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.”

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)

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”

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)

$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?”

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)

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)

Motion Movie Theater Seats from D-BOX Coming this Summer

Montreal-based D-BOX Technologies — manufacturer of custom-designed seats for film and gaming entertainment — recently announced it will outfit 70 locations (50 in the U.S.) with “MFX” motion-equipped theater seating for screenings this summer. Theater-goers willing to spend an additional $8 can expect an enhanced, immersive experience viewing movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Super 8 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 from motion-equipped seats. D-BOX hopes to expand its seating to 200 locations one year from now and up to five times that within the next four years.

The company introduced its technology in 2009 with a motion-coded version of Universal’s Fast & Furious playing in only two theaters. D-BOX equipped additional theaters the end of April with MFX seating for the latest installment in the same series, Fast Five. According to the Wall Street Journal: “Motions range from being pitched forward, backward and side to side, to experiencing a momentary freefall when a character, say, leaps off a cliff. Seat-side controls let squeamish viewers dial down the intensity level of the experience — which on the highest setting can reach up to two times the acceleration caused by gravity.”

D-BOX Motion Code technology uses motion effects programmed for each film (as well as TV series or video games for home seating) so that the resulting motion is synchronized with the onscreen action and sounds. According to D-BOX, Motion Code is available on more than 900 titles and studios have started embedding it on many Blu-ray and theatrical releases, enabling MFX using three types of intelligent movement (subtle pitch, roll and heave) in addition to vibrations.

Although headquartered in Canada, D-BOX has a research-and-development office in Burbank, California.

Check out the Movie Theatre page of the D-BOX site for a location near you featuring MFX-equipped seating.

Next-Gen Live Interactive Broadcasting with GabCast.TV

Live online video platform GabCast.TV launched its alpha version today and is broadcasting free interactive shows.  The site is similar to other live video streaming services (such as Ustream or Justin.tv), but as Mashable reports, “the focus, design and purpose is unique” in that it enables each user to become “a reality star on the next generation of TV.”

The GabCast.TV team is not short of heavy-hitters. It was co-founded by Emmy-winning producer Paul Wagner and former NBC chairman Fred Silverman (additionally, high-profile advisors include former Disney CEO Michael Eisner and former ABC and Yahoo exec Lloyd Braun). Wagner explains that GabCast goes beyond YouTube, Ustream and Justin.tv by providing streaming video that focuses on greater engagement and stronger interactivity.

At its core, GabCast essentially turns video chats into live programs that are “hosted” by individuals or multiple users with an emphasis on social interaction. It features categories or “channels” for like-minded users (such as Dating Fun, Pets, Sports & Fitness, and College Fun). Pre-alpha users leveraged the streaming platform for a variety of content including live music, dating, and comedy shows.

The service can also be used for conferences and other live events such as weddings, birthdays, and parties. GabCast reports that a live classroom feature and mobile apps are in development. According to the press release, “GabCast.TV promises to hit the sweet spot of engagement by marrying social interaction with unique live content and creating the next generation of reality stars.”

Related GabCast.TV press release (including video): “Hollywood Heavyweights Go Social With GabCast.TV” (5/9/11)

Yahoo Acquires IntoNow Social TV App Three Months after Launch

In February, ETCentric reported on Palo Alto start-up IntoNow, which had developed an iOS app that identifies and tags live TV shows in realtime, creating something similar to Shazam, but for television rather than radio. Just three months after the social TV app’s official launch, Yahoo announced it had purchased IntoNow. Although the exact transaction numbers were not disclosed, most reports place it in the $13-17 million range.

Here’s how it works: Users press a button on the app interface while viewing a television program and, with the aid of a platform called SoundPrint, the app uses the program’s audio for identification (within 4-12 seconds). The results appear on the iPhone or iPad screen and can be shared via social networking entities such as Facebook or Twitter, or can be added to a Netflix queue. (An Android version is reportedly in development.)

Yahoo is expected to integrate IntoNow’s SoundPrint technology with existing services such as its Connected TV platform — and possibly use it for plans regarding audio watermarks for identifying advertisements and displaying additional information.

According to the Yahoo press release: “The addition of IntoNow will enable Yahoo! to provide enhanced media experiences and video programming, bolstering its social engagement across the Yahoo! network and on all screens. IntoNow users are able to easily engage with friends around the shows they enjoy most. IntoNow helps people discover new shows, discuss favorites with friends and learn more about them, and provides recommendations for what is currently airing based on their interests and those they are connected to. The application is also integrated with Facebook, Twitter, iTunes and Netflix to enable more sharing and information gathering.”

Engadget posted a video demo where the user is watching CNN on a laptop (place-shifted via SlingBox), and uses the IntoNow app on an iPad to identify the TV stream.

Related Engadget post (including Yahoo press release): “Yahoo buys TV companion app developer IntoNow and its database of sounds” (4/25/11)

FlickLaunch.com Distributes Independent Films on Facebook

FlickLaunch.com is a new startup billing itself as the first independent movie distribution platform built on top of Facebook. It was co-founded by Berkley entrepreneurs Craig Tanner and Erik Moore. Currently in beta, the service enables viewers to watch movies on Facebook and share with their friends.

Filmmakers pay a $250 fee to set up a Facebook fan page that makes each film available, either for free to those who click the “Like” button — or for a rental price to generate revenue immediately. For example, a filmmaker can stream the movie to the first 1,000 viewers for free, hoping to generate buzz — and then if the film continues to prove popular via social networking, new viewers will pay a small fee ($1-$5) through PayPal for each 7-day rental.

Films can be viewed on a PC, mobile phone or tablet (the company is also working on Android, iPad and iPhone apps). The filmmakers keep 70 percent of the revenue while FlickLaunch keeps the other 30 percent.

The platform launches with the 720p streaming release of the urban crime thriller “Blues,” written and directed by Brandon Sonnier and distributed by Level 33 Entertainment.

Related Hollywood Reporter article: “Startup FlickLaunch Debuts Movie Distribution Platform” (5/11/11)