Monthly Archives: January 2008

Nokia and Yahoo moves


Nokia acquires TrollTech, a Linux company,  for $153 million. In return Nokia gets Qt, a Linux-based software platform that is behind KDE, Google Earth, Opera or Skype. TrollTech also owns Qtopia, a platform for embedded Linux-base software platform for mobiles.

The move clearly shows that Nokia reacts to Android, even if they downplayed the Google platform when it was announced. Nokia gets a valuable asset on Linux platforms, for both mobile devices and PCs.

On another front, Yahoo is also moving and plans to fight in the mobile arena. ReadWrite interviewed Adam Taggart, Director of Product Marketing at Yahoo Mobile, unveils the ambitions of Yahoo, emphasizing Yahoo’s ubiquity and their goal to reach billions of mobile handsets with their mobile developer platform. In his words “Yahoo’s platform is similar to Google’s Android, but it will reach many more phones than Google’s.”

Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is soon on 11-14 February, and expect Nokia and Yahoo, as well as Apple and Google, to bring striking news

Transforming Telcos: Telco 2.0

Two weeks ago I found, as a guest post at GigaOM, an interesting article from  STL Partners  on the future of broadband. While I disagree on a few points, it does bring some fresh ideas about the evolution of telcos:

Wholesale. Increasingly important model as we see in wireless with MVNOs reselling capacity from operators. New application service providers could be envisioned to re-sell connectivity as part of a Service, like high-def video streaming with some QoS assurance on top of the basic package. “Postage and packing included” models will proliferate, like the Amazon Kindle, where Amazon pays for the EVDO service on behalf of the end-user.

Two-side business model. Service providers will monetize revenues from new sources, like: advertisement, e-commerce or access to user profiles, location and presence.

– The control of the Home Network. What is simple for techies and early adopters it is still too complex for the mainstream. Telcos are in a privileged position to manage the home network for their customers and make life easy for their mainstream users.

Virtual Networks overlaid on Internet. Broadband Service  Providers can offer best-effort Internet as a standard package to comply with net-neutrality issues, and still deploy overlay networks with a guaranteed QoS for bandwidth demanding or sophisticated usages: Hi-Def Videoconferencing, Hi-Def live events broadcast, etc. This overlay networks could be provided from the telco as a wholesale for Applications providers to re-sell it bundled with their Service.

Where I disagree with STL Partners article is in the inability of telcos so sell applications or media content. IPTV and Mobile TV are in their infancy yet, and operators are still learning. Many telcos have launched successful services, like Telefonica Imagenio (IPTV), AT&T U-verse (IPTV), KDDI Lismo (Music) or Telstra Mobile TV, that demonstrate how user experience in content services can be improved through technology, and this is something telcos do master.

Linux on PS3?

A game console is in essence a computer with a “gaming operating system”. Sony PS3 specs outshine most of our PCs at home, and not only in Graphics power:

CPU: Cell Processor PowerPC-base Core @3.2GHz, 512KB L2 cache, 218 GFLOPS

GPU: RSX @550MHz – 1.8 TFLOPS floating point performance

Sound: Dolby 5.1ch, DTS, LPCM, etc.

Memory: 256MB XDR Main RAM @3.2GHz, 256MB GDDR3 VRAM @700MHz

Storage: Detachable 2.5” HDD slot x 1 I/O: 6 USB, Card reader (CompactFlash, SD, Memory Stick)

Networking: Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T), Wifi IEEE 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth 2.0 (EDR)

AV Output: 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p

  • HDMI: HDMI out x 2
  • Analog: AV MULTI OUT x 1
  • Digital audio: DIGITAL OUT (OPTICAL) x 1

Blu-ray / DVD (read only)

With such an outstanding machine, our friends of Sony had the brilliant idea to include the option of installing a new OS. And more, Sony made the hard drive storage user replaceable, so you can easily upgrade with a 2.5″ laptop hard drive.

There are many distros that work on PS3, but the most popular is Yellow Dog Linux from Terrasoft, a company specialized in Linux for PowerPC processors.

You can watch other interesting videos in Terrasoft site.

Install the VLC player for Linux on top, and you will be able to watch your Divx, Xvid, WMV and many more formats videos on your TV. As well as YouTube videos, web browsing, email, Skype and more

The right price for downloads and rentals

The Music and Movie industries are across a major transformation. The technological disruption brought by Internet and Mp3 requires a sharp disruption in their business model too.

In the past, consumers were hostages of labels and studios, that were able to set the price for CD albums and DVD films well above what consumers would have liked to pay for the content. Consumers accepted those prices only because CDs and DVDs were the only means to get the content, and we were taught by labels and studios that these supports were that expensive. This is why CDs and DVDs were initially much more expensive than vinyls and videotapes.

Now Internet (P2P) and digital encoding (mp3, aac, XviD, h264) enable virtually no-cost distribution of music and films, without the need of physical costly discs. This is a fact that the Music and Movie industries need to make work in their favour (and in consumer’s), instead of fighting against it.

One of the things they are not getting right is pricing for the new model of downloads and rentals.

Labels and studios compare the price of downloads with that of Audio CDs and DVDs, without realizing that consumers never paid that price because they considered it fair, but only because that was the only option. With almost no cost and no intermediaries compared to CD or rental DVD model, why do they insist on a price that seems unfair to end-user and encourage piracy?

For years consumer electronics companies and telcos have used the “peel-the-onion” principle to price innovations. e.g. the first mobile phones were terribly expensive and targeted the richest executive segment, so that telcos could optimize margins on an initially scarce number of handsets. As bigger volumes of phones are available, the price is reduced only to address the next segment. Similarly, Plasma/LCD are reaching the masses once the manufacturing economies of scale enable a lower cost for the physical goods.

Music and Movie industry sell digital content and do not have the limitation of scarce physical resources. Therefore, it does not make sense to peel-the-onion. They should be targeting the widest possible audience, as users already have all the infrastructure (PC, Broadband, iPod) required for the new distribution model.

Seth Godin provides wise advice to movie studios on how to approach the on-line movie rentals market in his post How much of digital? Seth says “…the market is too small right now for the price to matter. What matters is whether you can build an audience that is in the habit of paying you, an audience that wants to hear from you, an audience that you can build a business on“. Seth suggest a price of 50 cents per rental, enough to establish a pay-content behavior and low enough to develop a wide audience and discourage piracy. Once the user behavior is established, prices for blockbusters or new titles could command a premium.

There are better ways forward for the entertainment industry, other than taking customers to court. They just need to accept the industry is going through a major disruption, and act.

Digital Home options for PC2TV

Sony Vaio TP-1 Mac Mini Xbox 360
An effective architecture for the Digital Home requires two main elements: a centralized shared storage for media files, and a Media Player that connects to each of the displays at home: TVs, LCD, Plasma screens in different rooms.

We reviewed the shared storage for media, be it a NAS or a desktop PC, in a previous post. This one will show the Media Player alternatives to ‘connect’ our content from the storage to the TV set.

We will categorize the Media Player options in four:

– Home Theater PC (HTPC): Fiire (Linux MCE), Vaio TP-1 (Windows Media Center), Mac Mini (Apple Front Row)
Future proof solution. Support for any codec. Full control on sofware and hardware configuration.
Can use as PVR with a TV card (internal o external)
Can be used as shared storage with laptops or other Media players at home
Additional functionality on the TV (Web access, Video conference, home surveillance, games…)

Higher cost

– Network Media Player: Linux MCE frontend, Kiss DVD Ethernet Player, D-Link Wireless Media Player, Apple TV
Lower cost
Device optimized for specific use
Ease of use

Lack of upgradeability. Limited codec support.
Apple TV only supports H.264
No PVR (Exception: KiSS models with PVR function)

– Game Console: Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3
Hi-Def game console with great games!
Cost effective
You can install Linux on the PS3, and run as a Linux PC

SW controlled by Microsoft or Sony
Limited support for codecs. Many of the files in your library will not play or will require transcoding with loss of quality

– Media Jukebox: TVIX
Lower cost
Combined Storage with Media Player in one box
Device optimized for specific use

No control on software for adding features or codec support
No distributed architecture with a shared storage

Note that any PC or laptop can work as a Media Player, but those are far from ideal to connect to a TV set: a laptop being mobile implies connect and disconnect cables, and a normal PC might not have HDMI, or SPIF audio, required for a full HD experience.

Other factors to consider for the election:

If you have a large library of XVD/DivX and rip DVDs or get your copies by P2P file sharing, a HTPC Linux MCE or Windows MCE are the preferred choices, unless you want to transcode your library to H.264 to get your content on Apple devices

Note for Apple Addicts:
Apple products are great: great stylish design, simple easy-to-use and high quality operation (it simply works).
Apple tends to design products their way, without compromises. That is, even if Windows Media, XVid and DivX formats have a wide acceptance, none of Apple products support these by default. Instead Apple selects high quality standars (H.264 for video and AAC for audio) and bring them to the masses.
Apple is creating a loyal clientelle of Applemaniacs, who do not mind to pay a higher price because , even if ‘locked’ with Apple choice of standards, all Apple products interwork nicely with each other. The user do not need to worry about technology. Apple takes care of that for you. Apple makes smooth even to pay for songs, videos or movie rentals.

NAS: The new device for home

As we anticipated in our 2008 predictions, the demand for Network-Attached Storage (NAS) devices at home is rapidly increasing.

Apple announcement of Time Capsule, even if not a proper NAS, goes into that direction.

There are two trends we all recognize in our digital style-life:

1) An increasing number of media files (photos, music and videos) that we handle in our computers media libraries. Movies and songs are downloaded on-line. DVDs and CDs are ripped to digital media libraries. No more room for space-consuming DVD/CD physical libraries. And no room for the hassle of inserting discs. Personalized playlists and jukebox-like operation is the rule.

2) The number of computers at home is increasing. From one desktop family PC to multiple personal laptops, plus game consoles, DLNA media extenders, and other home networked devices to come (IP cameras, home robots…)

In that environment, a shared storage attached to the home network is a must so that heavy media files do not have to be stored in each laptop at home. The media files in a central location are accessed through the network by any Media Player: laptops, Xbox 360 or PS3, or other Media Extenders.

Folowing those trends, Microsoft has created Microsoft Home Server. HP SmartMedia Home Server is based on Microsoft software.

As we all get more conscious about energy saving, specially for an always-on device, and as a home server can be simplified as pure shared storage, NAS devices are positioning as a wise low cost solution.

Taiwanese QNAP has designed a low-cost NAS targeted for homes. Apart from shared storage with user replaceable drives, QNAP NAS also features:
– a DLNA built-in media server, so that media extenders can access all shared media
– a Bittorrrent client, manageable through a web interface
– 14W power comsuption in operation (6.6W in sleep mode). Fan-less noise-free design.

Linksys and D-link have a similar products, including the built-in media server, but without the Bittorrent client.

Apple Time Capsule is the latest addition. While bundling a network drive with a 802.11n router is a wise idea ( both are always-on devices), it is meant to only backup the Macbooks at home. No media server, no Bittorrent but stylishly packaged and built to easily integrate with Apple family.

HP SmartMedia Time Capsule  QNAP TS-109 Linksys NAS200
2 x 500GB
1 x 1TB
HD not included
2-bays HD not included
with MS Home Server
(+$105 / 500GB HD)
(+$311 / 1TB HD)
(+$105 / 500GB HD)
Up to 4 HD
Manage users rights
Manage Software
802.11n router
Stylish design
Low power consumption
Noise-free operation
Media server, web,
DDNS and BitTorrent
Media server PnP
Low cost
Power comsuption
No Wifi
High cost
No media server
Only back-ups
Only 1 HD
Expensive in US
Cheaper in Asia
No Gigabit port
Slow back-ups

Presentation Zen: The definitive book on presentations

Once more Guy Kawasaki’s blog writes an illustrative post on a book and the ideas of its author. In this case, the book is Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. Here just a summary of questions from Guy and answers from Garr.

Q: What make a presentation stick?
A: …sticky, compelling, and memorable messages share six common attributes:

Simplicity    Unexpectedness    Concreteness
Credibility    Emotion         Stories  

Q: What makes Steve Jobs’s presentations so great?

A: Steve Jobs make it look easy. He is relaxed. His keynotes follow the stickiness principles above. Conversational. Uses slides to help him tell a story in a natural way. His visuals do not overpower him. He also demos his own products.Q: Optimal size of a presentation?
A: For venture capitalist 10/20/30 method. 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 points fonts or bigger

Q: How many times a person should rehearse a presentation?
A: Three or four times all the way through and at least ten times the first three minutes. Rehearse in front of others.

Q: Single thing to do to enhance presentations?
A: Think of the audience. Identify what is important and what is not. The main problem is people try to include too much.

Q: Who are the ten best presenters?
A: Seth Godin, Steve Jobs, Al Gore, Lawrence Lessig, Tom Peters, Hans Rosling… and recently Barack Obama.