Archives For Industry

Sharp Ultra HD 4K 3D-like display

Sharp is coming out with a long line of products in 2013, but perhaps most interesting in the group is a new series of 4K, Ultra HD TVs set to launch this summer. Using what Sharp calls a “Cognitive Creation Image Processor”, the new TVs will trick your eyes into thinking objects are three-dimensional. As one of the execs on stage at the CES Sharp press conference put it, “it’s like looking out a window.”

I got a brief glimpse of one of the new 3D-like displays this morning, and from my vantage point at the back of a large ballroom, it did indeed appear as if a pot of flowers was popping out of the TV screen. Given the lack of glasses, I’ll take this 3D over the kind hailed at CES events of years past. And from a programmer standpoint, I’m betting there’s a serious bandwidth advantage to fake 3D over the real thing.

Meanwhile, Sharp will also launch an Aquos brand of 4K HD TVs in late 2013. And it’s upgrading the Sharp SmartCentral smart TVs for the year too. SmartCentral is adding full HTML5 and Flash support, and a Super Beam app for sharing content from mobile devices to the Sharp display. More on that trend later. Personally I’d prefer to move TV from my TV to my tablet, but apparently the reverse trend is also taking hold.

blake-hbo-go-hdtv

The Wall Street Journal is out with a report indicating my former employer, and the visionary behind the Slingbox, has landed a new gig:

Microsoft Corp.has acquired a small home-entertainment technology startup to beef up its Xbox unit, according to people familiar with the matter. The company, id8 Group R2 Studios Inc., was created by entrepreneur Blake Krikorian in May 2011. Mr. Krikorian will be joining the Redmond, Wash., software giant with a small team. As part of the deal, Microsoft also acquired some patents owned by the startup related to controlling electronic devices.

Blake’s dabbled and invested in a variety of a projects since moving on from the Echostar-acquired Sling Media, but this latest move is notable as he’s once again assembled a seemingly valuable team and patent portfolio. But, unlike Sling’s exit, R2 Studios is more early gestation – perhaps ripe for nurturing and integration into the ever expanding Xbox ecosystem. Home automation and placeshifting? Sure, why not! Unfortunately, as Ross Rubin tweets, the implication remains that Media Center development has been mothballed.

5 Geeky Gifts Under $50

Mari Silbey —  December 14, 2012

As the clock winds down on holiday shopping, here are a few more gift ideas for the geek in your life. And if your loved ones don’t like them, they can always take the return money and buy the latest whiz bang thing after CES in January. (Dave and I are both going, by the way.) Just keep in mind that half the products announced at CES never make it to market, so maybe these gifts are their best bet after all. At $50 or less, they shouldn’t be too hard on your wallet. 

Winegard FreeVision FV-30BB HDTV Antenna

Winegard FreeVision FV-30BB HDTV antenna

Now that OTA TV is making a comeback, it may be time to invest in that HD antenna. The Winegard FreeVision FV-30BB gets good reviews from users on Amazon, and it rings in at a manageable $37.84. Some locations will have a hard time getting OTA signals no matter how good the antenna, but this should boost the chances of a decent signal, and some high-quality, freebie television watching.

iPod Building Block Speakers

iPod Building Block Speakers

Shaped like Legos, but apparently without the commercial naming rights, these iPod docks are a cute, kitschy way to broadcast tunes locally. The iPod Building Block speakers are reportedly compatible with the iPod®mini, iPod®Touch (1st Generation), iPod®nano (1-4th generation), iPod® (3-5th generation), and iPod® Classic. Pick a color (no red or blue in stock, unfortunately), and the speaker dock is yours for only $21.99.  Continue Reading…

Aereo Headed to Smart TVs

Mari Silbey —  December 6, 2012

Video Nuze VideoSchmooze 2012 Colin Dixon and Chet Kanojia

At yesterday’s VideoSchmooze conference in New York, Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia told the audience that his company will soon release more applications for the 10-foot television experience. Aereo is planning to launch apps for a variety of smart TVs shortly, and for adjunct TV devices, including the Roku. Aereo has a private channel for the Roku today, but will release a more complete experience for the device in the near future. Kanojia also noted that “conceptually” games consoles make a lot of sense for Aereo too.

To date, Aereo is still only available in New York City, and it continues to fight for its legal right to exist. Broadcasters want to shut Aereo down because the company gets around retransmission fees by assigning a tiny antenna to each customer and transcoding over-the-air signals for delivery over IP. So far the courts haven’t forced Aereo to close its doors, but the legal battle has only just begun.

Meanwhile, Aereo’s technology is sophisticated enough that I’m still theorizing the company has a back-up plan if its current business model doesn’t survive. Aereo also has an advantage in that its technology costs are minimal. Kanojia threw out one stat yesterday that drove home that point. He said that the cost of transcoding a single stream of video a couple of years ago was around $6,000. Today, that number is in the single digits.

I continue to be fascinated by Yahoo’s  persistence in the connected TV market. Earlier this week, the company announced an expanded, multi-year partnership with Samsung to keep the Yahoo Broadcast Interactivity platform front and center on Samsung TVs. Even while Yahoo’s smart TV features and widgets have failed inspire much interest from consumers, the company is still doggedly pursuing a position in the living room. And it just might have a long-term strategy that works.

Yahoo’s TV play isn’t aimed at consumers. It’s all about advertising, and getting a platform embedded in connected TVs now for future applications. The consumer electronics guys know they need a platform, and by and large they also know they have to find experienced partners to implement one. Yahoo fits the bill, and it has the added benefit of not being as threatening as, say, Google or Apple from a partnership perspective.

That said, Yahoo isn’t the only game in town. Its biggest direct competitor may be Rovi, which is aggressively targeting the CE market and has its own deals in place with Samsung,  Sony and Toshiba. Yahoo and Rovi don’t offer the same features and functions, but they are both going after the same valuable territory in the connected TV market. Count the new Samsung deal as a win for Yahoo’s side.

Right in the middle of Halloween and Hurricane Sandy, my new report for GigaOM Pro on the future of the electronic program guide (EPG) went live last week.

If you’re a subscriber, you can read the whole write-up including market trends, recent technology innovations, company details and predictions for the future. If you’re not, have no fear.  As promised, GigaOM is kindly allowing me to publish an excerpt here. Drop me a line if you have any thoughts, questions, or insightful commentary to add, or if there’s another long-form topic you think I should turn my attention to next.

From What the Shift to the Cloud Means for the Future EPG in the U.S. 

Market Disruptors

…Beyond the traditional service providers, hardware manufacturers, and software companies that make up the television ecosystem, a number of new players are entering the market with disruptive models. On one end are new hybrid service providers, many of which are small operators or startup companies. Then there are the consumer electronics companies, including smart-TV manufacturers and retail set-top providers. Finally there are behemoth companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft, which are approaching the television business with capital and expertise built in other industries…

CE companies are attempting several different strategies that range from partnering with guide providers to building their own cloud-based platforms to relying on simple and inexpensive client-based guide software. The connected-TV companies are largely taking the first approach. Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba, for example, all partner with Rovi, although Samsung in particular has stated its ambition to create a connected-TV platform. The retail box providers, however, are more of a mixed bag. Apple licenses Rovi guide technology for Apple TV, and it appears that Google does the same to support its user interface for Google TV, though little has been said about that relationship publicly. Boxee ports its own software onto branded boxes that are made by other manufacturers. And Roku relies on its own inexpensive client-side guide software in order to keep consumer prices down. In each case, these hardware providers have their own branded guides, but the underlying technology sources vary widely.

The final group in the market-disruptors category is the sleeping giants – large companies in different industries that have begun to encroach on the TV-service-provider space. Google and Apple began offering their own retail set-tops years ago, but they have largely maintained those products as sideline businesses, providing access only to web content and not focusing major resources on breaking through in the more traditional television-service-provider space. The big question is whether Google and Apple will change their strategies in the future.  Continue Reading…

ActiveVideo CloudTV Guide October 2012

On the one hand, with more HTML5 program guides in the works, the TV UI is going to get a lot prettier and a lot more functional. On the other, if Dave’s ticked off now about the ads on his Panasonic Viera TV, just wait until these web-based guides really get going as new ad delivery platforms. In case you hadn’t noticed, television is going the way of the Internet. And that means aggressively targeted ads will soon be the norm.

We’ve still got a few years before the connected TV ad transition takes hold, but HTML5 guide development is already well underway. In addition to the NDS Snowflake guide at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo last week, I saw web-based UIs from ActiveVideo, Rovi and Arris. The first two were of ActiveVideo’s CloudTV interface, which is already deployed by Cablevision*, and the third was an ActiveVideo proof-of-concept VOD guide. The fourth was Rovi’s web-based guide, and the fifth and sixth were an HTML5 guide from Arris.