Flash 8 Video Set to Take On Microsoft

Back in June, Macromedia started talking publicly about their ambitious plans for Flash. It’s clear that they’re planning to take it up a few gears on all fronts; the creation; the server; and the player side.

For us, the big news is the updating of the video CoDec, taking it from the old H.283 CoDec of the previous release to On2 Technologies, VP6. Both are claiming better performance than Windows Media, with a 10-20% size reduction over it too.

High-quality video running in Flash could be a serious contender to Apple, Real and Microsoft. The Flash player is thought to be installed on 98% of all computers, totalling about 600 million machines.

While some of those involved in producing video for the Web might see this and groan – encoding video in each of the three dominant formats was often seen as a major headache – it could be that Flash could cut across that problem.

For a long time many have thought that Flash could become a dominant development platform, delivering what Java promised and failed to achieve – write once, play anywhere.

As Flash is vector-based, not bit-mapped – its graphics are described in terms of shapes, not absolute positions on a screen – it has the strength that the displays scale. This is of particular benefit when writing applications for mobile phones which have hundreds of variation of screen size and resolution across the market.

Developers of mobile phone content find themselves having to write hundreds of different versions of a programme, if they want to support the whole market.

The rumours a flying as to when Flash 8 might be released. The official word is ‘Summer’, but some are speculating that it might be 8/8, 8th August.

Making the most of the interest that is bound to be heading in their direction, this week On2 have released a new version of their encoding tool, VP7.

On2 Technologies
Flashmagazine – Interview with Doug McIntyre from On2 Technologies

MTV Starzine: Driven By User-Generated Content

MTV: Starzine Site Launches MTV is in the mood to get all interactive with its audience with the launch of MTV: starzine, a new online magazine designed to give “music wannabies the opportunity to realise their dreams of becoming an MTV star.”

In a cunning work-avoidance exercise, the editors of the site are letting contributors create and design their own pages.

Wannabe webmeisters are invited to knock out their own layout, shovel in some draft copy and slap on some photographs to create their own page in the mag.

MTV: Starzine Site LaunchesIn another cunning ploy to keep users coming back for more, users will earn points for interacting with the magazine and the more material they shunt online and the bigger the audience, the more points they amass.

Sadly, points don’t mean prizes here – instead, users with bagfuls of points will be rewarded by having their page pushed closer to the front of the magazine.

“We’re inviting our viewers to let their creative juices flow and the chance to stand out from the crowd and become a true MTV star,” gushed Tony Robinson, VP, MTV International Marketing Partnerships.

“MTV: starzine is the first online magazine in Europe to be created by its readers for its readers and it will undoubtedly open doors for kids who want to get into photography, journalism or who just want a new way to communicate with other people,” he added.

MTV: Starzine Site LaunchesThe all-blinking, Flash-tastic, David Carson ‘tribute’ site lets users upload unlimited images as well as text on to the magazine, with the facility to directly submit photographs taken on a cameraphone.

“MTV: starzine provides an ideal platform for young people who want to get into photography or journalism as it gives people the ability to publish their work and get under the noses of thousands of other people,” continued Robinson.

“Anyone can become an MTV star using this service; all you have to do is get online and get publishing,” he added, looking forward to a new site stuffed full of lucrative product tie-ins and user generated free content.

Naturally, MTV have got a big airbrush on hand to remove anything that might “cause offence” and all content is moderated by The Man.


Mobile Firefox; Microsoft Hacking; 2.6bn UK SMSs – News Round-up

Mozilla Works On Mobile Version Of Firefox Browser

News Round UpThe Mozilla Foundation has released a technology preview of a mobile-phone browser, based on the same code that powers the popular Firefox browser.

With a release name of Minimo 0.007 there’s no doubting that we’re in deep into early beta stages here, but Mozilla promises to be first handheld browser to feature tabbed browsing and Web services support.

With an interface built in XUL (Extensible User Interface Language), the browser will support cascading style sheets (CSS), JavaScript and resource description language (RDF) for storing dynamic content.

Mozilla hinted that it’s been chatting to phone manufacturers about using Minimo, but there doesn’t seem to be any official announcements on the horizon yet.


Hackers Crack Windows Genuine Advantage Anti-Piracy Controls

News Round UpHackers have made chumps out of Microsoft, successfully bypassing their Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) Programme only days after the anti-piracy scheme was activated.

The service was supposed to force users to join the WGA authentication program if they wished to receive software updates from the Microsoft Download Centre or from Windows Update.

Users were asked to download an ActiveX control which checked the authenticity of their Windows software and, if validated, would store a download key on the PC for future verification.

Quick-off-the-mark hackers quickly developed a simple one line hack which turned off the trigger for the key check – thus negating the need for users to verify their serial number before using Windows Update.



SMS-Mad Brits Send 2.6 Billion Text Messages In June

News Round UPFigures from the Mobile Data Association (MDA) reveal that U.K. mobile phone users sent an astonishing 2.6 billion text messages in June.

This works out at an average of 86.7 million text messages sent each day throughout June – 24% higher than in the same period last year.

There’s already been 15 billion text messages sent in the first half of this year in the UK, with the MDA expecting the year’s total to reach 30 billion, compared with 26.2 billion in 2004.


FinePix S9000; S5200; E900 – Three 9mpx Cameras From Fujifilm

Fujifilm Knocks Out Three New 9m Megapixel CamerasFinePix S9000 Zoom

Fujifilm has rolled out three shiny new cameras, all offering an impressive 9 million megapixel resolution.

Sitting at the top of the pile is the FinePix S9000 Zoom, a fully featured enthusiast camera offering a 10.7x optical zoom (28-300mm equivalent), 80 to 1600 ISO, twist-barrel zoom control, a tilting 1.8-inch LCD but no image stabilisation.

Fujifilm are hoping that the camera’s blend of SLR-like features coupled with the compact-style ease of use may grab the company a slice of the fast-growing entry level DSLR market.

Fujifilm Knocks Out Three New 9m Megapixel CamerasThe compact-based design means that – unlike dSLRs – the camera can offer 30-frames-per-second movie mode (with a manual zoom capability) – something that may prove tempting to punters after a high quality ‘do it all’ camera.

The camera boasts some pretty impressive specs, with an 0.8 second start-up time, and just 0.01 second shutter lag.

Storage is taken care of with xD-Picture Card, CompactFlash and Microdrive support with the facility to save images in the higher quality RAW format.

With dSLR prices plummeting, keen pricing will play a crucial part in the success of this camera, but as yet no prices have been announced.

The camera will be available in the UK from August.

Fujifilm FinePix S5200 Zoom

Fujifilm Knocks Out Three New 9m Megapixel CamerasSecond up is the Fujifilm FinePix S5200 Zoom, the third incarnation of Fujifilm’s S series cameras.

The mini-SLR style camera offers 5.1 megapixel resolution, a 10x optical zoom (38 – 380 mm) and an Anti Blur mode which Fujifilm reckons is better than image stabilization.

There’s the usual slew of point and shoot/preset/enthusiast modes available, an ISO range going up to 1600, VGA movie mode and RAW image capture.

The FinePix S5200 will be available in the UK in September.

Fujifilm FinePix E900 Zoom

Fujifilm Knocks Out Three New 9m Megapixel CamerasFinally, we come to the Fujifilm FinePix E900 Zoom, a new E series “pocket friendly” compact managing to pack 9 million effective pixels into its lithe proportions.

The camera offers a 4x optical zoom (32 – 128mm), ISO 80 – 800, auto/manual control, RAW capture and a 2-inch LCD.

Start up is a little less impressive at 1.3 seconds although Fujifilm claims a “near instantaneous shutter response”.

Pricing and availability have yet to be announced.

DPreview Fujifilm FinePix S9000 Zoom
DPreview Fujifilm FinePix S5200 Zoom
DPreview Fujifilm FinePix E900 Zoom

CinemaNow Take High Def Content From HDNet

CinemaNow Take High Def Content From HDNetOnline broadband film distributer, and latterly video content provider CinemaNow, has announced that they will be carrying some high-definition from HDNet on their Internet to PC delivery platform. It’s the first time that HDNet’s content has been made available on-demand through an online broadband service.

CinemaNow are long-standing pioneers in the area of delivering licensed films to PC over a broadband connection, starting as they did in 1999, a long time before the home user broadband audience existed. They weathered the storms and could be well placed to take advantage of growing broadband usage.

CinemaNow Take High Def Content From HDNetMark Cuban, the CEO of HDNet, has been slowly gathering HD content to the point where HDNet now lay claim to having more original high-definition content than any other network. We at Digital-Lifestyles.info have had our eye on him for years, as we think he’s a smart cookie. He not only spots upcoming trends, but turns them into businesses. He made a fortune when he sold broadcast.com to Yahoo for billions of dollars at the peak of the market.

Cuban has publicly stated that HDNet content will not be DRM-protected, infact he thinks his refusal to use DRM will give HDNet a competitive advantage.

This agreement between HDNet and CinemaNow gives their customers the chance download and own the HD content.

Further deals along these lines are inevitable in time, with the only question mark over HD content being delivered over broadband connections being the current speeds of what is defined as broadband. HD content, because of its extra resolution produces larger files, these take extra time to come down to the computer being used for playing it back. As regular readers will know, we think calling a 512k DSL connection “broadband” is insulting to the customers.

Marc Cuban’s blog

T-Mobile Plunders Guerilla Tactics To Promote Phone

Following a long tradition of The Man stealing ideas off the street to flog their products, T-Mobile is organising a series of impromptu ‘street gigs’ to promote their new Sony Ericsson D750i camera phone.

The ‘spontaneous’ performances will take part in London and Birmingham over the summer, with text and picture messages bring sent out to invite T-Mobile customers 90 minutes before the start of the gigs.

Offering ‘last minute invites to unusual locations for hedonistic fun’, you can see some of T-Mobile’s previous (ahem) ‘Guerilla street gigs’ on their T-Mobile Streets’ website

Wielding its corporate chequebook with devastating force, T-Mobile has booked a selection of hot’n’happening music artists like Mercury prize nominee The Magic Numbers, Lemar and El Presidente, along with some unknown acts.

T-Mobile Plunders Guerilla Tactics To Promote PhoneKeen to milk every last ounce of PR potential from the gigs, T-Mobile will be broadcasting the performances online, with company bods on hand to encourage T-Mobile subscribers to test the new handset run off with the thing.

Throughout the two-month event there’ll be a photo competition inviting punters to find the picture that best captures the spirit of the gigs.

T-Mobile Plunders Guerilla Tactics To Promote Phone“T-Mobile Street Gigs is the first of our new initiatives to deliver unique experiences for customers,” grooved Phil Chapman, UK marketing director, loosening his tie and turning down the David Gray.

Forthcoming gigs are currently being flagged up in T-mobile stores, with only the name of the next band to play appearing on posters.

T-Mobile customers can log into the edgy, stencil-graffiti-strewn website to register their interest and are free to invite as many of their chums as they like once they receive gig details

Amazon Revenue Rockets, Income Slips

Amazon Revenue Rockets, Income SlipsAmazon.com’s revenue soared internationally in the second quarter as electronics and other non-book bits’n’bobs made up more of its business.

The cash tills rang loud to the tune of US$1.75 billion (~£1bn, ~€1.45bn) in the quarter ended June 30, up a healthy 26 per cent from US$1.39 billion in last year’s second quarter.

Amazon’s international segment – which includes its UK French, German, Japanese and Chinese units – climbed 33 per cent from last year to reach US$793 million (~£456m, ~€661m).

The behemoth of online book floggers saw its sales of electronics and general merchandise grow to 26 per cent of its worldwide sales from 23 per cent a year earlier.

Amazon Revenue Rockets, Income SlipsAmazon.com’s chief financial officer, Tom Szkutak, announced that third-party sales accounted for 28 percent of Amazon.com’s total items sold, sprightly stepping up from 24 percent for this time last year.

Szkutak said that the company was chuffed with the “heavy shopping” undertaken by Amazon Prime customers who have been clicking madly for electronics, tools, kitchen supplies, and health and personal care products.

“Though expensive for the company, Amazon Prime creates a premium experience for customers who join, and as a result we hope they’ll purchase more from us in the long term,” Szkutak said.

It wasn’t all pearly-white grins, as Amazon announced that net income declined to US$52 million (~£30m, ~€43m) from US$76 (~£44m, ~€66.3m) million in the second quarter of 2004.

Amazon Revenue Rockets, Income SlipsThis includes US$56 million (~£32.25m, ~€46.6m) in income tax expense, which was up from US$5 million (~£2.87m, ~€4.16m) a year earlier.

Amazon’s earnings were US$0.12 per share, slipping down from US$0.18 per share in last year’s second quarter, but still ahead of analyst’s predications.

Amazon said it expects sales to increase of 20 percent to 31 percent in the current quarter compared to last year.


iBook And Mac Mini Range Beefed Up By Apple

iBook And Mac Mini Range Beefed Up By AppleApple Computer has unveiled updates to its iBook laptop and Mac Mini lines, lobbing in new features, more memory and built in wireless technology – although the anticipated widescreen models failed to run up at the launch party.

Mac iBook

Apple’s new iBook line now comes with a scrolling trackpad and a clever sudden motion sensor which helps protect a spinning hard drive if some clumsy klutz drops the notebook.

EU RulesThe new iBook G4s now come with a faster Power PC G4 processor running up to 1.42 GHz, with 512MB memory as standard, higher performance graphics and built-in AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth wireless connectivity.

The enhanced range features the ATI Mobility Radeon 9550 with 32MB of dedicated video, with machines either offering a slot-load SuperDrive (for burning DVDs and CDs), or a slot-load Combo drive (for watching DVDs and burning CDs).

Built-in Bluetooth 2.0 (Enhanced Data Rate), 10/100 BASE-T Ethernet and integrated AirPort Extreme 54 Mbps 802.11g WiFi wireless networking is provided as standard, with Apple claiming up to 6 hours battery life.

EU RulesThe 1.33 GHz PowerPC with 12″ screen G4 iBook retails at £699/US$999 and its bigger 1.42 GHz PowerPC G4 iBook with 14″ display knocks out for £899/US$1299.

‘The new iBook is the perfect portable for the go anywhere, do anything digital lifestyle of consumers and students,” roared David Moody, Apple’s VP of Mac Product Marketing.

“With improved performance, double the memory, and new mobility features like the scrolling TrackPad, Sudden Motion Sensor and Bluetooth, the new iBooks are an amazing value,” he positively insisted.

Mac Mini

iBook And Mac Mini Range Beefed Up By AppleThe diminutive Mac Mini range features three new models – the 1.25 GHz Mac Mini, 1.42 GHz Mac mini and the new 1.42 GHz Mac Mini with SuperDrive – with memory upgraded to 512 MB throughout.

Prices start at £349/US$499, with a version featuring built-in AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth selling at £429/US$599.

A further model offering DVD and CD burning capabilities via a SuperDrive will knock out for £499/US$699.

They may be pat-on-the-head teensy, but Mac Minis come stuffed with connectivity options, including one FireWire 400 and two USB 2.0 ports, DVI (supporting VGA), and built-in 10/100 BASE-T NIC.

All of the machines ship with Mac OS X version 10.4 ‘Tiger’ OS and iLife ’05

“Mac Mini has been a popular choice for consumers getting started with Mac OS X and iLife ’05,” beamed Moody.

“With double the memory and new features like built-in wireless networking and DVD burning, the new Mac Mini delivers an even greater value in an innovative compact design,” he purred.


Music File Sharers Spend The Most

Music File Sharers Spend The MostIllegal music downloaders shell out more for legitimate music downloads than goody two-shoes music fans.

The results of the ‘2005 Speakerbox’ study by market researchers The Leading Question revealed that music fans who download music illegally via file-sharing networks also fork out four-and-a-half times more on legitimate music downloads than average fans.

The survey asked 600 British PC and mobile-owning British music fans about their downloading activities and discovered that music pirates spend substantially more on legally downloadable music through sites like Apple’s iTunes Music Store or Napster

According to the report, pirates who regularly download or share unlicensed music spend an average of £5.52 (~US$9.63, ~€7.99) per month on legal digital music, while average music fans only spend £1.27 (~US$2.21, ~€1.84) on digital tracks.

Music File Sharers Spend The MostHow much both groups spend on CDs wasn’t specified.

“Music fans who break piracy laws are highly valuable customers,” said Paul Brindley, director of The Leading Question.

“Legal actions are making something of an impact but unlicensed file sharing will never be eradicated. The smart response is to capitalise on the power of the p2p networks themselves to entice consumers into more attractive legal alternatives,” he added.

The research also revealed that illegal downloaders were mustard keen to try emerging music services, with 60% wanting to get their hands on a MP3-enabled phone, compared to just 29% of other music fans.

“There’s a myth that all illegal downloaders are mercenaries hell-bent on breaking the law in pursuit of free music,” Brindley continued. “In reality, they are often hardcore fans who are extremely enthusiastic about adopting paid-for services as long as they are suitably compelling.”

The survey highlighted that phones still have some way to go before they can compete with dedicated MP3 players as de-facto music playing devices.

Only 8% of punters surveyed were planning to buy a music playing mobile phone in the next 12 months, compared to 33% ready to rip out the readies for an iPod or dedicated MP3 player during the same period.

Music File Sharers Spend The MostRespondents cited built-in cameras, organiser functions and video cameras above music players in their preferences for mobile phone features.

Punters expressed concern about the low battery life of music playing phones, with some fearful of losing their music collection if they lost their phone.

With many consumers getting their phones for nowt through contract deals – and often replacing them regularly – the survey concluded that most punters have a low “emotional attachment” to their phones.

Despite this, 38% of those surveyed liked the idea of downloading full-length tracks direct to their mobiles, with the figure rising to over 50% for punters already downloading tracks to their computers.

Mobile phone manufacturers trying to tempt new users with bigger onboard memory will note that only 4% of the survey respondents wanted more than 1,000 songs worth of music to take with them on holiday.

Online file sharers ‘buy more music’ [Guardian]
The Leading Edge

Motorola Adds Yahoo! Web Services To Mobiles

Motorola Adds Yahoo! Web Services To MobilesAs part of Motorola’s strategy to tempt home and business with new services, the company has announced that it will add Yahoo! Web services to their Linux-based mobile devices.

The company intends to integrate Yahoo Internet services – such as e-mail, search, instant messaging and news – into its handheld and desktop devices throughout the major markets, starting in 2006.

As well as phones, the deal will also see Yahoo’s services pre-installed into home broadband-enabled products and its soon-come digital radio and MP3 device, iRadio.

Motorola plans to make these services available to operators worldwide with the aim of increasing consumer adoption of mobile data services.

Motorola Adds Yahoo! Web Services To MobilesRon Garriques, president of Motorola’s mobile device business, said: “By optimising these products for our leading Linux and Java software platform, we’re making it just that much easier for operators to maximize revenue while delivering the most innovative consumer experiences.”

This announcement follows Motorola’s launch of their new daft Bluetooth sunglasses.

Motorola Adds Yahoo! Web Services To MobilesElsewhere, the company have also announced that Vonage will offer the new Motorola VT2442 voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) gateway to its Internet telephony customers.

It hasn’t exactly got the sexiest of names, but Motorola VT2442 is touted as greatly simplifying the process of adding broadband telephone service into a home network.

The technology also serves up a fully-featured home network router, offering four Ethernet ports for connecting computers or gaming consoles, and an advanced firewall for Internet security.

Motorola, Vonage Team