Archives For Industry

kindle-rental2

Do you find ebook pricing especially onerous given reduced manufacturing and distribution costs, an inability to share purchased content, vendors yanking previously purchased content off our devices, and the number of retired DRM schemes that often take our access with it to the grave? Can’t find anything worth reading or don’t have the patience to wait for that single Overdrive public library ebook license? Well, perhaps digital rentals are a reasonable compromise that we can all get behind. And it looks like Amazon and at least one publisher are willing to give it a shot – beyond textbooks. Continue Reading…

StickNFind bluetooth stickers

All this talk about an Internet of Things and I still can’t find my keys in the morning. This is the problem I hoped to solve when I visited the StickNFind booth at CES last week. (An eon ago, but we’re still catching up on coverage) Funded by an IndieGoGo campaign (like Kickstarter), the StickNFind product is a small Bluetooth sticker combined with a mobile app for homing in on objects wherever they go. It’s due to ship commercially in March, and it comes with a reasonable price tag of $50 for two stickers.

There are a lot of things to like about StickNFind. The sticker format makes these tracking devices very flexible. They stick on almost anything, and you can track up to 20 objects (or pets, or kids…) at once. There’s also a nifty “virtual leash” feature that lets you know when a sticker is moving out of range. Unfortunately, StickNFind is also at the mercy of Bluetooth’s limitations. The tracking function only works up to 100 feet, and it requires line of sight. Continue Reading…

vizio-costar-update

I briefly swung by Vizio’s CES suite for an update on their small form factor streamer. And came away quite please to learn existing Vizio Costar units will beging receiving a Google TV 3 update within just a few weeks. While our initial Costar impressions weren’t the most favorable, there’s still quite a bit of value here at the $99 price point and the Google TV refresh, including updated YouTube app and tablet voice control, ups the ante. Further, Vizio informed me a full-on Amazon Instant app is now available (versus the web shortcut). Given Vizio’s Input 1 HDMI pass-thru and true web browsing, in addition to the requisite apps, it’s a competitive and unique offering at this price point… which will surely gain traction as they expand to brick & mortar distribution later this year. We’re looking forward to taking our (two) Costars for a spin, once the gTV3 update hits, and will report back.

Content remains king, with television programming and mobile device interaction converging at a rapid pace. So-called “second screen” apps were everywhere at CES, integrating all sorts of functionality. And companies are clearly pumped. Heck, Cisco & Cox invited Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman in to witness the unveiling of their upcoming iPad app.

2ndscreensummit

In conjunction with CES festivities, I was invited to the 2nd Screen Summit“a deep-dive into the latest business opportunities, creative case studies and technology innovations related to the creation of supplementary, synchronized and social TV content featuring speakers from Hollywood, Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley.” Given a tight schedule, I was only able to attend the keynote and a discussion of content discovery via the second screen… which quite frequently wandered well beyond the confines of a tablet device, once again reinforcing content consumption interconnectedness. And, with my somewhat irreverent style, I fired off several “second screen” tweets of my own from the sessions (reproduced below). Continue Reading…

Lenovo Horizon Table PC 3

It’s been a while since we’ve talked about the Microsoft Surface table. And while the Redmond giant is no longer shipping product, Lenovo is stepping up to the plate with the new IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC. It’s a 27″ Windows 8 tablet, and it is by far the coolest thing I’ve seen at CES this year.

At last night’s CES Showstoppers event, Lenovo execs demoed two of the Horizon products by setting them up as gaming surfaces. With a multi-user interface, these giant tablets work for everything from air hockey to dice games to shoot-em-ups. Use your fingers, or grab a joystick, puck or die to get started. The accessories pair with the Horizon surface and bring back that retro feel of playing Pac Man at the Pizza Hut on one of their 1980s game tables. Continue Reading…

verizon-fiostv-vms-client

First shown about a year ago, Verizon formally pulled the wraps off their upcoming FiOS TV media server here at CES. The “VMS” hardware, produced by Motorola, sports 6 tuners and 1 terabyte of storage, and is effectively Verizon’s third generation platform – evolving into a true whole-home DVR hub and client model, as we’re seeing across the industry. Despite seriously beefed up specs, including the ability to run native HTML5 apps like a new leanback YouTube, the set-top is actually more compact than existing FiOS TV Cisco and Motorola DVRs.

Beyond the VMS1100 media server, Verizon also showed off their companion client boxes (IPC1100). These units, which communicate over MoCA, run about the size of a paperback and are being submitted for Energy Star certification. And it sounds like anything you can do on the primary media server, you can accomplish via the client box. Further, unlike the TiVo Mini’s two unit cap, Verizon supports five clients sprinkled about the home simultaneously accessing video content. Oh yeah, it’s got a clock too.

verizon-fiostv-ui

The Media Server represents the foundation of the FiOS TV platform going forward and will continue to see enhancements over time. Phase 1 is obviously getting the hardware out the door. But Phase 2 is where it gets interesting with local transcoding as Verizon relocates the content cloud from Internet-accessed resources into our homes, reducing network variables (and content licensing issues?) for a better customer experience. So, for example, it’s conceivable that the video we now enjoy on the Xbox and iPad would be piped directly from the VMS. Verizon tells me we don’t have long to wait, saying units will arrive “very soon, within a couple months.” And while they’re not quite ready to reveal pricing, they assure me it’ll be competitive and comparable to similar products in the marketplace. As a FiOS TV customer, I guess my only question is… Will it hit before TiVo’s comparable offering and at better rates?

SmartStream Ultra-D 2160p 1

Because 1080 isn’t a big enough number, Stream TV Networks wants to go 2160. Ultra-D 2160p, that is. The proposed new format is higher resolution than HD, but also provides a 3D video effect sans the glasses. According to Stream TV, the technology uses a multi-layer optical system (Um?), and is based on proprietary hardware, software and middleware. Up close, the effect is a bit like staring at one of those Magic Eye pictures from the 1990s, but get about six feet back from the flat-screen display, and the images are gorgeous.

Stream TV says this is the first 3D technology you can watch from any angle,and it’s partnering with several manufacturers (including Pegatron and HiSense) to bring new Ultra-D chips to TVs, laptops and mobile devices. The technology reportedly requires about the same bandwidth as a 1080p video stream, and Stream TV can convert 2D feeds to this new type of 3D video using either a client device in the home – the SeeCube 4K converter box – or a network device called the SeeCube server, which is due out shortly.

In a CES demo this morning, Stream TV showed canned footage with video of Olympic athletes, a city skyline, a tiger in the wild, and more. With the Ultra-D tech, you can control the level of 3D effect you want, causing images to pop more or less depending on your preference. And while still images don’t do justice to any 3D display, I took several photos that at least give a sense of the crispness of the video, and how primary objects are better articulated against their backgrounds.

Oddly, although this morning’s demo was run on a Continue Reading…