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As Radio Shack fights for its life, the once pioneering tech retailer has undertaken a number of positive maneuvers recently. From “interactive” store remodels rolling out nationwide to embracing the smart home, featuring Insteon, Radio Shack is reasserting their relevance in this space – as a destination for geeks and civilians alike. Heck, they’re even Apple Pay friendly.

The most interesting development in my mind is Radio Shack’s take on the Best Buy Geek Squad with “Fix It Here!” – the in-store servicing is capable of handling a variety of smartphone repairs, including screen and battery replacement. Given the high cost of unsubsidized smartphones and sometimes specialized tools or parts (if not skills), this is a valuable service (that I hope to never experience). But, to further put in in perspective, a co-worker cracked his screen a few months back and found someone local online… But, upon arriving at the repair person’s home, he was totally wigged out and bailed. Instead of replacing the phone at great expense, as he did, a convenient and legit operation like Radio Shack’s, would have been appreciated.

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  October 16, 2014 — 5 Comments

A periodic roundup of relevant news…

nexus-player

Google and Asus release first Android TV device for $99
The Nexus Player, which was announced in conjunction with the Nexus 6 phone, the Nexus 9 tablet and Android Lollipop on Wednesday, is being manufactured by Asus and will be available for pre-order starting October 17 and go on sale on November 3.

HBO’s Over-the-Top Service: Here’s What We Know
HBO has shaken up the media biz with its plan to launch a standalone over-the-top service next year, making the pay-TV titan the first major cable programmer to be marketed to consumers who do not pay for a traditional MVPD subscription.

PlayStation TV Launches, Sans Netflix
While Sony’s new paperback-sized device is primarily a gaming machine, it also serves as a media streamer with initial support for apps, including Sony’s Crackle video-on-demand service, anime app Crunchyroll and the music concert and documentary service, Quello.

Introducing InstaWatch from VUDU and Walmart
Exclusively from VUDU and Walmart, InstaWatch gives you a digital copy of every eligible DVD or Blu-ray that you buy at Walmart stores or on Walmart.com—automatically.

Plex app coming to select 2013/14 Vizio HDTVs
we’re happy to say that we can lend at least some of you a hand. We’re thrilled to announce our brand new Plex app for VIZIO Smart TVs, available today for Plex Pass subscribers! Once the Plex Pass preview period ends, the app will be available to purchase for a one-time fee

Supreme Court Halts Aereo's Flight

Aereo Chromecast

Still waiting on a potentially fateful ruling from the Supreme Court, Aereo today announced Chromecast support for its Android app. That means that users with the service can cast Aereo video from an Android mobile device direct to an HD television via Google’s popular HDMI streaming stick. Aereo already works with Roku and Apple TV, but Chromecast is a super-cheap option for making your dumb TV smart enough to handle Internet video.

Direct from Aereo:

Aereo is now live on the Google Chromecast™ platform. The Aereo app for Android™ is available for download in the Google Play™ store. Subscribers can access Aereo’s antenna and DVR technology to record and watch live broadcast television using Google’s Chromecast™.

The Aereo news comes on the heels of another recent announcement of Chromecast support for WatchESPN. That earlier update has me considering whether or not to invest in upgrading my Roku. I had planned on it, but now with Chromecast compatibility, I don’t see a compelling reason to spend the money.

NFL Now Amazon Roku

Amazon and Roku are officially on board as distribution partners for the National Football League’s soon-to-be-launched digital network NFL Now. That’s good news if you’re a football fan because it means there will be a lot more ways to watch NFL Now when it debuts in August that don’t include maxing out your mobile data plan.

When NFL Now was first announced, the League highlighted Verizon as a partner (and later Microsoft and Yahoo), and the ability for consumers to download the Verizon NFL Mobile app for video viewing over the company’s LTE network. Verizon plans to stream NFL Now content using multicast technology. However, while multicast streaming should mitigate bandwidth concerns on Verizon’s side, it presumably won’t lessen the impact on subscribers’ data plans. A few hours of mobile TV watching could easily take you right over your data cap.

As a reminder, here’s how NFL Now will work… now on Kindle Fire TV, Kindle Fire, and the Roku platform: Continue Reading…

Verizon GreenWave FCC documentation

Verizon hasn’t been out of the home automation business for long, but it looks like the telco giant is already preparing to jump back in. According to FCC documents uncovered by Steve Donahue of FierceCable, Verizon appears to be preparing to launch a new FiOS gateway with an associated Zigbee home automation module. The FiOS Quantum Gateway goes by model number FiOS-G1100 and supports the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard along with the Zigbee and Z-Wave protocols. The module, meanwhile, is produced by GreenWave Reality, a California-based company that most recently made noise back at CES. GreenWave’s platform includes applications for energy management, connected lighting, and home monitoring, but CMO Nate Williams told me in January that it can support far more.

Williams has a history with Verizon, as he was previously CMO and head of business development for 4Home, the company that was acquired by Motorola, and that provided the technology basis for Verizon’s now-defunct Verizon Home Monitoring and Control service. Despite 4Home’s successful exit, the company’s platform did not survive the move first to Motorola, then Google, then Arris. GreenWave’s Home2Cloud platform appears to be doing better so far. The company is already profitable from an operational standpoint and has a major public customer in E.ON, one of Europe’s largest utility companies. Williams told me that GreenWave also has two US service provider customers, at least one of which is a cable, telco, or satellite operator. Verizon certainly fits that description. Continue Reading…

repeal-hybrid-tax

I’m not much of a letter writer (these days), but something about our former governor’s hybrid and electric vehicle tax rubbed me the wrong way. He argued that tax revenues were or would be down due to a reduction in gasoline purchases and these lost funds are necessary for ongoing road maintenance and whatnot. While that seems logical on the surface, the remedy struck me as punitive. And, if the state were concerned with equity, they’d tax owners by miles driven against vehicle weight – which probably provides a more direct correlation to road wear and tear. “Hybrid” also strikes me as an artificial, inelegant line in the sand… given my coworker who drives a hybrid Chevy Tahoe that is less fuel-efficient than say a gas-only Toyota Camry. Also, in something of a policy contradiction, early hybrid vehicles were granted HOV lane exemptions… which were indefinitely extended in 2012 by the very same administration.

The annual tax was originally proposed at an even $100 but, due to some sort of miscalculation, was later passed at $64 and went into effect last July. Amidst some noise, from folks such as myself, an effort to repeal the tax started working its way through the Virginia legislature earlier this year, Continue Reading…