Archives For Video


The latest generation of Google TV hardware is poised to launch, featuring devices from the likes of Vizio and Sony. And it appears Sony’s second generation “Internet Player with Google TV” (NSZ-GS7) is up first — hitting store shelves next month and available for pre-oder now ($199). Unfortunately, it looks to be more of the same. While Google TV does offer a few clever tricks, including the Chrome web browser, video overlay, and QWERTY remote, the overall experience is lacking. As the Verge asks, “When does ‘It has potential’ turn into ‘It’s not good enough’?” For the same money, you could get the similarly equipped Boxee Box with active community or three of the more app-centric Roku streaming players. There are rumors of a massive Google TV update announcement later this week… Yet, if it pans out, Sony and Google made a tactical error in introducing this product now. Which would be par for the course.

Microsoft’s offering a free weekend of Xbox Live Gold service to entice new subscribers. While an Xbox 360 ($200 and up) nets you a solid gaming platform, to enable the most compelling online features, such as collaborative gameplay and Netflix streaming, one must subscribe to “Gold” — which retails for $60/year. As regular reader James (jcm) says, the Xbox 360 currently offers arguably the most complete video streaming experience in terms of quantity/quality of apps, polished interface, and integrated search. Yet, the annual subscription irks me and I’ve allowed my service to lapse. Heck, for the same money, one could buy a fee-free Roku LT streamer ($50).

But I went ahead and dug my Xbox 360 out of the closet to partake in the Free Gold Weekend (6/1 – 6/3) to check out the new Amazon Instant video streaming app. As an Amazon Prime member ($80/year), I’m entitled to all sorts of “free” content. Although, I have to say my primary motivation was to check out Amazon’s new Watchlist — overcoming their most significant technical shortcoming compared to say Netflix or Hulu Plus, as recently pointed out by Engadget HD’s Richard Lawler: No queue is a bizarre way to live. Continue Reading…


The untimely death of Windows Media Center has become something of a self fulfilling prophecy for Microsoft as they skate to where the puck was rather than it could go… under their care. No, Media Center hasn’t actually been EOL-ed. But it’s been banished to a higher tier Windows 8 package or “Pro Pack” upgrade. Hoping for significant updates? Good luck with that:

What version of Windows Media Center will be included in Windows 8?
The version of Media Center included in Windows 8 is what we shipped in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. It is much consistent with what shipped in Windows 7.

Adding insult to injury, Microsoft will no longer fund MPEG2 codec licensing under Windows 8… meaning no DVD playback for you (without third party software). It’s a real shame as Media Center has been and remains a stellar product. But, as Microsoft did with Windows Mobile, they’ll let it atrophy and whither away as they’re lapped by their competitors. Or will they? As MS is wisely doubling down on the Xbox brand and ecosystem. Unfortunately, Microsoft missed their opportunity to merge the Media Center, MediaRoom, and Xbox divisions into a unified living room juggernaut as we begged years ago.

Assuming you’re less doom and gloom than I am regarding Media Center’s future prospects, you can always download the free Windows 8 Release Preview and follow these steps to take a remarkably familiar Media Center for a whirl: Continue Reading…

In a page out of the mobile industry’s playbook, Microsoft is testing a subsidized Xbox bundle via their branded storefronts. Instead of paying $300 up front for a 4GB Xbox 360 console with Kinect, and potential $60 annual service fee covering online services, this dealio requires only a $99 investment… followed by $15/month for the duration of a two year contract. And, like a cell carrier, Microsoft will run a credit check if you choose to partake and imposes an early termination fee (ETF):

Mathematically, the “promotion” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, unless you’re strapped for cash, as it ends up running $40 more at MSRP over a two year period ($460 vs. $420). More importantly, both Xbox 360 hardware and Xbox Live Gold are frequently offered below MSRP.

MS should be applauded for attempting to lower the barrier to entry. But this isn’t the correct solution. A better approach would be adding a Roku-esque Xbox Live streamer to the mix. However, we’ll continue to recommend the competing PS3 over the Xbox while service fees and Microsoft “Points” remain in effect.


Having problems finding winners on Netflix? A Better Queue just launched which hopes to improve your experience by linking Rotten Tomatos meta movie rankings to Netfix streaming inventory. Unfortunately, it proves what we already know – there aren’t many recent, mainstream hit movies available for just $7.99/month. But A Better Queue, which doesn’t actually connect to your “queue,” might help surface more obscure, independent, or foreign fare you may not have otherwise easily found.

After taking it for a quick spin this AM… I went ahead and cancelled my Netflix account. I’m sure I’ll return as I always do. Yet, in the interim I’ll attempt to find enjoyment from my Amazon Prime Instant streaming “gift” and, once again, spend some quality time with physical media given recent streaming frustrations. Also, I continue to contemplate a TiVo Premiere XL4 — adding more tuners and drive space to preemptively record more of what I seem to end up buying after the fact via Amazon.

(via The Verge


After Pandora and DISH but before Sony, Team ZNF visited HTC last night at CES on the Hill. In addition to face time with the new HTC One line of Android smartphones, we were briefed of HTC’s upcoming Media Link HD — a television dongle that seems to replicate the AirPlay experience the iPhone and Apple TV provide. So your HTC Sense 4 Android phone would beam something like photos or video to the HDMI-connected Media Link HD for display on your HDTV. However, unlike AirPlay, HTC’s compact solution allows you to multitask. For example, watch video on the big screen while checking email on your handset. HTC’s rep informed us the device would be available “in about a month” via select carriers, and ultimately Best Buy, retailing for $79 or $89.


Wal-mart’s Disc-to-Digital service, launching under the Vudu brand, became available today. That’s the theory anyhow. Unfortunately, reps at two different local Walmart outposts tell me they haven’t yet been trained and I was unsuccessful in getting my discs “converted” during lunch.

Backing up a bit, this new service falls under the studio-backed UltraViolet initiative — which aims to provide a global content licensing and streaming catalog. Buy a DVD, get a digital copy. Buy a digital copy via Flixter, watch it on Vudu. Etc. And, while I had some initial doubts, it seems as if the component partners and pieces are actually starting to coalesce nicely. However, you’ll forgive me for remaining skeptical and apprehensive in the licensing of digital content… given the abandonment of other relatively prominent solutions, such as Yahoo Music or Microsoft PlaysForSure. Not to mention my less-than-stellar experience today. Continue Reading…