Archive for November 2005

Pandora Radio from Music Genome Project

Slashdot | Pandora Radio from Music Genome Project Pandora was Slashdotted today.

Is Apple Developing a DVR?

Think Secret – Road to Expo: Reborn Mac mini set to take over the living room Thinksecret is out with a post today citing unnamed sources on Kaleidoscope, the code name for a new Mac Mini project that will include an Intel processor, Front Row 2.0 and “TiVo-like DVR functionality.”

From Thinksecret: “Specifics surrounding Front Row 2.0 and Apple’s DVR application are limited at this point, although sources with knowledge of the project have dubbed the latter a “TiVo-killer.” The moniker might not be without some bias, however, as sources report that talks of an Apple-TiVo deal recently fizzled, prompting TiVo to independently announce this month that it will soon offer customers the ability to copy stored content to a video iPod.”

I was very critical of Front Row when it was first launched without a PVR and view this as a substantial limitation to the product at present. Also it would seem that an Apple based Media Center type machine would be better suited for the Mac Mini than the iMac with it’s less than optimal living room viewing screen.

Ironically, Steve Jobs has been publically somewhat negative on using a computer as a PVR in the past:

From News.com in November 2003: “Jobs said there are several problems with the Media Center concept, in particular the wide divergence in the way people want to watch television as compared with how they use a computer. “Generally what they want to view on television has to do with turning their mind off,” he said.

Jobs said that video recording is processor intensive and is best left to a device that is not doing other things such as playing games or running spreadsheets. “When I want to record ‘The West Wing,’ I want to make damn sure it records ‘The West Wing,'” he said.”

Perhaps Jobs objections back then were more because of the fact that Microsoft had a Media Center PC and they didn’t. If in fact Apple unveils a DVR as part of their Front Row platform I’d expect him to change his tune.

Update: JupiterMedia Analyst Michael Gartenberg adds his thoughts: “While I won’t comment on how likely this rumor is, I will comment that if Apple does introduce this machine in January, it will be a huge success. This is exactly the type of media hub that could gain the acceptance of the mass market. It’s interesting to speculate how the press would cover the introduction of a machine like this. I suspect they would totally igonre the MCE story that’s been on the market for all these years.”

FCC to Announce Endorsement of A La Carte Television Pricing

The FCC is expected to announce today that consumers can save money with a la carte pricing vs. the current bundled approach sold by the cable and satellite providers.

I have been a proponent of the a la carte pricing model for a while but that might be because I don’t watch much TV. Davis Freeberg hates the idea — but that’s because he never leaves his house and watches TV pretty much 24 hours a day. He’d probably have to pay about $1,800 a month if he went on an a la carte TV diet.

A couple of channels I could definitely do without in my bundle: anything in Spanish or Chinese, all of the shopping channels, any religious channel, CSPAN… I could go on for a while.

Davis Freeberg adds “Although I find the idea of a la carte pricing extremely distasteful personally and although I do watch a fair amount of television, I do not watch televison “24 hours a day,” as Tom blogs above. 5 – 6 hours a day is more realistic (not including Xbox time) — and by the way I do get out of the house from time to time thank you very much and have a somewhat active and vibrant social life.

TiVo Going Into Taiwan

Reuters is out with an article on TiVo expanding into Taiwan with TGC Inc. Also known as TGC (TiVo Greater China).

“TGC Inc., a closely held Chinese company, will sell TiVo boxes and distribute the electronic guide and video recording service in Taiwan. Currently over 80% of households in Taiwan subscribe to cable television.

TiVo is a minority shareholder in TGC, which also has the right to sell TiVo service in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Macao.”

Back in TiVo’s 10Q in July of 2004 we were first made aware of this relationship between TiVo and TGC: “On August 9, 2004, the Company acquired a minority interest in TGC, Inc. (“TGC”), a newly formed independent entity. In exchange for the Company’s interest in TGC, it granted TGC a license to certain aspects of its technology for use in The People’s Republic of China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Through TGC, the Company’s management expects to gain access to high quality, low-cost engineering resources for the design and development of reduced-cost digital video recorder platforms.”

To see details on the actual deal with TGC you can visit the Intellectual Property and Technology Agreement By and Between TGC, Inc., TiVo Intl II, Inc. and TiVo Inc.

Although TiVo is the largest shareholder in TGC, there are other minority investors including Venture Capital firm Mobius Venture Capital. Mobius has also been involved with funding other high profile technology businesses including both Slingbox and Technorati.

Mobius in their investment portfolio describes TGC as: “”TGC (TiVo Greater China) is a leading provider of Digital Video Recorder (DVR) products and services. With the technology, service expertise and operation know-how gained from TGC’s largest shareholder, TiVo, the company that pioneered the DVR industry, TGC works jointly with many worldwide technology partners to design and manufacture new DVR platforms, cost reduce existing hardware designs, integrate DVR functionality into other consumer electronics devices, develop DVR system & application software and enhance & provide DVR service operations.”

TGC is the exclusive TiVo partner to market TiVo brand products and services for China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.

Earlier this year, TiVo also announced that they would be expanding into Japan in 2006. Of course the hostility of the broadcasters towards PVRs in Japan is perhaps even higher than here in the U.S. The President of Japan’s National Association of Commercial Broadcasters Hisashi Hieda was recently quoted as saying, “skipping the commercials would amount to a violation of the copyright law.”

TiVo Earnings Conference Call Today

TiVo Third Quarter Fiscal Year 2006 Conference Call and Webcast TiVo is reporting their third quarter earnings today. As these calls are typically reserved for press and analysts I was surprised to see the details on Alex’s TiVoBlog.com. Nonetheless, here they are if you want to listen in.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005, 2:00 p.m. PST
Dial-in: 913-981-4900 No password required
Replay: 719-457-0820 Password: 8913491
Webcast: http://investor.tivo.com/medialist.cfm

Exclusive TiVo Beta Photos

Zatz Not Funny… Exclusive TiVo Beta Photos Dave Zatz has exclusive photos of the new TiVo HME beta that shows Yahoo! Photos, Yahoo! Weather, Yahoo! Traffic, Fandango Movie Tickets, and a few other extras.

Om Malik on the Return of Monetized Eyeballs

Business 2.0 :: Magazine Article :: What Works :: The Return of Monetized Eyeballs Om Malik: “Based on recent high-profile Web content deals, the value of a unique monthly website visitor currently hovers around $38 (the average purchase price per unique user of acquisitions during the past year). As a result, those who built popular websites over the last few years look prescient: They “bought” eyeballs when the market placed little value on them — making daily blog posts or encouraging others to upload text and photos — and can now sell their traffic at a markup.”

Update: Narendra Rocherolle chimes in with some good advice for bloggers: “Blogs and blog networks right now should aspire to status as magazine businesses and find valuations in the single digit millions. Until they have real revenue, internet companies are highly valued at $1M per engineer if they fill a strategic or emerging niche.”

Jason Calacanis also adds, “Om… you know I love you, but this is absurd. Like really, really crazy. Weblogs, Inc. was bought by AOL because of revenue and revenue growth. Eyeballs and pageviews had nothing to do with it–zero. No one in the marketplace is buying things based on eyeballs–no one.”

Escape from Corporate Voice Mail Hell

Escape from Corporate Voice Mail Jail | Bayosphere Dan Gilmore posts on Paul English’s cheat sheet that you may find useful for getting around the various automated interactive voice systems at some of the largest companies out there. I can think of few things more irritating than these systems when you are trying to get a live person.

Sprucing Up Google Video

Sprucing Up Google Video – The Unofficial Google Weblog – google.weblogsinc.com Theunofficialgoogleweblog is out with a post on some recent changes made to Google Video: “First, the home page is now sorted by two tabs, Popular asnd Random, each featuring eight videos. Second: each search results page now offers an option to play all the results in sequence. When chosen that feautre opens up a video playlist on the right side of the page. In that sidebar, a related option finds videos that are somehow … well, related to the one you’re watching.

Getting video on the internet is the first step. Helping people find compelling video is the second step. In addition to the human edited blogs that have been poping up highlighting good Google video, having a “popular” video option at the Google site is a good addition.

Ultimately though, much more still needs to be done — including a social networking and ranking of video service (think Digg for video) combined with a more professional blog like service with a decent sized editorial staff not only searching Google Video for content but other areas like Our Media, Open Media, the Internet Archive, and also ultimately the pay services including things like Akimbo and Brightcove.

With multiple internetworks serving up content, the sorting of this content will represent a great new business opportunity for the editors who get it right.

Both Apple, with the strength of their iTunes platform, and Microsoft, with their Media Center Online Spotlight, have the potential to become this service. Apple perhaps has the most to gain as their Media Center platform does not offer anything beyond limited TV downloads thus far.

Of course no one is providing a super compelling service like this now though and perhaps a more nimble Odeo type start up will be the first to market on something like this.

XBox 360 as a Distribution Model?

Cinematical Cinematical blogs about the possibility that the XBox 360 is the future device of a VOD world. He quotes an article in yesterday’s Vareity by Ben Fritz.

“(D)evices like the 360 (and soon, the PS3) any and all gaming applications are merely “Trojan horses to get Microsoft and Sony devices into as many homes as possible.” He posits that if studios want the valuable, young male demographic to watch their films, they’ll go out of their way to make the content available on Sony’s PS3-compatible Blu-Ray DVD, or format their media for delivery via Xbox Live.”

Maybe, in the long run. But I doubt you see this any time soon. The problem is that while you would in fact get many people to download movies for their XBox 360, the studios are not too keen on people downloading movies INSTEAD of buying the DVDs. While they would certainly pick up some new buyers with VOD, they risk cannibalizing their more lucrative DVD franchise and as such they won’t risk it.

Of course they do experiment with things like CinemaNow (which by the way will allow VOD movies on your XBox 360 today on a VOD basis if you use it as a Media Center extender) but these are poor quality movies. To offer you true HDTV hit movies on demand would be too risky a move for the studios to make. It will be here eventually of course, but only when it is absolutely necessary from the studios perception and even then very reluctantly.