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13 June 2007

Products, deals and finance

Nokia said that it is now shipping its N77 Multimedia Computer (read very smart handset) which can receive DVB-H mobile TV, and first shipments will go to Vietnam and India.

The N77 is a slider phone with a 2.4 inch screen and is lighter and smaller than the N92 that Nokia has so far been pushing for DVB-H networks. It has a dedicated TV key and remembers the last channel viewed and supports program alerts, and 30 second replay, and buffers live TV while you watch the replay clip and has a Program Guide with a seven day browse. It also features an MP3 player, a 2 megapixel camera, web browsing, email access, calendar and to-do lists.

Canadian IPTV browser and software specialist Espial Group has completed its IPO, selling 3,571,000 common shares at a price of Can$7 raising around Can$25 million. Further shares are available if the issue is oversubscribed which could take its proceeds up to $28.8 million over the next 30 days.

The Mini car company in the US will offer a factory-installed digital HD Radio receiver with FM multicasting as an option in the all-new 2007 Mini Cooper and Cooper S hardtops, from this month on June 2007. Mini joins its sister brand, BMW to be only one of two automotive brands to currently offer HD Radio technology. The deal is either offered on its own or with a lifetime subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio, which stays with whomever owns the car.

Vodafone announced partnerships with major internet brands this week, including Google, eBay, YouTube, MySpace, Yahoo! and is offering internet access for £7.50 a month in the UK, ($15) for up to 120 Megabytes of data a month. Additional broadband access will cost £1 ($2) per half megabyte. The Vodafone network will take web pages and compress them by up to ten times to turn them into mobile-friendly content, so that as many as 150 exiting handsets can read them. Sounds awful, but it’s progress we suppose. Vodafone reckons that 120MB could give up to 4 hours watching YouTube or viewing up to 160 internet pages every day for a month or the ability to check and reply to 10 emails 10 a day all month.

The 3GSM show is no more, and will be renamed the Mobile World Congress for the show that is in Barcelona in February, and the Mobile Asia Congress for the one in Macau in November. We suppose that’s better than calling it 4GSM or the LTE Show.

Vodafone this week said ‘no’ to a shareholder request that it spin-off Vodafone’s 45% stake in Verizon Wireless. Verizon owns the other 55%. Vodafone said the shareholder proposal would ‘undermine’ the company’s ability to maximize the profit on its Verizon Wireless stake. Verizon Wireless is the second largest US mobile phone service, only slightly smaller than AT&T Mobility.

Amobee Media Systems said it has partnered with PacketVideo, a provider of handset software for mobile operators to allow mobile operators to serve targeted and relevant opt-in advertising impressions within PacketVideo’s next-generation media platform, PacketVideo Experience. Ads will be delivered without interrupting whatever the owner is doing. Amobee will be demonstrating this service at Mobile Entertainment Markets in Monte Carlo this week.

Our friends over at Online Reporter in the US have just published a report which details 300 Web Sites which that offer Video, called the Video Vision 2007. An extract of the report is available for evaluation by emailing [email protected] requesting a copy. The full report is 340 pages, has a directory, offers short reports on each site with and an overview of the industry since the beginning of 2006 and spreadsheet-style ‘at-a-glance’ list and comparison of the Web sites. The report is priced from $695 for a single user to $2,495 for 25 users.

Finland has finally got its DVB-H act together and has launched its DVB-H service, making it the second live service in Europe. The system is only currently offering free to air TV channels, and will add paid for content later. It offers MTV3, Channel 4, Voice-tv, Voice-radio and Elisa sporting events (ice hockey) and is being rolled out to just 25 % of the Finnish population now in the Helsinki, Turku and Oulu areas. It uses 18 Crypt OMA DRM from Nokia, N92 or N77 devices for reception, and more transmissions to a wider area will begin in September. It was stalled due to issues regarding programming copyrights.

Broadband Wireless operator Towerstream which offers 5.8 GHz spectrum WiMAX based business broadband services in a number of markets in North America including York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami and Boston, has just sold 10 million shares to raise a total of $40 million in a registered direct public offering. Lazard Capital Markets served as the lead placement agent and Canaccord Adams and Morgan Joseph helped.

Toshiba said this week that it will delay for the second time the launch of its SED based TVs, which was most recently planned for the fourth quarter of 2007. Surface-conduction electron-emitter displays are just one of the many promising technologies that threatened a few years ago to overtake LCD displays, but so much investment has gone into LCD now that we believe that SEDs cannot make up the ground The first delay was announced in March 2006 and now Toshiba says that its partner Canon will not be able to provide SED panels to the original schedule. Between them Toshiba and Canon have lost more than $2 billion on this adventure.

Advanced TV reports that the FCC in the US has issued its first two fines to companies which are continuing to make an ship too many TV sets which are not digital. Companies have had years to comply and the fines have gone to Syntax-Brillian, at almost $2.9 million for importing over 72,000 TV’s without tuners after their respective cut-off dates and also Regent USA for shipping 2,179 sets, for a fine of $63,650.

It turns out that Irdeto was the loser after all in the Surewest IPTV system, which Widevine issued a release about winning last week,which had previously gone to Irdeto. We have yet to have a reaction from Irdeto but an insider told us that Irdeto fumbled the ball. In the meantime Irdeto says that it has now demonstrated at last weeks BMCO a content protection system for mobile TV adhering to the new OMA BCAST smartcard profile interoperating with other mobile TV solution including DRM partner SafeNet, middleware supplier S3, and multimedia software solution provider Nextreaming.

Strategy Analytics says that sales of IPTV set-top boxes globally will rise to 7.9 million units in 2007, up 111% and says that just in Europe 3 million of them will be HD-enabled. DVRs are also on the rise and are taking 29% of the market from 15% in 2006. By 2012 Strategy Analytics says that annual worldwide sales of IPTV set-top boxes will reach 33.5 million.

We came across Packet Vision wandering the halls of IBC two years ago trying to drum up customers for addressable, interactive advertising on IPTV systems. Well it must be finding some traction because it has now landed a further £4 million ($8 million) to go with its earlier £2 million ($4 million) funding from last year. The additional money has been sourced from existing and new investors, including Mangrove Capital (one of the original institutional backers of Skype) and the company has now set up shop in the US where it has trials of its addressable, interactive advertising system.

Content delivery network Limelight Networks has priced its IPO offering at $15 a share and will offer 16,000,000 shares and has raised $170 million for itself and brought its investors a further $52 million. Shares began trading on June 8, 2007 on Nasdaq. The shares are already trading at a premium and are just under $20. Goldman Sachs ran the offering, Morgan Stanley acted as joint lead manager and qualified independent underwriter.

NBC Universal, the major US Studio has said that it will transform its content into easily transportable widgets using the content syndication and distribution platform from Clearspring Technologies.Widgets are movable mini-applications which users can personalize and post on their own blogs, social networking profiles, web sites, wikis and personal start pages, allowing deeper engagement for fans of NBCU content. Widgets will first come out offering content from Dateline, Hardball, Meet the Press and NBC Nightly News. Clearspring claims to have delivered 4 billion widgets to
date.

Time Warner said this week that it will make a decision on AOL’s future by the end of the year, addressing any speculation that the online unit could be spun off or merged with another company. Given that it spent most of last year on the same speculation, don’t expect anything too radical. Time Warner also said that in the future it could see a complete separation from Time Warner Cable, an idea that has also been with us for several years already.