- Nearly 60m Xbox consoles have sold worldwide, nearly 40m of them believed to be in the U.S. Half of those Xbox consoles subscribe to Xbox online services--even if we use the same ratio as installs to be conservative (the U.S. rate is likely much higher), that gives Xbox more than 20m homes in the U.S.--roughly as many as Comcast or Netflix.
- Microsoft's stated goals with the second screen platform are to enable 1) Discovery and Control, 2) Immersive Entertainment, 3) better Gaming.
- Principles as stated in a slide by Mark:
- 1) Connect via People and Content, not devices. There are only 5 different versions of the platforms in terms of UI: Android, Microsoft Windows 8 PC/Tablet, Microsoft Phone, iPhone, iPad
- 2) Each screen magically tunes to me. This is a REALLY BIG deal and we will talk about this most of the blog.
- 3) Each screen as a "superpower" and the 2 screens cooperate together.
- 4) There is a clear focus at any given time between the screen.
- 5) Every second screen experience provides and end-to-end consumer experience.
- Control (Simple). Tuning required (esp on iPad version). Better feature control of the Xbox (editing playlists for music, for example), dropping music into a upcoming queue, etc.
- Enhanced or immersive experience (Stimulating). The basic experience could be readily improved in breadth and depth just by implementing a scene-level metadata solution (see Digitalsmiths) for every title, and the metadata set for the scene level objects need to be extended (too cursory when compared to Fanhattan or IMDB).
- Discovery. Currently, this is very rudimentary (a collaborative filtering approach). There are 3rd party discovery engines out there that could quickly improve the feature set, but they also need to import my existing effort in the social world (my Facebook likes) and leverage the concept of multiple sources for their partners Netflix and Hulu. I realize it may be counter-intuitive for Microsoft to launched you to Netflix for a title where they make no money vs. their own version of the same title, but they are not trying to make $0.30 on a rental, they are trying to gain a subscriber who becomes loyal to their ecosystem.
- Social. Mark did spend a significant amount of time on the concept, but I left it out up top because it is a closed, Xbox only approach. There is still nothing that allows me to leverage my other social networks in the "real" world. This, similar to my comments on leveraging other sources of content, is counter-intuitive, but if you want me to switch to Xbox for the majority of my needs, you need to solve this.
- Content. The only major drawback in both the music and video content for Xbox--I cannot take it with me. I like to purchase/own TV and Film and Music in my Apple ecosystem because I can watch it on a plane, use it while traveling, etc. This is a must have for the Xbox ecosystem to take on Apple.
- Cable/Telco - MVPD / Pay TV Operators. So far, DirecTV and Xfinity lead the way, but are a generation behind this "OS-level" concept of ACR for all content in the ecosystem.
- Apple. Obviously we will never know what they are working on until it is out, but so far, it looks like Microsoft has them flatfooted.
- Android. Has a long, long ways to go to create a living room ecosystem, though GoogleTV offers them that chance, but they need tighter integration with various players in the chain (the CE players).
- Amazon. Has announced "X-ray" for their Kindle Fire HD titles (gives some enhanced experience with related metadata), but this has yet to progress to titles delivered to other non-Amazon devices and into the living room.
- Sony. Seemingly asleep, though they own all the right tools for this (Gracenote, Playstation, portable devices, phones, etc).
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is expanding its âdigital copyâ program â under which Blu-ray purchasers can download copies of films for viewing on computers or mobile devices â to include support for the Android smartphone and tablet platform (via the Financial Times). The studio, which tested Android digital copies with a Blu-ray release in February (via Engadget), plans to roll out Android support for all titles this fall, beginning with âX-Men: First Class.â
Vincent Marcais, senior vice president of marketing for Foxâs international home entertainment division, tells FT that the studio still views digital copies as driving physical sales. âThe starting point for us is that people like to own a movie,â Marcais says. âWe need a business model that satisfies that need and Blu-ray is the business model that satisfies that.â
In related news, fans of the âStar Warsâ franchise seem to be adhering to conventional notions of ownership, even as they embrace digital platforms. With Fox ramping up promotion for its upcoming Blu-ray collection of the six âStar Warsâ films, the studio has released a free iPad app previewing the Blu-ray setâs bonus materials. The app, released Tuesday, is currently among the top 20 free apps on the Apple App Store.
Google is following Amazon.com into the cloud music space, launching a service that gives users the ability to upload as many as 20,000 songs to an online locker for streaming to Web-enabled computers or Android mobile devices. And as with Amazonâs Cloud Player, major labels have no involvement.
The Google service will start as a free, invite-only beta program; music fans can request an invitation at music.google.com. Users can upload their iTunes or Windows Media Player libraries, complete with playlists and song ratings, and access the music on their Android phone or tablet through an app. The devices cache recently-played songs so that users can continue to play music even while offline.
For the moment, Google Music aims to simplify consumersâ experience of listening to digital music. Unveiling the service at Googleâs I/O developer conference Tuesday, a company representative said the wireless service heralded the end of âpainful syncingâ of digital music libraries between phones and computers.
What of major labelsâ participation? In contrast to Amazon, Google lacks a digital music storefront. If Googleâs remarks to business press today are any indication, broad label support for the companyâs music effort is unlikely to arrive anytime soon.
âWeâve been in negotiations with the industry for a different set of features, with mixed results,â Zahavah Levine, Googleâs director of content partnerships, tells Billboard. âA couple of major labels were less focused on innovation and more on demanding unreasonable and unsustainable business terms.â
At its developer conference, Google also demonstrated a prototype music application that one day could see integration with the cloud-based service: a home sensor could read tags embedded in the jewel cases of packaged CDs, unlocking access to the albums in a userâs Google Music Account.
Amazon, meanwhile, seems to be quietly expanding its Cloud Player service to be compatible with Apple iOS devices, such as the iPhone (via TechCrunch). Although Amazon warns iOS device users that Cloud Player does not support the Safari Internet browser, the service does in fact work via Safari. Amazon, which markets a Cloud Player app for Android devices, has yet to formally announce any expansion of the streaming service to iOS.
Amazon.com looks to lure Android device users away from Googleâs Android Market with daily price promotions and âtest driveâ previews of apps. As TechCrunch reports, Amazon retains control over app pricing, unlike Android Market or Appleâs App Store (where developers set prices). The pricing policy will enable the retailer to offer popular paid apps, such as Rovioâs Angry Birds, for free under a âfree app of the dayâ promotion.
Amazon will have to defend its use of the term âApp Storeâ before a California federal court, with Apple filing a trademark infringement suit against the retailer late last week (via Bloomberg). Apple has received approval for its own âApp Storeâ trademark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, but Microsoft has filed an opposition to the registration.
Purchasers of Twentieth Century Foxâs âUnstoppableâ Blu-ray can watch a digital copy of the action-thriller on an Android mobile device, thanks to Deluxe Digital Studiosâ Pocket Blu app.
The Fox disc is the first whose digital copy feature supports Android, according to the studio. Disc users access the feature through an Internet-connected Blu-ray player and the free app, which is available at the Android market. In addition to the film, Android users can access bonuses such as director commentary.
Google brought its Android Market app store to the Web today, while pledging to support in-app purchasing capabilities in apps by the end of the first quarter (via Engadget). The new Android Market storefront boasts âover-the-airâ transfers: a user can browse and purchase apps from any Internet connection, and the store sends the purchases wirelessly to the userâs specified device.
This yearâs CES will find major consumer electronics brands introducing tablet devices â or reintroducing them, as the New York Times notes. The difference in 2011 is that two operating systems â Googleâs Android and Microsoftâs Windows â are poised for launch.
As with previous CES outings, Apple will be the elephant in the trade eventâs demo rooms and exhibit booths. It also remains to be seen how the market for tablets (and entertainment/media apps for tablet screens) will take shape. If consumer enthusiasm is there, it could parallel the market for smartphones, in which Appleâs iPhone is engaged in a bona fide rivalry with Motorolaâs Droid and other devices. But with Appleâs iPad having established a commanding lead over would-be competitors in 2010, the tablet market already resembles digital music players, which CES exhibitors spent years doggedly pursuing with iPod also-rans.
Netflix attributes its inability to ship a streaming video app that works with all Android phones to âa lack of a generic and complete platform security and content protection mechanismâ in the operating system (via GigaOm). As a result, the company will soon support some Android handsets, but others will continue to be left out.
âSetting aside the debate around the value of content protection and DRM, they are requirements we must fulfill in order to obtain content from major studios for our subscribers to enjoy,â said Netflixâs Greg Peters in a corporate blog post. âAlthough we donât have a common platform security mechanism and DRM, we are able to work with individual handset manufacturers to add content protection to their devices.â
The Android operating system expanded rapidly in the second quarter of 2010, overtaking Appleâs iPhone OS to become the third-most-popular smartphone system in the world, and passing Research In Motion in the U.S. to become the countryâs No. 1 platform, research firm Gartner reports.
âA non-exclusive strategy that produces products selling across many communication service providers, and the backing of so many device manufacturers, which are bringing more attractive devices to market at several different price points, were among the factors that yielded its growth this quarter,â says Gartnerâs Carolina Milanesi.
Smartphone sales to end users worldwide totaled 61.6 million units in the second quarter of 2010, a 51% increase from the same period in 2009, with new products from Apple as well as Android phone maker HTC and Motorola driving growth. Smartphone sales accounted for 19% of all mobile device sales worldwide during the quarter, Gartner says.
âThe sudden growth in media tablets, such as the Apple iPad, did not appear to hold back smartphone sales,â Milanesi adds. âWe believe that most tablet users still feel the need for a truly pocketable, yet highly capable, device for those situations when it’s inconvenient to carry a device with a larger form factor.â
Sonic Solutions is teaming with DRM provider Widevine to provide retailers using Sonicâs RoxioNow platform the opportunity to offer streaming movie services for a range of mobile devices, from iPads and iPhones to Android handsets and Blackberries.
The companies expect retailers to roll out new device support this holiday season.
The Widevine platform is deployed by major Internet content services and large cable, satellite, and telecommunication companies launching over-the-top and TV Everywhere strategies. RoxioNow powers streaming services from retailers such as Best Buy and Kmart, with support built into consumer electronics from the likes of Dell, Haier, and Panasonic.
In other news, Sonic reported a narrower net loss for its most recent quarter (ended June 30), with its RoxioNow business driving growth.
The search engine could launch a Web-based service for music streams and downloads as early as this fall, in efforts to supply entertainment content to Android phone users. But Googleâs entry into content distribution would hold implications beyond the mobile space. CNET reports on what the move would mean for Appleâs iTunes as well as music labels.