Archives For Industry

This Chattanooga choo choo is more than the little engine that could. Reporting over at GigaOM, industry analyst Craig Settles has detailed in two posts some of the impact the city of Chattanooga Tennessee is seeing from its gigabit broadband network. While I’m looking forward to a consistent 15 Mbps downstream connection, the good folks of Chattanooga are thinking much bigger thoughts thanks to their significant (and apparently hard-earned) broadband wealth.

First, the city is getting its money’s worth by implementing smart-grid technologies to increase operational efficiencies and cut down on costs. According to Settles, with a gigabit of bandwidth, the city’s public utility company can reduce power outages from hours down to minutes. During a recent spate of tornadoes, the smart grid saved an estimated 730,000 minutes of power (more than 12,000 hours), and eliminated the need for 250 truck rolls. That’s money in the bank.

Second, the city is offering some serious Wi-Fi benefits to the local government with a mesh network that delivers 16 Mbps of symmetrical service. Current applications taking advantage of the Wi-Fi access include a fleet of wirelessly-controlled helicopter drones that stream video feeds from remote and/or dangerous locations, and a new imaging program that scans and uploads real-world 3D images to create static holograms. (Holodeck, anyone?)

Third, Chattanooga is wooing new business interests with broadband capacity that makes big-data computations possible. SimCenter Enterprises (above) is one example located in the city, and it uses the gigabit connection for high-end modeling and simulation exercises.  Continue Reading…

Comcast Xfinity Verizon FiOS

I am on the verge of a move to Takoma Park Maryland, and being the cable geek that I am, one of the things I cataloged closely during the house hunting process was the variety of set-tops in living rooms around the region. Not that cable services were a factor in choosing a place to live (they weren’t, I swear!), but it was still worth a note to see what broadband provider might soon be receiving a portion of my monthly paycheck.

As it turns out, both Comcast Xfinity and Verizon FiOS are available in Takoma Park. Currently I’m a Comcast customer, and there are certain advantages to sticking with my existing provider, but the prospect of switching to a fiber-to-the-home service is just too tantalizing. Here’s my personal list of top pros and cons for the two megaliths of broadband service. Keep in mind this is far from a comprehensive list of features, but it’s the stuff I care about most. Continue Reading…

In a research report released by SNL Kagan this week (hat tip to Multichannel News), new numbers show just how high retransmission fees are rising for cable, telco, and satellite TV operators. According to the Kagan report, operators paid $1.14 billion in retrans fees in 2010, with that number projected to rise to $1.46 billion in 2011, and to $3.61 billion by 2017.

No wonder industry folks are so touchy about Netflix getting content on the cheap.

Increasingly, licensing deals look to be a large part of the revenue strategy for TV networks. I haven’t seen anyone draw a line specifically between that strategy and the reduced effectiveness of television advertising, but I can only assume that the two aren’t unrelated. Sure, ad revenue is still predicted to rise through 2014, but nobody is underestimating anymore the disruptive power of the Internet and new business models for television delivery. With audience attentions fragmenting, broadcasters want a more predictable and reliable stream of revenue.

Meanwhile, as retrans fees rise, and the fights among content distributors get nastier, the government is readying itself to weigh in on the matter. The FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on retransmission consent earlier this year, and has begun to collect comments from industry players. Cablevision has filed comments already, proposing that the FCC: forbid must-carry rules around secondary broadcast channels, require transparency from broadcasters on retrans fees, and forbid practices that allow broadcasters to set different prices for service providers based on “size or other factors.”

Transparency in retransmission deals? Yeah, good luck with that.

I’ve read an awful lot lately on innovations that should help with the next wave of advanced imaging techniques. I’m talking at the consumer level, not new NASA technologies or research in the medical field. Let me lay out a few examples. Macstories recently reported on an app being developed to support glass-free 3D viewing on an iPad. It works using the iPad’s (or iPhone’s) front-facing camera to track a user’s head movements and simulate a 3D image. Gizmodo meanwhile posted earlier this week on a new iPhone accessory in the works called the Dot, which attaches to your phone to provide 360-degree video capture. It’s still in pre-production, but Kogeto, the company behind the Dot, is already taking pre-orders.

And then there’s the Augmented Reality movement. AR company Metaio has shown off a bunch of cool applications including in-store retail kiosks (see the awesome Lego Store demo), location-specific graphics (see Scoble’s video coverage of metaio showing a dragon crawling up the side of a building in Munich), and CE diagnostics capabilities that make it possible to troubleshoot a hardware problem without ever reaching for the manual.

Add all of these examples up with increasing bandwidth and computational capacity, and I think we’re going to see a massive leap forward in the next five years on the virtual imaging front. Holodeck, anyone?

In the last decade we’ve seen the launch of the iPod, satellite radio, and streaming music services on the Internet. But as great as those innovations have been, they haven’t always made life easy for consumers. iPods brought with them the inflexible iTunes marketplace and DRM lock-in, satellite radio added in another monthly fee with no music ownership option, and Internet radio requires (shockingly) an Internet connection. The result is that most of us cobble together our own listening system – part CD, MP3, and radio, and entirely dependent on where we are, and what service or hardware we have access to.

Thanks to the cloud, that’s all about to change. In theory, we’ll soon all have access to everything, everywhere we go. And in practice, the shift has already started to take place. Here’s a look at where music is headed.

To the Cloud

It’s been an interesting few months for cloud music services. First, Amazon launched its Cloud Drive service, offering users a space to store digital music files and play them back on the web or Android devices. Then came Google Music, a very similar offering, though one still in invitation-only beta at the moment.  And finally, word has circulated in the last week that Apple is set to launch its own music service – with the one critical difference that it’s sewing up licencing deals with the major labels first. With licensing agreements in place, Apple will be able to help users avoid uploading an entire library of music, and instead scan and match any owned titles with copies already available in the cloud. Continue Reading…

As digital licensing negotiations heat up, it’s heartening to see Netflix pull another big win from a new deal with Miramax. Netflix announced the multi-year agreement today, which includes instant streaming of a number of movies in the Miramax library, from Academy Award winners like “Shakespeare in Love,” and “The English Patient,” to cult favorites like “Chasing Amy” and “Pulp Fiction.”

The win for Netflix is important for a number of reasons. First, as Will Richmond points out, it shows how big a role movies still play in the Netflix model, even though TV series have gotten more attention of late. Second, the VOD company noted that the deal with Miramax marks the first time Miramax titles have been made available through a digital subscription service, showing that Netflix carries significant clout as a distribution partner. And third, although terms were not disclosed, the agreement shows Netflix can and is willing to compete financially even now that content owners understand that digital delivery doesn’t mean giving away licensing rights for pennies on the dollar. [UPDATE: paidContent is putting the financial terms at likely more than $100 million.]

Miramax films will be available on Netflix starting in June, with titles added on a rotating basis. Streaming access will be available across TVs (presumably through Rokus, game consoles, and more), tablets, computers, and smartphones.

dish-network-xip

DISH Network recently held their annual Team Summit for partners and retailers. Scott Greczkowski of Satellite Guys was in attendance… and came back with a treasure trove of info and photos. The most compelling story for us gadget loving consumers was the unveiling of Echostar’s new whole-home DVR solution, which will be composed of at least one XiP813 triple tuning DVR hub and multiple XiP110 extenders that communicate via MoCA. Also notable, and somewhat different from the last couple years, is the de-emphasis of integrated Slingbox/SlingLoaded functionality as seen from the ViP922.

DISH Network XiP 813

dish-xip813-3

The DISH XiP 813 appears much more svelte than prior oversized EchoStar DVR hardware… despite sporting 3 satellite tuners, 1 terabyte of recording storage, and acting as a central hub – much like Arris’ new Moxi Gateway.

DISH Network XiP 110

dish-xip110-2

The DISH XiP110 extender units are even more compact than the 813, tuning live satellite television and providing access to all recorded content from that aforementioned hub. They communicate using the high bandwidth and reliable MoCA connectivity.

For those who need more than 3 tuners, additional XiP 813 units can be added to the mix along with however many XiP 110 extenders are desired. Scott says this DISH/EchoStar initiative appears “a lot more advanced than DIRECTV’s MultiRoom Viewing in all ways.” EchoStar is expected to deliver a completed product to DISH Network this fall, but it’s probably a safe bet that customers won’t actually be able to purchase new XiP hardware until 2012.

(Many thanks to Scott and Satellite Guys for the extensive briefing and pics!)