Monday, February 28, 2011

Analysts Claim - Viewers not deserting Pay TV for Internet Options (viz Cord Cutting)

Just read this piece from the Buffalo News and wondered aloud, but how long before this trickle becomes a tide - NetFlix already has 20 million customers - with OTT becoming more pervasive. I see not poverty, but a more fair and transparent pricing as well as a more democratic distribution of content as being the driver for cord-cutting.

Last month, No. 4 video provider Time Warner Cable Inc. said it lost 141,000 video customers to end at 12.3 million. But AT&T’s U-verse added 246,000 to nearly 3 million, and Verizon Communications’ FiOS added 182,000 to end at 3.5 million.

“The notion that people are disconnecting their pay TV connections in favor of Netflix has always been a good story, but there’s been very little evidence that it’s actually happening in any material numbers,” Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett said.

Netflix Inc. added 3.1 million customers in the last quarter, rising to more than 20 million. Its service is cheaper but doesn’t include live programming and still requires paying for a separate Internet connection.

Subscriber losses from top-ranked Comcast Corp. and eighth-ranked Cablevision Systems Corp. reflected one-time items, such as the defection of customers angry over a two-week blackout of Fox programs on Cablevision in October.

Comcast’s loss of 135,000 video subscribers was about a third less than expected as it held onto more customers with better programming, and fewer people dropped service with the expiration of promotional prices offered during the 2009 transition to digital over-the-air broadcasts. Comcast ended with 22.8 million video customers, and Cablevision had 3.3 million.

Those losses were more than erased by gains at such rivals as AT&T Inc. and Verizon, which offer video services over phone lines.

Along with a gain of about 130,000 video subscribers combined at satellite operators DirecTV and Dish Network Corp., the established pay TV industry is on track to add 200,000 to 250,000 TV subscribers in the final three months of 2010, according to Nomura Securities.

The gains are “another piece of evidence that cord-cutting is not impeding subscriber activity,” Mike McCormack and Mike Liddell, Nomura analysts, said in a research note.

Cord-cutting refers to the phenomenon of people dropping pay TV packages with the growth of online video offerings through Hulu, Netflix and other services.

The results showed the traditional pay TV industry was not succumbing to cord-cutting activity and has returned to normal following the end of discounted pricing, analysts said.

Some cable operators had offered TV services for as little as $10 a month in the summer of 2009 to ease the transition to digital that made analog rabbit ears useless for receiving over-the- air broadcasts. When those prices reverted to normal after a year, many people switched back to rabbit ears — just new ones capable of receiving digital signals.

Industrywide gains in video subscribers also signaled to some analysts that people could afford paying for television again as the economy recovered.
“The real pressure on the pay TV operators has tended to be at the very low end of the market,” Moffett said. “And that reflects more on issues of poverty than on issues of technology.” 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

3 New Reports Signal We’re Making Progress With Sustainability

Three recent reports provide positive reinforcement that traction on sustainability is building in the private and public sector. This news reenergizes our efforts. We live on hope that our combined efforts as sustainability champions will accelerate the take-up of environmentally, socially, and economically responsible strategies. Usually, during economic recessions, we lose ground. Strangely, in the current recession, the opposite has happened: sustainability-related strategies have been embraced more strongly.
I attended the GreenBiz State of Green Business Forum 2011 in San Francisco, February 2-3. GreenBiz Group’s Chairman and Executive Director, Joel Makower, reviewed the highlights of GreenBiz’s fourth annual State of Green Business 2011 report, released that same week. Its findings reveal a “sea change in corporate sustainability efforts:” 89% of companies expect their investments in environmental affairs to be the same or larger in 2011 than in 2010; 56% of companies expect their investments in green product development will be greater in 2011, compared to 28% who expected it to be the same as in 2010. That’s encouraging news.

Then on February 10, the MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group (BSG) released their winter 2011 research report: “Sustainability: The ‘Embracers’ Seize Advantage.” Based on a survey of 3,000 corporate leaders, the report describes two kinds of companies: “embracers”— those who place sustainability high on their agenda — and “cautious adopters,” who have yet to focus on  more than energy cost savings, material efficiency, and risk mitigation. Many of us wondered whether the economic downturn and lack of progress toward international agreement on how to combat climate change would push sustainability off the corporate agenda.

The MIT-BSG survey results indicate that the opposite is true: 59% of companies in all industry sectors increased their investments in sustainability in 2010, versus 25% in 2009. Even more striking, almost 70% expect their organization to step up its investment in and management of sustainability in 2011. Impressive.
Similar momentum is happening in municipalities in Canada. On February 16, Joanne DeVries released her Fresh Outlook Foundation’s “Community Sustainability Snapshot: 2010 Survey Results from Local Governments.”
It found that:
  • 44% of respondents have  sustainability plans, compared with 23% in 2007
  • 59% have sustainability programs and projects, compared with 42% in 2007
  • 52% have sustainability policies and/or regulations, compared with 34% in 2007
  • 51% have staff devoted to sustainability, compared with 37% in 2007

If Canadian municipalities are upping their focus on environmental, social, and economic issues, it’s very likely that a similar dynamic is happening in other countries. Nice.
We are going in the right direction. Let’s take a minute to bask in the glow of these positive reports about how momentum is building around sustainability strategies in the private and public sectors. Then let’s redouble our efforts to contribute to it.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

ECB's Weber: Tough part still ahead in debt marathon - Reuters.

Debt is the millstone around the neck of all the industrialized world - starting from the Americas to Europe to Japan. The world would be better off with debt discipline - do not leverage more than you can pay in a reasonable time frame.

(Reuters) - ECB policymaker Axel Weber said on Monday that debt-strained euro zone countries must make the most of the breathing space bought by aid measures and warned them the hardest part of the reform process was still ahead.

Weber, who earlier this month said he was stepping down from the Bundesbank and ruled himself out of the running to become the next ECB president, compared the austerity drives by countries like Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain to running a marathon.

"The fiscal stabilization measures (of EU/IMF) have bought time. Time that has to be used," Weber said in a speech to be given at the Nordrhein Westfaelischen Academy of Economics and Arts in Duesseldorf.

"If compared to a marathon the problem countries have made it through perhaps the first 10 or 15 kilometers. In my experience of running these kind of distances I can say that the most painful moments come at a later point in time."

Weber added that the euro remained a stable currency and said the euro zone debt crisis was down to over-spending by individual countries rather than a fundamental problem with the single currency.

Countries that need to repair their finances need to make the choice of going through the necessary pain or else accept they will have to pay higher borrowing costs on financial markets, he said.

There was also a message to euro zone politicians to bring in tough new debt rules when they finalize details of the region's post-2013 fiscal safety net in the next couple of months.

"Aid should be tied to a strict consolidation program. In my view it should be seen positively, the aid should only be given after a unanimous decision by those countries providing the help that it should have preference over the rest of the sovereign debt except for IMF credits," he said.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

A microprocessor made of Plastic? You better believe it!

Europeans announce the fisrt organic microprocessor

Take a bow, flexible chip. This week at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference, in San Francisco, European researchers will introduce the world’s first microprocessor made with organic semiconductors. The 4000-transistor, 8-bit logic circuit has the processing power of only a 1970s-era silicon model, but it has a key advantage—it can bend. The device’s designers say the chip could lead the way to cheaper flexible displays and sensors. Wrapped around pipes, for example, sheets of sensors with these processors could record average water pressure, and wrapped around food and pharmaceuticals, they might indicate that your tuna is rancid or that you forgot to take your pills.

The key to the chip’s design was taming the somewhat unruly organic transistor, says Jan Genoe, a polymer and molecular electronics researcher at Belgian nanotech research center Imec, in Leuven, who led the research with colleague Kris Myny. One advantage silicon has over organics is its monocrystalline structure, which allows for well-behaved switches. If you increase the transistor gate’s voltage above a known threshold, the current turns on. But today’s organic transistors—which swap silicon for a polymer—are unpredictable. Each one can have a slightly different switching threshold.
In applications where organic transistors are already taking hold, such as turning pixels on or off in some e-reader displays, a few transistors don’t affect the overall performance. Yet in logic circuits, a single transistor can stop the show. ”If only one is a little bit off, then nothing works,” Genoe says.
So Genoe’s team built an extra gate into the back of each organic transistor. He says this back gate allows the researchers to better control the electric field in the semiconductor, and thus avoid accidental switching.

Fabricating the 25-micrometer-thick chip starts with a substrate made from polyethylene naphthalate—a plastic. ”You could compare it to the material that you use to wrap your sandwiches,” says Genoe. ”It’s very flexible.” On top, the team placed a 25-nanometer-thick layer of gold, patterned to make the circuit. Above that sits an organic dielectric, followed by a second patterned gold layer, and finally the organic semiconductor, made of pentacene.

After fabricating the chip, Genoe’s team tested it by running a 16-line program to average changing input values with those stored in memory, the software for which they had hardwired into a second flexible chip. The processor, he says, could execute about six instructions per second.

Genoe hopes such chips can be made at a tenth of the cost of a similar silicon circuit But to realize that promise, manufacturers will need to translate the IMEC researchers’ carefully controlled, photolithography-based, laboratory-scale fabrication technique into a commercial one—such as those being used for large-area, printed electronics.

”It’s not as difficult as one might think,” says Dan Gamota, cofounder and president of the electronics printing company Printovate Technologies, in Palatine, Ill. Gamota, who was not involved in the research, taught commercial printing press operators how to modify their traditional ink-on-paper printing techniques to manufacture an early printed electronics display while a director at Motorola in the late 2000s.

Still, he says, printing logic circuits will have some special requirements. For today’s printed electronics, such as those proposed for lighting devices, he says, the thickness of the materials is crucial, but for logic circuits, manufacturers will also need to align the circuit’s layers more precisely. That will require both new measuring tools and new reliability training programs for printing press operators. ”A printed electronics operator is like a mechanic who knows how to work on a Ferrari,” Gamota says, ”while a traditional printer knows how to fix a Ford.”

Though manufacturing will improve, Gamota says, he doesn’t believe organic logic circuits will ever have the hundreds of millions of transistors found in today’s silicon chips. Instead, he says, many in the field look to use organics as a relatively dim-witted sidekick for silicon processors. As an example, he describes shopping for a new pair of pants by using your smartphone to communicate directly with plastic circuits inside the clothing. The circuits will tell you how the pants will look on you so you can try the trousers on virtually.
Like Gamota, Gerwin Gelinck, who worked on the IMEC chip, also believes that organics will make their start as a complement for silicon. Gelinck is a program manager at the Holst Centre, in Eindhoven, Netherlands, a research organization with commercial partners that include the display companies Polymer Vision and Panasonic. He believes that eventually more-complex organic logic may replace ”peripheral” silicon chips in devices like displays, to lower these gadgets’ cost and size.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Video Conferencing now follows Holography protocols for Unified Communications

Now Video Conferencing gets the holographic treatment with TIP protocol. Unified communications will get a definite boost.

Polycom officials a year ago dismissed rival Cisco Systems' newly introduced immersive video conferencing interoperability protocol as a tool for the larger company to dominate the crucial issue of making telepresence systems work together.

Now Polycom officials are ready to embrace TIP (Telepresence Interoperability Protocol), saying in an announcement that adoption of the protocol in their products is part of their larger UCEverywhere strategy. The initiative is designed to let consumers and businesses of all sizes that use Polycom technology collaborate with others regardless of the platforms they use.

Innovations in Polycom's UC Intelligent Core platform also make it easier for service providers to offer cloud-based, open UC (unified communications) telepresence services, according to the company. In announcing the company's support for Cisco's TIP Feb. 9, Polycom CEO Andrew Miller said the move not only will help Polycom users, but also customers of his larger rival.

"Cisco customers have told us for years that they've been imprisoned by a closed telepresence platform that builds a wall around their UC environment and keeps out non-Cisco users. Today, all that changes," Miller said in a statement. "With its unparalleled support of open standards, the Polycom UC Intelligent Core solution liberates these customers and gives them more options for collaborating and expanding their UC environments than ever before, without having to sacrifice their existing systems. Breakthroughs like this are fundamental to our vision of UCEverywhere."

Polycom products will support TIP starting in the second quarter, the company said.

Cisco introduced TIP, which company officials have said is designed to enable multiscreen telepresence interoperability, in January 2010, and at the time said that several vendors, including LifeSize Communications and Radvision, had signed on. In addition, Cisco last year began putting TIP support into products gained through its acquisition of telepresence vendor Tandberg.

However, Polycom officials said they had little interest in TIP, arguing that they were wary of any protocol push being promoted by such a dominant vendor. They also noted that there had been other standards, such as H.264 and H.239, that had been created though independent bodies for single-display video conferencing, and said the same third-party approach could be used for multidisplay telepresence systems.

Cisco officials said when introducing TIP that their intent was to move the proposed standard to a third-party body, and in April 2010, the company turned it over to the IMTC (International Multimedia Teleconferencing Consortium), which will manage it as an industry standard.

Having Polycom join the fold is important, given that together, Cisco and Polycom control more than 80 percent of the worldwide telepresence market. Cisco officials applauded the decision. They stressed that TIP is an open protocol, not a proprietary standard managed by Cisco.

"We are pleased to hear that Polycom is joining other companies in adopting the Telepresence Interoperability Protocol [TIP]," David Hsieh, vice president of emerging technologies for Cisco, said in a statement. "We believe that there is market transition to the pervasive adoption of video, and customers want interoperability without compromise. The value for customers is to enable any-to-any multiscreen interoperability so that there are more people to talk to."

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Holography is taking 3D TV to the next level.

Just blogged and tweeted about the emerging Holographic Television, and here Cisco comes up with the technology demo - indeed the next best thing to hit television - 3D Holographic Television.

In late January, a three-dimensional image of Princess Leia appeared at an engineering conference in San Francisco. The red, fuzzy avatar didn't look as realistic as the projection of Princess Leia in 1977's Star Wars, but it may prove a lot more important.  The image created in San Francisco was a true hologram, not a studio special effect.  It was created using cheap, off-the-shelf equipment. And it may point the way toward holograms someday becoming a commonplace form of communication.

A hologram is very different from the 3-D images that appear in movies or, increasingly, on TV.  Those are images on a flat screen that use optical tricks to create the illusion, sometimes a very good illusion, of depth. A hologram recreates a true 3D image in space. The critical difference: If you walk around a holographic image, you'll see its back side, not the blank back of a screen.
Princess Leia was the work of the Object-Based Media Group at the MIT Media Lab.  The remarkable thing about it was that instead of expensive laser gear, it was generated using the hands-free Kinect controller from a Microsoft Xbox 360 as the sensor and off-the-shelf video hardware to recreate the image. (The poor quality camera in the Kinect explains some of the fuzziness of the hologram.)

Cisco CEO John Chambers, who boosts holography as part of the company's telepresence push, has done his own Princess Leia act. In 2009, he appeared in person at the Cisco Globilization Centre East in Bangalore, India, while holographic versions of Cisco executives Martin De Beer and Chuck Stucki, who were physically in San Jose, joined him on stage.

Could electronic communications someday soon take the form of face-to-virtual-face conversations with a hologram of your mother, girlfriend, or boss? In a world where videoconferencing is just starting to catch on, the idea seems a bit far-fetched. But an in an IBM survey of 3,000 researchers, respondents named holographic video calls as one of the five technologies they expect to see in place by 2015.

Like other advanced imaging techniques, holographic communications could find its initial uses in health care. ""A hologram of a patient can be beamed right to the home of the doctor, who could rotate the image and make a diagnosis," Verizon Communications Chief Information Officer Shaygan Kheradpir told CNET News. Speaking of his physician father, Kheradpir said: "Just think of how much more time he would have been able to spend with his family if he had this technology. "He would not have had to go into the ER as often as he did. Most times all he needed to do was ask someone to open his mouth and say 'ah.'"

One thing that has to happen before holographic communications can become commonplace, especially for consumers, is a considerable increase in network capacity. Internet connections that can barely handle a decent quality videoconference will need an upgrade to cope with the much greater number of bits needed to project a real-time hologram. "You need a consumerized high-speed network in place to deliver specialized services like holography," says Kheradpir. "It's all about scale. And without scaling the infrastructure, it's too expensive to offer something like this." 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Can Cable Block the Google TV Revolution?

The latest debate on the Cable versus Google  has an interesting twist, with potential for consumer benefit or loss depending on whether the FCC does a good job or bad.

Behind the scenes at the Federal Communications Commission, a quiet war is being waged over the future of television. It isn’t getting as many headlines as net neutrality or the Comcast/NBCU merger, but the debate is nearly as important. It’s about how far Google, Sony, and their allies can take their Google TV system.
In their bid to get the FCC to help Google TV and similar devices, “Sony/Google are asking the Commission to ignore copyright, patent, trademark, contract privity, licensing, and other legal rights and limitations that have been thoroughly documented,” the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) warned last Wednesday.

What is NCTA talking about? The trade association is trying to set limits on how easy it will be for devices like Google TV to access pay TV content and reassemble it into something that will reconfigure both television and the internet.

That’s at the heart of the FCC’s proposal for an AllVid system, which Google very loudly supports. AllVid doesn’t exist yet, but the idea is to mandate an industry-wide gadget that you could plug into your broadband router and connect to your cable TV provider, then watch online video and pay channels through a variety of AllVid-friendly devices. Not surprisingly, Google and Sony love this idea, because it could transform the Google TV from just a neat product into a revolution.

Big cable hates the proposal, because that revolution could leave multi-video program distributors (MVPDs), if not in the dust, at least working in a far more competitive video environment. But the AllVid proposal faces real technical challenges that have yet to be worked out.

At present, Google TV is a suite of devices that integrate streaming IP video services like YouTube with various kinds of third-party content, all searchable on a Google TV screen. You can get in on this by buying the Google TV standalone HDTV set, or by hooking your extant screen to a Logitech Revue or Sony Internet TV Blu-ray Disc Player.

As our own Chris Foresman notes, the gear is expensive and kind of clunky, but you can also use your phone as a remote control, and voice command functionality is on the way.
The biggest challenge for Google TV has been finding pay content partners. The DISH network is accessible via the device. And Google has clinched content deals with HBO, CNBC, Turner Broadcasting and the National Basketball Association.

But other providers are loudly declining to hop on the bandwagon, most noticeably Viacom, which has blocked full episodes of its fare from the Google TV browser (no big shocker here; the company is suing Google’s YouTube for $1 billion over copyright infringement claims).
So what would turn Google TV or any similar gadget into a truly revolutionary machine is an interface that easily allows any HDTV/set top box system to tap into any couch potato service, while simultaneously serving as a gateway to the Internet, with all its search, cloud, and social networking functionalities. For millions of households that still experience the ‘net as less of an imperative than television, the internet would become television.

The FCC understands this. At first glance, the Commission presents the AllVid proposal as a replacement for the agency’s failed CableCARD — that little data wedge that was supposed to let you pick your own set-top box and use it with any cable operator. CableCARD came with few functionalities and various installment roadblocks, so consumers rarely used it.

But AllVid’s other goal is to ramp up broadband adoption and use. “Just as a shopping mall presents customers with numerous retail outlets, smart video devices would offer viewers a single window into pay TV content and Internet content,” the Commission’s Notice of Inquiry on AllVid explained, “as well as content that a viewer has already bought or archived.”

That’s right, bring it on, dittoed Google and its sometime allies in the media reform movement during a meeting with the FCC in late January. “Providing a common IP-based link between gateway and client devices will break down the last, archaic distinctions among classes of devices that impede competition and that have been eliminated in markets other than television,” they wrote.

Furthermore: What is necessary to empower consumers and to create device competition are technical standards that enable any device to present a unified user interface that offers choices of both MVPD and non-MVPD programs and services, and home network content. Existing FCC regulations allow each MVPD to offer such a unified interface if it wishes, but have not succeeded in allowing manufacturers and retailers of competitive devices to offer such a product on a national basis. The tools are at hand to address this lack through an AllVid rulemaking that references private sector industry standards.

But the cable industry and its movie studio allies have posed a host of challenges to AllVid. Big cable insists that the metadata used to create on-screen program guides is copyrighted. The Motion Picture Association of America protests that the AllVid idea would put studio content painfully close to sites like The Pirate Bay.

The proposal presents the risk that “legitimate MVPD and online content sources will be presented in user interfaces alongside illegitimate sources (such as sites featuring pirated content),” MPAA warns. “In essence, this ’shopping mall’ approach could enable the purveyor of counterfeit goods to set up shop alongside respected brand-name retailers, causing consumer confusion.”

It’s all just… not fair, contends the NCTA. In its words, Sony and Google seek: a Commission mandate for CE device manufacturers to extract piece parts of a multichannel offering for each CE manufacturer to remake into a service of its own design, as though each MVPD were a wholesale distributor of all content in all windows for delivery to all devices on every platform. Such a mandate would not only violate the affiliation agreements and intellectual property licenses under which multichannel programming is obtained and retailed, but it would also stunt the innovations that are taking place to provide consumers flexible access to content that programmers are incented to offer.

The programming contracts and licenses define such critical features as channel placement, the type of advertising suitable for use with a particular programmer’s brand, uniform nationwide presentation of programming, and how MVPDs market to and retain their subscribers. Such terms cannot be replaced by merely passing along a “copy once” command, as Sony/Google suggest.

There’s no doubt that there are plenty of technological and legal roadblocks facing this idea. And as we’ve often noted, it’s one thing to create a device mandate; it’s another to make it work.

But the cable operators know that the AllVid concept isn’t that far afield from what Congress ordered the FCC to do in Section 629 of the Communications Act: adopt regulations to assure the commercial availability of multivideo programming over devices “from manufacturers, retailers, and other vendors not affiliated with any multichannel video programming distributor.”

NCTA’s filing notes that lots of these gadgets already exist. It also interprets Section 629 to suggest that the law only applies to pay TV fare, not IP video. But at the end of the filing, the trade association poses the real concern.

“Sony/Google are asking the Commission to lock MVPDs out of tomorrow’s video marketplace,” NCTA warns.

The offerings of MVPDs and online video distributors (“OVDs”) are all assembled, crafted, and sold in an environment in which each provider operates as a retailer—but in which Sony/Google are trying to convert only MVPDs into wholesalers. Sony/Google inexplicably claim that cable operators and other MVPDs could offer all MVPD programming and all Internet content through a single unified user interface. That is absurd. Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Sony, Google, and many others negotiate to obtain their own rights, and to construct retail offerings that they define. They do not open their storerooms and databases for MVPDs to take as inventory and make a part of their own ‘unified offering’ in another ’store.’
Actually, Amazon and Google both provide API interfaces that allow developers to market their services and products in all kinds of contexts. But the issue here is obvious. The Google TV revolution would turn big cable into just another player on the video market, not its central participant.

Expect the cable industry to fight this version of “tomorrow’s video marketplace” with every weapon in its arsenal.

Monday, February 7, 2011

IEEE - Broadband over Power Lines Standard released

Another piece of very good news - consumers (especially ones in the rural areas) may benefit from this if the utility companies or municipalities have their way - increase in competition to Telcos, ISP's and CableCos likely

PISCATAWAY, N.J.: IEEE has published its standard for Broadband over Power Lines. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers finalized BPL 1901TM in December and has made them available for purchase. The controversial Internet access technology has been around for several years, but the absence of an IEEE standard has been but one hindrance to its wider adoption. 

With BPL, merely plugging a browser-equipped computer into a wall outlet yields high-speed Internet access. 1901-compliant local area networks are said to support data rates of more than 500 Mbps, and first- and last-mile ranges of 1,500 meters. The technology scheme allows for the transmission of data over standard AC power lines of any voltage, at frequencies less than 100 MHz. 

The Federal Communications Commission adopted rules for BPL in 2004, setting off a firestorm of objection from ham radio operators. The American Radio Relay League, representing hams, contended that BPL interfered with their operations, as well as short-wave and low-band VHF communications.

The FCC in 2006 reaffirmed its rules, denying ARRL requests to prohibit BPL pending further study. The organization sued, and in April 2008, a federal court ordered the commission to provide BPL emissions studies it had previously redacted. Those documents were released July 17, 2009, along with a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The ARRL continues to fight it. 

The League filed a complaint against BPL provider IBEC Inc., on behalf of members in several communities. The group contends that IBEC’s BPL systems in Lovingston and Fairfield, Va.; Somerset, Pa., and Martinsville, Ind. are creating “ongoing harmful interference,” and violations of current FCC rules. 

“ARRL respectfully requests that the commission initiate immediately an enforcement proceeding regarding these PBL systems and cause them to cease operation until such time as they are each in full compliance with the commission’s rules,” the group’s Dec. 29, 2010 filing states. 

Part of the FCC’s intention in facilitating BPL was to help small and rural communities deploy high-speed Internet access services. Manassas, Va., while not exactly rural nor small but rather a tony suburb of Washington, D.C., did the first wide-scale launch of BPL in 2005. Ten Mbps service was just $25 a month, but just 600 or so residents and business signed up. City officials pulled the plug last April. In comments filed with the FCC, James Whedbee says BPL’s abandonment in Manassas demonstrates the technology is “obsolete.” 

“If BPL is allowed to exist at all the in the aftermath of these proceedings, the commission should adopt the ARRL’s more stringent regulations,” he wrote. “However, even the commission’s watered-down proposal is better than allowing BPL to continue as it does now. 

Connected television – without the Set-top box? Better believe it!

Finally I think we can see cable channels without an intervening device i..e a set-top box. This is the debut and a small fist step in the direction of truly converged services at home.

The debut of “the cable app,” by Comcast and Time Warner Cable, on “smart TVs” made by Samsung and Sony. First of all, what’s “smart” about a “smart TV” is the same thing that made phones “smart phones” last year: an Internet connection.

For cable, it means this: The consumer buys a smart TV. He/She brings it home, hangs it on the wall and hooks up the Internet connection. (Warning: When you try this at home, have that crazy-long, un-memorizable Wi-Fi password handy.)

Then, voila: Apps start popping up. Netflix comes to mind. But, next to the Netflix icon, there’s perhaps an “Xfinity” logo, for Comcast customers, or the Time Warner Cable icon, for its customers.

So far, none of the manufacturers are accepting a premium to put one company’s icon higher in the queue. So far, it’s by popularity - whichever app is used the most is highest on the list. We’re taking bets on how fast that changes.

How does it work, technically? Let’s start easy. Let’s say the consumer lives in Comcast territory and is already a broadband and video customer. In the past, and in a huge oversimplification, streaming live video meant getting an encrypted stream to the set-top box.

Now, getting a live stream to a “connected” or “smart” TV means sending an HTTP stream, wrapped in digital rights management, “from the cloud” (translation: from a server in the network). That stream moves over Internet protocol through the cable-modem termination system, through the cable modem, through the Wi-Fi router, to the TV.

Then, to move that stream around to other TVs and screens in the home, two other components come into play. One is DLNA with DTCP-IP, a form of link-layer protection that keeps the signal encrypted as it moves around the home.

The other is HTML 5, to render the user interface on the other screens in the home. So, no set-top, no CableCard, no OCAP. Just cable, going into television sets, without all the rest of it. Sounds like a cable-ready connected-TV, and a way to get the services people are already paying for onto their other screens - without the Federal Communications Commission’s “help”.

Full Apple TV to Challenge Google TV: Munster

Another interesting article on connected television that I thought would interest my readers. Personally I think this has a lot of mileage, but still needs a bit of refinement on the content side.

Is Apple preparing to build televisions with full computing functionality? Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster sure thinks so. The service would provide a stiffer challenge for Google TV.

Some analysts who follow Apple believe the company is hoarding larger display technology to build a more robust Web television product.

Apple COO Tim Cook said during the company's first-quarter earnings call that it had paid $3.9 billion in inventory component prepayments and capital expenditures to three companies.

Based on an analysis of Apple's existing supplier relations, intellectual property ownership, and licensing and technology, those companies may be LG Display, Sharp and Toshiba Mobile Display, IHS analyst Vinita Jakhanwal said Feb. 1.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said the investment in components revolves around LCD displays used for Apple's iPad and iPhone lines, Macs with 27-inch screens, and possibly up to 50-inch-screen Apple televisions in the future.

An Apple television, not to be confused with the current Apple TV service that streams Netflix content and YouTube videos, would be a comprehensive, Web-based TV. The device would include a Safari Web browser and sync content and services across users' iPhones, iPads and Macs, as well as grant users access to Apple's App Store.

"While Apple's commitment to the living room remains a 'hobby,' we continue to believe the company will enter the TV market with a full focus, as an all-in-one Apple television could move the needle when connected TVs proliferate," Munster wrote in a research note Feb. 3.

He added that of the 220 million flat-panel TVs sold in 2012, nearly half will be Web-connected, of which Apple could sell 1.4 million units. An Apple television could add $2.5 billion, or 2 percent, to revenue in 2012, and grow to $4 billion in 2013 and $6 billion in 2014.
Simply, Apple would add yet another significant revenue stream to its fleet of successful consumer products. These include the iPhone, which shipped 16.2 million units in the holiday quarter; the iPad, which shipped about 15 million units in 2010; the always popular iPod music players; and Mac computers and laptops.

A whole Apple television offering would put Apple in closer competition with Google TV, an Android-based service with a Chrome Web browser powered by an Intel Atom processor and running on a Logitech Revue companion box, as well as on Blu-ray players and TVs from Sony.

Users can search for Web and TV programs using special Google TV Search and access their digital video recordings from a keyboard controller, a special remote, or even mobile phone applications from Logitech, Google and Samsung. Google TV received a poor reception for being expensive, buggy and hard to use by media. Moreover, some broadcast companies have been loath to embrace the service, which has seen improvements to the Netflix application and other programs. 

Apple TV has been kicking around for a few years, but Apple streamlined the hardware and software in September. Where Apple once offered a $229 box for users to buy, the company is now offering a $99 device that offers high-definition Netflix movie rentals for $4.99 and a TV rental option for 99 cents a show, along with YouTube, Flickr and MobileMe integration. 

Holographic TV Now a Possibility

I came across this interesting article on Holographic television possibly the "next big things" in television and wanted to share it with you.
Using simple off-the-shelf hardware, researchers at MIT have created a holographic system that updates almost as quickly as feature films. The group believes that holographic televisions could soon be possible.
Now manufactured by several different brands and appearing in living rooms around the globe, 3-D television is one of this year’s hottest trends. But holographic TV, although it might sound like the technology of a sci-fi film, is following closely behind. New research suggests that holographic TVs could be available much sooner than previously thought.
In November, researchers at the University of Arizona created a holographic system capable of sending, receiving and displaying full-color, 3-D images. Although the system was used to send live images of a researcher in California to collaborators in Arizona, the display updated only every two seconds, making it much less fluid than today’s televisions.
Now, a new holographic system from researchers at MIT Media Lab has a display that updates 15 times per second. The researchers are confident that their holographic display will soon update even faster, with rates reaching the 24 frames per second of feature films or the 30 frames per second of TV.
According to the researchers, the main difference between 3-D and holographic images has to do with perspective. When a 3-D movie, such as Avatar, is shown in a theater, all members of the audience, regardless of position, see exactly the same image, which is filmed from the same perspective. A holographic image, on the other hand, changes as a viewer moves around it—just like the real world.
This difference in perspective relies largely on the light source for a film. Most 3-D cameras, for example, capture light reflecting off of objects from two angles—one for each eye. In the real world, however, light reflects from an infinite number of angles. Holographic video cameras thus capture light from many more angles than 3-D cameras.
The team of MIT researchers built their holographic camera using only off-the-shelf hardware, including Xbox’s Kinect camera.
“Really, the focus of our work in digital holography — and I think this makes us pretty much unique among the very small community of people in the world even doing holovideo — is that we’re trying to make a consumer product,” said Michale Bove in a statement. “So we’ve been saying, ‘How do you make it as cheap as possible — take advantage of hardware and standards and software and everything else that already exists?’ Because that’s the quickest way to bring it to market.” Bove, who lead the holograph team, is head of the Object-Based Media Group at MIT Media Laboratory.
In the system’s basic setup, a Kinect camera sends image data to an ordinary laptop, which transmits it over the Internet. A receiving PC then computes the diffraction patterns using three commercial graphics processing units (GPUs).
The only component of the system that isn’t off-the-shelf is the holographic display. Bove’s display is built off of the research of Stephen Benton, who built the first holographic display in the 1980s and died in 2003. Unlike older models, the new display—called the Mark-II—is compact, produces larger images, and should be less expensive to produce.
In addition to a more lifelike image, holographic televisions wouldn’t require users to wear glasses, like 3-D TVs do. In January, the research team presented their system at the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers’ (SPIE) Practical Holography conference in San  Francisco. A video of their holographic system can be viewed here.