Archives For davez

The Tablo Update & Giveaway

Dave Zatz —  January 12, 2017 — 8 Comments

Cord cutting featured prominently at CES this month, including a pair of announcements by our pals at Tablo.

Later this year, they’ll offer an Android TV app that provides local television playback with DVR capabilities. Even more interesting is the upcoming Tablo Live dongle ($99) that connects to an antenna and beams your favorite programming around the home to Roku, Xbox, iPad, etc. Even better? They’re working on a cloud storage companion.

Beyond these new goodies, the company continues to enhance the compelling Tablo OTA DVR that comes in 2- and 4-tuner models. Connect an antenna and a hard drive to watch both live and recorded content from a variety of clients within the home… or beyond. And, lucky you, here’s your opportunity to win my 2-tuner evaluation model with three months of service thrown in.

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In a move that probably surprises to no one, I can confirm reports that Echostar subsidiary Sling Media halted Slingbox production last year.

Sling Media, the video place-shifting pioneer, has stopped manufacturing Slingbox units, but will continue to sell Slingboxes that remain still in stock, Satellite Business News reported in its January 6 issue.

In fact, this seems like such an obvious and natural progression given the state of the industry and what I assume have been poor, waning sales, it didn’t even occur to me to blog the development. Of course, Slingbox was Blake Krikorian’s pioneering and liberating technology that brought us TV Everywhere before that phrase had been coined. Yet we always suspected it was something of a transitional approach, with much of that video streaming functionality now offered directly via television providers — originating either from their set-tops or the cloud. Granted, it’s more locked down and ad-infested – but also way more accessible to the general populace.

The Slingbox M1, introduced back in 2014, is effectively the last Slingbox… as it was rebranded the M2 in 2015, featuring no hardware changes but an expanded focus on advertising — part of a last ditch effort to justify the businesses continued existence. Similarly, that Slingbox hardware was intended to be partially repurposed as AirTV… but that was ultimately replaced by a different technical approach and outsourced hardware production.

Fortunately, existing owners have nothing to fear in the short term as Slingbox services will carry-on. Although I wouldn’t hold out hope for much in the way of application enhancements.

So what comes next?

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AirTV in Action

Dave Zatz —  January 9, 2017 — 12 Comments

Cord Cutters News has posted a video demonstration of AirTV from CES… and it sure looks intriguing.

AirTV is a small Android set-top that comes bundled with a USB tuner ($130) and boots directly into Sling TV. While you don’t actually need to be a subscriber of the streaming service, there’s no point in picking up this box (vs say a Roku or Apple TV) without it — as its biggest, baddest trick is merging local over-the-air television content into Sling TV’s “cable” guide. Even better, should you happen to subscribe to Netflix, video recommendations also pop up via some sort of deep linking. Beyond that, Air TV also provides full access to the Google Play Store – including a dedicated button on the universal remote.

Sadly, AirTV does not provide any local DVR capabilities and outbound OTA streaming was left on the cutting room floor.

As revealed last year, TiVo was prepping a cloud DVR service option for retail hardware, with indications that over-the-air television recordings originating from Roamio, Bolt, and upcoming Mavrik devices will be stored and streamed remotely. While this is a CES no-show, we know work continues. Indeed, TiVo needs your help as they fine tune the offering.

From TiVo VP Margret Schmidt:

Beta testers are needed for a new and exciting opportunity that will last approximately 8 weeks.

To qualify you must:
1. Have a TiVo box (Roamio, Premiere, or BOLT) with Over-The-Air (OTA) TV signal – No CableCARD
2. Live in the San Francisco Bay Area
3. And, have two of these three products:
– iOS device (phone or tablet)
– Android device (phone or tablet)
– Computer with web browser, either Windows 7 + or Mac OSx 10 +

If interested, please e-mail Beta@tivo.com with “OTA Beta Opportunity” as the subject line and your name, e-mail address, and TSN in the body.

So now we know Premiere will also be supported as well as the initial anticipated playback clients. Hopefully Roku and Fire TV are also on the docket. As to what this service might cost and its relative value, when weighed against factors such as your broadband cap, remains to be seen.

While TiVo’s cloud DVR and cord cutting Mavrik were CES no-shows, the DVR pioneer is once again presenting its new interface.

Code-named “Project Hydra,” the UX offers a beautiful, customizable interface that lets viewers quickly and easily search for, browse and consume programming from all video sources – live, recorded, on demand and streaming. The interface is designed for seamless use across phone, tablet and web apps.

Originally demo-ed last fall and expected to begin deployment in 2016, the spiffed up experience is intended to be replicated across a number of platforms and features content from a variety of sources (perhaps in relation to that multi-headed Hydra branding). Personalization features prominently in this dramatic, dual-axis, re-envisioning of TiVo. From a user-customizable quick menu in the upper left to an expanded Discovery Bar that surfaces relevant content, TiVo “designed this UX so the viewer spends less time searching channel guides and opening apps and more time enjoying their favorite shows.”

In quizzing Light Reading, I get the sense they find the new appearance pleasant although perhaps a little derivative as so many have gone to the flatter visuals featuring larger content imagery and lesser chrome. However, beyond a quick trade show floor demo, we’ll have to live with experience awhile to determine how it actually performs — as I said in September, few usability test more than TiVo, so I chose to remain optimistic. No details yet on supported devices nor revised launch timing.

From CES, TiVo has reaffirmed their intentions to bring voice control to the platform… this year. While cagey on details, and perhaps still contemplating their approach(es), some interesting nuggets have come to light:

In a briefing here at the show, Tivo SVP and GM Michael Hawkey hinted at the likelihood of a natural language interface for Tivo solutions that might come in the form of a brand new product, but might also be added to legacy products via a new remote, or, more likely, through integration with products like Amazon’s Echo hardware line.

TiVo management has been alluding to voice capabilities for a few years, with perhaps an original thought of bringing control to mobile applications… like Roku has done, rather than bundling a microphone-endowed remote as Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV do. In my households, I do appreciate some of the more basic Logitech Harmony Alexa skills (whereas the newer ones need work) and Mom enjoys calling up cable channels via her brand-spanking-new Xfinity voice remote (despite months of having to hammer Comcast).

After several years of development, it appears a redesigned AirTV Player is nearly here. Originally conceived as an over-the-air network tuner, like Tablo, to stream local antenna television into Sling TV’s user interface, AirTV appears to have been rethought… and nears arrival as an Android-powered, Technicolor-produced set-top box vs reusing Echostar’s Slingbox scraps, Oh, this rendition still channels live television. But that local programming is now output directly into a TV, presumably merged within Sling’s guide, along with over-the-top streaming applications — specifically Netflix (!) and the Play Store itself…. based on support documents and the bundled universal, voice-capable Bluetooth remote that sports a Google logo.

Get the live channels you love and the shows you can’t miss. Watch Sling TV on AirTV Player, and enjoy live sports, shows, and movies with the simplicity of an app. With the AirTV Player, cut the cord and keep the TV experience. You’ll have a single platform for watching Sling TV, Netflix, local channels, and more.

AirTV combines all your live programming with Sling TV and your favorites on Netflix. When you launch your player, you will land in the screen. This screen allows you to customize your favorite channels on Sling TV and launch your favorite Netflix shows and movies

Merging over-the-air and online video into a single interface is pretty compelling stuff… which Apple TV, Fire TV, and Roku cannot do (without assistance). So I’m quite interested to see exactly where Sling lands, especially since it’s not clear if this redesign retains risky (for Sling) out-of-home OTA streaming. The wait probably won’t be long given a newly launched support page and an FCC waiver —  a CES announcement next month seems likely, if we don’t hear something sooner.

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The fine folks at Sideclick have provided two Roku accessories to share with our audience.

As a refresher, Sideclick clips onto your streamer’s remote to provide additional control — think televisions, soundbars, and the like. Beyond Roku, they also offer interchangeable sleds for Fire TV, Apple TV, and the couple dozen Nexus Players out there. It may be a tough sell at its price point, in relation to a streamer’s cost, and it will obviously impact your ergonomics. However, bolting on a simple, effective learning remote, will absolutely be priceless for a significant percent of us … and I’ve been enjoying Sideclick’s capabilities in our bedroom the last few months (especially since Roku’s HDMI-CEC functionality doesn’t actually work in all cases).

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