Archives For Satellite TV

Beyond the WiFi-only iPhone Slingbox client ($30), neutered by Apple and AT&T, it’s been a very quiet year for Sling. No new retail products. Insignificant firmware and software updates to existing products. And fire sale SlingCatcher pricing. Combined with near radio silence, I figured EchoStar has been winding down the Sling line. However, all is not lost, as I received a CES invite earlier today that promises:

You’ll experience an up close view of Sling’s new placeshifting products including WiFi television, ultra-slim Slingboxes, and a next-generation touch screen device.

Of course, a WiFi television was shown at CES last year (pic above). Where it was pitched as a DISH Network accessory for Echostar’s yet-to-be-released “SlingLoaded” VIP 922 Echostar DVR. If I had to guess, that touchscreen device similarly accessorizes the 922 — as a Sonos-esque remote controller. I’m not entirely opposed to a slimmed-down Slingbox, but noticeably absent from this pitch is reference to a next generation Catcher… that lives up to its billing. Stay tuned, as I intend to find out more (with pics) next week in Vegas.

virgin-tivo

As TiVo does, they fire off feel-good news (for investors) along most quarterly earnings calls – to possibly soften the blow of continued subscriber defections. Today, they’ve announced a deal in which Google will be mining our TiVo commercial viewing (er, skipping) behavior to enhance their television advertising initiative. Yawn. Much more interesting, via a release late to the wire, is news that TiVo will be re-entering the UK television market in a big way, by partnering with Virgin:

TiVo will become the exclusive provider of middleware and user interface software for Virgin Media’s next generation set top boxes. Virgin Media will become the exclusive distributor of TiVo services and technology in the United Kingdom. Virgin Media currently anticipates its first TiVo co-branded product in 2010.

In other partner news from the call… The fabled, new DirecTV TiVo hardware will indeed launch next year. And, in my opinion, surely juice TiVo’s subscribers numbers. Although no specific timeline has been provided. The Comcast and Cox TiVo initiatives continue to sputter along. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if either, or both, cable providers pull the plug at some point.

Lastly, something perhaps previously alluded to by a TiVo employee on Twitter and something I’ve been scouring the FCC records for, “a new keyboard remote control” is under development. Which could be related to the re-upping and expansion in 2009 of their 2005 RFID remote patent application for personalized viewing experiences. But we remain in the dark regarding the mysterous wireless access point.

dish-922s-app-store

Looks like DISH Network is next in line with an app store offering, following in the footsteps of rival DirecTV. EchoStar’s repeatedly delayed Slingbox-loaded 922s DVR, now slated for delivery “early next year,” will provide access to a variety of home grown and third party apps. The SDK and API has already been made available to developers, although DISH hasn’t yet committed to a store launch date. And, as you’d expect, they’ll act as gatekeepers according to Light Reading:

“We’re the ones to make sure the apps past muster, that they don’t use too much of the resources in the box, for example,” says Jeffrey Hale, an EchoStar national account manager.

Thanks, Mike!

My pal Tim has been mucking about in the newish DirecTV widget platform and, based on his video above, isn’t all that impressed. (Which may be partially attributed to DirecTV’s house brand of DVR which doesn’t function as smoothly his former DirecTiVo models. He’s just a little bitter.) While DirecTV’s “App Store” (Flickr, Twitter, weather, etc) seems too slow in his home to be usable, I prefer this on-box Internet app overlay experimentation to the connected television trend –  folks will purchase/upgrade their sets with much less frequency.

directv-adobe-air-supercast

For NFL fans, DirecTV is the television provider you gotta have. I’m sure many appreciate the expansion of the Red Zone channel to other pay TV services, but mine (Cox) isn’t one of them. Not to mention, given the Twitter buzz, Comcast’s implementation was lacking in many markets. No HD?!

comcastic-redzone

DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket Super Fan package isn’t inexpensive – we’re talking like $400. But it’s hard to argue with the coverage. Access to pretty much every game – on television, PC, and iPhone. Including the Red Zone channel and a Player Tracker overlay to keep an eye on your fantasy team. (Mine’s not very good, although the Seattle QB+TE tandem paid dividends.)

I’m pretty sure my buddy Tim was mocking my lack of access when he sent pics of the Adobe Air Supercast (top) and iPod Touch (below) video streaming apps. However, even though I’m stuck with just the “local” games at home, my new wing place is also a Super Fan. And we managed to catch the Eagles while someone else cleaned up after us.

directv-supercast-iphone

media-center-sdv

Since EngadgetHD has yet to post a round up of their CEDIA coverage (the show floor is still open), I wanted to highlight some of the Media Center news. I can’t say it’s lived up to Ben Drawbaugh’s predictions or my lofty expectations. As I tweeted after Microsoft’s off-site event earlier this week, “The news was good, but there wasn’t much of it.” Bottom line: Build your own CableCARD computers, SDV support on the way, less DRM for more portable recordings, multi-stream CableCARD tuner coming, and the DISH Network tuner initiative isn’t entirely dead. Also notable is what’s missing… Where the heck are the new Windows 7 media extenders, is AMD/ATI out of the CableCARD tuner business, and how about some more substantial Windows Home Server MC integration?

Media Center CableCARDs freed from OEM requirement
The OEM requirement on CableCARDs has been officially lifted, freeing Joe Six Packs all over from having to buy whole systems.

Hands-on with the Ceton CableCARD tuner
The Ceton CableCARD tuner is a single PCI-E card that uses one multi-stream CableCARD and offers the ability to record four HD channels at once.

Dish Network Media Center tuner hands-on
We’re happy to say that Dish was proudly displaying a Dish Tuner for Media Center 7 at its booth. The bad news however is that it was just a “proof of concept.”

Windows 7 to get a better version of Netflix than Vista
The Windows 7 version of the Netflix Watch Instantly still isn’t going to work on Extenders for Media Center, but it will include a more seamless experience than the Vista version does

Normally, when perusing the various legal briefs and news coverage out of the epic and ongoing TiVo v DISH/EchoStar DVR patent dispute, my eyes glaze over (see: Boredom in the Courtroom). Today’s a bit different. A ZNF reader who’s been tracking this case, and who I presume to be a shareholder, forwarded DISH’s latest filing (7/13, PACER). The document in and of itself isn’t so interesting to the casual observer. However, it does reveal some astonishing content from within TiVo’s recent sealed motion (6/27) of sanctions for contempt of the permanent injunction:

TiVo’s response on the issue of judicial economy is that the sanctions hearing set for later this month will be short because each side was allowed only 30 minutes for argument. This simplistic retort ignores the substantial work for this Court — reviewing briefing, case law, and complicated financial evidence — that will be required for consideration of TiVo’s motion, which seeks nearly $1 billion in contempt sanctions.

There’s really not much to say other than: That’s a sh*tload of money. (While I’m having NTP flashbacks, TiVo actually has a product, business partners, and customers.) One thing’s for sure, if TiVo expects to see this kind of cash award, they’re going to need to buy a few more cows.

Click screencaps to enlarge: