Thursday, January 28, 2010

Robotics, augmented reality, an iPhone and a Parrot

Sunday, January 24, 2010

FTTH Council North America opposes fiber unbundling

The FTTH Council North America and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) of the US filed comments to the FCC, asking it not to follow up on a petition from Cbeyond, aimed at unbundling FTTH/FTTC.

This is appalling on different levels:
  • The Council should be very careful taking sides in a regulation debate. Obviously, it is controlled by the large US telcos, which explains a lot. The question now is: what will the other FTTH Councils say? I cannot imagine the FTTH Council Europe agreeing on this issue. And more importantly: what will the FCC do?
  • Open access is not just good for the broadband market, it is good for operators as well. Fortunately, the number of telco's understanding that in an IP world telecoms is a volume-business, not a price-business, is on the rise. Switzerland has been taken down, and recently Australia. Belgium wil be next. Obviously, it is good for vendors as well because open access means a larger addressable market.
  • Verizon is the only major ILEC doing FTTH. There are several dozen local telcos and municipalities, but at the current rate, the US will not reach 100% FTTH before the 22nd century.
  • The Berkman study from Harvard is dismissed, which makes one frown, to say the least. The study concluded, from international research, that open access leads to higher penetration, lower prices, more capacity and higher speeds.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Intel throwing its weight behind Connected TV

Check out the cool widgets.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

EIB publishes Reggefiber's application for funding

KPN nor Reggefiber are publishing the news, but the EIB decided to put Reggefiber's application for a EUR 130m loan on its website. Not an excessive sum, but enough to keep Reggefiber rolling and satisfy KPN's October 27 'ultimatum'.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Content is King

FTTH is coming to Leeuwarden

Reggefiber will start digging for a citywide FTTH network in the town of Leeuwarden any day (depending on the weather). Over 700 km and 38,500 locations (the town's site says 49k) to be hooked up in 2 years time. Not sure if it's the city (93.3k pops) or the entire municipality (94.2k pops). There's more on the Glashart (= commercial name of Reggefiber) site. Service providers haven't been announced yet. The local cableco is UPC.

Check out an introduction (in Dutch):

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Google adds the third screen: Android in STB

It didn't take long for Google to somehow add the third screen after this post: MIPS Technologies plans digital home devices based on Google's Android. It will also integrate Yahoo!'s Widget Engine.

This is Google's first step into the TV market, although it already has Google TV Ads (auctioning off airtime) in place. Why not buy the Yahoo! TV-unit to get its hands on the TV widgets market .... ?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Adoption curves of innovations

How long does it take for dinosaurs to die? Some will never do, because evolutions are not always meant to replace older incarnations. Adoption curves (diffusion of innovations) for new technologies are equally interesting. Any suggestions welcome.
  • Copper/HFC > fiber
  • Narrowband > broadband > ultrabroadband
  • 1G > 2G > 3G > 4G
  • Handset > smartphone > smartbook
  • Analogue TV > digital TV
  • Broadcast > non-linear TV
  • SD > HD > 3DHD
  • Newspaper/book > e-reader
  • LP/VHS > DAT > CDi > CD/DVD > digital locker
Commonalities: digital, IP, fiber-optics, cloud

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Connected TV: widgets versus the remote control

To follow up on the previous post, Skype has already added the third screen: after the computer and mobile devices, it's now the TV. But what is at least as striking in both the LG and the Panasonic release, connected to Skype's launch of a HDTV client, is the implied reference to widgets.

LG offers the NetCast Entertainment Access technology (launched a year ago), basically an on-screen menu (controled via remote control). Panasonic has Viera Cast technology (launched two years ago), offering the same functionality. Viera Cast appears to be a widget channel of sorts, already providing access to Amazon VOD, YouTube, Picasa and Bloomberg News.

The big question now is: who will be a winner in this arms race to get the TV connected? Here are the categories competing:
  • Independent box manufacturers (Boxee, Roku, Sezmi, Syabas, etc.)
  • Established STB makers (Humax, )
  • TV manufacturers (LG, Panasonic, Samsung)
  • Software makers (ANT, ActiveVideo, Oregan Networks, Metrological Media Innovations)
  • Content aggregators (ZapMyTV)
On the side, to include a few other initiatives, there are similar movements going on at the same time:
  • Connected TV, or HbbTV (hybrid broadband broadcast TV): bring web-based content (including catch-up TV and VOD) to the TV through a broadband connection.
  • Catch-up TV: bring TV-based content to the web (and back to the TV again through a Connected TV platform).
  • TV Everywhere, DECE, KeyChest: put video/TV-based content in the cloud for consumption on any device via a broadband connection.
  • Place-shifting: distribute home content (including live TV) over any broadband connection (Sling).
And which could be the ingredients to success?
  • Good functionality: this requires a solid processor.
  • Ease of use: the answer to this is simple: widgets (or whatever people call them, e.g. Popapps) and/or the remote control (which could morph into a keyboard of sorts, such as the new Boxee/D-Link product).
  • True HbbTV, i.e. true integration of broadband and broadcast content. Here lies the key: this is what Connected TV sets apart form media players, i.e. better services and an opportunity for the entire value chain (including broadcasters, hardware/software makers, advertisers, content producers).
  • Relationships with established players in the TV ecosystem: partnering with cable companies, STB and TV manufacturers will give distribution a boost.
  • Content: a full widget gallery.
  • Low pricing: this speaks against boxes, because the silicon may as well be built into TV sets directly.
All the softwaremakers mentioned above appear to be betting on a multi-distribution strategy. Take Metrological: it has its first box made, but it is ready to move into the TV. Oregan was involved in last month's Marks & Spencer TV. Etc.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Google's 3-screen strategy: two down, one to go

Google's Nexus One launch could mark the end of Phase 2 of its 3-screen strategy. Next stop: the TV screen. Widgets will make the difference, as they did in the smartphone market.

Screen #1: the desktop or laptop computer
Google dominates (search, ads, apps) and attacks the incumbent (Microsoft) with its Chrome OS and browser. Not likely to move into hardware.
Usage has dramatically improved over the past 10 years. The computer remains the best suited tool to extract value from the Internet, with its elaborate OS and array of user interfaces: keyboard, mouse - not much use for widgets (apart from desktop icons/shortcuts) or touch screens (apart from Microsoft's tabletop computer).
Operators are basically dumb pipes, hardwrae is completely interoperable.

Screen #2: mobile/handheld/nomadic devices
Totally different dynamics, with an iron grip from the operators. Both hardware and software providers try to enter. Google has focused its attention here, over the past few years. The smartphone is opening up the mobile broadband market, despite limited OS and user interfaces, but thanks to widgets (for access to apps) and touch screens.
The Nexus One (as well as a Chrome-based smartbook) is probably as far as Google is willing to go, together with all its other mobile efforts (Google Voice, AdMob, Android, Chrome, apps like Navigation and Maps),

Screen #3: television, home cinema
Connected TV (or HbbTV: hybrid broadband broadcast TV) is all the rage at CES 2010 now. Numerous boxes are launched (Boxee, Roku, PopBox, Yuixx, IP Vision), as well as Net TVs (Netflix + LG), set-top-boxes (Humax) and OTT software platforms (ZapMyTV).
Success will likely have one basic ingredient: ease of use. User interfaces come in just one form: the remote control (no keyboards or touch screens).
Google is still on the sidelines in TV land (apart from a TV ads auction system), but that will change once they realise that they can become dominant in this market as well; all they have to do is embrace the widget. Widgets are the ideal user interface to content and applications.
And they can wrestle control from Yahoo! once more (as they did before in the search market and the search ad market): Yahoo! and Intel first developed a Widget Channel (a year ago), but Yahoo! hasn't done much in this space recently.