Archives For Industry

It’s all about wireless. We’ve got 4G nearly everywhere, mobile broadband in cars, and Wi-Fi hotspots out the wazoo. The cable companies are in bed with Verizon to get their wireless share, and Verizon is sucking up spectrum like a giant Bissell vacuum cleaner. Who needs that wired stuff after all?

It’s a wireless fun fest today, but I predict within 18 months (that’s a totally arbitrary guess- could be a year, could be two years) that the love affair with wireless will have entered a new and cynical phase. Not only that, but we’ll see renewed interest in wired broadband investments. Here’s why.

1. Data caps on mobile broadband are only going to get worse. Today I keep wi-fi off on my 4G phone because mobile broadband almost always performs better than whatever public wi-fi hotspot I find myself in. However, I’m grandfathered in on an unlimited data plan. When that unlimited deal goes away, my 4G access is going to be a lot less useful.

2. Wi-Fi hotspots kinda stink. By and large this is true, and as we expect to be able to do more online, the quality of public wi-fi is going to become more and more of an issue. At the same time, there’s going to be a bigger strain on these hotspots as more people try to offload from their mobile broadband connections.

3. More cool broadband stuff is coming. Between more video coming online and experiments with 1Gbps connections, we’re going to continue to have more incentive to use more data. For a quality experience, we’ll resort to the tried-and-true broadband connections we can get at home and work. Which means, those home and work connections are once again going to grow in importance.

There’s a lot of investment going on in consumer wireless broadband today, but the pendulum should swing back the other way once some of the inevitable wireless disillusionment takes hold. Continue Reading…

Here’s the thing about CES. Most of what we hear is stuff we’ve heard before. The big question is always whether this time it’s for real or not. In this year’s early announcements, we get news that Lenovo is launching a TV set with Android 4.0, Belkin is starting a line of accessories to give existing smartphones and tablets the ability to tune into the new Dyle mobile TV service, and Toshiba is on track to  bring its autostereoscopic 3DTV to American shores this quarter. Now, any bets on which products will actually gain traction in 2012? Personally, I’d keep my Vegas winnings tucked away for now.

On the Android front, Lenovo is releasing its Ice-Cream-Sandwich TV set in China, with no word yet on a US debut. Beyond that, however, we’ve seen no evidence that consumers care about Android access on their living-room flat screens. Google certainly hasn’t made a go of it yet with Google TV, and the TV app environment in general is still pretty lackluster. There are lots of apps, but mostly what people watch is Netflix. While experts predict the next three years will be big for connected TV sales, we still haven’t seen a shake-out among TV app environments. Consumers won’t show a preference until somebody demonstrates a TV marketplace with several notably superior apps not available elsewhere. (i.e. apps with really good content a la HBO Go) I doubt Android’s going to be able to do that in 2012.

Dyle TV is an interesting one. The Mobile Content Venture announced just last week that it would start delivering live TV to MetroPCS subscribers, and at CES, Belkin is introducing a line of accessories designed to make existing devices capable of receiving the Dyle mobile DTV service. Unfortunately, broadcast mobile TV services don’t have the best track record. Continue Reading…

With CES upon us, USA Today chatted with Sony executive Kaz Harai on wide array of home entertainment topics — including Sony’s foray into cloud services across various platforms and the, perhaps inversely related, decline of Blu-ray sales.

But what I found most interesting are their  “smart” TV intentions. First, Kaz is on target when stating both Sony and their competitors simplify messaging to convey the benefits of an Internet-connected platform. As, while I believe widgetized televisions are selling, I’m not convinced web feature, as currently implemented, see much use. Next, kudos to Ed Baig for this killer question, “Will there be an Apple TV?” To which Kaz reponds,

I’m on my product development guys to do the very best they can to deliver a compelling experience and have competitive product in the market, whether Apple is there or not.

There’s been significant speculation that Apple might enter the television space Continue Reading…

Several pay-TV operators debuted iPad apps with streaming video in 2011, and most started offering live TV before the end of the year. Now Broadcom is hoping to take those TV Everywhere efforts a step further. This morning the chip maker announced an integration deal with EchoStar to embed Sling place-shifting tech in its dual-tuner HD gateway system on a chip (SoC), the BCM7425. The news means set-top makers, like heavyweights Motorola and Cisco, will soon be able to add a dose of Sling into their set-tops with the help of one of their existing suppliers.

To date, Dish Network is the only service provider offering place shifting with a Slingbox or “Slingloaded” set-top. All of the other live streaming apps on the market require users to stay within the bounds of their home Wi-Fi networks. Thanks to current licensing deals, and programmer squeamishness, TV Everywhere is more like TV Everywhere in Your House. However, Cablevision’s (until recently) COO Tom Rutledge already stated publicly in August that Cablevision is working to change that. The Sling-on-a-Chip news could help pave the way. If  “slinging” becomes more mainstream, it will be hard to argue that operators can’t offer the same functionality in their apps, with our without Broadcom’s SoC.

Broadcom says the new BCM7425 will be available in the third quarter of this year for cable, telecom and satellite TV operators.

As we roll inevitably toward another Consumer Electronics Show, it’s instructive to look back at what made headlines only a year ago. Some of the products announced then have come and gone. Others are still waiting in the wings for a launch date. Here are five stories we covered at CES 2011 with a look at what’s changed in the 12 months since.

The nPower PEG was one of the coolest green gizmos demoed at CES last year. The Personal Energy Generator stores your kinetic energy and lets you use it as back-up power for your mobile gadgets. According to reps at CES, one minute of walking time could translate into one minute of listening time on an iPod Nano. Unfortunately, while the PEG was on back-order last January, it’s still only in available in limited quantities today. According to the website, “Each week – as we assemble nPower® PEG units in our Cleveland, OH facility – we contact individuals on this reservation list to let them know that their PEG is ready.” That hardly sounds like a model built to scale.

Both Dave and I fell in love with the Yahoo Connected TV platform over successive years at CES. However, I was well aware last January when watching a demo of Yahoo’s latest technology that the company was unlikely to live up to its television potential. Too many promises; too few deployments.  Today, after much delay, the Yahoo Connected TV Store is finally available to consumers on Sony and Toshiba TVs. According to Yahoo’s blog post on November 2nd, the platform offers premium paid TV apps in addition to 180+ free apps, and Yahoo expects to its TV Store to reach “millions of TVs in the coming months.” Call me skeptical, but isn’t everyone and their mother offering connected TV apps now? Perhaps Yahoo can make things work with the help of its broadcast interactivity tech, but given competition from the likes of Shazam and Invidi, there’s a tough road ahead.  Continue Reading…

No matter how many different ways you have to watch TV today – on your HD screen, 10” tablet, or Xbox Live – there is no free-for-all, a-la-carte nirvana. In fact, subscription costs for pay-TV services continue to go up, and, thanks in large part to sports programming, the trend shows no sign of reversing in 2012.

Sports franchises hold a lot of TV clout for several reasons. People don’t generally watch sports on time delay. Live events make mobile distribution more important. And sports fans can be fanatical, willing to pay large sums of money to catch their favorite teams. Because of program bundling, many others pay a lot of money too. In fact, Will Richmond calculated last February that folks who don’t watch sports and casual fans spend close to $3 billion a year on programming they don’t watch.

As we settle into 2012, there are a number of battles being fought between sports programmers and distributors over how much money sports are worth. Here’s a look at a few data points in the larger war. Is there a tipping point ahead? And how deeply will regulators get involved? Continue Reading…

As we collectively move towards the more efficient whole-home DVR model, Verizon has announced plans to launch a FiOS TV “media server” in late 2012. With such a long gestation time, they’re not quite ready to reveal their hand. Yet, I’d expect at least three tuners and 1TB of storage (compared to the DirecTV HR34‘s 5 tuners, 1TB or the TiVo Elite’s 4 tuners, 2TB). Of course, along with such a beefy centralized unit Verizon will introduce small form factor extenders to sprinkle throughout one’s home. And, as you can see in the video above, one of their marketing points is improved energy efficiency. Lastly, Verizon continues breaking new ground with their television-as-an-app initiative, potentially fed via the aforementioned media server – with references to tablets and the Sony PS3 possibly joining the Xbox as IPTV set-top box replacements.


Update: Verizon tells me to expect 6 tuners (!) and that recording capacity is still being determined but they’re leaning towards 1TB at this point.

The 2011 Boxes Of The Year

Dave Zatz —  December 21, 2011


It’s that time of the year again where we run down our selection of best digital media boxes. And, surprisingly, the top 2012 recommendations aren’t dramatically different from our 2011 picks.

In the ‘all around’ category, we’re still partial to the current generation of Sony and Microsoft gaming consoles… which offer far more than HD gaming. The Xbox 360 ($200) delivered more innovation in 2011 than the PS3, with (another) massive UI overhaul and new video services including Verizon FiOS TV and YouTube. Yet, despite Sony’s well documented security lapses, we’re nevertheless giving the PS3 ($250) the edge this year for two reasons. First, despite the proliferation of Internet video, there continues to be a void of compelling content that can’t be sourced (legally) online via services like Hulu or Vudu – making the PS3’s integrated Blu-ray player just as compelling as ever. Next, many desirable Xbox features, like Netflix streaming, require a $60 annual subscription. For gamers who play collaboratively online, it’s a sunk cost. But for everyone else, the Xbox 360 carries a recurring premium that’s hard to justify when a fee-free media streamer like the the Roku LT runs a mere $50.

Roku LT

Speaking of that 720p Roku LT, Continue Reading…