eBay To Buy Skype? $5Bn Alleged

EBay To Buy Skype? $5Bn AllegedRumours hotter than a double strength vindaloo are circulating major news organisations like the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the Web that online auctioneers eBay are in talks to acquire the Internet-telephony company Skype.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting the world’s largest online auction site could be heading for a major shift in strategy in a deal involving truly stratospheric figures of $2 billion to $3 billion. If you think that’s high, the New York Post are quoting $5 Bn as the price.

The paper reports that the talks are in a “sensitive stage” and – mindful of Skype’s earlier failures to close deals with other technology companies – could “fall apart” at any given moment.

(Simon Perry – The very fact that eBay could be getting around the table with Skype either reflects the company’s quest for new product categories and international markets, or they could integrate Skype into the service, offering purchaser and seller to talk to each other. Another option could be to use Skype’s ability to host group discussions as a way of strengthening communities with the same interests.

Although they still rule the roost for online auctions, their core business is maturing, leading the company to diversify into new markets such as rental-property listings, online classified-ad listings and comparison shopping.

Despite other online leaders such as Yahoo and Google ramping up the feature set and expanding into new territories, eBay has remained focussed on the task of acting as middleman between individual buyers and sellers. EBay To Buy Skype? $5Bn Alleged

Their acquisition of the electronic-payment processing service PayPal in 2002 echoed their aim to simplify the business of buying and selling goods online, and an integrated VoIP service could provide a key element of that strategy.

Such a deal would also massively increase Skype’s presence, with eBay’s huge user base of 157 million technology-literate subscribers likely to be keen to adopt.)

Although market leader Skype currently enjoys huge popularity, their Big Cheese position is coming under considerable pressure as Google (Google Talk) and Microsoft (after recent Teleo VoIP purchase) tool up with their own VoIP offerings.

Optimistically, we gave Skype a call for their opinion (on Skype naturally) and got the expected, “Skype doesn’t comment on rumours” answer.

The ‘Skype for sale’ rumours are unlikely to go away after it was recently reported that they had hired investment banking firm Morgan Stanley & Co. to examine their options – including floating an IPO.

Back then Skype flatly denied that the company was for sale. Today, they didn’t confirm or deny this.

As Apple know, this is the best way to get written about, isn’t it?

We’ll see.


Real Rhapsody: To Go And Free Service Added

Real Rhapsody: To Go And Free Service AddedReal Networks is looking to up-end Apple’s iTunes store and nobble Napster To Go by launching a new music subscription services for portables music players.

The Seattle-based outfit, who are this month in their tenth year, is looking to extend its Rhapsody subscription music service, which currently lets home users and subscribers download as many tracks to their computers as they want for US$9.95 (£5.22/€7.66) a month.

The big shocker is that after years of scratching each other’s eyes out, Real has decided to license digital rights management (DRM) for their service from its once bitter rival, Microsoft.

The Microsoft software, code-named Janus, will disable songs from playing on devices once a customer stops paying the monthly fee.

The new music service comes in three flavours: Rhapsody 25, Rhapsody To Go, and Rhapsody Unlimited.

Real Rhapsody: To Go And Free Service AddedRhapsody 25 is the entry-level standard service which is completely free to use. It’s being supported by advertising, initially Chrysler and is designed to tempt people to subscribe. It allows anyone who downloads Rhapsody’s Windows-based jukebox software to listen to 25 songs for free each month from Rhapsody’s library, with the option to purchase and download songs a la carte. There will also be 25 ad-free radio stations available.

Users of this freebie will also be able to share their selected music with others, even non-subscribers. When the generated email arrives, access to the DRM-controlled content is made, downloading them the software if they don’t already have it. Real hope they will benefit from the network viral effect.

The Unlimited deal is pretty much what is currently offered, provides a subscription-based service that costs US$9.99 per month, giving users access to 100 pre-programmed Internet radio stations, 50,000 “artist-based” radio stations and more than 1,500 music videos online. A few bells and whistles have also been added.

Subscribers can download an unlimited number of songs to their computer’s hard drive and these remain playable for as long as they remain subscribers.

Rhapsody To Go offers a near-identical subscription-based deal as Napster To Go, letting users download a near-unlimited amount of music to compatible portable music players. The price is identical to Napster’s offering too at US$14.95 (£7.85/€11.52) per month.

That’s all fine and dandy while they’re shelling out the cash, but as soon as a subscription ends – whoosh! – there goes their music collection, as every song they’ve downloaded is automatically rendered unplayable.

Real Rhapsody: To Go And Free Service AddedIt’s been likened to having your CD collection on permanent hire purchase – once you lapse on your payments, you can kiss goodbye to your tunes. To old-school music fans, not owning your precious sounds is a bonkers proposition, but both Real and Napster believe there’s a market for subscription-based music downloads, with punters excited by the promise of filling an entire iPod for less than the price of two CDs.

The MS Janus DRM protection demands compatible portable music players, ones that turn the content off if the subscription lapses. Currently there are two favorites, the Zen Micro and iRiver H10. To further induce subscribers to the To Go service, Real are offering a US$100 (€77/£52) rebate on the H10 for a limited period.

According to recent estimates, the subscription market – comprised of Real’s Rhapsody, Napster and Yahoo’s MusicMatch service – is reckoned to generate about US$200 million in 2005 sales. Indeed Real announced they had passed one million subscribers last week.

By comparison, the digital music downloading business made popular by Apple’s iTunes service, is expected to rake in around US$350 million in 2005 revenue, according to Phil Leigh, an analyst at market research firm Inside Digital Media.

Real Rhapsody
Watch Real CEO, Rob Glaser introduce the new Rhapsody

IDV Global Media-On-Demand: Chinese Seek US Content

Chinese On-Demand Platform Looks For US ContentA coalition of government policy makers, technology and broadband companies from China have rocked up to the NAB2005 Media Show in Las Vegas.

They’re in town to invite opportunity-seeking US companies to supply programming and interactive content to the Chinese coalition-backed IDV Global Media On-Demand platform, expected to launch in China early next year.

Developed by California-based IDV, the platform was a top-secret project until premiered at the China Media-on-Demand Coalition press conference last week in Beijing, and reflects China’s eagerness to create new technologies for the Internet and telecom.

IDV-Global Media – headed by ex-Microsoft’s Xbox game console designer, Kevin Bachus – expects the new technology to allow Chinese media companies to securely distribute programs worldwide, direct from publisher to consumer.

Bachus rose to media attention when he left Microsoft to start a rival games console business, Infinium Labs. Their product, the Phantom Game Service, downloaded game content directly over an Internet connection. Digital-Lifestyles has been covering the Phantom since the start of 2004, from its first demo, through the announcement of its launch, to them receiving a $50 million credit investment.

Some of the press had speculate that Bachus had left Infinium. At the start of this week he issued a statement denying that he had left Infinium for IDV Global Media.

Duncan Clark, managing director of the Beijing-based consulting firm BDA China Ltd., warned that IDV-Global Media will need support from a range of participants, including telecoms, media and electronics companies (and the government agencies that regulate them) for the project to work.

“What this initiative claims to attain, aligning the interests of many different players in the value chain, is something that has eluded many a media mogul outside China,” Clark sagely added.

IDV GMOD’s platform is an end-to-end solution that includes a second generation PC with a 3D “platform-on-platform” architecture developed by IDV – the first system to receive certification from China as the standard for second generation PCs.

Content will be delivered to consumers by digital feeds from global sources, including a next generation Internet, based on the IPv6 technology, with revenue sharing arrangements for partners.

This system will supply sports events, movies, TV shows, next gen games and other interactive entertainment direct to private residences or hotel rooms worldwide, with the same interface, in High Definition (HD) quality video.

The wonderfully named Dr Fan Yeqiang, deputy director of the China Institute of Policy Studies (CIPS), said in a statement, “Now US media publishers and distributors have a direct platform on which to earn millions of dollars in incremental revenues from their content in the China market. We are offering a safe, certified delivery system never available to US media companies before.”

NAB2005 Media show

World’s First MPEG-4/AVC Broadcast on HomeChoice

Video Networks Launches World's First MPEG-4/AVC BroadcastVideo Networks Limited (VNL), who operate the HomeChoice VOD service around London, have added the children’s animation channel Toonami to their line up using the MPEG-4 / AVC format, making it the world’s first television channel to be encoded with advanced compression technology.

The company teamed up with Harmonic to launch an initial video-over-xDSL service in 2004 using DiviCom MV 100 encoders configured with MPEG-2.

Since then, VNL has been using the MPEG-2 compression efficiency and picture-quality of the MV 100 to continually enrich the channel line-up of its HomeChoice service.

The MV 100’s architecture enables the progressive migration of HomeChoice’s existing broadcast channels to MPEG-4.

Additionally, the technology allows further compression improvements to extend HomeChoice’s picture quality and reach and range of service, with the Star Trek sounding “field installable software CoDec module”.

VNL told Digital-Lifestyles that the quality of the MPEG-4 picture is noticably better that the MPEG-2 stream that is currently used. They hope that the move to MPEG-4 will save them around 50% of their current bandwidth needs in the coming years.

Video Networks Launches World's First MPEG-4/AVC BroadcastVNL’s migration to MPEG-4 for its remaining broadcast channels, including the Cartoon Network and Boomerang, is expected to be completed within the next two months. In time the VOD service will also be moved to the new CoDec.

Roger Lynch, Chairman & CEO, Video Networks Ltd was absolutely delighted about what he described as a key enhancement to its platform, adding, “We are not simply adding yet another quality channel from the Turner stable but are creating a world first with the first ever broadcast channel to switch to MPEG-4 / AVC encoding.

The move to MPEG-4 allows us to provide superior picture quality, while reducing the bandwidth required to transmit our broadcast channels.”

Once VNL has made the switch to MPEG-4, the saving on bandwidth for them should be substantial. This brings the advantages of VNL having to push less bandwidth out and therefore less of the distribution network is taken up. These reductions in demands bring an opportunity for more TV channels, increased Internet delivery speeds, but most interestingly the chances to carry High Definition (HD) programmes.

We understand that VNL have been testing HD within their labs, but would not be draw on the possibility of its introduction. To us it would appear an obvious step, and given BSkyB’s very public launch of HD in the UK later this year, it would be a considerably marketing coup to launch in advance of Sky.

Dr. Yaron Simler – President of the Convergent Systems Division of Harmonic Inc and no stranger to the odd acronym or ten – had this to say:

“While much of the industry is still in a planning, evaluation or trial phase, Video Networks Limited is forging ahead with an advanced technology and pay-TV service platform.”

Video Networks Launches World's First MPEG-4/AVC Broadcast“The first commercially available encoding platform to support MPEG-2, MPEG-4/AVC and SMPTE VC-1, Harmonic’s DiviCom MV 100 enabled VNL to provision a compelling video-over-DSL service while in parallel developing the elements of an MPEG-4 environment.

It is rewarding to see that we are moving toward the world’s first broadcast TV service based entirely on an advanced codec. This has established both VNL and the DiviCom MV 100 as significant forces in shaping the future of the television market.”

Video Networks Limited
Harmonic Inc

Vodafone Appeases Content Suppliers with Marketing

Vodafone Appeases Content Suppliers with MarketingThere has been much rumblings of discontent from content suppliers to the mobile phone industry, and, as the globally dominant brand, Vodafone have been taking a lot of the flack.

With sales soaring through the roof, you’d think all would be cream cakes and Earl Grey tea in Mobile Land, but trouble’s been a-brewing concerning the split of income from subscribers for the content.

In a world where content providers are used to calling the shots about product pricing – and the mobile companies are used to a similar position of dominance – an uneasy truce has been maintained, with the best spilt available being 50/50.

Clearly dissatisfied with their lot, content providers have been making long whining noises in the direction of Vodafone. They want more money but – not surprisingly – Vodafone aren’t to keen to dish it out.

Vodafone Appeases Content Suppliers with MarketingFeeling the pressure, Vodafone have tried to placate their grumbling partners in the short term by dishing out a sizzling barbeque of buzzwords, liberally doused with PR doublespeak.

We’re not sure if their partners are going to have much of an appetite for what’s on offer – if they can make sense of it – but it seems that Vodafone are offering to spend more on marketing mobile games (without altering their percentage split of the income.)

The extra promotion will clearly be good news for content providers, but the more cynical amongst us will be quick to point out that Vodafone will clearly benefit from the extra publicity too.

Vodafone Appeases Content Suppliers with MarketingIt looks like Tim Harrison, Head of Games at Vodafone Group Services, had been smoking pure Moroccan Buzzword when he came out with this piece of baffling industry-speak: “Having pre-agreed, pan-regional marketing and distribution capacity will allow us to run multi-territory co-marketing more easily, improve efficiencies for our partners and benefit the industry as a whole.”

Vodafone will be rolling out their grandly titled ‘Marketing and Distribution Plan’ by the end of April, with the remaining Vodafone Operating Companies and partner markets enjoying “maximised marketing and distribution efficiencies” by the end of Q3 2005.

Vodafone press release

Talking Street Created By Living Streets Charity In London

Living Streets Charity Creates Talking StreetLiving Streets, a national charity, launched its election campaign, “Talk to me about streets”, by making street items like paving and signs talk back to passers-by in Meard Street, Soho, London.

The charity is campaigning for the need make streets and public spaces safer for residents and available to local communities for socialising and play – in our eyes a worthy cause.

At the risk of giving acid flashbacks to aging hippies wandering by, the charity installed micro-electronics to animate everyday objects in an attempt to get across their message.

Living Streets Charity Creates Talking StreetPaving ‘squealed’ underfoot to point out the dangers of tripping over broken paving while spooky whispering windows resonated with the sound of absent children, no longer able to play in our dangerous streets.

Living Streets Charity Creates Talking StreetLiving Streets Director Tom Franklin explains, “The streets are the one public service that everyone uses. Politicians can directly improve people’s daily lives by improving the street environment.”

“Pavements for people” is one of the campaign themes. At the moment pavements often seem to be for everything except walking – parked cars, road signs, litter, fly tipping and dangerous clutter. For older people and the blind and partially sighted, it can put people off going out at all.

Many people and companies volunteered their time to make this event a success. Fergus Rougier created the audio for the Whispering Window, and the Clock Tree. Both of these produced sound that would be most unexpected in a city.

Living Streets Charity Creates Talking StreetVerity Parker, who is doing an PhD at Brunel investigating electrical conductive fabrics, worked with Stock Displays to produce talking street signs, labelled in standard UK form, but with short audio samples.

Verity’s work also worked by referencing the street where the demonstration ran, one example being a stone nose placed apparently randomly on one of the building, lead to one of the pieces of work using voice samples of “I spy” and sneeze (mp3, ogg).

When we spoke to Verity about the project she was full of enthusiasm for it, telling us it was a “privileged to work on the project”.

Living Streets Charity Creates Talking Street‘The street that talks’ has the support of the Royal National Institute of the Blind, (RNIB) which also campaigns for streets and the built environment to be more accessible to blind and partially sighted people.

Steve Winyard, Head of Public Policy at RNIB said, “It is vital that people with sight problems are able to walk safely around their streets. The Government surveyed three hundred people with sight problems and found that every one had had an accident whilst walking. A safe environment is fundamental to independent living and for accessing public transport.”

Living Streets Charity Creates Talking StreetAn accompanying new Living Streets’ pamphlet – written by two of Britain’s most eminent architects, Lord Richard Rogers and Sir Terry Farrell – was also unveiled at the event.

The ‘talking pavestones’ concept was based on the ‘tune stones’ exhibition created for Eureka! The Museum for Children in Halifax when it opened in 1992, while the event has some resonance with the aims of the direct action, eco- activist group, Reclaim The Streets.

Audio samples
Fergus-Rougier-1 mp3, Ogg Vorbis
Fergus-Rougier-2 mp3, Ogg Vorbis
Fergus-Rougier-3 mp3, Ogg Vorbis
Fergus-Rougier-4 mp3, Ogg Vorbis
Verity-Parker-Ah mp3, Ogg Vorbis
Verity-Parker-Sneeze mp3, Ogg Vorbis
Verity-Parker-Kiss mp3, Ogg Vorbis
Verity-Parker-Teehee mp3, Ogg Vorbis
Verity-Parker-Whistle mp3, Ogg Vorbis

Relevant links
The Royal National Institute of the Blind
Living Streets
Eureka! The Museum for Children in Halifax
Reclaim The Streets
Stock Displays

Photo credits: Living Streets, Fergus Rougier & others

Laguna DC551HD From Pace, HD STB With HDMI, Among Others

Laguna DC551HD From Pace, HD STB with HDMIPace Micro Technology, a cutting edge UK digital set-top box provider tasked with developing emerging technologies across all television platforms, has trumpeted the launch of a number of STB’s and PVR’s, including the Laguna DC551HD and DC 501 Chicago all-digital set-top box.

The Laguna DC551HD is a high definition set-top box (HD STB) that comes with HDMI as standard. HDMI is being insisted on by many content owners as the means of interconnecting HD equipment, ensuring the content remains encrypted as it passes between devices, in an effort to reduce unauthorised content copying. It also boasts support for an optional 1394 5C protected interface to let people move content from the box – in a controlled fashion, of course.

Laguna DC551HD From Pace, HD STB with HDMIPace is also offering the Tahoe DC775 HD-DVR, claiming it to be the most advanced high definition DVR for North America, and the first cable set-top box to offer features based on next generation silicon. Interestingly it offers a number of ways to save video content to the 160Gb hard drive – Standard Definition (SD), High Def (HD) and enhanced analogue. With multi-room video distribution and support for high-speed data connections for home computers, wireless routers and VoIP included you might be wondering what isn’t included.

The ‘Chicago’ set-top box is an all-digital device with a common platform designed to operate on North American cable networks and the Chicago DC 501 claims to be the most powerful standard definition, all-digital box available, boasting an industry leading MIPS processor and it’s also the first in the industry to offer DSG and OCAP support as options.

Consumers burdened with Ye Olde analogue televisions won’t have to miss out on the digi-fun either as the box can hook up to such near-Neanderthal devices.

The Chicago DC 501’s innovative design allows the set-top box to stand vertically or lay horizontally, with a cunning infrared (IR) receiver extender allowing the box to be mounted remotely on a wall or discretely hidden away.

Pace Americas’ President Michael Pulli spun out the spiel, “We’re in a unique position as the only set-top box provider with licenses and technology to deploy boxes on all types of cable TV networks. This underscores a major part of our long-term strategy for the North American market, which is to develop set-top box solutions with a common platform that can easily be deployed on any network.”

Laguna DC551HD From Pace, HD STB with HDMIPace Americas’ VP of Technology Chris Dinallo had clearly feasted on a diet of buzzwords before adding, “All-digital and digital simulcast are critical industry initiatives, and uniquely, Pace is proud to be the only set-top box provider that can support all-digital on both networks.”

“All-digital networks allow entertainment and communications to flow easily across many devices. Consumer demand, better picture quality, spectrum efficiency, competition, and the ability to offer more revenue generating services are all driving cable operators toward all digital,” Dinallo added.

The Chicago DC 501 is the first in a series of Chicago all-digital boxes to be released this year.

Other model announced include (ready for this, deep breath …) the Daytona DC755HD, Indiana DC511 and some further details on the PVR2Go, a Personal & Mobile Entertainment Device.

Pace Micro

‘Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room’, Gets Simultaneous Cinema/HDTV Release

HDNet Movies Offer Simultaneous Cinema/HDTV Release For New MovieIn a break with cinema-tradition, HDNet Movies viewers will be able to see Alex Gibney’s highly acclaimed documentary “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” on the very same day the movie premieres in US theatres.

Cackling wildly in the face of convention which dictates that cinema releases always come first, the film, which debuted in the Documentary Competition at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, will appear on the US available HDNet Movies twice on opening night, 22 April at 8:00 pm and 11:00 pm EST.

After its one-day HDNet Movies premiere, the film will then be offered in traditional PPV, VOD and DVD windows.

“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” was produced by HDNet Films, the high-definition production division of Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban’s 2929 Entertainment, and is being distributed by 2929-owned Magnolia Pictures. Using insider accounts and incendiary corporate audio and videotapes, Alex Gibney, the films director shows the almost unimaginable personal excesses of the Enron hierarchy and the utter moral vacuum that posed as corporate philosophy. It is expected that audiences will be shocked by the avarice of Enron’s traders and their bosses.

Cuban is well known for trying to smash commonly accepted business standards and conventions. “We want to reward HDNet Movies subscribers with great movies,” table-thumped Mark Cuban, co-founder of HDNet and HDNet Movies. “Our feeling is that people who want to get out of the house and go to the theater will do so.

Those who can’t make it, rather than missing the water cooler talk on Monday, will be able to see the film, only on HDNet Movies.”

The company has also announced production on a new drama, “One Last Thing…,” starring Cynthia Nixon, Michael Angarano, Sunny Mabrey and Wyclef Jean which will also premiere on HDNet Movies under the same day-and-date model.

HDNet Movies

Viacom Outdoor, Tube Trial For Digital Advertising Screens

London Underground To Blast Customers With Digital AdvertisingThe London Underground is to show digital advertising on its escalators for the first time, as part of a trial being handled by Viacom Outdoor.

Viacom, the current holder of London Underground’s outdoor advertising contract, will be trialing the display screens, (snappily entitled Digital Escalator Panels (D-EPs), on the side of the busiest escalators on the network at Tottenham Court Road station.

We spoke to the staff at London Underground and understand that tests will be carried out over the next five days. The screens will intially be mounted at the top of the escalator, but they are very concerned that the screen could initially attract too much attention from the public, causing a blockage at this very busy station.

The 66 video panels will blast out moving images and text, although LU has stated that they will not display TV or film advertising on safety grounds “for fear of distracting travellers”. Seeing as some adverts are better than TV shows, we’re not quite sure how they work that one out.

The screens also have the ability to link up, making the transfer of images from screen to screen possible. What is displayed and when will be controlled centrally at Viacom’s North London office.

Advertisers will be offered the option of time-specific advertising (such as theatres using evening slots, or fast-food at lunchtimes) although there is no prospect of retina scanning being used to provide personally targeted advertising, a la Minority Report.

Viacom is flogging five- and 10-second slots and has already scooped up seven clients for the service.

London Underground To Blast Customers With Digital AdvertisingThe trial is due to start within months, and if successful will be rolled out at other locations across the network.

Jon Lewen, Viacom Outdoor’s digital account director, was on hand to provide the required buzzword-peppered statement: “We are committed to exploring new and innovative ways to capture and captivate London Underground users. DE-Ps will both enhance the consumer’s experience of advertising on the Tube and offer revolutionary new creative opportunities for our clients to connect with this audience in a more creative and tactical fashion.”

With London Underground’s recent statement about introducing mobile phone coverage at tube stations, we wonder how long it will be before some bright spark suggests bombarding long-suffering tube passengers (sorry, ‘customers’) with interactive videoscreen/Bluetooth advertising.

London Underground

Apple iPod Under Pressure From East

Until now, Apple has been pretty safe in its position of master of all digital music players. That’s lead to speculation of their crown slipping. We’re fresh back from the European consumer show CeBIT and saw many, many good looking, highly functioned, portable music players there.

The Far Eastern companies that’ve been building digital music players for the Western companies have learned a few tricks. Not content to just been passivley manufacture, they have discovered design and embraced it. In our view they have what is needed to go toe-to-toe with Apple.

In addition to that, Korean electronics giant Samsung has launched a hefty push into the highly competitive MP3 player market with six brand-spanking-new players.

The half dozen new players should be available in the first half of the year, ranging from a 256 megabyte flash memory type to a 30 gigabyte hard disk drive model capable of holding about 7,500 songs.

The pocket-sized players will sport colour screens and radio tuners, while some will allow users to watch music videos or take digital photographs.

The company has vowed to grab a giant sized slice of the highly lucrative market within in the next two years.

Samsung sold 1.7 million MP3 players last year, and is the market frontrunner in China. Mindful of expanding its presence, the company said it will focus on products that go beyond the basic flash and hard-disk categories and include products that target the premium, fashion and video-enhanced market segments.

In other words, they’re going to try and outflank Apple by stuffing their players full of multifunctional and multimedia gizmos that allow users to play electronic games, watch music videos and movies, and view digital photographs.

We’ve no doubt that these players will be lovely little fellas, but whether they’ll be capable of overcoming the sheer market presence and all-round design quality of Apple – and more recently Sony – is open to question (Sony’s shift to open standards, switching from its proprietary ATRAC music format to MP3 is a highly significant development).

Both Apple and Sony have branched out into music delivery solutions and it remains to be seen whether a hardware-only product will have enough clout, ‘cool’ and interconnectivity to unseat the market leaders.

After all, with zillions of options available to consumers, it’s vital for music device makers to offer shedloads of connectivity with other hardware, along with easy access to the content.