Our Daily Dread: How to be iPhoney about the Dance

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In a perfect world, the same phone you usedto call in sick to your superior being back at the office this morning was the same piece of high-tech equipment you use later in the day to watch live video of the NCAA Tournament action as you sat in the airport bar waiting for your weekend flight to Las Vegas.

Ironic, too, that you’ll make sure to check the caller ID on the same device Monday morning while passed out in your hotel. It may be from human resources informing you that your services are no longer needed.

Play it smart, phone boy.

In today’s dicey economic climate, stealing company time to watch tournament games for free on your office computer screen is enough of a risky business proposition. Even that cheesy “Boss Page” fake spreadsheet is a tough sell for anyone to believe as real, especially now that it has a sponsor.

Phone it in instead.

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AT&T customers are the ahead-of-the-test-market curve this year for a new iPhone application (along with the iTouch) providing all access to CBS’ live NCAA game video, powered by MobiTV, for a $4.99 fee. The only hitch is having WiFi access (the 3G service will only get you audio from the TV call, which isn’t all that exciting).

So, depending on how resourceful you can be with that gizmo, you could make it look as if you’re checking email from a client named Duke Binghamton right there in the board room without looking bored.

As they did last year, Verizon Wireless customers with the right phones and plans also can watch video, and AT&T’s LG Vu, LG Invision, Samsung Access and Samsung Eternity also can get a one-game video stream. But as anyone with an iPhone call attest, there’s a world of difference gadgetwise.

The universe of potential users for this first granted access may be miniscule – some estimates are that less than five percent of all cell phone subscribers even access video, let alone the live stuff. But it’s another test case for the power of the NCAA Tournament’s reach for the insta-user.

If the March Madness on Demand that was introduced a year ago on CBSSports.com and NCAA.com is the greatest innovation for the NCAA Tournament consumption, the iPhone application may be a close second for those who’ve harnessed the specialness of the multi-purpose device. Short of buying DirecTV’s stay-at-home “Mega March Madness” package for $69, this is another step in ending the reliance on the over-the-air CBS telecast of network-knee-jerk cuts from one game to another, a system that tries to please everyone but more often frustrates anyone.

Recession logic may lead to the conclusion that all tech gadgetry is now a luxury item. Yet, there is stronger evidence to show that as more people are go without home-based land-line phones, cell users are learning more about how iPhone applications may be worth the price of admission.

There have been 17 million iPhones sold in the U.S. through 2008, and some analysts predict about 45 million more will be bought up this year. Last year, smart-phone sales alone grew 68 percent over 2007. No wonder Apple stock has gained $16.55 a share in just over two weeks.

For those who can’t afford not to have it, there seem to be enough “connect to the madness” stimulus packages offered by major electronics stores these days. Cellphone sales for this event are being pushed as hard as a flat-screen TV would be during Super Bowl week. Special extended plans are also offered, as well as coordinating college-logo cases for the phones where a customer rep is more than happy to demonstrate how to access scores, stats, schedules and brackets with a warm touch of the finger.

The announcement this week that new iPhone 3.0 software will soon be available to allow users such things as “pushing” news and sports scores make the device all that more work-friendly.

So, too, is the NCAA figuring out its college demographic is the perfect guinea pig for this means of tournament consumption.

And don’t forget, all games from the Final Four will also be for sale — $1.99 each — on Apple’s iTunes Store the day after they are completed. If you haven’t burned out on everything by then.

Meanwhile …

The Onion Sports headline of the day:

Local Office Betting On Who Will Win NCAA Tournament Pool At Other Office

ROCHESTER, NY–In what has become a yearly tradition, employees at the office of Institutional Investors filled out brackets Wednesday and placed bets on who will win the NCAA “March Madness” pool being held in the S.G. Schilling Inc. offices across the street.
“All the people involved are equally uninformed, so it’s anyone’s bet,” said assistant media planner Evan Glazer, adding that the pool helps build camaraderie in the office. “I like to do a little research. Mike; Doug Smith or Smitts; Mr. Shernoff; that project analyst guy, they’re always the top seeds. I’m predicting that Caroline, the cute and feisty office manager, is going to pull an upset this year, but that’s a risky pick. Also, I used to work with [HR coordinator] Will [Krepack] at another company, so I have to favor him.”
The majority of employees claimed that actually winning the pool would certainly be exciting, but the biggest thrill comes from betting on what other people are betting on.

Comment here or at thomas.hoffarth@dailynews.com. Just don’t Twitter me.

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