|Thursday, 8 January 2004, 2:56 pm
Tags: CES, News, Technology
The news from CES.
But first, happy birthday Elvis. The king would have been 69.
The show floor doesn’t open until 10a, but CES kicked off last night with the traditional Bill Gates keynote address. I arrived too late last night to attend the address, so I missed the witty videos that Bill usually shows, but here’s the hard news culled from people who were there.
- Xbox Live will hit one million subscribers by June. Bill Gates told Reuters in an interview before his keynote last night that Microsoft would be releasing a kit for the gaming console that would turn it into a DVR, giving it much of the functionality of the Windows XP Media Center.
- Jay Leno assisted Gates at his CES Keynote, suggesting the mogul consider Lasik and saying Gates still owed him $20 for lunch from the Windows 95 launch. Leno was there to help Gates launch a new verion of MSN.
The Microsoft CEO also showed the Media Center Extender, a small set-top box which would bring content from the PC to the TV. Gates said some TVs would come with the capability built-in. He also talked about the Portable Media Center (see yesterday’s entry), announcing content deals with EMI Music, Napster, and Cinema Now. And he said the SPOT watch which Microsoft had announced at last year’s CES will finally be available next week. A transcript of Gates speech is online at the Microsoft web site.
- Quotations from Chairman Bill:
“A particular challenge here is making sure that we strike the right balance in managing digital rights and yet having the simplicity that you can move the content that you paid for around and have it available in the richest possible way — a very tough problem”
He said that Microsoft was spending record amounts on R&D to support “seamless computing:”
So the theme of seamless computing, bringing the smart devices together with very rich interfaces, that’s what we’re dedicated to and that’s why we’re investing so much in the software and the partnerships that will pull this together.
He struck a blow for upgrades:
Many of the types of software products I’ll talk about tonight are not software products that you just buy one time and that’s it… the relationship between us and that software user is very different in terms of learning what we can improve and delivering those improvements on a constant basis.
On the new SPOT watch:
That technology is pretty amazing because it’s got not only a wireless network receiver that uses a form of FM to connect up here but it’s also got a very powerful computer… All I have to do is go onto the Web, use an account and type in the watch registration number, which I’ve already done that so I’m on here.
Great. A wristwatch that requires a computer to program. Microsoft software will also continue to appear in cell phones:
Here you can see all the different phones and there’s quite a variety of form factors from the very small ones that you think of as more phone like to the larger ones that are more PDA-like. And the variety here will just increase over time as people want to add in GPS devices, as we go to different aspect ratios, different keyboard capabilities. You can see one already there with the keyboard, but you’ll see more of those. That is a trend that is important.
Uh huh. And automotive?
In the car it’s a particular challenge that you don’t want to distract the driver, so here’s where we know that as you go to your car, the idea of having directions that you’ve looked up on a PC or on a phone, having those available to you through a map or an audio readout, that makes sense. Having any new tunes that you got at home brought down to the device in the car or videos for the passengers, particularly the kids, that should be very automatic. And after all, your car is now generally within range of your Wi-Fi network, not always but in many households that’s true and so just by having a receiver you can make that so you don’t have to do manual synchronization. Even if you’re listening to, say, a radio show, an NPR show, right, wherever you are, you ought to be able to have the rest of that streamed down to the car and then listen to it on demand through the rich device there in the car.
Cool. Where do I get one of them rich devices? Set top boxes have always been a challenging arena for Microsoft. The very limited hardware makes it tough for software.
We have software that runs even on the current set-top boxes, so our strategy is not based on just relying on a new generation, we went back and wrote software for even the very resource limited boxes that are out there. That’s called our Foundation product. Today we’re announcing the version 1.5, which is where you get the high definition and digital video recording support. More and more through add-ons, the set-top boxes are including those capabilities.
His vision for the future of TV?
A big project for us in this TV space we call IPTV, and this is assuming that in the future programs won’t just be sent in a broadcast mode, but they’ll be sent over the IP data network and so the ability to have high-definition, arbitrary number of channels, user in control, targeted advertising, rich interaction, those things become possible when you think of the platform as an IP-type platform. And helping make that transition very economical and simple for the cable operators is something that we believe that software can make that very possible.
Gates also showed the Portable Media Center and Media Center Extender, both ways to move content from your PC to your TV and beyond.
There’s been a missing standard in the media area where every device that wanted to go up to the PC and find out what sort of audio or video things were there insisted that people had to install software on the PC, and as such on all your different PCs you get different versions of that software. Really, we decided that shouldn’t be necessary. You should be able to go out and buy a portable media device, or a device that lets you go in and see the audio or picture files on the PC with no software installation required at all.
As long as you’re using Windows, that is. He concluded…
And that is the magic of software. It’s the very rapid hardware advance, the idea of software platforms, great software development tools, and software richness that makes me very optimistic that even though people have many, many devices, lots of music, lots of videos, lots of memory, even though they won’t have time to want to manage these systems, and move data around we will be able to create the ideal for them, whether it’s communicating, creating, or just consuming the best content that’s out there.
- One surprise was the lack of comment on tablet PCs. In an interview with c|net Gates admitted that he might have been a little premature in his support for the form factor:
Many of my assumptions–I’d say a high percentage–are overly ambitious. I have to wait longer to have them come true. I was working doing the Tablet PC for a decade before it came out. Now, it’s gaining traction, but we have lots work to do. I believe that it will be mainstream on every portable PC, but we’re a long way from that.
- In other news, Slashdot is reporting that the new version of Photoshop won’t let you open images of money. Paintshop Pro seems to have the same restriction.
|Wednesday, 7 January 2004, 4:57 pm
CES starts tomorrow, but we’ve got the news today.
It’s Christmas in Ethiopia.
The first commercial transatlantic telephone service started on this day in 1927. The Air Force began production of the first US jet fighter, the Bell P-59, in 1944. The Newlywed Game premiered in 1967. AT&T released a $1500 video telephone in 1992.
- Homeless hacker Adrian Lamo says he’ll accept a plea bargain that will give him six months house detention. He’ll appear in court Thursday. FreeLamo.com will be renamed to LetLamoGoToTheMall.com.
- The Sprit has landed and is sending back spectacular pictures, but the Beagle II still fails to report. Rats.
[BTW, will someone tell Nasa to put a Skip Intro link on their interminable front page Flash animation?]
- Intel has announced it will put up $200 million in venture capital to spur development of digital home tech. In his Thursday keynote at CES, CEO Paul Otellini is expected to announce new Intel TV chips.
- Microsoft says it’s continuing work on the Mac version of Virtual PC. Version 7 will support the G5 (the current version does not). Look for V7 in the “first half of this year.” Mac Office will be updated around then, too.
- 2004 will bring a whole new shape to the PC world. According to the Inquirer, this year Intel’s socket 478 will be replaced by socket 775 (AMD is updating its socket design, too), DDR RAM will give way to DDR-II and a new DIMM form factor. That means new motherboards in the BTX flavor, requiring a new case and power supply designs. And to top it all off, the PCI and AGP busses will be replaced by PCI-Express. Finally a reason to upgrade that lame old 2.4 GHz proc.
- Microsoft is still fighting the Blaster worm. The company released a removal tool Monday for the worm that first appeared in August, 2003. Apparently there are still many infected machines out there.
- I like this. A new external hard drive from Western Digital has a built-in eight-way media reader, front panel USB 2 hub, and push button backup. 250 GB for $399.
- Another CES announcement, Apex Digital plans a game console that plays PC games. The ApeXtreme will include a DVD player but a punchless Via 1.4 GHz processor for $400.
- The US has started fingerprinting and photographing some International visitors for instant background checks as they go through customs. 27 mostly European nations are exempt. Brazil responds by fingerprinting US citizens entering that country.
- HiDef radio is coming to a station near you. iBiquity Digital will show the new FM technology at CES.
|Wednesday, 7 January 2004, 5:01 am
I’m please to note that the Almanac just won Web Host Magazine’s 2004 Editor’s Choice Award.
|Tuesday, 6 January 2004, 3:50 pm
Step away from the stuffed animal machine. It’s news time.
Steve Jobs’ Macworld Expo keynote kicks off this morning. People have been lining up since 4am. We’ll have the details on Call for Help as soon as Steve stops talking.
Happy birthday, Mr. Bean. Rowan Atkinson is 49. Pan Am’s Pacific Clipper completed the first around the world flight on this day in 1942. Gibson patented the flying V guitar in 1958. Schoolhouse Rock debuted in 1973 with “Multiplication Rock.” (hum along now)
- The FCC has teeth. The agency fined Fax.com $5.4 million yesterday for sending unsolicited fax spam.
- Courts have filed a preliminary injunction against WhenU — a company that pops up ads for competitors when you surf to an e-commerce site. Don’t get too excited. WhenU has beat similar challenges in the past.
- Picketers are expected outside Macworld Expo today protesting flaws in Apple’s iBook laptops. Several hundred petitioners are complaining about unpublicized flaws in the iBook logic board that’s causing machines to drop like flies. Others are proposing a class action lawsuit. We’ve had all three of our iBooks die due to faulty logic boards so maybe there’s something to this.
- Bloomberg says the Google IPO is on track for April. This is the one everyone’s waiting for – the 21st century equivalent of 1995′s Netscape offering. The company is expected to be valued at somewhere between $4 and 10 billion.
- Meanwhile Yahoo is dumping Google and is about to launch a search engine war. CEO Terry Semel says, “we woke up in time.” Maybe but Mountain View is no Helm’s Deep.
- Microsoft afraid of Linux? You bet. With another couple of years yet before the next version of Windows the company seems a little worried about inroads Linux might make into its desktop market. Perhaps that explains the new “fact based” ad campaign that says Windows costs less to run than Linux.
- Online shoppers spent a record $18.5 billion during the holiday season, a 35% increase over 2002.
- If you weren’t one of them, here’s your reward. Dell has announced 0% financing on its consumer electronics for 12 months on purchases over $500.
- One thing you won’t see at CES this year: the Microsoft Smart Display. Launched at last year’s show inside a house custom built in the parking lot at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Wi-Fi enabled tablet never took off and according to c|net, Microsoft is dumping the product.
- Microsoft is expected to launch an iPod killer, the Portable Media Center, at CES. I’ll take a look this weekend on the radio show. Will Steve launch a preemptive attack today at Macworld?
- Intel’s new Celeron M will offer Pentium M power savings to low cost laptops.
- SCO sent out 6,000 letters last week asking companies that use Linux to “prove” that there’s no infringing UNIX code in there. Novell is fighting back by filing for copyright on much of SCO’s code saying SCO has failed to meet conditions required by the transfer of rights back in 1996. SCO says Novell’s filings are fraudulent. Ooo. Penguin fight!
- Tivo says the DISH DVR infringes its patents. The company is suing EchoStar.
- America Online is adding a spyware killer to upcoming versions of AOL 9.0.
- DVD Jon has followed his death defying act in the Norwegian courts with a new hack that allows anyone to play protected iTunes Music Store songs using VideoLAN. “We’re about to find out what Apple really thinks about Fair Use,” says the plucky Scandinavian hacker.
|Monday, 5 January 2004, 2:32 pm
It’s a brand new year and brand new news.
Macworld Expo takes off this week in San Francisco. CES is on tap in Las Vegas.
On this day in 1920, the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. They haven’t won a World Series since. Work began on the Golden Gate Bridge in 1933. First FM radio transmission in 1940. Bozo premieres in 1959. The Fellowship of the Rings enters the Mines of Moria.
Happy birthday King Camp Gillette (1855) inventor of the safety razor.
- Two new viruses to kick off the new year. A new virus is spreading rapidly via MSN Messenger. Jitux is non-destructive. Another virus, PE_QUIS.A worm, is destructive. It spreads via an email purporting to be a Christmas screen saver. Among other things it replaces all the ringtone files on your PC with Jingle Bells.
- It’s legal to backup your DVDs in Norway. The Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (Okokrim) has decided not to appeal its case against Jon Johansen, the developer of DeCSS.
- Meanwhile a Belgian group is suing record companies for copy protecting audio CDs.
- Spirit has landed successfully and is sending back images of the Red Planet.
- According to Neilsen//NetRatings, more than three-quarters of Americans access the net using non-browser applications. Top five net apps: Windows Media Player, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger and Real Player.
- The number of people using peer-to-peer file sharing to download music continues to drop dramatically. In a recent survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project the percentage of Americans who get their music from the P2P sharing applications dropped to 14% in the four weeks ending December 14. That’s down from 29% in March.
- Anti-Haitian comments in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City have prompted a lawsuit by Haitian-Americans demanding the game be banned in the US. RockStar had promised to remove the offensive scenes and made a public apology.
- Radio stations are turning on RDS, a little used feature that can broadcast text along with the music. Many cars have RDS capable receivers, but until recently few stations used the technology. Now stations are turning on RDS to broadcast commercials and that’s got some consumers up in arms.
|Monday, 5 January 2004, 3:39 am
Thanks to Paul Gans for this wonderful image…
The bus has arrived. We’re back with all live shows Monday!
|Friday, 2 January 2004, 5:40 am
Enough time off. It’s back to work news hounds!
Hope you had a good holiday even if you didn’t get that aircraft carrier you wanted.
Begin the year with tech predictions. Forbes’s editors, Jon Fortt in the San Jose Mercury-News and Charles Arthur from the UK’s Independent all make interesting reading. I’ll make mine on the radio where no one will remember twelve months hence.
Samuel Pepys invented the blog on this day in 1660. Watson was introduced to Holmes in 1881. Röntgen announces his discovery of x-rays in 1896. Nathan Stubblefield makes the first public demonstration of radio in 1902. The ball dropped for the first time in Times Square in 1908. The UNIX epoch begins at midnight in 1970. It will end in 2038. Cigarette ads were banned in 1971. AT&T is split into eight regional Bells in 1984. The last new Far Side comic appeared in 1995.
Happy birthday Father Guido Sarducci, he’s 61. Bill and Melinda Gates celebrate their 10th anniversary today.
- We didn’t need the usual leap second last night. Seems the Earth’s rotation is no longer slowing, so there’s no need to adjust the length of the year. As usual, scientists are baffled.
- That’s Sir Tim Berners-Lee to you. The creator of the World Wide Web was on the Queen’s New Year’s Honors List and is now a knight or something.
- Sun has dumped the Cobalt line, just three years after paying $2 billion for the little blue server company. Kind of a shame, they were great boxes, but apparently most people just built their own. Sun will continue to support current owners for three more years.
- Jon Johansen, creator of DeCSS, the DVD decryption program, is off the hook. Last week a Norwegian appeals court cleared Johansen of all charges.
- AOL has released a list of the Top 10 Spam Subject Lines. And the winner is… “Viagra online.” Other winners include “Get out of debt,” “Get bigger,” and the ever popular “As seen on oprah.”
- As long as we’re talking lists, Yahoo! has released its top 10 searches of 2003. “Kazaa” is #1, “Harry Potter” #2. Google annual year-end Zeitgeist says “Britney Spears” was #1. The #1 brand search was Ferarri.