Archive for January, 2009

Should Nokia release a Netbook?

If 2008 was the year of the Netbook, is it too late for Nokia to jump on the bandwagon? Mikey Bee of doesn’t thing so, noting that while the company talked up its recently announced N97 smartphone for its Netbook-like qualities (despite featuring a comparatively small 3.5 inch screen), it also fazed out the WiMAX version of its rather long in the tooth N810 Internet Tablet, perhaps paving the way for a new Nokia device designed primarily for surfing the web.

See also: Hands-on: Nokia’s N810 Internet Tablet

How might a Nokia ‘Netbook’ shape up? Were the company to release such a device, I’d expect it to follow many of the design lines of its existing Internet Tablet range, powered by the Linux-based Maemo OS but featuring a larger screen (topping out at 7 inches). Rather than a slide out keyboard, I think a more traditional clam shell design should be incorporated, a major part of the appeal of existing Netbooks (as apposed to less popular tablet PCs or UMPCs). Software-wise, the device would tie into all of the company’s web services, including Share on Ovi, along with support for third-party social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, which could easily be added through widgets on the home screen, just like the existing N810 User Interface and that used on the upcoming N97.

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Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate's new 'premium' film channel to debut online first

The new ‘premium’ film channel announced last April as a joint venture between Viacom (Paramount), MGM and Lionsgate now has a name and a launch date, but, interestingly, no traditional distribution. At least not yet.

Instead, the US-only ‘channel’, now named “Epix”, will debut online in May — five months before its planned TV launch in October — and will use a subscription-based rather than Pay-Per-View model. The initial film lineup will feature “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Iron Man”, and “Pink Panther 2”, along with other titles, including classic Bond movies, from the studios’ 15,000 strong combined libraries.

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Distribution is King and other takeaways from Netflix Q4 earnings call

As readers of this blog will know, I’ve been very impressed with how Netflix is transforming itself into an online video offering or at least becoming less reliant on its core DVD rental subscription business. In particular, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the pace at which Netflix has managed to get its ‘Watch Instantly’ streaming service embedded into third-party consumer electronics (CE) devices, including networked Blu-ray and DVD players, Internet-connected TVs, set-top boxes and Microsoft’s XBox 360 games console.

The strategy appears to be paying off, with the company announcing strong Q4 results attributed in part to subscriber acquisitions resulting from the CE partnerships and related marketing and press.

During the Q4 earnings call, CEO Reed Hastings gave further insight into the thinking behind Netflix’s video streaming efforts. Here are some of the key takeaways…

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Amid layoffs, Vudu concedes its future lies outside of its own set-top box

Despite making its own range of set-top boxes, including two high end devices aimed at home theatre enthusiasts, Vudu’s future ultimately lies outside of building its own hardware, says the company.

“We’re a software company first and foremost,” Vudu co-founder Tony Miranz tells The set-top movie box service had to design and manufacture its own hardware in order to sell the concept to third-party consumer electronics companies, says Miranz.  The plan now is to “try to piggyback on TVs, DVD players and other classes of devices.”

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If buggy smartphones are the "new reality", here's some free advice for handset makers

It’s an honest yet unwelcome admission: rushing devices to market with buggy and unfinished software is the “new reality” in the smartphone space, RIM’s co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie tells the Wall Street Journal. When the company released its iPhone competitor, the Blackberry Storm, it met its Black Friday deadline by “the skin of their teeth”, only for the device to be widely slammed by critics for its many software glitches, most of which, RIM claims, have now been addressed by a firmware update.

RIM’s story isn’t an isolated one. The majority of smartphones that I’ve tested over the last year, admittedly some were “pre-production” models, had issues with the software on which they run on. The problem should be addressed in a forthcoming software update, I’m almost always told, and more often than not it is.


And there lies the biggest problem.

While “release early and release often” might be the new smartphone reality, timing is everything. Here’s some free advice for smartphone makers…

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Zatz Not Funny: Internet TV widgets, iPhone shortcomings, Boxee set-top box and more

A periodic roundup of relevant news from our friends at Zatz Not Funny

Yahoo’s Internet TV widget platform

Dave Zatz: The biggest story of CES, given our focus here at ZNF, was the unveiling of Yahoo’s Internet TV platform. Of course, just as meaningful as the technology itself, are the multiple heavy hitting partners signed to deploy it beginning this spring.

iPhone shortcomings?

Dave Zatz: The Boy Genius is out with his top ten iPhone annoyances. While several can be filed as minutiae that won’t bother most folks to any great extent, I’ve yet to meet the perfect handset. The iPhone is no different, possessing a variety of quirks and limitations.

Boxee, finally living up to square name?

Dave Zatz: The Boxee team, flush with cash and excellent exposure, is seeking feedback on the prospect of directly embedding their experience into a hardware platform.

Evolution of the Verizon Hub

Mari Silbey: Tech specs are still fuzzy, but what we do know is that this is a POTS-based cordless phone system with a touchscreen for Internet access and integration with Verizon wireless and VoIP phone services. It’s meant to act as a digital photo frame, note board, family calendar, and widget station all at once.

What if Apple sued Palm, would Microsoft come to the rescue?

When the iPhone first launched at Macworld in 2007, I distinctly remember Apple CEO Steve Jobs boasting that the company had over 200 patents on this thing. At the time, that boast stuck out like a sore thumb as I couldn’t recall Apple making such a fuss over patents before.

Attempting to ‘protect’ one’s intellectual property through patent applications is something that large tech companies do every day. But the fact that Jobs felt the need to highlight this in relation to the iPhone told its own story: Apple was onto something big and it fully expected others to copy many of the iPhone’s ‘innovations’, such as the device’s multi-touch User Interface and related gestures to manipulate content.

Two years on and although we’ve seen many so-called iPhone “killers” from the likes of Google, Nokia, Samsung, HTC and RIM, none of them have dared to go as far as implementing a multi-touch UI.

Until just over a week ago, that is, when Palm unveiled its new Pre smartphone and accompanying webOS, which includes a capacative multi-touch display and relies heavily on gestures for navigation. None of which has gone unnoticed by Apple.

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Will audio ads on Pandora help it swim back across the pond?

It won’t be popular, yet Pandora’s decision to introduce audio ads is almost certainly necessary to keep the service running and, therefore, something I welcome. Especially if it helps bring the service back to the UK.

Rolled out with little fanfare, besides an acknowledgment on the company’s Twitter feed, the music streaming service has started serving audio ads, reports TechCrunch. While they do interrupt the music, the ads are “fairly sparse”, says Jason Kincaid. And I’ll have to take his word for it.

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Mike Arrington's CrunchPad web tablet reaches prototype but should it go into production?

Six months on from TechCrunch editor Mike Arrington’s stated mission to create a “dead simple and dirt cheap touch screen web tablet to surf the web” and the first fully working prototype has been unveiled.

The device, which is now being called the ‘CrunchPad’, sports a 12 inch resistive 4:3 touchscreen, Via processor and 4GB of storage, virtual on-screen keyboard and is powered by a version of Linux and a custom WebKit browser. It’s primary use is for surfing the web, perhaps while watching TV “so you can look up stuff on Wikipedia or IMDB as you channel surf”, writes Arrington. Or as another means to consume online video (“on Hulu or Joost or wherever”) and other content, as well as check email or access other web services such as Google Docs.

See also: How do you use your Netbook?

In other words, just like existing Netbooks, the CrunchPad is designed for the Cloud, in which our data and applications increasingly reside on remote servers, accessible through a standard web browser.

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Weekly wrapup: YouTube on PS3 and Wii, DivX 7, Blockbuster/CinemaNow, Palm and more

Here’s a summary of the last 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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Internet TV

10 feet away: YouTube lands on PS3 and Wii

Perhaps taking a leaf out of the BBC iPlayer’s book, Google-owned YouTube have launched a version of the video sharing site designed specifically for viewing on a television.

DivX 7 adds support for Blu-ray rips

DivX looks set to continue to be the video format of choice for ‘grey’ content, with the company announcing that version 7 adds support for H.264 video and, more significantly, the Matroska (MKV) container.

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