Archive for September, 2007

Do we really need live TV on our cell phones?

mobile tvElectronicsWeekly posted an article today on mobile TV, asking “What is needed to make it fly?” After a moment or two, my cynical side answered, “an audience” and “a compelling reason” to watch live television on a phone.

I took a quick inventory of myself and others I’ve watched using cell phones during various design research projects. When we’re mobile, we’re usually active, which isn’t necessarily good for watching live TV on a small device. And there are times when we’re mobile but stationary — like at the doctor’s office, waiting for a movie to start, sitting on a plane — and mobile television might come in handy then.

But when this happens, I usually pull out some content I’ve prepared myself or bought from the iTunes Music Store or Amazon’s Unbox. I’ve seen others do the same with their iPods with video, iPhones, or other portable entertainment devices.

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UK iPhone details announced

iPhone UKAs expected, Apple’s special London press event was dedicated to the UK launch of the iPhone. With around one hundred journalists gathered at the company’s flagship Regent Street store, CEO Steve Jobs — joined by O2 UK boss Matthew Key (no surprise there) — gave full details of the device’s UK pricing and carrier details.

  • The iPhone will go on sale in the UK on November the 9th (customers can pre-register their interest).
  • UK price for the device is £269 (inc. tax)
  • O2 will be the carrier, with Carphone Warehouse partnering for retail
  • Tariffs will start at £35, which all include “unlimited” mobile data usage — 18 month contract
  • No 3G, the UK iPhone uses EDGE for data, exactly the same as the U.S. version
  • iTunes WiFi store comes to the UK by the end of the month

One more thing…

While almost all of the details above were pre-leaked, there was one surprise. UK iPhone customers will get free access to 7,000 public WiFi spots throughout the country — provided by The Cloud.

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Review: SpiralFrog's ad-supported music download service

spiralfrogRest at ease, iTunes. SpiralFrog is no prince.

SpiralFrog is an ad-supported free-music download site that launched today after nearly five years of development and a year of beta testing. It boasts 800,000 songs and 3,500 videos available for download … free of charge.

The catch, of course, is that you must view advertising in order to download DRM-protected music and video. SpiralFrog is built on a revenue-sharing agreement with participating labels, and your eyeballs pay for the music.

In addition to viewing ads while searching for and downloading music, SpiralFrog requires you to log in to the site and view ads at least once every 30 days, or the downloaded music for the account becomes disabled.

Tracks from SpiralFrog also cannot be burned to a CD or transfered to an iPod, the top-selling digital music player, although files can be sent to two Windows Media Player-compatible devices or cell phones. (FAQ.)

While getting free music is compelling, I doubt SpiralFrog will knock the iTunes Music Store off its perch because, at least for me, the site was frustratingly slow (chalk this up to a lot of interest on launch day) and the interface to browse and download made me feel like I was querying a database and not thumbing through a digital record bin like iTunes.

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eMusic to start selling DRM-free audio books

eMusic to start selling DRM-free audio bookseMusic has revealed plans to start selling audiobooks, which, like the company’s existing digital music offerings, will utilize the DRM-free and ubiquitous mp3 format — the first time that major book publishers have offered their audio content for download without copy-protection.

Customers will be given the choice of various download-to-own subscriptions packages, starting at $9.99 for one audiobook download per-month. The service will initially launch with around 1,000 titles from various publishers including: Random House Audio, Hachette Audio, and Penguin Audio — with “hundreds more” added each week, according to Macworld UK.

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Winamp goes where iTunes doesn't dare

WinampWinamp, that staple of media players, will soon turn 10! And its not letting it pass without a bang. On the 10th of October at 10:10am, Winamp 5.5 (PC-only) will be released sporting two new and potentially controversial features: support for mp3 blogs and the ability to stream your music collection over the Internet (a Beta version is available here).

Cashing in on the growing popularity of mp3 blogs, and the lack of tools to take advantage of them, Winamp’s Media Monitor can be used in conjunction with the software’s built-in browser to access any mp3s linked to on a blog page, presented as a playlist or even downloaded to your library. Winamp also includes handy links to a dozen or so music blogs to get you started.

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Weekly wrapup, 10 – 14 September 2007

Here’s a summary of the week’s digital lifestyle action on last100. Note that you can subscribe to the weekly wrapups, either via the special weekly wrapup RSS feed or by email.

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Top digital lifestyle news

The biggest digital lifestyle news this week was in the digital music space. UK mobile carrier Vodafone announced that it will offer Omnifone’s MusicStation service, which has been hailed as the most significant online music venture since iTunes. For a weekly fee of £1.99 (just over $4) users can “download” and share with other MusicStation users as much music as they want. Most importantly, this fee covers all data charges, which can be costly and have kept people from downloading more music and utilizing the carriers’ 3G networks. All four music labels are taking part in MusicStation — the Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, EMI, and Warner.

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MySpaceTV taps creative professionals for new shows

17-freshman-15.jpgFirst there were TV-like shows on the Internet: “LonelyGirl 15”. Then came big-name backers upping the quality ante: Michael Eisner’s “Prom Queen.” Now we’re seeing the creative professionals of TV Land and Hollywood getting into the mix.

MySpaceTV has teamed up with Seventeen, the teen-ager magazine, to produce a new Web series, “Freshman 15”, which launched this week. “Freshman 15” is a reality show that follows 15 girls as they experience college life for the first time.

And in November, two big-time movie and TV producers will debut an original series, “Quarterlife”, also on MySpaceTV. Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick have made films like “Blood Diamond” and “The Last Samurai” and television series such as “thirtysomething” and “My So Called Life.”

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Online video usage on the up; YouTube still dominates

Online video usage on the up; YouTube still dominatesAmericans are watching more streaming online video than ever and the big winner continues to be Google-owned YouTube.

The comScore Video Metrix report for July 2007 — which looked at the usage of streaming video sites only — reveals that nearly 75 percent of U.S. Internet users watched videos online, up from 71.4 percent in March, and the average viewing time per-month was just under three hours.

Google-owned video sites (which basically means YouTube) lead in terms of unique viewers, grabbing 37.6% of the market (67.8 million), with Fox Interactive in second place with 19.9% (35.8 million) and Yahoo! Sites a close third with 19.6% (35.3 million).

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Sony execs hoping Home and PS3 will become a family activity

sony homeGames journalist Steve Boxer recently interviewed three Sony executives on the influence of Web 2.0 on gaming, a product the company is developing called SingStar, and its new virtual environment, Home. What caught my eye, and got me thinking, was the admonition that Home will pull in a wider audience to the PS3.

Here’s what Peter Edward, the director of the PlayStation Home Platform Group, had to say:

Let’s be honest, most of the purchasers of PS3s are classic 18 to 34 (year-old) males right now, but there are lots of other family members and friends who might see [core gamers] using Home and think: ‘That looks like fun. I’m not normally the sort of person who would use a PS3, but let’s have a go with it.’

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Apple gears up for UK iPhone launch; mum is no longer the word

U.S. readers look away. UK readers rejoice.

iphone_uk_mum.pngApple has sent out invitations for a special press event to be held next Tuesday at the company’s flagship store in London. The email carries the cryptic message “mum is no longer the word”, suggesting that a previously kept secret will be no more. Our guess, along with Reuters and just about every everybody else, is that Apple will reveal its plans for the UK launch of the iPhone, including carrier details and pricing.

Of course, “mum” may already no longer be the word, if the UK iPhone’s carrier turns out to Spanish Telefonica’s O2 , as everybody suspects it is. Why else would O2 CEO Peter Erskine be talking up Apple’s insistence on sharing call and data revenue with operators.

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