- Nokia’s Symbian Belle Teaser Gives Us Exact Arrival Date, Fails To Tease
- Lenovo CEO Stabs At The iPad, Ignores His Own Tablets’ Faults
- Jetty The Duct-Cleaning Robot Will Hunt You Down, Wash You With Dry Ice
- Rumor Fuel: Groupon Chile Now Selling ‘Productos’ At Significant ‘Descuentos’
- Square Makes iOS Apps Speedier, No Longer Requires Signatures For Transactions Under $25
- Updated V Cast Brings Live Sports, 250+ Channels, And A New Name: Verizon Video
- NextDocs Raises $10.3M To Provide Microsoft SharePoint Software To Life Sciences Industry
- Microsoft Wooing WebOS Developers With Free Phones And Training
- TC Tests The GeoMate Jr., A Geocaching GPS Unit For The Wee Ones
- Sony Ericsson Reveals “Live With Walkman” Android Smartphone
- Kno Turns Textbooks 3D (Video)
- 6fusion Raises $7 Million For Cloud Infrastructure Management Software
- RoboCar MEV-C: Japan Gets New Robot Car
- Rumor: The Fujifilm X10 Announcement Coming Soon, Should Pack Retro Hotness For $599
- Apple Adds Earthquake Warning To Japanese iOS
- Stipple Debuts New Self-Serve ‘AdWords For Images’ Ad Platform For Publishers And Brands
- Former Expedia Employees Raise $8 Million For Travel Search Startup Hopper
- Gadgets Week In Review: Parts
- Cisco To Buy Comptel’s Axioss Software Assets For $31 Million In Cash
- Content Snackers Become Cord Cutters; Change The TV World As We Know It
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 08:59 AM PDT
Teasers are tricky. Companies have to find a way to get you excited about something without telling you what that something is, which can be difficult. It's especially difficult to keep the secret product under wraps when the teaser file is named after the product. That said, Nokia's Symbian Belle teaser is now more of an announcement than anything else, and we now know the update will be available August 24.
Posted to Facebook, the teaser says "It's almost time to try something new," with a countdown timer that will reach 00:00:00 on Wednesday. Problem: when it was originally posted, the animation file was called "Belle teaser," discovered by Pocket-Lint. Shortly after, the file name was changed to “teaser.” So much for keeping things mysterious.
Well now that we know the "when" of the situation, we might as well get acquainted with the "what" of Symbian Belle. Various leaks lead us to believe that a drop-down notification system will be included in Belle, along with a multi-tasking tool called Task Switcher. A new app store may also be in-tow.
If you absolutely can't wait to get a glimpse of Symbian Belle, this is a video leak of an N8 running the new OS:
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 08:57 AM PDT
Lenovo is the fastest growing PC maker in the world. The Chinese computer company outgrew every other PC maker for the past seven quarters and is now the third largest PC maker by volume. There’s no questioning Lenovo is a major player in the desktop and notebook fields — and soon tablets, or so says the CEO, Yang Yuanquing.
Lenovo recently announced three tablets, the Honeycomb ThinkTab and IdeaPad K1 along with the Windows-powered IdeaPad P1. The first two just hit the market with the Windows tab coming this fall. With these three tablets, each with a distinct target demographic, Lenovo hopes to surge to the front of the tablet race. Of course that means going head-to-head with the iPad, a product Lenovo’s CEO sees as a top-tier item and whose $500 price puts it out of reach of those in “the small cities, townships, low salary class, low-income class.” Someone should probably tell Yuanquing that his craptastic IdeaPad is only $50 less.
Let’s look at the full quote, courtesy of the Financial Times:
It’s hard to argue against that strategy. Different consumers want their tablets to do different things and one product cannot cover all the bases. The Lenovo IdeaPad K1 targets consumers with a curvy exterior and Netflix app. The prosumer ThinkPad packs a strong security suite, active digitizer stylus, and enough straight lines to look right in any corner office. The IdeaPad P1 is there for consumers and companies that still need/want Windows on a tablet for some reason.
This multi-demographic approach is widely different from what other companies are doing. But it’s not off to a good start.
IdeaPad P1 reviews started popping up. I turned down a review sample; all Honeycomb tablets are essentially the same right now. Engadget gave it a 6/10 while Joanna Stern over at ThisIsMyNext awarded it a more honest 4.5/10. The only notable feature on the consumer-oriented Honeycomb tablet is the Netflix app but is effectively countered by Honeycomb itself and a cheap build. The IdeaPad P1 will likely make a few owners happy but it’s a hard sell at $449 when the iPad is only $50 more. It’s hard to see how Lenovo views their tablet hitting the lower-income demographic when there’s only a $50 price difference.
Lenovo is hitting the tablet market running but it’s still unclear if it will pay off. The IdeaPad K1 is just another stale Honeycomb tab while the remaining two-thirds of Lenovo’s tablet offering targets businesses with tablets that replicate notebook functionality. If Lenovo wants to set their tablets apart from the iPad – and they should – the Android tablets should first prove how they increase productivity and fit in business world – that’s a trick even the iPad hasn’t pulled off.
Lenovo Group Limited, an investment holding company, engages manufacture and distribution of IT products and services. It offers laptops, desktops, workstations, servers, batteries and power, docks and port replicators,...
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 08:26 AM PDT
Researchers at a Czech company, Neovision, have invented a duct-cleaning robot called Jetty. This machine is joystick controlled and has a 1024×768 pixel camera. It receives power and signal over a Ethernet-over-Cat5 cable, limiting its movement to about 35 meters right now, but it can clean and inspect kitchen, industrial, and office ducts with relative ease.
The robot uses dry ice to clean ductwork and can move up and down using its tread-like feet. The jets are situated on the middle of the robot for maximum pressure and Jetty can move through circular, rectangular, and square ducts and go up curves.
In almost every FPS adventure there’s a duct sequence and this demonic-looking, six armed monster will only add the the fright potential. It’s only a matter of time before this guy is armed with a flame thrower, net ejector, and stun gun so let’s just pretend the coming robot apocalypse isn’t going to happen any time soon and watch as Jetty washes the inside of some industrial vents in the video below. And remember, All Hail Our Coming Robot Overlords.
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 08:14 AM PDT
Yesterday, I wrote a post after I noticed that Groupon had registered groupongoods.com, groupongoods.info and other related domain names, hypothesizing that the fast-growing daily deals startup might be plotting a dedicated website (section) for selling tangible products such as household items, consumer electronics or even groceries at a discount.
I speculated that ‘Groupon Goods’ would be a way for the company to try and rival ecommerce giant Amazon, but of course, domain name registrations are just that and don’t necessarily mean Groupon is planning anything of the sort. A Groupon spokesperson declined to comment on my speculation, understandably, but I’d be interested to know how they explain the existence of a brand nuevo ‘Productos’ section currently live on the Groupon Chile website.
Obviously, this isn’t the first time Groupon has put tangible products up for discounted sale, but it’s definitely the first time we’ve noticed a dedicated ‘products’ (or ‘goods’) section on any Groupon site.
Groupon entered Latin America over a year ago by acquiring Chilean deal site ClanDescuento and opening a new site called ClubeUrbano in Brazil. According to a recent comScore study, Brazil, Argentina and Chile demonstrate the highest penetration of coupons site visitors with more than 10 percent of Internet populations in these markets visiting the category in March 2011.
ComScore also found that Groupon led as the top coupon site in those regions – trumping Groupalia – with a reach of roughly 5 million visitors.
Groupon Goods could be their next experiment, although as far as the Groupon Chile site goes the company appears to be working with merchants directly rather than teaming up with others.
We’ve asked Groupon for further comment.
Groupon recently announced that it took a net loss of $102.7 million in the second quarter of 2011 on $878 million of revenue (and lost roughly $205 million in the first half of the year). The company currently employs some 10,000 people all over the globe.
(Thanks to the anonymous tipster who clued us in on the Groupon Chile website)
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 07:55 AM PDT
Disruptive mobile payments company Square has pushed a number of new updates to its iPhone and iPad apps today and rolled out a redesigned and updated website. First, the apps are speedier and transaction speed has improved, says the company. The company actually eliminated a number of screens for the transaction process and payments can be completed in as little as four seconds.
Additionally, Square will will no longer require signatures for transactions less than $25. Of course, this saves time at the cash register and a number of credit card companies already don’t require signatures for transactions under $25.
The company also has enabled the recently launched, ‘pay with your name’ feature to all merchants, so anyone can opt-in to the directory listing and can add a ‘card case’ to make payments quicker and easier for their customers.
As we wrote in May, Square debuted a virtual card case that consumers fill with 'cards' of all the merchants they visit and buy from who accept Square. These mobile cards include locations, merchant contact info, coupons, order and purchase history and more. One of the more interesting features was the ability to ‘pay with your name.’ In a merchant's card within the case, you can press a "use tab" button which allows the frequent customer to essentially put a purchase on their virtual tab with Square at the merchant.
So once you press that button within two blocks of the merchant, you'll be able to tell the cashier your name and your card will be charged on the merchant's backend Square register. Because you are a repeat customer, Square already has your payment information. The purchaser will then receive a push notification when the merchant processes the payment.
Another update in the new version of the app is a new and improved the tipping interface for transactions, which is sure to make merchants in some service industries happy. Merchants can also add $0.00 items in transactions. This is particularly useful for added items like extra mayo or a pickle, where a merchant wants to keep track of what’s being added but isn’t charging for the item.
Square is undoubtedly growing at a fast clip. Square has shipped more than 500,000 credit card readers, is processing more than a million transactions per month. The startup is now processing $4 million in mobile payments daily (and $100 million per month), and COO Keith Rabois told us in July that he expects the company to double this volume by October. And international expansion is part of the next phase of growth for Square.
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 07:42 AM PDT
Verizon has updated its already awesome V CAST video app, which will henceforth be called Verizon Video. The updated app will work with select 4G LTE and 3G handsets on Verizon's network, and offer access to a number of major broadcast and cable channels.
ABC, NBC, CBS, MTV, Animal Planet, Disney Channel, CNBC, Comedy Central, and ESPN are all included on the app, along with a number of others. Verizon promises access to over 250 full-episode TV shows, as well as sports content from NFL's RedZone, NBC's Sunday Night Football, and access to the NFL Network.
The app is available in the Android Market for brand new customers, who will also get to watch select NFL and Indycar clips for free. Existing subscribers will be notified when the update is ready. For a 24-hour pass, the Verizon Video app will cost $3, whereas an unlimited monthly subscription costs $10/month.
Verizon Communications Inc. delivers broadband and other wireline and wireless communication innovations to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers. Verizon Wireless operates America’s largest wireless network that...
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 07:00 AM PDT
NextDocs, a company that sells Microsoft SharePoint based software for the life sciences industry, has raised $10.3 million in a Series A financing from OpenView Venture Partners.
NextDocs helps life sciences companies of leverage SharePoint-based document and management software.The company actually customizes SharePoint for companies in the pharmaceuticals, medical device and biotech industries. NextDocs actually has over 100 customers across the life sciences industry (including five of the ten largest pharmaceutical companies in the U.S.).
And the company is growing at an impressive clip. NextDocs expects to pull in $15 million in revenue this year, and has doubled in size over the past two years. NextDocs says that it will put the new funding towards product development, customer service and support, and expansion into new markets.
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 06:41 AM PDT
In the aftermath of HP’s decision to axe all WebOS products, the question for many a developer is “what’s next?” While I’m sure a few WebOS diehards will continue to work on the platform (and hopefully create some great new apps for all of the bargain bin TouchPads out there), Microsoft has opened their arms to these disenfranchised developers.
Brandon Watson, Microsoft’s Senior Director of Windows Phone 7 development, tweeted an offer to published WebOS developers this past Friday: Microsoft will give them whatever they need to be successful, from free phones to development tools and training.
A bold move by Watson, and one that seems to have paid off already: he received over 500 emails from interested devs in under 24 hours, and Watson was understandably “floored” by the response. This isn’t the first time Watson has gone out on a limb to endear himself to the developer crowd: in the past he shared his personal cell number on Twitter to field questions about the development process.
With a generous offer like this, Microsoft seems to realize that forging strong developer relations is critical to the success of their mobile platform. The Windows Marketplace’s app count is rapidly approaching 30,000, and Brandon’s welcoming stance on developer relations could help Redmond bolster their numbers even further. Microsoft’s mobile OS rivals have app counts in the hundreds of thousands, and while there’s certainly something to be said for quality over quantity, big app store numbers are a quick (if short-sighted) way to measure platform health.
Picking up traction among former WebOS devs is only the tip of the iceberg for Microsoft’s mobile dev efforts. Their next big focus? Watson says working with students will be “huge” for Microsoft this year.
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 06:36 AM PDT
I just had the unique pleasure geocaching for the first time. I’d always been interested in the concept: someone hides something tiny in the wilderness and you use a GPS tracker to find it. However, the thought of traipsing around in the woods to look for someone hippie’s Tupperware did not compute. Then we got the GeoMate Jr., a small GPS tracker designed for kids and discovered that it wasn’t all dream-catchers hidden in stately old oak trees.
The GeoMate Jr. is a dead simple geocaching system for kids. It has 250,000 caches pre-programmed into its interface and you scroll through them using the large button on the left. Then, when you find a cache, you mark it using the button on the right. You can set the tracker to also take you home by pressing both buttons simultaneously. It’s literally so simple a five year old could use it (and reader: mine did).
Hunting consists of selecting a cache and following the onscreen arrows and distance calculations. As you move closer to a cache the distance reading falls and once you’re there you’re unfortunately on your own. Sadly, all of the hints and descriptions available on sites like geocaching.com are unavailable on this device. The caches come up in order of distance from your current location so if you don’t mark previously found caches you may end up being led to the same one over and over again.
You can also type in geocache code manually using the buttons, but it’s a bit of a chore. The device costs $69.95 and $24.95 for an update kit to program new geocaches onto the device.
We were initially frustrated while looking for caches near us until we began to understand the size of these things. In the city, most people hide tiny little microcaches, no bigger than a pebble. Without the hints it’s considerably tougher to find them but once you know what you’re looking for it’s fairly simple.
Luckily, when we went out into the wilds of Brooklyn with the GeoMate Jr., we stumbled upon a cache held by a helpful fellow who goes by the name of schbus86 (he drive’s a school bus). His cache, CRETE, contained a trackable coin that we will later drop off elsewhere. It’s this mixture of adventure, a search for pirate booty, and electronics that makes geocaching so compelling.
The GeoMate Jr. runs on two AA batteries and the interface could be a bit complex for smaller kids. However, paired with a responsible adult and access to a geocache database online, it’s an excellent and fun way to get kids excited about exploring the outdoors.
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 06:18 AM PDT
Sony Ericsson knows how to do Facebook. A social network can’t be the only selling point of the phone, like on the HTC Status — there has to be something else. For gamers, SE brought Facebook into the mix with the Xperia Play. Now, music fans are getting the same love. This morning, SE unveiled the Live With Walkman smartphone featuring a button for instant music access and deep Facebook integration.
Though SE has only called it "deep Facebook integration," the capabilities of the software lead me to believe that this is nearly identical to the Facebook Inside Xperia platform, just without the Xperia bit. You can still connect direct to Facebook from within the photo gallery, music player, calendar and phonebook. Past that, there's a dedicated hardware button that connects the user to Sony's Qriocity music platform, offering instant access to music and videos.
The only hangup is that this little guy doesn't quite have the specs to compete with the big boys: 3.2-inch TFT display, single-core 1GHz processor, 5-megapixel auto-focus camera that shoots in 720p, a front-facing camera, and Android 2.3 Gingerbread. If you're all about having a bad mamma jamma phone, the new offering from SE probably won't cut it. Then again, if you primarily use your phone to listen to music and keep up with Facebook, the Live with Walkman may be just what you're looking for.
Pricing is as-yet unannounced but we expect to see the Live with Walkman hit shelves in October.
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 06:04 AM PDT
How do you make a digital textbook more than just a glorified PDF on a tablet? Kno, the tablet textbook company started by Chegg co-founder Osman Rashid, is rolling out a variety of features to try to bring textbooks to life, including Facebook integration, automated quizes, an activity stream of notes. But an update to its iPad app today points to how digital textbooks can create entirely new experiences out of static notations. In the vido above, Rashid shows me Kno’s 3D modeling feature.
The 3D feature right now works only with models of molecules in chemistry textbooks. It converts the standard chemistry notations indicating how atoms are bonded together in a molecule into a spinning 3D model along the margins. These 3D models can be enlarged and rotated to give students a better visualization of how each one appears.
Of all the new features Rashid showed me, this one impressed me the most because Kno is taking the original text and making it a richer experience on the iPad. You can’t do this on paper. And you can imagine 3D models appearing for other types of 2D content such as blueprints, engineering diagrams, or other types of illustrations.
Kno is introducing a couple of other features today as well, video notes and smart links. Kno textbooks include a “journal,” which s a stream of your highlights, notes, audio notes, and photos. Now you can add video clips recorded directly from the iPad camera as well. The smart links also bring in more video into each textbook, but in context with what you are reading. These initially will be Khan Academy videos, but will include other educational videos online in the future.
Below is a video of the QuizMe and Journal features, introduced earlier this month.
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 06:02 AM PDT
Previous backer Intersouth Partners also participated in the round.
The company provides an end-to-end cloud management platform that enables global workload distribution by turning companies’ public and private clouds into pay-per-use billable utilities.
6fusion has developed a metering algorithm, dubbed the Workload Allocation Cube, which it says standardizes the quantification of supply and demand for compute resources.
The company’s UC6 Cloud Management Platform federates private data center and third party cloud operators, providing a single console to allow IT organizations to meter, manage and optimize hybrid cloud infrastructures.
Lawson DeVries of Grotech Ventures will join 6fusion’s board.
6fusion provides an end-to-end cloud management platform that enables global workload distribution by turning the public and private cloud into a pay-per-use billable utility. The unique metering algorithm, Workload...
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 05:52 AM PDT
Tokyo-based robot venture ZMP has churned out yet another robot car: this time, it’s the so-called RoboCar MEV-C, which is based on COMS, a vehicle Toyota started developing back in 2000. Just as COMS, the MEV-C is a single-person, 4-wheeled electric mini car – just with a robotic twist.
ZMP says the car can actually be driven around, but the company is actually marketing it as a research object for roboticists, universities and car manufacturers.
While the conventional COMS is a rather simple electric vehicle, ZMP added quite a few features to make it sexier: a stereo camera, a 9-axis wireless motion sensor, a GPS unit, a temperature and humidity sensor, a laser range sensor, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G and the so-called CAN (Control Area Network) protocol as an “open platform” that allows buyers to access every piece of the hardware.
The RoboCar MEV-C is sized at 2.3×1.0×1.6m and weighs 310kg. ZMP has already started selling it, with prices starting at US$35,000.
Via Robonable [JP]
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 05:36 AM PDT
The Fujufilm X100 (pictured) is quietly becoming a favorite among the photography nerds thanks to its capable sensor, fair price and oh-so-hawt retro digs. But even though the price is fully justified by its performance, it’s out of reach of some aspiring shooters. No worries. The Fujifilm X10 is set to be announced within the coming weeks and should hit at a lot lower price point.
Fujifilm hasn’t made any of the following specs official, but the Spanish website Quesabesde independently confirmed the X10′s previous rumors. The smaller camera is said to have a 2/3″ sensor, which, as PhotoRumors notes, is smaller than those found in Micro Four Thirds cameras but bigger than in the competing Canon G12. Also like the G12, the X10 is said to drop with a $599 MSRP and feature a 4x zoom lens with a F/2.0 aperture.
The X10. or X50 in some markets, will likely shake up the prosumer space as long as Fujifilm wraps it in the same sort of sex appeal that made the X100 an instant hit.
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 05:31 AM PDT
The Japanese version of iOS 5 will have a special notifications widget: a setting to turn on instant messages from Japan’s earthquake early warning system. The system is so sensitive that it could reduce your battery life as it polls the warning servers constantly.
iOS 5′s new notifications system uses the iPhone’s old notifications but places it in an easy-to-read, lock-screen based environment that holds the last few messages form various apps. Presumably this early warning system will be considerably more noticeable than a badge on the lock or notifications screen. Apple’s Steve Jobs sent a note and assistance during the major Earthquake in March offering “time or resources to visit or care for your families, please see HR and we will help you.”
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 05:00 AM PDT
For background, Stipple’s technology allows publishers to tag a person in a photo on the web, enter contextual information such as a Twitter name or Facebook name and then anyone can see their most recent social updates as overlays on that picture. But Stipple also partners with e-commerce sites to provide a way for each photo to show exactly what piece of clothing the person in the photo is wearing — to show you who makes it, how much it costs, and where to buy it. And it allows you to "Want" it (save it to look at later) or "Shop" for it via two overlay buttons right on the picture itself.
Now Stipple is giving brands a way to identify their photos and create advertising campaigns around the products they want to sell inside the photos. When people mouse-over products in photos, the image reveals the brand, pricing information, and a link to purchase.
On the advertiser side, brands tag a photo with product information, and Stipple's technology will automatically syndicate that information to all online copies of that image on the web. Brands then set up pay-per-click (PPC) or pay-per-engagement (PPE) campaigns around the products they wish to monetize. And Stipple offers real-time data and analytics on each campaign's performance.
Rey Flemings, Stipple’s founder and CEO, explains that the problem is startup is trying to solve is providing accurate information about objects inside of photos. He says, “Basically, we want to do for images what Google did for text search by making images on the web discoverable by machines and indexed.”
And the new platform is helping accomplish that goal by providing a self-serve platform to connect publishers and brands over monetizing and categorizing these images. In fact, clothing designer BCBG is already using Stipple’s platform.
Stipple previously raised $2 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mike Maples' FLOODGATE, Justin Timberlake, Naval Ravikant, Eghosa Omoigui, Global Brain Corporation, Quest Venture Partners, Parkview Ventures, John Ferber and Rick Marini.
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 04:27 AM PDT
Indeed, Hopper plans to open a new office in Boston, where it expects to double its engineering team over the next year.
The company is essentially building a ‘travel discovery’ engine for consumers, enabling people to discover destinations and products using only keywords such as “best beaches in Europe”.
The startup was conceived by Chief Engineer Sebastien Rainville, CEO Frederic Lalonde and Chief of Product Joost Ouwerkerk. The latter two came from Expedia, which acquired Lalonde's previous company, Newtrade Technologies, back in 2002.
Hopper was originally founded in 2007 and previously raised $2 million in 2008, bringing the company’s total funding to $10 million today.
Jeff Fagnan, partner at Atlas Venture, will join the Hopper board of directors.
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 01:00 AM PDT
Here are some stories from the past week on TechCrunch Gadgets:
Posted: 22 Aug 2011 12:48 AM PDT
Cisco this morning announced its intent to purchase service fulfillment software assets and associated employees from the UK subsidiary of partner company Comptel, for 21.3 million euros or roughly $31 million in cash. Axioss is a fulfillment solution developed by Axiom Systems, a company that Comptel acquired back in 2008.
With the acquisition, Cisco hopes to extend network and service management technologies across its IP-based network platforms and enable service providers to more quickly launch new video, data, mobility and cloud services to their customers, using a single management architecture.
The AXIOSS software suite will also enhance Cisco Prime, which enables service providers to better manage their networks and network services, the company says.
Upon the close of the acquisition, which is expected to occur in the third quarter of calendar year 2011, the AXIOSS team will be integrated into the Cisco NMTG and Cisco Advanced Services Group.
Gareth Senior, Comptel CTO and member of its Executive Board, will also be transferring to Cisco.
Comptel and Cisco will continue their cooperation across other areas of OSS/BSS, e.g. cloud mediation and charging. Comptel says it will continue in fulfilment business developing and selling its Comptel Fulfillment Solution, retain its existing Axioss customer relationships and continue to support these customers.
Cisco designs and sells hardware, software, networking, and communications technology services. Products are distributed under five brands, namely Cisco, Linksys, WebEx, IronPort, and Scientific Atlanta. Cisco was founded in...
Posted: 21 Aug 2011 08:02 PM PDT
Every five or so years for the past two decades the introduction of an Internet connection to a new device type has created a boom in disruptive businesses. Most of these booms—computers, followed by mobile phones, gaming consoles and now tablets—have been clearly successful. Others (remember the Network Computer?) have been ill-timed.
Now manufacturers, and a growing ecosystem of partners to support them, are betting big that consumers are finally poised to accept an Internet connection in their most cherished living room technology mainstay, the television. Players from Samsung to Sony are bringing the so-called Connected TV (CTV) to market in mass, and you'll see a big push this holiday season. There are already upwards of fourteen million CTVs in North America and an estimated 65 percent of TVs sold in 2012 will be CTVs.
With every platform change, both new and established companies have lined up to try and capture a share of the redistribution of rewards that inevitably comes when consumers change their habits. North American television advertising is certainly no exception as a host of companies, old and new line up to try and capture their share of that $62 billion annual advertising feast.
While there has been some preparation to date, incumbents have an incredibly hard time cannibalizing existing revenue streams for growing, but yet to mature, new revenue streams. We've seen this with everything from books to brokerages. And in the TV world, we are seeing it on display with the recent stutter of Hulu, the pioneering archetype, catching arrows in their back from erstwhile incumbent partners as they bravely forge ahead.
Such is the nature of distribution when the business advantage is built primarily on pricing and bundling, and carefully restricted access, not on real consumer demonstrated desires and behaviors.
Technology has always been on the side of the consumer, especially in the realm of television viewing. You may not remember now, but broadcasters bitterly fought the arrival of cable in the 70s. And while it seems absurd now, given it has created hundreds of billions of revenue, studios fought against the arrival of DVDs in the late 90s. The early titles were a handful of B movies released by Warner Brothers in conjunctions with Toshiba. It was all Toshiba could get at the time.
We may be seeing another disruption today. With a new wave of CTV content applications, the pricing and access advantage of cable television may dissipate. Imagine downloading a TNT program application directly from Turner rather than paying a cable company for access to Turner content. Content providers themselves already, or will soon, have the tools to reach their audience directly on the big screen. Turner could pocket 100% of any subscription fee and advertising revenue rather than having to share with a distribution partner.
The traditional distribution players are betting, but not banking, on the fact that new television distribution will look substantially similar to old television distribution. They are expanding their services to include on-demand viewing and hoping much will continue as before with consumers paying a fee for content bundles.
But what if that's not the way it goes down? What if like mobile phones and the PC before them consumers choose to snack on content delivered directly to them by the content providers themselves, effectively removing the pricing, bundling and access advantage of traditional cable and satellite television distribution. In that world the power of delivery, and advertising insertion, shifts directly to content providers, device manufactures and the ecosystem of direct Internet-connected business partners they surround themselves with. In that scenario, online advertising businesses have a distinct advantage over traditional distribution businesses as they are already in the market pumping billions of video ads through existing devices like PCs, mobile phones and tablets.
Sure distribution incumbents like Comcast could make IP connected set-top boxes that consumers use to access content directly, unbundled or a la carte, but that erodes their existing revenue model around cable pricing. The industry calls folks who end run cable to get their content directly from content companies, "cord cutters." A recent Morgan Stanley report concluded that cable companies would have to double the internet access fees of so called "cord cutters" to make up for the lost revenue on cable TV packages.
There is change brewing. Years in this business and witness to booms and busts have taught all of us to be cautious of absolutist rhetoric opining the end of any particular distribution channel. Consumers have shown a remarkable ability to expand their entertainment appetites, and new consumption habits largely prove additive, not cannibalistic (except for my poor print friends of course). So be suspect of anyone who claims that all programming or advertising is going to be wholly delivered in a particular way. But the numbers themselves are so enormous, and the opportunity so large that even a ten percent swing in consumer viewing habits from cable and satelite to Connected TV applications and cord-cutters will represent a shift in $6.2B of advertising spending. That, to me, is a scenario worth preparing for.
Sources include GFK Market Analysis, Piper Jaffray, and DeutscheBank.
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