January 3, 2006 4:00 AM PST

Tech tunes into TV at CES

This week in Vegas, it's finally prime time for video on the PC.

Executives from Silicon Valley, Beijing, Europe and Hollywood will descend on the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to talk about how they plan to make money from convergence--the long-promised coming together of entertainment and computing that's finally a reality.

They'll sketch out a vision of the future in which consumers tap into huge libraries of videos--first-run films, news footage from remote corners of the world, home movies, old episodes of "Kojak"--and then play them on their computers, televisions and cell phones.

"The government is telling us we have to do it. It is a huge freaking opportunity," said Stephen Baker, an analyst with retail tracker NPD Techworld. "To be thinking about other things is a waste of time."

"It is a huge freaking opportunity."
--Stephen Baker
analyst, NPD Techworld

Intel is ready to make its pitch in Las Vegas. Chief Executive Paul Otellini will unfurl Viiv PCs, the chipmaker's latest attempt to help produce desktops designed to store music, record TV shows and serve up family photos and videos. The company also plans to announce partnerships with entertainment conglomerates, sources said, as well as show off set-top boxes, TVs and other devices that have been certified to work with Viiv.

At the same time, Texas Instruments, Philips and cell phone makers plan to describe how the FIFA World Cup in Germany this summer could light a fire under the sales of TV cell phones.

Yahoo CEO Terry Semel and Google founder Larry Page will deliver dueling keynotes on the same day at CES, which has traditionally been dominated by speeches from consumer electronics hardware executives. In recent years, however, it has expanded to take in networking, entertainment and computing, among other industries.

Navio is among the smaller companies at CES touting their entertainment-related technology. The Cupertino-based company has created a "rights-based" Web service that allows studios to sell music or videos through thousands of Web sites at once, rather than through a few authorized retailers.

"There are a million publishers of information out there, but only a few retailers. We decentralize it. You can buy something in context without leaving the fan site or blog," Navio CEO Stefan Roever said. So far, Navio has landed deals with music producers, but plans to announce pacts with movie studios in the near future.

A substantial part of the energy behind the new services derives from an about-face among major Hollywood studios, which this year have begun to embrace new delivery technologies. Several producers have agreed to let consumers download TV shows and movies.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who delivers a keynote speech at CES on Wednesday, has said along with others that consumers will become their own broadcasters, picking and choosing their programs to the detriment of cable companies and advertisers.

Not true, say the cable companies. Someone has to organize all this stuff, they believe. So they are busy building different communications services, navigation software and their own pay-per-view libraries through pre-existing relationships with studios.

The Hollywood movie factories have their own challengers. Upstart Web sites like Veoh Networks and Brightcove hope to take on mainstream movie producers by creating sites for movies from unsung or undiscovered talent.

The only problem? Many of the videos made by unheralded stars stink.

"You've got a million videos. How do you rank them? How do you find good stuff?" asked Jay Janarthanan, the founder of ObjectCube, which makes video-on-demand software for publishers. "There are 8 million blogs out there, so how come everyone goes to the same 100?"

There can also be legal and contractual hurdles. Most of ObjectCube's customers sell adult entertainment, and liability issues mean they have to keep a huge cash reserve for legal fees.

CONTINUED: Looming battle over boxes…
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Franchising Fairness Needed
Interesting story ... but it's not going to matter until regulators level the playing field ...

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://channelchanger.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/01/enough_with_the.html" target="_newWindow">http://channelchanger.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/01/enough_with_the.html</a>
Posted by Hynes (8 comments )
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They're dime a dozen and up themselves, why would anyone want a level playing field for any of them?
Xbox rules their pathetic world! :) :) :)
Posted by FisherKingKQJ (59 comments )
Link Flag
Same old cycle.
Interactive TV and the TV as a PC. Two ideas that have never worked, and never will. Yet somebody will hold a press conference, declare the future is now, and that all of this is going to happen in this year. And it never will.

People want at least one device other than their toaster to be dumber than they are. Thus the TV will always be a TV, even if we can stream a movie from another box, onto it. It won't matter if we are using a Slingbox, or streaming from a PC, or another multi-media box. No matter how they cut things, people will continue to want the PC on a desk, the TV in the entertainment center, and the phone on a wall next to the answering machine. Those aren't things that are true in our households because somebody forgot to offer a product or service. It is the fact that over 90 years, certain things have simply evolved into hard and firm reality.

Plasma screens are cute, but grossly overpriced. LCDs make for really lousy TV as anybody with a laptop five years ago can tell you. Plasmas wear out, LCDs will be supplanted by a half dozen better technologies. The only reason companies are pimping LCDs are because they over-invested in plants to make them. It wasn't a wise bet for the long-run. The only good thing was to drive the cost of LCD monitors down, transition people into using flat-screen monitors, and set the stage for the next big thing.

MP3 players will eventually over-run the Apple iPod, just as most of their products have been over time. Not knocking the iPod, but its a fad, not a foundation. The market will commoditise such devices, kill the profit margins, and ultimately command the direction in which such devices move. It didn't take a rocket scientist to know these things would play video at some point.

This isn't going to be the year of new products taking the lime light. It is going to be the year these recent products start actually getting used. Whomever spots the trends to emerge out of that will introduce the next big thing for 2007.

Posted by NWLB (326 comments )
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go CES!
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/cassette_deck_nakamichi_dragon.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/cassette_deck_nakamichi_dragon.htm</a>
Posted by 208774626618253979477959487856 (176 comments )
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