Siemens offers TV on mobiles and Voice over WiFi at CeBit

Siemens offers TV for mobilesSiemens are planning to make a big splash at the upcoming CeBit in Hannover, Germany.

Along with Skype-capable M34 USB that they’ve already released, they’re planning to go the whole hog and show a Voice over WiFi handset (Gigaset S35 WLAN). On the telephone-plus-TV front they’ve announced a new concept handset, offering DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcast for Handheld Devices) compatibility, which – in theory – will let users pick up around half a dozen digital TV and about 30 digital radio channels.

The ‘DVB-H Concept’ can pick up digital TV signals beamed across 3G networks using a modified version of the existing DVB-T terrestrial digital TV. Adapted for battery-powered terminals, the DVB-H broadcasts in bursts, allowing the receiver to power-down whenever possible, and thus boosting battery life.

DVB-H trials are underway in the UK, US, Germany and Finland, and if all goes to plan, UK residents will be able to wander about the streets watching Coronation Street on their phones in about a year. Not surprisingly, Digital TV phones are already huge in Japan and Korea.

Details are still a bit sketchy, but it will definitely feature a VGA screen and stereo sound. If they can also wedge a hard disk into the phone for recording programmes (and for storing your video clips transferred from PCs) this could be next year’s must-have technology.

The omens are good: the lucky citizens of Japan and Korea are already enjoying TV mobiles and it’s not hard to imagine sleep-deprived Brits shelling out hard cash to tune into every mumbled utterance of popular shows like Big Brother.

This marks another strange twist in the Siemens story. Not long ago, strong rumours were circulating around the net that they were looking to flog off their mobile phones division. This announcement – along with two other new phones (the Gigaset S35 WLAN, a Voice over WiFi and the M75, a chunky military style handset) suggests that no one’s told their tech bods yet.

Siemens (UK)
Siemens (USA)

RSA to Secure Nintendo DS for Wireless Gaming

Nintendo DS protects wireless gamers with RSA encryptionGames console maker Nintendo is adopting encryption technology developed by RSA Security to encrypt wireless traffic between its new Nintendo DS portable game console.

The game console is the company’s first major mobile gaming product since the popular Game Boy Advance, and contains the embedded messaging and communication tool, Pictochat with its wireless networking technology.

According to Nintendo’s press release, the DS’s wireless capabilities will initially allow up to four players to virtually blast the living daylights out of each other (and send taunting instant messages to their victims) on DS units up to 100 feet away.

The wireless feature uses both the standard 802.11 wireless technology and Nintendo’s own proprietary digital rights management protocol and will also allow certain games to be shared and played interactively among users.

Naturally, with all that expensive software flying through the air, game publishers and developers needed to be assured that their games wouldn’t be disappearing into the ether, so the RSA BSAFE technology has been brought in to protect the digital rights of game publishers for titles shared wirelessly.

Nintendo DS protects wireless gamers with RSA encryptionThe same technology has also been employed by Nintendo to protect game demos that are issued on a trial basis for play in retail stores and other demo environments.

Nintendo also intends to introduce an Internet ‘hub’ to allow users to challenge fellow DS gamers anywhere on the planet.

RSA Security
Nintendo DS portable game console

Napster To Go Launches – Will It Go with the Public?

Napster Stares iTunes in the Face and Makes Growling NoisesNapster UK has launched what they’re claiming to be the “world’s first portable subscription music service”.

Backed up by an aggressive multi-million pound marketing campaign, Napster is talking big with bold claims of “changing the music industry forever” after their service rolls out after its UK launch, with Europe following close behind.

Priced at £14.95 a month, the Napster To Go service allows users to download as much music as they like from Napster’s one million-strong catalogue and save it to a compatible portable media player.

Unlike the pay-per-track/album services offered by rivals such as iTunes, Napster users can download an unlimited number of tracks and listen to them on and/or offline so long as their membership is active.

Napster Stares iTunes in the Face and Makes Growling NoisesUnlimited music? Over a million tracks? Sounds like the original Napster. Well, there’s the catch. Once you stop shelling out the monthly fee, you’ll be listening to a hard drive full of silence, courtesy of Microsoft’s new Janus digital rights management (DRM) system turning off your access to the tracks.

There’s currently only five compatible music players – Creative Zen Micro MP3 player; iriver H10 MP3 player; iriver Portable Media Centre; Creative Zen Portable Media Centre; and Samsung YH999 Portable Media Centre – with a further 18 devices are expected to hit the market in the next three months.

Napster is predicting a veritable onslaught of compatible devices to follow on within the year.

With the hugely popular iPod notably absent from that list (strangely they don’t support Microsoft’s DRM) and users still able to download DRM-free content from music-sharing sites like Soulseek, we’ll have to wait and see if users are prepared to go along with a monthly subscription where they don’t get to keep the music.

For non-subscription members, Napster also offers the Napster Light a la carte download store that sells individual tracks for 79 pence and albums for £7.95.


Microsoft Search Squares up to Google

Microsoft Search Squares up to Google After receiving a sound pummelling in previous rounds against the mighty Google, Microsoft has produced a leaner, meaner more bad-ass search engine – and this one looks like it might go the distance.

Ditching their previous reliance on the Yahoo/Inktomi search index, the all-new MSN Search service has been created from the ground up using a Microsoft-designed proprietary index (although the company are still using Yahoo-owned Overture to deliver Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising).

With a spartan, advert-free interface straight out of the Google school of design, the minimalist screen lets users search for keywords from a rich range of sources including web pages, news feeds, images, news headlines, Encarta, music downloads and files on user’s PCs.

All the usual gizmos are on board too, with MSN Search offering word definitions, mathematic calculations, conversions, sports information and just about everything else that their competitors provide.

The new product reflects the intense competition in the increasingly important Internet-based search technology market. With Google already offering a free e-mail program, photo-editing software and a desktop search program for finding files on Windows computers, this development can be seen as Microsoft trying to protect their turf.

But will it be good enough to provide a viable alternative to the current search industry big boys, Yahoo! and Google, both of whom have more market share than Microsoft in the search business?

Danny Sullivan of isn’t completely convinced:

“The core search engine is good and a welcomed new “search voice” in the space. However, it does not make a massive leap beyond what’s offered by Google, Yahoo or Ask Jeeves — the other three major search companies that provide their own voices of what’s deemed relevant on the web.”

This week’s MSN Search launch probably won’t have much of an immediate impact on the search-engine market, but backed by an advertising budget the size of a small country’s GDP, we can expect things to heat up nicely in the coming months.

The timing of the launch, the day before Google announce their first full year trading results may also not have been coincidental.

MSN Search
Wikipedia: Pay per click

Microsoft and Macrovision Join Forces

Macrovision and Microsoft joing forcesIn a move sure to annoy and frustrate pirates and possibiliy home users, Microsoft has struck a deal with copy-protection specialists Macrovision to make it harder for consumers to swap video content.
The technology aims to stop people making copies of TV shows and movies using analog connections between devices (e.g. linking a set-top box to a television).

Up till now, the big studios and content providers have been more concerned about preventing high quality, digital to digital copies, but now they’re getting in a sweat about users recording the output of a DVD player onto a computer hard drive.

Unlike most digital copy protection schemes, Macrovision doesn’t scramble the signal, but it blasts out a pulse of electronic energy along with the video as it is played. Devices such as DVD recorders will recognise this signal and refuse to record the content.

The new deal also enables Microsoft’s Windows Media software to detect this signal in incoming analog video streams. Future versions of the software may allow content to be stored for just 90 minutes or up to a week.

Upcoming versions of Microsoft’s Media Center Edition operating systems will allow users to make a temporary copy that can be stored for one day and then rendered unusable after that time.

By hammering down digital rights management, the idea is that the entertainment industry can to take advantage of emerging revenue channels without remaining confident that their rights are protected.

How your average consumer, keen to make a copy of the Antiques Roadshow at home, might respond to all this technology is another matter. One option they might take is to replace their Windows machine with another type that doesn’t place this restriction on them.


TiVo SDK: looking to influential new pals, new ideas, anything!

TiVo SDKSqueezed on both sides by ever-competitive satellite and cable providers, TiVo is trying to woo third party developers into creating compelling new add-on services for their product.

The company has rolled out a Software Development Kit (SDK) in the hope that it will create a vibrant market in application for the TiVo. The SDK has been released on to SourceForge, a home for open-source software.

To stimulate the market, they’ve got the ball rolling with three initial add-ons: a weather information plug in, an RSS reader and a game, with users needing a Series 2 TiVo, a home network and broadband connection to take full advantage of the applications.

The move is part of a larger strategy, code-named Tahiti, which lets DVRs download information and content from the Internet. Howard Look, who regales under the magnificent title of ‘vice president of application and user experience’ at TiVo was heard excitedly exclaiming, “All the great ideas don’t have to come just from us.”

Some users may feel that there haven’t been enough great ideas coming from anywhere recently.

Although TiVo boxes are well regarded for their easy-peasy interface and excellent aesthetics, many feel that it’s being left behind by newer technologies. Sales haven’t matched expectations (only 2 million boxes so far) with the company racking up truly eye-wateringly large net losses (half a billion according to Om Malik).

Clearly something hugely impressive has to be pulled out of the bag to turn the company around, but posters on Slashdot weren’t exactly overwhelmed by TiVo’s announcement, but then Slashdotters are rarely overwhelmed.

If they’re represeantative, it seems that what many users really want – instant commercial skip, sharing recorded programs with other devices and free channel guide services – isn’t on TiVo’s horizon and barely anyone seemed excited by the somewhat less enticing prospect of bolt-on weather forecasts and an RSS reader.

TiVo does have a very enthusastic base of owners, many of whom are capable of developing software, so this could be a very wise move for TiVo. We wait with bated breath to see how many applications arrive.

The Developer Toolkit
Slashdot discussion: TiVo to offer SDK