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?”

Hulu Plus Now Available on TiVo Premiere DVRs, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3

Hulu Plus has announced its latest service integration, this time with the Tivo Premiere set-top box. According to the Hulu Blog, to celebrate the launch, “TiVo is offering a 6-month free trial to those who purchase a TiVo Premiere from a retailer or Tivo.com. This offer runs until August 30, 2011. And TiVo subscribers who already subscribe to Hulu Plus can begin accessing their account with no additional charges.”

The TiVo integration is the latest in a growing list of Hulu expansion efforts. At the end of April, Microsoft added the Hulu Plus service to its Xbox 360 gaming console (only for Xbox Live Gold members who pay the $60 yearly subscription fee in addition to the monthly Hulu Plus subscription). A Sony PS3 app for Hulu Plus was made available late last year via the PlayStation Network. Hulu also announced net-connected Sony Bravia TVs and Blu-ray players, Roku boxes and Vizio TVs.

PC World reports that current TiVo Premiere customers can register for a free one-month trial before starting the Hulu Plus subscription (while new customers who purchase the TiVo Premiere box will get six months free). Additionally, TiVo subscribers “have to sign up for the $7.95-a-month Hulu Plus service in order to stream to their TVs (Hulu requires a subscription to Hulu Plus for any non-computer streaming).”

In related news, ReelSEO reports that Hulu now accounts for a quarter of online video ads. According to recent comScore numbers, 172 million Americans consumed an average of 14.9 hours each of online video content in April. Google is the clear leader in this regard with nearly three times as many viewers as second place VEVO. While Hulu is only tenth on the list of total online viewers, it is interesting to note it falls second to Google in the average number of minutes people spend on the site. The comScore data indicates Hulu dominates in advertising, accounting for 1.14 million ads in April.

Related Hulu Blog post (and video): “Hulu Plus Now Available on TiVo Premiere” (5/23/11)

Related Wired article: “Hands-On: Hulu Plus for Xbox 360 Is Just as Unfinished as Netflix Offering” (4/28/11)

Related ReelSEO article: “Online Video Numbers Hold Steady for April, Except at AOL” (5/22/11)

PlayBook Outsells Motorola Xoom in its First Month

Research In Motion has had an interesting month. ETCentric’s story submission stream has featured a number of PlayBook-related stories in recent weeks… from the tablet’s weak initial launch — to the unfortunate recall of 1,000 units due to faulty operating systems — to the news that it had surprisingly sold 250,000 units during its first month of availability. In fact, despite mixed reviews and April’s slow launch, RIM’s PlayBook managed to outsell the Motorola Xoom in its first month.

In April, initial reports indicated a disappointing launch, with many units reportedly remaining on shelves during the first days of availability. Many reports credited the ongoing success of Apple’s iPad and the current lack of apps made for the PlayBook. Reuters reported: “RIM, which has priced the PlayBook to match the iPad, has struggled to win consumer fans since Apple’s iPhone and a slew of devices running Google’s Android entered the smartphone fray.”

Less than one month later, reports circulated that RIM had recalled approximately 1,000 units that were shipped with what the Wall Street Journal described as, “faulty operating systems which may have prevented users from performing the initial setup of the device.” The recall fell on the heels of RIM issuing a first-quarter profit warning, after citing lower-than-expected BlackBerry sales.

Yet not all news was negative. By the third week of May, RBC Capital Markets reported that the PlayBook had sold 250,000 units in its first month (it took Motorola’s Xoom two months to reach the same numbers). If the pace of PlayBook sales remains consistent, RIM will sell over 2 million units this year (slightly less than most analysts’ sales estimates for the tablet).

Of course, these numbers don’t come close to iPad sales, so the question remains: Is there a current tablet that is ready to compete with Apple’s iPad (at least in the near term)?

Related Reuters article: “RIM launches PlayBook but fans don’t play along” (4/19/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “RIM Recalls 1,000 PlayBook Tablets” (5/16/11)

Related BGR Media post: “250,000 BlackBerry PlayBook tablets sold to date, RBC says” (5/18/11)

Related Wired review: “BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet Lacks All the Right Moves” (4/13/11)

Related CNET review: “BlackBerry PlayBook review: A great surprise” (4/13/11)

Related SmartBlog post: “Will PlayBook play nice in the cloud?” (5/23/11)

Apple Close to Launching Cloud-Based Music Service

Earlier this month, ETCentric reported that Apple has been planning a cloud-based music locker service that will enable its customers to stream music to smartphones, tablets or computers. As progress continues regarding deals with the major music labels, the new service may launch sooner than originally reported — with rumors speculating possibly as soon as June 6 in San Francisco at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2011).

The Apple proposal is different from Amazon’s recent Cloud Drive rollout and Google’s Music locker service (the beta for which was announced at Google I/O). As reported, Apple is seeking paid licenses from the labels for its service (Amazon and Google launched their services without gaining such approval). Bloomberg reports that Apple has reached agreements with three of the major labels (Sony, EMI and Warner) — with Universal Music Group close to a deal.

By jumping the gun, Amazon and Google may have helped Apple position itself to take the lead in this arena. As TechCrunch reports: “So the labels, which for the better part of a decade now have been looking for someone, anyone to help counter Apple’s power in their business, is turning right back to Apple when they need help. And Apple will obviously gladly welcome them with open arms. After all, with these licenses, Apple will have secured the cloud music high ground despite being the last to launch. Think about it. With these agreements, Apple is likely going to be able to do the one thing that is absolutely crucial for cloud music to take off: offer library syncing without uploading.”

Plus, Apple has the benefit of an existing consumer base, with 200 million people who already have iTunes accounts. There has also been speculation that the cloud music service may be integrated with a revamped version of MobileMe, Apple’s subscription-based collection of online services and storage.

CNET raises two interesting points:

1. There’s no doubt who the top-four record companies are pulling for in the cloud music wars. They hope Apple’s service makes the other two guys look shabby by comparison. The thinking is that if Apple’s service eclipses those of its rivals, it will prompt Amazon and Google to pay the labels’ licensing rates.

2. What nobody has proven yet is whether consumers even want the cloud. CNET has reported that Apple is likely to charge a subscription fee eventually for its cloud service. Subscription music services, such as Rhapsody, have a spotty record at attracting audiences.

Related TechCrunch article: “Google And Amazon May Have Just Handed Apple The Keys To The Cloud Music Kingdom” (5/18/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “For a Song, Online Giants Offer Music in a Cloud” (5/19/11)

Related Patently Apple article: “Whoa! Apple Patent Confirms iTunes Cloud Media Services” (5/19/11)

Related CNET article: “Exclusive: Apple near cloud-music deals” (5/18/11)

Related TechCrunch article: “Without The Labels, Google’s Music Locker Service Will Look Like Apple’s Ugly Sibling. Again.” (5/9/11)

AT&T Expansion: LTE 4G Network and T-Mobile Acquisition

Last week, reporters toured the AT&T Foundry facility in Plano, Texas and conducted a group interview with Jon Summers, SVP of application and service infrastructure. During the tour, GigaOM was treated to a “real-world situation” demo of AT&T’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) network and was impressed with the results.

According to the GigaOM post: “The speeds provided on the download side were about 28.87 Mbps and were about 10.4 Mbps on the upload side. This compared to speeds of 3.77 on the download side and 1.21 Mbps on the upload for an iPhone that was capable of maxing out on AT&T’s 7.2 Mbps HSPA network. So it’s fast, but sharing those speeds with others on a cell tower will bring them down. For comparison, Verizon has promised customers speeds of 5-12 Mbps on the download side and speeds of up 5 Mbps on the upload side.”

Additionally, AT&T’s spectrum may increase as early as next year. In March, the company announced its plans to acquire T-Mobile for $39 billion ($25 billion in cash and the rest in stock). The deal is presently undergoing a regulatory-approval process. If approved, by next year AT&T could solidify its position as the largest carrier in the U.S. with about 130 million subscribers.

The merger would also help bolster AT&T’s ongoing growth. According to GigaOM, “In the last four quarters, it has reported $125 billion in revenue, and billions of dollars in capital investments in its network.”

Related New York Times article: “AT&T’s LTE 4G Speeds Could Blow Away Verizon” (5/20/11)

Related MobileBeat article: “AT&T to acquire T-Mobile for $39B” (3/20/11)

Related CNET article: “AT&T, T-Mobile customer satisfaction on the decline” (5/17/11)

Verizon Wireless will Offer PlayStation Phone this Month

The long-awaited Sony Ericsson Xperia Play — or “PlayStation Phone” as it’s been popularly dubbed — will finally be available starting May 26 for $199.99 from Verizon Wireless (with two-year service agreement). Pre-orders for the PlayStation certified smartphone began yesterday.

The Play features a 4-inch 854 x 480 multi-touch display, 5 megapixel camera on the back (plus front-facing VGA camera for video chats), and runs on a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon II processor with 512MB of RAM. The system is based on Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” with some Sony Ericsson customizations. The specs also list support for Google Mobile Services, including Google Maps, Gmail, Google Talk and access to 200,000 apps in the Android Market. The phone will come preloaded with seven games, including: Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior (check out the video demo), Madden NFL 11Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, Star Battalion, The Sims 3Crash Bandicoot and Tetris.

The Play device features a sliding screen that reveals touch-sensitive directional pads, a dual analog touch joystick and shoulder buttons for playing games. Verizon says more than 50 games will be available at launch time from the V CAST app store.

Related Los Angeles Times article (including Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior video demo): “Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, a.k.a. the PlayStation Phone, hits Verizon on May 26” (5/17/11)

Related IntoMobile review (including 11-minute video demo): “Hands-On: Sony Ericsson Xperia Play” (5/20/11)

Related Sony Ericsson press release: “Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY to be the official mobile handset of Major League Gaming” (3/1/11)

Related In-Game article: “Sony’s PlayStation phone is for real” (1/26/11)

Sharp Builds Prototype of Super Hi-Vision LCD

Sharp announced it has built the first 85-inch LCD panel with resolution it claims is 16 times that of current HDTV panels. The prototype was developed for Super Hi-Vision, a next-generation television system being developed primarily by Japan Broadcasting Corporation, NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai). Super Hi-Vision expects to provide four times as much detail horizontally and vertically (7,680 by 4,320 pixels) than today’s HDTV images.

According to Network World, the first public trials of Super Hi-Vision are expected to begin around 2020 (although Engadget reports there is a possibility of early demonstrations taking place during the 2012 Olympics). Each frame of a Super Hi-Vision image is equivalent to a 33-megapixel picture; therefore, as Network World points out: “…highly complex cameras, mixing and switching systems, and recorders and transmission equipment need to be made to handle the huge bandwidth of the video image.” Sharp’s prototype is the next step toward the realization of the next-gen system.

Sharp’s 85-inch LCD, which was not formally demonstrated in Los Angeles at SID Display Week 2011, will be unveiled to the public for the first time later this month at NHK’s Science & Technology Research Laboratories in Tokyo.

Related Network World article: “Sharp develops super high-def screen for future TV” (5/18/11)

Related Sharp press release: “Sharp and NHK Successfully Develop 85-Inch Direct-View LCD Compatible with Super Hi-Vision, a World First” (5/19/11)

Which Smartphone OS will Come Out on Top?

Nick Nero provides some interesting perspective in this month’s Connected World Magazine regarding which smartphone OS will become the dominant global platform by the end of the year. The short answer according to Nick: Google’s Android.

The article provides an interesting overview regarding the progression of RIM’s BlackBerry, Apple’s iPhone, Windows Mobile devices — and the growing worldwide adoption of Android devices. It further points out that Android will continue its dominance throughout 2011 based on several key factors: Open Software Architecture (“arguably Android’s biggest competitive advantage”), Open Marketplace (consumers recognize “the benefit of a free-market approach to smartphone apps and this will continue to push Android to the head of the pack”), and More Partners (Android “is available on devices from practically every carrier in the country”).

Nick offers these final thoughts: “By the end of this year I expect Android to have a very comfortable lead in the smartphone OS market unless Apple begins to open up its model a bit. I wouldn’t bet on that happening given that a very pretty walled garden is essentially Apple’s business model. I don’t feel too sorry for Apple though — it does extremely well in the high-quality experience niche it occupies in the Macintosh space.”

Related CNET article: “Gartner: Android leads, Windows Phone lags in Q1” (5/19/11)

Related ReadWriteWeb article (including videos): “The Future of the Smartphone: Holograms & Folding Screens” (5/18/11)

Related Gadgetbox article: “PlayStation phone coming to Verizon Wireless” (5/17/11)

Related Mashable article: “Smartphone Sales Up 85% Year-Over-Year” (5/19/11)

Related ReadWriteWeb article: “iOS Ad Impressions Up Nearly 50% this Year, says Millennial Media” (5/19/11)

Netflix Leads Downstream Internet Traffic in North America

A new report from Ontario-based Sandvine indicates Netflix video streaming content currently accounts for the single greatest source of peak downstream Internet traffic in the U.S. (recently reported as 29.7 percent, up from 21 percent last fall).

According to TechCrunch: “That puts Netflix above HTTP websites (18 percent), BitTorrent (11 percent), and YouTube (10 percent) as a source of downstream traffic during peak times in North America. (BitTorrent still accounts for half of all upstream traffic). As whole, ‘real-time entertainment’ (which is mostly video streaming, but also includes streaming music) accounted for 49 percent of downstream traffic in March 2011, versus 19 percent for P2P file sharing, and 17 percent for Web browsing.”

The Global Internet Phenomena Report: Spring 2011 from Sandvine also offers the following observations:

  • Real-Time Entertainment traffic is continuing its journey to network dominance, particularly in North America, where it represents 49.2% of peak period fixed access traffic. If this rate of growth is sustained, Real-Time Entertainment will make up 55-60% of traffic by the end of the year.
  • The continued growth of Real-Time Entertainment enables a seemingly contradictory conclusion: P2P Filesharing is here to stay, at least for the immediate future, as evidenced by the marginal drop in share from 19.2% of peak period traffic in Fall 2010 to 18.8% in Spring 2011.
  • The composition of upstream traffic on Latin America’s mobile networks has changed dramatically since the previous study. P2P Filesharing has supplanted Real-Time Entertainment to become the largest consumer of upstream capacity, accounting for 46.4% of uploaded bytes.
  • Europe’s networks reflect rapidly shifting user preferences. Levels of P2P Filesharing and Web Browsing traffic have changed dramatically since 2009, with no consistent trend appearing. Nevertheless, an important exception in this dynamic market is the Real-Time Entertainment category, which continues to grow steadily.

Related Bloomberg article: “Netflix Offers Streaming Movies on Google Android Phones” (5/12/11)

The Future of 3D Looks Bright, According to New Studies

It should come as no surprise to our audience that industry opinions regarding 3D entertainment are mixed. Despite technological advancements we’ve seen in recent years to gaming, theatrical film exhibition, television sets, production processes and a variety of consumer products — a number of significant questions continue to spark debate: Glasses or glasses-free? Active or passive? Standard feature or gimmick? Strong or slow consumer adoption? However, a number of recent studies agree on one thing — the near future of 3D will see some tremendous growth.

In a report released this week, digital entertainment market researcher In-Stat predicts global 3D TV shipments will be up nearly 500 percent this year, compared with 2010. The report also suggests that all televisions with screen sizes 40 inches and above will soon be 3D-enabled. The In-Stat forecast is joined by another report from NPD Group subsidiary DisplaySearch that suggests 3D TVs will account for approximately one-third of all 120 Hz LCD sets in 2011. DisplaySearch also explained that 3D TV penetration will expand as the 3D feature is added to more basic models in upcoming years. Researcher IHS iSuppli adds that 2012 will be another year of triple-digit growth for 3D TV shipments.

“In a major recalibration effort, television brands are changing strategies this year following lukewarm response to 3D in 2010 when consumers balked at the high price of sets and the lack of 3D content,” explained Riddhi Patel, director for television systems and retail services at IHS. “In 2011, however, brands are marketing 3D not as a must-have technology but as a desirable feature, similar to the approach they have taken with Internet connectivity.”

This week’s In-Stat report offers the following numbers:

  • Households with 3D TV sets will eclipse 300 million in 2015.
  • In 2011 Europe will boast the most 3D TV unit shipments at just over 7 million.
  • By 2015 Asia/Pacific will have the largest share of 3D TV unit shipments at 32 percent.

Additionally, an industry survey recently conducted by crew booking and payroll company Media Services indicates that 3D is becoming a “predominant mode of production” — as nearly half of respondents indicated their businesses will emphasize 3D film and television production in the next five years.

The question regarding consumer adoption may soon be impacted by increased production numbers and lower prices from manufacturers (and if the shipment predictions above prove accurate, it may not matter). As CNET reports, “NPD found that 45 percent of people who won’t buy a 3D TV cite price as the barrier and 42 percent say its the special 3D glasses. But as In-Stat’s study has found, consumers may not have much of a choice. Vendors are continuing to add 3D capability, especially to bigger-screen sets. And if folks want bigger screens, they will soon get 3D capability whether they seek it or not.”

Related Below the Line post: “Study Reveals Shift to 3D Over the Next Five Years” (5/17/11)

Related Advanced Television article: “3D TV shipments up 500% in 2011” (5/6/11)

Related TV Technology post: “RealD, Samsung Partner in 3DTV Display Project” (5/17/11)

Related Engadget post (and videos): “Intel will mass produce 3D transistors for all future CPUs, starting with 22nm Ivy Bridge” (5/4/11)

Related PCMag.com article: “3D Transistors, EUV, and the Future of Chipmaking: Why it Matters” (5/6/11)

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