Archives For Satellite TV

Breaking News: TiVo v EchoStar

Dave Zatz —  January 31, 2008

I just got off a plane in Minneapolis and will be tied up most of the day, but learned that the US Court of Appeals has rendered their decision (on testimony I attended). I haven’t had a chance to peruse the document, but here’s a cut & paste of the conclusion:

In sum, because of a failure of proof of literal infringement, we reverse the judgment of infringement of the hardware claims with respect to all of the accused devices. We remand for any further proceedings that may be necessary with respect to those claims. We affirm the judgment of infringement of the software claims with respect to all of the accused devices. Because the damages calculation at trial was not predicated on the infringement of particular claims, and because we have upheld the jury’s verdict that all of the accused devices infringe the software claims, we affirm the damages award entered by the district court.

The district court’s injunction was stayed during the course of these proceedings. The stay that was issued pending appeal will dissolve when this appeal becomes final. At that time, the district court can make a determination as to the additional damages, if any, that TiVo has sustained while the stay of the permanent injunction has been in effect.

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Hertz Ain’t Sirius

Dave Zatz —  October 25, 2007

For the second time in recent months, Hertz provided me with a complimentary convertible upgrade – including Sirius satellite radio. I don’t know which direction the marketing dollars flow, but these installs serve neither company well. The basic unit is tacked on and while it’s hard-wired (dangling) for both power and antenna, they chose to stop there. The first 15 miles with this receiver, I assumed it was broken, as repeatedly pressing the auxiliary satellite radio buttons on the head unit did nothing. Eventually, I realized Sirius was transmitting over FM to 88.5. Maybe the Sirius brochure indicates that, but I wasn’t provided one on my first trip. And if folks have to read a manual to operate the device, forget it – they won’t bother with an after-market Sirius car install after a rental. And now that I have the brochure with channel lineup, I can spend days pressing the up/down keys until I land on the good stations. Here’s a tip: When offering a couple hundred options, you must also offer a numeric keypad. Sure, there’s a Shift button there that does something – but again, I’m not interested in reading a manual. Maybe I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth, but I rented the car for transportation and this is Siriusly too much work.

DirecTV Sat-Go Reduced to $999

Dave Zatz —  October 9, 2007

Not sure when the price cut hit, but DirecTV has reduced pricing for their portable Sat-Go solution by about a third ($1499 -> $999). If they didn’t limit purchases to in-home DirecTV customers, I’d be real tempted to pick one up… It’s an innately cool device. I’m not really sure why I’d need one or even know where I’d use it but, as you can see from the picture above, it just makes people smile.

No disrespect to the court, the judges, the attorneys, or anyone else… but, man, was that boring.

Essentially, ~80 of us gathered in the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for a little over an hour while EchoStar and TiVo provided oral argument in Echo’s appeal of TiVo’s lower court jury win in this ongoing DVR patent dispute. Echo’s position is that there were “claim construction issues” in regards to how three patent elements (2 hardware, 1 software) were presented. A whole lot of discussion (judges and lawyers from both sides) focused on the meaning and implication of the words separate (how, when, and physical versus logcial), source object/collection (in regards to software components), and an (is it both singular and plural).

The three judges posed some interesting questions during the proceedings: Why is the jury’s decision invalid? If the appeals court invalidates some of the claims but not all, do monetary awards and injunction terms change? (TiVo says no, Echo says yes.)

I have no inkling of what the outcome will be… and I suspect the case will be largely decided on the contents of the humongous documents (blue book from Echo, red book from TiVo) rather than these oral arguments, which seemed more about clarification.

So what happens next? Apparently, verdicts are put onto the web when they’re ready with no advance notice – Sadly, there won’t be any courtroom theatrics of thrown DVRs. (I’d come back for that!) Sounds like if the lower court’s ruling is simply affirmed, we should hear something in the next week or so. Otherwise, it could be a few months while the judges mull things over and render their decision.

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The TiVo v. EchoStar Update

Dave Zatz —  October 2, 2007

TiVo and EchoStar head into the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit this Thursday to continue arguing their ongoing patent dispute. The docket is pretty tight, so the hearing should be a brief affair.

An unexpected benefit in attending the pre-DigitalLife event last week was spotting Kunal Madhukar’s badge (and the person attached). Kunal is the Bear Stearns analyst covering digital media — In fact, I’ve quoted him a few times here on ZNF. Kunal has kindly provided me with docket details and, if time permits, I may sit in on the hearing. I doubt they’ll allow mobile blogging or even photographs, but I’ll be sure to draw stick figures of the participants. As far as the case goes, Kunal believes the Final Order could take “six months or more” and finds it “difficult to handicap [the] outcome.”

I realize things appear a bit muddied on my end: EchoStar will be my employer shortly and I’m a TiVo customer… However, I don’t presume to be a patent or legal expert – which hopefully limits me to covering the facts of this landmark case without bias.

September Slinging

Dave Zatz —  October 1, 2007

After working 13 days on the road, followed by 48 hours of R&R (Halo 3-style), I’m ready to get back to some blogging. It’s obviously been a very exciting couple weeks at Sling Media (my place of employment), so here’s a quick roundup of September news in chronological order:

Sling Collaborates with DirecTV on NFL Supercast

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EchoStar to Acquire Sling Media

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Introducing Slingbox SOLO

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  • CNET: Sling Media Slingbox Solo
  • Gizmodo: Slingbox Solo Hands On, Slinging a Single HD Source Wherever You Are

Slingbox PRO Heads Across the Pond

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SlingPlayer Mobile for Symbian Released

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  • ZDNet: Sling Media announces SlingPlayer for S60 devices
  • Symbian Guru: SlingPlayer Mobile for Symbian S60v3 Devices!
  • Symbian in Motion: SlingPlayer Mobile Officially Released for S60

SlingPlayer Mobile for Blackberry Under Development

Yes, it’s true – we’re exploring Slinging to the Blackberry platform and feel good with our progress. I’ll go ahead and quote myself from the Sling Community:

You wouldn’t believe some of the cool stuff going on in our labs! But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves… Blackberry support, as with any new Sling platform, is a major engineering undertaking and it’ll be some time before we have a product suitable for release.

Bonus Coverage: We’ve also refreshed our Sling Media web site, launched a Clip+Sling teaser, and intend to fully support Palm’s new Centro.

Combination Will Create Industry-Leading Digital Media Solutions Provider

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. and FOSTER CITY, Calif., September 24, 2007 – EchoStar Communications Corporation (NASDAQ: DISH) announced today that it has agreed to acquire Sling Media, Inc., a privately-held digital lifestyle products company. EchoStar, through its DISH Network®, is the third largest pay-TV provider in the United States. The transaction values Sling Media at approximately $380 million and is payable in cash and EchoStar options. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2007.

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There’s news out of Sling Media today, and since I don’t work for the company (unlike Dave), I feel perfectly justified in covering it. :)

Sling is collaborating with DirecTV on a new offering called Supercast, which brings online streams of NFL games to the Web every Sunday. Subscribers to the DirecTV/NFL SuperFan package can access these streams for free, though it appears you will only get access to the games available in your geographic region. (Hmmm– isn’t “placeshifting” the whole idea behind Sling?) Sling designed the SuperCast interface (further updates promised soon) and is hosting the service for DirecTV. More details direct from Dave on the Sling Community forum.

What’s extremely interesting about this news is that it represents the first time Sling has ventured beyond the hardware biz into direct content delivery. The new service does not require a Slingbox or Sling software. And, in working with DirecTV, Sling shows new media and old media distribution are growing ever closer. Maybe there are more partnerships to come?

One other note about the news from a satellite-vs.-cable point of view: it looks like the battles over sports content are not going to die down any time soon. What’s next? Is Comcast going to bring Donovan McNabb on door-to-door sales calls?