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I’m so confused… Netflix, known for streaming commercial-free movie content has launched a whole bunch of new television shows (and modernized TV site organization, as shown above). While Hulu Plus, a product of the television studios themselves, lands the Criterion Collection of classic films. The lines are obviously blurring.

Although monthly subscription fees are similar, the two services still take somewhat different approaches in presentation. Namely, Hulu insists on running commercial advertising on its paid tier. But wait, might even that be up for renegotiation? From the Hulu blog:

Criterion Hulu Plus subscribers will be able to watch the Criterion Collection free of interruption. (Any ads will play up front.)

Also interesting, as highlighted on Hacking Netflix, is Criterion’s rational for choosing Hulu over Netflix: Continue Reading…

You can use a Google account to login to Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and dozens of other Google services — but you can also use it to login to third party apps such as online office suitesnews readers, and more. That means if someone manages to obtain your Google account info, not only can they access your email, pay for goods using Google Checkout, and generally wreak havoc with your life. They might also be able to access your data on services that aren’tmaintained by Google.

Today Google announced something that can help protect you: 2-step verification.

Here’s how it works. Once you opt-in, you’ll need your username, password, and a unique code to login to Google. That code is constantly changing, which means that even if someone gets your username and password and your security code from half an hour ago, they won’t have enough information to access your account.

Of course, Google still needs to make sure you always have the latest code so you don’t get locked out of your account. To do that, Google uses your phone. Read the rest of this entry »

Mozy’s unlimited cloud backup service is decidedly less unlimited today. As the company has retired it’s $4.95 plan in favor of new tiers of service (shown above) with data overages running $2/month per 20GB. While quite a few seemed riled up, I don’t particularly mind. Mozy needs to make money and it’s easy to see how the top few percent of users could impact the bottom line. A Mozy VP responds on CNET:

We do not take this on lightly…I don’t expect everybody to be happy about it. But if they take a look at what we’re doing and why, it’ll at least be understandable.

As I told photographer Thomas Hawk, you generally get what you pay for. And Mozy is owned by industry giant EMC… something I take comfort in. I’d say they’re much less likely to lose his data than Flickr – a photo sharing service that operates without a backup or un-delete option. There continues to be an unreasonable expectation that everything on the Internet be free or inexpensive. The sooner we collectively get beyond that, the sooner we’ll have higher quality services and support. Continue Reading…

Looks like Amazon is about to amp up their video-on-demand service with an unlimited streaming tier. At least that’s what we’re left to infer from the one Amazon customer whose account appears to have accidentally received early access the service:

Your Amazon Prime membership now includes unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming of 5,000 movies and TV shows at no additional cost.

As far as I know, no one has yet corroborated Engadget’s source’s sighting of the service – which seems to go by “Prime Instant Videos.” And, last night, I did spend good deal of time digging around Amazon trying to turn this thing up… but obviously came up empty. In fact, at some point, E’s guy lost access his access too.

As an irregular, although current, Amazon Prime member ($79/yr, free 2 day shipping), a perk like this would keep me in the fold on an annual basis. Heck, I’d even pay more and dump my Hulu and/or Netflix subscriptions. Assuming Amazon intends to deliver high quality streaming to locations other than a computer-based web browser. Like say an iPad. Or Kindle 4.

Ongo is a new service that sounds crazy, might be brilliant… or might just be as crazy as it sounds. Here’s the pitch: It’s a one-stop shop for news. Right now that stop is a web site, but there’s an iPad app waiting for Apple’s approval and other mobile apps could follow. Content comes from mainstream news sources including the AP, USA Today, The Guardian, The New York Times and the Financial Times.

Here’s the crazy part: Ongo is a subscription service with prices starting at $6.99 per month. That monthly fee will get you access to content that’s largely already available on the web for free.

Sure, there’s some benefit to getting the top stories from multiple sources in a single location. And an ad-free interface is certainly an attractive selling point, (although after spending the last 15 years or so online, I’ve found it’s generally pretty easy to tune out the ads if I don’t want to pay attention to them). But overall, Ongo is still asking people to pay for something that’s already available for free, and that’s a tough business plan to get away with.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cablevision to the Cloud!

Mari Silbey —  January 24, 2011

After years of wrangling, Cablevision has launched a remote-storage DVR service letting subscribers record and store programs on the operator’s network with no need for a local hard drive. Jeff Baumgartner confirmed with Cablevision spokesman Jim Maiella that the service, called DVR Plus, launched in the Bronx last week with a price tag of $10.95 per month for 160GB of storage. Interestingly, the operator is marketing it as a whole-home DVR play, even though the remote storage angle could theoretically push the service into TV Everywhere territory. Today, DVR Plus is strictly available with a select group of set-tops, and the roll-out is still limited beyond consumer trials and the Bronx-area launch.

Cablevision won the right in court almost two and a half years ago to create a network-based DVR service. However, it compromised with adversaries by agreeing to market RS-DVR rather than a true nDVR offering. The difference? RS-DVR creates an individual copy of each program a subscriber decides to record. No one else can access that recording even if another subscriber wants to record the same show. Each recording must be created and stored separately on the cable network.

Ironically, now that Cablevision has finally launched DVR Plus, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. There are other options now for accessing your shows in the cloud. All it takes is a few years to turn something that sounds revolutionary into a feature we all expect to get soon on any web-connected device.


In 2006, Netflix scored a grand slam when they announced a $1 million prize for anyone who could improve their recommendation engine by at least 10%. It took 3 years for a team of scientists to actually accomplish this feat, but the prize was ultimately worth far more than a million dollars in publicity and to Netflix’s bottom line. Better recommendations not only led to happier subscribers (less churn), but they also made it easier for Netflix to sell the niche content that they spend less money on. Recognizing the benefit that they received from the contest, Netflix was quick to announce a sequel, but ultimately had to suspend their plans over privacy concerns.

While a contest to replace Silverlight likely wouldn’t garner as much attention, I believe that the financial benefit to replacing this video platform could be just as significant.

Some will argue that I’m being tough on poor old Softie and that Silverlight represents some of the best video compression out there, but consider my logic for a moment. From where I’m sitting, Silverlight has two basic flaws: It’s buggy as all get out and it’s a bandwidth thief.

The screenshot posted above is a real life example of Silverlight in action. All video frameworks are prone to errors of course, but look at all the hoops Netflix makes their customers jump through just to support this buggy piece of software. Continue Reading…