Motorola, long the world’s leading manufacturer of cellular telephones, is shifting its focus from the hardware business to the software business. The communications giant recently purchased Omniview, a Knoxville-based digital photography company that transforms two-dimensional images into wrap-around “virtual” environments. Motorola’s current move suggests that, by investing heavily in Southern know-how, the company is attempting to win the lion’s share of content business on the Internet.
James Phillips, the former head of Motorola’s multimedia division, will oversee operations at Omniview. Although Motorola won’t disclose the price it paid for its new acquisition, sources say that the company ponied up millions of dollars. One of the partners in the deal is Discovery Communications, owner of cable TV’s Discovery Channel. Already known for its comprehensive World Wide Web site, Discovery plans to use Omniview’s technology to create virtual environments that users will able to explore online. All told, Discovery Communications contributed in the neighborhood of $10 million to finance the deal with Omniview.
While it might seem strange for Motorola to spend so much money investing in the content side of the Internet, this move fits the company’s past record. When Motorola introduced pagers to the market, it financed the startup of several pager service companies. It also did the same thing when cellular phones were a relatively new invention.
Omniview isn’t the only content company in which Motorola has invested during the past year. North Carolina-based Virtus Corporation has also received money from Motorola for its line of virtual reality software. And animation producer Protozoa, based in San Francisco, has inked a deal with Motorola as well.
There’s a reason Motorola is so hot on the content side of the business right now: It wants to provide some services that would require a fast connection to the Internet. The company makes a line of super-fast cable modems, of which only 50,000 have sold so far. By investing in Internet content, Motorola hopes to create a need for high-speed connections, which will in turn encourage sales of its super-fast modems.
Cable modems, which offer connection speeds of up to 10 megabits per secondroughly 50 times faster than a regular modemare still in testing stages in the Northeast. But Motorola sees big changes on the horizon once this test period is over. A spokesman says the company expects “an absolute breakout” of the technology in the next 12 to 18 monthsdue in part, no doubt, to Knoxville’s Omniview.
♦ Everywhere you turn, it’s not uncommon to see an advertisement for a World Wide Web site. Indeed, the suffix “dot-com” has become a catch phrase for millions of Americans in the past year. Right now, there are only a few so-called “top-level domains,” such as “com,” “edu,” and “gov.” But come May, there could be seven more to provide for the explosive growth of the Internet.
According to the International Ad Hoc Committee, the new domains are: .store, for businesses offering items for sale; .info, for strictly informational services; .nom, for Web sites owned by individuals; .firm, for businesses or firms; .web, for strictly Web-based sites; .arts, for artists or creative groups; and .rec, for entertainment sites.
The committee, which consists of 11 delegates representing several different Internet standards groups, made the suggestions last week. Before the plan can go into effect, though, it still has to be approved by the Internet Society and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. In the past year, both of those nonprofit organizations report that demand for Internet domain names has been explosive. An IANA report says nearly 80,000 new names are registered every month now.
♦ To settle a lawsuit over false advertising, an Internet service provider based in Hackensack, N.J., will pay the state of Tennessee $50,000. IDT Corporation formerly provided access in Tennessee through local provider Telalink. But after receiving numerous complaints about the company’s service, Telalink dropped the affiliation last year.
A representative of the Tennessee Department of Consumer Affairs says IDT owes the state a penalty because the service it advertised was often different from what customers received. For example, IDT’s ads claim the company offers “unlimited and uncensored Internet access,” but the state says IDT sometimes gave customers only bare-bones, text-based access.
IDT has agreed to pay the state’s claim, but did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement. IDT will also make the same settlement with five other states that have made the same claim: Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.
Joel Moses can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.