CNET’s weekly holiday tech downloads must have been successful, because they’ve announced an expansion of VOD segments — this time ad supported. They plan to launch 2-3 hours of monthly programming, broken into 15 minute segments, beginning in June. Neat, I guess… but where’s my TiVo movie download feature?

CNET Announces CNET TV; Cox Communications, TiVo Inc., and TVN Entertainment Sign on to Launch CNET TV On-Demand; CNET to Bring On-Demand Experience to Its Web site

SAN FRANCISCO–April 17, 2006–CNET, a source of information and inspiration for a world gone digital, and a property of CNET Networks, Inc. (Nasdaq:CNET), today announced “CNET TV,” a new video-on-demand (VOD) service that packages a selection of CNET’s popular video content for distribution on television and online. CNET TV will launch initially with partners Cox Communications Inc., TiVo Inc., and TVN Entertainment, as well as on CNET in the second half of the year.
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PC Mag chimes in with a 3.5/5 review of the current iteration of MovieBeam. It’s not as critical as HD Beat’s take, but it’s probably also not as accurate focusing on convenience while discounting HD compression issues. MovieBeam is making a retail push as you can see from the pic I snapped yesterday at Best Buy.

PC Magazine says: As media companies struggle to find new, secure ways to distribute video digitally, MovieBeam is using old-fashioned broadcast TV—albeit with a little tweaking—to offer a video-on-demand service. The MovieBeam Player ($199.99 direct) holds 100 recent Hollywood movies, which users can rent at any time. It takes a digital version of a film and piggybacks that data onto a conventional television broadcast signal. The player then receives that signal, reassembles the video file, and stores it on its 160GB hard drive. When you want to watch a movie, you select it and are charged from $1.99 to $4.99. You can watch any movie you “rent” as much as you want in a 24-hour period. It is more convenient that schlepping to the video store or waiting for your favorite films to arrive via Netflix, but most people won’t find it worth paying $200 plus rental fees.

Jim McMurry has reported success at running the SlingPlayer within Parallels, a free-during-beta virtualization software for Intel Macs. If you have a copy of XP lying around and can’t wait the 2 or 3 months until Slingbox natively supports OSX, you’ve got your solution. Jim’s Slingbox is controlling & streaming his Dish Network DVR 510 and he has enabled Parallels audio output.

Jim says: I decided to make a project out of getting Slingbox setup today. Not knowing for sure if it would work on OSX, I got everything setup using only OSX and Parallels VM running Windows XP. Overall the video is pretty awesome for a player running inside of a VM on Parallels. Full screen inside Parallels (not full screen Parallels, but Slingplayer fullscreen inside Parallels) works very as well.

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The first HD DVD player is now for sale at my local Best Buy (Washington, DC), though they have no DVDs to go along with it. In fact, they didn’t even have a sample HD disc in the demo unit. The Toshiba HD-A1 is pretty bulky, even larger than the initial batch of first gen DVD players, but the remote is sexy. At $499 with a questionable improvement in picture quality, potentially restrictive HDMI requirements, and unhacked copy protection I’ll be on the sidelines for at least a year. By the time I get onboard, perhaps dual HD DVD/Blu-ray players will exist or maybe one format will have been decided upon… Yeah, right!
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1080p Over Rated?

Dave Zatz —  April 15, 2006

Here’s an interesting article which summarizes 1080p, provides a few set reviews, and defines wobulation. It’s a good read, especially if you’re considering a big-ticket HDTV purchase in the near future. They pretty much conclude unless you’re sitting very close to a large screen and have perfect vision you may not notice much difference between 1080p and 1080i or 720p. It also justifies my hanging back on the new HD generation of DVD players. Will 720p flicks look significantly better than 480p on my 30″ den HDTV? Somehow, I don’t think so…

Popular Mechanics says: Is the extra resolution worth the price premium of a 1080p set? That depends a lot on what you want from your TV. If you insist on neighborhood bragging rights in the resolution department, then you may want to buy a 1080p model to “futureproof” your purchase. But if you choose to make the 1080p splurge, you should do it knowing that it might be a couple of years before widespread 1080p content becomes available. And, even then, the 1080p advantage will be pretty subtle on anything less than the largest screens. On the other hand, if you are interested in making the jump to high definition today–and enjoying the HD content that is already available–then most current 720p and 1080i sets will deliver stunning results right now.

Look what I saw at CompUSA earlier today… the TiVo-branded wireless adapter. Like TiVo.com and Amazon, they’re priced at $49.99 — but you don’t have to wait for shipping. Rumor has it these puppies have also shown up at Fry’s. How long before we see them at Best Buy and Radio Shack? Maybe they’re already lining the shelves…
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TiVo Sends Echostar Packing

Dave Zatz —  April 13, 2006

This just in… TiVo won their patent infringement case versus Echostar! Once the dust settles and more details emerge, I’ll update this post.

Update 1: The Wall Street Journal, AP, and Bloomberg are reporting the award is $74 million. I haven’t found out yet what this means for current Dish DVR units. Apparently the judge in the case owns a TiVo, though members of the jury do not.

Update 2: TiVo’s stock is up $1.55 in after hours trading to $9.80… which is more than a 100% increase over the 52 week low hit last October.

Update 3: TiVo will be seeking an injunction against Dish DVR units and perhaps others. Read TiVo’s official response to the verdict here or see below. (Thanks, Davis!)

Update 4: Echostar responds here or see their statement below. Isn’t it amazing how both sides claim victory? ;)

Update 5: The judge has the ability to adjust the award… up to tripple the $74 million presented by the jury. Deliberations took only two hours, including a cigarette break. An updated AP article can be found here.

Update 6: Some have expressed interest in reading the actual patent text. Search for patent number 6233389 here to see it.

Bloomberg says: TiVo Inc., the pioneer maker of digital video recorders, won a jury trial in a Texas lawsuit against EchoStar Communications Corp. over a patent for technology that lets a viewer record one TV program while watching another, a court official said. Details of the verdict by a federal court jury in Marshall, Texas, weren’t immediately available, said a court clerk who declined to give her name. The victory may mean TiVo, based in Alviso, California, can receive significant licensing fees for its technology, raising the cost of digital video recorders for cable and satellite companies paying for TiVo-like boxes, an analyst said.

TiVo says: TiVo is pleased that the jury found that TiVo’s pioneering time warping patent is valid and that EchoStar has been infringing on our intellectual property. TiVo is particularly gratified that the jury found that EchoStar willfully infringed on our patent and the consequences their actions had on our overall business. This decision recognizes that our intellectual property is valuable and will ensure that moving forward EchoStar and any others that want to use our patented technology will be required to provide us with compensation.

TiVo intends to seek a permanent injunction against EchoStar’s DVR products.

TiVo is built on a strong foundation of innovative technology and intellectual property. We now hold more than 87 patents in our worldwide patent portfolio and have more than 138 patent applications pending. TiVo has a long list of licensees in the consumer electronics, cable and satellite markets, and we will continue to license our technology under appropriate circumstances and arrangements. We will also continue to vigorously defend our intellectual property for the benefit of our licensees and shareholders.”

Echostar says: This is the first step in a very long process and we are confident we will ultimately prevail. Among other things, we believe the patent – as interpreted in this case – is overly broad given the technology in existence when TiVo filed its patent. We believe the decision will be reversed either through post-trial motions or on appeal. Additionally, the Patent Office is in the process of re-examining TiVo’s patent, having determined there is a substantial question concerning the validity of the patent.

DISH Network subscribers can continue to use the receivers in their homes, including their DVRs. Furthermore, TiVo dropped their claim that EchoStar’s Dishplayer 7200 DVR infringes their patent.

EchoStar looks forward to trial of its DVR patent case against TiVo in February 2007.