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More on the LOCM Patent Situation

Posted on Friday, Aug 3rd 2007

Here’s a must-read analysis of the patent by Marty Himmelstein, formerly from Vicinity.

Marty also wrote to me privately: “Hi Sramana – I read your post on today. As I tried to make the case in my post, the patent is fatally flawed. First, the copious prior art makes the patent irrelevant. I just don’t see how the patent could possibly survive that hurdle. Yahoo! has had a geographic search capability on their site since before Google. So, as I point out in my post, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have nothing to gain by acquiring I don’t think there is much room for to maneuver here: that the prior art pertains directly to’s patent is obvious; it is plentiful, and it is better. I don’t think the patent should have been granted in the first place.”

Google, by buying, wouldn’t be blocking anybody out of this multi-billion dollar market, because there are other doors that actually work. It reminds me of the scene in Blazing Saddles, where to slow their pursuers down, the good-guys put a toll-booth in the middle of the desert. And the bandits, none too bright, queue up in line. It won’t work this way. Best, Marty Himmelstein” >>>

Featured Videos

MTV CTO Articulates CDN Open Problems

Posted on Friday, Aug 3rd 2007

As we discuss Web 3.0 and Online Music, I have also been pondering some of the issues that large media companies are facing today. I had an interesting chat with Nick Rockwell, CTO of MTV Networks, focusing on MTVN’s digital businesses, including some of the internet’s most popular and recognizable brands:,,, and Nick has led MTVN’s digital technology organization since 2000.

One issue that MTV faces, like many others in the content business, is the shift in advertising technologies, and the demand from advertisers to provide more accountability. You have read some of my rather detailed commentary on the subject recently, as I discussed the vulnerability of Google’s AdSense model, which has skewed too far in favor of the Advertisers, and by disregarding entirely the publishers’ interests.

In this piece, I want to explore the infrastructure issues related to streaming large files to large audiences, that Nick talked about.
The basic problem is that it is still not possible to stream an online event to millions of simultaneous viewers. A hundred thousand viewers is okay. But not Millions. >>>

Online Music & Web 3.0 (Part 5)

Posted on Friday, Aug 3rd 2007

M&A and VC activity

In May 2007, CBS Corp. acquired, a UK-based music community site that allows fans with similar tastes to connect, for $280 Million, in a bid to attract young audiences.

Napster acquired AOL Music’s subscription service for $15 million in cash in January 2007. The acquisition gave Napster 350,000 subscribers of AOL.

The success of Apple’s iTunes Store and growing traffic to online music sites have meant increasing activity by entrepreneurs and VCs in the space. In October 2006, Songbird, a San Francisco-based start-up with a smart music player that searches and plays music raised about $1 million in funding, from Sequoia Capital and Atlas Ventures. >>>

Video FAQs

Building the Electronic Arts of Casual Gaming: PlayFirst CEO John Welch (Part 5)

Posted on Friday, Aug 3rd 2007

SM: What was the market landscape like when you founded the company? Competition? Competitive Positioning?

JW: There was no formal publisher in the casual games space prior to PlayFirst’s entry. It was like authors not only writing books with no editor and no research staff but also having to scurry around from bookstore to bookstore to sell their wares. We looked at how publishing worked across forms of media such as books, movies, music, and of course games, and realized there was an opportunity. There are huge efficiencies and great risk diversification to be had from running the largest portfolio in the industry.

Some developers became our partners, such as Gamelab in NYC whom we financed to develop the original Diner Dash game. Some were our competition, vying for shelf space on the major portal sites. We now license in games from many non-affiliated developers to sell on our web site. The craziest thing about the casual games industry is that everyone, both partners and competitors, competes with everyone. This is starting to change, though, as some of the more mature companies are starting to specialize and diverge. Competition is becoming more fierce in some areas, and less so in others. >>>

Place and Location Services Growth Fuels Navteq

Posted on Thursday, Aug 2nd 2007

If you’re ever stuck in a big US city in never-ending traffic – which is perfectly commonplace these days – trying to figure out how soon you can reach your client’s office downtown, trust Navteq’s (NYSE: NVT) GPS maps to effortlessly guide you to your destination.

Sounds too simple? The truth is it is. If you have Navteq-on-board navigation system fitted in your car, all you need is to hit the virtual keyboard to find the best possible way to reach your destination, guided all the while by an updated roadmap and voice transmission.

To be honest, Navteq’s utility is not only to help you avoid the summer traffic rush on road, but also to locate your destination on laptops (or desktops) should you be using such web-based navigation applications as Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Local Live or MapQuest. All of them use Navteq’s data. >>>

Financial Media Comparison Chart

Posted on Thursday, Aug 2nd 2007

I did some digging into the various business and financial media sites last night, and here are some stats.

Alexa Ranks: (Yahoo! Finance and MSN Money are not included in this list, because I cannot find Alexa ranks for them.)

* 76
* 483
* 1,032
* 1,043
* 1,310
* 1,728
* 1,809
* 6,282
* 6,366


Online Music & Web 3.0 (Part 4)

Posted on Thursday, Aug 2nd 2007

Web 3.0 formula discussion (4C, P, VS)

Here, we will take a look at the Web 3.0 aspects of online music sites.

Within the broad Context of Music, users may come to music portals with a varied set of intents. From shopping for new music, to expanding the collection of a favorite musician’s work, to listening to a radio channel, a number of these are covered well by the various portals.

The Content of most music sites is impressive. Users can search for music from a wide variety of genres, download songs, music or videos, listen to music, tune in to online radio or live concerts, read celebrity interviews, reviews on latest releases or music related news articles. >>>

Building the Electronic Arts of Casual Gaming: PlayFirst CEO John Welch (Part 4)

Posted on Thursday, Aug 2nd 2007

SM: Sounds like Shockwave was a great place to experiment and learn!

JW: During this time I built a friendship with the principal software architect of the project, Brad Edelman, who is now co-founder and CTO of PlayFirst. I also met three other great people who now work at PlayFirst.

Unfortunately, Shockwave spent most of its ~$50 million in venture financing not on games but on making cartoons with Hollywood folks like the South Park guys. The idea was to give the ‘talent’ free reign as well as millions of dollars and see what they came up with. What they delivered was so filthy we couldn’t even air it on the internet. The joke was on us. We also had two chefs on staff and hired a new person every day. The company nearly went out of business when the bubble burst, which is exactly when things started to go right. >>>