AT&T Launches MMS for the iPhone

All eyes are on AT&T today, as the company has started rolling out multimedia messaging service (MMS) for the iPhone. Stacey at GigaOM pondered this morning whether AT&T’s network will be able to handle the crush of iPhoners sending videos and pictures to one another, and over at TheAppleBlog comes word that people aren’t just hoping for an AT&T fail, but are actively organizing to try and make it happen so that Apple ends its exclusive deal with the telco.

Have any NewTeeVeers tried the iPhone MMS? Let us know how it went in the comments. To activate the service you need to update your iPhone in iTunes (full instructions at TheAppleBlog).

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MLB’s At Bat App Downloaded More Than 400,000 Times’s mobile strategy is adding to — not cannibalizing — the league’s traditional web business, according to President and CEO Bob Bowman. Speaking at the Apps for Brands conference in New York yesterday, Bowman shared some stats about MLB’s At Bat app and announced a new feature coming to the service in time for the playoffs (hat tip to Ad Age).

Bowman said that the $9.99 At Bapp app, which allows users to stream live games to their iPhone, has been downloaded more than 400,000 times, and MLB’s free app has been downloaded more than 350,000 times.

Unlike MLB’s other subscription products, which are used once or twice a week, customers are using the mobile app “every day,” said Bowman, because they’ve always got their mobile device on them.

MLB is also set to launch a Quad View feature for the At Bat app in time for the playoffs, which will let users view a game from four different angles, simultaneously. Without having seen the app in action, this seems like it will involve a lot of squinting on such a tiny screen, but I’ve learned to never underestimate the nuttiness of baseball fans.

We’ve heaped our fair share of praise on MLB before, and this is just the latest example of how it’s embracing new video technologies — an approach that’s paying off for the league. Earlier this summer it made MLB.TV available on both Boxee and Roku.

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Broadcast From Your Backpack With New Livestream Device

The most aptly named live-streaming company in the business, Livestream, is taking the wraps off its new Livepack — an all-in-one, backpack-sized device that enables live, mobile, HD quality broadcasts.

The ruggedized device requires no laptop and comes with a touch screen and six integrated 3G/EVDO modems from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint that are bound together in a way to provide the highest possible available bit-rate. Livestream CEO and co-founder Max Haot told us by phone that in a good coverage area users can get a solid 700 kbps connection (it can go up to 1Mbps), in poor coverage areas, the six modems working together can provide a 300 – 400 kbps.

The Livepack is integrated into Livestream’s platform to handle all of the video encoding and streaming, and it can be used by those with a free or a premium Livestream account. Just plug your camera into the device and you’re ready to broadcast. A single battery will deliver roughly 3 hours of use.

Livestream isn’t manufacturing the device itself; the company has partnered with LiveU for the hardware and to market the product to broadcasters. LiveU and Livestream are offering the Livepack on a rental basis: $2,500 a month with no contract, or $1,500 a month for a year contract with 30 hours of uplink time per month and all 3G and telecom charges included.

Haot sees events as a sweet spot for the Livepack, fitting in between super-high end broadcasters that have their own mobile facilities (like a TV network) and low-end UGCers making amateur looking content with mobile phones. “Event owners and organizers who put on an event — a sports event, community event, church event — they are realizing they can stream live for free or by investing a reasonable amount,” said Haot.

Livestream currently has 20 Livepacks available for rent, but LiveU has hundreds more units that could be called up. The Livepack is available now.

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Tablet Schmablet: How About a Mud PC?

092209ATDgizmodoThe Wondertablet the guys at Gizmodo showed off last night looks cool. But you can’t actually touch one right now unless you know someone very connected at Microsoft (MSFT).

You know what you can touch? Today? How about a PC you control by shoving your hands in a box full of mud?

Seriously. All you have to do is get yourself to New York’s Nolita neighborhood and drop by Gizmodo’s annual gallery show, chock full of cool, weird and often gloriously useless gadgetry.

Among other geegaws on display: An automated pancake maker, some spark-emitting and dangerous-looking Tesla coils, a “Star Trek” tricorder and a videogame that dispenses beer. And, of course, an array of Apple (AAPL) paraphernalia, including some arts-and-craftsy iPhone cases.

The free show, which runs through Sunday, is mostly a labor of love on the part of head gadgeteer Brian Lam. But I gather it’s now making some money, via sponsorships, for Gawker Media’s Nick Denton. (And if that’s the case, I hope Denton uses some of that money to make sure there’s enough power and air conditioning at next year’s gallery. Also maybe some cots for his charges.)

Lam gave me a mini-tour yesterday afternoon, which I filmed with a Flip camcorder. If want to to see for yourself (it’s much less shaky that way), drop by the gallery at 267 Elizabeth Street.

Vuclip Raises $6M for Mobile Video Search

vuclipVuclip announced today that it has raised a $6 million Series B round of funding led by Jafco Ventures, with existing investor New Enterprise Associates returning. This brings the total amount the company has raised to a little more than $14 million.

Liz did an excellent explainer last year on what Vuclip does, but in a nutshell, the company lets mobile phone users search for and playback video. Vuclip does the transcoding on the fly and on the back-end so all the user needs is a phone with a browser, a native media player and data plan.

Craig Gatarz, Vuclip’s chief administrative officer, told us by phone that the service is getting 4 million unique users a month and delivering a million videos a day to 3,000 different handsets in 150 different countries (the bulk of Vuclip’s traffic comes from India, China and the U.S.).

Vuclip offers both a consumer-facing service with an ad-split revenue model as well as a white-label “powered by” service for the enterprise. The company can stitch a pre-roll to a piece of content on the fly, allowing publishers to target using geography or some other criteria.

The company plans to use its new funding to build out its sales and marketing teams and add to its technology platform.

Based in Milpitas, California, Vuclip currently has 40 employees across the Bay Area, China and India. Competitors in the mobile video space include Skyfire and mSpot.

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i.TV 2.0 Gets Remote Control But Still Lacks Content

i.TV is back with a new-and-improved version of its iPhone app. While version 2 of this free TV app adds some key features, such as virtual remote controls and iTunes integration, it still doesn’t address the quibbles I had with the earlier version. Namely, finding and watching full episodes of your favorite TV shows remains a challenge.

Like the earlier versions, i.TV 2.0 offers a TV programming guide, customized for your cable provider and area, plus info about current movies. You can browse or search for shows, set reminders for upcoming shows, schedule recordings on your networked TiVo DVR, find local movie listings, update your Netflix queue, and watch a (very meager) selection of full TV episodes via YouTube. It also lets you find showings of current movies and helps you buy tickets.

itv-1Once you find a certain TV show or movie and click on it, you’re presented with some basic info about it, plus two options: Details or Watch. Details lets you see photo galleries, credits, reviews, and more information about the title you’ve selected. Watch presents you with the options available for actually watching the show or movie via downloads, Netflix, streams, or upcoming showings.

And this is what disappointed me most about i.TV. I want an iPhone app that offers me full episodes of TV shows, not one that just points me in the direction of them, as i.TV does. And it doesn’t even point me to all sources of these episodes. I selected The Office, for example, and was told that there are 100 episodes available for purchase on iTunes. That’s great, but if I wanted to purchase a show from iTunes, I could just as easily go there. I’d be more interested in knowing that I could buy an episode if I could be sure that a streaming version wasn’t available for free anywhere. i.TV’s streaming directory, meanwhile, is limited. It didn’t list any available streams for The Office, but when I search Hulu and YouTube, I find hundreds of available clips.

tivo_remoteThe new remote control feature in i.TV 2.0 shows some potential, but is right now very limited, too. It allows you to turn your iPhone into a remote control for certain devices. I can certainly see the allure of browsing a programming guide on your phone and then tapping a few buttons to record or watch that show on your TiVo. But right now, the only products that the remote feature works with are the TiVo HD DVR and the TiVO HD XL DVR. i.TV says more devices will be added to that list, and that’s something that would greatly benefit the app. I’d especially love to see the company add support for the DVRs that so many people rent from their cable companies.

i.TV has plenty of potential, and it’s free. If you own a TiVo HD or a TiVo HD XL, you should try it for its remote control features alone. Personally, I’m just waiting for a better selection of streaming video; if the app could offer that, I’d be hooked.

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Pay Up: The Wall Street Journal Tries Charging Web Subscribers for Mobile Access

rupert-murdochHow on earth does The Wall Street Journal expect its subscribers to pay an additional fee to read the newspaper on a mobile phone?

It doesn’t. Except when it does.

Contrary to News Corp. (NWS) CEO Rupert Murdoch’s comments earlier in the week, Dow Jones will not be charging customers who subscribe to both its Web and print versions a weekly fee to read the paper on its iPhone or BlackBerry apps.

But if you’re only subscribing to one version? That’ll be a buck a week, starting Oct. 24. The Journal will also start charging mobile-only users $2 a week, which is essentially the same price as a Web-only subscription.

That second charge makes some sense to me. The Journal has always said that it would start charging for the apps it makes for Apple’s (AAPL) and Research in Motion’s (RIMM) handsets. Right now these apps are gratis, which means you can either pay the Journal to read it in print or on the Web, or read it on your iPhone and pay zilch. That had to change at some point.

But while I have to be a tiny bit delicate here–Dow Jones owns this Web site, and I still have some aversion to insulting my employers in public–I don’t see how dunking paying customers a second time makes sense.

I do understand some of the impulse. Publishers of all stripes seem to think that while charging for content on the Web is tough, people are happy to pay for something delivered wirelessly. I think that many publishers are going to be very disappointed when they try this out in practice, but that’s another story.

And I also know that News Corp. has steadily been pushing Dow Jones to raise its subscription prices for the WSJ since it acquired the company, and this strategy sort of dovetails with that.

But seems to me that if I am paying for information, I will expect to consume it wherever I am, at the same price. And you’re starting to hear some publishers say the same thing–see Variety’s comments about subscription plans today in PaidContent.

I don’t actually pay for my WSJ subscription; my employers, who, I should stress, are truly excellent people, have hooked me up–so maybe I’ve got this wrong. Or maybe it’s merely a marketing issue: If you jack up my WSJ subscription and tell me you’re throwing in access to the mobile app for free, I might be okay with it.

But tell me you’re charging me an additional fee to read it on the go and it will stick in my craw. Let’s see if the paper’s paying subscribers feel the same way.