Heavyweights form the Digital Home Working Group

There are many issues that make the inter-connection of Digital Lifestyles devices a pretty big headache. With this is mind a lot of the heavy hitting companies in this area – Fujitsu, Gateway, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Intel, Kenwood, Lenovo, Microsoft, NEC CustomTechnica, Nokia, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, STMicroelectronics and Thomson – are getting together to try and make this simpler. To this end they’ve formed the Digital Home Working Group after realising that everyone trying to create their own standards isn’t that sensible. Watch the space, it could be promising.

Apple iTunes – 5m tracks sold

The latest update on sales figures from the online Apple iTunes music store have emerged. Five million track have now been bought in the first two months of the US Mac only service. While the initial purchasing frenzy of the first couple of weeks has slowed, when one million was sold in the first week and two million in the first sixteen days, it’s still doing very well.Interestingly, 46% of the songs have been purchased as albums.

DVDs rentals outstrip VHS tapes in the US

It’s not a great surprise that DVD rental has now exceeded VHS rental in the US, six years after DVD was introduced.

The US Video Software Dealers Association has reported consumers rented 28.2 million DVDs compared to 27.3 million VHS cassettes during the week ended June 15.

While there has been advantages for the consumer, the benefits for the trade have been significant. The distribution and storage of DVD’s is significantly cheaper, as are the production costs. DVD are also more robust, being less prone to damage while playing.

Xbox2 – penciled for 2006?

The usual technique of talking about what companies will be doing with their next generation of equipment has been going on for a while with gaming consoles. Talk of the PlayStation 2 came out around the same time as the Xbox was released. It’s all an effort to make unsettle the consumer of the rivals products.While in Japan, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said they were planning to release the Xbox2 in 2006 – what isn’t clear is if this would be the release date for Japan or Worldwide. Some analysts are wondering if this date is being floated as it matched the year given by Sony for the PS3 and Microsoft aren’t rushing the Xbox2 out so as to give the Xbox box as many years as possible to make back some of the losses they’ve had on the project to date.In a typical large company PR fog type of way, MS reps are quoted as saying

“Our executives often talk about the future in terms of vision and the possibilities of technology. This is what allows us to be innovative as a company.”

At the same time a MS VP Peter Moore, has been telling conference delegates in London at the Games Summit that MS “have no plans” to bring out a handheld gaming device, saying that as hand held games were solitary experience, they had no future. This really sound like someone shooting from the hip and not carefully thinking about where these devices are or where they will be in the future. There a big future for networked games on handheld devices, I’ve had games demoed to me running on handheld devices, including Smartphones that really come alive when they played against other people.

Sony act to protect downloaded movies

Sony ISP in Japan, So-net, is working with JapanWave to provide protected, downloadable videos that stop working after a set period of time.The most common approach to protecting Internet-delivered music and videos is to stream them. The content distributor believes this will stop their content being permanently saved, which is not the case, as software has existed for a long time to store the streamed content to the local computer. The main problem with streaming is that viewing quality if dependant on the speed of its delivery – this doesn’t occur when the video is downloaded.JapanWave‘s approach is to fragment the downloaded video file and distribute those sections are around numerous directories on the receiving computer. The JapanWave player then reassembles these when the video is played back while checking to see if the video is past its “view by” date.As is common knowledge, all DRM’s systems are crackable and not surprisingly, the details of how Japanware protects the content aren’t given, but it sounds like a simple solution that will not detract from the viewers experience and should put off most casual hackers.

RealNetworks motherboard deal with Intel

In an effort to try to re-balance the near-blanket distribution of Microsoft’s Media player, RealNetworks and Intel have signed a deal to have it’s player software distributed on the driver CD that comes with some new Intel motherboards. It appears to only be for two motherboards and strangely they only support Pentium III and Celeron processors – strange as video playback results get much better the more powerful the processor.Industry analysts are split on the value of the deal with the detractors wondering if the system builders will actually install the software.Real have done lots of deals like this in the past, where the headline sounds really impressive but when you look at the detail, its value is diminished. One that springs to mind is their announcement that they were to provide their media player to Nokia. Closer examination showed they had signed a deal to provide the player for only one of their handsets.

Goodbye BT Openworld, hello BT Yahoo

Tucked away in BT’s disclosure last week on its progress to roll-out broadband to the UK was the fact that it had failed to hit the projected number of users for its own BT Openworld service. Clearly something needed to be done so they have inked a deal with Yahoo in the UK to re-launch as BT Yahoo. BT has finally realised that they don’t have the talent to licence or commission content so will rely on Yahoo’s substantial content library hoping this attract new users.

Scottish and Southern Energy powerline broadband trials

Scottish and Southern Energy are launching a broadband-with-your-electricity-supply service, commonly called Power Line Communications.

It’s an idea that’s been discussed for a long time that finally looks like it’s coming true. It has a few advantages over other broadband services:

  • The provider doesn’t need to install another connection to the property
  • The user can plug the modem in at any room
  • The electricity companies already having a relationship with the customer and billing systems in place

Following Scottish and Southern Energy’s small 200 home trial, they are launching a larger trial of 15,000 homes to receive the £30/month 1Mb/s service in Crieff, Campbeltown, Stonehaven in Scotland and Winchester in the South of England.