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Joost everywhere, embedded in hardware

'A year from now we will see Joost in the living room'

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This week, Joost started publicly talking about getting equipment manufacturers to embed its video-playing software in TV sets and other consumer hardware.

That would help it solve two problems. First, the glitches it's currently running into when it tries to deliver high-quality video over internet connections that are too slow for the function. The second, which cannot be fixed by tweaking software, is that people want to watch the majority of their entertainment videos on that newly purchased 42-inch flat-panel screen that's hanging on the wall in the living room.

New CEO Mike Volpi said Joost is a piece of software that can reside on a variety of platforms, including a television with an internet connection, a set-top box, a mobile phone, or in some alternative device that might come out in the future.

Perhaps it's coincidental that at a time Joost appears to be experiencing unexpected problems it also starts talking about embedding its player software in consumer hardware.

After all, isn't that what Akimbo is already doing with its technology that's in AT&T's Homezone set-top boxes? Isn't that what Apple and Netgear have taken a first step toward with their Apple TV and Digital Entertainer HD boxes? The hard disk in the Apple TV may not be embedded in the TV set, but it's about as close as it can be. The fact is that the broadband speeds that most Americans and Europeans have today are not fast enough to deliver multiple streams of highdefinition video.

Joost, whose initial forays into distributing TV shows on the web have been complicated by those aforementioned technical glitches, is opening a new front in its campaign to elbow in on cable and satellite TV with its attempt to get its software embedded in the hardware that's in the living room.

David Clark, executive vice president of global advertising for Joost, told TV Week that a year from now there will be a lot more convergence, enough that "you will see Joost in the living room." He said that the vast majority of consumers will eventually use Joost as their primary entertainment platform. As long as you have an internetconnected device you would have access to the Joost community, he said.

Joost founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis have to be taken seriously. They successfully developed their own technology to use the net to speed the copying of music tracks (Kazaa) and to carry voice-quality conversations (Skype). Both developments eroded long established and well-heeled industries: music and telecom.

Akimbo is already trying to convince set-top box purchasers (the pay-TV outfits) to order equipment with Akimbo technology built-in. Why shouldn't Apple take the same approach? Or Netgear? Or Akimbo? If Joost were to win the embedding battle for internet-delivered video, then Zennstrom and Friis will have seriously unsettled another major industry.

Joost is still missing content from major producers, specifically NBC Universal, News Corp (Fox), and Disney. It does have somewhat limited deals for content with Viacom, CBS and Time Warner.

NBC Universal and News Corp are working on their own online video service that will distribute their own and other producers' content through third-party entertainment portals such as AOL, MSN, Yahoo, MySpace and Comcast.net. Disney and its ABC network have been keeping most of their goodies for their own Web sites and giving some to Apple, whose Steve Jobs is Disney's largest shareholder.

Volpi told the New York Times that the company hopes to attract NBC, Fox and Disney "because we are an attractive place given the numbers of users we have". Content owners, he said, don't care where content is distributed so long as it reaches a larger number of users who can be monetised. Volpi did not mention two other factors that media companies require - piracy protection including preventing the general public from posting their copyright protected content on the net and full and fair compensation for their content.

Joost in May closed a $45m round of funding from Index Ventures, Sequoia Capital, CBS, Viacom and a foundation run by Li Kashing, chairman of Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, the owner of the various 3 mobile phone networks.

Copyright © 2007, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

This article first ran in the current issue of The Online Reporter from Rider Research.

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