Is MLB striking out on placeshifting content?

Slingbox_1Major League Baseball is trying bat Sling Media around according to CNET. The claim is that viewing content on multiple devices should require paying for that content multiple times. Sling Media’s Slingbox allows you place-shift television content from your TV to any single computing device, which gives consumers the ability to watch their content from wherever they are; i.e. on whatever device they’re at.

Art Brodsky from an Internet-watchdog group asks, "What difference does it make to MLB whether I’m watching the game at home or someplace else?" he asked. "We’re talking about content that’s been paid for. Nobody has stolen anything."

Here’s my analogy question since the MLB feels that I should pay again if I watch their content from a different location: if I pay $50 for seat 3 in aisle GG at a stadium but then move over to empty seat 2 for a better view of the game, should I pay another $50? Maybe not the best analogy, but….

Place-shifting is concept that will only gain momentum over time; it would be wise for content providers to find ways to embrace it, not condemn it. I’m sure we’ve got some of you "place-shifters" out there, so care to share a thought? If you have two thoughts, we won’t charge you twice. 😉

-kct

Photo Matt Shares His Wisdom

Niall and I met with Matt Mullenweg, lead developer of open source project, WordPress, and founder of Automattic, this week and asked him about his experiences with starting, building and scaling WordPress.com and Akismet, the spam plug-in which is often coming to the rescue to most bloggers. Matt, outlined his way of doing things, and pointed out that WordPress.com now has 200,000 users.

You can hear it all here. Having a guest on our podsession is something we will do sporadically. Niall has his take here. Also, I forgot to blog about last week’s podsession, the International Next Net. Here is the link for the podsession.

LS800 in the wild photos

It seems the Tablet PC is growing in popularity with Mac users, no doubt since Apple just won’t listen to the masses who keep asking for a Mac Tablet.  Some brave Mac owners are doing what they have to do and picking up Tablet PCs to provide the tool they need to work with ink.  Blogger and podcaster Eric Rice has recently picked up a Toshiba Tablet PC and couldn’t be happier.  He is beginning to post about his “ink enlightenment” on his blog Eric Rice (catchy name).  Another user known as TabletSwitcher has just received the new Motion LS800 and he/she has posted photos of the unveiling on his blog.  There are some nice comparison photos with other items so you get a real feel for just how small the LS800 really is.  Any other Mac users making the switch to a Tablet PC?  I’d love to hear from you.  You know, any device that can cause a long-time Mac user to pick one up and use it means there must be something to those Tablet PC things.

Greed, Lies, and Broadband

Karl Bode: If you thought dirty tricks were reserved for presidential politics, you should try wiring your town with fiber optic cable. As several communities prepare to vote on such home-grown broadband networks today, they face disinformation campaigns, bogus think tank studies, and an uphill battle against deep pocketed corporate adversaries who’ll go to any lengths to avoid competition.

BPL bubble in the making

I have read more broadband-over-powerline stories this weekend than ever before. Barrons, Telephony, and every single magazine/newspaper is buzzing about BPL, despite the fact that most of the trials of this technology have not worked out. FCC obviously has done a great job to refocus the media from its FTT-X disaster to BPL. Funny thing is the guys who are supposed to be all excited about BPL are well not excited. Here is a little something from Pittsburgh Gazette.

Western Pennsylvania’s two largest electric utilities, Allegheny Power and Duquesne Light Co., both said that broadband over power lines is something they have examined, but neither is rushing to promote the technology. Matthew Davis, an analyst with the Yankee Group, said attracting sufficient numbers of customers will be a tough sell for utility companies. “There almost is a disincentive for utilities to get involved in broadband. The investment community is scrutinizing closely anything the utility industry is doing, and any large telecom project would be frowned upon. Plus, from a pure market entry perspective, you have very strong incumbent broadband providers in place that also offer bundled services.”

This morning’s Boston Globe has this to say:

But the utility companies that would actually deploy the services remain overwhelmingly skeptical. Of the nearly 160 investor-owned utilities in the United States, dozens have tried out ”broadband over power line” systems. Only one — Cinergy Corp. in Cincinnati — has moved ahead with a significant commercial rollout, so far attracting barely 1,500 subscribers. Dozens of utilities that ran trials of the service in the last three years took a pass on making a business venture of it.

Shrinking consumer broadband choices?

FCC’s decision to extend monopolistic control over the last mile has The Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union all riled up. They are worried that lack of competition will only increase prices, limit choices, and result in slower innovation. “The FCC today took our country one giant step closer toward solidifying a two-company domination – the local cable and telephone providers — over the consumer Internet market,” said Gene Kimmelman, Senior Policy Director for Consumers Union. “As both industries tighten their hold on high-speed Internet (broadband) access, consumers will see their choices diminish and their bills skyrocket.” “This stranglehold will stifle innovation as these duopolies discriminate against unaffiliated applications and services that in the past have driven the growth of the Internet and the boom in information technology,” Mark Cooper, Director of Research at the Consumer Federation of America, said. “As a result, our country will fall even farther behind Asia and Europe in broadband penetration.”

I agree. FCC is beholden to special interest groups, and has lost all veneer of fairness. Michael Powell thinks that also-ran technologies like WiMAX and Broadband over Powerlines will result in competition, and once again shows that despite his self professed love for gizmos, he really doesn’t have a grasp on technological realities. I think it is time that consumers get to elect FCC commissioners, via the local ballet. No political appointments for this most important body, which is chartered with coming up with unbiased, fair and realistic regulations that affect consumer lives in the future. I think broadband and wireless networks are going to be a key to our future and global competitiveness, and FCC is selling it down the pike. Here is a recent FCC reality check:

  • In the three and a half years that Michael Powell has been Chairman of the Commission, the U.S. had fallen from third to eleventh in broadband adoption.
  • As a result, the digital migration that Chairman Powell has touted has become a migration to a massive digital divide. One out of every two American households with incomes above $75,000 have high-speed Internet connections at home. One-out of every two American households with incomes below $30,000 does not have any Internet connection at home at all.
  • The cause of the failure of high speed adoption is clear, Americans are being overcharged by the cozy duopoly of cable and telephone companies. Cross national comparisons of price show that Americans pay fifteen to ten times as much, on a megabit basis, as consumers in Japan pay. Three years ago the price in America was three or four times as high.

Network, Blackberry 7100’s biggest drawback

leftgraphic-3.jpgOkay, so I’ve spent some time messin’ with the new Blackberry 7100t, and while it has some well-implemented features, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll never own one. My biggest complaint? Why in hell would the benevolent folks from the north (read RIM) decide to offer a device whose main selling points—i.e., email and messaging connectivity—are completely hamstrung by T-Mobile’s sub-optimal GPRS network.

To be clear: The Blackberry’s keyboard–as is by now well known—kicks mas ass. It took me all of 5 minutes to familiarize myself with its (at first) mystifying keyboard before I was bangin’ out IM’s and emails like the over-caffeinated desk jockey that I am. The real beauty is the SureType software, which thanks to a 35,000 word library, actually makes it easier to type longer words, because by the time you are finished, it’s predicted what it thinks you’ve wanted and given you a set of options to chose from. It does this very well. Trust me, it’s nice to not have to abbreviate each word down to the absolute bare minimum number of consonants. The software can also “learn” frequently used words and phrases. I immediately taught my 7100 such staples as “wanker” and “jenky”. The joy.

What’s less than good—alright, it sucks– is sending and retrieving messages, or loading web pages, on the brutally slow T-Mobile GPRS network. While setting up your Blackberry to sync with an email account is easy, and can be done either via a web interface or over the 7100 itself (I recommend the web option, the URL you need to reach is like 75 digits long), it takes forever because the network is so freakin’ slow. Reaching the Google homepage took about 30 seconds, and that’s about as light a page as you’re gonna find. Meanwhile, reaching ESPN’s header was an adventure: It took me nearly five minutes just to open a front-page story about the Dodger’s rapidly disintegrating playoff hopes. At that speed, it pretty much kills the desire to explore the world wide interweb,. When I was sending IM’s, the network had the nasty habit of taking nearly two minutes to deliver or retrieve them, and some were lost altogether. (I had my IM account set up so that I received messages on my 7100 and at my computer, so I could compare info.)

As a phone, the 7100 is unremarkable, but not bad. It’s lightweight, and cuts a slicker profile than the Treo, without sacrificing too much in screen. It also gets points for offering Bluetooth, which was easy to sync up with a wireless headset. As for the interface, well that was a little odd. The 7100t seems to have been going for some weird retro UI that ends up kinda goofy looking, what with all the icons of saxophones (for downloads, of course) and  gramaphones (to set profiles, go figure). From what I’ve heard, the folks in Waterloo are a little quirky, and that certainly came through in the UI. Hopefully they’ll sort that out, but I’m not gonna hold my breath.

In the end, what killed this for me was the T-Mobile network. If RIM is serious about selling this to bidness folks, I hope they branch out and hook up with Verizon or, even better, AT&T/Cingular. At EDGE speeds, this little device would be a lot more interesting. Until then, I can’t recommend it.

Guest review by Matt Maier, Business 2.0’s fearless gizmo correspondent and my fellow traveler into the wireless wonderland. Matt uses six phones at a time, talks on none, takes video clips on two and when he is slowing down he double fists fizzy and fancy caffeine drinks.