HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

February 12, 2007, Herald Journal

Whooda thunk it?

By MARK OLLIG

Would you believe a company called Whooda?

This new beta-test website at http://www.whooda.com known as “Whooda TV” has been getting a lot of attention recently. The service costs nothing – all you need is a high-speed (broadband) connection to the Internet.

No special hardware, TV tuner, or software needs to be added to your personal computer. You do not need to have a user name or password.

Is this the future of live broadcast TV?

I visited the Whooda website and the first thing I noticed was how it strangely reminds me of the Google homepage. Whooda is six letters long (just like Google) and Whooda’s letters are individually color-coded (just like Google). In fact, the letters are color coded in the same blue, red, orange, blue, green and red.

Coincidence?

Some of the free television programs available to watch at Whooda include “NASA Television,” “The Pentagon Channel,” “AccuWeather,” “Euro News,” “BBC News Headlines,” “Bloomberg US News,” and more.

I wondered how our neighbors across the big pond were doing, so I clicked the BBC News Headlines, and after the ten second “commercial,” the broadcast started. The picture and sound quality was good.

I am watching these programs over my laptop using a Wi-Fi (802.11g) wireless high-speed connection to the Internet here in the Brainerd lakes area of northern Minnesota.

I have the Internet broadcast on right now, as I am typing this column.

The free “Bloomberg US” news channel was available so I watched it for a little while. Again, the picture quality and sound from my laptop computer was good, although the quality is not the same as watching it on a regular television set.

Well, let’s see what happens when I click the “Resi Movie Classics” channel . . . suddenly my computer screen changes to a movie from the 1940’s in black and white film. I recognize the actor in it as Humphrey Bogart. This isn’t too bad. The picture and sound quality are good, and if I had a dedicated high-speed broadband connection, instead of this shared Wi-Fi access, the quality would be even better.

Checking out the sports category they list two channels, one is “MLB TV” and the other is the “Poker Zone.” The MLB TV channel has a Peter McCarthy wearing headphones and talking into a microphone. The show is called “Under The Lights” and McCarthy is taking phone calls about baseball.

Moving to “The Poker Zone” channel I find I am tuned into the beginning of a show that is explaining how to play backgammon (where’s the poker game?). The man explaining the game is being very patient as he demonstrates strategy with a Backgammon set and checkers.

I think I will stick with chess.

In case you’re wondering . . . yes, I still have the channel on in the background as I type this column in Microsoft Word.

The person explaining the strategy of Backgammon is starting to put me to sleep so I will click over to “The Research Channel.” The screen changes and I am now viewing a program called “The Concepts on Low Back Pain” with a doctor from Seattle Washington – not exactly the type of research I was expecting, but it is interesting.

Overall, I was impressed with “Whooda TV” and how simple it was for me to watch these live television broadcast programs on my computer with no hassles and at no cost.

There are other websites like this.

One is a company called “Joost” http://www.joost.com/ that is currently in private beta testing. Joost asks us to “Imagine having infinite choice, and TV that is truly interactive.”

No, I am not making this next one up, it really is called “Rang-A-Rang Television” and it is located at http://www.rangarangtv.com.

This is a Persian language production and broadcasting company on the east coast of the United States. It was broadcasting music videos along with advertising commercials.

We are beginning to see how the Internet is providing the “transmission medium” for broadcaster’s real-time “regular” television programs.

Virtual Digital Cable (VDC) Corporation’s website located at http://www.vdc.com provides free and paid subscription television to computer users.

VDC states on their website that they are “The leading provider of cable television on your computer!” Their subscription for all channels is $8.95 per month. Although they do have some free channels, I was surprised they considered the “Accuweather” channel as a premium channel available only with the paid monthly subscription.

I was able to watch the “Accuweather” channel for free over at the Whooda website.

Another Internet TV startup is at http://www.mobitv.com, which provides premium television programs that you can watch over your mobile phone, windows mobile and palm “pilot” devices – but you need a paid subscription. https://att.mobitv.com/do/welcome provides just about every major TV broadcasting channel lineup directly to your PC over a broadband Internet connection for $19.95 a month. This is AT&T’s broadband TV service.

We are starting to see a dynamic shift by the major television and cable broadcasters. They are now providing their programming content over a new venue. The Internet is growing up fast and is directly competing with the traditional sources we use today for our television viewing.

Soon we will be able to watch dozens of high quality broadcast television programs from our computers by means of a broadband connection to the Internet.

This is just the beginning.