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Tech giants Google, Yahoo unveil 'anywhere, anytime' entertainment

Tech giants Google, Yahoo unveil 'anywhere, anytime' entertainment

The big tech companies have been telling consumers for years that they will provide entertainment - TV, movies, games and music - anywhere and anytime, to computers, cell phones and living room TVs.

Google and Yahoo joined the pack Friday as they announced their own slick versions of this at the Consumer Electronics Show.

But it's still not clear whether customers will bite. For all the Hollywood stars, lavish presentations and pronouncements from the technology industry this week at the Consumer Electronics Show, this promise of "anywhere, anytime" entertainment still seems filled with catches.

People are still faced with a bewildering set of choices from devices that often don't connect to one another. Rick Doherty, an analyst at Envisioneering, says that no consumer wants to be a systems administrator in their own home, connecting gear and loading software.

"There is a lot of chaos, and still a lot of work to be done," said Sujit Banerjee, a partner at venture capital firm BlueRun Ventures, a Nokia-led venture fund in Menlo Park, Calif.

Once consumers get their devices connected, they often encounter toll booths - in the form of subscriptions or spot payments - that must be paid before they can get their movies, music or TV over the Internet.

If everyone has to pay a monthly fee for multiple services, consumers could get tired of this fast, analysts say.

"It's called subscription fatigue," said Blake Krikorian, CEO of Sling Media. "The monthly fees keep building up."

At CES, the various options for how consumers will pay were laid out.

Starz Entertainment said this week that it would make 1,000 movies available for downloading to Microsoft-Intel computers over the Internet - for a US$9.95 a month fee.

Verizon is offering subscription service for videos delivered to cell phones.

Satellite radio providers are charging monthly fees for digital radio stations on handhelds.

Google, which has made most of its services free until now, will charge US$1.99 to rent or own TV programs from CBS, though other video programs may be free.

Others are providing free content for consumers by letting advertising pay instead.

Taking a page from Google's free programs, AOL's chief executive Jonathan Miller said that his company would give away content to consumers for free on Intel's new living room computers and reap revenue from ads. Yahoo CEO Terry Semel likewise said that advertising would enable his company to provide free Yahoo content to consumers on cell phones, TVs and PCs.

But even when the entertainment programs come free, there are often hidden costs.

There are those who charge for the hardware that runs the entertainment, such as Intel and its personal computer allies. Sling Media, which allows people to take their recorded shows on the run and view them on a laptop computer or cell phone, charges a US$249 one-time fee for its hardware. Apple, likewise, is reaping most of its revenues charging money for its iPod music players.

Microsoft provides a wide array of entertainment through its Media Center living room PC software, but consumers have to buy PCs that include the cost of its software.

And if consumers are expected to pay for hardware, software, content, and communications, the bills could add up.

Getting consumers to understand the benefits of anytime, anywhere entertainment and how to implement it will inspire big advertising campaigns. This is why Microsoft and Intel are spending billions of dollars this year trying to get consumers to understand the significance of their newly announced products.

Yahoo and Google are offering themselves as partners who can lend their valued brand names. They're hoping they've earned the trust of consumers as promoters of open standards and advocates for product simplicity.

"Everybody is trying something new," said Tim Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies in Campbell, California "And they're waiting to see what sticks."

Updated : 2022-01-17 12:41 GMT+08:00