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Awards season is upon us. The music industry is a buzz with announcements related to performances and presenters at this year's 54th GRAMMY Awards Telecast on Sunday Feb 12. The folks behind the Grammy's pride themselves on bringing music fans the most interactive and engaging online awards experience possible. With behind-the-scene cameras and exclusive online-only interviews, the Grammy.com site and associated GRAMMY Live initiative will bring a fantastic multi-screen experience to music fanatics throughout the weekend.

Akamai is fortunate to be involved with this, the 3rd installment of GRAMMY Live, and we sat down this week with GRAMMY Live Executive Producer Peter Anton, who's consulting for The Recording Academy, to talk about the event.Peter Anton, TRA.jpg

Akamai: Peter, last year you saw great viewership numbers for GRAMMY Live, but there might be a few people out there that have not had a chance to visit. Can you give us a quick tour of the second screen experience on GRAMMY Live this year?

Peter Anton: This year we are partnering with CBS on GRAMMY Live and associated mobile apps to bring fans three days of live coverage of VIP events leading up to Music's Biggest Night®. The live stream is accompanied by exclusive pre-taped and archived GRAMMY moments, as well as a variety of live backstage cameras. The GRAMMY Live real-time, online broadcast, includes live video, photos, blogging, tweets and retweets, official news reports and personalized updates from our GRAMMY Live hosts. Exclusive GRAMMY cams bring users beyond the red-velvet-rope to capture behind-the-scenes footage of all the action leading up to and through the 54th GRAMMY Awards, culminating at the official GRAMMY Celebration after party. To round out the experience, this year we've included a feature rich GRAMMY Live mobile app, enabling fans to watch the live stream on their favorite iOS device.

We are proud again to work with technology and production partners, Akamai and AEG Digital Media. Akamai's HD Network and Akamai Media Analytics allow us deliver the live streams in multiple bit rates to various connected devices, as well as measure the online experience from a variety of aspects. AEG Digital Media brings their production and technical expertise, including a feature-rich multi-camera angle Tremolo Player and The MC, a new interactive polling application to the online experience.


Scaling for Any Device, Anywhere

This week I had the opportunity to address a large group of CIOs and global IT executives at the Handelsblatt Conference in Munich.  The theme of the event was "Seamless IT: anytime-anywhere-any service-any device."
 
I was asked to speak on the topic of Internet scalability, which is a challenge that Akamai has been addressing since our inception nearly 14 years ago.
 
In my presentation I argued that new risks to Internet scalability would far eclipse the traditional concern that rising demand for content delivery capacity would overwhelm network growth. Going forward, scalability will be most impacted by how companies are able to respond to the rapid adoption of cloud computing, and how well they can defend against the increasing security threats that have come with so much business - B2B and B2C - moving online.
 
The sun has set on another CES show filled with new gadgets, celebrity appearances, endless cab lines, partially-functional voice and data services, and back-to-back meetings. After meeting with many connected device companies, content owners, press and analysts, a few themes seemed to stand out.

The first big theme is that hyperconnectivity has become completely pervasive. Every imaginable device can be connected to the Internet to provide additional services. Phones, tablets, TVs and game consoles have typically been the big talk, with innovation focused around thinner, lighter weight devices, faster processing and memory, and greater storage on the device. However, the pervasiveness of this trend toward Internet-connected devices emerged in Las Vegas. In particular, it's interesting that many businesses in the automotive industry made major announcements at CES instead of the North American International Auto Show, which was taking place at the same time. It was also interesting to see all the growth in connected devices across health, fitness, home automation and control, home security and more. A great example of innovation is a company called Nest, that has reinvented something as simple as a thermostat to become a smart device by leveraging learning capabilities with Internet-supported functionality to make better decisions about controlling temperature, providing real value and energy cost savings to consumers. However, more devices from different businesses and industries becoming connected has created a major challenge.

Las Vegas is a Zoo!

Twitter and the blogosphere are buzzing about CES 2012. As the sun set the night before the show officially started, there was already a lot to think about. The cab lines at the airport weren't nearly as long as in years past, cell coverage seems to be working still (it was non existent last year at this time) and kangaroo's are the latest press conference gimmick. Should be a fun week ahead!

A few themes emerged already as major consumer electronic companies held press conferences and set the stage for their 2012 digital strategies. Stay tuned for more insights from the show floor this week.

Broader Device Reach
Lots of new tablets and smartphones were unveiled yesterday including those from Lenovo, AT&T and Samsung. Sony said it will bring more than 200 connected devices to market in the next three years alone! Also, a great article in Venture Beat takes a look at the new digital strategy by one of Akamai's leading customers - Fox News - to address the growing landscape of Internet-connected devices.

"The starting point for all [these changes] is there are more devices, more connectivity," Fox New and Business' vice president of digital, Jeff Misenti, told Venture Beat. Fox is introducing a slew of new ways for its audience to interact with news anchors, articles, video content, live streaming, and even the front page of Fox News' website itself. The emphasis, however, is on the recently adopted term "TV Everywhere." A number of media outlets are taking to TV Everywhere as a way to deliver content to a number of different devices and to do that as seamlessly as possible. But syncing your customers' viewing experience across a variety of screens is a challenge. One of Fox's first major moves Fox on this front is a partnership with Akamai to create a cross-device authentication system that allows Fox customers to prove they have Fox News accounts. From there, they can access saved and new content on any authorized device.

Today's hyperconnected world is radically changing the business of media and entertainment. Cloud computing, ubiquitous connectivity, and the increasing consumption of IP video are driving content providers to move more content to the cloud and users to expect easy access across multiple devices. Technology advancements and rapid consumer adoption have created an environment where delivering a secure, high-performing consumer experience on any device is critical. This new environment brings enormous benefits and opportunities, but also real challenges.

Industry predictions indicate that by 2015, 90 percent of video will be online and the ratio of devices per Internet user will be five to one. As a result, the entertainment industry faces increasing complexities around entitlement, access, monetization, quality and security.

Today at CES, Akamai unveiled three new products to address emerging business and consumer needs in the online entertainment industry in the areas of security, delivery and as well as support for emerging business models. Building on its Intelligent Platform, Akamai is enhancing its next-generation broadcast solution - the Akamai HD Network - offering advanced monetization capabilities, business model flexibility and simplified workflow to reach a growing device landscape.

Premium entertainment content is a perfect fit for the cloud as the proliferation of connected devices makes on the go entertainment experiences today a reality. By solving the challenges of this dynamic landscape, Akamai continues to take complexity out of the equation and allow our customers to focus on their core business strategies.

More information about today's announcement can be found at these links:
Press Release: http://www.akamai.com/html/about/press_news.html
Akamai SecureHD Whitepaper: http://www.akamai.com/html/solutions/hdnetwork.html
Akamai for UltraViolet microsite: http://www.akamai.com/ultraviolet

Jennifer Donovan is a Senior Manager of Public Relations at Akamai

It seems that this holiday season was a highly-connected holiday based on initial numbers coming in from multiple sources.  According to Flurry Analytics, about 6.8 million tablets and smartphones using Apple iOS or Google Android were activated on Christmas Day, which is more than double the 2.8 million devices activated last Christmas Day. In addition, about a quarter of a billion apps were downloaded on Christmas Day at Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market, up from 85 million last Christmas. Forrester Research estimated Apple sold another 8 million iPads in the United States this quarter and Amazon sold 5 million Kindle Fires. Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Wii have also sold millions of more units in the fourth quarter, with nearly 1 million Xbox 360 consoles being sold Black Friday week. These are just a few examples of the data points showing how much more connected we are becoming as a society, and reinforces the point that a great user experience goes beyond the initial sale to the content and apps the device will interface with.

Now that we are full swing into the holidays, and we have passed some of the big shopping days of the year.  What will this mean in terms of more connected devices coming online as gifts during the holiday season?  Many gifts being purchased include connected devices.  When these devices are opened up and connected, we typically see an increase in online activity because many of these devices need to get software updates and patches before they can be used.  

In addition, consumers are purchasing gift cards which can be redeemed through the devices for digital goods such as music, movies, games, books.  This type of shift is requiring many different businesses to further rethink their plans of how to support consumers each year, to ensure that new connected gift or digital goods offers a great experience.  Ensuring a good experience is important, since a poor experience can result in increased support calls and products returns.  It is also not as simple as it used to be. 

Promise of a Connected World

We live in one of the most interesting times in human history, with rapid amounts of change upon our lives.  One of the most profound changes is the advent of all devices becoming connected to each other over the Internet, enabling people accelerate the pace and types of communication.  Connected devices have become embedded in our lives.  
How many of us carry smart phones, tablets, and laptops?  How many of us have game consoles, smart TVs or other intelligent connected devices in the home?  How many different connected devices do we use through a day, across varying types of access such as broadband, Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G or LTE? 
Human interaction through multiple devices in the course of a day is becoming the norm, but creates many new challenges. As Chief Strategist, Connected Devices and Gaming at Akamai, I'm focused on solving these challenges so our customers can simply make it all work.
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