MediaFile

RIM’s PlayBook looks smooth in first demo

CESEver since its announcement last fall, gadget geeks have been itching to take Research in Motion’s new tablet for a test drive. Tech reporters finally got some hands-on time with the device — the PlayBook — on Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Amid a crush of iPad wannabes, RIM’s tablet proved to be a pleasant surprise.

Some companies used CES to show off less-than-fully-baked tablets, with vendors such as Motorola saying the software was not fully ready. The PlayBook (while also still a work in progress; the real deal will launch in February or March) was noticeably zippy (it sports a speedy dual-core chip). It also has an attractive, intuitive user interface, and played Flash-based videos from the Web at a snap.

It is of course way too early to say flatly that the PlayBook is a real-deal competitor to Apple’s iPad, but the initial take on the device in at least some prominent tech blogs seemed very positive. And with a slew of Android-based tablets hitting the market in the coming months, RIM’s tablet certainly offers a different option. RIM said flat-out that corporate interest in the PlayBook is “massive.” The mobile chief of AT&T said on Wednesday that his customers were looking forward to getting more information about the device.

While some analysts say it might be tough for anybody to catch up to Apple’s iPad, the great tablet war may turn out to be more interesting than expected. Stay tuned…

Today In Music: Sales down in US and UK in 2010, digital barely up

The numbers are in for two of the biggest music markets and unsurprisingly, sales  are down yet again, continuing a trend of the last decade.

TaylorSwiftUS:

According to numbers from Nielsen SoundScan, total album sales, traditionally the heartbeat of the industry, were down 13 percent in the 52 weeks to Jan 2 this year. Over 326 milion albums were sold in all formats including digital versus 374 million a year  ago. Overall music sales, when you include albums, singles, music videos and digital tracks was down 2.5 percent. Music sales were helped a bit by digital track sales holding steady up 1 percent to 1.17 billion units but that’s a far cry from the double digit percentage growth seen in recent years.

The top dog in the label business is still Universal Music Group with a 30.84 percent market share of album sales, followed by Sony Music Entertainment with 27.95 percent, Warner Music Group at 20.01 percent and EMI at 10.18 percent. Others, which represent independents, are at 11.02 percent. Interestingly only Universal and the troubled EMI grew market share slightly this year, EMI likely had a Beatles digital bump as well as some rare US hits like Lady Antebellum (top selling physical album).

CES: Nvidia’s Huang and the wireless curse

NVIDIA/Jen-Hsun Huang, Nvidia’s plain-talking chief executive, may want to hit the blackjack tables while he’s in Las Vegas.

That’s because he’s already had his share of bad luck in Sin City while on stage for a presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show.

About halfway through his presentation unveiling the company’s new Tegra 2 chip, Huang hit a snag when attempting to wirelessly connect to the Web to demonstrate the chip’s multimedia prowess. Huang pleaded with the audience to “spare” him some bandwidth according to media reports.

CES: Portraits in purple prose (part one)

I was going to call this blog entry about this year’s Consumer Electronics Show press releases, “language crimes.” But that’s overheated. I’ll call it “overexcited claims” instead. It’s a sample of the sometimes purple, overwrought prose that press agents produce to show off clients’ products. At shows like CES, where 125,000 people overwhelm Las Vegas to gawk at consumer electronics for several days, there’s a lot of effort to get attention from harried, cranky journalists.

Odd results occur when you pair dramatic words with products that, no matter how much you might love them, don’t lend themselves to such… Byronic descriptions. Often accompanying them are typical buzzwords of the technology public relations corps, which after 15 years still leave me wondering if perhaps I haven’t mastered my native language.

Here are a few (I’ll file more later today and on Thursday):

Redefining the visual experience

Sigma Designs, a leading provider of system-on-chip (SoC) solutions for delivering entertainment and control throughout the home, today announced that it will showcase at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, new products and award-winning solutions that bring the first studio-quality entertainment experience to the living room. For the first time, Sigma will demonstrate its new powerhouse SMP8910 and thin-client optimized SMP8670 Secure Media Processors…

CES: One strip club, one Howard Stern producer and 125,000 friends

In my second day of searching for the most interesting and interestingly written press releases about the Consumer Electronics Show, I came across what appears to be an invitation for 125,000 people:

LAS VEGAS–(Business Wire)– Gary Dell`Abate, best-selling author and long-time producer of The Howard Stern Show will host a party January 8th at Rick`s Cabaret Las Vegas, to which he has invited all fellow attendees of the world-famous Consumer Electronics Show. The club is part of the Rick`s Cabaret International, Inc. (NASDAQ:RICK) group of upscale gentlemen`s clubs.

The party will take place at the club at 3355 Procyron Street at Desert Inn Boulevard, just off the Las Vegas Strip, starting at 10 p.m. Dell`Abate will be in town to attend the CES, which he hosted last year. Dell`Abate will be assisted in his hosting duties by beautiful, raven-haired adult star Daisy Duxe, who has appeared in over 150 popular adult films. She is appearing as part of an adult-star extravaganza at the club, where blonde centerfold model and adult star Prinzzess appears on Friday night January 7th.

CES: Achieve new positions

If you’re going to Las Vegas, you might as well go to bed in public. And what better way to do that than on a mattress whose ability to achieve new positions is unrivaled? Leonard Cohen would be jealous.

Yes, it’s true.  There will be a mattress on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center starting January 6 for the 2011 CES show.

Actually, it will be in the Vivon Life booth (South Hall, lower level #22057).  It may be the first sleep mattress ever to be shown at the Consumer Electronics Show and we think it will get people to turn their heads and take notice.

CES: Riding in cars with sources

Here’s a note that my editor received from the press agent for Line2, which bills itself as “one of the most famous and best selling apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad (Android is being announced just before CES).” Among other things, Line2 “is a second line on your iPhone or Android phone that allows you to place and receive calls and SMS for free over Wi-Fi.  When Wi-Fi is unavailable, Line2 will connect over a 3G/4G data connection or the cellular network.  Never miss a call because you are out of range or Wi-Fi or cellular coverage.”

You have received the following last week but we just wanted to post it again for your convenience

1.    A Car And Driver To Take You To Important CES Appointments

2.    A Six Month Free Trial Subscription of Line2

3.    A 25% Discount on Six Months of Service For All Of Your Readers

4.    A Chance To Say Hello To Peter Sisson, CEO of Toktumi, Parent Company of Line2, On Wednesday Night at Pepcom

from Breakingviews:

Goldman’s old-school Facebook deal sets new tests

Goldman Sachs' old-school Facebook deal brings a new set of challenges. The bank is raising up to $1.5 billion from clients to invest in the social network while putting in $450 million itself. Like Morgan Stanley's reported deal with online coupon service Groupon, it looks like classic merchant banking. With hot firms in the driver's seat, however, the banks could find themselves in for a wild ride.

Internet darlings, with their growth, profitability and cash, face little pressure to go public yet still have some use for what a fundraising can provide. So instead of an IPO, they rely on so-called D-rounds. This allows them to raise money at favorable valuations for internal use, while buying stock back from employees or early-round investors who want to cash out.

It's a calculated pay-to-play on the banks' part. By stumping up for Facebook and Groupon, Goldman and Morgan Stanley put themselves in a strong position to underwrite the eventual IPOs. They make the tech firms happy by providing stronger headline valuations, in Facebook's case $50 billion. And the intermediaries score points with their well-heeled clients by enabling them to put money into hard-to-access investments.

Why won’t Amazon say how many Kindles it’s sold?

Something about returning from the Christmas holidays makes people want to show off what they received – a new sweater donned, a new gadget subtly pulled out at meetings, a few extra pounds padding the belly.

Jeff Bezos doesn’t like this tradition. He will hint at the generous present that consumers gave to Amazon in the form of surprisingly strong sales, but he won’t offer details.

Bezos wants you to know that his Kindle – the e-book reader that has done a remarkably good job surviving in the age of the iPad – was Amazon’s “bestselling product of all time.” How many Kindles did Amazon sell? We don’t know because Amazon isn’t saying.

Is the success of e-readers only hype?

On the heels of major booksellers Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com announcing milestones related to their e-readers, The Pew Internet and American Life Project has released a survey called “65% of Internet users have paid for online content“.

Reading past the single conclusion of the title, it’s easy to appreciate how varied that content is.

For example, the survey says that 33 percent of U.S. Internet users have paid for digital music online. It’s the same for software.