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Technology Patent Wars Continue in Europe

Microsoft recently filed a formal complaint with the European Union’s competition regulator against Motorola.  Motorola which recently got bought by Google, holds key patents on technologies necessary to stream video content to TV Lift Cabinets and connect wirelessly to the internet.

“We have taken this step because Motorola is attempting to block sales of Windows PCs, our Xbox game console and other products,” Dave Heiner, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, wrote in a blog post.

“Motorola is on a path to use standard essential patents to kill video on the Web, and Google as its new owner doesn’t seem to be willing to change course,” Heiner added.

However, Motorola is claiming that both Microsoft and Apple Inc. are using their patents for their products without permission.  In fact, Motorola has legal cases against both companies filed in Europe and the United States.

Microsoft filed the complaint this week because they say that Motorola is overcharging them for patent usage.  The current patent charge rate is 2.25 percent of the product’s total price.  If the product is $1000, then Microsoft gets charged a patent fee of $22.50.  Microsoft claims that the other 29 companies that hold a total of 2,300 patents related to this standard charge only 2 cents for using their patents. Two cents versus $22.50 is a significant price difference.

“If every firm priced its standard essential patents like Motorola, the cost of the patents would be greater than all the other costs combined in making PCs, tablets, smartphones and other devices,” Heiner wrote. “Obviously, this would greatly increase the prices of these devices for consumers.”

The EU is currently investigating this formal complaint.  Under their competition rules, patents must be offered at a fair price to other companies when patents are deemed necessary for technology industry standards.   If patent holders charged high prices for use of their patents then companies would have to adjust their product prices higher to end consumers in order to be profitable.  It would also give patent holder companies an unfair advantage on market.  Neither is good for the industry or end consumer, which is why the EU is closely investigating this matter.

 

Cisco Appeals EU over Microsoft-Skype Merger

Do you use your TV lift cabinet to Skype with loved ones in Europe?  Many Europeans and U.S. citizens are taking advantage of the free Skype service which allows Skype members to video online chat for free. In the last few months Microsoft acquired Skpe in an $8.5 billion acquisition.

Cisco, another networking technology giant is not happy with the terms of this merger.  In fact, Cisco has filed an appeal with the European Union today.  Cisco is worried about the interoperability of video communication.  As the deal is currently set forth, Microsoft will be able to exclusively integrate its Lync video and voice communication software with Skype video communication.  Cisco and other competing software similar to Microsoft will no not be compatible with Skype communication causing Microsoft to have a monopoly on the EU market.

“Imagine how difficult it would be if you were limited to calling people who only use the same carrier or if your phone could only call certain brands and not others. Cisco wants to avoid this future for video communications,” wrote Cisco SVP of Video and Collaboration Marthin De Beer in a letter posted on thecompany blog.

The Skype service so beloved by many Europeans may no longer be offered for free.  Skype may also be restrictive for those who use Cisco or other non-Microsoft software.  EU would be wise to consider Cisco’s appeal.

CES Draws to an End: What to Watch for and How to Watch it

As the mega-international-tech conference, CES, draws to a close, many new fascinating products have been announced for 2011. Organized by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the CES trade show, held every January in Las Vegas, Nevada, brings together most of its 2,700+ member companies so developers, corporations and the press can give and get the first glimpse of many new gadgets. While most day-to-day consumers won’t ever attend the CES, there are ways to learn about what went on there and what to watch out for in the coming year.

Topping the list is the ability to watch all the keynote speeches from the show. Speakers included Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, Verizon’s CEO, Ivan Seidenberg, as well as Samsung’s President, Boo-Keun Yoon. Capping the event was the “Last Gadget Standing” contest, where product demos were reeled off live and at a fast pace to see whose product would reign supreme as “most likely to change the face of technology.” The contest can be viewed on the CES website.

So what new products are going to be hot this year? Making their debut were more than 80 different mobile tablets, wireless 4G LTE, connected TV technologies, smart appliances, and for the first time ever at CES, electric vehicles. A representative from Ford used CES to announce and showcase the company’s first fully electric vehicle, the Ford Focus Electric.

Awards either presented at or in conjunction with CES included Mashable’s “Mashable Awards,” CNET’s “Best of,” the 2011 Mobile Apps Showdown and the Tech & Engineering Emmy Awards. Most of the award winners can be found later this week on CESWEB.org.

Sony, Samsung and many other leaders in the TV manufacturing world were at CES, and the buzz words in home entertainment were clearly “3D” and “connected.” Everyone is competing to offer the most “real” 3D experience while also connecting together as many entertainment opportunities as possible in the same device. Want to raise up your TV from your TV lift cabinet to check Facebook or “tweet”? With most of the TVs showcased at CES, you can. Want to change channels, set up your favorite TV show to record while also adjusting the temperature in your home before you leave work? In 2011, that might be possible.

And not that we scooped the 2011 CES, but one Honorable Mention in the 2011 CES Innovations award category for “Home Theater Accessories” did go to Monster’s Universal 3D glasses, which we mentioned in our blog back in December. You can check out that post here.

Video Chat from the Couch with Microsoft’s Kinect

Very likely, Microsoft beat its own quota for selling the Kinect this Christmas shopping season. Planning to sell five million units before December 25th, it is estimated that sales actually topped six million units. Many customers even found the Kinect a hard item to locate in stores, but those who opened them on Christmas morning were likely spending the rest of the day moving and grooving to games like Dance Central or playing with their new pets on Kinectimals.

But now that the holidays are gone, and visiting families have traveled back to their homes (and work), the Kinect is giving people the opportunity to reconnect via video chat from the comfort of their own couch. Utilizing Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger and an active Xbox LIVE Gold membership, users can initiate a video chat with any one or more than 300 million Messenger users worldwide, which means the other party does not have to have a Kinect too, as long as they have a webcam and a computer with Internet access.

Now, thanks to the Kinect, you can sit back in your favorite chair or on the couch, raise your TV out of your TV lift cabinet, turn on your Xbox 360 and video chat with your family.

Kinect Sales Top 1 Million Units in 10 Days!

Kinect

Microsoft Kinect

Microsoft’s Kinect, an extension for Xbox 360 gaming consoles that brings games to life by body movement, needing no controllers, wires or gadgets, just announced that it has sold more than one million units during the first 10 days of its release. This absolutely blows away its competition, the Sony Move for PlayStation3, which hasn’t sold a million units yet, and it has been on the market since September.

So what makes the Kinect such a hot commodity? It may have something to its futuristic capabilities to translate one’s body movements, even the sound of your voice, into digital movements. Want to drive a race car? Just grab an imaginary steering wheel and go for it. It’s the new wave of full body gaming, and it may charge in a new era of integrating gaming consoles into a majority of people’s households.

Of course, some of the Kinect’s fandom may be due to Oprah publicly embracing it on her show in October. Oprah, along with a few of her audience members, danced away to the Dance Central game on-air. And many of the technologically-enhanced gamers out there are already finding ways to stretch its open-source limits in the worlds of virtual reality (VR) and 3D video effects.

With Black Friday not even here yet, Microsoft is estimating that it will sale at least another million units before Christmas. A word to the wise, though, is that there is some degree of safe use needing to be stressed, as there have been a few cases (and tons of YouTube videos) of users bumping into one another and household objects while throwing themselves into a game.

Priced off-the-shelf at $150 per unit, with games running just under $50, Microsoft is making a concerted effort to push the envelope of holiday sales. The company has set aside $500 million to advertise the Kinect and its games (currently, the top-selling Kinect game is Kinect Sports. The second is Oprah’s pick, Dance Central).

Of course, users must already have an Xbox 360, but there will be an entirely new sect of consumers who will spring for the whole package because the Kinect has tipped the scales in Microsoft’s favor, perhaps beating out the Nintendo Wii or Sony PS3 this holiday shopping season, but only time will tell.

*Photo courtesy Xbox.com

 
 
 
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