Sky Results: Long-Term Concerns?

Sky Results: Long-Term Concerns? BSkyB results for the last year were broadly in line with predictions, but seasoned watchers of all things financial, recognise tell-tale signs of a flattening of the growth curve. The company has managed its spend on programming well, but technology costs remain high, with significant outgoings on expensive High Definition equipment, that won’t bring instant revenue returns.

Sky, as the company brands itself in the UK, looks increasingly like a utility platform-come-broadband wars‘ that are unlikely to see any great financial gains for those taking part.

As Telcos have become drawn into offering entertainment packages to make their own offerings ‘sticky bundles’ – that their customers are loathe to detach themselves from – the entertainment companies are forced to provide competing phone and broadband packages, along with the capability of on-demand TV downloads. This won’t be cheap, as Sky has already found to date with its Easynet purchase, and may prove to be more expensive, if they decide to acquire the UK AOL subscribers from Time Warner.

Sky’s average revenue per subscriber (ARPU) has dropped by £4 and along side this they’re facing stiffer competition from Freeview, the UK Digital Terrestrial platform. Freeview now has a free-to-air movie channel (Film 4) and is due to add two further entertainment channels provided by the UK channel ‘Five’ this autumn. Cost-conscious multi-channel homes will continue to gravitate to this low frills platform.

Sky, like pay-TV services worldwide, has a high churn rate, although its managed to reduce this, it remains somewhere over 10% (that’s the percentage of subscribers over the past year who ended their subscriptions). Achieving this has been costly with increased promotional spend and marketing offers to keep current subscribers signed, which has in-turn hit the bottom line.

Sky Results: Long-Term Concerns? James Murdoch the CEO of BSkyB told the corporate world that “Our industry is changing faster than ever before and for Sky, 2006 has been an important and exciting year.”

With the NTL/Telewest /Virgin mobile merger and its re-brand starting to gather traction, it looks like Sky can look forward to even more excitement in 2007.

Archos 404, 504, 604 PMP: Details

Archos 404, 504, 604 PMP - Details LeakedDetails are still a little murky on this one, but some information on the upcoming range 404, 504, and 604 PMP devices are bubbling on up on t’internet.

The Archos 404 (already being dubbed the ‘Page Not Found’ player by some wags) looks set to a high-spec’d affair, sporting a 30 GB hard drive, a 3.5″ LCD display (320 x 240 px, 16 million colours) and MTP/UMS capabilities.

The thing looks like it will be able to play just about any multimedia file you throw at it too, with built in support for MP3, WMA, WAV, JPEG, BMP, PNG, MPEG4 ASP (Level 5), XviD, DivX 4, DivX 5 and WMV9 (up to a max resolution of 704x 480 @ 30fps, 720 X 576 @ 25fps).

Inside the highly pocketable player (100 X 77 X 15 mm, weight 190g) there’s also a PDF viewer on board, a handy PDF viewer and a built in speaker.

Audio playback battery life is claimed at 15 hours, dropping to 4 hours with video.

Archos 504/604
We’ve no details on the Archos 504 yet, but we can tell you that the Archos 604 offers the same feature set as above, but adds a man-sized 4.3″ display (480 x 272 px, 16 million colours) screen in a slightly bigger case (130 x 78 x 16mm, 260g.)

Archos 404, 504, 604 PMP - Details LeakedAccessories ahoy
Archos are rumoured to be producing an optional DVR station for all the new units, capable of recording video from external sources using MPEG4-SP (DivX 5.0) with ADPCM up to maximum 640 X 480 @ 30fps)

As with previous Archos models, there also looks to be a range of add-ons being made available later, including a line-in recorder, USB host module, and camera.

The players are expected to ship in October, although Archos have made no official announcement yet.


Internet Killed The TOTP Star

Internet Killed The TOTP StarTo a long, long fanfare that we began to fear would never end, Top of the Pops, the world’s longest-running weekly music show, was finally killed off last night.

A classic example of how the Internet is changing consumer’s habits, the once High Priest of Pop found its viewers tumbling as music fans flocked to the Web for the latest tunes, news and videos.

Despite being a major landmark on the UK music map for what seems like centuries, a new generation of impatient, tech-savvy and Web-connected listeners were hardly likely to warm to a format that only offered a distilled breakdown of chart acts once a week.

Why wait?
Way back when we were lads, music delivery on demand wasn’t quite the slick operation it is now, with music starved teens reduced to hanging about in smelly phone boxes, dialling ‘160’ and shoving in their 2p’s to hear a crackly rendition of the song of the day (which you hoped wasn’t the Wombles).

But kids today – spoilt rotten!

Thanks to the Internet, music lovers can now instantly gorge themselves on zillions of new tunes through social networking sites like MySpace, immerse themselves in vast oceans of songs on pay-per-download sites like iTunes or smuggle in tune booty from pirate sites like SoulSeek.

With this kind of personal music delivery, the days of families sitting around the gogglebox for a weekly fix of pre-programmed music entertainment are long gone, with music fans able to listen to music whenever they feel like it, via their computers, mobile phones, iPods and media players.

Internet Killed The TOTP StarThe figures back up the story too, with a recent survey revealing that people spend longer on the Internet than watching television, with the audience for Top of the Pops crashing to around a million viewers from its once-lofty peak of more than 15 million.

Meanwhile MTV are still battling on with the launch of a community-style site at followed by a new channel called Flux which will let viewers control what is aired on the station, and offer live chat with other users

Aimed at challenging the big-boy social networking sites like MySpace and Bebo, MTV are hoping their new product will appeal to the wired generation.

Angel Gambino, vice president of commercial strategy and digital media at MTV Networks UK & Ireland told Reuters, “If audiences are spending more time away from the TV it is important for us to make sure we have a really compelling product.”

“It’s critical to our success to make that transition from a broadcasting company to a multiplatform media company,” she added.

Whether MTV’s new interactive TV service will manage to make inroads into a music market increasingly driven by the Internet remains to be seen, but it’s clear that traditional heavyweights like record labels and MTV are very unlikely to enjoy the domination enjoyed in the past.

Megabit 2006

31.Jul – 6.Aug.2006 The approach to Megabit is super casual. It’s made by the people who attend, for the people attending. Sounds fun. They describe it like this …

Megabit is an open air network event unlike any other event. We try to combine interesting lectures on new technologies, security and other interesing stuff with hanging out with people you would otherwise probably only meet online. Quite some things are organized by participants, including this website.

Amsterdam, Holland

Kazaa Owners Settle Lawsuits Globally

Kazza Owners Settle Lawsuits GloballySharman Networks, the company that distributed the file-sharing software, Kazaa, has finally come to an agreement with the media companies that have been chasing them for years throughout courts around the globe.

The details of the settlement was covered by secrecy clauses, but the Associated Press is reporting the settlement figure as $115m, which they say has mostly been paid by Sharman already. The media companies will drop all of their law suits.

As part of the settlement, Sharman has agreed to discourage online privacy using ”all reasonable means.’ How this is be achieved is unclear. Kazaa was specificaly designed to be distributed, making it’s very hard to have any control over the network. It’s design would make the use of filtering software, which would remove or block copyright material, difficult.

Being upbeat Nikki Hemming, CEO of Sharman Networks, enthused, “This settlement marks the dawn of a new age of cooperation between P2P technology and content industries which will promise an exciting future for online distribution in general and Kazaa users in particular.”

Kazza Owners Settle Lawsuits GloballyIt’s understood that the settlement doesn’t require the media companies to provide their content to Kazaa, but equally it doesn’t forbid Kazza carrying copyrighted material, if done ‘legitimately.’

Given the software has been downloaded over 398 million times to date, the media companies could well see the benefit utilising the P2P network.

There was some shock in November last year when Grokster, who like Sharman made software for distributed file-sharing networks, changed their minds and closed down their service.

Win A Copy Of The Long Tail Book

Win A Copy Of The Long Tail BookWe’ve just published a review of The Long Tail, Chris Anderson’s new book

The Long Tail is an important manual for the new economics of the Internet and digital culture. As well as demystifying the numbers it provides an essential guide to how to navigate a world where everything is available, all the time.

High praise and we think that it’s a sufficiently important book that you should have your own copy.

We chatted to the lovely people at Random House and they’ve kindly furnished us with five copies.

All you need to do is run through our Readers survey, which should only take on 5-7 minutes of clicking.

We will of course also be so very grateful – which should give you a lovely glow inside.

The Long Tail Book Review (95%): Why The Future Of Business Is Selling Less Of More

The Long Tail Book Review: Why The Future Of Business Is Selling Less Of More
by Chris Anderson

Published by Random House (UK), Hyperion Books (USA),

Retail price – UK £17.99, USA $24.95

Buy the book from Amazon US or Amazon UK
Buy the audio book from Amazon US

The Long Tail Book Review: Why The Future Of Business Is Selling Less Of More (95%)The Long Tail is an important manual for the new economics of the Internet and digital culture. As well as demystifying the numbers it provides an essential guide to how to navigate a world where everything is available, all the time. Score: 95%

Every once in a while a book comes along that completely captures and defines a particular period. Nicholas Negroponte’s Being Digital defined the blossoming digital culture of the mid 90’s, now The Long Tail shows how the Internet will radically change our habits and behaviour.

Chris Anderson illustrates how our buying habits have been shaped by the economics of big business, creating the blockbuster culture; the selling of a narrow range of products to the biggest possible group of consumers. Anderson shows how the Internet, through companies such as eBay, Google and Amazon, radically changes that, allowing us to be more exploratory and specific about what we buy.

“The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-target goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.”

Anderson provides and eloquent and detailed analysis of various aspects of Internet culture and business and illustrates how the explosion of niche markets and filtering tools will allow us to zero-in on things that interest us, potentially shattering the hold that large manufacturers and retailers have exercised since the mid 20th century.

The Long Tail Book Review: Why The Future Of Business Is Selling Less Of More (95%)The Long Tail effect is not limited to buying and selling, the process by which the book was written is a case in point. Anderson (editor in chief of Wired magazine) published the original Long Tail article in Wired back in October 04. The article rapidly became a hit and mushroomed into the Long Tail blog which Anderson used to publicly research and test his theories. Shortly before the publication date earlier this month, Anderson released copies of the book to bloggers across the globe for review. The process is a perfect example of a product being tested and developed publicly, thereby generating enough word of mouth interest to create a ready market for it. The strategy was proved a resounding success by the book’s appearance in Amazon’s top ten non-fiction list on its publication day.

Although The Long Tail is a business book, it is also about culture in general and how it’s changing. Freed from the constraints of the blockbuster culture, the consumer is able to delve into niches he never knew existed and also to contribute in a way that was not previously possible. The success of social software services such as Flickr and YouTube has allowed the audience to create and share their own material generating a genuinely new, interactive media which is actually competing in some respects with mainstream broadcast media.

The Long Tail Book Review: Why The Future Of Business Is Selling Less Of More (95%)Some have taken this to mean that Anderson is sounding the death knell for blockbusters, something which he was at pains to counter on his blog, “Hits Aren’t Dead” he said, “I never said they were. What is dead is the monopoly of the hit. For too long hits or products intended to be hits have had the stage to themselves, because only hit-centric companies had access to the retail channel and the retail channel only had room for best-sellers. But now blockbusters must share the stage with a million niche products, and this will lead to a very different marketplace.”

While not all the ideas in The Long Tail are Anderson’s own, like any good journalist, he manages to articulate the complexities of a difficult subject in a lucid and entertaining style.

The Long Tail is an important manual for the new economics of the Internet and digital culture. As well as demystifying the numbers it provides an essential guide to how to navigate a world where everything is available, all the time.

Score: 95%

Published by Random House (UK), Hyperion Books (USA),

Retail price – UK £17.99, USA $24.95

Buy the book from Amazon US or Amazon UK
Buy the audio book from Amazon US

AOL’s Steve Case Sorry for Time Warner Deal

AOL's Steve Case Sorry for Time Warner DealSteve Case, co-founder of AOL, now ex-chairman of AOL-Time Warner, has said he was sorry for the merger between AOL and Time Warner. It is widely regarded as a deal that didn’t go very well, leading to internal wrangling and huge amounts of money being knocked of share values.

In an interview with well known US journalist, Charlie Rose, Case said he still believed the ‘idea’ of bringing together Time Warners content and broadband infrastructure, RoadRunner, with AOL digital expertise was right.

He resolved that “Ultimately it comes down to execution,” and that in this case that hadn’t been successful. Case said he missed the ‘power’ to execute what he thought was right.

When questioned further about it, Case then refered to his current company, Revolution, saying that they will only enter into agreements where they have a controlling interest, so they can “Take a long term view.” We take this as implying that this wasn’t the case when dealing with Time Warner.

When Rose asked him straight, “Was it a good idea, or not?”, Case gave a half smile and then laughed, trying to avoid a direct answer.

AOL's Steve Case Sorry for Time Warner DealWhen pushed, Case said from the point of shareholders of the two companies, employees & customers – it didn’t go as he’d hoped, it had been a disappointment and a source for frustration. Given the wide range of those included by Case, we don’t know who else might be disappointed who wasn’t included.

Given the stark choice of, “Sorry, Yes or No?”, Case said, “Yes I’m sorry I did it.”

Watch the video. The section relevant to this story starts at 30 minutes in.

Google Grabs Half Of All Web Searches In June

Google Grabs Half Of All Web Searches In JuneWhen it comes to web searches, Google still remains the world champ, with the latest figures showing that the search giant had notched up nearly half of all web searches last month.

Figures released from research firm Nielsen//NetRatings show that a massive 2.67 billion searches were carried out on Google during June 2006, which represents 49.4 per cent of all web searches carried out during the month.

These latest figures represent a mighty impressive year-on-year growth of 31 per cent for the Google gang.

Waddling some way behind in second place is Yahoo, who could only manage 1.24 billion searches, or 23 per cent of the total, although the company is enjoying a healthy 29 per cent year-on-year growth.

Looking further down the rankings, we can see MSN with 10.3 per cent and AOL with 6.9 per cent shares, with both companies registering around three per cent year-on-year growth.

Google Grabs Half Of All Web Searches In JuneAlthough and My Way managed to score year-on-year growth of 66 per cent and 51 per cent respectively, the search sites only account for a mere two per cent of all searches in June.

At the bottom of the pile were Netscape, Dogpile, iWon and EarthLink, all of whom experienced “negative annual growth,” with just 0.5 per cent of all searches last month.

Zombie bars
Elsewhere, security firm SurfControl has warned users about a fake e-mail purporting to come from Google.

The Google-branded email includes a link to a well-dodgy site that looks like the real thing, offering a fake Google Toolbar Web site for download.

What users actually download is the Win32.Ranky.fw trojan that can turn users’ machines into ‘spam zombies,’ allowing a remote intruder to route HTTP traffic through an infected PC.

Win32.Ranky.fw trojan

Annual Global Mobile Shipments To Reach 1.5 billion By 2011

Annual Global Mobile Shipments To Reach 1.5 billion By 2011Global sales of handsets are set to reach 1.5 billion in five years, according to a new report by IT research firm Analysys.

The “Evolution of Mobile Handsets to 2011 and Beyond” study forecasts that mobiles will evolve into three broad categories, comprising voice-centric, converged-function and specialist handsets.

After imbibing deeply on a large bowl of buzzwords, report author Dr Yanli Suo-Saunders exploded into a frenzy of tech-speak, “The handset market is transforming as traditional voice-centric devices diversify with the incorporation of a range of multimedia functions.”

“Future handsets will develop into voice-centric, converged-function and specialist categories, driven by increasingly segmented consumer demand,” he continued, as we grappled to sync up with his mindshare paradigm shift.

The good doctor reckoned that voice-centric handsets will remain the largest single product category in emerging markets; while developed economies will see converged-function and specialist handsets taking the lead in 2011.

Annual Global Mobile Shipments To Reach 1.5 billion By 2011Ball rubbing
After giving their crystal ball a good rub, the report authors predicted that annual global handset shipments will reach 1.5 billion in 2011 – up from just over 800 million in 2005 – while voice-centric handsets will still make up more than half of shipments in emerging markets in 2011.

Converged-function handsets look set to become a mainstream product in developed markets by 2011, hogging over 30% of the market, with a range of specialist handsets looking to be the biggest sellers in the majority of developed economies by the same time period.