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A Corporate Ring Tone
Mobile phone service and other telecommunications advances continue to be potential growth markets that more corporate bigwigs are eyeing to boost profits. New cellular industry deals involving Disney and Microsoft Corp. are just a few examples of the partnerships being struck to capitalize on wireless communications trends.
For Disney, the company is never shy about latching onto an opportunity to use Mickey and friends to hawk new services and attract people to its brand. The Walt Disney Co. plans to partner with Sprint to use the telecommunications company's network to sell family friendly mobile phone service. Disney's Internet unit and Sprint today announced the deal for Disney to launch the new wireless service. Called Disney Mobile, it will launch next year. The company said it plans to offer cell service and products tied to the offering, which will include family-oriented entertainment content.
"Disney expects the venture to be in investment mode for the next several years, but hopes it will bring solid financial returns in the long run, Steve Wadsworth, president of the company's Internet group, said in a statement. The company is turning to wireless at a time when U.S. operators are taking aim at very specific market segments, such as the very young, the very old and other special-interest groups, as more than 60 percent of the nation's population already has phones," Reuters said of the deal.
The Los Angeles Times didn't have many extra details on the deal, but did note Disney has already launched another themed cell phone offering. "This is Disney's second effort to combine one of its well-known media brands and telecommunications. Late last year, Disney's ESPN unit and Sprint said they would launch a mobile phone service aimed at sports fans. Company officials are counting on Disney's well known roster of characters and brands to distinguish it from rivals and win over parents," the paper said.
Meanwhile, while Microsoft may have Longhorn on the brain (its next-generation operating system), the company is continuing to forge new alliances in the telecom arena. The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant and France Telecom are partnering up to develop products and services, including a phone that will work on both cellular networks and with Internet telephone technology. And while Longhorn has been a labor of love for Microsoft developers (and criticized by outsiders for taking way too long to come to market), this France Telecom partnership is supposed to yield fruit soon: Reuters reported that Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said the first product from the team could be ready within a year (of course, "could" gives the companies lots of wiggle room).
The wire service also noted that the Microsoft-France Telecom deal is just the latest in a string of telecom and mobile-related deals. "In recent months, several leading software and telecoms companies have announced collaborations in the area of developing new Internet and mobile phone services. In June, Dutch telecoms operator KPN chose Siemens as its network equipment supplier to launch Internet Protocol (IP) television over phone lines. Last month, U.S. software company Intel Corp. said it had teamed up with South Korea's KT Corp to work on long-distance wireless broadband technology."
However, all the potential dollar signs in the cell phone business have left some competitors putting up their dukes to make sure they can get all they can from the marketplace. Case in point: Broadband and wireless provider Broadcom Corp. has sued Qualcomm Inc. of San Diego. Broadcom accuses the cell phone chip maker of antitrust violations. Here is Broadcom's beef, from a canned press release: "Our goal is simply to ensure fair competition and a level playing field, not just for Broadcom, but for the entire cellular industry," Scott A. McGregor, Broadcom's president and chief executive said in the statement. "Qualcomm's practices prevent that. Their monopoly in CDMA technology has increased the price of cell phones in the U.S., and we are hoping that the courts will prevent the same thing from happening with the next generation '3G' cell phones. Qualcomm's monopolistic activities limit competition, stifle innovation, and ultimately harm consumers and service providers." The Associated Press covered the tiff.
Qualcomm didn't waste time replying to Broadcom's allegations, posting a response on its Web site today. Qualcomm called the antitrust complaint "meritless."
Another corporate team is hoping to capitalize on the pay-for-play music downloading business. Dell Inc. and Napster Inc. are partnering to pitch a legal music downloading service to colleges. Reuters explained that Napster's digital music service will use Dell's PowerEdge 1855 servers to increase network bandwidth at college campuses that choose to use the service. "Colleges will be able to use the servers to store music from Napster's library locally, allowing network processing speed to remain fast while hundreds of students simultaneously download music. The University of Washington is the first school to sign up for the package, set to launch this fall, the companies said," Reuters reported.
While ventures continue to be forged in the legal download space, the debate over music piracy continues. Check out a recent piece from San Jose Mercury News columnist Mike Langberg, who argues that free music may not be impossible, despite recent legal rulings.
"Now there's a bitter new taste of reality for musicians and record labels: Online music piracy may indeed make music free. Piracy might simply be impossible to stop, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling earlier this week against Internet file-swapping sites. Recorded music, as a result, would have to become free to survive," he wrote.
iPods have become so popular, that they have joined the ranks of Air Jordans and other consumer products that have become such a part of pop culture that some people are willing to steal the items or even worse, inflict violence to get their hands on them. In a sad moment for the Apple iPod and most notably for a New York family, a teen was killed over the July 4 weekend during a fight for his valuables, including an iPod. "My cousin today got murdered over some stupid iPod," Koreena Glanville, 21, told The New York Times.
Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs made a personal call to the boy's father, Errol Rose, to express his sympathies, The New York Times reported. "I didn't know who he was," Mr. Rose told the paper. "He called me on my cellphone, at 4 maybe. Or maybe it was 5." More from the article: "Mr. Rose said he had stopped noticing the passage of time since his son was killed. Calling him by his first name, Mr. Jobs asked how Mr. Rose was doing, he said, and conveyed his sympathies. 'He told me that he understood my pain,' Mr. Rose said. 'He told me if there is anything - anything - anything he could do, to not be afraid to call him. It really lightened me a bit.'" Let's hope that a senseless killing like this is not repeated.
Oracle's Acquisition Binge
Larry Ellison continues to show that his company Oracle has a healthy appetite for acquisitions. Oracle yesterday said it bought the small software company ProfitLogic Inc. for an undisclosed sum. ProfitLogic makes software that helps retailers track inventory, pricing and other merchandising decisions. While small, the company has some big-name customers, including Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's and Toys R Us. Recall that Oracle beat out rival SAP in the spring to buy software company Retek for roughly $640 million.
ER: The Real Thing
I thought the show "Emergency!" was cool when I was young, but that was before we became a reality TV nation. It seems the Discovery Channel chronicles of plastic surgery, baby deliveries and other operating room heroics are not enough. There's also a rising trend in the medical field to advertise new products and services through live Webcasts of surgeries. The idea is to show patients what they may be in store for if they go in for a similar procedure. The Webcasts are geared for doctors too. Both doctors and patients can e-mail questions -- like an online chat -- while the procedure is under way. The New York Times reports on the trend in an article today.
The French are certainly crying "Zut Alors!," but Londoners are celebrating with warm beer and other festivities today on the news that the city will host the 2012 Olympics. Buckingham Palace gave its official congratulations on the Summer Games win and plenty of Web sites and blogs are already heralding the coup, which The New York Times today called "one of the most fiercely contested bidding competitions for the Olympics since the advent of the modern Games in 1896." (Blog tracking site Technorati listed "Olympics" and "London 2012" among the top blog searches early today).