Right on schedule, the Vudu experience has landed on select broadband-connected LG televisions – making good on the promise to diversify their distribution strategy. Additionally, they’ve inked a deal to bring Vudu on-demand movie streaming, now reworked as a CDN play versus their P2P roots, to select Mitsubishi HDTVs being released later this month. These 1080P Unisen Diamond models retail pricing starts at $2800, although Mitsubishi will kindly underwrite your first $50 of rentals from Vudu’s library of 16,000 titles. (Given my current gypsy lifestyle and minimalist tech accoutrements, what interests me most about these new sets is the integrated soundbar speaker array located in the television’s lower bezel.)
Archives For Broadband
A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our other blogs:
The Future of the DVR
DVRs will continue to evolve in ways that consumers like and don’t like; in ways that will continue to support industry growth and the big business of content production and distribution; in ways we can’t envision now, but might in just a year’s time.
The Wild Wild West of TV Everywhere
As far as ad measurement is concerned, Quincy Smith from CBS Interactive had the ultimate statement of irony. The Web is supposed to be infinitely quantifiable, but we still don’t know how to equate to the traditional TV standards of reach and frequency.
Fewer Unencrypted QAM & Analog Cable Channels Coming Soon
This allows those cable companies who still have many of their digital QAM channels unencrypted, which don’t require a cable box, to encrypt everything except for the local network affiliates.
The University of WiMAX
Northern Michigan University is launching a Motorola-built WiMAX network and giving away nearly 3,000 WiMAX-enabled laptops to students. As far as anyone seems to know, this is the only stand-alone university WiMAX system in the country.
Windows 7 Commercial Skipping with DVRMSToolbox & ShowAnalyzer
Easy one-button Commercial Skipping is one of the great features of home theater PCs, and Windows 7 has that capability too. To get started we need to have ShowAnalyzer installed as well as DVRMSToolbox and the Windows 7 Media Center Addin.
We have yet to hit the holiday shopping season, so you know there will still be plenty of gadget goodness before the year ends. However, there’s also some new behind-the-scenes tech to get excited about in 2009. Here are four enabling technologies to watch out for in the next four months. This tech may not be sexy, but it’s guaranteed to make those shiny gadget toys work better, smarter, faster.
NVIDIA ION Chipset
Since my netbook is clearly not cutting it for a lot of video playback, I’m psyched about new processors making their way into netbooks and small laptops in Q4. Most likely to actually hit the commercial market this year is the NVIDIA ION chipset, which is said to boost graphics power significantly in any Intel-Atom-powered device. According to Brad Linder over at Lilliputing (also heard as afternoon anchor on my local NPR station), two major manufacturers, Lenovo and Samsung, are planning to ship ION-powered laptops in the last few months of the year. And, Brad speculates that the upcoming Nokia netbook, the Booklet 3G, may also sport NVIDIA ION graphics. More info to come at Nokia World on September 2nd.
If you’re into transferring a lot of media between devices, then the launch of USB 3.0 is right up your alley. Unlike USB 2.0, which transfers data at a rate of 480 Mbps, USB 3.0 boasts a whopping transfer speed of 4.8 Gbps. That’s not just good for moving HD video around, it’s also perfect for large back-up operations to an external hard drive. According to Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOM, USB 3.0 will start shipping to device-makers this year, with consumer availability soon to follow.
I know, I know, it’s cool to be down on WiMAX these days, but I’m still excited for it to spread to more cities (including my own Philadelphia) this year. Partly I’m excited about the higher speeds for mobile broadband, but partly I’m excited because of the different pricing options compared to existing 3G services. For example, my employer is unlikely to subsidize mobile broadband at $60 per month, but a $10 day pass is a good bet for reimbursement. Perfect for conferences, and other places where Wi-Fi tends to be lacking. Even an unlimited mobile contract is said to be only $50 per month. (See pricing coverage from Paul Kapustka at Sidecut Reports) That’s a better price and a faster connection.
Upstream Channel Bonding
And while we’re on the subject of broadband speeds, here’s an obscure one: upstream channel bonding. Channel bonding is what’s making it possible for cable operators to offer peak DOCSIS 3.0 speeds of 50-100 Mbps in some markets. To date we’ve only seen downstream channel bonding in the US, but upstream channel bonding is on its way. Karl Bode at Broadband Reports wrote earlier this month that Comcast is exploring upstream DOCSIS 3.0 trials this year, with upstream speeds maxing out at 120 Mbps.
For a few years I have been on a quest to reliably stream HD video from my NAS to my TV. I’ve tried both Powerline and draft 802.11n wireless solutions, but neither has proven sufficient. Which is I was excited to see Netgear release the MCAB1001 MoCA Coax-Ethernet Adapter Kit (~$200). I used to build out 10Base2 networks back in the day, so why not use the existing coaxial cable running through my home to move data?
Our review unit consisted of a pair of MoCA devices, power adapters, stands, a pair of Ethernet cables and a pair of coax cables. I was glad to see that Netgear included the coax cables. I had feared that I would be taking a trip to The Shack.
Setup of the MoCA units is very simple, although your mileage may vary. I unplugged the cable from the TV and plugged it in the Coax In port on the MoCA device. I then ran the included coax from the Coax Out to the TV. Next, I connected the Ethernet cable to the Ethernet port and connected the other end to my Popcorn Hour A-110. (Netgear, we’d be happy to take a look at the EVA9150. Hint, hint.) I then connected the second MoCA device to my router. I made sure the Mode button on each device was set to Normal and then plugged in the power. After a few seconds the Ethernet and MoCA lights started flashing. I turned the wireless off on the A-110 and browsed to my movie share and started streaming a 720p HD file. The video played without a problem! I then played a 1080p HD video and am happy to say that it played without a problem as well.
A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our other blogs:
Technology and the Future of the Comic Book
In all the comic-themed panels I attended at this year’s Comic Con, digital distribution was an unavoidable topic, brought up by audiences, creators or outside observers, no matter the specific theme of the talk.
Judge Denies Further Extensions, DivX/UMG To Be Resolved By Christmas
At one point, DivX may have been able to convince the judge to let them have wider access to the copyright records, but after failing to cite a single “widely distributed” modern act, he put an end to this discovery requirement.
US Telco TV Numbers Up
Apparently we like TV. A lot. Ongoing Nielsen studies show our viewing times continue to increase, and the latest quarterly earnings show that telecom operators are reaping some of the benefit from our love affair with TV.
IBC 2009 Preview
Beyond the technical issues, there’s also the challenge of integrating web-based video and traditional TV services in a workable business model. Part of this involves cross-platform apps that are both useful to a consumers and generate revenue for providers.
Plex Media Center Releases 0.8.2 – New Features & New Plugins
Plex, the popular Mac-based media center software (a fork of the XBMC HTPC software) had a new version released this weekend along with some nice, new plugins as well.
Silicondust releases Gold Version of HDHomeRun Tuner Software
The ever popular SiliconDust HDHomeRun dual network tuner received a software & firmware update to Gold which includes some nice improvements all around including those for SageTV, GBPVR, MediaPortal and even XBMC.
There we were, happily channel surfing at home last night, and suddenly it appeared out of nowhere: the NFL Network. We have the Comcast digital classic plan and have never, ever had access to the NFL Network before. Surely a mistake, right? Not at all. Somehow back in May I missed the earth-shattering news that Comcast and the NFL Network had finally come to a peaceful resolution in a years-long standoff. After much “friendly” haggling, Comcast finally agreed to carry the network by August 1st with no additional fee required from digital subscribers. As with the dispute over the the Big Ten Network, it was all a matter of finding the right price. In the end, the NFL didn’t have to hand over any channel equity, but it did reduce the cost per subscriber from 70 cents to just over 50 cents on average.
In combination with the NFL Network, I also now get ESPN360 as a Comcast broadband subscriber, and I should be getting ESPNU before the start of college football season. Unlike Dave, I’m not much of a college football fan, but the ESPN360 access will certainly come in handy for those out-of-market Redskins games. Yes, I’m a Redskins fan. And I’m ready for some football!
While I dig pay television content and broadband, I can’t say I always dig the cable company. Historically, I haven’t had the greatest experiences with things like billing or installs. Those installs, in particular, have been a recurring pain point. With a 25% no-show rate, the possibly high contractor who had to be escorted out after getting aggressive, his replacement drilling through the wall as intended and continuing on into our dresser as not intended, having to call the franchising authority to encourage Comcast to locate CableCARDs, etc.
So, upon making the move from DC’s Maryland suburbs to the Virginia equivalent I flirted with the idea of giving up cable. Well, most cable. Since dissembling the home theater and selling my place in 2005, we’ve lived like gypsys… and our new rental community bundles basic cable into our monthly fees (for $45). I figured SD CNN would satisfy Melissa and I’d get my fix of HD video over-the-air and via Netflix. Unfortunately, given the construction of our building or our location, I haven’t been able to tune a single major network OTA (WJLA and WUSA haven’t helped the situation) using several indoor antennas and tuning devices. Combined with Verizon raising their FiOS Internet fees, I pretty much had to re-up with cable (we face east and north – no satellite options available).
As if CableCARDs weren’t complex enough to implement with Comcast, Cox Communications here in Virginia utilizes SDV – so TiVo owners also require fugly “tuning adapters” mated to their units via coax and USB to handle switched programming. (Some of my thoughts on the industry cluster here.) At least they’re provided free, although commentary on the TiVo Community indicates reboots are periodically required to keep everything synced up and that they may unintentionally inject copy protection flags – limiting the usefulness of multi-room viewing and TiVoToGo.
Bottom line, after an 8 hour ordeal yesterday, I’m up and running on 3 CableCARDs, 2 tuning adapters, and a cable modem. Cox HD looks great and we may receive even more channels than Comcast. Plus, broadband speeds are very good (see pic below) on the mid-tier package which runs $38ish/mo. All I need now is some sort of stand or entertainment center to house the living room plasma.
For the complete blow by blow of how the install process played out, here’s a capture of my Twitter feed:
- 3 CableCARDs, 2 tuning adapters, and 1 modem scheduled for install tomorrow, 10-12. I’ll surely tweet Cox’s performance.
- Why is QVC selling Christmas lights this morning? And why am I even channel surfing QVC?
- I have no idea where my new cable operator puts channels? Waiting for the installer with CableCARDs this AM. We shall see…
- Yep, Cox installers suck as bad as Comcast. Received a voicemail on my work line that no one’s home, call to reschedule. BS.
- After 30 minutes with three phone reps, they’ll try again after 1PM.
- I just turned off Google Voice’s requirement to announce your name to prevent further confusion of/by the cable guy. *shakes head*
- Oh, and I offered to pick up the three CableCARDs. But apparently installing them is highly technical and requires a home visit. Uh-huh.
- With a $30 per television CableCARD “installation” fee, I’d rather sit on hold to activate them myself.
- I hooked up the cable modem while installer wrestles CableCARDs and tuning adapters. Going on 2+ hrs.
- There’s gotta be a better way.
- Success. Finally. I need a beer.
- Glorious, glorious HD. How I missed you. Cox’s Internet speeds are solid, too. Getting 25+ down on the $38/mo plan. Why’d FiOS raise rates?
After all the buzz surrounding Verizon’s launch of FiOS Facebook and Twitter apps last week, I was surprised to see such limited coverage of the video features also released. Luckily, a well-timed trip to my parents’ house gave me the opportunity to test out the new video-sharing functionality that’s now part of Verizon’s Home Media Manager software.
Home Media Manager is only available to subscribers who purchase Verizon’s Home Media DVR service. It allows users to network media from the Internet and the PC to the main FiOS DVR hub. Until now, that’s only included pics and music, but last week Verizon added long-awaited video support. (Dave first saw this demoed almost exactly one year ago.) Over the weekend I installed the necessary FiOS software on my dad’s computer, and then played around with the new TV features.
Video support in Home Media Manager includes the ability to watch both select Internet video clips, and your own home movies. As you can see in the footage above, the Internet video clips are currently limited to Dailymotion, Veoh, and Blip.tv – no YouTube yet. Entertaining, but since I don’t spend time browsing those sites, not particularly interesting to me. What is interesting is contemplating where Verizon could take this feature in the future. Since we’re talking IP video, there are a lot of opportunities, both in terms of content and advanced features. At the same time, Verizon has to use a different portion of its network bandwidth to deliver video this way (versus its QAM video delivery), and that could ultimately cause network strain. Hmm…
On the home movie front, the FiOS software scans your PC automatically to make compatible videos available to your FiOS set-top. Once that’s done, it’s a simple process to select those videos on the TV menu for playing on the big screen. In my experience, the Home Media Manager software crashed a few times in this process, but once everything ran smoothly, it was a pretty compelling feature. Consumer interest may be mitigated by the fact that more and more camcorders (and PCs) now plug directly into a TV USB port, but the ability to access even old videos with the TV remote control has definite uses, especially because the connection is wireless. You must have your PC running and connected to the Internet, but no wires are required. I also wonder if Verizon will make it possible in the future to transfer some of your personal video files for storage on the set-top. That would make the process even easier.
If you’re not up for watching the demo video above, I’ve also included some still pics below. The new features are available now across the entire FiOS footprint.
Click to enlarge: