From PC to TV via DivX Connected

Dlink_divx_connected_box The folks at DivX and D-Link recently loaned me two pieces of hardware to help bridge the gap between the Internet and my TV set: a DivX Connected box and a pair of powerline adapters to turn my electrical wires into a branch of my home network. All the gear worked well and was surprisingly easy to set up (especially the powerline adapters, which were literally plug-and-play -- a first for any networking gear I've used). Yet as much as I enjoyed using the DivX device, it reminded me that closing the PC-TV gap isn't as simple as hooking up a smart set-top box. It's about finding a way to make computers and websites speak TV.

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Verizon, AT&T rule at 700 Mhz

Any auction that brings in almost twice as much money as expected isn't likely to be considered a failure. That's the case with the FCC's recently completed auction of the 700 MHz airwaves, which raised about $19 billion. But the auction of these frequencies, which have been used for UHF TV signals, didn't live up to the hopes of many who make their living off teh Interwebs. That's because the sell-off apparently will not produce a new, national provider of broadband Internet access, even though the frequencies would be up to the task, technically speaking.

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Mobile Internet devices

Intel has been racking up the press clips in recent weeks for new chip designs aimed at cheap laptops and handheld devices (e.g., the Wall Street Journal today, Business Week last week, Engadget last month). The downsized chips promise to bring desktop computing power (albeit from a couple of desktop generations ago) to a new type of mass-market mobile Internet device -- something like an iPhone at half the price or less. This is another sign of the pieces falling into place for ubiquitous connectivity, that is, people being connected to the Net wherever they go. And when that happens, the Internet will probably change everything again.

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AOL parent revives usage-based billing

Time_warner_cable_logo_2The explosive growth of Internet use in the 1990s stemmed in part from the arrival of the World Wide Web, but also from the shift from pay-per-minute to all-you-can-eat pricing from Internet service providers. One of the leaders in that shift was America Online, which quickly became the dominant provider of dial-up Internet access. Now, AOL's parent, Time Warner, is flirting with a return to usage-based pricing as a way to reduce congestion on its cable-modem service. It could be a welcome development for consumers but not necessarily for content providers, particularly those offering video through the Web.

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Gizmodo on journalism

In the aftermath of last week's International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the trade group mounting that epic gadget-fest has banned a reporter from the Gizmodo website. The reporter -- one Richard Blakeley -- used a gadget modeled after the TV-B-Gone to turn off an assortment of display screens at the show, including ones used during a presentation by Motorola. He recorded the pranks and posted a short video on Gizmodo, with an intro by the site's editor, Brian Lam. ("It was too much fun, but watching this video, we realize it probably made some people's jobs harder, and I don't agree with that (Especially Motorola).")

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CES: Connecting the home with HD, Part 2

One of the trends on view at this week's Consumer Electronics Show was slimmer and slimmer flat-panel TVs. Pioneer showed a prototype that was a mere 9 mm (a little more than 1/3") thick, while several other manufacturers offered technology demos and production models in the 1"-2" range. The closer sets get to the wall, though, the more consumers will want to dispense with the tangle of wires typically needed to connect a set to peripheral devices, such as disc players and amplifiers. One approach is to hide those wires behind walls and under floors, but that typically requires a professional installer. Another idea, from Irvine-based OWLink Technology, is to make the wire all but invisible.

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CES: Connecting the home with HD, Part 1

Wirelesshd_2The consumer electronics industry may know where it's headed, but it doesn't seem to know how to get there. That was my takeaway from this week's International Consumer Electronics Show, where once again there was more talk than action around the topic of the connected home. Clearly, manufacturers are focused on creating devices that link seamlessly to each other to share audio, video and images. And they had plenty of prototypes and demos showing how two or three items could feed the same screen and respond to the same remote control. But if you were hoping for a standard way to bring together every piece of your personal entertainment gear, from TV and stereo to camcorder and cell phone, regardless of the brand, you were out of luck. It's not for lack of trying. There are several inter-industry groups working on various aspects of the problem. It's just that seemingly every year a new set of pieces get thrown into the puzzle.

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CES: PortoMedia's video kiosks

Portomedia_movie_key_2gb Heard this one before? A tech start-up company plans to install movie-rental kiosks in airports, train stations and convenience stores. This go-around, the would-be entertainment retailer is PortoMedia of Galway, Ireland, whose business plan revolves around tiny, souped-up flash drives. The company is backed by IBM, which is supplying the kiosk technology, and claims to be in late-stage talks with the major Hollywood studios. The kiosk idea has been floated (and sunk) many times, most recently as a way to burn DVDs on demand at video stores and other retailers. What makes PortoMedia a bit different -- in a way that bodes well for its business -- is shorter wait times for customers and lower equipment costs.

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CES: Gadget of the day


Polaroid has rediscovered its mojo.

The company that defined photographic instant gratification introduced a new inkless printer for pictures taken on a cellphone or with a digital camera. Transfer the image to the Polaroid Digital Instant Mobile Photo Printer via Bluetooth wireless technology on the phone or a USB cable on the camera. The portable printer spits out an image on a 2-inch-by-3-inch sticky-backed paper. In demonstrations, the whole thing happened in about a minute.

But what's really magic about the printer is its zero ink technology -- or Zink, for short. It uses special paper that is embedded with 100 billion yellow, magenta and cyan dye crystals. The colors appear when the printer applies 200 million heat pulses, in 30 seconds, in a single pass. The paper costs about 30 cents a print, and the printer sells for $150.

Unlike Polaroid photos of old, this image is resistant to fading and can be dunked in water without running (we watched).

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo: Polaroid


CES: The Third Screen

The problem: a houseful of gadgets and devices that all stake claim to your music, movies, pictures and video, like toddlers who amass toys and don't like to share. OpenPeak thinks it has the answer: a universal remote control on steroids that acts like a Swiss governess that can make all those unruly gadgets behave and play nice.


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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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