Artemis Records give free license to webcasters

In an interesting new dimension to the RIAA-induced fees for Internet radio story, Artemis Records have announced the creation of a licence allowing Internet radio stations to use any of their artists tracks for a year without the need to pay a fee.

The CEO, Danny Goldberg, who previously managed bands such as the Beastie Boys, said he saw tremendous marketing benefits from being able to be heard on Internet radio stations as they hardly get any exposure on mainstream radio.

I believe this is the first record label to have done this … so far.

Qualcomm WiFi capable CDMA chipsets

The inevitable merging of WiFi with cellular phones has moved on another pace as Qualcomm announce their intention to include WiFi functionality in their CDMA chipsets. They haven’t announced any dates as yet.

One thing I hadn’t considered before is using the WiFi for Voice Over IP (VOIP), providing vastly improved receptions within buildings and the potential for much higher audio quality phone calls, due to increased bandwidth available.

Intel’s hand-held audio and video player

Intel’s Emerging Platforms Lab have designed a paperback-sized platform that will be used to play back digital audio and video content. Although always based on Intel chips including the XScale processor, the manufacturers, who will be announced later in the year, have freedom over display and storage. The initial pricing is thought to be around $500 then later moving to $399.

The device has to be loaded with content from the owners PC via USB 2 or WiFi and won’t be able to access content direct from the Internet. This give two benefits, Intel can’t be accused of promoting piracy and they ensure a PC is also needed – which will most likely have an Intel processor inside.

What isn’t clear is how much DRM software will be forced into the device. [CNet video]

TVcompass – Digital TV Adaptor

UK-based company, TVcompass, has been stepping up the publicity for its forthcoming digital TV adaptor. It’s an exciting company with strong, good, new thinking behind its products.

The DTT box is due to be available from spring 2003, they’re planning aggressive pricing of £29 which is highly favourable against its current main competitor, the £99 box from Pace. This isn’t going to do Pace any favours, coming so closely after their recent news of selling Sky their boxes below their actual manufacturing costs.

TVcompass say they can subsidise the retail price because their business model relies on ongoing income from selling products and services that are synchronised to normal TV broadcasts.

They’re using the model that I thought for a long time would be a route to success. People viewing TV don’t want to have supplementary information plastered all over their favourite TV show as interactive TV currently does. It makes sense to have the information on another device – in the future I see this as a half A4 tablet form displaying a rendition of what’s on the TV with, if needed information overlayed – to allow for hot-spots on the video. TVcompass see it as a colour square display on the remote.

They’re also doing the smart thing of making the remote a network device. Communication isn’t via Infra-Red, instead it uses Bluetooth, enabling proper two-way traffic between remote and base-station and gives a decent transfer rate allowing graphics to be transferred to the remote.

The only things that’s not currently clear is how users selections and orders will go on the return path from the home to the fulfilment house, as they state the unit will have no need to connect it to a phone line.

Their available-now product is TV listings on PDA’s, not a new idea. DigiGuide has been doing this successfully for quite a while BUT TVcompass done a deal with BBC Worldwide to brand its service as RadioTimes (the most popular and oldest listings magazine in the UK).

A wise move for a number of reasons:-

  • An instant income stream of £14.95 a year per user with, I suspect, a strong margin;
  • They get great profile/standing from being associated with the BBC and RadioTimes.
  • More importantly, they get access to programme schedules – enabling them to synchronise the TVcompass interactive content with the TV shows.
  • And when all PDA’s are wireless-enabled, people will be able to use their PDA’s in the same way as TVcompass are using their remotes.

There is one possible fly-in-the-ointment for TVcompass. They may hit a problem with distribution as I suspect the dominant UK electronic retailer Dixon may not stock the product. Word in the market is that Dixons have been building up a big stock of the old ITVDigital boxes and planned to sell them at £79 to undercut the Pace box.

MPAA pursue Film88

Film88, the Internet-based VOD company that offered hollywood blockbuster films at $1 a view that briefly and unsuccessfully re-opened in Iran about a month and a half ago is having the legal wroth of the MPAA set against it.

Seeing no enforceable end to the number of times they re-launch, the MPAA are taking action against both the US based holding company and personally against the Malaysian owner.

I suspect we won’t see such a blatant attempt to offer unauthorised movies like this again too soon.

US Telcos don’t like WiFi sharing

The broadband providers in the US have now caught on to the idea that some of their subscribers are freely sharing their Internet connections with other member of the public via WiFi and they don’t like it. These Telcos are sending out cease and desist letters to people who have listed themselves as available WiFi HotSpots on sites such as NYCwireless with threats to cut their Internet connection off if they don’t stop.

I would imagine someone in the Telcos have just woken up to the idea that they could be charging the people currently benefiting from the free service.

I envisage a lot more threatening letters and potentially, in the case of BT in the UK, a change of broadband contract terms that will newly exclude people doing this. O2, BT’s spun-out wireless company, see wireless access as a revenue generator, they don’t want it being given away by their own subscribers.

SDSL service launches in North West England

An SDSL service has been launched in the North West of England by Via Importantly the connections are synchronous, they can send and receive at up to 2Mb and the contention ratios are much lower than competing UK ADSL products, coming in at either 5:1 or 10:1 depending on the price of the service. A truly economic alternative to leased-line services.

IBM Makes d-Cinema Moves

IBM have made a move to become involved with digital cinema (otherwise known as e-cinema or d-cinema) partnering with Kodak and bringing the operating system (OS) to the party. There’s been an underground excitement about d-cinema for a couple of years now but it’s been hampered by both the cost of the equipment and primarily by the industries inability to decide who should pay for the equipment.

Neither the cinemas or the distributors what to put their hands in their pockets. The outlets say they don’t have the reserves to be able to afford it as their current margins are squeezed so hard by the distributors. The distributors say they don’t feel they should pay for it, even though I think they have the most to gain from it. One advantage of the indecision is that over the last couple of years the prices of the equipment have dropped substantially.

In a different time I think the people with the most to gain, the advertisers, would have put money in, but their hardly likely to do that currently.