June, 2011

3D still a gimmick

3D In the 1950s, 3D cinema was supposed to save moviegoing from the ravages of newfangled television techology. But it turned out to be a classic gimmick: a technological response to what was really a market problem. Consumers weren’t choosing TV over the movies because movies lacked spectacle; they chose it because it filled the need for casual entertainment in the convenience of their living room. If moviegoing was to compete with television it would have to be with more compelling product, not more spectacle. Read More »

When you’re GeoHot, you’re hot; when you’re Howard Stringer, you’re not

Hackers What a striking contrast in the fortunes of Sony chairman and CEO Sir Howard Stringer, and those of George Hotz, the hacker formerly known as GeoHot, who was sued by Sony earlier this year for cracking the PS3 security system.

Facing frustrated, and at times hostile, shareholders at Sony’s annual meeting Tuesday, Stringer acknowledged that the lawsuit against Hotz triggered a backlash from hacker groups that led to the devastating cyber-attack on Sony’s PlayStation Network and Qriocity network in May and June. Read More »

Netflix looks for new friends on Facebook

Deals Netflix obviously wasn’t kidding when it announced earlier this year that a “major” integration with Facebook was in the works. Last Thursday, the two companies announced the Netflix CEO Reed Hastings will join the Facebook board of directors, about as close an integration as you can get without a formal merger.

Oddly, the announcement didn’t actually tell us much about how Netflix actually plans to use Facebook or what the integration will consist of. Much of the speculation triggered by the announcement focused on potential operational aspects of the integration, most of which could be achieved without tying the companies together at the board level. Presumably, then, there are other, more strategic reasons why Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg would want Hastings on his board, and why Hastings would want the seat. Read More »

The limits of unlimited movies

Box Office Lots of buzz this morning about MoviePass, a start-up hoping to bring Netflix-style all-you-can-eat subscriptions to the big screen. For $50 a month, MoviePass subscribers will be able to see unlimited movies in theaters using their smartphones as a ticket.

Using the MoviePass web app (native iOS and Android apps are in the works), subscribers can search for movies and showtimes at participating theaters, reserve their seat and then flash their phone screens at the box office when they get to the theater as proof of purchase. The service will initially be available only in the San Francisco Bay Area but plans call for rolling it out to other cities later this year. Users will be charged a $3 premium if they choose a 3D screening. The app will also let users pre-order the movie they just saw on DVD or VOD on their way out of the theater. Read More »

Site-blocking battle going global

Copyright From virtually a standing start in the U.S. last year the debate over blocking access to so-called rogue web sites that host copyright infringing content has escalated rapidly into a worldwide battle.

Last week, a group of leading technology investors and venture capitalists sent a letter to members of the U.S. Congress warning that the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May, could stifle innovation and harm U.S. competitiveness around the world.

“The bill is ripe for abuse, as it allows rights-holders to require third-parties to block access to and take away revenues sources for online services, with limited oversight and due process,” the group said. “While we understand PIPA was originally intended to deal with “rogue” foreign sites, we think PIPA will ultimately put American innovators and investors at a clear disadvantage in the global economy.” Read More »

Who should buy Hulu?

Deals Now that Hulu’s parent companies have retained investment bankers to explore a possible sale of the catch-up TV service — following earlier reports of an unsolicited bid from Yahoo — handicapping the Who Buys Hulu sweepstakes has become more or less de rigueur for industry pundits and bloggers. Therefore, in order to maintain my membership in good standing, here are my picks:

DirecTV: The sat-caster has been working on a streaming video service and TV Everywhere play for at least the past year and acquiring Hulu could greatly accelerate those efforts. While DirecTV might be able to negotiate for rights similar to what Hulu has directly, without having to Read More »

Streaming in flyover country

Retail Good on Sony Pictures for partnering with Walmart and Vudu on a digital movie card for Battle: Los Angeles. Starting Tuesday, Walmart shoppers will be able to buy the cards for $14.96, and then use the provided code to watch the movie on their PC from the Vudu website or on any of the 300-odd connected TVs and other devices that have the Vudu streaming app embedded.

Since the offer is a purchase, not a rental, card buyers will be able to watch the movie (in standard definition only) as often as they like, just as they would with a purchased DVD or Blu-ray Disc. Walmart is selling the Battle: Los Angeles DVD for $16.96 and the Blu-ray for $19.96. The movie Read More »

The iCloud will not be televised

Digital Living Room The Apple TV cheese stands alone. For all the nifty new functionality built into iOS 5 and Apple’s new multi-device iCloud platform it appears that very little of it will find its way into Apple TV. About the only new reindeer game Apple TV will get to join in for now is Photo Stream, which automatically syncs and downloads your photos to all your registered iOS devices, including the Apple TV set-top. For everything else — including your own home videos — Apple TV is on the outside of the iCloud looking in.

I’m starting to believe Steve Jobs when he describes Apple TV as a hobby, rather than as a strategic business for Apple. Read More »

Did Apple just clean the record labels’ clocks again?

Cloud Now that we know the basic contours of the new iTunes in the cloud from Apple we can make some guesses as to why it took so long for Apple to nail down deals with the record labels. As it did when it when it first persuaded the labels to lock themselves into a 99 cent price for downloads, from which it took the labels years to extricate themselves, Apple once again seems to have done some fancy negotiating. And as it did in the beginning, it again seems to have managed to limit the labels’ financial participation in the iTunes value chain to one, rather smallish revenue pool.

Consider: Read More »

The iCloud vs. the us-cloud

Cloud Steve Jobs himself, back at least temporarily from medical leave, will take the stage Monday to keynote Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, where he’ll officially unveil Apple’s new iCloud service. According to numerous leaks, Apple has inked deals with all four major music distributors allowing it to launch a fully licensed, cloud-based system in which music is stored remotely and can be accessed from any iTunes-enabled device. Read More »