Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Sony PSP is NOT a game console.

Oh all right, PSP does stand for PlayStation Portable - and it does play games extremely well, but my point is it is wrongly marketed.

Let me talk about the latest trend in MP3 players. Yes I have already sung Apple's praises in another article, but their iPod really has created a market for high capacity music players. As competition increases where is the iPod progressing to keep ahead of the competition? A nice colour screen and photo and video capability are where it has moved.

Enter the PSP.

I am aiming this article at PSP virgins. The main menu on the PSP, assuming you have never seen one in the flesh, contains submenus for Photos, Music, Videos, Game and Network in that order.

The first time I saw a PSP in HMV the quality of the screen and graphics took my breath away. Everytime I pick my PSP up and switch it on I still smile as it comes to life and shows the title screen.

To cut to my point, the PSP is too good to be classed as a games machine. Buy a reasonable size memory card (1Gb Memory Stick Duos are now about £17) and install a few movies on it and this is the perfect machine for watching videos 'on-the-go'. It is designed to be held with two hands, the screen is 16:9 ratio and the size, contrast, brightness and quality are all perfect.

If you havn't held and seen one yet, and you have an MP3 player and would use movies on the go, don't buy anything until you've seen the PSP. In case you need any more evidence to support my argument, most chart movies are available on the native PSP media, the UMD!

Update: Location-Free player is now for sale in the UK. Plug this into the back of your tele then connect your PSP to it anywhere you can access wireless broadband. Viola live TV on a PSP. Sky have also told me personally, but unofficially, they are looking to embrace the PSP and bring Sky to more people in more places.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What are BSkyB doing with their money?

Remember British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) launching the squarial? That was 1989!

Late 1990 BSB and Sky were both struggling to make a profitable satellite TV system. They 'merged' on Sky's terms to form BSkyB, now commonly known as Sky.

Sky has no satellite, and rents use of the Astra system for a quoted £50m in 1990.
They established offices at a run down West London industrial estate, now also home to Harrods distribution centre.
They gave everyone free satellite dishes and set-top boxes and started charging subscribers a monthly fee for access to more TV channels than the 4 terrestrial ones. (Channel 5 launched in 1997 by a Spice Girls cover of a 1960s hit 5-4-3-2-1 :) ).

In the past 16/17 years what have Sky had to pay for?

New programmes? No
Producing new channels? No, someone else does this and _pays_ Sky to transmit it (The cost of which is now being investigated by Ofcom). Sky's few channels all carry tons of adverts.
Infra-structure? No, still renting an Astra satellite. Sky Digital has been running since 1998.
Lining shareholders pockets? No. 5 year share price chart shows price change from over £9 to approximately £5.50p today.
Exclusive content? No. Football and new movies are only available at extra cost!

Ok, this is great. So the subscription charge for their service must be dropping nicely??
No. It was £15 a month in 2002, now it is £21 a month.

Hmmm, must be some good extra features??
No. You want to record what you've got? £10 a month extra!
Improved picture quality? Ah HD your thinking? £10 a month extra for about 10 channels you've already got in HD! I'm not paying for HD when the standard service is not even providing the specified 576 lines!

Hell they must have fabulous customer service, sending everyone Christmas hampers, loads of free special offers. That's the only other place the money can be going? No.

Customer Service is non-existant. I called technical support the other _night_ - ie off peak. This was an 0870 number (read 10p a minute). After 1 hours 15 minutes on the phone the picture technical experts couldn't tell me if I could connect my standard box with S-Video or Component. They said use SCART. My HD projector hasn't got a SCART. They couldn't help.

This doesn't add up. As the title of the post says, What are BSkyB doing with the money? Reading today's telegraph even Murdoch senior and Murdoch junior don't know! Their take on the next 6 months figures differed by about £100m.

Update: 3 days after my article they spent nearly £1bn buying a controlling 17.9% stake in ITV to stop NTL and ITV merging. They don't care if their customers are happy, they are squandering all their cash fighting to keep their monopoly so customers have no choice but to stay with Sky.