January 30, 2009

The DTV delay story: The gift that keeps on giving

It's a legislative and public-policy train wreck, no question, but for a tech blogger like me, well … the ongoing back-and-forth over the DTV transition date is pure gold.

First, the $1.5-million government program that hands out $40 coupons for DTV converter boxes -- which those with analog TVs and over-the-air antennas will need if they want their TVs to work after the analog TV shutoff -- ran out of money. Next, the Obama administration and Democratic lawmakers proposed pushing back the impending Feb. 17 DTV transition date to June 12, to give everyone more time to prepare. Republicans said no -- that'll cause too much confusion, and it would put too much burden on TV stations and wireless companies that have been planning years ahead for the switch.

Following so far? Good. So Monday rolls around, and the Senate passes Jay Rockefeller's DTV delay bill, and everyone (including me) writes that a delay in the DTV transmission is inevitable. But on Wednesday, the fast-tracked bill goes before the House, and -- whoops! -- fails to win the two-thirds majority it needed to pass. (Republicans ganged up on the bill, as did a handful of Democrats; the final vote was 258-168, just shy of the necessary two-thirds.) DTV delay dead, right?

Wrong. Thursday night, the Senate passes (unanimously) a slightly tweaked version of the same bill, which now appears headed for a House vote next week under standard adoption rules -- meaning that it only needs a simply majority to pass. And it will, right? Well ... who knows, given all the twists and turns in the DTV saga so far.

Now personally, I think we should just go ahead and flip the switch; after all, I'm not sure how a mere four months will clean up the mess, nor get us any closer to 100-percent readiness for DTV (and besides, about 94 percent of the country is ready).

That said ... talk about a great story. I can't wait to see what happens next.


January 23, 2009

Obama takes the reins; DTV delay in the works?

Eight years of George W. Bush came to a merciful end Tuesday as Barack Obama took the oath of office -- and the avalanche of coverage on the Web, Twitter, and cable TV was almost bewildering. Of course, the hard reality of governing hit the next day, and one of the first items on Pres. Obama's agenda -- delaying next month's slated DTV transition -- ran into immediate opposition from House and Senate Republicans (and frankly, I'm not sure delaying the analog TV shutoff is such a good idea, either); a compromise is said to be in the works. Meanwhile, Obama's staffers got a rude shock when they got a load of the decrepit tech gear in the West Wing.

Also this week: More fallout from the Circuit City bankruptcy (long lines of bargain hunters, but few actual bargains), Apple fires a warning shot at Palm, and 25 years of the Mac.


January 16, 2009

Week in review: Jobs steps down, "Idol" SMS spam, Circuit City goes belly up

Talk about a week of sobering tech headlines. On Wednesday, Steve Jobs announced that he's taking five months of medical leave after learning his condition—whatever it is—is "more complex than I originally thought." The next day, US Airways flight 1549 went down in the Hudson River—and some of the first images of the rescue appeared on Twitter (this via VentureBeat). And today, we find out that Circuit City is giving up the ghost.

Meanwhile, AT&T thought it would be fun to spam its subscribers with an "American Idol" text ad, and Pioneer will finally halt production (sniff!) of LaserDisc players.

Finally: Having Palm Pre thoughts? I've answered 10 burning questions about the red-hot touchscreen phone—check 'em out right here.


January 12, 2009

CES 2009, in the can

Just got back from Vegas last night -- and not a moment too soon (four straight days in Sin City is just about my limit). Even though CES was visibly smaller this time around than in years past, there were some impressive products on display, including (first and foremost) the Palm Pre, which might end up being the iPhone's strongest competitor yet; Sony's 8-inch "Lifestyle" notebook (or netbook, you decide); and the LG watch phone, which was one of the biggest draws at the show. Check out our coverage right here, along with some snapshots from the show floor (keep an eye out for K.I.T.T.!).