Monday, August 31, 2009

Xbox 360 Elite Price Drops $100 in US and $70 in Canada WTF?

Bookmark and Share
Microsoft's poorly kept secret response to Sony's PS3 Slim and it's 299 dollar price tag became official over the weekend. In American retail shelves the price of the Xbox 360 sheds 100 dollars to match the 299 dollar price that the PS3 slim sells at. In stores in Canada the Elite now sells at 329 dollars, a drop of just 70 dollars. So once again Canadians get fleeced once again by a tech company.

Exchange rate cannot justify the smaller price drop for Canadians nor can the game bundles because the Elite that doesn't come with bundled games sells for the same as an Elite that has games bundled. The Xbox 360 Elite bundle that sells in some stores comes with a wireless network adapter but other stores have a bundle that doesn't offer the wireless network adapter but still sells for 329 dollars.

Microsoft's choice to price the Elite for 329 dollars will still make it the most expensive console on the Canadian market. Since the Pro is getting discontinued, The popular middle of the road option is now the PS3, Microsoft's dropped the price but the have also dropped the ball.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

TiVo Goes After Telcos

Bookmark and Share
A lawsuit launched by TiVo claiming that Echostar better known Dish Network infringes on patented TiVo technology used in digital video recording devices has been winding its way through the court in the past couple of years. Now the company that sold first commercially successful DVR is sending the lawyers after America's two big Telcos because TiVo is making a similar claim that DVR's offered by AT&T as a part of their Uverse product and Verizon's Fios infringe on TiVo's patents.

If Dish Network's, AT&T's and Verizon's DVR's infringe on TiVo's patents' what about the other big Satellite carrier? DirecTV has been licensing TiVo's technology for years. Cable companies have been providing DVR's that are not licensed from TiVo for years so why is it that big cable hasn't been sued yet? TiVo already has a deal with Comcast to install TiVo's DVR software on the cable boxes owned and rented by Comcast subscribers. Because Comcast is so big in comparison to other American cable operators, TiVo will expect the rest of the American cable industry to fall like a house of cards and sign licensing agreements. This is not just about patent infringement, this is TiVo attempting to get on top of the DVR market and turn it into a monopoly.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Zune HD Launch Delayed in Canada

Bookmark and Share
September 15th is the date that all those who want a portable media player that does it all but don't want an iPod have circled on their calendars. That's when Microsoft's Zune HD arrives in stores. The Zune HD adds a touch screen and a web browser to the floundering line of portable media players from the big boys in Redmond.

Selling consumer electronics I see many memos and bulletins from the manufacturers and distributors of the products I get paid to sell. I have seen in print in a notice from a distributor that the Zune HD will not be launching in Canada on September 15th. The notice goes on to state that existing Zune hardware will be price to clear them out of retail stores. That essentially means that Zunes are being withdrawn from the Canadian market. The absence of the Zune in the great white North is said to be temporary. The Canadian Zune web site makes no mention of the Zune HD which further confirms the absence of the Zune HD in Canada.

Since the Zune marketplace online store has not been available to Canadian Zune owners since Microsoft launched the Zune in Canada about fifteen months ago. It is likely that Microsoft will try to negotiate with Canada's recording industry and relaunch the Zune sometime in 2010. Given that recording companies have been detesting Apple's pricing and distribution structure, they'd better make a deal with Microsoft.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Petition To Abolish CRTC, Just Short Sighted And Wrong

Bookmark and Share
There is an online petition seeing to abolish the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) the government regulatory agency similar to the Federal Communications Commission in the United States. The petitioners claim the because the CRTC has been keeping American specialty and premium channels out of Canada and because the CRTC has found no wrong doing by Bell Canada over Broadband capping and throttling the CRTC has to be done away with.

Without a doubt the CRTC has been heavy handed when it comes to the American channels allowed onto Canadian TV screens and has let cell phone carriers take it to Canadian cellular subscribers with excessive fees. To those behind the petition I ask of you, If we are to abolish the CRTC what do we replace it with? Letting broadcasting and telecommunications go completely unregulated cannot even be an option.

Net Neutrality may be a sort of a threatened species in Canada however without public regulation is would already extinct. There is new cell phone carriers coming to Canada but it was because of the CRTC mandating that a portion of new frequency spectrum that was being opened up be set aside for start-up carriers that these new providers are coming to the market to challenge Rogers, Bell and Telus. Without the CRTC the established cell carriers would have grabbed up all the available spectrum. The switchover to digital over the air television broadcasting proposed for August of 2011 is mandated by the CRTC and right now only the CRTC is holding the Television broadcaster feet to the fire on the issue. Without the regulator TV stations would continue to put out the inferior analog NTSC signals that are heading into television history.

I agree more could be done to loosen the grip the CRTC has on our television screens and can do more protect cellular and wireline telephone subscribers from the excessive fee gouging, but those behind the petition and everybody who has signed on, Canada without the CRTC would be a lot worse. I'll sign a petition to reform the CRTC but I won't sign to call to abolish it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Legally Free Satellite TV To Come To Canada (No Seriously)

Bookmark and Share
Just like cell phones, Canadians are about to get something that they desperately need, real competition in satellite TV. A new upstart called Free HD Canada is going to seek a CRTC license to start a third Satellite TV company to serve the Great White North. The name Free HD comes from a proposal to provide Local TV stations for free to those who just buy the dish and receiver and don't choose to subscribe to any additional programming packages. That's all fine and well for those in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal who would get HD for free from the new company (people in those cities can already free High Definition local programming with an antenna.) The remaining 85% of Canadians would get the same standard def that is currently available on over the air broadcast TV.

In response Shaw Direct (formerly known as StarChoice) and Bell TV (the former ExpressVu) are proposing their own Local TV for free packages on their services. Undoubtedly CTV and Canwest Global are backing these proposals as a way to dodge the digital transition that is supposed to happen in 2011. If some executives get their way these free local TV satellite services would replace over the air broadcasting. Broadcast networks are already complaining about the cost of transitioning small market stations to digital for a small audience claiming that less than 10 percent would benefit since that's the proportion of the market that relies solely on over the air broadcast for their television programming. In the United States when the FCC and broadcaster were wrangling out their DTV transition plans the FCC used the percentage of homes that had at least one TV hooked up to nothing other than an antenna and came out with a little under half of homes would benefit from transitioning to digital television.

The proposal to transition from free over the air to free satellite is half baked to put it lightly. Many who watch broadcast television using an antenna may have satellite as an option. Many of those who rent their homes are prohibited from putting up satellite dishes by their landlords. For many others satellite just isn't a practical solution an example is those on both the west and east coasts where frequent poor weather degrades satellite signals to the point where blank TV screens are often seen.

New competition in satellite TV is a good thing, but the proposal it comes with will leave Some Canadians without any source of programming. That is something that is simply unacceptable and the CRTC and elected officials needs to hear loud and clear.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Apple To Announce New iPods September 9th

Bookmark and Share
Many Apple watchers already have September 9th circled on their calendars, this is when Apple is going to announce some big news for iTunes and iPods. It is expected to be announced that iTunes 9 will arrive and bring BluRay support to both Mac and PC versions of Apple's media playing software. The biggest news that is expected to drop is new iPods to arrive just in time for Christmas shopping season.

Like previous product announcements there is much speculation about what is coming, so I'll wade into the pool with my predictions:

1. 64 GB Ipod touch arrives, 8 GB touch gets discontinued. With competition from the Zune HD the 16 GB touch will need to become the new entry level model and 32 GB will become mid level model.

2. Hard drive based iPod Classic fade away. The original iPod back in 2001 used a hard drive to store songs and since then there has been a hard drive based iPod at the high end of the product line. With flash memory getting cheaper and cheaper and more demand for the iPod touch the time for the end of the hard drive based iPods is coming to an end.

3. A new 'chicklet' type iPod shuffle to replace the 1 GB shuffle. When the 4GB shuffle was introduced (dubbed the chicklet because of it's resemblance to a piece of gum) that the 1 GB shuffle will soon get replaced, by a 2 GB chicklet iPod shuffle or the 4 GB with an 8 GB shuffle.

That's what I think will happen on September 9th

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bell Telus Merger, Canada To Get A Single Telco Within Two Years

Bookmark and Share
A few years ago there was a proposal that would have seen Canada's two biggest Telcos become one. At that time Telus had proposed to acquire Bell, who in turn accepted a buy out by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan which would have seen Bell be turned into a privately held company. The buy out plan fell apart and Bell is still a publicly traded company.

There is new speculation that Canada's two big telcos will again attempt to become one. Jonathan Allen, of RBC Dominion Securities Inc writes “Faced with cyclical and secular pressures on the top-line, we believe that a BCE-Telus merger is increasingly likely in the coming year or two as both companies look to cut costs and sustain margins,”

At the time when the original acquisition talks were going on the issue of how to get the joining to the two big telcos approved by the competition bureau was pretty big. With three new cell phone carriers starting within one year and growing competition from cable companies in home phone will make it easier to get "Belus" approved by the competition bureau.

Signs beyond speculation by stock analysts are already pointing towards uniting Bell and Telus, On Thursday, August 13th Telus filed with Canadian and American securities regulators to raise raise up to $4-billion in debt, equity and or warrants. There is no doubt that Bell is worth more than 4 billion but it's enough to get some kind of merger or buyout started.

Many are fearing that a Bell-Telus merger will mean higher prices and customer service that is even worse than it is now. But at least it means that the Palm Pre will be available from coast to coast. As a Telus Mobility user where Bell is not available I like that.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Is the Zune HD a Matter of Do or Die for Microsoft

Bookmark and Share
By Microsoft's standards, the Zune hasn't exactly been a success. In the two and half years since hitting the market what was once dubbed as Microsoft's iPod killer hasn't even come close to injuring the iPod. The original brown as you know what (UPS Trucks) captured 12 percent share of the portable music player market when it launched, but after upgrades to 80 GB and then 120 GB and then introduced 4 GB and 8 GB flash based Zune players, the market share has fallen to just 3 percent despite adding features such as an FM radio and WiFi syncing.

Microsoft is taking another at making shot at making a better Zune to attempt get back some market share. The Zune HD will come in two versions a 16 GB version and a 32 GB version which will come with a touch screen and a web browser. The HD moniker comes from the ability to display High Definition video using a docking station that hooks up to a HDTV (sold separately). The Zune HD also has an HD radio tuner which can play higher quality digital radio signals from compatible radio stations. (more info)

Selling the Zune has been a tough sell for Microsoft so far and there's nothing to say that the Zune HD will be any different. One of the problems that preventing public acceptance of the Zune is the fact that the Zune Marketplace music store is not available outside of the United States, The iTunes music store is one of the biggest reasons for the success of the iPods. Microsoft has been trying to apply the PC industry pricing structure to the Zune. Windows based PC's cost less than Macs which has lead to Windows being the dominate operating system in the PC industry. Zunes have typically been priced lower to comparable iPods many view iPods to be better than anything else and are willing to pay the extra cost.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What Phones Will The New Cell Carriers Provide?

Bookmark and Share
In four to twelve months from now Canadians will have three new cell phone carriers to choose from. Wind Communications (aka Globalive), DAVE wireless, and Public Mobile will enter the market hoping to pull subscribers away from Bell, Rogers, Telus and a few regional carriers. The startup carriers are promising better value by dumping fees charged by the traditional carriers. Network coverage will be leave a lot to be desired at first but as the new networks build out coverage will improve. But one of the most important things that people take into consideration when choosing a cell carrier is the selection of phones a carrier offers. Having many cool phones will be one of the most important things that the companies entering Canada's cellular industry will need to attract subscribers. Since all the new cell carriers all intend to use GSM as the technology that all the new carriers will build their networks on speculating on which phones will be offered is somewhat easier.

Blackberries: In Canada it's the Blackberry that is the king of the smart phones, even Virgin Mobile offers Blackberries to prepaid customers. It wouldn't be unreasonable to expect versions of the Bold and the Curve for the new carriers at launch. Any new GSM Blackberry models in a year from now will practically be guaranteed to provided by one of the new carriers.

Google Android: With a dozen different handset manufacturers getting ready to launch Android based smartphones it would be a pretty safe bet that the new carriers will have at least one Android phone each.

Microsoft Danger Sidekick: The consistently popular smartphone jr. with tweens and teens that has never been able to crack the Canadian market will finally have a chance to come North of the border with one of the new cell phone carriers.

Palm WebOS: While Bell Mobility is offering the Pre exclusively to their subscribers in eastern Canada, Palm is promising a GSM based smartphone which will probably will launch with one of the new cell providers first, if Rogers doesn't nab it first.

Nokia: The world leading maker of cellular handsets that almost went extinct in North America several years will probably use the launches of the new cell phone carriers to get a foothold back into the Canadian market. Expect the offerings for basic cell phones to contain at least a few Nokias. Nokia's version of the smartphone running the symbian operating system, probably not likely to be seen.

Expect Samsungs, LGs and Motorolas to be represented in the phone lineups by the new carriers but can there be any surprises when the new carriers launch their phone lineups I think so.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Canada's New Cell Carrier Gets A Brand Identity, And It Really Blows

Bookmark and Share
Globalive one of the biggest winners of last year's cell phone spectrum auction has officially unveiled the corporate identity for the new cell carrier. Wind Communications will be the name of the main stable offering from Globalive. There is still expected to be a discount offering under Globalive's Yak brand.

Globalive brings the Wind brand from Wind Telecomunicazioni, the wireless communications provider with subscribers in Italy and Greece which is owned by Globalive billionaire backer Naguib Sawiris who is set to take a 65 percent stake in the Canadian carrier which is set to start offering cell phone service towards the end of 2009.

Not failing to pounce the established cell carriers have already filed complaints with the CRTC claiming that the 65 percent stake claimed by Sawiris is a violation of Canadian ownership laws which require that 80 percent of the telecommunications provider remain under Canadian ownership. Globalive promises that two thirds of the directors of Wind will be Canadian which should meet the requirement for Canadian control as set out by the CRTC.

The CRTC will hold hearing in the last week of September and will render a decision thirty days after which will alter wireless communications in Canada.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What Apple Needs To Do With Their Upcoming Tablet

Bookmark and Share
The next insanely great gadget that Apple is set to unleash upon the world is going to be a touch screen tablet computer according to the rumoured leaks coming from silicon orchard in Cupertino. Supposedly in about a month or so the tablet will be announced and hit stores anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months later. How can an insanely great tablet be an insanely great success, here's a few tips:

Run a full version of OS X

Many rumours suggest that Apple's tablet will be just a larger version of the iPod Touch. This would hinder rather than help the Apple brand. Running a full version OS X would not only help increase the market share for OS X but would provide functionality that an iPod Touch on steroids cannot. An iPad as some have already dubbed it showing pictures from a collection of photos in iPhoto while it's charging. It needs OS X to do that.

Don't Dump AT&T

There has been much speculation and rumours that Apple has been in talks with Verizon to provide the embedded 3G Internet service for Apple's tablet in exchange Apple would produce an iPhone for Verizon's CDMA network. There are already millions on iPhone users who are spending a hundred dollars a month for their data plans on AT&T, don't expect them to shell out more money for a Verizon data plan as well. Apple would have to produce tablets with 3G chipsets for GSM networks for outside of North America, putting in a CDMA 3G would require paying the Qualcomm tax just for the American market. Putting in CDMA 3G would also keep the Apple tablet out of Canada because Apple is still under an exclusivity agreement agreement with Rogers Wireless, any CDMA based device would break that exclusivity agreement.

Come Down to $500.00

It's no secret that Apple's computers are viewed as premium devices that come with a premium price tag to match. A tablet computer from Apple would have to compete against PC based netbooks priced from 300 to 450 dollars. If Apple prices any higher than 500 dollars then they are in the same price point as full PC laptops. The average buyer won't see any value for a downscale tablet when they can get a full laptop for the same price even if it's running Windows.

Don't Close The Door on Hardware Keyboard

The first laptop computer I saw in a store with a trackpad was a Powerbook back in 1995 and now all laptops both Macs and PC's still have them. Rumoured pictures show a software on screen keyboard. That doesn't mean that people are ready to ditch hardware keyboards, there is sure to be at least one USB port on the Apple tablet because users will need something hook their iPods to. That will still give people room to hook up a corded keyboard, the Apple Tablet could ignite the market for Bluetooth keyboards.

Just like any other rumoured Apple products, the tablet is promising a lot it will be interesting to see what Apple delivers

Blog Archive