Quick Hits – March 18, 2005

Red carpet greetings

William Shatner is taking Rogers Wireless voicemail where it has not boldly gone before. The Toronto-based company has introduced a host of celebrities to greet callers when the phone owners can’t get to their devices. The messages include Shatner — formerly Captain Kirk on TV’s Star Trek — wishing he could “beam you up,” to Destiny’s Child harmonizing “the girl is not home” and making sure “she’ll get jumping back at you.” Callers can also choose a breathless Anna Nicole Smith saying, “Your friend is unavailable…and I’ll give him your message once he is untied.” To take advantage of this new feature, users require a GSM/GPRS phone and a subscription to voicemail. These new greetings can be downloaded onto wireless handsets for $3 each. To preview the celebrity greetings or to purchase one for download, visit www.rogers.com/celebrityvoicemail.

Today’s tour guide is….

A new set of mobile devices promises to offer users a unique way to experience a city such as Vancouver. Mobile Media-Rich Urban Shared Experience ( MUSE), a Vancouver-based consortium made up of industry and academic organizations like IBM Corp., Telus Corp., Nokia, New Media BC and the University of British Columbia, is the brainchild behind the project. According to the consortium’s Web site, the first prototype, called re:call, is “a mobile information and experience architecture targeted at Vancouverites and visitors aged 14 to 34 who are interested in simultaneously making and participating in culture on the go.” Mobile MUSE is scheduled to be deployed this spring in the form of a mobile history tour of Granville Island.

Rent a car, get a BlackBerry

Avis Rent a Car System Inc. in Canada is letting its customers drive away with a free BlackBerry with any rental between now and April 30, 2005. For every completed transaction, customers will get a free BlackBerry 6750 (valued at $299); they may obtain up to five devices. In addition, the offer includes free activation and shipping. According to Avis, the reason behind the promotion is to help “small businesses and busy professionals save money and maximize their time when on the road.” In order to qualify, customers must provide a rental agreement number by visiting the company’s Web site to confirm a completed rental. The device will only be shipped once the customer signs a 24-month service agreement with Bell Mobility.

TV is coming to a mobile near you

Just when you thought your mobile phone had about all the features you can handle — telephony, messaging, gaming, music and photography — guess what? Another is on the way: TV. Mobile phone manufacturers and network operators around the globe are tuning into mobile TV big-time. And at press time many of them said they planned to use the mammoth 3GSM World Congress, held in Cannes, France last month, as a backdrop to tout their new products and services. The surge in interest comes as the cell phone industry explores new ways to generate revenue beyond its cash-cow telephony business. According to some experts, mobile TV could be a new money spinner, provided the technology works and the service is affordable. Mobile TV has two primary and potentially competing distribution channels. With one, mobile phones receive regular TV broadcasts using special antennas. With the other, the signal is transmitted over the mobile network as a stream of video data. The big difference between the two is broadcast’s one-to-many relationship versus mobile’s one-to-one.

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