Fast Company

Live, from the Consumer Electronics Show...

Clearly, this week, Las Vegas is the world capital of overstimulation (and mile-long lines to buy a hot dog or board a shuttle bus). Today was the official opening of the Consumer Electronics Show, and here are some quick impressions so far.

- While everyone spent 2005 focusing on the iPod as the must-have portable media device, Sony was selling PlayStation Portables like crazy: 200,000 a week during the Christmas selling season, the company said.

- Live TV will be appearing, imminently, on your cell phone. Providers like MobiTV (more than 500,000 subscribers), Sling Media, Sony, and Qualcomm's MediaFLO division plan to make it so.

- TiVo has some cool stuff that it'll start beta-testing later this month, like the ability to move recorded TV shows onto an iPod or the aforementioned PlayStation Portable. (What the call Tivo To Go.) But the company seems unfocused, trying to pile features onto its box in the hopes of recapturing some momentum. (Isn't piling on pointless features the exclusive province of Microsoft?) Not sure exactly why you'd want to listen to Internet radio on your TiVo.

- Usually when PR people button-hole me and ask me to look at something, it's a dud. But I was impressed by the concept of the ChatterBug. It's a tiny device that looks like the filter you install on your phone lines when you use DSL. Basically, plug a phone into the ChatterBug, and it instantly becomes a VOIP phone, saving you scads on long distance. You pay them $9.95 a month, and make all the U.S. calls you want. (You can keep your own phone number, too.)

- LG and iRiver are both showing tiny video/audio players that are about the size of a box of Tic-Tacs. iRiver's U10 Music and Media Player costs just $200. No price yet for LG's FM30 Portable Media Player. One question: haven't these guys heard of creative naming? Maybe that's one reason the iPod looms so large in the public consciousness.

- I skipped the Bill Gates keynote last night, even though I should've gone. (His droning voice just drives me batty, so I chose to go to a press party with hors d'oeuvres.) But I did catch Sony CEO Howard Stringer's presentation this morning (with cameo appearances by Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, and `Da Vinci Code' author Dan Brown.) Stringer said that we're leaving a world where entertainment content is pushed out to consumers - and entering one where consumers pull content toward them, when they want it, in the format they want it. Stringer also presented the Sony Reader - yet another attempt to make eBooks take off.

- I'm struck by how many new services are being launched that require you to buy yet another monthly subscription fee: XM and Sirius satellite radio are here... some of the cell phone TV guys charge $10 a month... TiVo... movie download services. When will there be subscription backlash among consumers?

I'll try to post again - let me know if there's anything (or anyone) you want me to look for...

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4 Comments

  • Heath Row

    I just got my Sony Reader today, and I love it. Love it. If this doesn't help the ebook concept stick and stay, I'm not sure what will!

  • LP

    Already started in the UK, though we have a strong public broadcaster to fight off the subscriptionholics (are you listening, FCC?)

    The BBC helped design and push FreeView - a digital receiver box that costs around $75, parks neatly on top of a regular TV and gives you 30-odd digital-quality channels plus about 20 radio channels instead of 5. No fees after that unless you want ...erm... "specialist" channels. Integrated TVs are also easily available.

    Channels that were previously only available by subscription are now transferring to Freeview because it's a much bigger audience than on satellite or cable.

    Compare this with three years ago, when the same thing was tried with a small subscription fee. The experiment lasted barely a year and put a huge dent in the supporting commercial company's finances.

    Moral: advertiser-led TV and radio is not still only possible in the digital age but potentially a far stronger model than subscriptions...

  • s difilipo

    subscription backlash - yes
    I have innoculated myself against subscription-itis.
    Where is the value exactly?
    I am willing to pay a premuim for a fine dining experience - once in a while. I do not subscribe to a single restaurant with some notion that I will dine there regularly.
    What happened to micro-payment.
    I prefer the itunes model. Small fees for what I want when I want it.