Search Engine Throne Up for Grabs

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The world of search engines is on the crux of some big changes with no clear winners in the next 12 months, according to SearchEngine Watch founder Danny Sullivan.

Whereas major players such as Google, Yahoo! (Quote, Company Info), and Microsoft (Quote, Company Info) currently dominate the landscape, the remaining batch of survivors also look to play a pivotal role in how much of the pie everyone gets.

“Next year will be a wildcard with all new opportunities,” Sullivan said to a packed house during the Search Engine Strategies 2003 Conference & Expo here. “Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last three months, you know that consolidation and contextual ads are the hot topic with major implications.” [InternetNews.com]

Net video to become a staple for cable?

Video on demand is a growing business for cable companies, according to a new study that predicts that 15 million cable subscribers worldwide will be paying for the feature by 2007.

Video on demand (VOD) is a service offered by cable companies that lets subscribers order movies any time of day and control the video like a recording. Unlike pay-per-view services, subscribers can pause, rewind or fast-forward scenes from the movies and TV shows they order.

Although VOD is still in its infancy, cable companies could see incremental benefits as they begin to offer these services. Cable companies have been upgrading their systems to digital, which allows them to offer more channels and more features such as VOD. The companies have been pushing their subscribers to upgrade so they can sell new features that can be sold only on a digital network. [News.com]

ASPEN, Colo.–Antispam proposals in Congress are not strict enough and would do more harm than good, the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday.

In a strongly worded criticism of current legislation, Tim Muris characterized the dozen or so bills as well intentioned, but he warned they “will do little to solve the current spam problems” and could be even “less useful” than existing laws the FTC has been using to sue spammers.

“No one should expect any of (the proposals) to make a substantial difference,” Muris said. “In fact, they could even be harmful.” [News.com]

Full steam ahead for ferry Wi-Fi in Washington state

Long said the ferry system, which serves 15,000 commuters a day in the Puget Sound region, received federal funding for a feasibility study of Wi-Fi service in July and began planning for the service yesterday with its contractor, Mobilisa Inc. in Port Townsend, Wash. The funding of about $1 million means it’s full steam ahead for Wi-Fi service on the ferry boats, a project Long has worked on for more than a year [Computerworld]

Click to (waiting……….) Chat

On the surface it may seem that Verizon’s push to talk service is a direct threat to Nextel, but clearly this is a weaker offering… 4-8 seconds to connect??? Who would ever use it? I can’t see this being productive between 2 people, let alone up to 10.

Key features of the launch:
–Walkie-talkie functionality; to connect you scroll down a list instead of dialing a phone number and connect to groups of up to 10 people. Numbers can be added on the phone itself or pushed to it from a web site.
–Presence aware – like instant messaging, you can see who is/isn’t available for a quick chat
–Requires a dedicated handset – at launch, only a Motorola v60p will work with the service. This phone is a monochrome flip phone model, does not support BREW (Verizon’s Get It Now) or Java applets, and is relatively pricey at $149/$199 with 1 year/2 year contract. On the positive side, it appears to be considerably smaller and lighter than any of Nextel’s handsets (Motorola iDen phones that are large, heavy, and completely indestructable).
–Expensive service targeting business users – $20 per month on top of America’s Choice plans, so service starts at $60/month for 400 minutes and unlimited Push To Talk
–Verizon will not comment on latency, which is assumed to be in the 4 to 8 second range
–Verizon is calling the service “Push To Talk,” gleefully inviting a lawsuit from Nextel, which copyrighted the term. I like calling all PTT offerings “Click to Chat” because the whole name thing is rather silly, and this amuses me in some small way.

There are two ways to look at this:
–When compared to Nextel’s service, it’s not all that compelling: twice as expensive, more limited handset choice, much higher latency (see my research for why latency matters, also why developing Click To Chat to compete with Nextel misses the point).
–When viewed on its own, it’s a fair 1.0 effort: they’re targeting the wrong audience and there’s plenty of room for future enhancements (such as plans and phones targeted towards teens and young adults, call list management tools for telecom managers, much better performance), but it gives customers who want walkie talkie and group messaging on the Verizon network the ability to do so. And you could argue that $20/month is still reasonable for unlimited use.
[Avi Greengart]

Union Square Goes WiFi

Union Square Park is the city’s latest free Wi-Fi “hot spot,” where visitors can get high-speed Internet service wirelessly. [Crain’s New York Business
]

I live nearby and can confirm that it has been live for a few weeks at least. It works great , though better on the northern side of the park which is closer to the equipment. You just need to agree to the terms on the forced web proxy page before heading anywhere else…