Visitor information kiosks operated by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) in 34 destinations across the emirate have been upgraded with enhanced location maps, more information on hotels, tours and attractions and with a special �Send A Postcard Home' facility.
The new service - available in English, Arabic and German initially but with Italian and French to be added by the year end - will also be upgraded to allow users to have information sent to them by MMS.
"We envisage the postcard service - when people simply select the postcard they want and email it back home to family and friends being particularly popular," said Saeed Al Dhaheri, Visitor Information Manager, ADTA.
ADTA is also planning to install three lower-level kiosks which will be easier for the handicapped to use in the UAE capital's main shopping malls by the end of this year.
Send A Message (SAM) video postcard kiosks that uses customer photo's to create virtual postcard. Branching into Lobby Edge. Kristen Tsitoukis owner.
Hotels and destination spots throughout the world are getting on board with Send A Message Inc., a company that has designed kiosks to allow users to create and send virtual postcards using their own photos.
The company may only be a year old, but the concept is already catching on, said, Kristen Tsitoukis, the woman behind Send A Message (SAM) kiosks. Users not only create custom-designed postcards from the machines, but they can also print out hard copies or send them virtually via email and text message or post them directly to Facebook.
"It takes vacation photos to a whole new level, providing guests the unique opportunity to create photo postcards with their own personal media in just minutes," Tsitoukis said.
How it works
A guest inserts her memory card from her camera into the kiosk and follows a set of directions on the touchscreen that walks her through the process.
She may also choose from stock photos, housed in the kiosk, based on the locale. For example, a unit at Sea World may include photos of dolphins.
Tsitoukis spent nearly 15 years as the director of operations for a major hotel chain before launching Send A Message Inc. last year. She partnered with Avnet Embedded, a distributor of electronic components, computer products and embedded technology, for her hardware needs.
It was a perfect pairing, according to Joe Fijak, Avnet's vice president of Display Solutions, who said Avnet rarely needs to create custom components for the companies it assists.
"In this instance, ELO Touch Systems has a great touchscreen solution that fit the needs of SAM perfectly," Fijak said. "SAM has a great customer base, and this was an opportunity for us to provide our technical and integration capabilities to SAM on a variable-cost model, allowing them to divert their energy towards expanding their customer base."
Avnet's integration services allowed for the quick build and delivery of the kiosks to Panama as well as to Holland America's Cruise Ship, the Eurodam, Tsitoukis said.
The company also introduced Tsitoukis to Meridian Zero Degrees, another kiosk manufacturer that provided the company with hardware components.
"We know a self-service project is going to be successful when it is good for both user and deployer," said Sheridan Orr of Meridian. "That is definitely the case with SAM. They have an excellent user interface that allows people to create unique mementos. Cruise lines, events and venues can generate revenue and provide additional services to guests."
The SAM kiosks are already in the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown in Pennsylvania and the Renaissance Orlando at Sea World in Florida. And the company will soon deploy them in a "very high-profile night club, on Broadway, in several other vacation destination resorts, as well as catering venues geared toward weddings and celebrations," Tsitoukis said.
She's also shipping several to Asia next week and is working with the United Kingdom Trade & Investment for placement in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Tsitoukis said the SAM kiosks not only help retailers by providing a great consumer experience, their digital-signage capabilities also serve as advertising platforms. Targeted message can run at specific times of the day, and ads can run as videos or slide shows, she said.
Although Tsitoukis couldn't give cost figures for the SAM kiosks, she said the company offers a few different programs that include buying or leasing options.
"It is very affordable for the properties," she said.
Taking kiosks to the EDGE
The SAM kiosks aren't the only self-service unit Tsitoukis has up her sleeve. Although they're only about a year old, Tsitoukis recently launched a concierge kiosk called the Lobby Edge. The touchscreen kiosk allows guests to find restaurants, local events and access their flight information.
What makes it different from other concierge kiosks, said Tsitoukis, is that it's environmentally friendly, giving users the option to deliver the information straight to their mobile phones or email accounts, rather than printing it.
"And it was designed by people in the hospitality industry with the guest needs (in mind) first," she said.
The Lobby EDGE kiosks are already in hotels in Philadelphia and Virginia with more planned for Baltimore, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Newark, N.J.
Avnet is again covering Tsitoukis' hardware needs.
As SAM continues to grow, the relationship between it and Avnet Embedded does, too. "I plan on using Avnet for the entire life of our company," said Tsitoukis. "Not only are they are our embedded provider, but they are integral to our continued success.
The battle between Redbox and Universal escalates with "new acquisition strategies" employed by Redbox to get additional copies of videos in defiance of Universal Music. From Wall Street Journal.
By SARAH MCBRIDE
Last weekend, one of the top titles in Redbox video-rental kiosks was "Wanted," the Universal Pictures thriller about a clerk turned assassin. But instead of rejoicing, Universal has been trying to block Redbox from selling "Wanted" along with its other new releases.
Though Universal had threatened to cut off Redbox's supplies of "Wanted" DVDs, the kiosk retailer had been able to get them anyway by tapping new channels. In October, Redbox slapped Universal with a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Delaware, alleging the studio is violating antitrust laws and misusing copyright. On Friday, Universal asked the court to dismiss the case.
Universal is one of several studios that dislike the way kiosks such as Redbox sell and rent DVDs, claiming that its prices are too low and are hurting other DVD retailers. The spat between Redbox and General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal is part of a broader struggle in the industry to cope with declining DVD sales.
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Redbox operates 12,000 kiosks around the U.S., renting movies for $1.
DVD sales are likely to fall about 6% this year, according to Adams Media Research, cutting into what had been one of the most important sources of revenue for movie studios.
Redbox isn't the only kiosk operator, but it is by far the biggest. It has installed 12,000 kiosks around the U.S., compared with about half that a year ago. By comparison, Blockbuster Inc. has 5,000 U.S. stores. Because the kiosks are cheap to operate, Redbox rents movies for $1, making it a hit with consumers.
Blockbuster, which must rent and staff stores, might charge as much as $4.99 for the same rental. Last week, Blockbuster said it was testing renting some classic movies for 99 cents, because of factors such as the poor economy. It is also rolling out DVD kiosks of its own, starting with about 50 kiosks during the next few weeks at various retail locations such as convenience stores.
Big retailers such as Blockbuster typically give studios a portion of rental revenue on top of purchasing the DVDs they rent out. But Redbox doesn't cut the studios in on rentals.
Moreover, Redbox kiosks don't stock much of the niche, arthouse movies that studios like to promote, especially around Oscar season.
More news from NCR and how they figure 11,000 machines over the next 2 years is realistic. First they sign on big "blockbuster" client, then they take minority stakes in TNR and E-Play to get locations, and finally they bank on the fact that Blu-Ray is actually a good thing since the heavier digital weight (1.5Gb versus 4GB) works to their delivery advantage. Remains to be seen though if Netflix with it 3-prong strategy (delivery, streaming and Xbox/MS) ultimately prevails..
NCR to build DVD kiosk business
ATM giant will make more than 11,000 machines by 2010
By Danny King -- Video Business, 9/5/2008
SEPT. 5 | Mel Walter might work for a company that has been in business for 124 years, but he’s still a big fan of spontaneity, especially when it comes to renting movies.
“Seventy percent of people who enter movie-rental stores had no idea they were going there one hour before they arrived,” said Walter, VP of corporate development at NCR, the world’s largest automated-teller-machine maker. “The options you have at home are minute compared to what you have in a 10,000-square-foot store or at kiosks with 4,000 DVDs connected to a server attached to a long-tail catalog.”
Founded in 1884 as the National Cash Register Co., the one-time AT&T unit is investing heavily in a relatively nascent movie-kiosk industry. Each year, the company makes more than 100,000 self-service kiosks, such as ATMs and airplane-ticket-dispensing machines.
In the next 18 months or so, it will put more than 11,000 DVD kiosks into production, and NCR has taken minority ownership positions in two kiosk companies.
“We think a fundamental shift is occurring in the way consumers are obtaining entertainment media,” said Walter, who wouldn’t disclose how much NCR is investing in the industry. “The shift from traditional store distribution to kiosks is a dramatic growth opportunity.”
NCR, which boosted its second-quarter sales 13% from a year earlier to $1.33 billion, looks to gain customers in a kiosk market that’s expected to pull sales from traditional movie-rental stores during the next few years. U.S. consumers will spend $800 million at kiosks by 2010, triple the amount spent last year, according to Convergence Consulting Group. Meanwhile, store rental revenue, estimated at $5.4 billion last year, will fall to $3.1 billion by 2010, according to Convergence.
Last month, NCR announced plans to build kiosks for both Blockbuster and The New Release/Moviecube. Blockbuster, the largest U.S. movie-rental chain, said NCR will make as many as 10,000 Blockbuster-branded installed machines by early 2010. The machines will let customers rent DVDs and eventually might let consumers buy discs and make digital downloads of certain titles, the companies said.
Meanwhile, NCR acquired a minority stake in TNR, for terms that weren’t disclosed, and will make as many as 1,400 new kiosks by 2010 for the No. 2 movie-rental kiosk company behind Redbox.
“We view ourselves as entertainment merchants, not kiosk operators,” said Tim Belton, CEO of TNR. “NCR has made a commitment to this space.”
In July, NCR acquired a minority stake in closely held kiosk maker E-Play in an agreement that will add several thousand self-service DVD-trading machines in GameStop, Dollar Tree and other U.S. retailers within the next few years.
Such an investment isn’t without its risks. U.S. consumer spending on DVDs for the first half of the year was little changed from a year earlier, reflecting the economic downturn and possibly the lingering effects of the high-definition disc format war, which was won by Sony-led Blu-ray Disc in February.
Such a sales plateau might have affected efforts to go public by U.S. kiosk leader Redbox, which in February announced agreements with Walgreens and Wal-Mart that will bring Redbox’s kiosk total to more than 11,000 by the end of next year. Redbox, which is majority owned by coin-exchange-machine operator Coinstar, in May announced its intention to file a prospectus for an initial public offering by the end of June. Those plans were delayed indefinitely by what some movie-rental analysts say were poor stock-market conditions.
Additionally, the growth of direct-to-home delivery, in the form of cable video-on-demand, video streaming or downloads, is seen by some as a long-term threat to DVD as the primary mechanism for viewing movies from home.
Still, Walter insists that the prospect of streaming replacing DVDs as the primary method of home entertainment delivery is a long way off.
“Video-on-demand has been around since 1991 and has still has not approached 10% of the media market in North America,” Walter said. “As we make the transition to high-def Blu-ray, the size of the files are going from a couple gigabytes to about 30GB, so packaged media has a huge advantage in portability.”
RELATED STORY --
Netflix Bets on Technology To Stream Films via Web
By DAVID B. WILKERSON
September 10, 2008
Netflix Inc. doesn't believe the online DVD-rental market will dry up anytime soon. But by the time discs do fade away, the company wants to make sure customers are already accustomed to using its service to download movies and TV shows from the Web.
Netflix, led by Chief Executive Reed Hastings, is betting that its unlimited rental proposition -- so successful in the DVD space -- will work just as well in the streaming era.
For a basic monthly subscription rate starting at $4.99, Netflix customers go online to rent DVDs, which are delivered via first-class mail, complete with postage-paid return envelopes. Almost 95% of Netflix subscribers live in areas that can receive discs in one business day, and the company's library carries more than 100,000 titles.
Since January 2007, Netflix has also offered downloads. At unlimited plans starting at $8.99 a month, customers can rent at least one DVD at a time, and stream as many movies as they like.
"People continue to gravitate toward the Web because of its convenience, so we see good growth ahead in our business on the DVD side," said Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey. "However, we know the future belongs to instant watching, to streaming to your TV. So we're forming partnerships with great technology companies...to embed the Netflix software into devices that deliver streaming content to the TV."
Most recently, Netflix and LG Electronics Inc. teamed up on a Blu-ray high-definition player, available in the fall for less than $500, which will let customers download movies and TV programs from Netflix.com to their television sets. Eventually, the player will also be able to stream non-Netflix content.
In July, Netflix and Microsoft Corp. said they would stream movies and TV shows to subscribers of Xbox Live, a Web-based service for users of Microsoft's Xbox 360 videogame system, starting this fall. More than 12,000 movies and TV episodes will be available when Netflix launches on Xbox Live. The service will be free to Xbox Live Gold members who are also Netflix subscribers, the companies said.
With Roku Inc., Netflix has developed another standalone player, a less expensive one, without Blu-ray capability. The device, unveiled in May, sells for $99.99. Like the Xbox deal, Netflix offers 12,000 movies and TV episodes from its library, and will ultimately be able to handle non-Netflix streams.
Why so many players? "Our goal is to be ubiquitous with our partners," Mr. Swasey said. "We want to have movies and TV shows delivered to our customers in whatever form they want."
Analyst Rich Ingrassia of Roth Capital Partners has a few long-term concerns about Netflix. One is competition from download services offered by Apple Inc.'s AppleTV as well as by Amazon.com Inc. and TiVo Inc., which have collaborated on the Amazon Unbox/TiVo option.
Mr. Ingrassia isn't sure that consumers will be able to distinguish between Netflix's offering and those of these competitors. This is especially true, he says, when considering the fact that a growing number of Netflix subscribers seem to be opting for its lowest-priced plans, at $4.99, $8.99 or $13.99 a month, rather than the high-end plans at $35.99, $41.99 or $47.99. At $47.99 per month, users can have eight DVDs out at a time with unlimited streaming privileges.
Netflix, based in Los Gatos, Calif., believes it has distinguished itself from other download services, but admits that it will take time for the message to sink in completely.
"We think there's definitely a differentiation, and that is that Netflix is a service with unlimited rentals and unlimited streaming. The others are pay-per-view," Mr. Swasey said.
"The people that are really dialed in to streaming get the difference," said Mr. Swasey. "They tend to be the early adopters, people who are on blogs and chats, talking about the new technology and all the whiz-bang stuff. The general public probably doesn't get that just yet, because this is a very nascent technology. Mainstream consumers are still happy with DVDs, and probably will be for five to 10 years."
Perhaps a bigger threat to Netflix, in Mr. Ingrassia's view, are DVD rental kiosks from Redbox, owned by Coinstar Inc. and McDonald's Corp. In just a few years, Redbox has installed more than 3,000 kiosks across the U.S., at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. outlets, supermarkets and other places with significant foot traffic. The company charges $1 per day for rentals.
"We believe the Redbox [$1] rental model has particular appeal among today's new subscriber pipeline," Mr. Ingrassia told clients in a recent note. "As the kiosks proliferate and awareness grows, it is reasonable to believe Redbox will disrupt Netflix's new subscriber pipeline."
Netflix isn't terribly concerned about the kiosks. "We see kiosks as competing with video stores," Mr. Swasey said. "They're very new-release centric -- that's all they offer -- and that's what the stores offer. You're still going to a destination to pick it up, you have to return it, and you pay by the day. So we think they're going to take more business from the stores than they do from online."
Netflix caters to consumers who want older catalog titles or specialty items, Mr. Swasey said. "Netflix ships more than 70% catalog. On a typical day we ship 46,000 unique titles." Meanwhile, the service does have the newer DVD releases that a more casual watcher might desire, he said.
Having invented the online DVD-rental business, Netflix seems well positioned to have a leading role in its evolution into a digital streaming enterprise.