Parks Associates Blog

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Syabas: Roku Ain't the Only Game in Town!

Thanks to the folks at Syabas, who reached out to me at CES and set up a briefing. We've known Syabas as a company in the "CE middleware" space that provides media server and DLNA-based softare. We covered them in our 2008 report Home Servers and Consumer Storage: Analysis and Forecasts.

Syabas has some interesting solutions in the connected CE space that are focused on the delivery of premium Web content to a variety of consumer electronics devices. As you'll recall, I spent quite a bit of time at CES talking to a number of companies in the "widget on the TV" space. Although the Intel and Yahoo! Widget Channel solution got a lot of attention at CES, it's not the only game in town. Companies from AnySource Media, Oregan Networks, Opera Software, Dreamer, and others are all quite active in the "Web on CE" market.

Syabas' solutions in this space include the Networked Media Tank, SayaTV, and the Media Service Portal. I'm interested in learning more about how these solutions can interact with standards such as DLNA and would be combined with silicon to create a networked CE device capable of receiving a variety of rich media from the Internet.

However, there's a lot more to the Syabas story than software. They offer a product called Popcorn Hour that can pull in content from networked devices and streamed content from the Internet. This product is available in a wide variety of markets, including North America, Europe, and Asia. In fact, many of the reviews that I've read are coming from international markets, where online video use is high, and a product that can bring Web video to the TV is going to be in strong demand. The Popcorn Hour/Networked Media Tank A-110 was an award winner at the 2009 Storage Visions Conference. The folks at Syabas say that it will deliver content from multiple formats and protected under a variety of DRM schemes. They also indicate that Media Service Portal gives them the ability to quickly add content to an easy-to-use interface that organizes the Web content on the TV screen. One thing that Popcorn Hour is able to do is pull in information about most-watched programming and bring that up for easy viewing.

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I Want My MTV - Shifted

I think that 2009 could be the year of significant development of "place-shifting" solutions for the television service providers. First, EchoStar unveiled the DVR 922 at CES, which includes the SlingLoaded technology to place-shifted recorded content.

Second, DISH Networks has reportedly acquired a license for Viacom's content.

Third, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cox Communications are reported to be in discussions with programmers on new terms to carriage deals that would allow them to shift the content to Internet-enabled devices.

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Are the U.S. and U.K. Strategies on Broadband Going to Do the Job?

Interesting that complaints were raised both in the U.S. and the U.K. this week regarding the broadband deployment strategies (or lack thereof) of the respective federal governments.

Although the current economic stimulus packages in Congress include $6-$9 billion in broadband-related funding, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a number of mid-sized operators are indicating that this won't cover the costs of deploying infrastructure to underserved areas, which is supposed to be a focus of the funding. The funding currently covers both new buildout and upgrades to existing networks.

In the U.K., the government released Digital Britain, which promises broadband to every U.K. household by 2012. However, critics are harsh in their reviews, saying the report offers no real concrete plans for how to accomplish this. I love how BBC News put it:

But the Conservatives said the report promised "no new action". The Lib Dems said it was a "complete damp squib".

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Amazon was the online shopping site of choice in Q4

Jeff Bezos' claim that had its best holiday season ever was not overstated, it would appear. And, the Kindle appears to be a hit. reported an 18% increase in net sales in Q4 over last year (that's North America; their international segment sales were actually up 19%).

From The Wall Street Journal: Amazon has also broadened its offerings with its own products, such as the Kindle ebook reader. But the company has struggled to meet demand for the device, which sold out quickly each of the past two holiday seasons.

Mr. Bezos said the Kindle was driving incremental book sales. "When people buy a Kindle, they continue to buy the same number of physical books going forward as they did before they owned a Kindle. Incrementally, they buy 1.6 to 1.7 Kindle books for every physical book that they buy."

Compare's fourth-quarter success to eBay's struggles. eBay reported a $145M decline in Q4 revenue.

Although overall e-commerce revenue fell in the fourth quarter,'s share grew to 10%, whereas eBay's share fell to 17% (from The Wall Street Journal).

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BSkyB's Earnings Report: Glimmers of Hope?

If you're a fan of sweaters and haggis (and looking for work), BSkyB is hiring!

We resolved this week that we would do our best to report on some positive news coming from the digital lifestyles industry. Let's face it - this past week has been a beat-down, with news of more job shedding taking place. Certainly, 2009 is starting rough, but we think that there are some positive things to note.

BSkyB's latest earnings report contained some good news. The satellite service provider netted 170,000 new customers in Q4, and it is the U.K.'s fastest growing broadband and telephone service provider. The company credits its high-definition offerings (Sky+ HD) and its bundling opportunities as growth catalysts. Sky notes that seven million U.K. households have HD-ready TVs, and this is expected to double by the end of the decade. Sky also has room to significantly expand its bundled customers. Currently, only 13% of Sky customers are triple-play customers.

Here's an interesting statistic: average TV viewing in the U.K. grew 3% in 2008, to 3.7 hours per day.

Although we are all going to feel the pinch of the economic downturn, it will be interesting to track the results from service providers around the world and see how they're faring. As Jayant Dasari wrote earlier in the week, Verizon's fourth-quarter earnings report had some positive news, and both AT&T and Verizon are looking to their wireless business to boost their revenues. So far, that business appears healthy. On the cable side, Time Warner Cable will report on February 4, and Comcast will report on February 18. We'll be interested to see those results.

We had written back in December about the opportunities presented with service providers to deliver value-based bundles and to up their in-home entertainment offerings as consumers look to hunker down, reduce out-of-home expenditures, and take advantage of their high-definition TVs and home theater systems.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Dell Rumored to Enter the Smartphone Race

When I posted my last blog about Android’s market traction, I left out a name: Dell Computer. According to today’s Wall Street Journal, Dell is close to completing the design of an Android-based smartphone. Dell’s spokesperson declined to comment on specifics, saying the company “hasn’t committed to anything.”

Should Dell count on smartphones to revive its sales and brand? The smartphone is a hot product category, but Dell is a newcomer to the mobile phone space. It would have to contend with sluggish consumer spending and fierce competition from category leaders Apple, RIM, and Samsung while at the same time building carrier relationships and retail presence. That series of tasks might be too complex an undertaking for a company in transition. Dell might be able to navigate through it, but there's also the risk that its smartphone will end up with the same mediocre sales figures as its Digital Jukebox (its MP3 player brand) or PDA products.

On the other hand, Dell’s entry into the netbook market is a sound move. This segment is an extension of the mainstream PC market. If Dell can make a netbook as thin as Apple’s latest Macbook, its product could be a resounding success. What could be another product segment with strong growth potential? Has Dell considered designing a digital book reader like’s Kindle? This product category is still evolving, meaning there is plenty of opportunity to improve form factor, function, and ease-of-use. Dell would be able to score better ROI in this product category than with the smartphone.

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Double the Online Ads? This Pill is Hard to Swallow.

At the NATPE conference, shared new research data (conducted in partnership with Nielsen Media Research) that shows online TV viewers would tolerate double the current online ad placements. The research also revealed that increasing the number of brands as well as the commercials in an online TV program is not only effective but increases ad recall.

The first thing that comes to mind is…Really? I’m a big proponent of understanding what ad types and placements are most preferred by the viewer/consumer. For example, what ad formats/placements are most preferred online? What type of targeted TV commercial will increase engagement and decrease ad avoidance? Do consumers what to see ads on their mobile phone? And what type of mobile ad is most appealling? Does ad relevancy matter? The only true way to answer these questions is to consult the viewer/consumer.

Well, apparently and Nielsen have done just that because their research shows online TV viewers are okay with double the current commercial load in their online TV programs. Really? But then again, found somewhat similar results as detailed in this blog.

Will advertisers and/or ad agencies swallow this pill? According to the Ad Age article, Donna Speciale of MediaVest Worldwide warns the danger is finding “that very fine line and balance before we push them over the edge of being pissed.”

If you would like a small sample of what the viewer really thinks of’s new data read the Your Opinion section of the Ad Age article (see hyperlink above).

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Updates from Sonos

The Sonos team sent out an update on their progress yesterday. From all counts, the business of selling high-quality multi-room networked audio systems is good for the company. Is the introduction of the Cisco Wireless Audio system a threat? Well, you have to admire the moxie of the Sonos team. They view Cisco's entry as "an opportunity to educate even more music lovers about the Sonos experience. With any nascent market, competition is a good thing as it exposes more consumers to a category."

Here are some interesting notes about Sonos' business:
  • In 2008, Sonos had 25% YOY growth in zone registrations and over 32% YoY growth in new households. Not bad in down economy.
  • 27% of Sonos households are using the Sonos Controller for iPhone. You think the rest of the CE industry isn't salivating in thinking about what the iPhone could bring to the control of their networked products?
  • More than 60% of Sonos customers in the US are now using at least one music service with their Sonos. I would think that Best Buy would be awfully interested in carrying more networked audio systems if it could mean more Napster music sales and subscriptions.

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Cisco gets into the building management space

On January 27, 2009, Cisco announced that it was acquiring a company that provides middleware to bridge between the IT and building management systems. Cisco says that the acquisition of Richards-Zeta Building Intelligence can allow IT systems - including servers, phones, Telepresence, digital signage, and networking equipment - to be managed in much the same way as security, HVAC, and other building management systems.

CNET reported yesterday that this acquisition plays into some strategies that Cisco already has underway in energy management as an IT application. Cisco has a solution called EnergyWise, which is software that can be added as a free upgrade to software is a free upgrade to Cisco Catalyst switches that can monitor and manage how energy is used on IP-connected devices, including phones and wireless routers. This summer Cisco will release a version, based on Verdiem's Surveyor PC management software, that reduces energy levels of PCs. With EnergyWise, a company can set policies on energy use, allowing PCs or networking equipment to go into sleep mode after work hours, for example.

The Richards-Zeta integration could provide some interesting features for large buildings or for large campus settings (Cisco's own huge campus will probably be the first beneficiary). I think that the tie-in to digital signage, where different meeting or conference rooms are centrally scheduled, can be quite useful. When the central calendar notes that Conference Room A is not scheduled for any meetings, the room can be set to an unoccupied mode, where lights are turned off, the temperature is adjusted accordingly, and so forth. I would think that colleges would be looking for an integrated system that could help manage both communications and building management infrastructure.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

G1, Android, and Cupcake

T-Mobile USA announced that Google Android-based G1 smartphone is now available in all markets nationwide. Previously, it was only sold in T-Mobile’s 3G service markets. Although the carrier has not publicly discussed the G1’s sales figure, Morgan Stanley projected around 300,000 unit G1 sales in 4Q08 for the carrier. Contrasting this number, Taiwan’s HTC (G1’s maker) in early January said that G1’s 2008 shipments reached the company’s one million goal as first reported by DigiTimes. Since G1 was only available in the U.S. and U.K. in 2008, the Morgan Stanley number looks a bit low unless either T-Mobile intentionally stocked up G1 during the holiday season or sell-through was very poor.

Entering into 2009, G1 will become available in additional countries. T-Mobile will introduce it to Netherlands, Czech Republic, and Austria in January, and to Germany and Poland in February. Expanded availability, like in the U.S. will favor G1 sales. But on the other hand, the competition is up too. Google’s Android will be featured in other smartphone models. Sprint and Motorola reportedly showed interest in the Android platform, and Huawei, Samsung, and Kogan (an Australian CE maker) are working on Android-based models. Competition also comes from other mobile brands. Apple’s iPhone is clearly the biggest threat, but Blackberry’s Storm also had decent sales in the past quarter (500K as reported by the Wall Street Journal).

More exciting to G1 users is the news (or rumor) that an Android update is coming soon. Codenamed “Cupcake,” the update will bring new features to the phone’s visual display and add a new on-screen interactive keyboard, among many other hyped features. There are even rumors that G1 will get multi-touch feature in the future. Of course, with today’s news regarding Apple's multi-touch related patents, vendors will rush to consult with their lawyers to figure out if their multi-touch feature is free of IP troubles.

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Verizon delivers solid numbers & approves DTV delay

Verizon announced solid earnings this morning much to the relief of the analyst community. Wireless came in as the strongest segment as was expected. Wireless revenues for Q4-08 were $12.8B up 12.3% (YoY) compared to the wireline segment which contributed $11.9B to the top line down 2.7%(YoY). Verizon added ~1.2 million post paid wireless subs last quarter compared to ~2 million the quarter before. The only concerning factor was the slight increase in the churn rate which was recorded at 1.35% towards the end of 2008.

Verizon has taken definitive steps towards stemming their losses from land line losses. The recent launch of the 'Hub' is a sound strategy in adding on other broadband enabled services to vanilla VoIP service to present a better value proposition to consumers looking towards wireless substitution.

On a separate note, DTV conversion has been pushed out to June 12. While this makes sense from a consumer point of view, the investors in the spectrum will likely pay dearly in the form of lost quarters. Two quarters is precious time for companies such as Qualcomm and other wireless operators as they work towards stabilizing their new network builds.

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Parks Associates finds monitoring revenues keeping home security industry afloat during recession

New report reveals monitoring makes up 75% of home security revenues --

Monitoring revenues are still the financial bedrock of the U.S. security industry, constituting 75% of all revenue, according to Home Systems: Home Security Update, which reports monitoring will cushion this market during the recession.

This new report from Parks Associates finds the number of monitored security households intending to cancel their service is only 4-8% higher than normal due to the economic downturn. The report also warns that the resilience of this service category will attract new competitors.

Home Systems: Home Security Update reports the number of monitoring service subscribers will not increase as quickly now as in past years due to the drop in new starts and the lower number of households moving into new residences. However, the current base of customers shows a predilection to keep their monitoring services and will even tolerate a small fee increase.
For more information, click here.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Parks Associates Supports World Health Care Congress Event

Parks Associates is supporting the 6th Annual World Health Care Congress event in Washington D.C. from April 14-16, 2009.

The World Health Care Congress is the most prestigious meeting of chief and senior executives from all sectors of health care. The 2009 conference will convene over 2,000 CEOs, senior executives and government officials from the nation's largest employers, hospitals, health systems, health plans, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, and leading government agencies.

To view more information about the 70 Dynamic Sessions on Disruptive Innovations, Health Care Reform, and Prevention, click here to view the 3 day agenda.

To view the event brochure, click here.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Verizon One - A clue to service provider CPE spending?

Verizon has released the Hub, which looks to be an enhancement to the 'Verizon One Communications Center' and a good example of fixed-mobile communications convergence in the telco space. The Wall Street Journal provided a write-up on this today.

The new home phone, called the Hub, aims to retain existing landline customers and attract other carriers' customers, the company said. The phone will deliver streaming video services and work with Verizon Wireless text messaging and location services.

Verizon Communication's Internet phone for the home offers streaming video and a location-finding service for Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon and Vodafone Group PLC, will sell the phone in its retail stores beginning Feb. 1. It costs $199 after a $50 rebate. Customers must sign a two-year contract with a monthly charge of $35.

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AT&T's ConnecTech - Tech Support

When people ask me about which particular segments of the digital lifestyle market will continue to grow despite our current economic conditions, one area that I continually point out are the digital home tech support services. These can include the retail-based services (best known by Geek Squad), the remote PC support space, warranty services, home network management software, security services (Symantec, McAfee, Radialpoint, F-Secure, etc.), remote management and residential gateway software providers (2Wire, Cisco, Jungo/NDS, etc.) and even pre-purchase/subscription advice services like Retrevo.

There was an interesting article in Smart Money this past week about the tech support market, with some pretty significant numbers provided. I estimate that the remote PC support business in 2008 was already $650 million - just in the U.S.! Others put Geek Squad's business at between $1 and $2 billion!

There are plenty of third-party services that are out there, but I'm really intrigued by what service providers can be doing to add value to basic broadband and television service offerings, increase customer satisfaction, and even build new revenue streams. We've written about the opportunities for service providers to take advantage of the digital home tech support space in several recent reports, notably Enabling Solutions for a Rich Broadband Experience and Networks in the Home: The Global Service Provider Play. We also had an interesting conversation at our CONNECTIONS™ Summit at CES about the evolution of tech support services. Bill Stanley from Telcordia followed up that panel with some responses to additonal questions I asked about how they are working with the service provider industry.

What I find interesting about the way that service providers are approaching the tech support space is that vendors are telling me that their conversations have moved away from the folks who are in charge of the customer support call centers and to the people heading up marketing efforts. I think that this may provide a clue as to how these services are being positioned within the service provider community - more as revenue-generating services than cost-saving efforts. We shouldn't downplay the role that enhanced customer support tools are going to play in helping to reduce call center volume and costs - I think that OPEX savings are going to be a critical element to making the service provider business more efficient. On the other hand, I think that some forward-thinking service providers see a real opportunity to create some new businesses that focus on helping their subscribers deal with the complexities of the digital home.

Starting with BT's Home IT Advisor service, I'm seeing more telcos get into the business of deploying tech support services. The most recent offering is AT&T's ConnecTech service, which has been advertised heavily in Dallas - I seem to hear their radio commercial every morning on my drive to work. ConnecTech is aimed at consumers, whereas their Tech Support 360 provides support for small and medium businesses. Among the services offered ConnecTech are:
  • PC and home network installation;
  • Computer services and in-home support;
  • Television and home theater set-up and consultation; and
  • Phone and remote support.

Verizon also has Expert Care is a subscription-based ($14.99/month) service for PC support. They also have put together a number of "Protection Paks" that include insurance/replacement services for consumer electronics, phone, and other home equipment (in the case of a power surge, for example).

Verizon actually cites our numbers about the number of U.S. households that experience a PC-related problem in any given year - 41 million households experiencing issues with Internet security, 20 million+ having problems with home PC hardware and software, etc. Those figures were generated in our 2006 survey Managing the Digital Home: Installation and Support Services. We are about to go to field with our next study on consumers and technical support services: Customer Support in the Digital Home. I'm really interested to see what the consumer demand is for a variety of tech support services.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Come Test the Waters at “The Pool”

The WSJ featured an article today announcing the formation of “The Pool.”

Lead by Publicis Groupe’s Starcom MediaVest and VivaKi, The Pool is a consortium of six major media companies including Microsoft, Yahoo!, CBS Interactive, and as well as several marketers. The Pool was assembled with hopes to increase online video ad revenue by developing effective ad format standards and identifying which online video ad formats are most preferred by online viewers.

The group will test five different online video ad forms in a focus group setting. The top two ad formats will be subject to beta testing on the media companies’ websites. Starcom MediaVest and VivaKi clients participating in the Pool will help test the preferred ad formats during the beta test.

I found this announcement particularly interesting as it confirmed my position as detailed in a blog I recently wrote, In 2009, Make Consumer Ad Preferences Priority One. I anxiously await the results!

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Johnson and Johnson in an Acquisition Mood?

J&J, the world’s largest consumer and healthcare product company reported annual sales figures yesterday. CEO William Weldon told analysts that the company is prepared to make selected acquisitions to strengthen its position in the healthcare side. These are his words:

“This economic environment creates opportunities we may never see again, so we need to be in a position to go after them.”

To elaborate on his thoughts, Mr. Weldon indicated that two of the areas that the company is particularly interested in are health information technology companies and companies that specialize in wellness and disease prevention, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

His words immediately caught my attention. As I am wrapping up my report Disease Management and Hi-Tech Adoption, I couldn’t agree more with his assessment. One of the key themes of the report is my view that the DM industry will see continued consolidation in the next few years with the number of third-party DM vendors dwindling. Acquirers can be outsiders to the DM industry, such as medical diagnostic device makers, health information technology vendors, drug stores, and established Web giants. We are also going to see more information technology adoption in the DM practices, some even at DM providers’ resistance. The result is a more integrated DM model with technology playing as the differentiation factor.

Who is most vulnerable at this time? Given J&J’s track record of acquiring industry leaders in their respective market segments, Healthways will be a perfect target given its DM expertise, diversified assets, and a strong management team. Falling from upper $50s to today’s closing price of less than $13, Healthways' market cap is less than $450 million. With $14 billion cash on its balance sheet, J&J can purchase Healthways without much impact on its debt obligation. The key barrier could be Healthways' board and management team, many being the founding members of the company thirty years ago. J&J might have to pay a bit premium in order to persuade Healthways' board.

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Apple 4Q08 Sales Highlights

Apple released its calendar year 4Q08 earnings this afternoon. Here is a quick recap of the numbers and growth I care most about:

iPod: 22.7 million units for the quarter, slightly higher than my projected 21.9 million units. This gives Apple total sales of 55.3 million units in 2008, up 5% year over year. Average selling price dropped slightly from $150 to $149, indicating that holiday sales did not help Apple sell more high-end models. As a result, iPod revenues in 2008 dropped 4% year over year. Apple said in the earning release that iPod growth came mainly from the international market.

iPhone: 4.36 million units shipped during the quarter, down from 6.9 million in 3Q08. This was lower than my estimate of 5 million units, and it looks like the recession did have some impact on iPhone demand. But more than 11 million iPhone sales in two quarters is still a great achievement

Apple TV: The Company reported 300% yoy volume growth in 4th quarter, but volume was still low overall. Tim Cook, the acting CEO of Apple, referred to Apple TV as “still a hobby.”

Other Music Related Products and Services: This is where the iTunes sales are reported. Revenue topped $1 billion for the first time, up from $832 million in 3Q08 and a net increase of almost $200 million over 4Q07. A large portion of the contribution should come from Apple App store sales, if we assume modest increase in year-over-year iTunes music and video sales. Of course, rental revenues also helped.

It looks like not a bad quarter for Apple, except for the weaker unit sales of iPhones. Since this is only the second quarter of iPhone 3G on the market, its seasonality and demand strength is a bit difficult to model. Given the disappointing mobile handset shipment numbers from Motorola, Palm and Sony Ericsson reported last week, the first half 2009 could be tough even for the smartphone market.

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Babelgum Mobile launches FREE TV services with Vodafone Customers

A free Web TV service, Babelgum Mobile combines the full-screen video quality of traditional television with the interactive and social networking capabilities of the Internet.

Immediately launching a 6 month trial, Babelgum Mobile, a new Internet Mobile TV service allows Vodafone UK contract customers with mobile internet bundles to enjoy a wide range of video clips including film, music, comedy, animation, nature, travel and sports FREE of charge.

This mobile application is available to download from Vodafone live!, initially for contract customers with data bundles for the popular Nokia N96, N95 and 6210.

Known for its innovative, original programming, Babelgum Mobile's customers can access content that’s clearly Webinspired with the accent on interactive entertainment. Clips are short, fun, and unconventional and include viral videos.

Integrated with social networks and streaming via Vodafone's 3G Network, Babelgum Mobile allows users to share videos, vote for favorites, and participate in competitions.

For more information, visit .

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Sezmi's Breakthrough Personalized Television System, Protected by SecureMedia

Technology leader in open content protection software, SecureMedia, will be providing the digital content protection for Sezmi's redefined TV stands out from the traditional television offerings with a highly personalized, intuitive user experience at an affordable cost.

With a line-up of content from broadcast networks, cable networks, internet video, and on-demand movies and TV shows, Sezmi is the first to directly combine a broadband experience with traditional broadcast and cable TV programming.

Winner of both the TelcoTV 2008 Vision Awards and the 2008 IPTV World Series Award, SecureMedia's Encryptonite One™ System provides the end-to-end digital content protection that enable access to Hollywood blockbusters, new and existing TV channels and Internet video.

For more information, visit
For more information visit .

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rallypoint takes fantasy sports up a notch!

Rallypoint's sports widgets for TV were one of the coolest things at the CES this year.Fantasy sports fanatics will find ultimate heaven in Rallypoint's solutions. Imagine getting real time updates on all of your fantasy players on your TV screen in real time as you watch your favorite show or game on television. Add on the ability to order pizza without leaving the comfort of your couch or letting go of the coveted remote. Users can also chat with their contacts via the widget.

Rallypoint seems to have pulled together several moving parts i.e partnerships with content providers (digital and otherwise) to provide a totally new experience. They currently have solutions for Yahoo!'s widget framework and have also partnered with Sharp to develop a solution for Sharp's proprietary browser based widget framework. Services are expected to be on subscription basis i.e. viewers can download the widget and pay a subscription fee for the length of the plan to receive updated content on a 'per season' basis. Pricing information was not readily available, but I would assume it would certainly be in an attractive range for the fantasy fans.

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Verizon rolling out femtocells

Verizon Wireless is expected to offer femtocell products to its subscribers starting the 25th of this month. The product will likely be priced at $250 per unit without any contractual obligations. That seems to be a steep price to pay for just enhanced coverage. The details of what else would be included as a part of the femtocell purchase are not yet clear. If it is just better coverage and (possibly) unlimited calling for a monthly fee, I doubt VZ will get much traction with the initial offering. As we argued in our recent report on FMC, pricing is just as important as the value proposition in terms of feature set. The 'Basic' individual package with unlimited voice minutes is pegged at $99/month for individuals and $199/month for a family plan with two lines. Would ~$20 per month extra for the first year be attractive for consumers to invest in a femtocell? I would argue that Verizon needs to include more than just unlimited voice and coverage to make femto attractive.

On a side note, it is interesting to see that both VZ and Sprint support femtocells over un-managed networks i.e. broadband infrastructure that could potentially be managed by a third part. I would assume that quality of service would be a concern.

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Parks Associates forecasts over two billion 3G subscribers will motivate convergence in mobile and fixed-line services

Converged voice and data applications will reduce subscriber churn and increase operators’ ARPU--

A new report from Parks Associates finds worldwide growth in the number of 3G subscribers will motivate service providers, under pressure to maintain customer satisfaction and build revenues, to expand on traditional voice offerings to include converged fixed-mobile services.

Fixed-Mobile Convergence: Consumers and Business Models predicts that the number of 3G subscribers will exceed 2.5 billion worldwide by 2013, with over one billion in Asia alone. The tremendous expansion of this large service population will catalyze the development of fixed-mobile convergence (FMC), creating new service options where users can access video, audio, and community offerings via mobile devices once limited to traditional voice applications.

Fixed-Mobile Convergence: Consumers and Business Models examines the current state of 3G deployments worldwide and the drivers for fixed-mobile convergence.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

ATIS - another home networking forum?

It looks like the home networking industry is partying like it's 1999 ... all over again.

The Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) has announced the creation of the ATIS Home Networking (HNET) Forum. With the Forum’s creation, ATIS now houses the single, centralized body responsible for comprehensively addressing home networking standards. ATIS’ HNET Forum is unique in that it’s the only body to holistically assess the wide variety of on-going home networking standards development work. The Forum provides a pragmatic solution to the often confusing and decentralized home networking standards development arena.

The Home Networking Forum’s creation was a specific recommendation of ATIS’ Home Networking Assessment & Work Plan. Released today, this comprehensive document is the result of more than a year’s work by ATIS’ CTO-led Technology and Operations Council and its Home Networking Focus Group (FG). FG included representatives from: Cisco, Verizon, AT&T, Alcatel Lucent, Ericsson, Qwest, Sony, Hitachi, ADC, Corning, Haywire, Intrado, Conexant Systems and Widevine.

Ummmm...don't we already have enough of these groups? Between the Broadband Forum, the HGi, the IEEE, and the ITU, haven't we saturated the market with enough home networking bodies? I'm really curious to see what ATIS is bringing to the table that the rest of these groups aren't.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

China Mobile Operators Eye 3G Services

After the Chinese government issued 3G licenses to the country’s mobile operators last week, three major carriers came out today with their ambitious 3G service investment plans. Collectively, China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom will eventually lash out about $41 billion on 3G infrastructure, terminal devices and 3G services over the next few years. China Mobile has the biggest agenda. Over the next two years, the incumbent mobile operator plans to install 80,000 base stations to cover 238 cities in China, the priority being the first- and second-tier cities in the populous eastern and southern parts of the country. China Unicom and China Telecom have similar plans. Each of the three carriers got a different 3G technology license: China Mobile locked in the TD-SCDMA band, China Unicom received the WCDMA spectrum, and China Telecom was awarded the CDMA2000 1x EV-DO. Apparently, global and domestic telecom equipment makers are salivating on this three-flavored cake, as the bidding for supply contracts from base stations to handsets will kick off soon.

China will likely to turn east to Japan for 3G lessons and experience. After years of exploiting a large user base with ringtones, PHS, and text messages, China mobile operators finally come to the conclusion that only 3G can boost their ARPU in the next decade.

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CMS kicked off PHR Pilot in Arizona and Utah

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) officially launched a PHR pilot on Tuesday in the states of Arizona and Utah. According to the design of the pilot, it will run for about a year before CMS considers the next stage. Four PHR service providers, including Google Health, HealthTrio, NoMoreClipboard, and PassportMD, contracted with CMS on this pilot. These providers will compete with one another in these two states trying to sign up users. To incentivize providers as well as potential users, CMS promises to transfer up to two-year claim data from Medicare to one of the four player’s ePHR system. As a side note, the pilot targets the traditional Medicare fee-for-service population.

The CMS pilot is an investment in brand building for these PHR providers in the first place. If they are successful, CMS could continue to hire them in the future. Even if the pilot ends with no renewal, they can still use the experience to promote their services to other clients. The challenges for these vendors are significant too. To start with, managing the Medicare fee-for-service population is an arduous task. The user satisfaction score will be one of the most important evaluation criteria for CMS. Engaging these seniors so that they will continue using the PHR tools throughout the pilot period is critical to high user satisfaction. Finally the multi-vendor approach by CMS could also test the interoperability of these services. Will a user be able to transfer his medical data from one provider to another if he is not satisfied? How smooth will that experience be? These questions can be headaches for these providers and CMS clearly do not want to meddle with them.

This pilot is equally important for the PHR technology industry. Successful completion of the pilot could lead to future funding efforts from CMS to extend the program to other states. CMS’ endorsement would have a ripple effect on the private sector as CMS usually wields high influence on the policies of the private insurance sector.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Blockbuster and Sonic Want a Piece of a $4.6 Billion Pie

Today, movie rental giant Blockbuster announced a partnership with Sonic Solutions that will allow it to stream movies and shows not only on TVs and PCs, but also on mobile phones, portable media players, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes and digital video recorders. Between them, Blockbuster and Sonic already have deals with such CE manufacturers as LG Electronics, Samsung, and VIZIO. VIZIO had just taken the wraps off of its “Connected HDTV” Platform at CES last week. VIZIO’s other content partners include Accedo Broadband, Adobe,, Flickr, Netflix, Pandora, Rhapsody, and Yahoo! The Blockbuster and Sonic direct-to-CE service is expected to launch in the second quarter of 2009.

The bulk of the content available through the service will be newer titles, which will be available to consumers a la carte. Pricing has not been disclosed yet; however, Blockbuster will have to charge around $5 per movie to remain competitive with pay video-on-demand offerings from the cable operators. Blockbuster is also contemplating a subscription model.

The partnership comes as no surprise. One may say it’s in the partners’ blood (pardon the expression), since Blockbuster owns Movielink and Sonic Solutions recently acquired CinemaNow (both companies offer online video purchase and rentals). However, both Blockbuster and Sonic Solutions must beware of the pitfalls that have made Movielink and CinemaNow acquisition targets in the first place:

Business model: consumers already pay for content by going to movies, renting videos and paying their monthly cable/satellite/IPTV bills. Getting them to buy/rent more content will be tricky.

Consumer experience: The digital rights management (DRM) software has the potential of undermining the consumer digital media experience. Content partners require strict DRM to protect content from being pirated. The side-effect of strict DRM is that consumers may only play content on a limited number of devices (such as the original PC to which the content has been downloaded). Poor experience will limit consumer interest in the offering.

Competition: Obviously, Blockbuster’s direct competition is Netflix, which has made its Watch Instantly feature available through numerous consumer electronics devices (LG HDTVs and Blu-ray players, Samsung Blu-ray players, the Roku Netflix Player, the Xbox 360, and TiVo). Additionally, this new partnership will compete with cable operators’ ever-growing VoD collections. It will also compete with numerous free offerings directly from content owners, including Hulu, CBS, and Disney, to name a few.

Parks Associates recent study TV 2.0: The Consumer Perspective, indicates that the potential exists to convert the more than 26 million monthly users of online video services to premium offerings, as Blockbuster and Sonic Solutions are offering. Bringing premium Web video content directly to the consumer electronics device – whether it is the TV, the set-top box, the Blu-ray player, or other devices should be a lucrative business in the next few years. From our report Internet Video: Direct-to-Consumer Services: Second Edition, we forecast that that transactional revenues for online video consumed directly at the TV (via a connected CE device) will grow from $1.2 billion in 2009 to $4.6 billion in 2013. Not only could Blockbuster drive new transactional revenues from both a PC- and CE-oriented online video strategy, but there is much to be said about simply offering the additional online video content as a value-add, and – longer term – there may be some opportunities to derive ad revenues. However, Blockbuster’s success depends on the specifics of how the offering is implemented in terms of business model and the user experience, predominantly. As always, the devil is in the detail.

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4Home Energy Wins CES 2009 Best of Innovations for Eco-Design & Sustainable Technology

Brings Energy Management, Monitoring and Conservation to the Home for Consumers and Utilities --

Simple self-installable kit lets consumers manage energy usage and reduce utility bills with smart power adapters, thermostats, and an in-home energy control center. 4Home, the leader in home control services, announced a new energy management system, 4Home Energy.

Offering onsite or remote monitoring, this new system gives consumers a connected home solution for controlling home energy usage and saving money won Best of Innovations (#1 overall).

Combining technology from Echelon, SMC Networks, and Radio Thermostat Corporation of American, the 4Home Energy system provides a real-time analysis of home energy usage, displaying energy consumption down to a single appliance or light fixture. It also suggests options for saving money and conserving energy.

For more information on 4Home and its award-winning energy management system, please visit .

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Good CES Connected TV Summary from The New York Times

I thought that this article captured the major CES announcements very well:
  • LG Electronics and VIZIO and Netflix;
  • LG, Samsung, Sony, and VIZIO all demonstrating the Yahoo! Widget Channel;
  • Intel says that both Samsung and Toshiba will launch products with the CE 3100 SoC and the Widget Channel framework; and
  • MySpace is launching a TV widget.

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iPhone Becomes Home Automation Controller

Many manufacturers are developing apps that make Apple's ubiquitous mobile device a touchpanel controller for automation, lighting, distributed audio and more. Apple’s iPhone is doubling as a new type of touchpanel controller these days.

Apple has already sold more than 6 million iPhones, and many home control companies are capitalizing on that trend by engineering their systems to communicate directly with the mobile device, as well as with Apple’s iPod and iPod touch products.

Most home control companies expect Apple’s mobile devices to be used primarily as a means of monitoring and controlling a home’s lights, thermostats and other equipment remotely from the office or the road. However, it’s feasible that the iPhone could also function as a main command center within the home.

To read more about this Electric House article entitled "Let Your iPhone Take Full Control," please click here.

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Tough Digital TV Market Results in Boxer Subscriptions Falling

By the end of 2008, Boxer had 689,000 digital TV subscriptions. Competition between Pay-TV operators in the Swedish digital TV market have intensified throughout the year. As a result, subscriptions decreased by 3% from the start of 2008 with 709,000 subscribers.

In March 2008, Boxer was selected Pay-TV operator for the approaching Danish digital terrestrial network; in addition, Boxer received an equivalent licence to be the Pay-TV operator in the Irish digital TV network in July 2008. For 2009, operations in Denmark and Ireland are planned.

For more information, click here.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Obama’s Commitment to Electronic Medical Records (EMR) is Ambitious

Last week, President-elect Barack Obama openly pledged to computerize the nation’s medical records in five years. The promise is ambitious, as I remembered talks about computerized medical records dated as far back as in 1999. Will Obama accomplish this goal?

The first barrier is himself and his administration. I am impressed with his resolve and courage to take on this issue in his first year. But the reality is that the economic recovery is the national priority and if he has too broad an agenda in the first year, he might lose the focus and underachieve on the main goal. This could negatively impact his support from the grassroots up to the Congress, making his future tasks difficult to accomplish. Will this consequence shake his confidence and commitment levels? It remains to be seen.

The second challenge is clearly on the financial side. EMR is not simply a database but the brain of a modernized healthcare system. It reminds me of the SAP-type of ERP systems adopted by America’s largest multinational corporations (try asking any ERP adopters of their experience and see what they say privately). Since its functions touch every aspect of a healthcare system, it does not come cheap given the fact that it will be implemented at the national level. Industry pundits estimate that the cost of computerizing medical record systems can be anywhere between $70 billion to $100 billion. Will federal government have that amount of money in the first place given all the budget deficits and a traumatized economy? Even if it does, how to ensure that this money will be appropriated correctly and not siphoned off for other purposes? We all know that government accountability standard is quite weak. Even with the appointment of the Chief Performance Officer in the Obama administration, many doubt the effectiveness of such a position. Finally, the actual cost can be much higher, which can be caused by the third barrier—implementation.

The healthcare industry is considered one of the most challenging environments for healthcare IT implementation. Not only is it big, but it is complex and extremely fragmented. The first ten years of Internet did not help much, only exacerbating the situation by adding non-standard based, proprietary IT systems on top of the legacy ones that the healthcare facilities inherited from the 70’s and 80’s. The most daunting task is to make each system talk to one another in the same language. Using a more official term, it is called interoperability or more accurately, the lack of it. Do not underestimate the challenge here. The Bush administration created the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology in his first term (May 2004). After five years, the interoperability standards are still in debate and only a few are adopted in a piecemeal fashion.

I cited these barriers in a bid to lower people’s rosy expectation on Obama’s plan. We need to have a sober recognition of the challenges and advise the incoming administration of the lessons we learned over the last eight years. The five-year plan is good for rallying the industry, but when it comes to the time to roll up your sleeves, a more pragmatic approach should be adopted. President Obama: I would like to see your implementation timetable and approach first before I can agree with your ambition.

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In 2009, Make Consumer Ad Preferences Priority One.

As 2008 ended in a bang (I’m talking flames not fireworks), industry analysts scrambled to revise their advertising forecasts for 2009 and beyond. The current economic recession has caused increased uncertainty in the minds of advertising industry executives (as well as anyone who eats, breathes, and sleeps in the U.S.). I’ve read countless articles related to the advancement of new digital advertising technologies specifically targeting TV, online, and mobile. And while the opinions and predictions are fascinating, they also make my head spin especially when considering recessionary setbacks.

Most digital media advertising forecasts have been reduced from double-digit growth to single-digit growth for 2009 and beyond. Even so, all forms of digital media will see continued growth in advertising revenues at the expense of more traditional forms of advertising. Good news for digital media during a recession.

While the ad industry (content providers and publishers, technologists, advertising/media agencies, and media companies) contemplates which new forms of advertising will dominate in the future, I suggest all involved consult the consumer first.

Why? Digital media has created a consumer-centric world. It’s about what the consumer wants, when they want it, and how they get it. No longer does the Field of Dreams adage, “If you build it they will come” apply. Especially, when considering Generation Y/Millennials/Net Generation - depending on the source the monikers represent persons age 11 – 31. This generation is accustomed to a two-way communication approach since childhood – this applies to advertising as well. They’ve “grown up digital.” Advertisers are already looking at this generation in order to understand future purchase processes and preferences as this group matures into legitimate consumers.

Targeted, Addressable Television Advertising via Set-top Box.
Although I stated earlier on that ad revenue on digital media will grow at the expense of traditional mediums, I’m not predicting the death of traditional TV advertising. However, I do believe television advertising will eventually evolve into a targeted, addressable form delivered via cable and/or satellite set-top box.

In late October 2008, I posted a blog suggesting 2009 would be the year for advanced cable television advertising. However, until the economy stabilizes I highly doubt major cable companies, through the creation of Canoe Ventures LLC, will be financially positioned to advance and build-out targeted, addressable TV advertising via set-top box in 2009. Daily announcements of job cuts, operating budget cuts, and overall conservative spending in 2009 will halter the advancement of new forms of cable TV advertising. So, now is the time to ramp up efforts to better understand what types of targeted TV advertisements consumers will embrace and the forms they will not.

Online Advertising
The online advertising space will fare well in 2009. With that said, the online advertising ecosystem is still evolving. There was much discussion in 2008 regarding how online ads are bought (ad networks, traditional advertising agencies, marketers, content providers), where ads are placed (professional sites, video-sharing sites, social networking), what online ad formats to use (linear video, non-linear video, banner, search), and most importantly, online audience measurement and effectiveness (ROI, CPM, CPC, CPA). The online ad industry is still trying to figure out the most efficient and effective best practices and guidelines and delivery solutions. As the advertising industry clutches its purses during the recession, focus will be placed on predictable mass audiences, performance-based advertising solutions (effectiveness and trackability), and brand safe content. All of which points back to the consumer.

Mobile Advertising
2009 will be a year of continued development, advancement, and revenue growth for mobile advertising. Continued growth will be spurred due in large part to the proliferation of smart phones (iPhone, G1, and Blackberry). Again, consult the consumer first. Avoid unnecessary build-out costs and ineffective mobile ad formats/solutions by enhancing your knowledge of consumer mobile habits and ad preferences.

It's Simple: Make Consumer Ad Preferences Priority One

In 2009, top priority should be given by all companies in the digital advertising space to consumer advertising preferences. Consult the consumer during development and prior to deployment of the ad technology, format, and/or solution. I review a lot of data regarding audience measurement, new advertising technologies and formats and their utility but as advertising evolves in a digital age the industry must consider what ad forms and ad placements consumers prefer. I don’t suggest the industry is unaware or unresponsive to consumer demand in regard to advertising, but I question the importance as relatively little is reported or discussed regarding the ad preferences of the consumer.

P.S. This article validates my point.

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Remote PC Support Space - News from CES

I had my eye on new entrants and updates from existing players in the remote PC support space at CES last week. We hosted a panel at our CONNECTIONS Summit at CES last week titled Digital Home Customer Support: From Troubleshooting to Upselling? The panel included representatives from Affinegy, PlumChoice, Radialpoint,, and Telcordia.

Last year saw some significant changes in the digital home tech support space, with Cisco acquiring Pure Networks, Radialpoint buying HiWired's assets, and iYogi getting funding. It makes it an exciting time to be watching the space.

The CES announcements were interesting. I discovered two more remote support providers while at the show. Symantec is offering NortonLive, which is a PC tune-up service (going for around $70). GoToAssist from Citrix is a tool that companies in the CE space and independent consultants can use to provide remote support services.

After writing about Intel's vPro solution awhile back, I figured that it wouldn't be long before we would see some partnerships emerging between Intel and players in the remote PC support space. It was nice to see that first parternship come in with PlumChoice. PCs equipped with Remote PC Assist Technology can be remotely accessed and have diagnostics and troubleshooting services performed, even in certain "out-of-band" situations (like a flaky or crashed operating system). This seems that it will open up some new opporunity for remote vendors to grow and create some new businesses.

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Parks Associates forecasts mobile imaging application market will exceed $500 million in revenue in 2013

U.S. consumers will spend more than $500 million in 2013 for imaging applications on their mobile phones, according to Parks Associates, which sees this market expanding beyond photo-sharing services to personalized content management and social networking applications.

Parks Associates’ new report Mobile Imaging: Platforms, Solutions, and Services finds consumers will use their camera-equipped mobile phones for a variety of applications over the next few years and they are willing to pay for enhancements such as photo-editing capabilities, comparison shopping, and social networking services.

The mobile application market will benefit from improved hardware. By 2013, almost 70% of handsets sold in the U.S. will include a camera of at least two megapixels.

Mobile Imaging: Platforms, Solutions, and Services analyzes the evolution of the camera phone function and its impact on image-related applications and services on mobile handsets.


Monday, January 12, 2009

NETGEAR upgrading its networked entertainment products

NETGEAR announced a couple of new products, aimed at providing a more expansive Internet video experience at the TV.

The Internet TV Player (ITV2000) is a compact, easy-to-use, “plug in and go” Internet set-top device with a simple remote control that enables viewers to catch up on the world of Internet videos including YouTube™, live Internet TV, popular Internet video websites, premium video-on-demand and online video searches.

The Digital Entertainer Elite (EVA9150) includes a 500GB hard drive and allows consumers to play on their TVs Blu-ray quality up to 1080p digital video, high-resolution digital photos, MP3s and recorded television shows from their PCs or storage on their network. They can also enjoy Internet content, such as YouTube, Internet radio, Flickr™, RSS feeds, and videos from popular websites.

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EchoStar's SlingLoaded™ 922 HD DVR Wins CES Awards

The SlingLoaded™ 922 HD DVR won a “Best of CES” award from the editors of CNET. The unique user interface and remote control were selected as CES Innovations 2009 Design and Engineering Award honorees.

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NeuLion introduces a new box

NeuLion launched a new box, the iPTV HD TV Box. The box works in concert with NeuLion's iPTV HD PC browser to bring 720p and 1080i content to the TV.

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Macrovision's Announcements

Macrovision had several announcements from last week, including:

It introduced its next generation Interactive Program Guide (IPG) that can help consumers enable access to broadcast, personal and premium content from one screen. This next-generation IPG is being developed under the project name “Neon" and is aimed at the consumer electronics industry.

Neon features include:

  • Rich program descriptors and cover art for TV shows
  • A personalized TV "dashboard" called My Guide
  • DVR functions for recording and playback of broadcast TV• Smart Recommendations to help consumers discover new programs
  • Secure streaming of premium Internet content over the home network

In addition, Neon features graphical rich interactive advertising for promoting relevant program and products to consumers. This capability offers new, recurring advertising revenue opportunities for CE manufacturers.

Other news included:

  • A new CE-based program guide that brings the seamless integration and delivery of digital content to Internet-connected televisions. Macrovision demonstrated how the guide helps users access Internet content, such as that from CBS.
  • Macrovision's Guide Daily will be incorporated into SANYO's digital TV product line.

A compilation of Macrovison's announcements is available here.

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Entropic showing MoCA-to-Ethernet adapter from NETGEAR with MoCA

This is a practical application. Entropic was showing a demonstration with the NETGEAR MCAB1001 Ethernet to Coax Bridge (ECB) kit, powered by its c.LINK MoCA technology, in live demonstrations with the VUDU HD Internet Movie Box at CES.

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sonoro and Pandora

It's almost poetic, isn't it? sonoro announced announced a partnership with popular music streaming service Pandora, making it available on sonoro's Internet radio, elements W. Now audio buffs can stream Pandora directly from their sonoro elements W radio to listen to their playlists anytime and access their PC music libraries without turning on the computer. elements W will be available in Q1.

I saw sonoro for the first time at last August's IFA show in Berlin.

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And speaking of easy storage solutions - Rebit

I ran across Rebit at one of the press and analyst receptions at CES. They are a Colorado-based company that includes some former HP server folks in Ft. Collins. The concept seems pretty cool - take the ease of use and lower cost of a product like Clickfree and automate the backup, including the OS! So, if you are "out-of-banded" with an OS problem, Rebit actually is an OS recovery tool, too.

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Clickfree Updates

Clickfree is a pretty handy solution for providing an easy way to backup content. We wrote about them awhile back. They've announced some updates. The latest new Clickfree products unveiled at CES 2009 include:
  • Clickfree 1 Terabyte Backup Drive: The 1 TB Clickfree Backup Drive is an innovative computer backup device that’s perfect for small and medium enterprises or home offices where users need to backup multiple computers. Based on a larger 3.5-inch hard drive, the 1 Terabyte Clickfree Backup Drive is the latest addition to the hard drive-based Clickfree lineup. As expected with all Clickfree products, there is no need to install or configure any software. Just connect the device to a USB port and it does the rest. The backup application starts automatically, searching and backing up data without requiring any user interaction. The drive stores 220,000 songs, 440,000 photos, and over 2 million documents. Retail price is $249.99.
  • Clickfree Transformer USB Cable: Convert any external hard drive into a Clickfree backup drive. There’s no need for any backup software - just plug the Transformer Cable into your PC and plug any size of external hard drive from any manufacturer into the other end of the Transformer. The Clickfree backup application will automatically start, search the computer, organize and backup all of your important data onto the external hard drive. As expected with Clickfree, there is no software to install or set up and over 400 file types are automatically backed up. Use one Clickfree Transformer with many 2.5” or 3.5” external hard drives, giving them all Clickfree simplicity. Retail price is $59.99.
  • Clickfree Transformer Combo with 320GB hard drive: The Clickfree Transformer can convert any external hard drive into a Clickfree backup device. For those customers that may not have an external hard drive, Clickfree has bundled one with their Transformer cable. There’s no need for any backup software - just plug the Transformer Cable into your PC and plug the included hard drive (or any other external hard drive) into the other end of the Transformer and backup will automatically start. Retail price with a 320GB hard drive is $189.99.
  • DataGuard Clickfree DVDs: Clickfree DVDs are perfect for single use scenarios where data needs to be backed up for archival purposes. The incorporated backup application and DVD burning software make the entire backup process a breeze. Triple Guard Protection feature provides extra security from scratches, blemishes and dust. Retail price is $19.99 for a package of 5 DVDs.
  • Total Backup Clickfree DVDs: Now one Clickfree DVD will backup all content types. For customers that want to backup all of their content to DVD, the new Total Backup Clickfree DVD is perfect. The incorporated backup application and DVD burning software make the entire process a breeze. Clickfree Total Backup DVDs automatically back up over 400 file types to cover every office, e-mail, photo and music application. Retail price is $14.99 for a package of 5 DVDs.

Advanced new Clickfree product features unveiled at CES 2009 included:

  • Mac Support: Clickfree products are now Mac compatible. Simply plug any Mac- supported Clickfree product into a USB connection and Clickfree does the rest. Mac requirements: MacOS X 10.5 Leopard, Intel Processor, 100 MB of free space.
  • Restore Data by Category and to original locations: Completely revamped restore feature now lets you restore files by category, such as Photos. The application will also automatically restore all files to their original locations on the computer without the user having to know anything more about them.
  • Migration: Save valuable time and avoid hassles when moving data from one PC to another - just use the new restore tool integrated into Clickfree products. The migration tool supports migration from Windows XP to Windows Vista and Windows Vista to Windows XP-based computers. MS Outlook is fully supported by the restore tool. Backup e-mail from one PC and restore it to another instantly, even backup files from a PC and restore to a Mac.
  • Instant Uploading of Photos to Facebook, MySpace and more: Clickfree now comes with integrated support to upload photos to networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.
  • Integrated Music Player: Listen to music directly from the backup application. No need to restore the files to a PC or to launch another application just to listen to a tune. The integrated music player is built into the backup application for your convenience.
    Thumbnail View for Video: With built-in thumbnail view, identify and select your videos, click the restore button and you are done!
  • Reminder: Clickfree software now includes a backup reminder application that can be configured to remind users by week or month.
    Password protection: ClickFree devices and content are now protected by a password to maximize security of data.

Clickfree products coming in 2009 and being presented at CES 2009 for the first time include:

  • Clickfree Online Backup: Never lose another document again, knowing that even in the worst case scenario, your precious data is safely stored off-site. Clickfree Online Backup ushers in a new age in data protection and file recovery by offering the easiest online backup ever. Users can backup multiple computers, have flexible scheduling options, can access their data from anywhere and share files and folders, with support for over 400 different file types.
  • Clickfree Flash Backup: This ultra portable, credit card-sized flash memory-based backup solution goes with you everywhere; as expected from Clickfree, it requires no software installation or hardware configuration to start the backup process. Just plug it into a USB port on your computer and it does the rest.

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Should Silicon Image's LiquidHD Effort Worry DLNA?

Rick Merritt at EE Times would like to think so, anyway. Silicon Image is targeting silicon-based solutions for whole-house secure media distribution, arguing that CE manufacturers are more silicon based than software-based (taking a swipe for sure at DLNA).

LiquidHD is a new personal entertainment technology designed to quickly and easily connect TVs, consumer electronics (CE) devices, personal computers (PCs), portable media devices (PMDs) and home theaters into a seamless network where consumers can enjoy digital content from any source device on any LiquidHD-enabled display in the home.

LiquidHD technology is a suite of protocols that runs over commodity IP networks such as Ethernet, Coax like MoCA, powerline like HomePlug and wireless like WiFi (802.11n). Key components of the LiquidHD technology include:
  • LiquidDiscover: Automatic discovery and authentication of all LiquidHD-enabled devices in the home - just plug it in and the TV automatically discovers your LiquidHD source devices;
  • LiquidMedia: High-definition, high-fidelity media streaming from live and stored sources;
  • LiquidPixels: Pixel accurate, low latency and low bandwidth remoting of any source device’s user interface to any LiquidHD display device. Includes a single remote control at each display to control all source devices on the LiquidHD network;
  • LiquidControl: Secure control and communication between all devices;
  • LiquidPlay™: Comprehensive security and content protection architecture built on a robust hardware solution. Enables consumers to move and play their legally obtained content on any LiquidHD device they own. Also protects CE devices from malevolent attacks by securing the control commands and LiquidPixels remote user interface.

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BD-Live as a Key Feature to Watch

Like everyone else, we've been anxiously tracking announcements coming from the Blu-ray business, trying to gauge how the players and the software are doing. The Blu-ray Association held its annual CES press conference last week, and revealed the following information (compiled from TWICE):
  • 10.7 million stand-alone Blu-ray Disc players and PlayStation 3 gaming consoles had shipped to retail since the launch of the Blu-ray Disc format 2.5 years ago.
  • The industry saw a three-fold increase in the sales of Blu-ray Disc players compared to 2007.
  • The rate of household penetration of Blu-ray Disc players is far outpacing other key consumer electronics devices at the three-year points in their rollouts. Color TV registered a little more than three percent household penetration after three years, CD was a little less than two percent after three years, and DVD saw about four percent penetration after three years. In contrast, Blu-ray players are seeing a nearly eight percent household penetration rate after two and half years.
  • In software, nearly 1,100 Blu-ray titles are now available in the U.S. market.

I had commented about BD-Live features after seeing Disney's CTO Art Hair speak at Cisco's C-Scape event in December. These interactive features and related services should be a very interesting space to watch in 2009.

I didn't get the chance to visit with this company, but Dreamer, a provide of interactive TV solutions, announced last week that their BIDDLE™ platform will be utilized by Technicolor to offer digital content delivery services including online and disc-based direct-to-TV solutions for Blu-ray; allowing movie studios, broadcasters, record labels and other content distributors to utilize BD-Live as a fully-controllable direct marketing and e-commerce tool.

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Enhancing Netbook Capabilities - Move Networks in the Mix

Move Networks announced at CES that it was optimizing its media player with a simplified user interface for Intel Atom processor based Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) and Netbooks, allowing consumers to quickly access high quality Internet television whether at home or on the go.

The enhancement of Netbooks was a predominant theme at CES last week. I heard from companies discussing how they could bring new entertainment experiences to these devices, and how to also make them easier to use - providing unique physical interaction ideas.

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HDGIANTS Delivering Content to CE Devices

I was getting pinged all last week from the on-the-ball PR and MARCOM team at HDGIANTS. They have a number of consumer electronics partners. HDGIANTS has the HD MediaStore™ client application, which hardware manufacturers like AMP integrate into their media server products, provides a seamless and robust search experience for high definition movies and music that includes content previews as well as in-depth metadata. Convenient navigation between the HD music and the HD video content allows consumers to browse all the available entertainment and purchase and download from a single shopping cart. In essence, the HD MediaStore™ application offers consumers a complete high quality entertainment experience with the click of the remote.

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SiBEAM/WirelessHD with announcements

SiBEAM was busy with its own next-generation wireless announcements at CES. The WirelessHD™ Consortium announced that the WirelessHD Compliance Test Specification (CTS) version 1.0 is now available to WirelessHD Adopters and Evaluators. In addition, Compliance Certification Services, Inc., (CCS) has been named the first WirelessHD Authorized Test Center (ATC). The first WirelessHD testing will commence in Q109.

In terms of product announcements with WirelessHD implementations, I see that Panasonic officially premiered the Z1 wireless HDTV, and LG Electronics has the 55-inch LHX LCD television.

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Atheros allows mobile Wi-Fi devices to do peer-to-peer networking

This was an interesting announcement from Atheros. Atheros’ WLAN technology will allow client devices such as PCs, handsets, cameras, MP3 players, wireless printers and set-top boxes to connect directly to other clients, without the use of an access point. This technology also provides smartphones with soft AP capability, which supports multiple clients.

We see the demand for mobile devices enabled with wireless networking, so this seems like a good fit for Atheros.

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Interesting announcements from Arkados and the HomePlug space

Powerline should be worth watching in 2009 as we see the progression of the IEEE and the ITU standards that hopefully can resolve the massive confusion that has existed with multiple specifications on the market.

Arkados made several interesting powerline-related announcements last week that indicate to me the wide potential that this networking can serve for not only AV type of configurations, but also control. Here's a sampling of what news I received:

  • Checkolite International, a world-leading supplier of fashion forward lighting designs, and Arkados®, a leading supplier of system-on-chip solutions for powerline networking, are bringing easy-to-use multiroom audio and lighting control to the home.
  • Freescale Semiconductor and Arkados join forces at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to debut the “whole-house audio in a box.” The versatile platform uses Arkados’ HomePlug® based best-in-class multimedia streaming technology, which has been adopted by audio market leaders for custom home installations, and Freescale’s Synkro wireless communications technology, enabling untethered devices to control and monitor the system and display live data.

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Adobe working with chipset developers to bring Flash to the TV

Adobe made a couple of interesting announcements last week relative to making Flash available on the TV.

On January 5, Adobe and Intel announced plans to collaborate on the development to port and optimize Adobe® Flash® technology for the Intel® Media Processor CE 3100. This effort is expected to provide consumers with richer and more seamless Web-based and video viewing experiences through advanced Intel-based cable set-top boxes, Blu-ray Disc players, digital TVs and retail connected AV devices.

On January 6, Adobe announced that the Adobe® Flash® Platform was integrated into Broadcom’s latest digital television (DTV) and set-top box (STB) system-on-a-chip (SoC) platforms.

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AMIMON and WHDI Announce LG Membership

This is going to be a fun year to track the next-generation consumer electronics wireless networking space, judging by the lively panel discussion we had at our CONNECTIONS Summit at CES. AMIMON and the WDHI had announced prior to that panel that LG Electronics joined the SiG. Hisense has also chosen AMIMON's solution for wireless HDTVs.

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Roku expands content to include Amazon Video On Demand

Roku is now able to show Amazon Video On Demand content on its Roku Digital Video Player.
Beginning in early 2009, the Roku Player, which currently supports only the Netflix service, will offer access to Amazon Video On Demand’s more than 40,000 commercialfree movies and television shows enabling Roku customers for the first time to watch new release movies titles instantly.

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ActiveVideo Announcement with

ActiveVideo Networks and announced a deal that will enable content to be featured in the Web-infused television environment created by the ActiveVideo™ Distribution Network.

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tvCompass bringing CBS content to mobile Internet devices

You may know tvCompass as the company that developed the ESPN Remote. At CES, I talked to them about several announcements, including a Widget publishing platform, bringing CBS content to devices like the ESPN remote, using Macrovision's guides to bring EPGs to new devices (like the iPhone), and turning the iPhone into a cool remote controller by partnering with Zilog.

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LG Electronics is a Netflix Partner

Looks like we're seeing everyone follow the Roku lead. LG Electronics announced new LCD and plasma "Broadband HDTVs" that will display the growing library of movies, TV episodes and high-definition (HD) content that Netflix members can watch instantly directly on the TV with Ethernet connectivity. According to Netflix, the new LCD and plasma HDTVs will join the LG BD300 Network Blu-ray Disc Player, the first Blu-ray disc player to stream movies instantly from Netflix. These products - and five new models of Blu-ray Disc players and home theater systems planned for 2009 - will offer consumers a variety of ways to enjoy more than 12,000 choices of movies and TV episodes instantly from Netflix.

LG also announced that it has expanded the network of entertainment options for its Network Blu-ray Disc players through new alliances with CinemaNow and YouTube. LG said it will add the streaming video services to new LG Network Blu-ray Disc players beginning in the first half of 2009. The additional services will be added to the instant streaming movie service currently offered by Netflix.

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Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics (RF4CE)

Hillcrest Labs and Texas Instruments unveiled some of the first remote controls to utilize the new "Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics" (RF4CE) standard at CES. By combining Hillcrest's Freespace® technology and Texas Instruments' RemoTI™ network protocol, the companies have demonstrated how consumer electronic companies can create pointer-based remote controls for various A/V devices such as televisions or DVD players. Together, these technologies eliminate the line-of-site limitations of infrared (IR) devices and dramatically reduce the number of buttons needed on a remote control.

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ViewSonic ViePC/LinkPC - why bother with the home network?

This announcement from ViewSonic caught my eye. They've developed something called the ViePC (although it looks to go by the name of the LinkPC, too). It's a $399 low-cost PC that runs Windows XP and can attach to any VESA-compatible TV.

If companies can get into the low-cost PC market with computers that include at least some media capability (maybe it's the ASUS Nova P20 or the Mac mini), why wouldn't I use that to get media on my PC instead of a cumbersome and often disappointing home networking experience? You know the run-ins I've had with products like digital media adapters and even the ZvBox (buzz and all). I'm still hopeful that we'll see a decent (and affordable) PC shifting device come to market that will provide a low-cost and easy way to display what's on my PC on my high-definition television. I was pleased to have Robert Eisses from Icron on one of my CONNECTIONS Summit at CES panels last week, and they are doing work with different PHY networking companies to shift the PC to the TV. That may be a great solution for me to watch Hulu on the TV or listen to my favorite Internet radio station through the whole-house speakers.

However, I wonder if the real momentum will be made by PC manufacturers who marry some basic media capability, low-cost, and some basic industrial design elements to finally give us a feasible solution for the Internet TV. Why not provide the low-cost PC plus an RF-based remote control to access the content?

By the way, the title of this post wasn't meant to imply that home networking wasn't important. Obviously, these "AV PCs" are going to use a wireless or "no-new-wires" network to connect to the router and to the other home network devices to pull content.

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