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Hollywood Strike Bringing Technology Spike?

Tuesday, 11 Dec 2007 | 2:53 PM ET
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AP
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With Apple Inc. touching a new, all-time high today on its way to $200 a share, and Hewlett-Packard raising estimates for 2008, there's word that troubles in Hollywood could mean big-time opportunity in Silicon Valley.

A new report just out this morning from the Wi-Fi Alliance and Kelton Research, shows the Hollywood writers' strike is leading to a surge in laptop entertainment. No, not that kind of entertainment: the portable computer kind.

According to this survey, 50 percent of respondents said they've been going online more often for entertainment, or plan to do so, since the strike began. And maybe more telling: one-third of them say their entertainment now comes from online sources.

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It's a natural to assume that Netflix and Blockbuster might see a bump in business from the strike as people start renting more movies since there's nothing new to watch on TV. But you can also make the same argument for big restaurant chains like Brinker and Cheesecake Factory and others as people decide to go out to dinner instead of staying home watching repeats.

But this survey shows a new, and interesting corollary between the strike and tech. This becomes good news for Apple, HP, Dell, Intel and all the major chip players in Wi-Fi. Intriguing.

This isn't necessarily about consumers downloading content to their PCs at home; but using Wi-Fi to connect wirelessly to their entertainment sources instead. The survey says 68% of respondents ranked Wi-Fi above YouTube, MySpace, Facebook and iTunes as the single technology having the most significant impact on their internet experience.

As interesting as this is for the Wi-Fi movement, it cuts to the core of the issues facing writers in Hollywood, and that's how they'll get their cut of a fast-changing industry relying more and more on digital distribution for its ongoing success. And with 350 million Wi-Fi users globally, it seems Hollywood must come to terms with this issue.

Other key findings: 57 percent of shoppers this holiday season are looking for Wi-Fi enabled cell phones; 30 percent are looking for Wi-Fi enabled music players; 29 percent want gaming devices and digital cameras to feature Wi-Fi.

Fifty-five percent will rely on Wi-Fi to stay in touch with friends and family while traveling; 52 percent will use Wi-Fi to work remotely, and 55 percent will seek hotel accommodations based on whether they have Wi-Fi.

It's clear the world is going wireless. And based on users and their entertainment choices, Hollywood is going wireless too, whether it wants to or not. And here's cold, hard evidence that entertainment content is being viewed and enjoyed far differently than it has in the past. Another clear example why writers want what they want; and Hollywood is nervous about where all this goes from here.

Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.com

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