Roundup: Amazon-TiVo video punch, Metacafe's woes, Google's tracking & more

(Updated) roundup of latest tech stuff:Amazon.com answers Wal-Mart on video downloads — There are so many video download services, it’s easy to get jaded. Wal-Mart just announced its own download service, but the test site looks awful (it still badly garbled as of this writing). A more promising video service is the offering by Amazon Unbox to download movies directly to your TiVo. This is significant: It’s the first service letting people watch regular TV programming and Internet video from the same box. This will be rolled out beginning in a few weeks. Other services, such as CinemaNow, Akimbo and others require buying a new box, setting up a network or other steps that confuse or turn off most people. [Update: Just noticed that Amazon-TiVo consumers will have to order their videos from their PCs, instead of from their TiVO, so this is not as simple as we originally thought.]

News Corp. rethinking ad deal with GoogleGoogle is dragging its feet on filtering copyrighted videos on its new property YouTube, so you’d expect the music and video companies owning the copyrights would play hard ball. No surprise, then, that MySpace parent News Corp. is apparently rethinking the advertising deal it signed with Google last year (see WSJ story). News Corp. is already upset with Google over the copyright issue.

Another RFID company trying to go public — RFID stands for Radio Frequency ID, and refers to the little radio tags retailers and others are placing on goods to track them better. It was supposed to be all the rage two years ago, but the early-bird companies wanting to go public look risky. First there was Alien Technology, which was rejected by the public markets. Now Applied Digital, which a Florida company that owns an implantable RFID unit, is trying for the second time, and still looks risky.

Talking of risky IPOs, Globalstar was always one — We always thought satellite communications company Globalstar rushed its IPO a bit, going public as soon as it got some decent revenues. But it did so after raising a bunch of cash, and not long out of bankruptcy. Were there unknown problems lurking at this company? We couldn’t tell. Now, it turns out all their satellites might just stop working because of technology problems, it discloses. Needless to say, the stock has plunged.

AT&T shuts down the famous Iowa phone-loophole scam — Or at least, it appears to be making progress in one case, FuturePhone.

Once high-flying video site Metacafe, imploding? — Traffic is apparently falling for the company, which recently located to Palo Alto from Israel. Company gets a new CEO.

jeff bezos.jpgMFG.com, online marketplace for custom manufacturers, raises $4M — The Atlanta company, seeded earlier by Amazon.com’s chief exec, Jeff Bezos, has raised its first round of venture capital, led by the European Founders Fund. Designers with sketchings and other designs to implement can get hooked up with specialty suppliers.

Google tracks not only your search history, but apparently your spam history too — In other words, if you tried to spam its search engine in the past, you may be permanently blacklisted.

Teliris raises $40 million for telepresence offering – It’s to difficult to understand why companies like Teliris, which is already established, is raising $40 million from Fidelity Ventures and Columbia Capital to build out its “telepresence” offering, when such large competitors Hewlett Packard, Cisco Systems and others have entered the market with similar high-end offerings. With communications costs going down, and more video-conferencing offerings launching for free (albeit perhaps with not such high quality yet), its difficult to know how companies, even large ones, can continue to justify spending several hundred thousand dollars on each room installation. But Fidelity has been a smart investor in the past, so maybe it knows something about the budgets of Fortune 500 companies that we don’t.

Lots of other financings — See VentureBeat’s Newswire for latest deals, including Beceem’s latest funding, to help build out mobile WiMax, Fonality’s funding for VoIP services, Bright Source‘s funding for solar power plants, and Baynote’s funding to stave off upstarts like online behavior companies, Aggregate Knowledge.