Virgin Launches UK Music Service This Week

Virgin launches UK Music Service This WeekSir Richard Branson will be slamming the virtual champagne against the good ship Virgin Digital UK as another digital music service slides down the slipway on September 2nd.

Virgin’s new service will serve up over a million tracks, available to punters through a subscription and a download service.

Subscriptions will start from 40p (~US$0.70, €0.58~) each day, with permanent downloads costing 79p (~US$1.15, €1.4~) upwards, but Ipod owners needn’t apply as the service uses Windows Media, which goes together with iPods like chocolate and cabbage.

Sir Richard Branson, ubermensch of the Virgin Group, set his PR spin machine to eleven: “With a strong music heritage behind us, as a record label and a retailer, Virgin has a huge advantage, and platform to launch a digital service that will become the ultimate destination to buy, stream, burn and enjoy the best the music world has to offer.”

In an already crowded digital download marketplace dominated by iTunes, digital music services are hard-pushed to dream up compelling USPs, but Virgin claim that their service aims to “redefine” the digital music experience with a wallet-opening combination of features and consumer elements.

Virgin launches UK Music Service This WeekVirgin Digital UK is set to serve up a mix of digital music store, music club subscription service, streaming radio, powerful digital music and portable device management tools, along with a collection of music-discovery gizmos.

Developed in-house, the service is a collaboration between Virgin and US digital music provider Music Net and ramps up the feature set with additional track info, musical recommendations with phonetic search, comprehensive artist biographies and a ‘Related Artists’ feature which serves up information about the influences, collaborations and recommendations of similar artists.

To big up the launch of the service, Virgin will host exclusive performances from Bloc Party, The Dandy Warhols and The Cribs on September 2nd, with another 150 London-wide live performances in the pipeline, providing exclusive content to the Virgin Digital site.

Virgin are offering two subscription services; Basic £9.99 (~US $17.8, €14.6~) or Premium £14.99 (~US$26.7, €22~), with individual tracks available from 79p (~US$1.15, €1.4~) per song.

Virgin Digital UK

Samsung Unleash A Monster 19″ Notebook

Thanks to Samsung’s PR for getting in touch with us to clarify facts on this story.

Samsung Unleash A Monster 19inch NotebookSamsung will be debuting the world’s first 19″ notebook, the Samsung M70, on 2 September at the IFA Consumer Electronics Show in Berlin.

Despite sporting a multiplex-threatening 1680 x 1050 TFT display, the 19″ monster is no slouch in the speed stakes, with Samsung claiming a 10m/s response time, 600:1 contrast ratio and a “brightness and depth of shade not known in previous notebooks of 280cd/m.”

Samsung insist that it’s not just about size though, and to prove it they’ve added a clever removable screen widget.

Samsung Unleash A Monster 19inch NotebookThis lets users detach the laptop’s screen and place it in a dock to give the appearance of a conventional desktop.

Anyone who has spent hours slumped over a laptop screen should welcome this innovation as the screen dock affords a far more comfortable viewing position – and there’s also a handy DVI interface on the docking station for external appliances too.

Powering the monster screen will be a Nvidia chipset, with the laptop promising to have the “fastest mobile processor” onboard (most likely an Intel).

Samsung Unleash A Monster 19inch NotebookDespite the added complexity and enormous screen size, Samsung have claimed that the laptop will weigh no more than their current 17-inch notebook so it should be vaguely portable (if you work out at the gym).

The Notebook M70 will be available sometime in October 2005 although there’s been no announcement about price or availability.


Apple’s iPhone Coming Soon?

Apple's iPhone Coming Soon?After enjoying huge success with the iPod, mini iPod and photo iPod, Apple are looking to score another hit with consumers with the expected announcement of the iPhone, a music playing mobile phone.

Speculation about the new product has been running rife after Apple announced a mystery San Francisco launch scheduled for next Wednesday with the teasing statement, “1,000 songs in your pocket changed everything. Here we go again.”

Pundits are predicting that Steve Jobs’ outfit will finally be launching their much-delayed music-playing mobile in partnership with handset giants Motorola, the world’s second-largest mobile phone manufacturer.

The New York Times reported that Roger Entner, a telecommunications analyst with research firm Ovum, had been briefed on the new phone and that it would be compatible with Apple’s iTunes software, declaring it “a deluxe music player now on your cellphone.”

The phone has taken longer than a one legged sloth to arrive, with the project dogged by delays while rivals Sony Ericsson and Nokia have gained ground with their own music-playing models handsets – Sony Ericsson’s recently launched W800i phone has already proved a hit and Nokia’s 1,000 song-capacity N series will be in shops by the end of the year.

Despite arriving late at the party, Apple are hopeful that the iPod brand will successfully translate into big sales amongst the world’s estimated 1 billion mobile phone users.

Apple's iPhone Coming Soon?Thomas Husson, a mobile analyst with Jupiter Research, had some doubts: “It’s been awaited for a year, if not more. That means people might be disappointed, because I don’t think it will be much more than a phone that can play music – and there are already others on the market that can do that. But iTunes and iPod are quite famous now in the music space, and they will be hoping for leverage.”

Some analysts have also expressed concerns that the iPhone might cannibalise Apple’s own market and cut into sales of their low end players, while others suspect that mobile phone networks might refuse to carry the phone to protect their own music download services.

With Motorola’s history of announcing new products months ahead of launch and Apple’s traditional penchant for headline-grabbing, last-minute announcements, the launch might be an interesting one.


EV5203-C: Thomson’s Linux VoIP DECT phone: IFA

EV5203-C: Thomson's Linux VoIP DECT phone: IFAThe acceptance of VoIP into the mainstream moved up a gear today with the release of a DECT VoIP handset, the plain-badly-named EV5203-C, from Thomson, the _huge_ French all-encompassing media company. The product is the first fruit from Thomson’s purchase of Inventel, earlier this year.

An area pioneered by Siemens with their M34 and companies such as DU@LPhone, the difference with this is there is no need to be running Skype or similar VoIP software on your PC, with the clear advantage that the PC doesn’t have to be on, or even in existence.

Where Thomson are following the same route as Siemens with their method of sales, we were told that initially the handsets will be sold direct to service providers, not the public.

This baby is spec’d – colour screen (natch); it can handle two VoIP calls; and has two ethernet ports that can be plugged directly into DSL or cable modem or router. Up to five can be connected, each with a separate VoIP number.

The management of the handset, and the updating of its software can be handled remotely, by the service provider.

A PSTN connection is also provided on the base, neatly tackling the problem of VoIP services not providing 411/911 emergency service.

The fact it runs on Linux give the operators (who this product is aimed at) the ability to customise the handset to their requirements offering ‘network phonebook synchronisation, mail notification, Web browsing, SMS and MMS over IP and single remote management interface for home entertainment.’

As to whether customers will be able to ‘officially’ make changes to their own handset was an unanswered question. As it’s being supplied via telcos, I think we know the answer, don’t we?

Thomson are busy at the IFA show – this is one of the over 50 products that they are launching.

As it’s available via service providers, there are no details on pricing as yet, but should hit the worldwide market in November 2005.


John Birt – Current EPGs To Become ‘Antediluvian’

Luke Gibbs of OfcomWatch is nestled in at Edinburgh Television Festival – listening, watching, reporting, and we suspect sipping the odd cocktail at the TV exec love-in.

Birt At Edinburgh - Current EPGs To Become Antediluvian!Most of Lord Birt’s speech in Edinburgh was numbingly dull – a long list of his own achievements, all of which had made UK television the best in the world. Indeed, the industry has seemingly only hit the dumbing down buffers since he went off to tinker with various policy train sets at Number 10.

Birt At Edinburgh - Current EPGs To Become Antediluvian!However, he did manage to mention a couple of issues which aren’t directly about himself. For example, he said the following in regard to EPG’s, searching and the gateways to information – this is already a fundamental issue for regulators and one where we all need to pay close attention as to how they look to regulate…

“…there will be taxing new issues for the regulators. The electronic programme guides that currently help us navigate the multi-channel universe are not even currently fit-for-purpose and will be antediluvian in an on-demand world. Compare the current generation of slow, clunky television EPGs with Google. If I want to know which live football matches are on TV tonight I have to embark on a slow, manual search through multiple channels. With Google I can find a needle in a haystack in less than a second – the fruits of a search of literally billions of items.

So time to think again about not only the nature of the search and navigation gateway into the television digital universe, but who should control it? How can we ensure a level playing field for all programme and service providers? Should regulators encourage competing search and navigation systems in the television domain? How will the viewer find ready access to the public service offerings?”


News Roundup: Hamster Powered Mobile; US Kids SMS

Elvis Charges Mobile PhonesElvis Charges Mobile Phones
A 16-year-old lad in the West Country is breaking open the alcopops as he celebrates passing his GSCE electronics course – all thanks to his cunning hamster powered phone charger invention.

Peter Ash, from Lawford in Somerset, rustled up the wheeze after listening to his sister Sarah moaning that his pet hamster Elvis was keeping her awake at night by whizzing around on his exercise wheel for hours on end.

A light bulb illuminated above young Peter’s head as he realised that his hamster’s nocturnal marathons could be used to generate electricity.

For the next 13 months, the teenager worked on perfecting the hamster-powered device for his GSCE electronics coursework project.

After strenuous trials, Peter managed to get the insomniac hamster to generate enough power to charge his mobile phone overnight.

Rumours that he is now working on a dog powered version for powering small sound systems have proved to be unfounded.

Nearly 40% of Mobiles Bought By US Teens For TextingNearly 40% of Mobiles Bought By US Teens For Texting
A recent survey in the States by IDC and revealed that talking is, like, so uncool amongst teenagers, with Da KidZ preferring to text than talk.

The study revealed that 35.9% of teens acquired their cellphones for the sole or main purpose of texting, with just 13.3% of them getting all traditional and actually talking into the things.

Naturally, we advise that a large mountain side of salt be consumed with these ‘facts’ seeing as the survey was commissioned by online text service who have something of a vested interest.

Curiously, the survey doesn’t explain what the remaining 50.8% of kids are doing with their phones.

A Feast Of Firefox FactsA Feast Of Firefox Facts
Anyone using the excellent Mozilla Firefox browser may find this site invaluable:

The site serves up a ton of useful links to turn browser dabblers into Firefox pros, with information about rendering issues, downloading, interface enhancements, installable mini-applications, configuration and preference customisation, browser tabs, extensions and more.

NDS To Protect Content On Mobile TV And DAB With Frontier Silicon

NDS To Protect Content On Mobile TV And DAB With Frontier SiliconSet Top Box (STB) and PVR company NDS have today announced that they have reached an agreement with Frontier Silicon, a fabless manufacturer of digital media semiconductors based in the UK, to work together on technology to protect digital TV and DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) content on mobile devices.

Frontier Silicon are already well known for pioneering in next gen digital chippery with their DAB chips; the “World’s First” DMB and DVB-H mobile Digital TV chip – in their words; they’ve also innovated in DAB with the introduction of DABplus, a DAB radio with EPG (Electronic Programming Guide) built-in.

The deal sees NDS have their mVideoGuard DRM technology built-in to Frontier’s T-DMB, DVB-H and DAB receiving chips. Interestingly it also sees Frontier Silicon moving into producing kit for the head-end (where it’s broadcast from) – to ensure mVideoGuard is in place from end-to-end.

NDS To Protect Content On Mobile TV And DAB With Frontier SiliconMany readers, especially the non-UK massive, may be thinking ‘So what? Who and who have signed a deal?’ Well the significance of NDS moving this way is that it may signal where Sky is moving. Sky, as I’m sure you know, is the satellite TV company who own the UK in satellite delivered TV, and who’s parent company News International now owns US satellite giant DirecTV.

For a long time Sky and NDS have been developing content protection schemes. They feel this is vital before they let their subscribers move their TV shows from STBs to other devices – including mobile devices.

Despite working on conditional access for mobile TV for a number of months (with NDS), this is the first time that Frontier have built DRM in to their chips, and it’s also thought that this is the first deal that NDS have done putting DRM in system apart from their own.

Is this a move to have NDS as an established provider of DRM? Well it having Sky as a reference client certainly isn’t a bad move.

Frontier Silicon

Blokes More Stupid Online

Blokes More Stupid OnlineStraight out of the text book of Thinly Veiled Product Placement Exercises comes this featherlight-fluff from StreamShield, who commissioned a survey asking the vital question: “Are women more sensible surfers?”

Somehow finding 1,005 adults across Britain prepared to answer the questions, the MORI survey discovered that female PC and Internet users are less likely to succumb to threats such as viruses and receive junk in their inboxes than male users.

The survey revealed that 46% of men reported that their PC had been infected with a virus compared with 38% of women, and 50% of men moaned about receiving excessive spam versus 38% of women.

In a statistic barely worth repeating, StreamShield’s report also tells us that men suffered more unwanted pop up ads than women (74% to 69% of women).

A total of 29% of blokes reported receiving a dodgy email from a bogus financial institution asking for their banking details, compared to 16% of female users.

When it comes to experiencing online fraud, it seems that the geezers were more gullible with 8% reporting that they’d been stung compared to just 4% of the ladies.

But it’s not all bad news for thicko blokes, with the survey claiming that the manly sex have a better overall awareness of Internet threats, with nearly all of them (97%) knowing what a computer virus was versus 92% of female users.

The same applies to other terms like Spyware (66% of men are aware of the term compared with 47% of women), Adware (51% men, 29% women), Phishing (37% men, 18% women) and Key loggers (27% men, 10% women).

Geoff Bennett, Director of Product Marketing at StreamShield insisted that the research proves that there is a clear difference between the male and female experience when online, suggesting that this may be due to the “two sexes may be using the Internet differently.”

(We think he means that many blokes tend to get their machines stuffed full of online nasties because of their undying attraction to Websites containing “artistic nudes.”)

Bennett wraps up his product-pushing survey by claiming that there’s “an education job that needs to be done across both genders as awareness of these threats overall is far too low and at the moment this is one battle of the sexes which men are evidently losing!”

Oh, and in case you missed it, StreamShield Networks provide Internet-based protection for email and the Web applications.


Bluetooth Billboards To Bother Bystanders

Bluetooth Billboards To Bother BystandersBluetooth enabled billboards may soon be bothering passers-by with wireless advertisements blasted to mobile phones, according to the New Scientist magazine.

The brainchild of Alasdair Scott, co-founder and chief creative officer of London-based Filter UK, the ‘BlueCasting’ system will send a message to Bluetooth enabled phones strolling within 100 metres of a wired-up advert.

If the user has their Bluetooth turned on, they’ll be pestered by an invitation to download a pile of digital content related to the advertised product.

Anyone bonkers enough to actually agree to this can look forward to having their phone bombarded with video ads, discount vouchers, animations, music, still images and other advertising guff.

Bluetooth Billboards To Bother BystandersTrials took place recently at six London railway stations in partnership with the advertising company Maiden Group, with Bluetooth-equipped posters offering to beam promotional material and song clips from Coldplay’s new album to passers-by.

Over the space of two weeks, 87,000 Bluetooth phones were recorded ambling past and – amazingly – 17% of those were willing to download the clip.

Although such a high take-up figure is sure to moisten gussets in advertising boardrooms, we reckon it’s more to do with the novelty factor and the fact that the test billboards offered popular mainstream content.

Had they been offering people the chance to download dire advertisements like ESURE’s insurance toe-curler (punchline: “calm down dear, it’s only a commercial!”) we confidently predict that the take up would have been closer to 0%.

Now on to the science bit: The system uses proximity-based broadcasting courtesy of a directional Bluetooth transmitter lurking behind the billboard.

Bluetooth Billboards To Bother BystandersThis beams the adverts to anyone within 100m of the billboard with Simon O’Regan, Filter UK’s Technical Officer insisting that, “only people who can see the billboard are offered the additional promotion.”

The Maiden Group are currently installing transmitters on its billboards at 30 U.K. train stations over the next 18 months, and plans to extend the service to large shopping malls, with Filter getting ready to pester harassed passengers with their own sites at Heathrow.

It looks like consumers won’t be able to escape being bothered by requests to download material from Bluetooth adverts as there’s currently no UK regulations restricting the use of Bluetooth ads being sent to mobile phones (short of users being forced to turn off the Bluetooth ‘discoverable’ functionality)

However, the advertising still comes under the jurisdiction of the Advertising Standards Authority who have voiced concerns that adverts for 18-rated computer games may be blasted at under age kids.

Mind you, we imagine ne’er do wells are going to love the BlueCasting system, with the area around Bluetooth enabled posters turning into a virtual shopping mall for mobile phone purloiners.

Filter UK