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Web Watch by Leslie Walker

Internet Video Adds Cable Programming

By Leslie Walker
The Washington Post
Sunday, January 9, 2005; Page F07

Internet video is sneaking up on us. That became clear last week in Las Vegas, where all sorts of firms announced new Internet video services at the 2005 Consumer Electronics Show.

Among the notable deals was a biggie for Akimbo Systems Inc., a video-on-demand company whose service piggybacks on people's Internet connections. When Akimbo launched last year, it offered mostly niche video programming from little-known Internet companies. Industry observers were skeptical that major TV networks and movie studios would do business with the Internet-only upstart.

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But last week, Akimbo announced agreements that will deliver content to its subscribers from four cable channels -- A&E, National Geographic, the History Channel and the Biography Channel.

"The big guys are endorsing this now as a secure system where their content will not get shared," said Akimbo chief executive Josh Goldman during an interview at the electronics show. Akimbo uses Microsoft software to prevent unauthorized copying of video files.

For $10 a month, Akimbo delivers video over the Internet to a box that stores shows and lets subscribers watch them on TV sets. The service requires purchase of a $230 box but soon will be available without the box to owners of Microsoft Media Center computers.


MSN Video Downloads

Microsoft also joined the Internet video stampede last week, announcing a service to deliver a wider range of video programming to mobile devices running Windows. The new MSN Video Downloads service will offer a daily sampling of movies and multimedia programs that can be downloaded and played on handheld devices running the Microsoft portable media center software.

Initial content includes video clips from Fox Sports, CNBC TV business news, MSNBC newscasts, IFILM movie trailers and Home and Garden Television.

The new service is available in a beta or preview version. It offers limited free samples or full access for $20 a year. Microsoft also announced other deals to deliver more video to mobile devices, including one with MTV and another with video recording company TiVo. The TiVo deal will let people with Microsoft portable media players transfer content they record on the latest TiVo models to handheld devices.


Mobile Mapping

MapQuest, the Internet mapping service, now lets people send maps from the Internet to their cell phones. The "Send to Phone" service launched last week allows paying subscribers to beam color maps and detailed driving directions from Mapquest.com to cell phones equipped to display color images.

People who plan ahead can use the Web site to beam a map of anywhere they are going to their handset and have it available by phone if they need it. They can also use a new menu system on the phone display to get directions and a map from the Web site. A third option would be to call friends sitting at a desk and ask them to go to the Web site and zap a map to your cell phone number. The Send-to-Phone service was created jointly with mobile content provider Vindigo and is available to people who subscribe to MapQuest Mobile. MapQuest is a subsidiary of America Online Inc.


E-mail Leslie Walker at walkerl@washpost.com.

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