Starbucks Blends Coffee and Music

WSJ writes about another example of how boundaries between businesses are blurring:

As the music industry’s sales suffer from digital piracy and competition from DVDs and videogames, Starbucks has found success selling carefully selected music to its millions of loyal customers…Most of the CDs Starbucks sells hit its shops at the same time that they reach traditional music outlets.

The push into music is part of Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz’s broader ambitions to make its stores the “third place” in consumers’ lives, after home and the office. As Mr. Schultz, 51 years old, sees it, music and other forms of entertainment help draw customers and, in turn, drive up sales of Starbucks’s pricey coffee and food.

Starbucks offers high-speed Internet access at some stores. Last year, the company also opened a sprawling combination coffeehouse and music store, called Hear Music Coffeehouse, in Santa Monica, Calif. Customers can shop for prepackaged CDs or burn their own on “media bars” using Starbucks’s 200,000-plus song library. The company plans to open similar stores in Miami and San Antonio, later this year.

Starbucks plans eventually to install media bars in most of its traditional coffee shops as well. Already, at 45 coffee shops in Seattle and Austin, Texas, customers can pay to burn CDs. The company also says it has heard from movie studios and television networks about someday setting up online video downloads.

3D TV

The New York Times writes:

Ordinary TV sets deliver 500 lines of resolution. Most high-definition screens reach 1,050. The HD3D hits 1,280 lines and counting – which means better picture quality than that of any TV available today, all in a convincing impression of the third dimension. And here’s the seriously trippy part about the new screen, which Deep Light plans to introduce at next winter’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas: multiple “blades” of video enable one screen to show different programs to different viewers, at the same time.

Imagine what that could do to your living room. Your kid sprawls on the floor, happily splattering the virtual walls of Quake 3-D, while you sit on the couch watching the news and your spouse beside you talks with friends in a virtual chat room – all on the same TV, all at the same time, and all in 3-D. Lean a few feet to the right and the latest report from the floor of the stock exchange becomes a live 3-D chat with the couple who came over to dinner the other night; lean the other way and Junior is blasting a zombie. And something similar is going on over at the neighbor’s. And halfway around the world.

We see the world in three dimensions, but throughout most of history, we’ve only been able to depict it in two. Until recently no one had come up with a better solution to this problem than goofy eyewear. When Rover sent back images from Mars, NASA scientists studied them wearing much the same glasses that audiences in 50’s movie palaces donned to watch “It Came From Outer Space.”

Within the realms of industry, that’s been changing, as what’s known as stereoscopic imaging has become a big business involving everyone from drug researchers doing molecular mapping to car designers building next year’s SUV. Culturally, however, it remains a novelty, consigned to the occasional theme park ride or Imax film. Recent commercial film releases, like “The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D,” have raised its profile a bit, but they still rely on the dinky glasses.

But the ever-evolving high-tech revolution is finally moving 3-D entertainment to the next stage. Sharp has sold three million 3-D cell phones in Japan since 2003 and has just released a laptop that toggles between 2-D and 3-D views. The South Korean government, meanwhile, recently announced an ambitious “3-D Vision 2010” project to make stereoscopic TV the worldwide standard within five years, and a number of companies are racing Deep Light to build the pieces of that puzzle; just in April, Toshiba announced new display technology for 3-D television screens. “The whole realm of TV,” says Chris Chinnock, the president of the market research firm Insight Media, “is the Holy Grail of 3-D.”

The Power of Flash

Robert Cringely writes:

In all the world of computing and the Internet, what technology has the greatest market share and the most loyal upgraders? Is it Microsoft’s Windows operating system? Is it Sun’s Java programming language? No, it is Macromedia’s Flash web graphics software. Flash is installed on more computers than any other program. Not only does Flash have a market share that dwarfs Windows and Java, we upgrade relentlessly to new versions. Flash is huge, and Flash is a lot of the reason why Adobe Systems recently agreed to buy Macromedia, the home of Flash.

What’s key about Flash is not just that it is installed on nearly every computer in the world, and that its influence is extending now into mobile phones. What’s key is that we all upgrade to the latest version of Flash as a matter of course, making it the ideal Trojan horse program of all time.

Let’s say Adobe/Macromedia had some little bit of code – a VoIP client, for example — they wanted to bring to market. Just make it part of the next version of Flash. Over the course of a few months and practically without effort, that little program would be installed and ready to go in hundreds of millions of computers. Then all Adobe would have to do is to announce it and the service could be up and running practically overnight. That’s the kind of market clout that not even Microsoft has. And that’s what makes Macromedia a bargain for Adobe even at $3.4 billion.

TECH TALK: South Korea’s IT839: The Impact

If all goes well with the new technologies that South Korea is working to introduce, this future as outlined by Business Week may become a reality faster than we imagine:

Strolling down a street in Seoul, you notice a billboard advertising flower delivery, and you remember it’s your girlfriend’s birthday. The billboard is equipped with an embedded radio chip. You whip out your mobile phone and press a “hot” key that connects with the chip and calls up information from the advertised flower shop on your phone’s display. You select a bouquet of daffodils, and a query pops up asking if you want to include a song. You pick a ditty dedicated to daffodils, and click “send” to place your order, which is billed to the phone. The shop delivers the flowers, with a radio chip attached to the wrapping paper. Your girlfriend clicks the hot key on her phone, and it plays the song. She is happy you remembered; SK Telecom is delighted because it gets traffic and earns money from selling the music as well.

AsiaTele writes about how the BcN initiative evolved and how it can give South Korea an edge in the next-generation networks space:

Two years ago, the government decided to aggregate all NGN efforts into a single project coordinated by the National Computer Agency (NCA). This project was named BcN, and the ETRIs network laboratory also changed its name to BcN division. Over time, the scope of BcN was broadened to include almost any technology or service that might be usable in the coming NGN age. BcN is now one of three infrastructure projects in the governments IT839 plan.

The reason that South Korea is in a propitious position to seize the world initiative in NGN is its successful rollout of broadband in recent years. Broadband with 8-10Mbps now reaches 70-80% of the homes and businesses in South Korea, which means there is a burgeoning demand for better and faster data communications.

While most advanced countries are still, often slowly, rolling out broadband, South Korea is ready to move to the next level which is nationwide 50-100Mbps FTTH and mobile access to a single IP-based network capable of handling and offering every thinkable service, especially multimedia services.

The Korea Herald adds: Industry watchers expect Internet protocol-based television, next-generation mobile telephony and portable Internet to be the killer applications for the new network. The broadband convergence network is the core of our national info-tech strategy. By successfully integrating the broadband convergence network with advanced end-user applications, Korea will be at least five years ahead of other developed countries in information-based consumer services,said Seo Seok-jin, director of the Communication Ministry’s broadband convergence network division.

IT839 is not just about making South Korea as the worlds showpiece for emerging technologies. The driving factor is business and the race to build tomorrows global technology leaders. In this, South Korean companies will end up having an edge because of their domestic base. This leadership is happening because of the governments vision and will to take big, bold bets and back them up with capital.

In India, so far, we have seen very little of this not just in the government but also the private sector. So, what lessons can India learn from South Korea and its IT839 initiative?

Tomorrow: Learnings for India