Wednesday, December 21, 2011

NBC To Broadcast Super Bowl XLVI Online, To Mobile Phones

The biggest draw in television is going mobile. The Super Bowl will be streamed online and to phones in the U.S. for the first time, the NFL said Tuesday. NBC's broadcasts of wild card Saturday, the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl will be available on the league's and network's websites and through Verizon's NFL Mobile app.

The service will include additional camera angles, in-game highlights and live stats – and replays of those always popular Super Bowl ads. NBC has been streaming its "Sunday Night Football" telecasts for four seasons, and what the network has found is it's not just being used by fans who can't get in front of a set. Many of the page views come from people using the service as a complement to watching the game on TV. That certainly would seem likely for the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 from Indianapolis.

The game is annually by far the biggest attraction on television, with last season's Packers-Steelers matchup drawing a record U.S. audience for any show with 111 million viewers. "Whether it's just for a quarter if somebody has to run out to the store to get something they forgot, now they can stay connected to the game," Hans Schroeder, the NFL's senior vice president of media strategy and development, told The Associated Press. "With such a big television audience, it will be interesting to see the expanded reach." NBC's streams on Sunday nights typically average 200,000-300,000 viewers, compared with 21 million for the telecasts. The network has seen no evidence it hurts the traditional broadcasts' healthy TV ratings. If anything, the extra options online may help keep fans glued to the games on their sets. "We don't want to limit ourselves to people not in front of the TV," said Rick Cordella, vice president and general manager for NBC Sports Digital Media. "The playoffs are appointment viewing," he added. "People schedule their day around it." The NFL and NBC will do extensive research to find out exactly how many people are watching the streams and how they're using them.

What number of fans want to watch the Super Bowl each year but aren't in front of a TV for whatever reason? Schroeder wonders had this been around for the Super Bowl three years ago, if fans at parties would have used the service to watch Santonio Holmes' toe-scraping winning touchdown catch for the Pittsburgh Steelers over and over again.


Monday, December 19, 2011

AT&T To Give Up T-Mobile Bid

AT&T Inc. is bowing out of its $39 billion bid to buy smaller wireless provider T-Mobile USA after the U.S. government raised concerns that it would raise prices, reduce innovation and give customers fewer choices. Monday's announcement came as little surprise after the Justice Department sued on Aug. 31 to block the merger. The deal looked further in jeopardy when the Federal Communications Commission's chairman also came out against it. The companies withdrew their FCC application last month. Sanford Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett said the announcement was "a bit of an anticlimax."

"This is like receiving the divorce papers for a couple that's been separated for years," he said. AT&T's purchase of T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom of Germany, announced in March, would have made it the largest cellphone company in the U.S. AT&T is now the second-largest wireless carrier behind Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile is fourth. AT&T will now have to pay Deutsche Telekom $3 billion in cash as a breakup fee and give it about $1 billion worth of airwaves, known as spectrum, that AT&T doesn't need for the continued rollout of its high-speed "4G" network. It will also enter into a roaming agreement with Deutsche Telekom so that AT&T's and T-Mobile's customers can use each other's networks.

AT&T will take an accounting charge of $4 billion in the current quarter. In pulling out, AT&T said the government's attempts to block the deal do not change the challenges of the wireless phone industry. Cellphone companies have been clamoring for more airwaves to meet growing demand for faster downloads on smartphones and tablet computers. The company said the deal would have solved that problem for a time, and without it, "customers will be harmed and needed investment will be stifled." It called on the government to quickly approve its purchase of unused spectrum from Qualcomm Inc. and come up with legislation to meet the nation's long-term needs. Many people, however, believe that AT&T had overstated the spectrum crisis.

AT&T Inc. already has an ample supply of unused wireless spectrum that it plans to use to expand its network over the next several years. And much of T-Mobile's spectrum is already in use, so the deal wouldn't have resulted in fresh airwaves becoming available. Furthermore, AT&T has made great strides in addressing network congestion in such cities as New York and San Francisco not by tapping its unused spectrum, but by upgrading its cell-tower equipment. Moffett said AT&T's spectrum needs are not so grave that it needs to make a large acquisition right away. AT&T could acquire airwave space through a possible spectrum auction through the FCC. It could also buy spectrum from satellite cable operator Dish Network Corp., which could require an FCC waiver.

The decision to end the bid could be a bigger problem for T-Mobile than for AT&T. Deutsche Telekom has been eager to sell T-Mobile and isn't keen on investing more in the company, which has seen revenue decline slowly with the flight of higher-profit contract customers. Still, Moffett believes it's too soon to write off T-Mobile, saying it has a good network with lots of room for more customers. "I think they could surprise some people and be a more important force in the market than people are giving them credit for," he said. AT&T's stock fell 20 cents to $28.54 in after-hours trading Monday after closing the regular session down 11 cents.


Galaxy Nexus Wins With Android 4.0

In general, I think Android 4.0 is smoother and simpler than previous versions of Android, with better animations between screens and somewhat easier controls. The recently used app list makes it easy to switch among applications, but it doesn't clearly show which are actually running at any time. It's also hard to kill apps. It has five home screens where users can put icons for apps or various widgets. Many new features are enabled and work quite well. I like having face recognition to unlock the phone, though it isn't as secure as a passkey and sometimes I had to resort to typing a pass code anyway.

The mobile data usage monitor (under settings) is quite useful. Others features don't seem quite as ready yet. As others have noticed, Facebook integration is notably lacking in this version; users are unable to integrate Facebook contacts with the address book easily. Near Field Communications, which is highlighted on back of the removable battery, aren't working as well, as Verizon has declined to ship Google Wallet. Overall, I think Ice Cream Sandwich is a big step forward. It's still not quite as intuitive as the iPhone's iOS, but good enough for most people. I've been particularly impressed by browsing.

The Nexus seems faster on both Wi-Fi and WAN connections than any Android phone I've tested. It offers "tabbed browsing," (actually just thumb nails of multiple open sites) and a very useful feature that lets users request a desktop version, rather than a mobile one, of any website. By default, it does not include Flash support, although users can download Adobe Flash 11, which works quite well. The speed, combined with screen size and resolution, make this a great phone for Web browsing. The phone has 32GB of memory, of which more than 28GB is available for user data, including apps, music, and photos. I was able to transfer data to and from the phone from a Windows PC without trouble, except for a message warning me MP3s might not play, though they did. Unlike many phones, it does not have a microSD slot. Instead, it seems designed to pull information from Google's cloud-based services.

Indeed, in order to play music at all, users have to set up a Google Music account or link a current Google account. Once set up, though, I was able to play music fairly easily and new features such as Android 4.0's equalizer were quite nice. (One thing to note: This phone has mostly "pure" Google Android software and as such will not play WMA audio, unlike some previous Android phones. I mostly use MP3s, so it's not an issue for me, but will be for some others.) Thus far, I've been pretty happy with the built-in camera. It has a 1-megapixel front-facing camera designed for video chat, and a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera. While other phones have higher megapixel counts, users get more control over scene settings, exposure and white balance options, and a panorama mode. The Gallery app contains a variety of photo editing tools and special effects. Still, I've gotten better pictures with an iPhone 4S. Of course, users have the Android Market, which offers a wide array of applications.

Everything I've tried so far has worked well, including the mobile version of The New York Times app, the Barnes & Noble reader, and Google Maps with driving directions. Overall, my first few days with the Galaxy Nexus have left me pretty impressed. It still has a few rough edges, as seems to be true with any new release these days, but the phone generally strikes me as quite fast and powerful.

By Michael J. Miller PCMag

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Frost in Socal

It was cold this morning.It was the first time I ever saw frost on my car.I had a flashback to my Midwest upbringing.