Archives: August 2007

Municipal WiFi Projects Dying Off

EarthLink said late Wednesday that it is bailing out of a contract to build San Francisco’s free Wi-Fi service, according to a CNET News report.

“EarthLink backed out of the deal a day after the company announced it was laying off 900 employees–nearly half of its staff. EarthLink, which is trying to get its finances in order, announced earlier this summer that it would not invest in any new citywide Wi-Fi deployments until it came up with a better business model.”

This is right on the heels of Chicago’s decision to drop municipal WiFi earlier in the week. Ars technica blogger Eric Bangeman wrote that while the news is troubling, it’s probably not indicative of a large-scale move away from city-backed WiFi.

“I don’t see the end of large projects, but I do expect them to be more carefully thought out,” technology consultant and author Craig Settles told Ars Technica in an interview. “Plans are being scaled back that were originally built upon unrealistic, over-inflated expectations. The laws of economic reality, like the laws of physics, cannot be violated without severe, often negative results.”

Either way, anyone who’s been planning to use their new iPhone’s high-speed WiFi mode will surely be disappointed at the delays.

Free San Francisco Wi-Fi project dies [CNET News]
Chicago’s decision to drop muni WiFi symptomatic of a troubled sector [Ars Technica]

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Breaking: NBC Ends iTunes Sales

nbc.jpgNBC Universal, unable to come to an agreement with Apple on pricing, has decided not to renew its contract to sell digital downloads of television shows on iTunes, The New York Times is reporting today.

In retrospect, this move isn’t entirely unexpected, given that Universal already pulled out of their contract with Apple and began selling unprotected versions of its music in competing music stores. Still, the news for Apple’s iTunes Store hasn’t been good lately, as media companies grow increasingly frustrated with Apple’s fixed media pricing.

Most analysts and consumers feel that the fixed pricing is what makes the iTunes Store a success. Here’s an example from the NYT article that illustrates how the studios could botch it up: “NBC Universal and other companies say they want to increase prices by packaging content–say an episode of ‘The Office’ with the movie ‘The 40- Year-Old Virgin,’ because they both star the comedian Steve Carell.”

These useless groupings are exactly why consumers like the a la carte model. Otherwise we’re heading back down the road to $18 CD albums with one good song on them.

2:42 pm Update: Forget about the end of the year. The Associated Press is reporting that Apple escalated the dispute with NBC Universal over the pricing of television shows by announcing Friday it would not sell any of NBC’s programs for this fall season on iTunes.

“We are disappointed to see NBC leave iTunes because we would not agree to their dramatic price increase,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of iTunes, in the AP report. “We hope they will change their minds and offer their TV shows to the tens of millions of iTunes customers.”

NBC to End iTunes Sales of Its Shows [NYT]

Sony Pulls the Plug on Connect Music Store

If someone shuts a mobile music service down in the forest and there’s no one to hear it, does anyone care? That’s the situation facing Sony, which is finally turning off its ill-fated Connect service, according to CNET News.

“Apple’s iTunes was never… threatened by Sony’s misguided download service,” said the report. “The company’s attempt to compete in the digital music market was from the start marked by glitchy software and disinterested consumers.”

The writing was already on the wall as early as April 2006, when Sony stopped development on Connect after failing to fix technical problems. More recently, there was the July 2007 announcement of a new mobile venture between Sony BMG and Dada Entertainment that lacked any mention of the existing Connect service.

Sony to shut down Connect music store [CNET News]

The Beatles on iTunes: Next Week?

appleevent.jpgThis one has been swirling around for ages. But the latest speculation is that Apple will finally make the long-awaited announcement next week–that music from Liverpool’s legendary quartet will be available from the iTunes Store.

Currently, consumers can already buy tracks and albums from the individual band member’s solo careers from Apple. But now that the various legal battles between Apple Corp and Apple Inc. are finally resolved, next week’s Apple event could be the moment. Plus, since EMI is the label, the Beatles tracks would likely be sold in both 99-cent protected and $1.29, DRM-free “iTunes Plus” versions.

There’s even talk of a Yellow Submarine iPod.

Speculation: The Beatles on iTunes Sept. 5 [Apple 2.0]

Cellphone-Only Homes Overtake Landlines

The New York Times is reporting that from September 2006 to April 2007, the percentage of Americans in cellphone-only households for the first time overtook the percentage in landline-only households, according to Mediamark Research, a firm that has been tracking such data since the mid-1980s.

Folks have been gradually dropping their landlines since around the turn of the century. And as everyone knows, cellphone subscriptions have gone through the roof over the past decade. But now, according to a survey of about 13,000 homes, “Mediamark said 84.5 percent of households now have landlines, and 86.2 percent have at least one cellphone.”

Is it any wonder that media companies are falling all over themselves to join the mobile media bandwagon?

Cellphone-Only Homes Hit a Milestone [NYT]

Analysts: Nokia Media Push Questionable

CNNMoney.com blogger Paul R. La Monica analyzed Nokia’s foray into the online music business, called “Ovi,” along with the company’s recent push to revive its troubled N-Gage mobile gaming platform. Analysts are lukewarm over the announcements.

“It’s clear that market potential is better than Europe and markets in Asia,” said Michael Goodman, a senior digital entertainment analyst with Yankee Group, in the article. “Very few people are willing to change their digital music players for a music phone.” And if they are, it appears that they are sticking with Apple and its new iPhone, said La Monica.

Moreover, Nokia’s Ovi music store doesn’t seem to distinguish itself from its competitors–notably Apple. “This service isn’t sufficiently differentiated to make a major impact in terms of convincing consumers to either start using legal download services, or wean them off of Apple’s service and dedicated music devices,” wrote Forrester Research analysts Charles Golvin and Paul Jackson in an e-mail to CNNMoney.com Wednesday morning.

The article goes on to say that some analysts don’t believe the phone will ever be the right device to purchase music at all–the PC should remain the entry point. Lots of good stuff here.

Nokia’s music store hits sour note [CNNMoney.com]

Get Gossip Girls On the Go

gossipgirls.jpgGossipGirls.com, also known as Celebrity-Gossip.net, will now bring celebrity news and images to cell phones using FeedM8, a mobile news feed provider.

The new service, called “Gossip Girls On the Go,” will join other popular sites across FeedM8′s catalog, including Engadget, BusinessWeek, BoingBoing, USA Today, and more.

To access Gossip Girls On-the-go, head to GossipGirls.com on your PC and click “Get Gossip Girls on your cellphone”. Enter your phone number when prompted, an SMS message with the link to Gossip Girls On-the-go will be sent to your phone.

You can also visit m.gossipgirls.com using your cellphone’s browser.

Gossip Girls On-The-Go Launches, Powered by FeedM8 [FeedM8]

Watch Live College Football On Verizon

This fall, sports fans will be able to watch live, full-length college football games from a variety of broadcast and cable networks on their mobile phones. That’s according to a new joint announcement between Verizon Wireless and MediaFLO, their broadcast mobile TV provider.

The agreement will span more than 100 games in the 2007 season, including 20 bowl matchups, on CBS Mobile, ESPN Mobile TV, FOX Mobile and NBC 2Go on V CAST Mobile TV. They won’t show every single game, though–programmers will choose which games to cover based on team performances the previous week. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s on offer:

- ESPN Mobile TV will air more than 75 live match-ups, as well as up to 20 bowl games.

- Notre Dame fans can catch seven Fighting Irish games on NBC 2Go
and two on ESPN Mobile TV.

- Highlights of the 2007 season on CBS Mobile will include up to 15 Southeastern Conference games, the Sun Bowl and Gator Bowl, and up to 38 additional college football games covered through CSTV.

- FOX Sports Mobile, meanwhile, is the destination of choice for
mobile Big 12 fans.

This continues the recent trend of more full-length TV broadcasting on mobile phones, as opposed to the 3-minute “video clip” approach that the public has largely ignored to date.

Verizon Wireless and MediaFLO USA Bring Unmatched Live Coverage of the 2007 College Football Season to Mobile Phones [Qualcomm]

Office Depot Launches Mobile Destination

Santa Ana-based mobile media company go2 will serve Office Depot ads across its network, as well as provide a mobile site complete with store location and geo-targeted coupon-serving features, according to MediaPost.

Consumers who visit the go2 Office Depot site will find options like text-based links to weekly specials, the ability to sign up for an e-mail newsletter, as well as a click-to-call customer service link, according to the report. “Major brands like Nokia and MasterCard usually buy banner space on the company’s mobile ad network, while new partners like Purina and Acura have chosen to sponsor entire sections of original content.”

Note that the mobile site won’t be an actual online store where folks could purchase products over the Internet–that remains on the desktop for now.

Office Depot Goes Mobile With go2 [MediaPost]

E! Launches “News Now” on Mobile

Eonline.jpgMediaweek reports that E! has launched an original news series produced specifically for broadband and mobile platforms.

The new E! News Now, which debuted on Aug. 27, features at least 12 original, short-form news clips each day covering the latest in celebrity and entertainment news, according to the report. “To help provide the new series its own identity, E! has assigned two reporters, Valery Ortiz and Ashlan Gorse, to host the one to two minute clips – neither of who are regulars on the linear network.”

No word yet on which carriers and phones will support the new show. The show is also available on the Web via on-demand streaming – visit Eonline.com’s broadband video hub The Vine for details.

E! Launches ‘News Now’ Web, Mobile Series [Mediaweek]