Tech Tuesday is our weekly wrap-up of all the big news in digital media and technology. This week; Google TV's disappointed platform partners, the end of Flash for the Mobile Web, new mobile music services, innovations from Channel 4, Apps from ITV, Next-Gen mobile trials, more sponsored WiFi — and more…
Google TV's disappointed partners
Last week, we mentioned Google's plans to relaunch Google TV. But when Google launched Google TV last Christmas, one of the launch partners was Logitech, whose "Revue" set-top box offered a way for consumers to access the service without replacing their TV set or buying a new Blu-Ray player.
At a Logitech-hosted Analyst and Investor day, CEO Guerrino De Luca explained how the launch had cost Logitech dearly — pulling no punches about the "well over $100M in operating profits" that the commitment to build (plus "operational miscues in EMEA") had cost the company. Describing the launch as "a mistake of implementation of a gigantic nature," De Luca explained that the company was planning to let inventory run out, with no plans to replace the Revue with another box.
Meanwhile, CEO of Sony — another Google TV launch partner — has said that every TV set they make loses money, and it seems unlikely that they will be continuing to work with Google on rolling out their platform. Their answer is to try to develop an exciting new product…
What might that look like? Right now, its anyone's guess, but with innovations like 3D screens and smart/connected TV platforms (both from hardware manufacturers like Sony and Samsung, as well as TV platforms like Virgin Media), and rumours that Apple have plans for a new type of TV set (apparently prompted by a comment in Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography, where he talked about the problems of the TV industry, claiming to have "cracked it") its hard to see where the obvious opportunities for Sony will lie.
More Channel 4 innovations
Some interesting news around a technology trial that Channel 4 will be piloting to extend broadcast programming across digital platforms.
For the "Dispatches" programme, a "second screen" application across all smartphone and tablet platforms will open up additional archive content which viewers can choose to watch. The application will also integrate with Twitter and Facebook for chat and live voting functionality (for example, asking viewers about personal experiences that relate to the content being broadcast, with results feeding back into the broadcast content.)
The test will run in the run-up to Christmas, with a fuller roll out in the new year if it is a success.
As well as expanding on broadcast content, Channel 4 are also looking at ways of using digital channels for additional content, launching its first series of comedy clips as part of its Comedy Blaps programme to showcase up-and-coming talent.
Available through YouTube, iTunes and Vimeo, the channel will feature the first five short videos from 500 pitches submitted when the competition opened in March.
It must have been a busy week for C4, as they are also the first UK brodacaster to trial Zeebox, the new second-screen application that allows users to synchronise their TV viewing with friends on Facebook and Twitter.
Channel 4 will be launching additional, bespoke content related to Desperate Scousewives, which the Zeebox app can then pick up. This includes a Twitter app which will aggregate activity and chat related to the show, additional exclusive video content (also available on E4.com), and music information available via iTunes.
BBC Worldwide is preparing a major overhaul of its platform, with a focus on using data to refine its on-demand content and products.
Senior VP of global digital properties and ecommerce Claude London (pictured below) told new media age;
“We are pursuing the avenue of manufacturing on-demand,” he said. “When you think of the BBC, you think of the heritage of British TV and its 50,000 hours of [archive] programming. But not all of this programming can be released in its traditional format because there is not enough demand. But we will harness technology on-demand so we can meet demand when it materialises.”
This will include ideas like lists of DVDs with unreleased TV programmes, encouraging consumers to request if they want them to be manufactured. It is also planning to tailor merchandising for online content packages, according to the tastes and responses of different channel audiences. (For example, they know that the Facebook Top Gear audience responds to different products than the BBCshop.com audience.
ITV has announced 2 million downloads of its ITVPlayer Apple applications. Although it released an Android application before the Apple version, ITV has yet to announce any figures relating to the Android app.
As well as the app downloads, ITV has also seen a 62% surge in long-form catch-up TV content views across all platforms (including ITV Player), taking the total to 262m views year on year. Meanwhile monthly unique users to ITV.com rose 18% year on year to 10.6m.
Another useful source of content for their expected 2012 launch, Netflix has signed an exclusive content deal with Lionsgate, allowing UK and Ireland subscribers to watch Lionsgate UK titles along with catalogue titles. New films will be made available within a year of their theatrical release, and available across all Netflix-enabled devices (including PCs, smartphones, tablets and games consoles.)
This follows the recent news that Netflix has also signed a similar deal with MGM, and is in talks with TV broadcasters including ITV and BBC Worldwide.
O2 have announced a nine-month trial in London, onvolving hundreds of consumers and businesses using a Long Term Evolution network across selected parts of the city.
1,000 Trial members are being promised download speeds of "up to 50Mbps", although in theory the network can transfer data at triple the speed. Nevertheless, once the actual network is rolled out, expected speeds are likely to average around 10-15Mbps.
There is some debate over whether this is a true "4G" network - although O2 is describing it as such, the International Telecommunications Union defines LTE networks as being "3.9G", as it falls short of 1Gbps data transfers.
Ofcom's auction for LTE network spectrum is expected to take place at the end of 2012, with services becoming available in 2013 when the spectrum will be freed.
More Brand WiFi
The demand for high-speed mobile access is creating some interesting opportunities for brands. As well as the Nokia WiFi hotspot trial we mentioned last week, eBay are looking to sponsor public WiFi hotspots to offset the lack of LTE networks in the UK, aiming to target travel, entertainment and retail locations. CNet reports that eBay has similar plans in the US for 'Black Friday' — the day when many Americans begin their Christmas shopping. Hotspots in New York and San Francisco will enable shoppers to browse the web at their leisure on their mobile devices on the busiest retail shopping day of the year.
The news comes at the same time as an eBay "Mobile Manifesto" was submitted to UK policymakers including Ofcom, including the results of a survey of over 2,000 consumers, showing that although 36% are already shopping on their smartphones, 45% were unhappy with mobile download speeds. eBay claim that improvements to the mobile network infrastructure would benefit retailers.
Meanwhile, Ted Baker is preparing to roll out in-store Wi-Fi hotspots by the end of the year, as the brand aims to connect its offline sales strategy to its online presence. As well as enabling shoppers to easily access the internet from its stores, Ted Baker are identifying key retail stores to install touch screen devices which will display catalogue content - as well as an alternative shopping experience, these will be able to improve data capture.
Although the NMA article refers to recent IMRG/eDigitalResearch figures which indicate that many mobile internet users are accessing other stores products and prices, a Ted Baker spokesperson was unconcerned, saying that with an uncommoditised product line, the danger of finding the same product elsewhere at a better price is not a concern.
Adobe kills Mobile Flash development
Adobe announced that Flash would be "focussing on PC browsing and mobile applications", while Adobe would "more aggressively contribute to HTML5."
Reading through the PR spin, what this means is that Adobe won't be continuing to develop the Flash browser plugin for the mobile web.
A high profile, long-running debate with Apple, revolving around Apple's complaints about Flash performance (and Adobe's counter-complaints that Apple were opposed to opening up their iOS platform to 3rd parties) - as well as refusing to allow the Flash plugin to run in the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch browser, Apple also removed the Flash plugin from new Macs. But Apple weren't the only platform owner posing a problem; Microsoft had announced Windows 8 also won't provide support for browser plugins in the Metro interface.
As we can expect to see smartphone and tablet penetration and usage grow, the importance of Flash as a platform is and will continue to diminish, as the capabilities of HTML5 and browser support continue to grow.
There is an interesting analysis from Michael Mace about exactly how the Flash platform failed to make the transition from being ubiquitous on the desktop to establishing itself on mobile platforms, and a (lengthy) explanation from an Adobe staffer on the future focus of the Flash platform.
With Adobe's "The Truth about Flash" page saying that "29 of the top 20 device manufacturers worldwide have committed to shipping Flash technology on their devices", this clearly raises questions about how they will move forwards.
Mobile & Music
3 new mobile music services
They say that you wait for a bus, and then three come along at once. Well, lots of smartphone owners will have a new collection of music to listen to as they wait, as 2 new mobile-orientated music services have been launched this week, with another expected to be announced tomorrow.
RIM has launched BBM Music service, powered by Omnifone, which lets subscribers build online playlists from a library of over 45 million tracks, with a personal profile of up to 50 songs which can be accessed both on and offline, on their smartphones or other devices.
Users will be able to change up to 25 tracks a month on their own platform, and access those listed on their friends' BBM lists (so users with more friends will have access to more music — in theory, at least.) A social element will mean users can also leave comments on each others' selections.
Also this week — two weeks after its announced launch data — Apple launched its iTunes Match service in the US (no UK launch plans have been announced.) The subscription ($25/year) service allows users to match tracks in their own iTunes library with the iCloud service (tracks which aren't already in the iCloud library will be uploaded to the service) — meaning that their entire music library will be available online from devices like iPhones and iPads.
Google are expected to reveal a similar service, with an announcement tomorrow at a Spinal Tap-inspired event entitled "These go to eleven." Google launched an 'online locker' service earlier in the year (where users can upload their own music), but are expected to announce the integration of a music store with the service.
We mentioned at the beginning of October that Spotify had gained 1m new users since integrating with Facebook's new Open Graph services.
Facebook have now announced that Spotify have added "well over 4 million new users since F8", and cite some impressive growth numbers for some other music services using the open graph;
- Earbits: 1350 percent increase in the number of users becoming fans of the band they’re listening to.
- MOG: 246 percent growth in Facebook users since f8.
- Rdio: 30x increase in new user registrations from Facebook.
- Slacker: More than 11x increase in monthly active users in the month following f8.
- Deezer: Added more than 10,000 users per day since finalizing their Open Graph integration.
However, some more critical eyes have taken a deeper look into the stats, concluding that while Spotify has seen some impressive growth, the other numbers really pale in comparison; as TechCrunch put it, "Spotify is the only Open Graph music app winning."
Yahoo/Microsoft and Yahoo/Microsoft/AOL partnerships
This week saw confirmation of the deal rumoured in September that AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo will be selling one anothers remnant inventory through their respective advertising networks in the US, as they seek to challenge Google's position.
Also next year, Yahoo search advertising in Europe is to be sold via the Microsoft Advertising adCentre platform as part of the search alliance between the two. The transition has already taken place in North America