Archives For Industry

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A random web search turned me on to some interesting Roku job openings, emphasizing content relationships and recommendations. Individually, maybe they’re not so compelling. But from a holistic standpoint, perhaps these new positions shed a bit of light on Roku’s ambitions and decision to turn down an Amazon acquisition in favor of additional funding.

The first role is Roku Programming Director… to be located in Los Angeles. Which, of course, much of the content industry calls home. “The Director will survey the landscape of available content, plans and strategies” to assist “business development prioritize content acquisition efforts. ” Hm. By comparison, the Content Programming Manager will be based at Roku’s Nothern California headquarters and will basically function as a full-time recommendation engine: Continue Reading…

Clearwire Voyager hotspot

Years ago I was one of the early Clearwire customers with a Motorola WiMAX USB stick and a month-to-month service contract. But despite decent network coverage in both Philadelphia (where I lived) and Las Vegas (where CES proved to be the perfect venue for testing WiMAX performance), I couldn’t justify the ongoing expense of an extra data plan. Broadband at home, plus data on my phone, plus free Wi-Fi at local coffee shops was enough to keep me going.

And that was before Clearwire virtually imploded.

Many people, however, aren’t making the same broadband calculations that I am. And I discovered last week, that the Clearwire WiMAX network is now being used in some interesting ways. The Freedom Rings Partnership and regional ISP Wilco Electronic Systems have started a program under the Keyspot brand in Philly to bring more people online who wouldn’t otherwise have access. If you haven’t had Internet service in the last 90 days and visit a Keyspot location for online access, or to take a class, you can qualify for a free Clear Voyager modem (see above), and a monthly, no-contract WiMAX service plan for $14.95. (One-time install fee of $14.95) That’s more than Comcast Internet Essentials service, which slides in at $9.95 per month, but, as I heard last week at the FCC’s Broadband Summit, it can be difficult to register for the baseline Comcast program. (More on that over at DSLReports).

Perhaps even more interesting, outside the Keyspot program, you can still get a 2 GB/month, no-contract WiMAX plan for $19.99If you have coverage in your area, and if you can swallow the initial hardware cost ($40 or $50 depending on USB stick or hotspot), that’s a pretty sweet deal. I wouldn’t sign away a year or two for that service given the state of Clearwire as a business. But for certain people (or maybe a small office?), the price point is compelling.  Continue Reading…

Cox Cisco 2013 iPad app

While CES now feels like forever ago, we’re still catching up on some of our notes and leftover photos. Among them are scrawled observations and camera shots covering the “magical” new TV interface introduced by Cisco and Cox. (Yes, someone actually used that word.) I was struck by two things during the presentation that Dave and I attended. First, the Cox Trio TV user interface and accompanying iOS app are beautiful. But second, they don’t do anything that I don’t already expect the next-generation of electronic program guides to do.

The updated Trio HD guide (built by NDS, now Cisco) rolled out to Cox customers in December, but the latest iOS app was unveiled for the first time at CES. (An Android version is reportedly scheduled for Q1.) In addition to cosmetic touch-ups, the Trio HD update includes the ability to establish profiles for individual users, and provides new personalized content recommendations that cut across live TV, future broadcast listings, and video on demand.

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The new iOS app, meanwhile, works with iPads, iPhones and iPods, streams 90 Cox television channels, and provides access to the full Cox VOD library. It doesn’t use the same UI as Trio, but because the underlying information is delivered from the cloud (that magical place in the sky), it does support the same user profiles. It also relies on the same ThinkAnalytics content recommendation engine accessed by the Trio EPG.

In the future, Cox plans to offer new features that allow subscribers to stream content from a second-screen device to the TV, and to move recorded content in the other direction from a DVR to a tablet or smartphone. Exactly how it plans to enable those features, however, is still in question. Continue Reading…

Making The Case For Aereo

Dave Zatz —  January 19, 2013

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My Twitter pal Michael Turk, whose name you may recognize from a tenure at the NCTA, recently wrote up his disdain for Aereo:

You know what is 100% free and doesn’t require any payment to the cable industry? Broadcast TV. This guy is suggesting people pay money every month – albeit to a different company – to watch something that is broadcast OVER THE AIR. […] if all you are watching are broadcast channels, you certainly don’t need to be paying Aereo or anyone else for it.

While Turk makes some reasonable points regarding onerous retransmission fees and Aereo’s legal challenges, there’s way more to the service than basic access to broadcast channels. $8/month grants you access to two micro antennas and 20 hours of cloud DVR storage space (or $12 for 40hrs). So not only does Aereo provide “live” broadcast television, but you can schedule season passes and the like. Further, you’re not confined to a television and set-top box in your home as Aereo pretty much allows you to watch your live and recorded television programming via any modern browser… including the ones found on our smartphones and tablets. Continue Reading…

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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…

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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.