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Clearwire CES WiMAX laptops Clear

There are numerous logistical challenges at CES, from long walks, to long cab lines, to the general press of humanity waiting to see the gadgets and celebrities on display. However, one hurdle I have not had to clear (pun intended) this year, is a lack of connectivity. Every time I pull out my trusty Motorola WiMAX adapter, I get full signal, even in the bowels of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Yesterday I got a post up while waiting on an appointment outside the Samsung football field booth. Sure, I was the idiot kneeling on the ground in a skirt and typing away on my netbook, but I was productive!

The Clear folks, meanwhile, have had a decent presence at the show, and I got a brief look at a line-up of WiMAX-enabled laptops at Digital Experience the other night. Clearwire also announced this morning that it is launching a new 4G network… in Spain. (?!) It’s the company’s first 4G service deployment in Europe.

While my good friend Paul Kapustka managed to get a Clearwire loaner USB card for his Vegas trip, I’m surprised that Clear isn’t giving away gear and temporary service to press and bloggers to drum up a little WiMAX excitement. I can’t think of a better venue, particularly in light of the LTE news flowing this week.

Yahoo on Roku?

Mari Silbey —  January 7, 2010

Yahoo Connected TV Widget Gallery Engine CES 2010

Alright, I’d admit that headline is a bit of tease, but it certainly seems possible that we could see Yahoo Connected TV widgets on Roku boxes (and lots of other hardware) in the next few months. I talked to a Yahoo spokesperson at Digital Experience last night and heard some impressive updates on the Yahoo Connected TV initiative. Dave was intrigued by Yahoo’s widgetized TV demo last year, but we’ve heard of minimal updates in the last twelve months. Now comes a slew of news from the former king of Search.

First, Yahoo is adding partners left and right to bring its Widget Engine to more devices. Hardware highlights include new Vizio XVT Series HDTVs, which will be available with the Widget Engine in Q1, the ViewSonic VMP80 media player, also due out in the first quarter for an estimated $159, and new partnerships with MIPS technologies and Sigma Designs, which “will enable manufacturers to easily support Yahoo Connected TV  in a wide array of consumer electronic devices, including Blu-ray players, network players, AV receivers, and cable IPTV set-top boxes.” My new friend Roger from Yahoo would not confirm that the new software partnerships would bring Yahoo to the Roku specifically, but he did say Yahoo widgets would be on “Roku-type” boxes, and that devices already in the field could be updated remotely to get the Yahoo experience.

Also new from Yahoo, you can now create your own TV widget to show up in Yahoo’s Widget Gallery. Yes you, consumer end-user person. By partnering with Widget Realm and Brightcove, Yahoo is offering a simple way to design your own app and make it available to the masses. As of 6:00 this morning, you can go to Widget Realm and become a de facto Yahoo developer. I can’t wait to try this one out myself.

Finally, Yahoo has announced new content partners for its widget platform. Joining brands like CBS, Showtime, and Blockbuster are CNBC,, Napster, Sky News TV, the Weather Channel, and more. This is one to watch in 2010.

Kodak Pulse CES 2010 Digital Experience

I’ve been waiting for years for a useful Wi-Fi photo frame, and it looks like 2010 may finally usher in the new digital frame era. At Digital Experience tonight (a CES event within an event), I saw two promising entrants in the Wi-Fi photo frame market. First comes the Kodak Pulse. At seven inches and $129.99, the Pulse might sound a bit overpriced, but it’s not when you consider the full touch screen, and the fact that it gets its own IP address. This is the application grandparents have been waiting for. Mom and dad can email photos of baby Johnny, and they will immediately go into rotation on Grandma’s frame. The Pulse also integrates with Kodak Gallery and Facebook, with the potential for further service integration down the road. It’s due out in retail April-ish.

I also saw Pandigital’s Photo Mail frame tonight. Like the Pulse, it receives photos by email with no monthly subscription fee, but emailing photos comes with a per-pic charge after the first 300 emailed shots. The frame has Wi-Fi and connectivity via AT&T’s Edge network. Also due out around April, the Photo Mail frame is eight inches, but without the full touch screen. Interestingly, the back end is apparently handled by Snapfish, but there is no direct integration with existing Snapfish albums (as with the HP DreamScreen). The expected retail price is $149.99.

Bottom line: I want more testing time with the Kodak Pulse. I think we might have a winner.

Click to enlarge:

Griffin CESbound
The Griffin Technology folks as pictured on the CES blog

Not making the trek out to Vegas this year for CES? You’re not alone. Here’s a list of five things missing from CES 2010.

Cablecos and Telcos
Despite the fact that we now live in a connected world, many of the providers that make our gadget connections possible are, by and large, missing from the CES show floor. Two years ago Comcast made a big splash with the launch of tru2way, and AT&T once had a booth in Central Hall to promote its U-verse service. This year the big guys won’t be around much at all. The one exception is Clearwire. With a booth in the South Hall, and Clear WiMAX service blanketing Las Vegas (WiMAX rentals available for $12.50/day), Clearwire will be representin’ for its broadband brethren this year.

Remember GiiNii? I got pretty excited about the company last year when it was sporting Wi-Fi photo frames and prototype Android tablet devices. Sadly, I heard back in October that GiiNii has suspended development on both its PixPlus frames and the prototype Movit Mini and Movit Max – despite the fact that both product lines are still listed on the company site. There’s no evidence that GiiNii will be at CES this year either.

Long Cab Lines
The best thing about an economic recession? Short cab lines at CES. The long lines were missing last year, and I expect more of the same in 2010. It’s quite a relief after waiting for more than an hour for transportation in previous years.

Apple (officially)

ilounge logo CES 2010Macworld may no longer have the star power to rival CES, but that doesn’t mean Apple has given in and joined the CEA’s annual gadget fest. In a change this year, however, Apple will have more of an unofficial presence at the show. A new iLounge Pavilion in the North Hall will feature iPod and iPhone accessories, upping the CES Apple quotient for the year. Exhibitors include makers of cases, speakers, apps, and more.

Dave gave a massive shout-out to Cntrstg last year for the venue it provided tech bloggers at CES. The organizers offered us a fabulous work space, complete with food and Wi-Fi, and brought vendors in to share their wares. Sadly, there will be no Cntrstg lounge in 2010 due to sponsors pulling out at the last minute. There are some dinners and meet-ups planned, however, so we’ll hope for the best this year, and a return to form in 2011.

Clear WiMAX Fancast Xfinity

While Dave’s been lazing around collecting TiVo and Clear QAM scoops this week ;), I’ve been recovering from two weeks of travel and preparing for next week’s trip out to Vegas. All the travel, however, has given me time to test out some new on-the-road tech. A trip to North Carolina proved fortuitous in light of the latest Clearwire WiMAX market launches. Both Raleigh/Durham and Charlotte North Carolina gained Clear service as of December 1.

I’ve been using Clear in Philly since October, but in my daily routine I rarely venture outside of free Wi-Fi range. Using WiMAX has been fun, but not strictly necessary. On the other hand,while visiting friends (and hotels) in North Carolina, it definitely came in handy. I avoided having to pay for Wi-Fi and  hooked into Clear service several times while riding down Interstate 95 (in the passenger seat). The signal remained relatively strong throughout the Durham and Charlotte metro areas, which means I got work done in the car instead of taking time out from visits with friends. Score 1 for WiMAX.

I also tried out Xfinity during my end-of-year travels. Unlike Ryan Lawler over at NewTeeVee, I had no problems with the Comcast authentication software and was up and running on Xfinity pretty quickly. However, like Ryan, my first TV Everywhere experience still came up short. The way Comcast has the service set up, it’s hard to tell what new content is available through Xfinity that wasn’t already available on Fancast. That’s not a big deal except for those of us trying to document what’s changed. However, searching for content I actually wanted to watch also didn’t produce much of interest. I don’t subscribe to any premium channels (no HBO for me), and my vision of catching old episodes of AMC’s Mad Men quickly faded when I saw that Comcast actually has zero episodes of the show online. I did tune into Men of a Certain Age for a while, but quickly turned to more interesting fare in my email inbox. Xfinity needs more content. Score pending.

More stories from the road next week when Dave and I head to Sin City.

Comcast xfinity tv everywhere fancastThat’s right, today is the day that Comcast officially launches it’s version of TV Everywhere, not quite in time for Hanukkah. While the Xfinity name is somewhat unfortunate, it appears we’re supposed to think of the service as the next generation of Project Infinity. For those of you paying attention, Comcast launched Project Infinity back at CES 2008 in an effort to beef  up its on-demand library. Xfinity goes to the next level by taking on-demand online, a phrase which was, incidentally, the original name for the new service. But I digress.

Comcast has now made Xfinity available to all subscribers of both its broadband and cable TV services. For authentication purposes, users must download software at the Fancast Xfinity site before being able to access content online, but once the Move Networks Abode Air video player is downloaded, subscribers are free to browse cable TV content online at will. Keep in mind that, yes, Xfinity viewing does count toward the Comcast bandwidth cap, but at 250 GB, there seems to be quite a bit of wiggle room. And for bandwidth monitoring, Comcast has promised to release a new Web-based meter in the first quarter of next year.

On the content front, Xfinity service includes shows from AMC, A&E, BBC America, Time Warner, CBS, and a dozen or so other programmers. Premium subscribers to Starz, HBO, and Cinemax can also access shows from those networks online.

To supplement your Xfinity viewing, you can surf on over to Hulu for more content. With the new Comcast/NBCU deal in the works, however, I can only assume that Hulu will, as Ryan Lawler predicts, become something of a lame duck in the next year. In fact, Comcast’s COO Stephen Burke just this week stated that the deal with NBCU lets Comcast create its own hybrid of the Hulu model – part free content and part premium television online.

There’s plenty more to say on the topic of Xfinity, but for now it’s worth it just to sit back and see how consumers react. If you’re a subscriber, please add your thoughts in the comments below. I’ll be putting Xfinity through its paces over the next few weeks as well, so expect to hear more about the service soon.

Comcast xfinity tv everywhere remote dvr scheduling bandwidth usage meter gifts

With the NBCU news drowning out other Comcast conversation, I thought I’d take this moment to tally up the gifts the MSO has promised to all the good little subscriber girls and boys this year. First and most important, TV Everywhere, er, On Demand Online, um, Xfinity is scheduled to roll out before the start of Hanukkah on December 12th. Yes, that’s right, Broadcasting and Cable has discovered that the new name for the Comcast service will be Xfinity. Actually it will be Fancast Xfinity TV, but you can call it Xfinity for short. If you’ve been following along with the story so far, the new Comcast offering will let subscribers to both television and broadband service access TV shows anywhere and everywhere from a Comcast portal site. Never again be without NCIS, NCIS LA, or the upcoming NCIS Louisville, NCIS Dubuque, or NCIS Stars Hollow.

Of course, if you want to watch a lot of TV online, you’ll need to keep track of your bandwidth usage. Comcast now has a bandwidth meter in trials that should roll out to all customers in Q1 of next year. We first heard about ISP bandwidth meters back when operators started testing bill-by-the-byte models in 2008. Now that Comcast has one coming to market (with an independent third-party company validating measurements), it will be interesting to see any aggregate data collected on consumer bandwidth usage. How much are we really using the interwebs? I’ll be curious to get a look at not only how online TV affects my personal bandwidth numbers, but also how Slacker usage, Squeezebox listening, and massive photo uploading impact my meter readings.

Finally, Comcast has promised that remote DVR scheduling is on the horizon. Granted the company’s been a bit busy of late, but I’ve been checking on the feature landing page and haven’t seen any changes to note from Dave’s original report. Then again, Comcast has probably been keeping tabs on whether we’ve been bad or good. If we all stay on the non-naughty list, maybe we’ll see remote DVR features by CES.