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The Roundup September 8

Wizard of Oz.

We’re off to see Netflix.

This will be either the marketing coup of the year or the server crash of the century.

Anyone with a computer and Internet connection can be off to see “The Wizard of Oz” for free next month, courtesy of Netflix’s movie-streaming service.

The free showings will be available throughout the U.S. for 24 hours beginning at 6 a.m. PDT Oct. 3.

It’s part of a publicity stunt to draw attention to the film’s 70th anniversary. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is celebrating the occasion by selling a special edition of the movie on Blu-ray and DVD beginning Sept. 29.

While Time Warner’s home video unit is trying to drum up more sales, Netflix is hoping to introducing more people to the convenience of streaming movies over the Internet. The technology already has helped Netflix — the leading DVD-by-mail service — attract more than 4 million subscribers since the company unveiled its streaming service in 2007.

(“Off to see ‘The Wizard’ for free at Netflix on Oct. 3,” San Jose Mercury News, September 8) Netflix has 10 million subscribers and all their competitors are, well, far, far, far behind. This may just be the bucket of water that makes all the late entrants to online movie content — from Blockbuster to Time Warner — just a pile of green goo. Many decades ago, Wal*Mart decided to gamble its future on becoming the best trucking company in the country, which allowed it to reduce the amount of inventory it held and undercut every other discount chain. To do that, it had to build the best information technology infrastructure in the entire logistics industry. It worked. Wal*Mart got so far ahead of the competition in logistics, that all other retail stores are constantly playing catch-up. Netflix has learned the basic law of the Internet age — “content wants to be free” — and if it continues to learn that lesson, then it’s got City of Oz all to itself.

Opera’s the little browser that could and version 10 may just be the browser that did.

Ten is apparently the magic number for Opera. The latest iteration of the company’s browser – Opera 10 – secured 10 million downloads in its first week.

(“Opera 10 Hits 10M Downloads During First Week,” AppScout, September 8) For those of us on the Web marketing side, Opera has always been the browser we’ve cavalierly but safely ignored in our sundry and various browser tests and quality checks on commercial Web sites. With a meager 2-3% of the worldwide browser market and a scraggly 0.6% of the American browser market, many of us have the browser installed someplace on our computers but never really get around to testing our Web creations on the little browser with the big name. Hell, I still quality check on Netscape 6 but frequently fall short on my Opera tests. Opera 10 may be the fat lady that changes all that. I’ve downloaded it, tried it, and, uffda, it’s fast. If you’re on anything slower than a DSL connection, Opera 10 should be on your grab list. If the Oslo-based browser company continues down this path, all of us folks with an Internet presence will be taking this browser a bit more seriously than just having it sit on our hard drive fusting unused.

Stephen Ballmer wishes he could say “There’s no place like Bill” three times to end the nightmare PR week from hell.

President Obama is continuing his campaign against Microsoft’s Xbox, encouraging kids during his school address Tuesday to not “spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.”

OK, so “campaign against” might be too strong. But once again, Obama has singled out Microsoft’s Xbox instead of Sony’s PlayStation 3 or Nintendo’s Wii.

(“Obama tells kids to put away the Xbox, again,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 8) First, there’s the PR disaster at the Brigham Young versus Oklahoma game in which the leaderboard, run by a Windows PC, crashed and displayed, for an audience of 75,000, a Windows crash message in 8 foot letters (see pic below). Now Obama picks on the Xbox yet again (he singled it out in June at a NAACP speech). What happens when your product name becomes synonymous with the product itself, like Kleenex or Xerox? That’s usually a good thing (unless you’re Al Ries, who advises you burn your company and throw yourself and all your staff from the Bay Area bridge if that ever happens), but when the product itself is synonymous with lazy, fat, uneducated, underachieving kids (and adults) wasting their lives and rotting their brains on violent nonsense, then you’ve got a serious problem. But all’s not lost in Xbox land. As the cigarette companies have figured out with their non-stop “don’t smoke” ads to kids, the easiest way to get a teenager to buy your product is to . . . tell them not to.

Windows crash at Brigham Young-Oklahoma game

But with download speeds like this, who needs Opera Turbo?

The Philadelphia-based cable company, which serves the bulk of the Twin Cities market, said Tuesday that it’s doubling its top Internet speed for business customers to its fastest yet: downloads of up to 100 megabits per second.

But the new service doesn’t come cheap: $369.95 a month.

The service is being offered first to business customers in the Twin Cities. It will eventually be rolled out to business customers nationally as well as residential customers.

(“Comcast offers businesses 100 megabit Net speed,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 8) $370 per month is not exactly a shoestring venture price for high-speed Internet access. But just to give you an idea as to how fast 100 MBps really is: at 100 MBps, it would take 41 seconds to download a complete DVD (a large one) and about 3 1/2 minutes to download the average HD movie disc (coming it at around 20 gigabytes). That same HD disc would take an hour and a quarter at cable speed. So we’re really talking about getting some serious business done here. If you’re going to move to the cloud, a jet is better than a Yugo.

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