The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Category: David Colker

YouTube to show live, major sports events

The good news for sports fans: YouTube will be showing a series of major matches, live, on the online site.

The bad news: The sport is cricket.  

Well, it's not bad if you're a fan of the sport -- mostly obscure in this hemisphere outside of Trinidad and Tobago -- with its complex rules, long matches and built-in tea breaks. The deal, between Google (which owns YouTube) and the India Premier League, is to show all 60 matches of the Twenty20 cricket tournament that begins March 12.

This will make the IPL available in the United Kingdom, where there's a large cricket fan base but no regular broadcasts of league games. And make no mistake: The IPL is popular -- according to league figures, the average attendance per match is 58,000, which is second only to the National Football League (with 68,240 per game).

Sadly for fans of the sport in the U.S., the IPL matches will not be shown here. YouTube will block viewers in this country, thus depriving us of seeing the Delhi Daredevils, Kolkata Knight Riders and redundantly named Mumbai Indians in action.

C'mon, YouTube, open it up to us too. Maybe we'd learn to appreciate the matches. Or at least the tea breaks. 

-- David Colker

Photo: Cricket is coming to YouTube. Credit: Pavel Rahman / Associated Press

Apple paint-splatter invitation feeds the rumor frenzy

With anticipation of the new Apple tablet computer -- or whatever it is -- at a fever pitch, every tiny thing the the company does is noted, analyzed and discussed with an intensity the CIA might envy.

Take the abstract, paint-splatter design on the press conference invitations that went out earlier today for the Jan. 27 introduction of the mystery product. The Mac faithful immediately started posting on the Appleinsider Internet forum as to what the design, with the bitten-apple logo in the center, could mean.

Some thought the splatter was a clue to new products. "Maybe Apple is signaling ... paint and drawing software," Addabox said. 

Some thought it was a clue to the device's name. Daddybone reasoned: "Where do we see such paint? From an artist. And what does an artist work on? A canvas. Behold: Apple's latest creation is called the Apple Canvas."

Without going through all the dubious steps, Ankm1 simply guessed iPalette.

Meanwhile, Igenius took a cosmic view, writing: "Emerging from and replacing the confusion of multiple paint splatters, Apple stands on the solid background of a calming color, shining with a simple, familiar white purity."

No wonder people don't use their real names on forums.

Rot'nApple took a more personal view: "Apple had a paint ball fight and didn't invite me?"

Perhaps the most reasoned of all was Cbsofla, who sought to calm the frenzy: "Sometimes," he wrote, "a splatter is just a splatter."

-- David Colker

Apple tablet details disclosed by French executive, maybe

The soon-to-be chief executive of France Telecom, which has nearly 200 million customers in 30 countries, added to the rumor frenzy over the possible Apple tablet when he did a television interview in France.

Stephane Richard, according to a translation provided by, not only confirmed the existence of the already mythic device (even before it's announced), but also said it would have a webcam and would be available through his company's Orange brand.

Richard enthusiastically said that Orange subscribers will "particularly enjoy" the Apple tablet "because the webcam will allow live video streaming. It's a new take on mobile video conferencing."

Finally, proof that the tablet exits!

Except that French Telecom then sent out a statement that Richard's comments had been misinterpreted, or misunderstood, or something.

“These responses in no way reflect Orange’s confirmation of the existence of the rumoured device," read the statement posted on PaidcontentUK. "The spokesperson was merely confirming that he is aware of the speculation surrounding a launch and that Orange would be delighted to have such a product were it ever to be available.”

However, the Paidcontent:UK site points out that there was a similar incident in 2007, when an Orange executive let the cat out of the bag on the iPhone before Apple announced it.

And to add to the confusion, analyst John Gruber, quoted on Macrumors, said today he is hearing there is no webcam or any other kind of camera on the tablet.

The frenzy will not likely end until Apple finally unveils the tablet. If it does.

Apple hasn't even confirmed it has an announcement coming up. (Rumors say it will happen later this month). 

-- David Colker

CES: DirecTV to offer all-3-D satellite TV channels to home viewers

A worker makes adjustments to the Panasonic booth at the Consumer Electronics Show, where DirecTV and Panasonic announced a partnership to offer all-3D satellite channels. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.
The prospects for 3-D TV took a major step forward today with a joint announcement from DirecTV and Panasonic that three all-3-D satellite channels will launch by June.

The three channels will be made available to DirecTV’s HDTV subscribers, bringing movies, TV shows and live events to homes in 3-D.

A Panasonic executive said pricing has not been set. But at least one of the channels would be made available to the subscribers at no additional cost. The two companies have formed a strategic partnership to create the channels.

One of the major barriers for 3-D TV has been a lack of content. In December, a standard was announced for 3-D Blu-ray machines to make it practical for movies to be issued in the format.

But this is the first announcement by a U.S. content provider that it would bring a steady supply of 3-D to its customers. One of the first live sports events to be shown on the 3-D channel will be the Major League Baseball All-star game this summer, according to a DirecTV official.

To view 3-D programming at home, viewers will need specially equipped television sets. Panasonic, which has been at the forefront of bringing 3-D to living rooms, will be offering 3-D enabled sets and Blu-ray players.

Of course, 3-D glasses will be needed to view the channels.

-- David Colker

CES: Toshiba goes all 3-D, all the time

CELL TV Photo Bucking the trend of falling TV prices, Toshiba today announced a new line -- Cell TV -- with a super-fast processor now used in the Sony PS3 game console.

This is the first announced use of the Cell chip in a TV. "Toshiba missed out on HD DVD -- which got beat out by Blu-ray -- but that gave them the first shot at defining the future of TV," said obviously enthusiastic analyst Richard Doherty, head of the Envisioneering Group, after the Toshiba press conference.

This future will likely be expensive, however. Toshiba did not announce prices for sets but was not shy in saying they would come at a premium. "We don't have to rush to the bottom," said Scott Ramirez, vice president of marketing for the company. 

The Cell's added power will support numerous enhancements, including a feature that will supposedly take any 2-D show and present it in 3-D when the viewer chooses. But it's not magic -- it will still require the use of 3-D glasses. Toshiba will be using powered, active shutter glasses that carry the highest price tag of any such specs. Yoshiaki Uchiyama, Toshiba senior vice president, said the top line of Cell TVs will come bundled with the glasses; otherwise, they will be à la carte.

Another feature of the Cell -- video calls on the set, with "crystal-clear images, even on a TV as big as 55-inches (although the this feature was not demonstrated at the press conference).

The Cell will also have built-in wireless networking, so  sets can connect to home networks without snaking more cables into living rooms. That will eliminate the need for separate, Internet-connected devices to view services such as Facebook, CinemaNow or Flckr from sofas.

But will Cell sell? Stay tuned.

-- David Colker and Dawn Chmielewski

Photo: Cell TV, from a new line of TVs from Toshiba due out in the fall. It was introduced today at CES. Credit: Toshiba

CES: LG kicks off a day of new TVs

LG gets the dubious honor, as usual, of going first on the traditional TV news conference day at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.


And no surprise -- its main themes were Internet connectivity, 3-D TV and thinner screens, which are likely to be the three mantras throughout the day as the major manufacturers each take their turn at announcing new stuff. 

One of LG's main announcements -- that it would add Skype video calls to its online-connected TVs -- had its thunder stolen yesterday by Panasonic, which announced its Skype alliance a full day before its news conference.

LG also said it would be offering its Internet-delivered services -- also including Netflix and Accuweather -- on all of its TVs that are 32 inches in screen size and above.

In the 3-D realm, LG said its 47-inch and 55-inch sets would be enabled with the technology.

LG also said it would have a 15-inch OLED-screen TV on the market in the first half of the year. The only one out now, from Sony, is 11 inches and priced at about $2,500. It came out a couple of years ago and got a lot of attention because it's super-thin and sports a high-quality image. But other manufacturers shied away from jumping on the OLED bandwagon because of the difficulty of making larger screens at affordable prices.

No price was announced for LG's OLED set.

-- David Colker

CES: Let the gadgets begin

The 2010 Consumer Electronics Show doesn't get really serious until tomorrow when the big guns -- Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, etc. -- hold carefully rehearsed news conferences to show off their new products for the year.

But tonight at the Unveiled showcase in a ballroom at the Venetian Hotel, a few dozen companies presented -- in much more free-form style -- new products that could mostly be classified as gadgets.

Many were very cool. Some were just wacky and might not last the year.

But overall, you just had to admire the creativity.

Take a look at three unusual products that were introduced tonight to the consumer electronics world.

-- David Colker

Panasonic, Skype team up on TV that makes free phone/video calls


Upcoming Panasonic TVs will be able to make online video calls. Credit: Panasonic/Skype.

Soon, folks won't think you're crazy if you talk back to a TV set.

Consumer electronics giant Panasonic said today that the Skype online phone and video service will be available on a line of its Internet-enabled, high-definition televisions that will be available in the spring. The system will use a Panasonic camera/microphone device (sold separately) that will plug directly into the TV.

The announcement by the companies said the microphone will be able to pick up sound from "couch distance." The image of the person on the other end of the line, if video is used, will appear on the TV screen in resolution quality up to 720p. That's not the highest HDTV quality -- which is 1080p -- but better than what is produced by regular DVDs. However, getting the best image quality on the calls will very much depend on the quality of the Internet connection.

Skype video calls are nothing new -- the service launched for computers in 2006. But Skype Chief Executive Josh Silverman said it was important to bring it to home televisions. "TVs will no longer be just the center of people’s entertainment experience," Silverman said, "but have the potential to be the center of people’s communications experience."

No prices were given for the upcoming TV sets. A Skype spokeswoman said the price of the camera/microphone devices to be offered will cost between $100 and $200.

Calls between Skype-enabled TVs -- or from one of the TVs to a Skype-equipped computer or mobile device -- will be free. Calls between one of the TVs and non-Skype phones will have a cost.

The announcement was made in Las Vegas, where the electronics world is gathering for the Consumer Electronics Show that opens formally Thursday. But Wednesday, the big guns in TV -- including Panasonic -- are scheduled to introduce their products for the new year.

-- David Colker

Facebook fights back, disallows the Suicide Machine

Websuicide Like the computer in the movie "2001," Facebook is struggling to keep its profiles from virtual extinction at the hands of its arch enemy - the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine.

The Suicide Machine is a clever Web site out of the Netherlands that was designed to free users from their social network lives on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn. You just pick one of the networks, start up the machine, and it graphically shows you unfriending your contacts, one by one, and eliminating all your other contacts with your profile. Forever.

Although the now-friendless profile actually survives, the Suicide Machine is designed not to allow you ever to sign on to it again.

You don't want to fool around with it unless you're serious. Like taking that first step off the Golden Gate Bridge, once you click to start the process on the Suicide Machine, you can't stop it.

See video, below, on how the machine works and a tongue-in-cheek look at life in the real world after freedom from social-networking sites.

Except that Facebook is now fighting back. The Suicide Machine is reporting that Facebook has banned its IP address, thus foiling suicides. You can almost hear the machine singing "Daisy."

But this is not the end, swears the Web version of Dr. Kevorkian. The Suicide Machine posted a friendly message on its site: "We are currently looking in ways to circumvent this ungrounded restriction imposed on our service!  Thanks for your understanding."

-- David Colker

web 2.0 suicide machine promotion from moddr_ on Vimeo.

High school YouTube video gets famous by going backward


The YouTube video from Shorewood High School in Washington state looks normal when it starts. It's a lip dub -- a lip sync of a song done in a single take with numerous students taking part -- of the infectious Hall & Oates tune, "You Make My Dreams Come True."

There are numerous lip dubs online, and this one is pretty much like any other, beginning with an enthusiastic girl running through the halls of the school, mouthing the words. But there are some odd things going on. Some students around her are doing impossible-looking acrobatics as the camera passes by. Objects fly up from the floor. 

That's because the Shorewood lip dub, which has become a big hit on YouTube, was filmed backward. The kids in the video (it's a cast of hundreds, including cheerleaders and the swim team) did everything in reverse, including the lip syncing. That meant they had to painstakingly learn all the words phonetically, backward, like in the old days when we played records backwards to get devil messages.

A local television station did a story about the kids, and they demonstrated the technique.

The lip dub video isn't perfect, but it's wonderfully inventive, ambitious and joyous. It was done in answer to a challenge by a rival high school that did a regular lip dub to the OutKast song, "Hey Ya!" We'll do that other school the favor of not mentioning its name, because the Shorewood effort was overwhelmingly sick (in a good way).

!tuo ti kcehC

-- David Colker

Photo: The lip dub created by students at Shorewood High School in Shoreline, Wash. Credit: YouTube


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