cycle: the more content they get, the more members they get and they can pay more for content.
  • Consumers want all the new stuff but that’s very expensive.
  • At $8/month, they’re a compliment to the new stuff.
  • The news stuff will remain pay-per-view since has higher margin for content owners.
  • Can grow from 24 million subscribers currently to capture Internet TV and tablet viewers plus a share of the 5 billion active mobile phone users worldwide who like video.
  • Need to stay innovative.
  • Focus on talent density, which is the fewest number of talented people.

 

D9 Video: Twitter CEO Dick Costolo

  • Took three years to send the first billion tweets. Now sends a billion tweets every SIX days!
  • There are over 600,000 developers who have downloaded over 900,000 API tokens.
  • Will look to TweetDeck (recently acquired) as the professional UI.
  • Rolling out a native photo sharing app, relevance sorted search results and web intents which allows you to add a Twitter client into your website. 80 percent of advertisers using promoted tweets renew.
  • Advertisers are experiencing very high engagement rates (VW’s ad: 52%).
  • Focused on success of business, not IPO.

 

DARPA – The Coolest Agency You’ve Never Heard Of: Regina Dugan at D9

  • Regina Dugan’s DARPA t-shirt says “Impossible, Improbable, Inevitable” which describes the progression of their programs.
  • Developed Internet, GPS, stealth, night vision, UAV, MEMS technologies.
  • DARPA’s Mission is the “prevention and creation of strategic surprise.”
  • Encourages programs to have the big success.
  • So that means they can’t fear failure. Fear of failure is the limiting factor.
  • Talks about growth in need for cyber security, new computing architectures, explosive detection system.

 

D9 Tech Demo: Inkling

  • Inkling reinvents the college textbook for the iPad that is both interactive and social.
  • Rather than paying $200 for a book, you can buy it a chapter at a time for far less cost since the content is not re-sold like a physical book.
  • See impressive video demo.

Motorola Televation Streams Live TV Slingbox-Style

  • At the 2011 Cable Show in Chicago this week, Motorola Mobility showcased a new Slingbox-style device that allows customers to stream live TV to connected devices within range of their home network.
  • Motorola Televation, a broadband device that works with a Wi-Fi router, was developed with engineers from Comcast (the cable provider is also demoing Televation at the Cable Show).
  • Televation uses a 1GHz digital tuner and CableCard to access channels directly from a coax outlet and real-time transcoding of live MPEG-2 TV broadcasts into MPEG-4 IP streams for devices such as Android and iOS tablets, IP-connected TVs, etc.
  • “Consumers love entertainment, and want easy access to TV no matter where they are in the home. Coupled with the explosive popularity of tablet devices, this represents a terrific opportunity for MSOs to increase customer satisfaction while generating new revenue,” explains John Burke, senior VP and GM, Converged Experiences, Motorola Mobility. “Televation gives our customers the ability to launch a new service that puts innovation back into TV, enabling their subscribers to enjoy TV beyond the TV.”

Next-Gen Animators Adopt Online Model

  • YouTube’s profit-sharing Partner Program enables animators to be their own bosses, reach out directly to potential audiences while enjoying a cut of the traffic.
  • So far, approximately 20,000 program participants have gained hundreds of thousands of subscribers and tens of millions of monthly views.
  • For the more successful, this has translated into incomes in the high six figures.
  • In addition to becoming a viable platform for earning, the program serves as a launching pad for emerging talent (companies are perusing the YouTube content as a means of recruiting).
  • “It’s been a huge game-changer,” says Aaron Simpson, VP of animation and business development for Mondo Media. “Profit sharing had been done a bit before on some websites, but not on the huge scale that YouTube allows.”

Apple WWDC: New OS X Lion, iOS 5 and iCloud

The much anticipated Apple Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off Monday of this week in San Francisco and continues through tomorrow. To gets things rolling, Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivered the opening keynote and, as expected, focused much of his presentation on the company’s initiatives regarding cloud computing and related services.

Some analysts are commenting that Jobs was not only introducing cloud initiatives during the keynote, but attempting to redefine the very notion of the technology. “It just works,” was Jobs’ repeated mantra while he appeared on stage, suggesting that with iCloud, “Apple is transforming the cloud from an almost tangible place that you visit to find your stuff, to a place that only exists in the background. It’s never seen. You never interact with it, your apps do — and you never realize it. It’s magic,” reports TechCrunch.

In the same article, TechCrunch suggests that Apple is viewing the cloud differently than its competitors (and presenting it in a simpler manner). Also, Apple is placing a greater emphasis on the web component with its MobileMe service and providing iCloud free with iOS 5. Whereas Google and Amazon are concerned with the ideas of servers, disks, data — Apple sees the focus differently. According to TechCrunch: “Files are something Microsoft worries about. Files in the cloud are something Google and Amazon worry about. Apple’s iCloud is about opening an application and the thing you want to access being there.” (For a list of the iCloud offerings, visit the MacDailyNews report.)

iOS 5

Apple previewed iOS 5, the latest version of its mobile operating system (the company also released a beta version to iOS Developer Program members). The beta release includes over 200 new features available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch by the fall. Features include: Notification Center for managing notifications in one place without interruption; iMessage service for easily sending text messages, photos and videos between iOS devices; and Newsstand for organizing newspaper and magazine subscriptions.

iCloud and Music

The response to iTunes in the cloud seems mostly positive so far (and has been helped by Apple signing agreements with all four major music labels). Rolling Stone reports that allowing consumers to “reproduce their entire digital collections on locker-style servers accessible via 10 devices – including iPhones, iPads and computers – may not save the ravaged record industry, but it could provide a crucial new revenue stream while allowing consumers to easily consolidate their music libraries in the cloud.”

“Keeping these devices in sync is driving us crazy,” Jobs said in San Francisco. “We have a great solution for this problem. We are going to demote the PC to just be a device. We are going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud.”

“It is one way to make someone pay for music they’ve already bought. It’s pretty ingenious,” commented Syd Schwartz, a former EMI Music executive in an interview with Rolling Stone. “I’m sure someone in an executive office at a major label somewhere is going, ‘At least that’s one way we can monetize the stuff people stole from Napster over the years.'”

Additional Announcements

Apple’s iCloud announcement was augmented by news of several other products and services. The Nieman Journalism Lab offers an interesting perspective: “In addition to introducing the long-awaited OS X Lion and announcing noteworthy Twitter integration, Apple has also, from the looks of things, gone on a veritable app-eating binge. The company, it announced, has created: ‘Reading List,’ a read-later functionality that allows users to time-shift their consumption of content (sound familiar?); a cloud-storage service, iCloud (which looks remarkably like this one); and a new camera and image-editing feature (kind of like this one).”

From a journalism perspective, Nieman Lab adds: “The biggest news is Apple introduction of Newsstand for iOS, which looks to be essentially an iBooks for publishers’ content — a central location for users’ magazine and newspaper subscriptions. With the new feature (well, new as of this fall), readers can browse a virtual bookshelf — literally, ‘wooden’ and all — and subscribe to a periodical in one tap. New issues will be downloaded in the background, solving one of the biggest problems for magazine publishers who push out issues that are hundreds of megabytes in size.”

Mac OS X Lion

As announced by Apple prior to the WWDC, the company will be releasing its new Mac OS X Lion next month. MacDailyNews reports that Lion will include more than 250 new features, 3,000 new developer APIs and, “will be available to customers in July as a download from the Mac App Store for US$29.99. Some of the amazing features in Lion include: new Multi-Touch gestures; system-wide support for full screen apps; Mission Control, an innovative view of everything running on your Mac; the Mac App Store, the best place to find and explore great software, built right into the OS; Launchpad, a new home for all your apps; and a completely redesigned Mail app.”

Apple vs. the World

It’s worth noting that some see Apple’s developments as a significant move forward in challenging its competitors. Robert X. Cringely, for example, has gone as far as suggesting that iCloud’s “real” purpose is to kill Microsoft. In response to Jobs’ contention that iCloud will “demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device – just like an iPad, an iPhone or an iPod Touch,” Cringely explains on his blog that “Jobs is going to sacrifice the Macintosh in order to kill Windows. He isn’t beating Windows, he’s making Windows inconsequential.”

Intentional or not, only time will tell. Let us know your thoughts…

 

Related TechCrunch article: “It Just Works” (6/8/11)

Related TechCrunch article: “On iCloud, Baby” (5/31/11)

Related Rolling Stone article: “How Apple’s iCloud Could Help Save the Music Industry” (6/6/11)

Related Nieman Journalism Lab article: “Newsstand, Reader, iCloud: 3 takeaways for the news business from today’s Apple announcement” (6/7/11)

Related MacDailyNews article: “Apple introduces breakthrough iCloud; free service ‘just works’” (6/6/11)

Related MacDailyNews article: “New iOS 5 includes over 200 new features, including Notification Center, iMessage, Newsstand, Twitter integration” (6/6/11)

Related MacDailyNews article: “Mac OS X Lion with 250 new features available in July via Mac App Store for $29.99” (6/6/11)

Related Patently Apple article: “Apple working on a Sophisticated Infrared System for iOS Cameras” (6/2/11)

Related Wired article (with video): “Jobs Pitches New ‘Mothership’ to Approving Cupertino City Council” (6/8/11)

Related I, Cringely post: “iCloud’s real purpose: kill Microsoft” (6/7/11)

Ultrabook, Padfone and iCloud: Impact on the PC Market?

Personal computing has seen some dramatic shifts in recent years, thanks in large part to the impact of social networking and its integration with entertainment media; the increased capability of smartphones and other portable devices; new high-speed networks and faster, smaller chips; the introduction of tablets and apps — and, of course, the success behind what many are currently labeling “The iPad Effect.”

Consumers have responded with increased demands and expectations regarding the convenience in which they are able to access their information, entertainment and various forms of electronic communication. As CE manufacturers scramble toward meeting these expectations, we are starting to see some interesting new form factors and delivery systems, as well as a potential impact on our more traditional electronic devices.

One of the ways this is playing out is in regards to the design, features, functionality (and competition) of tablets, laptops, netbooks, and PCs. And the prospect of additional changes resulting from cloud computing may accelerate the competition between devices. As we look forward, it should be worth keeping our eyes on the following trends and new products:

The Ultrabook

Intel is promoting a new category of laptops called the “Ultrabook” — a sort of hybrid laptop that incorporates the best features of tablets. The new designs (less than 0.8-inch thick) will be made possible by the latest 2nd-generation Intel Core processors. ASUS is one manufacturer behind the Ultrabook design and hopes to give Apple’s $999 MacBook Air a run for its money with the Ultrabook UX21 (featuring Intel’s i7 CPU and the new SanDisk U100 SSD). Intel predicts Ultrabooks could claim as much as 40 percent of the laptop market by 2012.

According to The Wall Street Journal: “A key goal is to deliver much thinner and lighter laptops, with mainstream price points and tablet-style features such as touchscreens and the ability to switch on quickly to let users call up websites without waiting.”

“They’ll cost under $1000, be extremely thin and portable, start up in seconds, be produced by a number of manufacturers and go on sale before Christmas,” adds Digital Trends in a similar write-up. “The emphasis on the portability and responsiveness of Ultrabooks shows that the world’s biggest chip maker is hoping to make consumers think twice about purchasing mobile devices such as the hugely popular iPad tablet.”

The Padfone

At Computex last week in Taipei, ASUS unveiled another new form factor, the “Padfone” — which Digital Trends describes as “a smartphone with a battery-equipped display dock that turns the device into a tablet.” The “pad” component does not function independently, but essentially serves as a tablet-shaped display with a dock, basically enhancing the phone’s functionality. In addition to a 10.1-inch screen to play with, the Padfone offers extended battery life, speakers, a keyboard, an I/O extender that will allow other devices to communicate with the phone, and functionality for the phone’s camera to keep working while docked. ASUS hinted at additional features that will be announced closer to the product’s planned Christmas release.

Will the Padfone, Ultrabook (or a similar new design) compete with current slate of tablets, laptops and desktop PCs? If the trends continue to push toward convenience, portability, speed, power, Web surfing and cloud services — the answer may be yes. At the very least, they may be the answer to netbooks. WSJ reports in response to the rise of thinner, more powerful devices: “The activity reflects both technology advances and growing pressure on personal-computer makers, particularly the rise of the iPad and other tablets. Goldman Sachs estimates that nearly 18 million of the touchscreen devices were sold in 2010, a figure it expects to swell to 60 million in 2011.”

iPad Tablet Competition

A number of manufacturers currently have tablet PCs on the market, but so far none of the devices (including the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom or BlackBerry PlayBook) have been able to significantly compete with the growing success of the iPad, its many accessories and more than 65,000 apps. However, emerging tablets may impact the market by undercutting the price of the iPad. And with new, more powerful tablet chips from the likes of Intel, ARM and AMD, we may start to see some significant breakthroughs.

Taiwanese manufacturer Acer, for example, recently debuted its Iconia Tab A500 that runs Google’s Android OS. A $449 Wi-Fi version went on sale in April and a new model that works on AT&T’s 4G wireless network is scheduled for a summer release. “While it doesn’t beat either iPad overall, the Iconia Tab offers a decent alternative to Apple, especially for multimedia enthusiasts who want to display their content on a TV, PC or smartphone without additional gear,” reports WSJ.

If a new wave of price-conscious tablets can address the needs of consumers — particularly in regards to subscription- and cloud-based access to media content, video chats via services such as Skype or ooVoo, free and affordable new apps, and even potential glasses-free 3D displays (see the Eee Pad MeMO video demo from Engadget) — then the iPad (and other tablets) may start to feel the heat.

We may also see additional impact on the desktop PC market. It has been reported that PC manufacturers remain optimistic, viewing the recent dip in growth as a temporary bump in the road. However, in a report issued by Gartner this week, PC sales are not expected to grow as much in 2011 as earlier expected. The Gartner analysts blame the collapse of netbooks following the iPad’s release and added that, “regardless of the direct impact of the iPad and its kind, PCs no longer had the safety net they once did. They now had to compete against tablets, phones, set-top boxes and other devices as even the computers themselves were getting more specialized.”

Cloud Computing

A number of companies are gearing up for a new era of automated backup, synchronization, data storage and variety of cloud-based media services. There are those who believe this may be the final nail in the coffin for the desktop PC.

In a recent blog post commenting on Apple’s unveiling of OS X 10.7, iOS 5 and iCloud service — Robert X. Cringely addressed the possibility that Apple CEO Steve Jobs may be taking aim at killing Microsoft. Cringely writes, “Jobs is going to sacrifice the Macintosh in order to kill Windows. He isn’t beating Windows, he’s making Windows inconsequential.”

“We’re going to demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device — just like an iPad, an iPhone or an iPod Touch. We’re going to move the hub of your digital life to the cloud,” explained Jobs at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this week.

Cringely contends that this is the bold kind of thinking that Microsoft lacks. With Apple leading the charge, he suggests Google may soon take the same approach, “…adding automated backup, synchronization and migration to Android and Chrome.” We may see increased competition between Apple and Google if Cringely is correct in his assertion regarding the company that gets our data in the cloud, gets us as captive customers forever. “Both companies will be grabbing for data, claiming territory, and leaving Microsoft alone to defend a desktop that will soon cease to exist,” he suggests.

Time will tell what impact these changes will have on the desktop PC, but if Cringely is right, it won’t be much time… “This transition will take at most two hardware generations and we’re talking mobile generations, which means three years, total.”

What else?

Are there additional “bigger picture” themes we should be watching for in this sector? Let us know your thoughts…

 

Related Electronista article: “Apple more profitable than Microsoft as netbooks plunge 40%” (4/28/11)

Related Electronista post: “Gartner: PC growth slowing to 9.3% through iPad effect” (6/8/11)

Related Forbes article: “Microsoft Gets Reprieve As Tablets Aren’t Killing PC Sales (Yet)” (6/1/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “PCs See Tablets’ Silver Lining” (6/1/11)

Related Network World article: “AMD finally enters tablet market with new chip” (6/1/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “PC Makers Push Into ‘Ultrabooks'” (5/30/11)

Related Digital Trends article: “PadFone officially revealed, ASUS hints at Ice Cream Sandwich and second-gen tablets” (5/31/11)

Related Engadget post (includes videos): “ASUS announces the Padfone (update: eyes-on!)” (5/30/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “Samsung Leans on Android” (5/31/11)

Related Reuters article: “Intel unveils laptops that include tablet features” (5/31/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “A New Tablet From Acer Challenges iPad on Price” (5/26/11)

Related Gizmag post: “ASUS announces glasses-free Eee Pad MeMO 3D tablet” (6/2/11)

Related O’Reilly Radar article: “The iPad’s ripple effect” (1/31/11)

E3 2011: Nintendo Unveils Wii U Controller and 3DS Updates

Nintendo chose its E3 Expo presentation to provide a much anticipated first look at the new Wii U controller in addition to a system update and new 3D games for its $250 3DS handheld gaming device released earlier this year.

The Wii U controller combines a 6.2-inch touchscreen, traditional inputs and motion control functionality. The wireless device will support full HD graphics (a first for Nintendo) and is backward compatible with all Wii games and accessories. Interesting features include a microphone, gyroscope, accelerometer, front-facing camera and stylus. Even though it shares a number of characteristics with other handheld devices, the Wii U controller was not designed to serve as a portable gaming device. However, users will be able to game and video chat (even without a television). By adding another screen to the home entertainment experience, Nintendo is hoping to redefine “how the TV, the game console and the Internet function and interact together.”

According to the Nintendo press release: “Previously, video games played on a home console have been confined to the TV and offered identical viewpoints to each player in a multiplayer environment. Furthermore, watching TV and playing console games have been completely separate experiences. The new controller removes these boundaries, creating a more dynamic and fluid gaming and entertainment experience.”

Gamers can use the controller to zoom in on television images and to interact with games that appear on both the controller and TV screens. In a video demo of the system, Nintendo showed a player sending a throwing star from the controller’s touchscreen to the TV screen across the room with a swipe of his finger, as if the weapon actually flew through the air. The Wii U has similar functionality when connected to the Internet, allowing users to essentially “throw” photos or videos from the controller onto the television screen.

The dynamic of adding an additional screen to the gaming experience in the controller is difficult to explain in words, so Engadget has posted a 5-minute video demo of multi-player gaming (produced by the Nintendo Network). And Nintendo’s compelling 4-minute Wii U video from the E3 presentation is available on YouTube. It illustrates capabilities of the new device including video chats, drawing with a stylus, motion control functionality, browsing, TV interaction (even with the virtual space beyond the TV screen) and more. Additional video footage of the Nintendo E3 presentation is available on the CNET channel on YouTube.

Although specific pricing and availability was not announced at E3, the Wii U is expected to have a mid- to late-2012 release. Screen resolution was also not specified, but the display ratio is 16:9.

The company also announced a new system upgrade to its glasses-free, portable 3D device, the Nintendo 3DS (that launched March 27). Users who connect via a wireless Internet connection and install the update will have access to the Nintendo eShop, which features downloadable games and applications using a cash-based system. According to the site, gamers can access “3D games, classic games remade in 3D, and legendary titles from the Game Boy system — plus more. View webpages right from your Nintendo 3DS system, including the ability to view 3D images on the Internet where applicable.”

Nintendo also announced its initiatives to celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda: “A re-mastered 3D version of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time launches for Nintendo 3DS on June 19, while Wii owners will see the arrival of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword in the 2011 holiday season.”

For the duration of the E3 Expo, fans can visit the Nintendo Network online to watch developer interviews, get information about new games and see coverage from the show floor.

Related CNET article: “E3 2011: Nintendo’s new Wii U set for 2012” (6/7/11)

Related Engadget post (with press release and videos): “The Wii U controller, revealed!” (6/7/11)

Related CNN Tech article: “Nintendo unveils the Wii U system” (6/7/11)

Related USA Today article: “Nintendo unveils Wii U, with a touch-screen display” (6/7/11)

Related Yahoo! Games article: “Nintendo debuts Wii U” (6/7/11)

Related Xbit Laboratories news: “AMD and IBM Confirm Work on Chips for Nintendo Wii U” (6/7/11)

Related ABC News article (comparing announcements from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft): “Wii 2: Nintendo Wii U Video Game Console Debuts at E3 Expo” (6/7/11)

E3 2011: Pre-Show Announcements from Sony and Microsoft

The 3-day Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) kicks off today at the Los Angeles Convention Center. E3 is a professional trade event with a focus on electronic gaming (no longer open to the general public) that draws CE manufacturers, business partners, news media and industry analysts from 80 countries. Yesterday’s pre-show press events featured some interesting announcements from Sony and Microsoft. Today, the big news should come from Nintendo, when it unveils its next-gen Wii console (watch it live starting at 9:00 AM PDT).

Microsoft began by introducing new Xbox 360 features and games (Microsoft has sold 55 million Xbox 360s globally to-date, thanks in part to the successful Kinect motion sensor technology). Next up: voice-activated search via Bing will be available for the Xbox enabling users to sort through Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and other sites via voice commands, minimizing the need for the remote control. “You no longer have to navigate through the menus to find content,” said Mark Whitten, corporate VP of Xbox Live.

Whitten also announced that the Xbox will incorporate a live TV service in the fall. Few details were offered, other than to say that more content partners will soon be added. For the gamers, Microsoft premiered the trailer for the next installment of the Halo video game series, which expects a 2012 release (Gamespot has the trailer plus an interesting commentary). Microsoft also demonstrated new games and innovations utilizing its Kinect technology.

Sony began its Monday evening press conference with an apology to customers, video game developers and retailers regarding the recent hacker attacks that hit 70 million user accounts. Jack Tretton, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, explained that activity on the PlayStation Network is now back up to 90 percent from what it was prior to the data breach.

Tretton also discussed the PlayStation’s growing success as the leading Netflix streamer (according to Sony, the PS3 accounts for 30 percent of video streamed via the service). Engadget reports this should come as no surprise: “…consoles far outpace other TV connected streamers in install base, and between the Xbox 360, Wii, and Sony’s box, the PS3 is the only one that lets you watch without an additional subscription and in HD.” In addition to the Netflix news, Sony announced a new partnership that will provide access via the PS3 to more than 12,000 video on-demand movies and TV shows from Best Buy-owned CinemaNow.

Sony also showcased a collection of 3D products and games, including an interesting new product bundle that features a 24-inch active shutter 3D display and 3D glasses. Engadget noted in its initial hands-on eval: “The dual-full-screen trick will only work with PlayStation 3 games specifically programmed to make use of the feature, and although none have been announced yet, we wouldn’t be surprised if pack-in title Resistance 3 is compatible. Staff couldn’t say if the games featured in the demo video, Motorstorm Apocalypse and Wipeout, would be updated to support this feature. While the demo units we saw performed their trick reasonably well, visible ghosting and flat, muted colors give us some reservations about that competitive $499 price tag.”

Sony’s biggest announcement, however, was its new handheld device, PSP follow-up the PlayStation Vita. Touting a 5-inch multitouch OLED display with rear touch pad (and front and rear cameras), the Vita will sell for $249.99 (Wi-Fi-only) and $299.99 (Wi-Fi/3G). Engadget was especially impressed with the “monstrous” OLED display and the dual analog sticks (“they completely blow away the original PSP’s analog nub”). Both models will be available exclusively through AT&T toward the end of 2011.

Related Engadget post: “Microsoft sells 55 million Xbox 360 consoles, claims that’s consoles history” (6/3/11)

Related CNET post: “E3 2011: Live TV coming to Xbox this fall” (6/6/11)

Related PC Magazine article: “E3: Sony Apologizes for Outage, Pitches 3D Display, PS Vita” (6/6/11)

Related Engadget post: “Sony’s 24-inch PlayStation 3D display first hands-on!” (6/7/11)

Related Digital Trends article: “Sony 3D Display could revolutionize 2D gaming” (6/7/11)

Related Engadget post: “PS3 claims the lead in Netflix streaming, adds VOD from Best Buy’s CinemaNow” (6/6/11)

Related Engadget update (with videos): “Sony’s PlayStation Vita: a closer look (update: burning questions answered)” (6/7/11)

Related Engadget post: “Sony’s PlayStation Vita official: $249 for WiFi, $299 for 3G” (6/6/11)

Related Engadget post: “Sony’s PlayStation Vita: first hands-on impressions” (6/6/11)

Related Wired article: “With New Hardware Far Away, E3 Expo is Thin on Innovation” (6/3/11)

Expanding Video Library Available for Legal Remixing through YouTube Editor

Google-owned YouTube announced last week that its YouTube Video Editor now features access to more than 10,000 Creative Commons-licensed videos, including clips from partners such as C-SPAN, Voice of America, Public.Resource.org and Al-Jazeera. “It’s as if all the Creative Commons videos were part of your personal library,” explained product manager Jason Toff.

According to the YouTube Blog announcement: “As part of the launch of Creative Commons licensing on YouTube, you’ll also be able to mark any or all of your videos with the Creative Commons CC-BY 3.0 license that lets others share and remix your work, so long as they give you credit.”

Creative Commons is “a nonprofit organization that develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing and innovation.” It was co-founded by Harvard professor and political activist Lawrence Lessig. The Creative Commons licensing process will provide YouTube users with a simple mechanism for legally integrating existing video content into remixes, mashups, music videos and more. TIME reports that the CC-BY 3.0 license “allows for sharing, remixing/adapting and commercial use of the original, as long as the original author is credited.”

CC-BY also allows for commercial reuse, which will not only benefit YouTube and its producers, but in the long run should have an impact on Creative Commons as well. GigaOM reports: “The organization has gotten a lot of traction amongst photographers ever since Flickr added a Creative Commons licensing options as part of its uploading process. Recent Flickr data reveals the site is now hosting close to 190 million Creative Commons-licensed photos. Its licenses haven’t been nearly as popular in the video space, where it has only been adopted by smaller hosting sites and select individual publishers. YouTube’s sheer magnitude could help to make Creative Commons mainstream for video as well.”

Related Wired article: “Google Rolls Out YouTube Creative Commons Licenses” (6/2/11)

Related TIME article: “YouTube Adds Creative Commons to Clips, Allows Legal Remixing” (6/3/11)

Related YouTube Blog post: “YouTube and Creative Commons: raising the bar on user creativity” (6/2/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “YouTube’s Payouts to Channel Partners Come With Strings” (6/3/11)

News Crews Using Bonded Cellular for Broadcast Quality HD Video

Some ENG crews are beginning to successfully use multiple cellphone data connections “bonded” together in order to transmit live HD video of breaking news, on-the-scene weather reports, sporting events and more. Cellular technology provides a new level of mobility that surpasses that of ENG microwave vans and, in some cases, enables more dynamic, intimate reporting. Although there are limitations, cellular ENG is looking more promising as wireless connectivity technology continues to get faster and more reliable.

David Friend, senior VP of news at the CBS owned-and-operated stations and news director at WCBS in New York, refers to bonded cellular as “a game changer” — one that has enabled CBS to become more intimate with viewers and report stories in real time as they unfold. Friend said that the Mobile 2 units purchased from LiveU and TVU Networks last fall have, “changed the nature of how we report stories and the outcomes of those stories.”

The term “bonded” refers to multiple circuits or connections synchronized to provide a more reliable signal than standard consumer wireless connections. For example, a broadcast television station could use up to 12 circuit cards in order to transmit a full HD signal (while some are presently getting away with four 5Mb/s circuits for live 720p signals at 19Mb/s). The biggest obstacle right now is competition for bandwidth, especially in a location where there is a great deal of RF traffic, such as inside a sports or entertainment venue.

Broadcast Engineering reports: “Some journalists working for WCBS-DT in New York City are now using a cellular transmitter in a backpack kit that allows them to broadcast HD images live from anywhere they can find a bonded 3G or 4G mobile connection. The most advanced 4G networks allow more and higher-quality video to be transported within a single stream, but availability around the country — indeed, the world — is limited. Many are calling it the beginning of the end of microwave trucks, because journalists can set up and move around quickly, as the news story breaks, without having to worry about line-of-sight locations or accidentally raising a mast antenna into high-power electric lines.”

For news teams in the field, the primary objective is not a perfect image; even a low-quality image can be a competitive advantage if it is the first (or only) to air. However, many broadcasters are concerned that bonded cellular may not guarantee the bandwidth required for effective news coverage. So stations are talking with cellular carriers about the possibility of some sort of priority access to networks (arrangements that would ideally not be cost-prohibitive or cause problems regarding net neutrality rules).

In the meanwhile, news crews continue to experiment with bonded cellular systems LiveTV, TVU Networks and Streambox and others — transmitting live video from backpacks while on foot or from moving vehicles. (And in some cases, reporters or producers can access a unit’s user interface through wireless devices such as the Apple iPod touch or iPad.) Broadcast Engineering adds: “Even professional camera manufacturers are beginning to take notice. At the NAB Show in April JVC showed a prototype WiFi transmitter module that mounts on the back of its new GY-HM790U camcorder and allows a reporter to connect to a local (or personal) hotspot and use the Internet to send footage back to the station. It’s not the fastest connection, and reliability is questionable, but it gets the story back to the station almost as fast as a microwave truck.”

Related TVNewsCheck article: “Bonded Cellular Technology Boosts CBS ENG” (4/28/11)

Related Mushroom Networks press release: “Breakthrough Technology Utilizes Bonded Cellular Broadband Cards to Transmit Broadcast Quality Video From the Field Transforming Any Video Camera Into a Portable One Person News Crew” (4/11/11)

TVU Networks site: “Introducing the World’s First HD Mobile News Gathering Backpack”

LiveU Portable Uplink Solutons site: “The Ultimate Cellular-Based Uplink Solution”

Streambox site: “Streambox Avenir is a mobile broadcasting device that allows users to quickly send HD/SD video from remote locations”

Renovated Chicago Planetarium Boasts 8K x 8K Projection Dome

The Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum in downtown Chicago — founded in 1930 as America’s first planetarium — recently completed a transformation of its 80-year old historic Sky Theater, newly named the Grainger Sky Theater. With its 8K x 8K projection dome, the new theater is being touted as “the highest resolution digital dome ever built.” Next month the Adler crew will unveil “Deep Space Adventure” — an immersive exhibit simulating the formation of the universe. It was created with support from NASA, IBM, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the University of California Santa Cruz, the Astrophysics Institute Potsdam, and others.

The production team behind “Deep Space Adventure” is using a variety of modeling software systems, including Autodesk’s Maya 3D and 3ds Max and Lightwave 3D from NewTek, while Adobe After Effects is being used for compositing. The planetarium’s render farm and storage system includes 83 computers with dual processors. The system also uses the Uniview real-time visualization platform that allows users to fly through a computer model of the universe.

The new planetarium can project images, such as those captured by the Hubble Telescope, with more than 5 times the clarity of a standard movie theater. The system uses 20 Rockwell-Collins Zorro digital projectors powered by 45 computers working simultaneously.

Immersive experience designer and integrator, Global Immersion, was contracted by the Adler in April 2010 to design and integrate a high contrast and high resolution experience. As a result, Global Immersion’s Fidelity Black 8K digital theater solution has been fully integrated into the theater. According to the Global Immersion press release: “Powered by Global Immersion’s Fidelity Play comprising forty-six Media Servers, the Grainger Sky Theater is primed for both real-time and playback media and is capable of running at both 30 and 60 frames per second (fps) at 8K resolution. The Uniview real-time data and astronomy visualization platform from SCISS will be used for astronomy presentations.”

The first of these experiences will be “Deep Space Adventure,” debuting July 8, possibly the most technologically advanced space exhibit ever designed. According to the Adler press release: “The Grainger Sky Theater will project the largest single seamless digital image in the world with an ultra high definition screen resolution of more than 8K x 8K pixels. This far surpasses the cinematic standard of 2K x 4K pixels, presenting a level of realism that can only be surpassed by actual space travel.”

“It’s going to be really exciting,” explains Paul Knappenberger, president of Adler Planetarium. “For the first time people will feel that they are flying through space. They will be on an observation deck of an imaginary starship flying through the universe and witnessing, up close and personal, the collision and the merging of two galaxies or the explosion of a star as it goes supernova or they will see the black hole in the center of our galaxy consuming a nearby star.”

Related Global Immersion press release: “Adler Planetarium Chooses Global Immersion for 8K True Black Digital Dome Theater” (5/25/11)

Related Engadget post (includes Adler press release): “Chicago’s Adler Planetarium to start projecting 8K by 8K images from this July, put cinema screens to shame” (4/26/11)

Related PCMag.com article: “3D Universe Map Shows Most Complete Detailed Image Yet” (5/26/11)

Related NTDTV.com article (with video): “Chicago To Open Out-of-This World Planetarium” (5/27/11)

Is Facebook Poised to Become THE Social Entertainment Operating System?

It seems we cannot escape ongoing speculation in recent weeks surrounding the potential impact of a collaboration between social networking giant Facebook and European music service Spotify. Whether you subscribe to the opinion that such a partnership will change the face of music discovery, distribution and consumption — or you agree with Peter Kafka who wrote in WSJ’s All Things D that the deal would simply “be a nice feature for Facebook and a nice promotional outlet for Spotify” that would merely provide “limited amount of free music, and the option to upgrade to a paid subscription” — the bigger issue involves the direction of online social media and Facebook’s ultimate role.

If the Spotify deal serves as a stepping stone for Facebook’s involvement with other forms of media — music, movies, games, news, video, etc. — the social networking site may be on its way to serving as much more than a way for “friends” to share information and photos. It could become a powerful online hub for media distribution.

When Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at the e-G8 Forum in Paris last week he explained (again) that he has no interest in becoming the CEO of an entertainment company. However, increased integration between Facebook and entertainment media is clearly in Zuckerberg’s sites.

In March, Warner Bros. became the first Hollywood studio to offer movie rentals directly on Facebook, starting with The Dark Knight; Netflix has reportedly been discussing with Facebook the possibility of integrating social networking tools; Facebook began allowing third-party developers to offer games on its site four years ago (since then, social-gaming companies like Zynga have become among the largest in the industry); and now the deal with Spotify may help extend media integration. ZD Net reports that four months ago, “Spotify signed an agreement with Sony Music Entertainment, and three months ago, it struck a deal with EMI Music. The company thus has two of the four major music labels; the other two are Universal Music Group, the world’s biggest label, and Warner Music Group.” The Spotify/Facebook deal could lead to competition with streaming and cloud-based music services.

As the trend of electronically sharing thoughts and interests continues to grow amongst consumers of all ages, it makes sense that the leading social networking site would be poised for successful integration with the media people regularly discuss. In doing so, Facebook (which currently has nearly 700 million users) may become the ubiquitous entertainment layer of the Internet. At the very least, it may help serve as an EPG of sorts for media.

“Listening to music is something people do with their friends,” Zuckerberg said in France. “Movies, TV, news, books — those types of things are things I think people just naturally do with their friends. I hope we can play a part in enabling those new companies to get built, and companies that are out there producing this great content to become more social.”

Related Wall Street Journal article: “Chill Out! Spotify on Facebook Is Cool, Not a Game Changer” (5/25/11)

Related GigaOM article: “Amidst Spotify Rumors, Facebook CEO Talks Music and Media” (5/25/11)

Related Bloomberg article: “Facebook’s Zuckerberg Says Music, TV Are Social Frontiers” (5/25/11)

Related ZD Net article: “Rumor: Facebook is partnering with Spotify” (5/25/11)

Related TechCrunch article (including Spotify slides): “Behind The Scenes: Making Spotify More Convenient Than Piracy” (5/30/11)

Related Forbes article: “Facebook To Launch Music Service With Spotify” (5/25/11)

Related New York Times article: “Facebook Is Developing Ways to Share Media” (5/26/11)

Related ETCentric story: “Spotify Launches Music Download Store and iPod Syncing” (5/13/11)

DAR.fm is a Free (for now) Digital Audio Recorder for Radio

There’s been a lot of music news reported in recent weeks, from a collaboration between Spotify and Facebook to compelling new discovery apps including Radio Spotter from mSpot Music to emerging cloud-based services from the likes of Google, Amazon and Apple. We’ve also been watching the direction of services such as Pandora, Slacker, Rhapsody and Napster as digital music distribution continues to evolve. However, a new online service created by MP3.com founder Michael Robertson may change the way we consume radio.

Robertson’s DAR.fm (currently in beta) is a digital audio recorder for radio content, what David Pogue describes in his New York Times column as “free TiVo for radio.” According to the site’s FAQ page: “DAR.fm is a personal recorder which records radio stations and shows to be played back at the convenience of the listener. Similar to how a DVR (digital video recorder) works with television DAR is a DVR for your radio.”

Currently, there is no charge for the basic service, but that may change in the future based on potential restrictions or data storage space (advertising on the site is also reportedly in the works). Pogue explains that each user starts with 2GB, and completing an application at MP3Tunes.com provides a free upgrade to 10GB. According to the site: “DAR.fm gives you 2 GBs of storage to record your content. This is enough to store approximately 100 hours of material. However, it depends on whether the material you’re recording is talk or music — you may be able to store more or less. If you need more space you can purchase a Premium account with 20, 50, 100, or 200 GB of additional storage.”

What makes this service compelling, however, is that users can listen to an unlimited range of radio content anywhere, anytime: via computer, phone apps, Wi-Fi-connected radios, even the Roku set-top TV box. Listening to recordings from a phone is made possible by free apps based on the open music API (Airband for the iPhone, MP3tunes for Android, Locker Player for Windows Phone 7, and Music in Your Palm for WebOS). Users can even download individual songs that have been captured.

“It’s crazy cool, like a hybrid of iTunes and satellite radio,” writes Pogue.

If DAR.fm catches on, will it compete with cloud-based and subscription music services? If it works as flawlessly as Pogue describes, it may have a strong chance, although MP3Tunes has yet to share the limelight with other more notable cloud services. Pogue writes: “The person who created DAR.fm also runs a company called MP3Tunes.com. It’s an online storage locker for your music files, so that you can play them from any computer or phone, anywhere you go. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because Amazon introduced a nearly identical service last month, called Amazon Cloud Player. Google just opened a ‘cloud music locker’ service, too. Needless to say, the headlines about this ‘new’ kind of music service drives the MP3Tunes guy crazy; his site has been in operation for four years.)”

Related Grace Digital Audio press release: “Grace Digital DAR.fm Audio Recorder for Internet Radio Debuts” (5/19/11)

Related Radio World article: “DAR.fm Hopes to Shift the Paradigm” (4/15/11)

Related Radio World article (with video): “DAR.fm, Grace Radio Aim at a ‘Talk TiVo'” (5/18/11)

Related PC Mag article: “MSpot Adds ‘Radio’ Music Discovery to Online Music Locker: Hands On” (5/26/11)

Related TechCrunch article (from Disrupt conference): “Rexly’s Social Music Discovery App Is What Ping Should Have Been” (5/23/11)

$139 Nook Introduced; E-Reader Announcements from Amazon and Kobo

This has been a significant week for new product announcements as the e-reader war rages on. New devices, features, price points, sales reports (and a potential acquisition) have been announced from Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Canadian-based Kobo announced its new $130 Kobo eReader Touch Edition will ship in June. CNET expressed concern regarding the general speed of the Wi-Fi device and the new Freescale i.MX508 that powers the e-reader, but added: “That said, the Kobo Touch Edition has a compact, elegant design, with only a couple of buttons (since this is a touch-screen e-reader, there’s a built-in virtual keyboard). I didn’t see a Web browser and like other Kobo e-readers, the device seems very reading-centric. It’s also geared to the international market, with Kobo making a push into several countries, most notably Germany, which has the fastest growing e-book market outside the U.S.”

The next day, Barnes & Noble announced it will also have a new e-reader available in June. The new $139 Wi-Fi Nook claims to have the longest battery life of available e-readers (up to two months) and a growing bookstore (with over two million current titles). The Nook has reportedly been a major contributing factor in Liberty Media’s interest in a potential acquisition. The Wall Street Journal reports: “Liberty executives in recent days have said Barnes & Noble’s digital strategy played a key role in their decision to make a $17-a-share bid for control of the company.”

Not to be outdone, a few hours following the B&N announcement Amazon unveiled its all-new Kindle 3G with Special Offers (currently available) — an ad-supported 3G and Wi-Fi device weighing only 8.7 ounces and featuring improved screen contrast with the latest E Ink Pearl technology. At $164, it costs $50 more than the non-3G ad-supported version (reported last month by ETCentric), but $25 less than the ad-free equivalent.

Can the other e-readers compete with the number of current Kindle options? That question remains to be answered — as does the speculation that e-readers may eventually be replaced by more affordable tablet PCs. One thing is undeniable, however: the Kindle continues to gain in popularity.

In an Amazon press release issued last week, Amazon.com announced it is now selling more Kindle books than print books and the $114 Kindle with Special Offers is already the best-selling member of the Kindle family of products. According to the release: “Since April 1, for every 100 print books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books. This includes sales of hardcover and paperback books by Amazon where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher.”

Related Wired post: “Amazon Brings Ads to Kindle 3G” (5/25/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article (with video): “Amazon Introduces Cheaper, 3G-Enabled E-Reader with Ads” (5/25/11)

Related CNET article (with video): “Kobo unveils Wi-Fi Touch Edition e-reader for $129.99” (5/23/11)

Related Kobo Blog post (with video): “The Rumors are True! Kobo Launches the Kobo eReader Touch Edition Today” (5/23/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “Liberty Says Nook Inspired B&N Bid” (5/24/11)

MeeGo Smart TV aims to Combine TV Services with One Set-Top Box

A new software platform developed for television by the MeeGo open-source community (hosted by The Linux Foundation) is expected to launch as early as next month. MeeGo Smart TV 1.2 was developed in order to enable service providers to combine pay TV, apps, video and a variety of other content in a unified set-top box. According to MeeGo, “This release provides a solid baseline for device vendors and developers to start creating software for various device categories on Intel Atom and ARMv7 architectures.”

The MeeGo Smart TV platform is based on the MeeGo 1.2 release that came out last week, just prior to the MeeGo Conference in San Francisco (May 23-25). MeeGo TV hopes to succeed where others have failed regarding efforts to fuse TV and the Web by remaining open to applications from a multitude of developers.

“What people don’t want is a browser on their TV,” explained MeeGo TV Architect Dominique Le Foll at the MeeGo Conference. “Instead, just as on a mobile phone, consumers prefer to use apps that are optimized for the device.”

CIO.com reports: “The MeeGo team is not alone in recognizing this. Even TV manufacturers, including Sony and Vizio, are trying to build up stores of apps and widgets that can be used on their sets. But MeeGo’s openness gives it advantages over other options for connected TVs, Le Foll said. Previous TV-Web systems have been based on set-top boxes with traditional embedded operating systems, which are difficult and expensive for service providers to update and maintain. By contrast, MeeGo TV is maintained by a community of developers, organized on the model of the Linux community and managed by the Linux Foundation.”

The MeeGo press release outlines the anticipated development schedule: “MeeGo development continues forward on a six-month cadence, with MeeGo 1.3 scheduled to be released in October, 2011. Many new features targeting MeeGo 1.3 have already been accepted in MeeGo Featurezilla. The development tree for MeeGo 1.3 is open and we are starting to integrate new components now.”

Interesting history of the project from The Linux Foundation (pdf format): “Introduction to the MeeGo Project”

One-year anniversary overview from The Linux Foundation (pdf format): “12 Months Since the Project Announcement: Where Are We and What’s New in MeeGo1.1?”

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