Monthly Archives: December 2006

LG to begin plasma, LCD assemply in India

Business Standard: In a bid to cut losses in the highly competitive flat panel display televisions segment, LG plans to set up an assembly unit for plasma and LCD televisions in India.

Consumer electronics companies across the board are bleeding as competition is driving constant undercutting of prices, company executives said.  “At the moment, supply is larger than demand. Hence, players in the flat panel display market are losing money. We will set up an assembly unit for plasma and LCD televisions at our plant with an investment of $100 million spread over 5 years,” said Moon B Shin, deputy managing director, LG Electronics, India.

At present, completely built television imports attract 20 per cent duty and executives admitted that LG was losing about 5-6 per cent on every set sold in this category.

Replying to queries whether LG would eventually begin complete production of flat panel display televisions in India, Shin said the market size should touch at least 1 million units to justify the investment for a production unit.  He added that in the likelihood of this happening over the next 3-4 years, the company might consider a production facility in its proposed third plant here.

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Mobile podcasting – hype or reality?

Mobility site: The cellular industry has repeatedly attempted to port popular consumer services to the mobile environment.  Internet became Mobile Internet.  Television became Mobile TV.   Despite the investment of billions of dollars in data networks, spectrum, devices, and marketing campaigns, very few services have ported successfully.

Yet digital music and podcasting prove that users will go to great lengths to mobilize entertainment, including actively connecting a media device to a PC and transferring to it content downloaded from the internet.  But can podcasting become a service enjoyed on mobile phones? Clearly, podcasting has certain attributes which make it suitable for the mobile environment.

First, it is an “on-the-go” experience.  Second, enjoying audio content is not effected by the handset’s small display screen.  In fact, given the prevalence of mobile phones, and the ability to deliver content directly to the handset without any user action required, the mobile industry might have difficulty explaining a porting failure.  Indeed, one may argue that such a failure should challenge the concept of phones as media devices, and convergence.  This article outlines a few of the critical issues that must be addressed if podcasting is to see even minimal mass-market penetration.   First, what are some of the inherent “mobile-environment” constraints and how will they impact and define the service?  Second, is there a user-willingness to pay for, and operator desire to launch, such mobile podcast services?

The manner in which mobile users discover and receive content will have a huge impact on the nature of the service. There are two alternative models: network-based solutions, and client-based solutions.  Network-based solutions offer users access to podcast menus on the Operator’s WAP Portal.  Users, locate the appropriate podcast, then initiate a download or stream of the podcast in real-time.

Network-oriented delivery models have failed to appeal to the mass-market user.  The click and wait, menu-intense experience of Mobile Internet has proven unappealing.  It is doubtful whether posting podcast files on a Portal will be an effective way of increasing awareness and usage of the service.  First, a podcast service offering a growing number of podcasts implies a catalogue-intense user-experience, forcing the user to browse through several WAP pages before finding a podcast of interest.  Furthermore, given the relatively large size of a podcast file, adding a lengthy download wait to a cumbersome Portal experience will kill the experience all together.

Podcasts can also be streamed off the Portal.  Here, however, in addition to the cumbersome Portal-Pull issues, the user-experience becomes dependent on consistent and sufficient data transmission during the stream.  For reasons beyond the scope of this article, providing bandwidth for short streams, not to mention lengthy podcasts is technically challenging.  A user listening to a podcast while commuting by train will frequently lose coverage.  Securing bandwidth in peak-hours or in congested areas is very difficult.  It is thus doubtful whether streaming can deliver the mass-market with an acceptable level of service.

Whether downloaded or streamed, obtaining content via pull assumes that a user will regularly poll for content.  Not only does the active user concept runs counter to the Podcast model of automatic content delivery, but a compelling mobile experience must be simple and automated.  One must consider that the potential mass-market mobile user is not as “early-adopted” oriented as a current podcast user.  Thus, the user-experience on mobile user must offer a “Better than iPod” experience if the mass-market is to accept it.

Client solutions reduce the amount of browsing associated with content discovery, delivery and consumption, and provide a more immediate, user-friendly experience. The first type of solution, offered by Melodeo, involves a client that displays a catalogue-list of available podcasts. The user scrolls down the list and selects one, which initiating a content delivery session (download or streaming).  Content discovery is easier than in Network-based solutions, as WAP browsing to the portal is avoided.  However, real-time delivery is required, resulting in ei the r consumption delays, streaming-related problems, or coverage loss.  With this solution, an active user is assumed, as a consumption decision must be made daily.

The second client solution, offered by Bamboo Mediacasting, employs background download.  Users subscribe to a podcast once, and then files are delivered to the user transparently, without any user involvement required.  Delivery of the latest show can be overnight, or when the phone is in your pocket.   As content delivery is not in real-time, very large files, such as full length audio and video podcasts can be delivered. Fresh content is available for immediate consumption for the morning commute with no network access required.  Background download usually require subscription.

It must be noted that the transition from pull to push involves a conceptual shift among operators.  Operators have invested heavily in WAP portals such as Vodafone Live.  One key Operator goal is to drive users to the Portal, which strengthens operator brand.  From a user-perspective, however, it is crucial to reiterate the assumption that the average Podcast user is more technically-orientated than the average mobile user.  Ease of use is absolutely essential if mobile podcasting is to gain any degree of mass-market traction in the mobile world.

Finally, the user registration and account management process is a crucial aspect of the service.  Users can be offered Web, WAP and SMS interfaces by which to subscribe to services, and modify their account.  Despite the operator tendency to create a WAP mobile-only environment, the Web interface is the easiest and most recommended in countries where PC and internet penetration is widespread.  The PC/internet interface allows for attractive and simple browsing through colorful podcast catalogues, as opposed to what could be an intolerable and bland WAP experience.

> The second section of this article asks whether users will be willing to pay for mobile podcast services, and whether the operator will actually want to launch anything but a barebones service for PR purposes.

From a user-perspective, there is a significant rise in the number of people carrying MP3 players, media-enabled phones, and other media devices.  People are clearly taking their entertainment with them.  Also, working people have clearly definable windows of dead time while commuting to and from work.  During these times, they are a captive audience.  Will the mass-market, which holds mobile phones rather than other media-devices, be willing to adopt and pay for services which deliver personalized audio content to them?

One barrier might be the availability of free podcasts on the PC and the initial perception that internet data is and should be free.  Whether users are willing to pay for personalized audio content on their mobile will depend of factors such as easy of use, content quality, and price.  However, given the growing prevalence of people enjoying entertainment on the go, one does not have to invent a scenario of commuters enjoying a 15 minute targeted audio-program on the way to work.   True, Podcasts are available free on-line, but many people would pay a small premium in order to receive targeted Tier 1 podcasts to their mobile phones, rather than buy an iPod and then bother with transferring content from their computer to a device each morning.

One thing is certain: the operator has a keen interest to see the success of such operator-provided services.  First, from a revenue perspective, operators often subsidize the handsets, yet see no revenue when a user transfers music to it from the PC.  Second, should the mass-market adopt iPod-like devices as their device of choice for media consumption, the mobile handset will be marginalized and viewed only as a tool for voice-calls. As these competing devices develop Skype-like internet telephone functionality over WIFI, operators will see their users gravitate to competing phone service as well.

Podcasting provides the operator with a great way to accomplish these goals.  First, podcasting is a service which users enjoy on the go.  Second, background deliver enables a “Better than iPod” user experience.  Third, mobile operators have a clear advantage in the area of video podcasting.  While video iPods are just beginning to emerge, most mid-range mobile handsets have supported video for years.  Operators are well aware of their edge over iPod here and are launching video podcast services.

Despite the operator interest to establish value and compete with encroaching devices, mobile podcasting poses a few challenges.  While PC-based internet users enjoy inexpensive broadband, mobile networks are comparatively inefficient.  Data transmission rates are slower and there is much less overall capacity.  Thus, the internal cost to the operator of transmitting data is high.  While the monthly charge for a high-speed residential internet connection might be 20 Euro, the average cellular user might be charged 1 Euro/MB for data usage.  With the size of an average 30-40 minute PC-based podcast approximately 15 MB, the monthly amount of data traffic per user for a week-day service is 300MB!!  The operator can not justify charging of a few Euros a month for a mobile podcast service, when a single Pull-downloaded video clip can generate a Euro or two.

Can mobile podcasting be made more efficient?

First, content files can easily be reduced in size by simple content transcoding.  A 30 minute podcast can be reduced to 1.5MB, without impacting sound quality.  Furthermore, the delivery frequency of a podcast service can be reduced.  Finally, delivering shorter, 15 minutes podcasts, rather than full 30-40 minute programs, may be appropriate.

Second, and more important, the podcast files must be delivered during off-peak hours, ideally overnight.  During peak hours and in congested areas, the cost of data delivery is at its highest.   Delivery of large data files to a moderate number of users during peak hours will chill operator enthusiasm.  Conversely, during off-peak hours, the network is empty, minimizing the cost of data transmission.  This requirement would appear to point to a subscription push service model, with scheduled off-peak content deliveries pushed to the user.

One final issue is that of billing and revenue.  The billing issue has a direct impact on who will offer mobile podcast services.  The ASP model, where third party companies offer ringtones and wallpaper virtually independent of the operator will not work with mobile podcasting.  This is due to the issue of data billing.   Ringtones purchased can be charged via simple tools such as Premium SMS, with revenue credited to the ASP.  With data billing, the situation is much more complex.  Podcasting involves the transmission of large amounts of data.  Unless Mobile operators are intricately involved in the podcast service, and resolve the billing issue, the service will fail.  Thus, while third parties may host podcast services and create end to end offerings, the mobile operators must commit to these services and create clear and reasonable monthly-fee pricing, otherwise users will not adopt them for fear of the data charges.

Will the operator play along?  As stated above, the operator must launch rich-media services to compete with iPod.  Podcasting is a natural for mobile.  Indeed, operators are launching podcast services hosted by ASPs who offer end to end solutions requiring the operator only to address billing and customer care issues.   The ASP hosts the server, supplies the Web/WAP user interface, and most content issues.

Advertising revenue is a clear upside worth highlighting.  Audio and video advertisements can easily be included at the beginning and during the podcast to create additional revenue sources.  An operator launching a video and/or audio podcast with broad handset support indeed has the leverage to secure Tier 1 advertisers.

To summarize, several key factors must be considered if podcasting to mobile users is to be even marginally successful.  Usability issues are of paramount importance.  Prior experience proves that the early adopters may occasionally pull content, but the mass-market will not.  Rather, it appears that the subscription push model may be most suitable, both in terms of user experience and network utilization.  In addition, a clear charging model is mandatory for user uptake.  Finally, Tier 1 content, easily transcoded for the mobile experience, is important, yet relatively easy to secure.  Now it remains to be seen whether attractive services are deployed and enjoyed.

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Top 10 cheapest countries to buy gadgets in Europe

TechDigest: A new survey has found when it comes to buying gadgets, the UK is the cheapest place in Europe.

The research, undertaken by comparison site Pricerunner, checked the prices of electronic items including a silver Sony CyberShot DSC-T9 camera, Samsung DVD-R100, Acer Aspire 3004WLMi, Microsoft Xbox 360 Core System, Sony Ericsson W810i, Apple 1GB iPod nano and a 40-inch Samsung LE-40M51B.

Prices were checked in 21 European cities. Brits are able to buy all the kit for £2,529.81 (€3,742.13) , compared to £3,464.13 (€5,126.73), which is 28% more for the same items in Norway and 26% more than in Lithuania.

Top ten cheapest countries to buy gadgets

1. England
2. Poland
3. France
4. Germany
5. Ireland
6. Austria
7. Italy
8. Hungary
9. Greece
10. Denmark

Top ten most expensive countries to buy gadgets

1. Norway
2. Lithuania
3. Belgium
4. Spain
5. Czech Republic
6. Malta
7. Sweden
8. Portugal
9. Cyprus
10. The Netherlands

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RIM sues Samsung over Blackjack name

ZDNet: Research In Motion (RIM) is suing Samsung, claiming that the name of the company’s new BlackJack smart phone is too similar to that of RIM’s own BlackBerry devices.

The suit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. RIM is seeking an injunction against the sale of the new BlackJack phones.

In the complaint, RIM said Samsung’s use of the BlackJack name “constitutes false designation of origin, unfair competition and trademark dilution.”

RIM contends that its BlackBerry devices, used by more than 6 million people around the world to send and receive e-mail, have become iconic in both form and function.

The BlackJack, which runs Windows Mobile operating system and has a full QWERTY keyboard, competes directly with many of RIM’s devices, including the BlackBerry Pearl, a phone designed to attract consumers rather than RIM’s typical business customers. The company says it believes the name BlackJack might confuse some customers.

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Korean invents dual LCD mobile phone

AVING: Seok Hong Jeong, a Korean individual inventor, revealed ‘dual LCD mobile phone’ at Seoul International Invention Fair 2006 (…).

He already applied for a patent in overseas market and has been waiting for the result. He said that his goal was to develop a next generation device and commercialize it with cooperation with mobile manufacturing companies and service providers in the future.

dual screen

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1080p charted: viewing distance to screen size

EngadgetHD: 1080p has arguably been the buzzword of the year; at least in the HDTV world that is.

Advertisers makes it seem that everyone simply needs to have a 1080p display but we have finally found a chart to support our stance on the higher resolution.

Some people can take advantage of the extra lines of resolution but sometimes, it’s an unnecessary cost.

Simply locate your viewing distance on the right hand side and screen size on the bottom, connect the two lines and bam, your optimal screen resolution.

Everyone’s HDTV viewing situation is different and while 1080p might be slammed into your face while shopping for a new HDTV, it might not be necessary for you.

Viewing Distance vs Resolution


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Sony’s FED TV to take on plasma, LCD

Smarthouse: Sony is set to start developing a new TV technology called Field Emission Display (FED) that will take on plasma, LCD and the Canon Toshiba owned SED.

Field emission display (FED) technology was invented in the 1970s as a possible alternative to the traditional cathode-ray tube.

Sony said it and Tokyo-based Technology Carve-out Investment Fund (TCI) would invest a total of $21.7 million in the venture, which will start operations this week with about 30 employees.

Sony will take a 36.5 percent stake in the venture with TCI investing the remaining 63.5 percent.


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Consumers still confused about HD

USA Today: American consumers seem to like everything about HDTV; except TV shows in HD.

Only 47% of people buying a high-definition TV set in the past year say they did so looking forward to watching TV shows in HD, according to a study by Frank N. Magid Associates. That’s down from 63% two years ago.

About 15% of all homes in the States now have an HDTV set, Magid reports.

Most cable systems offer only about two dozen HD channels, including local stations. Pricing can be confusing. The technology can be intimidating.

That may not affect holiday sales of HDTV sets. Overall, they should cost about 25% less than they did last year. 

Yet, with so many owners feeling “not tremendously satisfied” with program choices, potential buyers “are not hearing any word of mouth or buzz” about HD programming.

A majority of HD owners in the September survey of nearly 1,200 adults rated satisfaction with programming at seven or less on a scale of one to 10.

About 30% of HDTV owners haven’t even signed up with their cable or satellite companies to get HD channels. Many of them were turned off by an extra fee they’d pay for HD — or thought they’d have to pay.

There’s a lot of confusion, because some operators charge for HDTV. Others throw it in for anyone paying the extra monthly fee for the digital tier. And some don’t charge extra for the channels but charge more per month for an HD-capable cable box.

The study found widespread HD confusion. Many consumers think all digital TV signals give them an HD picture. They don’t.

It also found that many consumers believe that only cable or satellite delivers HD signals. In fact, local stations offer network, and sometimes local, HD shows over the air.

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Speakers that reach for the sky

Crave: Sometimes, it seems that iPod speaker makers are just trying to outdo each other with the tallest models they can get away with. (Not that we have anything against tall models.)The Philips Docking Entertainment System DCM270 appears to be entering the contest, though its dimensions have not yet been revealed. In fact, not much of anything about it has been revealed, other than that it will work with Philips’ GoGear MP3 player as well as the iPod (big surprise). One thing we do know: (…) the Philips system is at least stylishly designed.

The height trend is kind of a throwback to ’70s, when stereo speakers seemed to get paid by the inch, many being ridiculously overpriced. Let’s just hope that’s where the similarities end.

high higher Philips

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Should you buy a Wii or an Xbox 360… or wait for the PS3?

Guardian/Unlimited: Should you buy a Wii or an Xbox 360, or wait for the PS3?

It depends on your self-image, or that of the person you’re buying it for. Nintendo’s Wii goes on sale in Europe tomorrow with its innovative motion-sensing TV remote-like controller. (…) it’s the perfect family-friendly console with family-friendly games.

That’s not to say you can’t make hardcore games for the Wii. The universally appealing epic Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess and the more grown-up Metroid Prime: Corruption prove that you can. But if when you look in the mirror you see a hardcore gamer in need of the highest technology on offer, then you would be better off with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 (…).

If you’ve not got a 360 and can bear the delayed gratification (since you’ve had an entire 12 months to buy one already) you might want to wait until next March, as rumours abound of a possible Xbox 360 price cut – perhaps to coincide with the European release of Sony’s PlayStation 3. Microsoft must be somewhat reluctant to drop the Xbox 360′s price, though, as it has only just started (in the past fortnight) making a profit on each console sold. Merrill Lynch Japan Securities recently estimated that Sony will make a loss of $240 (182 euro) on every PS3 sold.

Nintendo, meanwhile, is crowing – it refuses to play the loss-leader game and boasts of making a profit on every console or handheld it sells. Under the bonnet, the Wii is very low-tech, but the innovative thinking that led to its mould-breaking control system effectively masks its weediness. And perversely, that lack of power means developers can create games for it without needing large (and expensive) teams of programmers, artists and animators.

The PS3, which will arrive in Europe in March, is a fine machine bristling with technology that will, eventually, outgun the Xbox 360. But it only has two compelling launch games – Resistance: Fall of Man and MotorStorm (…).

At the moment, Nintendo and Microsoft look like the big winners in the next-generation console wars. Nintendo is set to make the most money, while Microsoft garners the most credibility among gamers. Sony won’t be joining the party in any significant way until late next year.

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Mobile brand preferences vary by country

Phonemag: The results of IDC’s recent multiclient study and survey of mobile phone and smartphone subscribers across five countries reveals that top global brands are in demand not only in developed countries, such as the U.S., U.K., and Germany, but also in emerging countries such as India and China.The relative influence of brand on product choice (especially in China and India) suggests that many people seek out global brands and the prestige that they carry.

Logic dictates that one would expect to find the proliferation of relatively inexpensive devices and brands in developing countries, but IDC’s survey reveals quite the opposite phenomena. Chinese subscribers look more at the brand and style (top two purchase criteria) rather than being concerned with the underlying technology and product features. In India high-end products like the Nokia Communicator 9500 do well precisely because they show off how wealthy and successful an individual is, and users tend to be loyal to the smartphone brands they carry.


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JVC launches the KV-PX70 for Europe

Navigadget: JVC had already announced the KV-PX9 in the United States at the beginning of year, but nothing for Europe. They fixed this very recently, presenting the KV-PX70 for the European market.It has a good set of features such as the SiRF Star III GPS chipset, a big wide screen, hands free Bluetooth kit and a RDS/TMC receiver. (…)
Here are the features:

  • Integrated SiRF Star III GPSReceiver
  • Samsung Processor at 400 MHz
  • 4.3 TFT touch screen w/ 65.000 colors, 16:9 format and 480 x 272 pixels
  • Integrated Traffic Information receiver
  • Hands free bluetooth kit
  • 5 hour battery life
  • Microsoft Windows 5.0
  • Text-to-speech
  • MP3 player
  • Image viewer
  • 1GB SD memory card with maps of France and Europe without borders

It will be released as early mid-December this year and should cost about 500 euros.


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