hulu_logoWell, this isn’t the least bit surprising, but it seems three television networks trying to work together on one video site may not have been the best of ideas.

According to Mediaweek, things are not going swimmingly over at Hulu, which is jointly owned by the television networks ABC, Fox and NBC.  The short version of the story is that the advertising sales teams for the networks are locking horns with the team at the online company, and neither side is playing fairly.

It seems the network teams have never liked the fact that Hulu has its own ad people, and in turn, Hulu ad people keep breaking the company rules to keep ad slots from going to the network people.  Hulu will promise better performance than the network guys will, and while they aren’t supposed to promise which shows or networks an advertisers ads will appear with, they keep doing just that.  Supposedly it is all of this in-fighting that has kept CBS from putting its shows on the popular site.

So, why should this concern you, the common viewer?  Well, this bickering between the two ad teams is leading to confusion in the marketplace, and the less ads on Hulu, the more likely it is the site will finally go to some form of subscription basis.  The article also says that Hulu’s ad revenue is not keeping pace with its growth, another marker against the site continuing to be free.  Add in the fact that Comcast is looking to buy NBC, and this could mean the network would leave the site, and things aren’t exactly looking up for Hulu at the moment.

In general it seems that the attitude towards free streaming television sites is changing, and this could be a very bad thing for the consumer.  Being able to watch television on the Internet has become the staple of viewing for many people, some going as far as to give up normal television in their homes, so this could be a major blow to many people.  Sadly it doesn’t look like something the consumer can do much to fix, but it is better to be fore warned.

Categories: News, Opinion   
 

xmen iphoneDownloadable comics just got a huge boost in the arm with the addition of Marvel Entertainment to the fold.

Comixology, the maker of several iPhone and iPod Touch apps for purchasing and reading comic books, has announced the addition of one of the “big two” comic publishers to its stable of publishers: Marvel Entertainment.

While the catalog is currently limited to the titles of Astonishing X-Men (the first 24 issues written by Buffy, the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon), Marvel Zombies miniseries, Captain America, X-23 and X-Men: Age of Apocalypse, this is surely not the end of what the House of Ideas will be offering.

As the former manager of a comic book store (from Aug. 1986 to Dec. 2001), I have been interested in how this would work, so I dove in and downloaded Astonishing X-Men #1.  I have to say, it works surprisingly well.  You are presented with one panel at a time, and the “camera” zooms in to the word balloon of the person talking, when you hit next, it pans to other side of the panel on very wide panels.  It felt a bit more like watching TV than reading a comic book to be honest, and I kind of liked it.

However, there is a rub here.  The issue I bought cost me a $1.99, a fairly high price I feel for a digital comic that was only 22-pages in length to begin with.  True, comic books now run you $2.99 to $3.99 on the stands (sometimes even as high as $4.99), but at least those you get to keep those for your collection.  As someone who used to have over 10,000 comics in his personal collection, I can see the appeal of this for the casual reader, though.  One of the reasons I dropped out of comics for the most part was that I simply couldn’t go on storing them, and I sold off about 8,000 of my books.  I miss reading comic books, but I could never allow myself to buy one and throw it away.  This method will allow me to buy issues I am interested in and not have the storage or guilt concerns.

Will this ever replace the printed form of comic books?  Highly, highly doubtful.  Could it bring back some old readers?  Quite possibly.

If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, I say treat yourself to at least one issue, it was a worthwhile experience to be sure.

Categories: Apple, Gadgets, News   
 

netflixNetflix is finally coming to the Sony Playstation 3.

While it has been rumored for quite some time, Netflix has finally announced that its streaming service will be coming to the Sony Playstation 3 very soon.  There is, however, one hitch for those who start using it right away … you need a Blu-ray disc to make it work.

Yep, you need a disc.  You will need to contact Netflix to get a free Blu-ray disc that will need to be in your PS3 any time you are streaming content.  This is only a temporary workaround until Sony updates the system software in 2010.  Still annoying, and it makes you wonder why Netflix didn’t wait to launch the service, but oh well.

This now leaves the Nintendo Wii as the only current generation video game system in the United States without Netflix streaming capabilities, so it makes you wonder how long until that system also receives it.

We here at StarterTech stream Netflix via an Xbox 360, and we love the service.  Sure it isn’t perfect, but for the price, you really can’t beat it.

Categories: News, Video Games   
 

sidekick3T-Mobile Sidekick users rejoice, your contacts are coming back … finally.

In what has to be the biggest disaster to date for mobile data loss, T-Mobile and Microsoft have finally figured out a way to get your contacts back on to your Sidekick.  Microsoft made the following announcement earlier this morning:

The Danger / Microsoft team continues to work around the clock and has completed its latest round of rigorous tests. We are now ready to make the first phase of the content restoration process available to you, starting with personal contacts.

This data restoration effort is only necessary for the minority of customers who lost data from their Sidekick devices.

Beginning today, log into the My T-Mobile website, where there will be a recovery tool to restore contacts you may have lost during the recent service outage. This tool will enable you to view the contacts you had on your device as of October 1. With a few clicks and a confirmation, you will be able to restore these contacts to your Sidekick. If you have recreated some of the same contacts on your Sidekick since October 1, you can choose to keep both sets of contacts, merge them, or just keep the set of contacts now on your device. You may also edit any partial or complete duplicates on your Sidekick after restoration.

We continue to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to restore your data. We’re making solid progress on the next phase in this restoration process, including your photographs, notes, to-do lists, marketplace data and high scores.

We appreciate your ongoing patience.

You can find step-by-step directions in the T-Mobile forums.

While it is nice to see progress being made, it would be even nicer to finally get some sort of official word as to how T-Mobile plans to make this up to their users who have suffered through weeks of this mess now.

Categories: Cell Phones, News   
 

audiomicroAudioMicro, a well-know stock audio site, had today announced that is adding 13,000 musical score tracks.

While AudioMicro has always had a wide-selection of royalty free music, the new assortment of musical tracks are much more in the vein of musical scores for films. Known as “The Premium Collection”, the new assortment of music ranges from just a few seconds in length to over 5 minutes.

“The Premium Collection is a big step forward for us,” said AudioMicro Founder Ryan Born. “In addition to our superb collection of user-generated content, we can now deliver, on-demand, thousands of production music tracks created by one of the world’s most respected record labels. Our users will be excited by the unprecedented quality, size and scope of this collection.”

We got the opportunity to take an early look at the collection and were pleasantly surprised by the quality and range of what was up for offer.  We aren’t going to say every track is a winner (some of them sound like rejected tracks from low-grade 80′s films), but overall the music if of a very high quality.

Considering how copyright holders are cracking down more and more on music usage around the Internet, these new tracks could be a dream come true for those wishing to video podcasts, short films and so on.  No more tinny sounding things pumped out of your computer, or professional songs that could get you sued. Royalty free music is definitely the way to go.

Categories: News   
 

Barnes-Noble-logoMove over Kindle, Barnes & Noble wants a piece of that ebook reader pie.

A few days ago, The Wall Street Journal (registration required) broke the news that well-known bookseller Barnes & Noble was about to launch its own ebook reader.  This is no huge surprise as the company launched an ebook store back in July, and it has been rumored for some time that the company wanted to take on Amazon’s Kindle.

This all has remained rumor since the announcement as the company wouldn’t comment, but The New York Times is now reporting that Barnes & Noble has a press event for an unknown announcement set for October 20th.  It would make sense to launch this new item before the all important holiday shopping season, but don’t get too excited quite yet.

Jennifer Van Grove of Mashable, my former employers, spoke with a Barnes & Noble representative at the CITA show in San Diego this week, and he confirmed the device, but with a drastically different release date.

According to this short interview, the device isn’t due until spring 2010, and no price is known, but the big news here is that it will be a color screen.

I have long said a color screen would be the game changer when it came to ebook readers as it means that they will now be able to handle textbooks with ease.  The only question remaining now is the price.  Some rumors indicate there will be low-end and high-end models, but if the price is still too high for your average consumer, this will remain a niche product.  If they can get it down to a manageable price, get it into universities due to its color screen, and you could have a major hit product on your hands.

Categories: Gadgets, News   
 

ftc_logoThe Federal Trade Commission has officially adopted new rules that could send the entire tech blogosphere into a tailspin.

The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has officially adopted some new guidelines for disclosure of “material connections” that they have been promising for some time now.  The odd part is that they seem to impact everyone but print media.

The part of the press release that just makes this whole thing a mess is as follows:

The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.

Where are the newspapers and magazines in all of this?  Companies send out “review units” for products all the time to both bloggers and print media: sometimes they request they be returned, other times they don’t.  So why are only bloggers being mentioned specifically in this?  True, the entire new guidelines also cover celebrity endorsements, but the only written word people covered are bloggers.  And if we are caught doing a review without disclosing a “material connection”, we face fines of up to $11,000.

There are some other rather large questions left by these new rules.

Will we have to go back and add disclosures to old posts?

Imagine a site like Engadget or Gizmodo having to go back and go through all of their old posts.  This probably won’t happen, but if it did, it would be the biggest mess ever.  (For the record, StarterTech has received exactly two items as a “freebie” to review thus far, that was a Chumby and another item that was so horrible that we skipped reviewing it.)

Why is print media not covered by this?

How did “old media” get off completely free in this?  Print journalists also receive “freebies”, and have been taken on many “junkets” (i.e. paid trips) to cover stories, but somehow only bloggers are covered by this?  The only difference is where we publish.

What form must the disclosures take?

Does it have to be lengthy?  Can we write just one disclosure and link back to it?  What points must it cover?

What will happen if I am sent a product to review that is to appear on a blog based in another country?

The FTC is a body governing only the United States, but the Internet is global.  I happen to work for two blogs based in other countries.  Let me give you the scenario for one of them:  BLORGE.com is based in Australia, so technically it doesn’t fall under the FTC, but would I?  One of the other writers at BLORGE is based in the United Kingdom, so obviously he doesn’t fall under the rules, so would I have to disclose information, but he wouldn’t?  That would kind of look odd on the site.

What if a blogger lives elsewhere, but the server their blog is hosted on is inside the United States?  Technically the FTC can’t do anything to them, but maybe they would shut down the blog?

Questions, Questions, Questions

Why now?  What has so drastically changed that bloggers must now disclose everything we do?  Don’t get me wrong, these new guidelines will have little to no impact on StarterTech at this time due to us not being on enough review lists, but this is something we were going to focus on more heavily in 2010.    At this time though, this is purely written from a view point of, “you have to be kidding me.”

Categories: News, Opinion   
 

cdc_logoIt could prove that the predicted spread of the Swine Flu, or H1N1 virus, could bring the Internet to its knees as well as the populace of the world.

According to The Wall Street Journal (registration required), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are warning that as much as 50 percent of the United States population could be staying home if the H1N1 infections reach the pandemic levels they fear.  While businesses are making plans for workers to telecommute if this happens, people are beginning to wonder what may happen to the Internet if both workers and children are trying to access the Internet at the same time.

During the recent outbreak of the virus in the New York City area, over 60 schools closed, leaving 800,000 students home during the day.  While the Internet stayed up, it did not have the added factor of the parents also being home and trying to telecommute.  According to a recent study by Cisco, the Internet is at nearly 50 percent capacity from 9 A.M. to 4 P.M. with business traffic, and then from 4 P.M. to 11 P.M. traffic surges past 50 percent, but the traffic shifts to video games and other forms of entertainment.

In short, 50 percent plus over 50 percent equals … well, you can see that comes to over 100 percent.

The Department of Homeland Security actually did a study on the effects of a pandemic on communications, and it did find that most people would experience brown outs or complete loss of Internet connectivity if something like this would happen.

It is being suggested that people attempt to limit their Internet connectivity during a time like this to help keep the Internet running smoothly, but the report suggested that 75 percent of homes would have to voluntarily comply for it to have any real impact.  There has been some suggestion that the government should enact legislation to allow for certain services be cut off to help maintain the health of the Internet in such a situation, but that is meeting with mixed reactions.

Considering that every Cyber Monday, the Internet shopping version of Black Friday, the Internet slows to a crawl, the odds of people voluntarily staying off of the Internet seems rather unlikely.  In other words: if the Swine Flu does go pandemic, expect the Internet to move at the pace of a snail.

Categories: News, Opinion   
 

magazinesIf Time Warner gets its way, the magazine industry will be dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age.

It would seem that the magazine industry is finally realizing that it has to join the digital age, and Time Warner is trying to rally other publishers so that they can come up with a solution that the publishers control as opposed to relying on third-parties like Amazon.

Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore has asked SVP John Squires to come up with the ‘Hulu of magazines’, meaning a destination that people will flock to like the NBC/Fox/Disney video site that has taken the Internet by storm. That is certainly a tall order, but it could very well mean the survival of the industry as people continue to abandon print media at a faster and faster pace.

All Things D has the full content of the company memo:

To: Time Inc. Employees

From: Ann Moore

Re: How to Put the Genie Back Into the Bottle; Special Assignment for John Squires

It won’t be a revelation to any of you that the publishing business is changing rapidly. While print magazines are not going away, and while we have built vibrant websites with over 26 million unique visitors and 750 million pages views each month, it’s increasingly clear that finding the right digital business model is crucial for the future of our business. We need to develop a strategy for the portable digital world and to refine our views on paid content.

Given the magnitude of the opportunity, I have asked John Squires to take on a new role and devote his full time efforts this summer to developing the best business plan for the future. John’s qualifications for this assignment are ideal. He has a strong background in consumer marketing and digital content and has stature in the publishing industry, as well as with digital software and hardware companies. It is likely we will be seeking partners and allies in our quest to ‘put the genie back into the bottle’.

As many of you know, we are currently pursuing four related initiatives:

1. Evolving our current website businesses by identifying and developing consumer revenue streams.

2. Accelerating the creation of applications for smartphone platforms.

3. Developing new products and business models for portable digital readers.

4. Exploring partnerships with other publishers to develop the optimal retail store for our digital products.

John will need the support of many, including Consumer Marketing, Legal, Strategy and Business Development, and the Time Inc. titles. Please pitch in with all your resources available when he calls.

During this assignment, similar to the role I’m playing at the Style and Entertainment Group, I will assume responsibility for the News Business Unit.

A.M.

What I like is that they are looking at a multi-platform strategy, I think tying themselves down to just one device such as the Kindle would be a horrible idea. Consumers want media in a format of their choosing these days, so if Time can hit all the formats, it will have a better chance at succeeding.

Categories: News   
 

gmail logoIt seems that Google and Wilson, Wyo.-based Rocky Mountain Bank have reached an agreement over the email the bank sent to the wrong email address and resulted in that account being closed.

The other day we reported on a story about Judge Orders Google To Deactivate User’s Gmail Account, about how a bank had sent an email to an unintended recipient. When the owner of that account didn’t reply to their emails requesting that the document containing the confidential information of 1300 accounts be destroyed, they went to Google to request the person’s identification. Google told them they would need a court order for that, so the bank did go to court, and the judge not only ordered the information turned over, but also ordered Google to shut down the Gmail account in question.

Well the good news is that Google did indeed comply with the order, but they have now talked things over with the bank and an agreement has been reached.

Google spokesman Andrew Pederson spoke with CNET and said the following:

After notifying the account owner, we complied with the court’s order. However, after working with Rocky Mountain Bank and the court, we resolved the issue around the bank’s error, and both sides have agreed to vacate the TRO and dismiss the case.

While we regret that the user has been locked out of their account through no fault of their own, we’re not legally able to reactivate the account until the court approves our motion to dismiss the case and vacate the TRO.  We’re hopeful that the court will act quickly, and as soon as the motion is approved, we’ll reactivate the account.

While it is great to see Google fought this, it doesn’t change the fact the original ruling was made.  How long is it before we see another case such as this pop up with a similar resolution?  This is still a troubling ruling by the original judge in the case, and one I doubt we have heard the last of.

Categories: Google, News, Opinion   
 
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