ABC Content Now on Hulu

If I was the Count from Sesame Street I would say something like, “Three! Three of the four major broadcast networks now have their content on Hulu!” (with accent, of course). ABC, which had long been a Hulu holdout, refusing to run its full-length content anywhere but on its own web site, kicked off its Hulu presence today with episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.

Grey’s is the only ABC (s DIS) content currently up on Hulu, and there isn’t even a whole lot of it up right now. There are just five episodes from the last season, and no clips (the show doesn’t even have clips up at YouTube, where ABC/Disney has a short-form content deal). According to a Hulu press release, over the next two weeks, more ABC shows will appear on the site including: I Survived a Japanese Game Show, The Superstars, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty and Scrubs.

In April, Disney became an equal partner in Hulu, joining fellow broadcasters FOX (s NWSA) and NBC (s GE) in the endeavor. As part of that deal, Hulu will get exclusive access to full-length programming from ABC, ABC Family and the Disney Channel, as well as popular library TV shows and films.

With ABC now up and running on Hulu, only CBS (s CBS) remains as the lone broadcaster not playing along. That’s one! One major broadcaster left!

Ultra-wideband Players Get $20M to Merge

Today, Ultra-wideband chip makers Artimi and Staccato Communications announced $20 million in funding and a merger agreement, which seems like tying two leaky boats together, giving them some more gas and hoping they make it to shore.

Ultra-wideband Decline Proves Perils of Chip Investment

istock_000006321317xsmallFive years ago, the promise of a new networking technology known as Ultra-wideband was a living room without wires, where DVD players, set-top boxes and video accessories could connect with TVs over the air. Ultra-wideband (UWB) is a wireless personal area networking technology that can transmit large amounts of data for short distances using very little power. Over time, its promise expanded from the living room to the home office, as backers used Ultra-wideband as the basis for Wireless USB and the WiMedia standard.
So far, this dream hasn’t materialized, and the technology has failed to find a mass market. Today, we still have wires in both the office and living room, and a host of competing standards have whittled away UWB’s opportunity. In the last week, we’ve seen players exit the UWB business, and Intel announced that it has halted research on the technology. For venture firms who have invested nearly $400 million in the space, the fate of Ultra-wideband offers a cautionary tale about the perils of betting on semiconductor standards.
On Oct. 31, five-year-old UWB chipmaker WiQuest shut its doors when it was unable to raise more money or find a buyer for its technology. That led to heralds of doom for Ultra-wideband, with analysts and media blaming long-delayed product launches, expensive chips and a hostile regulatory environment. This week, Intel said it had discontinued its UWB efforts, saying the market wasn’t worth its R&D efforts. If the technology somehow manages to revive, Intel says it could buy up one of the six remaining startups in the space.
The plan makes sense for Intel because UWB, like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and WiMAX, is a standardized technology. That means any UWB chipmaker will have the basic set of characteristics Intel needs to play in the market. Standards are a double-edged sword for venture investors. On one hand they are good for consumers and electronics makers because they enable multiple devices from different vendors to work together. Any Wi-Fi router should talk to any Wi-Fi chip in a computer, phone or camera. This helps drive consumer adoption and can lead to the creation of a huge market. Venture capital firms love this, because if a standard takes off it can build a company like Broadcom or Atheros that can generate rapid returns in a relatively short amount of time.
The other edge of that sword is that chipmakers who adhere to the standard can do little to differentiate their chips, which makes it easy to switch vendors and effectively commoditizes the product. This happened for the Wi-Fi standard back in 2000-2002, when venture firms put more than $2 billion into more than 40 Wi-Fi companies, only to see a few rise to the top. There is also the risk, inherent in all technologies, that the market won’t adopt it. This seems to be what’s happening for UWB.
Instead of seeing the technology completely die out, Eric Broockman, CEO of UWB chipmaker Alereon, argues that Intel’s retreat from the technology and WiQuest’s failure mean a shakeup similar to that experienced by the Wi-Fi market is happening with UWB. “Typically in this type of semiconductor investing there is a win-place-show mentality,” Broockman says. “One wins big, one gets acquired for a good price, one gets acquired for a not-so-good price, and everyone else goes away. That process in UWB is being accelerated by the current economic downturn.”
There were at least seven UWB chipset companies formed in the 2003 time frame. Now, many appear close to failure. WiQuest, which raised about $54 million, was one. Two others, Artimi and Staccato Communications, are both rumored to be running out of cash. Artimi has raised $31.5 million and couldn’t be reached for comment for this story. Intel Capital invested in Staccato when it was pushing UWB. That could position Staccato to end up being the company in the show category, because Intel might buy it for its intellectual property at a cheap price down the road. 

Fighting for the win and place spots are Alereon, which has raised more than $70 million with a small amount coming earlier this year from SKTelecom; TZero, which raised $18 million in March led by CID Group; and Wisair, which raised $24 million in February led by Susquehanna Growth Equity. Radiospire is another player in the UWB market, but it appears to be shifting gears — or at least hedging its bets — by also making chips for transferring wireless HD video using a different standard.
Competeing standards are one of the reasons UWB is having such a hard time finding a toehold. For desktop personal area networking, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are becoming more prominent — and have the benefit of cheaper chips. In video, UWB has conceded to Wi-Fi and specialized standards such as Wireless HD and WHDI. Those left on the playing field are quick to point out that UWB still has legs — and it might, if it finds the type of killer application that can drive adoption rates and increase chip sales to the point where they cost less to embed. But the shakeup happening here proves that chip investment isn’t for the faint of heart.
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Ultra-wideband Near Death as WiQuest Shuts Down

EETimes reported that Ultra-wideband startup WiQuest has shut its doors. This is a sad day for the more than 120 employees of the Allen, Texas chipmaker and unfortunate for the venture backers who put at least $54 million in the wireless networking company, but it’s something we should prepare to see more of as the wave of startups backing that standard finally run out of money and compelling arguments for the technology

Does UWB Deserve a Second Chance?

Mistake were made when hyping Ultra-wideband over the past few years. However, UWB may get a second chance as streaming media becomes more important and computers become more portable. I spent yesterday at the Portable Computer and Communications Association meeting in Austin learning about UWB as a wireless personal area network. I’m not a big believer in the technology so far, but was heartened by the admission of speakers who pointed out that the first implementations of the technology sucked.

UWB has its benefits. It’s low power and high bandwidth with theoretical limits of 480 Mbps over a really short distance. How short? With an external whip antenna you have to stand about a yard away to get the highest connection rates. With an embedded antenna, data rates are more than halved at around 150 Mbps, according to a presentation today from Dell. But at short range it’s a high enough speed to deliver decent video. Read More about Does UWB Deserve a Second Chance?

Too Many Signals: Delivering Wireless HD Video

Like Everest, the goal of wirelessly delivering high-definition video without compression may not be necessary, but it’s there, so technologists have to attempt it. Here are the three biggest wireless technologies aiming to deliver high-def video to your TV.