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Tech Giants Double Down in Vegas

Washington Post reporter Yuki Noguchi wrote more about the gaffes in her "Gadget Gab" reports filed from the CES floor.

The Buddy System

Among Microsoft's other new friends besides TiVo and MTV are SBC, BellSouth and Fuji Photo Film, Reuters reported. SBC and Microsoft are partnering for the Baby Bell's planned high-definition TV service. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, meanwhile, reported that the TiVo deal "plays into Microsoft's natural interests by using the personal computer as a hub for routing recorded video to Windows-based mobile phones, Pocket PCs and new hand-held multimedia machines for which the Redmond company makes software."

_____About Filter_____
Filter looks at the day's top technology news through snapshots and analysis of what the world's media outlets are covering. Washingtonpost.com's new Mon.-Fri. feature is penned by technology reporter Cynthia L. Webb. If a technology story breaks, a company falters or triumphs, or there's a new trend in technology, Filter wants you to know about it.

_____Filter Archive_____
Microsoft Spies a Whole New Market (washingtonpost.com, Jan 7, 2005)
Vonage Phones in Hot WiFi Plans (washingtonpost.com, Jan 5, 2005)
CES 2005: Form, Function and Stylin' (washingtonpost.com, Jan 4, 2005)
Tsunami Prompts Online Outpouring (washingtonpost.com, Jan 3, 2005)
The Year in Technology (washingtonpost.com, Dec 22, 2004)
More Past Issues
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TheStreet.com has more on the TiVo deal. Microsoft's digital media dreams, TheStreet.com reported, hinge on "the use of so-called digital rights management software, which protects copyright holders by limited what users can do with digital content. Consumers have generally been reluctant to adopt such protected content, and consumer groups have challenged that such protections often violate consumers' fair-use rights."

More from the news service on a notable absentee at the show, Microsoft's Xbox game console: "While he said that the next Xbox will offer games meant for high-definition televisions, he didn't say when the new Xbox would be released, how much it would cost or any other details. Some analysts had speculated that Gates might use his appearance at CES to debut the new console." The article mentioned also how Gates's remarks offered little surprise. "Much of the presentation was devoted to Microsoft's Media Center and Windows Media software." For more details on Xbox, check out a Q-and-A Gates did with USA Today in advance of CES.
Reuters: Gates Keeps Up Push For Entertainment Dollars
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer: In A Surprise, Gates Announces A Deal With TiVo On Television
The Street.com: Gates: It's A Digital Life

An Ensemble Cast

The TiVo alliance is not Microsoft's only foray into TV content. "The world's largest software maker is hoping to increase its share of a growing market for digital movies, pictures and music as it moves beyond its core business of selling the Windows operating system to run desktop computers. Gates said 12 years of Microsoft investments in connecting media and communications technologies to the PC had started to pay off. ... Gates predicted a coming era of 'maximum creativity -- the same kind of creativity we have seen on the Internet, (will now be) on the TV,'" Reuters reported.

CNET had more on Microsoft's other TV-friendly ventures, announced at CES: "Gates showed off the first plasma screen television--from home entertainment specialist DigiTrex --to support Windows Media Connect. He also touted a new combination DVD player and digital video recorder from LG Electronics that connects with both regular Windows XP and specialized Windows XP Media Center PCs. Also on the television side, Gates touted growing support for Microsoft's Smartphone software for TV set-top boxes, including new partner BellSouth. And he revealed a new partnership with MTV Networks, which will format selected content for downloading to Portable Media Center players and Smartphone devices."
Reuters: Gates Keeps Up Push For Entertainment Dollars
CNET's News.com: Gates Touts TiVo Deal At CES

TV Nation

The New York Times today filed an interesting story about the cable industry. "Cable television companies are not among the exhibitors here at the Consumer Electronics Show. But their influence is everywhere, as equipment makers seek to work with -- or bypass -- the cable industry's bottleneck control over the way most Americans watch TV. All the approaches address the central fact that consumers of most current versions of digital cable service -- the kind with the most channels and advanced features -- must now use a set-top box provided by the cable system, usually for a monthly rental fee," the Times reported. "Those cable company boxes make it hard for most of the devices that are on center stage here, like flashy flat-screen televisions or advanced video recorders, to truly control the signals they are receiving. Moreover, the cable companies are increasingly muscling in on the electronics makers' business by enhancing their set-top boxes with digital video recording abilities and other new features. That cable trend has been a particular threat to TiVo, which virtually invented the digital video recorder business in the late 1990's, but has struggled lately -- in large part because it is difficult for TiVo's machines to change channels on a digital cable system. TiVo is using this week's show to announce several moves to bypass cable systems, by using the Internet and personal computers as media for television delivery and viewing."
The New York Times: Breaking Free of Cable's Stranglehold (Registration required)

The Los Angeles Times wrote about television's continued adaptation to the mobile environment. "Orb and its competitors, including tiny start-ups such as Sling Media Inc. and giants such as Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp., are enabling customers to move the shows they love off their TV sets and onto hand-held computers, cellphones and other gadgets. These companies are betting that TV aficionados want to take their favorite programs on the road, just as millions of people are starting to tote their music collections on iPods and other portable devices," the paper reported. "Unleashing TV from its living room moorings is the latest effort in a broader movement to cut the ties between entertainment and devices. With music, movies, TV and radio all being translated into the ones and zeros of digital data, people no longer need dedicated devices to handle different types of entertainment. Digital audio and video is also easier to copy, store and move."
Los Angeles Times: Moving To Cut TV's Ties to the Living Room Set (Registration required)

Washington Post technology columnist Leslie Walker wrote about the mobile data trend. "As if on cue, start-ups are rolling out new services to deliver video and audio programming to still-experimental portable media players -- companies such as Orb Networks Inc., which recently began selling a $10-a-month service that beams live TV and any other stored media to phones, handhelds and laptop computers. At a preview reception Tuesday, Orb Networks was showing the televised Orange Bowl on a laptop from a signal streamed live from somebody's home in California. Gaithersburg-based TimeTrax Technologies Corp. is here touting a different concept that piggybacks on satellite radio. TimeTrax enables recording for digital radio, much as TiVo and its clones do for TV," Walker wrote. Another note from her column: "And don't ask whether anyone really needs TV in their pocket; that's party-pooper talk at this high-tech toy extravaganza."
The Washington Post: Take It Anywhere, Even If You Never Wanted To (Registration required)

Sony: Silent Giant

Sony's favorite game is "The Waiting Game" when it comes to the still-unreleased PlayStation Portable gaming device. "Sony kicked off its challenge to Nintendo in the hugely popular arena of handheld video games at the Consumer Electronics Show on Wednesday, but the Japanese electronics giant was light on concrete details for the launch of the first portable version of its PlayStation game console. The company said at a splashy press conference at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas that it would most likely launch its PlayStation Portable in March in North America, but it declined to give a specific date, price, or say how many games would be available at the debut," the San Jose Mercury News reported. "But Sony had plenty of rhetoric about the scope of its ambitions. It wants to beat Nintendo, the industry leader, to the coveted 18- to 34-year-old mainstream consumer market. It also would like to challenge Apple Computer's iPod music players, making portable video games as cool and respectable for adults to play as home consoles, and providing consumers with a universal device for digital entertainment."
San Jose Mercury News: What Sony And Gates Want: More (Registration required)

An aMazing iMac Possibility

Apple fans are buzzing over reports that Apple could launch a cheaper, under $500 iMac at the upcoming Macworld Expo, thanks to a year-end rumor posted on the ThinkSecret.com Web site. Apple tried to say it ain't so, but now the company has filed another lawsuit against ThinkSecret for allegedly publishing trade secrets. This has led to new chatter that Apple's defensive move could mean the cheap Mac rumor is true. News.com reported that "in filing the suit, Apple identifies specific articles that contain trade secrets, indicating that at least parts of those reports are on the mark. The lawsuit is the company's third intellectual-property suit in recent weeks. In other court cases, Apple is suing two men who it says distributed." The Mac Observer picked up the lawsuit news.
CNET's News.com: Apple Suit Foreshadows Coming Products
Mac Observer: Apple Sues Mac Site For Publishing 'Trade Secrets'

And of course, one good coring deserves another. Apple was named as defendant in a lawsuit from an unhappy iTunes user. "[California resident Thomas Slattery] says Apple is breaking anti-competition laws in refusing to let other music players work with the site," the BBC reported. "Apple, which opened its online store in 2003 after launching the iPod in 2001, uses technology to ensure each song bought only plays on the iPod."

Filter is designed for hard-core techies, news junkies and technology professionals alike. Have suggestions, cool links or interesting tales to share? Send your tips and feedback to cindyDOTwebbATwashingtonpost.com. (Yes, those spammers have been having a lot of fun with my e-mail address lately.)


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