Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  October 16, 2014 — 5 Comments

A periodic roundup of relevant news…

nexus-player

Google and Asus release first Android TV device for $99
The Nexus Player, which was announced in conjunction with the Nexus 6 phone, the Nexus 9 tablet and Android Lollipop on Wednesday, is being manufactured by Asus and will be available for pre-order starting October 17 and go on sale on November 3.

HBO’s Over-the-Top Service: Here’s What We Know
HBO has shaken up the media biz with its plan to launch a standalone over-the-top service next year, making the pay-TV titan the first major cable programmer to be marketed to consumers who do not pay for a traditional MVPD subscription.

PlayStation TV Launches, Sans Netflix
While Sony’s new paperback-sized device is primarily a gaming machine, it also serves as a media streamer with initial support for apps, including Sony’s Crackle video-on-demand service, anime app Crunchyroll and the music concert and documentary service, Quello.

Introducing InstaWatch from VUDU and Walmart
Exclusively from VUDU and Walmart, InstaWatch gives you a digital copy of every eligible DVD or Blu-ray that you buy at Walmart stores or on Walmart.com—automatically.

Plex app coming to select 2013/14 Vizio HDTVs
we’re happy to say that we can lend at least some of you a hand. We’re thrilled to announce our brand new Plex app for VIZIO Smart TVs, available today for Plex Pass subscribers! Once the Plex Pass preview period ends, the app will be available to purchase for a one-time fee

sonos-light

For several hours this weekend, the Sonos website featured an unexpected “Light-1″ menu option. Combing through the FCC and USPTO, along with the requisite, tho cursory, Googling, has turned up squat. Is this nothing more than a textual error? Or is Sonos getting into the lightspeaker game? Another possibility, assuming this is something more than a coding mistake, could be programmatic light+music synchronization as seen from the likes of SyFy and Philips Hue. We love a good mystery almost as much as we love Sonos whole home audio.

Meanwhile, the Sonos Boost streaming enhancer must near release given a large number of live support documents and updated product imagery, while the Sonos Playbase remains shrouded in mystery.

(Thanks Mike!)

slingplayer-headrest

While the kludgey Roku antenna has failed to materialize, Voxx is moving forward with a possibly outlandish plan to stream your Slingbox into the car. From their earnings call:

The VOXX Hirschmann team has signed a Letter of Intent creating a strategic partner with EchoStar Sling Media, where we will be integrating a Sling player directly into our rear seat entertainment products to bring the T.V. content you enjoy in your home directly into the vehicle. Consumers want the content they have at home on the road and our product will deliver the richest content of any rear-seat entertainment system on the market.

Of course, there are cheaper and simpler ways to solve this particular problem (say an iPad strapped to a headrest). But an integrated Sling TV does indeed sound like an elegant solution, even if app services require latching onto your smartphone for network connectivity (TBD). Other than the brief blurb above, nothing further has been revealed, including which Voxx subsidiary this initiative might fall under. However, we’d guess Audiovox given their vertical and prior automotive Android experimentation — more details are expected “soon

Sprint Shutters WiMAX Network

It’s an inglorious end for the first 4G mobile broadband service to debut in the US. Sprint has announced that it will officially discontinue operation of its WiMAX network “on or about November 6, 2015.” Sprint completed its acquisition of WiMAX operator Clearwire in the summer of 2013 and has plans to re-farm the Clearwire spectrum for the growing Sprint LTE network.

WiMAX was always the underdog in the 4G mobile broadband race, but Sprint/Clearwire still drew in millions of customers for WiMAX service (including yours truly), and Clearwire used the technology to pioneer a no-contract 4G data plan.

In one interesting deployment, Clearwire partnered with an organization called Mobile Citizen to offer low-cost mobile Internet service exclusively to education and non-profit groups. Today, Mobile Citizen continues to market WiMAX service for the incredibly low price of $120 per year plus the cost of a hotspot, USB, or desktop modem. Sprint will maintain the partnership despite shutting down its WiMAX network, and Mobile Citizen says it is working with the carrier to “determine the timing and pricing of future LTE service plans and devices.”

echostar-sage

After a several years of TV-centric home automation tech demos at CES, Echostar got serious and recently unveiled “Sage” – their “secure” take on the space and presumably targeted to siblings partners like DISH and overseas providers, versus selling direct to consumers à la Staples Connect or Smarthings.

From the Rethink Technology Research newsletter:

EchoStar is planning on expanding its set top range firmly into the smart home with the new Sage home controller and device ecosystem. [...] The box itself contains ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth Low Energy and WiFi radios. [...] With a single push the UI would pop up onto the screen and shrink the TV picture into the top right quarter. [...] The back end architecture is all based on the existing Sling infrastructure that EchoStar already has in place, and there are plans to add the Sage tag to other Dish products.

Beyond their HDMI-out hub and third party device support, Echostar just passed their own wireless doorbell, light switch module and home automation dongle through the FCC. Continue Reading…

soundfreaq6

Previously on ZNF, we had the opportunity to review two Bluetooth speakers, the massive, if not questionably looking, G-Boom speaker, and the Pringles shaped Logitech Ultimate Ears Boom. Both of these speakers had their pros and cons depending on your situation. The G-Boom was great for parking in one place and letting the music rock. The UE Boom on the other hand offered a smaller package, great sound, and the ability to update features via firmware updates. Today we’ll be looking at an even more compact – the $100 Soundfreaq Pocket Kick.

Hardware and Setup

Compared to the sharp corners of the G-Boom or the circular shape of the EU Boom, the Soundfreaq Pocket Kick features a slab design with rounded off corners. The speaker grills are made of a steel featuring a nice pattern with the Soundfreaq logo in the middle. The outer edges of the of speaker feature a nice rubber material that makes the Pocket Kick easy to hold without slipping out of the hand.  The rubber sides also allow the speaker to stay put on any surface while the music is jamming. Speaking of size, the Pocket Kick is the smallest of the three speakers we’ve had the chance to review. It’s roughly the size of an iPhone 5s from a surface area perspective, and about 3 times as deep. Continue Reading…

By way of the FCC and the USPTO, we learn Jawbone may have a variety of new activity trackers and services in the works. We can discern a few things from the “JL06″ filing… Given the test submissions, naming convention, and removable battery this is clearly not a Bluetooth earpiece. Further, in regards to labeling, the Jawbone UP fitness band is listed as the JL01 – suggesting this gadget lives within the same product category, versus representing, say, a new Jambox. Lastly, a number of trademark submissions refer to additional entries in the UP line, including the UP Move, UP2, UP3, and UP4. Our very own Adam Miarka wonders if this “handheld” device requiring “a small coin” to insert or replace the battery might be something akin to the Misfit Shine puck or Magellan Echo Fit watch. We’ll continue to monitor and speculate as we anxiously await the new Fitbit and Jawbone healthful widgetry.