Apple to Shut (reinvent?) Lala

Lala Shut by AppleIn December, gas tanks of Apple watchers got a surprise dose of high octane when reports surfaced the company was buying online music service Lala. Some immediately speculated that Apple had plans to create a "cloud" friendly iTunes. Others chimed in on the possibility of Apple using Lala’s intellectual property and license relationships to offer an iTunes music subscription package.

Now, just a few months removed, rumor engines are spinning again on news Apple will shut down the public face of Lala’s services a week before the start of Apple’s World Wide Development Conference.

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Looking Forward: Interactive Entertainment’s Next Generation?

gaming futuresThere is a transformation underway in the world of video games.  Fueled by changing technology and the opportunity to evolve outdated business models everything from who plays, to what they play, to how they play it, are in states of transition.

For the analyst, the executive, entrepreneurs or for simply curious fans, this begs the question: Where are we headed?   What will come next? Where will things differ and where will they stay the same?

Every answer is a tea-leaf reading game.  But dot by connected dot, piece by piece, from the patterns and trends showing today?

Chances are we’re heading slowly toward a new marketplace.  A place with different cost structures and different hardware archetypes.  A place where traditional hardware cycles elongate and where software delivery methods change. We’re probably looking at a gaming industry future where some consoles become truly multi-purpose home entertainment platforms – music, movie, digital video recording (DVR) and gaming enabled devices in one – where direct delivery (streamed digital content or real-time streamed game play) become the dominant reality.

It’s a likely future where interfaces and user experiences will mix and match – from 2D to 3D, from traditional joystick inputs to full figured motion control and voice automation.   It’s a future where mobile games will likely take off in new directions, a place where boundaries from one medium to the next (console, PC, portable, cellular etc) become less defined.   It’s a place where a game’s play will be capable of crossing over between different devices.  It’s a place where “non-puzzle” or non-“head to head” games won’t have to be linear, where game storytelling is able to explore new forms.

We’re heading toward an environment where streams and subscriptions stand to surpass “shrink wrap” software sales.  A place where business models evolve.

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Disney and Hulu Make Pact

hulu disAfter months of rumors, it’s official. Disney has hopped on the Hulu bandwagon.  Subject to regulatory approval, Disney will take an equity stake in the video aggregrator/distributor alongside News Corp, NBC/Universal and Providence Equity Partners (which bought its stake in 2007).

In exchange for the equity, Disney will give Hulu the rights to broadcast full length programs from ABC’s catalog including Prime Time hits, and classics. Access will span the ABC Family, SoapNet, ABC and Disney Channel brands.

The deal will put three major networks (NBC, ABC and Fox) side by side in a joint video distribution platform.   When it comes to online distribution of feature length TV content, the deal will make Hulu, “Network 1.”

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Kindle’s Margins? Teardown Yields Clues

kindle image metueAmazon beat the street Thursday with a 24% gain in earnings and operating margins well ahead of expectations but true to form, the company broke out little detail on its high buzz, in-house, product, the Kindle.

Kindle is a tiny part of Amazon’s larger retail and services businesses and at this point, the company is choosing to keep the product’s performance metrics under wraps.   Fortunately, for those looking for color, iSuppli recently completed a tear-down of the eBook reader.  The results can’t shine a light on sales totals or consumer demand but they do give a hint at the margins Kindle’s making on hardware sales.

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Soundbytes: Murdoch on Technology, Media and Newspapers

quotesIn every business, there’s a select group of people guaranteed to lure a following when they speak.  Typically war tested and battle scarred, these are people that have been there.  People that, over years and decades, have weathered the battles and cultivated experience.  People that offer the prospect of insight only time can yield.   Rupert Murdoch is one of these people.   

If you’re in the media industry and want a perspective, Rupert’s one of your dream dinner table guests.  He took the helm of his first newspaper at 22 and in a lifetime of deal making he grew it into a global media powerhouse.  With News Corp, his holdings span TV, cable, print, film, internet, satellite and they travel around the globe.  

Unfortunately, Rupert Murdoch isn’t someone you can call up and ask to share a few stories or pointers.  That is out of the question.   Luckily, there’s ample supply of soundbytes, especially this month.

Every year for the past 48, Australia’s ABC Radio National has broadcast a series of lectures from a prominent Australian.    This year’s speaker in the  49th annual Boyer Lecture series is none other than Rupert Murdoch.   Through the span of November and December, he’s delivered a total of four themed talks.  Another two will air through December 7th. 

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InTru3D: Intel and DreamWorks push the 3D Agenda

intel behind dreamworksWhen watching old movies, there’s always a prominent credit for Technicolor.  When future generations look back on movies from our era, they may be shown a similar credit for Intel.   The company known for being “Inside” our computers appears to be working just as diligently “behind”the scenes of Hollywood to advance the cause of 3D-Movie Making.

At the Intel Developers conference Wednesday, the 800lb Gorilla of the chip industry reaffirmed their deal with DreamWorks Animation.  Jeffrey Katzenberg, the co founder and CEO of the studio was on hand to demonstrate what their joint venture is yielding.

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Dynamic Gaming: Looking at Digital DNA

digital dnaPicture it, it’s nearing October and the Red Sox and Yankees are meeting at Fenway for a final showdown.  The pennant is potentially on the line (or at least a playoff appearance).  Tensions are high.  Mariano Rivera is on the mound.  David Ortiz is at the plate. Tie game. Bottom of the 9th.  Bases loaded.  Full count. Two outs.   Rivera just got off the disabled list and his shoulder may be troubled.  Ortiz has had his number all season but he’s been slumping lately too; fatigued from the season and a lingering wrist injury.  One pitch will set the teams fates.  Win or lose.  Here it comes.

Now adjust your screen. The same scenario is actually playing out in a video game on your PS3 or Xbox 360.  The video game is mirroring reality.  You’re playing a friend for bragging rights and beer.  Same playoff race. Same scenario, right down to the injuries and fatigue.  

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