Archive for April, 2008

On TV and on the Web, "The Daily Show" sports an impressive political guest list

obama on jon stewart showI sometimes forget just how powerful Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” has become. On Monday, the night before the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, there was candidate Barack Obama chatting and laughing with Stewart.

It wasn’t eight months ago, when Obama first appeared on “The Daily Show.” It was the night before an important primary. Stewart obviously carries some serious clout — and not just on television. Every clip from “The Daily Show”, whether political or not, is available for free for streaming from the show’s Web site.

Today Comedy Central announced more notable political figures will appear as guests in the next two weeks as part of “Indecision 2008”: former President Jimmy Carter (April 28), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (April 29), Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean (May 1), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (May 5). You can expect many more politicos during the run-up to the November election.

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The Mobile Industry Wants You! (to tell them what you want in a cell phone)

mobile industry wants youSomething is going on here. Why does the mobile industry want us, the consumer, to develop its phones for them?

At the Wireless Innovations 2008 conference today in Redwood City, Calif., panelists predicted “radical changes to what customers expect and demand,” according to a Dow Jones report.

T-Mobile reps said its first Google-powered Android phone, due out in the fourth quarter, will be tailored to the consumer, and at the same time the consumer will tell the carriers what they want their mobile devices to do.

This will lead to an “avalanche” of innovation from consumers, panelists said.

As the Dow Jones report notes, “The time is ripe for innovators and start-ups to deliver what consumers want in new, possibly lucrative ways.”

At least four household-name companies are asking customers and third-party developers for input — Google, Apple, Nokia, and LG — and two of them (Apple and Nokia) are believed to have their acts together in the mobile space.

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Microsoft's "Mesh" wants to be your digital hub

Microsoft's Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled its much rumored “Mesh” platform, a service designed to be the hub of our digital lifestyles: “Imagine all your devices—PCs, and soon Macs and mobile phones—working together to give you anywhere access to the information you care about”.

Mesh – currently in limited Beta – “synchronizes data across multiple devices (currently just Windows computers, but theoretically it will extend to mobile and other devices in the future) as well as to a web desktop that exists in the cloud”, writes Josh Catone over at our sister blog ReadWriteWeb. The service also has a social aspect too, enabling collaboration and sharing. “It can sync data across devices used by a single user, as well as create shared spaces for multiple users”.

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Sony delays Home a second time; it's now a year behind schedule

sony homeLast100 editor Steve O’Hear asked me today why, in a post about Sony’s movie/TV download service for the PlayStation yesterday, did I use the phrase “may launch” in the headline.

I thought about it, and I guess it was an oversight. I should have been more concrete: Sony is launching a movie/TV download service for the PlayStation.

But I explained that there is something deeper in my psyche that probably chose “may launch”: I don’t trust Sony these days. This movie/TV download service isn’t the first one the company has tried, and it’s not the only one that’s been on the drawing board.

Today comes along the news that Sony is delaying the debut of Home, its Second Life-like 3D virtual online community service for the PlayStation 3. See what I mean? Home has now been delayed twice and is now at least a year behind schedule.

Sony now expects a test version of Home to be available this summer for a limited number of users in Japan, the U.S., and Europe. After getting user feedback and making tweaks, Sony will release a beta of Home for all PS3 owner to try this fall.

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Apple patent for real-time IM on iPhone hints at what's really to come

iphone patentFrom Day 1 of the iPhone’s existence, users have clamored for a real-time instant message client like iChat. Instead, they’ve been given a sub-par intermediate solution — SMS through the exclusive iPhone carrier network, AT&T.

When Apple announced its software developers kit (SDK) will be available for third-party application development in June, those who covet an iPhone IM client rejoiced, crossing and recrossing their fingers in hope.

On Tuesday, AppleInsider noted that Apple applied for a patent last August on a universal interface for a real-time chat service on the iPhone. The patent was recently published in March.

The patent details what the IM client would look like and how it would behave on the iPhone. Judging by images that accompany the patent, IM will look like the current SMS program and also be a bit iChat-esque.

When I heard of the patent, I wondered why Apple just didn’t wait for others to develop their own third-party IM clients — AOL for AIM, Google for Gtalk, Yahoo! for Messenger, and others. The answers I came up with were:

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Sony BMG joins Nokia's all-you-can-eat music service

Two down, two to go

Sony BMG signs on to Nokia's all-you-can-eat music serviceSony BMG today became the second major label to sign up to Nokia’s ‘Comes With Music’ service, whereby customers who buy a supported handset will get a year of unlimited access to “millions of tracks”. When Nokia first unveiled its all-you-can-eat music offering last December, Universal Music was the sole partner, a natural fit considering that the label has been busy touting its own flat-rate plan known as Total Music. However, the two remaining majors, EMI and Times Warner, have yet to commit to Nokia’s scheme.

The way ‘Comes With Music’ will work is as follows: Consumers who buy a supported Nokia device will have a year of access to Universal Music and Sony BMG’s music catalog, whereby they’ll be able to download tracks to both their mobile handset and Windows PC through the Nokia Music Store. After the year is up, they get to keep any downloaded tracks. To continue accessing new music, however, users are given “a number of attractive options” — aside from purchasing a new ‘Comes With Music’ device and starting another 12 month cycle, they can purchase tracks (download to-own) from the Nokia Music Store, or move on to a Nokia “unlimited access” subscription plan a la Rhapsody.

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Netflix: three more set-top box partners by end of year

Netflix: three more set-top box partners by end of yearNetflix’s ambitious Internet TV plans are forging ahead, with three new set-top box partners to integrate the company’s ‘Watch Now’ video streaming service into their products by the end of year. The company has previously announced a partnership with Korean manufacturer LG Electronics to stream movies, TV shows, and other content to LG high-definition televisions or set-top boxes by the second half of 2008.

During the company’s Q1 earnings conference call, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told analysts:

“We have LG plus three additional partners actively working on integrating our technology into their products… Three of the four partners are major companies, which each sell millions of devices per year and will enable the Netflix functionality in some of those devices likely in the fourth quarter of this year. The fourth partner is a small company, which will likely launch sooner than Q4.”

So who might these three additional hardware partners be?

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Let's hope Sony gets it right this time: may launch movie/TV download service for PlayStation

sony ps3Word that Sony may be again launching a movie and TV download service was met today with interest and a bit of much-deserved scoffing.

It’s not like Sony hasn’t tried this before. Remember Movielink? Thought so. (It was sold to Blockbuster, by the way.) Remember Sony Connect? It shut down in March.

Heck, since the monumental success of the Walkman ages ago — in an analog world far, far away — Sony has pretty much failed at every digital offering, minus the early PlayStations and some home theater equipment. The whole digital music thing passed Sony by as Apple took over the Walkman mantle with the iPod, iTunes, and the rest of its digital lifestyle ecosystem.

The Los Angeles Times today reported that Sony is again in talks with Hollywood muckety-mucks regarding a download service that would beam movies and television shows from the Internet to the PlayStation 3.

But because said muckety-mucks are hush-hush over the negotiations, not much else is known — no pricing or if the movies and TV shows are for rent or purchase. One tantalizing tidbit, however, is being floated about.

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We7 signs new indies, Sony BMG streaming by end of month

We7 signs news indies, Sony BMG streaming by end of monthWe7, the UK-based free, advertising-supported online music service backed by Peter Gabriel, has announced new licensing deals with three leading independent labels and distributors: IRIS, InGrooves and BFM Digital. The move adds a further 200,000 tracks to We7’s catalog (now totaling 750,000+), which offers free ad-supported downloads from other independent labels including Sanctuary Records, V2 and Nettwerk.

In early March, the company also unveiled its first major label partner, Sony BMG, who by the end of this month will begin offering free streaming of its music catalog to We7 users in the UK. Sony BMG’s roster includes international artists Bruce Springsteen, Westlife and Foo Fighters, along with British talent such as Mark Ronson, Kasabian and Leona Lewis. In additional to ad-supported streaming, users will be given the option to purchase and download tracks outright, either through We7 or on iTunes.

The partnership with IRIS gives We7 access to music from independent labels such as Scion, Chemikal Underground, Subliminal and Big Dada, while the deal with InGrooves secures tracks from ESL Music, VP Records, Chocolate Industries and A2M Distribution, and BFM Digital distributes labels such as Cristal Records, Disk Eyes and Ana Records.

Disclaimer: We7 is currently a last100 sponsor.

Also see: Q&A: We7 CEO Steve Purdham and Is free legal music service Qtrax too good to be true?

Viacom, Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate form 'game changing' joint venture

If you were going to announce a new ‘game changing’ joint venture involving four leading Hollywood studios, you wouldn’t choose to do it on a Sunday, right? Because that’s precisely what Viacom, Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate have done, with their newly formed premium TV channel and VOD service, which will be rolled out in the fall of 2009.

While details given in the press release are thin on the ground, plastered over by a very generous helping of hyperbole, the yet-to-be named “Innovative Premium Entertainment Service” will offer new and classic feature films and original TV programing from each of the studios involved, and in what looks like a major shake up of the traditional U.S. pay TV market (lookout HBO, Showtime and Starz), the joint venture will have first access to upcoming films such as “Iron Man,” “Star Trek,” “The Pink Panther 2,” “Cloverfield” and “Robocop.” The combined back catalog will also cover classic hits such as “Dirty Dancing,” “Reservoir Dogs,” “Crash,” “Braveheart,” “Forrest Gump,” the “Godfather” series and the Rocky and James Bond franchises, notes Hollywood Reporter.

However, of more significance to last100, the new joint venture will have a strong online component, according to an interview given to paidContent by Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman: “As we go forward and make further announcements, you will see that this will be oriented toward the consumer. It will also meet the needs of varying distributors and take advantage of online distribution…innovative both in presenting the content and in distributing it.” Dauman says that the joint venture will enable the studios involved to have greater control over their own destiny compared to traditional distribution deals, in terms of what they can and can’t offer online during competing release windows. This suggests to me that we may see paid-for downloads of premium content offered at the same time as pay TV.