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January 12, 2007

TGIF: Well, that’s settled

Posted by David Hunter at 6:58 PM ET.

You may recall that in the high definition DVD wars Microsoft and Toshiba are the leaders of the HD DVD camp while Sony leads the Blu-ray forces. Now there’s word that the battle is all over – HD DVD versus Blu-ray – The porn industry says HD DVD:

Knowing their audience quite well, the adult entertainment industry holds their annual get together in Las Vegas to coincide with the CES. There is also a very pertinent crossover between the adult and tech industries – porn has a tendency to drive, and be driven, by technology. Which means HD DVD when it comes to high-def.

Quite famously in the war between Betamax and VHS the latter won especially because the adult industry preferred it. If you’ve been around long enough, you probably remember that the very early home video rental stores were primarily responsible for driving Betamax out of the market. And those stores carried almost exclusively pornographic content.

Although the market environments from then do not really compare to today’s home video market, parallels are drawn between the Betamax-VHS battle to the ongoing and escalating fight between Blu-ray and HD DVD. One of the key questions at this year’s CES actually is “Which high-def format will win the current format war – Blu-ray or HD DVD?” Surprisingly, it seems that there is no such question in the minds of the adult industry luminaries.

The rest of the article explains some technical reasons why HD DVD is a better choice for small publishers. There’s also an unverified report today that Sony has forbidden “adult” Blu-ray content which would make the choice even clearer.

The “adult entertainment” industry is not shy about preposterous self promotion, but the “porn makes new technologies succeed” meme has been around for years. I can recall arguments from over a decade ago that “adult entertainment” was going to be the driver for adoption of multimedia hardware features on PCs. That never came to pass (at least in the non-Web form anticipated), but the evidence is better in other technology areas. I doubt the battle is really over, but chalk this one up as one more player (albeit nonstandard) weighing in for HD DVD.

Update: For a less arousing status on the format wars, see this overview.

Update 1/19: More on the Sony/Blu-ray position here.

Update 1/27: Sony says there’s really no Blu-ray adult content prohibition.

Filed under Blu-ray, CES07, Conferences, Coopetition, HD DVD, Hardware, Microsoft, Sony, Toshiba

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Vista Odds and Ends, January 12, 2007

Posted by David Hunter at 1:47 PM ET.

For a week seemingly dominated by consumer electronics of the non-PC variety, there was still an abundance of Windows Vista news. I’ve already mentioned the December sales estimates and the craplets, but here are more that didn’t get a post of their own:

Windows Vista Named “Best of CES” at the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show in the computers and hardware category.

UK schools advised to hold off on Vista, Office 2007

Microsoft needs to make a stronger case for U.K. schools to upgrade to Windows Vista and Office 2007 as neither product contains essential new features, according to a report from a British educational advisory group.

Ouch! The full report is here, but part of their beef was also the potential for expensive Microsoft lock-in and in response, Microsoft makes changes to education licensing, promises more.

Conspiracy theorists start your engines, NSA Helped Microsoft Make Vista Secure.

Vista Casts A Pall On PC Gaming, most particularly casual downloadable games.

iDefense offers bounty for Vista and IE7 flaws. The good guys are offering $8,000 (actually up to $12K). Less savory characters apparently are asking $50K for their Vista exploits.

Who’s Inflating Vista Security Expectations?

Vista marketing fun:

Filed under CES07, Conferences, General Business, Governmental Relations, Licensing, Marketing, Microsoft, OS - Client, Office, Office 2007, PC Games, Windows Vista

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January 9, 2007

Microsoft bunts, Apple hits a home run

Posted by David Hunter at 8:53 PM ET.

If you want a nutshell encapsulation of the problems Microsoft is having trying to enlarge their franchise beyond the PC operating system market to general consumer electronics, nothing will serve better than the events of the last few days. After a soporific Gates’ keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show we were treated to some Robbie Bach whinging that Apple ought to be real careful about launching a cell phone. Today, Steve Jobs knocked the smartphone category out of the park at Macworld:

Capping literally years of speculation on perhaps the most intensely followed unconfirmed product in Apple’s history — and that’s saying a lot — the iPhone has been announced today.

Sweet, glorious specs of the 11.6 millimeter device (that’s frickin’ thin, by the way) include a 3.5-inch 480 x 320 touchscreen display with multi-touch support and a proximity sensor to turn off the screen when it’s close to your face, 2 megapixel cam, 4GB or 8 GB of storage, Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR and A2DP, WiFi that automatically engages when in range, and quad-band GSM radio with EDGE. Perhaps most amazingly, though, it somehow runs OS X with support for Widgets, Google Maps, and Safari, and iTunes (of course) with CoverFlow out of the gate. A partnership with Yahoo will allow all iPhone customers to hook up with free push IMAP email. Apple quotes 5 hours of battery life for talk or video, with a full 16 hours in music mode — no word on standby time yet.

For more, watch the keynote here or Engadget’s minute by minute coverage, or the GigaOm summary, but better yet, try the demo. Michael Arrington at Techcrunch:

Once again, Apple CEO Steve Jobs wowed the crowds like no one else can. In his 9 am keynote at MacWorld in San Francisco this morning, Jobs announced the new iPhone cell phone. From the description in appears to be a game changing device, and the public markets seem to agree. As of the time of this writing, Apple stock is up over 7% for the day. Competitor Research in Motion (Blackberry) is down over 6%, wiping $2 billion dollars in market cap off the table. Palm, maker of the Treo, is also down, nearly 6%.

The biggest letdown is the fact that the iPhone won’t be available until June 2007 in the U.S. They have so much horsepower and untested software packed into this tiny device that the first version will almost certainly have problems – overheating, bugs, etc. That won’t stop millions from buying it as soon as it is available. And it won’t stop me, either.

Me either – I’m already hearing petitions from the nontechnical side of the household even though our local Cingular (the exclusive iPhone service provider) coverage isn’t the best.

The take away is the not surprising observation that Microsoft just can’t seem do the consumer market. The closest they have come is with the spectacularly unprofitable Xbox 360 and they may still luck out there due to Sony’s incompetence if Nintendo doesn’t eat both their lunches, but it isn’t pretty and doesn’t ever promise to be particularly profitable. MSFTextrememakeover (“If they sold sashimi, they’d call it cold dead fish“) suggests it is a marketing problem, but I’d say it is bigger than that – it’s the all too common midlife crisis of mature and successful organizations. I’m sure that the shareholders devoutly hope that Microsoft executives just go back to milking their cash cows instead of further experimentation trying to perfect their midlife flings.

Update: This just in – Microsoft Will Add Video Games to Zune by July 2008:

Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker, will introduce video games for its Zune music player within 18 months to match features available on Apple Computer Inc.’s dominant iPod.

No, it’s not April 1.

Filed under Apple, Argo, Bill Gates, CES07, Conferences, Coopetition, Executives, Financial, Google, Investor Relations, Marketing, Microsoft, Nintendo, Robbie Bach, Sony, Xbox, Yahoo, Zune

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January 8, 2007

Other Microsoft announcements at CES07

Posted by David Hunter at 6:29 PM ET.

Not every Microsoft announcement at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show made the Bill Gates keynote.

From the Microsoft Hardware group (i.e. the part of Entertainment & Devices that makes money but gets no buzz):

Microsoft Hardware’s Innovative Industry Firsts Earn Top CES Honors

This week at the 2007 International CES in Las Vegas, Microsoft Corp. will showcase its award-winning peripherals, the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 and the Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000, both named CES Innovations 2007 Design and Engineering Awards Honorees on the basis of their innovative designs and advancements in peripheral engineering…

Microsoft’s Upgraded Fingerprint Reader Makes Windows Vista Features More Convenient

…Microsoft Corp. announced the availability of the Microsoft Fingerprint Reader with software updates from DigitalPersona Inc., for Windows Vista compatibility, offering users the convenience of replacing their passwords with their fingerprint…

Microsoft and Razer Launch Cutting-Edge Gaming Keyboard

HD DVD related:

Microsoft Technology Brings HD DVD to the Mainstream

Microsoft Corp. showcased the growing momentum behind HD DVD through its contribution of core technologies. Microsoft helped deliver the highest-quality video with the VC-1 codec, advanced interactivity with HDi™, and a streamlined and affordable platform for player manufacturers through the use of Microsoft Windows CE 6.0.

Microsoft and Broadcom Deliver Combined Hardware and Software Platform for More Cost-Efficient HD DVD Players

Microsoft Corp. and Broadcom Corp. announced a joint effort to support a hardware and software reference design for more cost-efficient HD DVD playback. The new platform uses Microsoft Windows CE 6.0 and Broadcom’s BCM7440 system-on-chip solution, allowing consumer electronics manufacturers, original design manufacturers and systems integrators to more easily and affordably deliver HD DVD playback. Several of the more innovative, high volume electronics companies that plan to use this new hardware and software platform to speed the production of HD DVD players include Lite-On IT Corp. and Zhenjiang Jiangkui Group Co. Ltd./ED Digital.

MSN Direct:

MSN Direct Goes High Def with Clear Channel

Microsoft Corp. and Clear Channel Radio today announced at the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that they have executed a collaborative agreement to build a nationwide data delivery service using HD Radio technology, providing personalized and localized content to a variety of HD Radio receivers. This initiative will be branded MSN Direct HD, an extension of Microsoft’s existing MSN Direct service, which currently transmits a variety of information including traffic, weather, movie times, sports, and stocks to Smart Watches, weather stations, Global Positioning System navigation devices and small home appliances.

Microsoft SPOT Initiative Accelerates With Addition of MSN Direct to Navigation Devices

Microsoft Corp.’s Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) Group announced the availability of MSN Direct navigation services and announced that Garmin International Inc. will be the first to offer the new MSN Direct service to Global Positioning System (GPS) devices. Customers will be able to receive dynamic local information, including weather condition and traffic updates, movies listings, and gas prices.

Microsoft SPOT also announced plans to work with future versions of Microsoft Streets & Trips and Pharos Science & Applications Inc. to offer MSN Direct Navigation Services to their devices. In addition, Microsoft SPOT is working with Centrality Communications Inc. to integrate MSN Direct with its GPS reference designs…

Filed under Broadcom, CES07, Conferences, Coopetition, Digital Media, Embedded, HD DVD, Hardware, Keyboards, MSN, MSN Direct, Mice, Microsoft, Microsoft Hardware, Razer, SPOT, Windows CE

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