Archives For Apple

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  November 15, 2006

A periodic roundup of relevant news…

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  • Orb to pilfer YouTube videos for mobile phones: ZDNet
  • Apple teams with airlines to deliver iPod integration: Press Release
  • Fox begins selling movies and shows online: Broadcasting & Cable
  • Motorola acquires Netopia to grow IPTV: Davis Freeberg
  • CableLabs says they’ve streamlined MultiStream CableCARD process: Press Release

Does The Zune Matter?

Dave Zatz —  November 14, 2006

I’m not sure how anyone could have missed it, but Microsoft’s Zune hits the streets today at $249. On the positive side, the iPod competitor integrates an FM receiver and WiFi functionality. But the Zune is bulkier than the iPod, offers fewer store downloads, has a small selection of accessories, isn’t cross platform, and it isn’t even Microsoft PlaysForSure compatible. Zune’s WiFi strikes me as more of a novelty than a compelling feature at this point — I just don’t see myself sharing music with strangers on the subway… But maybe I’m old and cranky.

Zune coverage:

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Snooze you lose! I see an Xbox 360 in my future… as soon as new hardware (larger drives?) and/or lower prices are revealed in the next two weeks. All year I’ve been saying VOD is coming to the 360:

Ultimately, Microsoft will want to simplify the process by taking a home computer out of the equation. Right now customers have the ability to directly download a variety of movie trailers and game demos which has served as a proof-of-concept, both as a technical demonstration and a demonstration of consumer acceptance: 70 million pieces of content downloaded.The next obvious step is to monetize by renting movie downloads directly to the 360.

And here we are:

On Nov. 22, Microsoft will begin offering movies and television on demand through its Xbox Live service. The four million Xbox Live subscribers, including those who use a free barebones service, will have access to movies from the Paramount and Warner Bros.studios, including Mission: Impossible 3 and Superman Returns. They’ll also be able to download TV shows from CBS and MTV such as various flavors of the CSI franchise and South Park. What’s more, since the Xbox 360 can handle high-definition content, many of the available programs will be in high-def as well.

Obviously the Playstation3 (Sony is a movie studio) and Apple iTV are on the way and will feature similar TV-based VOD functionality at some point, but Microsoft gets here first and therefore gets my cash. Anyone interested in a lightly used Moviebeam?

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Kevin over at jkOnTheRun wonders why point upgrades on iTunes, such as Tuesday’s 7.0.2 build, require a total application reinstall rather than a patch. Now that’s a pretty good question, but one that doesn’t interest me so much. The questions that do interest me involve Apple’s new Software Update Utility which was released in conjunction with iTunes 7. Considering Apple only provides two pieces of software (QuickTime and iTunes) for Windows, both of which check for updates on their own, it seems like overkill to produce and distribute a distinct application updater… unless there are other products in the pipeline. How does iLife Windows Edition sound?

I’ve been theorizing for awhile that Microsoft’s Xbox 360 (and the forthcoming Sony Playstation 3) isn’t really about teens and video games. Obviously gaming is a core feature and responsible for getting these systems into many homes, despite the steep $400 price of admission. But that’s just a trojan horse — the real money and future of the Xbox 360 is as a digital media hub for the living room.

Over the last year, owners of both Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition (MCE) and the 360 have been able to stream a variety of content such as music, photos, and even pay movie downloads from their computer to the TV via the 360. Yesterday Microsoft pushed out an Xbox software update that now allows media transfers directly from a typical XP computer, without the need of the specialized MCE OS.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg… Ultimately, Microsoft will want to simplify the process by taking a home computer out of the equation. Right now customers have the ability to directly download a variety of movie trailers and game demos which has served as a proof-of-concept, both as a technical demonstration and a demonstration of consumer acceptance: 70 million pieces of content downloaded.

The next obvious step is to monetize by renting movie downloads directly to the 360. In order to provide such a service, Microsoft needs both content deals and more Xbox storage. They already have a start on the content side in dealings with online video distributors Movielink and Akimbo. Additionally, they recently tested long-form content download of a Battlestar Galactica recap. On the hardware front, Microsoft plans to release an 100GB hard drive accessory for the Xbox 360 in Q1 ’07.

Which brings us to when will this play out… 2007 will be the year of Internet-based video-on-demand services. There are quite a few ongoing experiments in place, such as television network broadcasts and Apple’s iTunes dipping their toes into Disney movie downloads. I expect we’ll see more content owners in this playground as the new industry coalesces into something mainstream consumers, rather than the bleeding edge geek set, can utilize and appreciate. Microsoft’s Xbox 360, along with Apple’s forthcoming iTV media extender, will lead the charge.

Mac SlingPlayer Is Here!

Dave Zatz —  October 30, 2006
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I scheduled this post to run at 11:23PM EST… By the time it’s published, you should be able to download the public beta of the Mac SlingPlayer (and I should be sleeping). I haven’t seen a press release, in fact I don’t know if there will be one. But I can tell you I’ve seen the SlingPlayer in various forms over the last few months, including a hands-on demo of alpha software in California, participation in the beta group, and more hands-on time with a late beta at DigitalLife. It’s been amazing to watch as the Sling team constructed a Mac Windows Media Video (WMV) decoder and put this thing together. The software is free and supports all versions of the Slingbox, both the original model and the new higher resolution trio.

Being a beta, there are still some kinks to be worked out but overall the software is in great shape: Specifically, core audio and video streaming is beautiful. Sadly there appear to be some technical challenges and/or perhaps prioritization that limits support to Tiger for now… Hence the install screengrab above on Panther — that’s the best I can do with my eMac. Maybe it’s about time I pick up that MacBook!

UPDATE:

Never enough time…

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