It’s easy to forget that technology I find commonplace doesn’t exist yet in many regions. That’s why the announcement of Showtime being first to offer DVRs in the Middle East caught my eye this morning. No word yet on what’s powering their box, but I’ll keep my eyes open.

AME Info says: Showtime, a leading pay-TV network in the Middle East, announced today the introduction of the latest generation of smart technology with the launch of their new decoder: the ShowBox DVR. The service offers the ultimate level of control and convenience giving viewers the power to choose what they want to watch and when. The new device will be available to Showtime subscribers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE from 15 February, followed by other Gulf markets. ‘Suddenly the phone ringing at a crucial point in a movie is not as big a deal as it used to be. And if you blink too hard and miss a scene, you can rewind and play it again, in slow motion if you like. And with the on screen TV guide completely integrated into the decoder, you can record an entire series at the push of a button -with not a tape in sight.’ Based on advanced technology which encompasses a hard disc and an integrated on screen TV guide (the EPG), Showbox is the region’s first DVR service which makes television entertainment fit into a lifestyle rather than the other way round.

Sony Preps Wireless AV System

Dave Zatz —  February 12, 2006

What’s a bored, snowed-in geek to do on a Sunday AM? Troll the FCC website for new products, of course!

Sony’s got a home wireless AV transmission system (HWS-AV10) in the works. It uses the 2.4 GHz frequency to relay audio, video, and IR remote signals from a component in one room to a TV in another… while likely interfering with your cordless phones and WiFi. The base station includes an IR blaster allowing you to change channels or choose TiVo recordings at a distance. The receiver smartly bundles an external antenna to fine-tune reception.

In the past, I’ve used a few variations of this device with mediocre results. I’ve had better luck using media extenders/servers over WiFi… though they require a larger investment of both time and money. If cash is no object, go whole-hog with Sony’s LocationFree TV and take your screen with you around the house. For basic video, I’d advise just fishing the coax.

Sorry, HD Beat… this puppy’s standard def only.

Continue Reading…

Echostar X Rescheduled

Dave Zatz —  February 11, 2006

Echostar’s DISH satellite launch has been rescheduled for tomorrow. As I posted earlier, the ocean launch will be webcast live. Supposedly this new satellite will provide DISH with additional bandwidth to expand their HD offerings… but I’m just interested in seeing the rocket take off.

Sea Launch says: After a halt in the countdown for launch on February 8, Sea Launch is now preparing for a second launch attempt on Sunday, February 12, with liftoff planned for 3:35pm PST (23:35 GMT).

The Zenit-3SL rocket is now being erected on the launch pad, and preparations are underway at the launch site. On launch day, the rocket will lift the 4,333 kg (9,553 lb.) EchoStar X satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO), on the way to its final orbital position of 110 degrees West Longitude.

“We understand the ground support system issue we observed during countdown last Wednesday and we are confident that our corrective action will support a successful liftoff on Sunday,” said Jim Maser, president and general manager of Sea Launch.

Sling Media Responds To Story

Dave Zatz —  February 11, 2006

Blake Krikorian, co-founder and CEO of Sling Media, wrote a response to yesterday’s Marketwatch summary. As with my prior interactions with the father of Slingbox, I get the sense Blake is a stand-up guy in touch with both his customers and the market. Kudos for conversing directly with us in forums (AVS, TCF) and the blogosphere.

Blake says: hey dave,

saying that we fear commoditization is a bit much’the most critical thing for us is to stay very focused on delivering great experiences to consumers’that’s what is in our control. in terms of predicting the future, we all know that’s futile�along the way of executing to the best of your abilities, you hope to also get some breaks and make some good decisions�and if you are lucky, you come out on the winning end over the course of years�simple as that.

can we continue to the improve the slingbox? can we continue to make it easier and easier to set up? can we create additional products that consumers love and find entertaining and/or useful?�these are the things that we �worry� about.

it is semi-amusing to get hypothetical / speculative questions like �how long until you are a feature in something else? or how long until you are commoditized?��how the heck is someone supposed to answer that? i think i gave a stupid answer�but that’s the type of answer that is deserving of that type of question. at least that’s my $.02

one other thing�i just read that interview in it’s entirety.

since you and i have talked before, you know that i have nothing but the utmost respect for what tivo has done�my quote that �tivo had religious issues� was taken a bit out of context�and to say that tivo or timeshifting is a �mere add-on� to set top boxes is one of the largest understatements i have heard in long time. that certainly didn’t come from my mouth.

the quote was taken while i was explaining my *general* belief that in the �convergence space�, products over time trend towards consolidation. i also made the point that is NOT always the case�for example, my desktop pc can act as a router, but do i use it that way? of course not�my netgear router does the job wonderfully (well, usually) and is at the right price point / value ratio to justify it’s stand alone existence.

should tivo have embraced licensing their technology on more attractive terms earlier on? perhaps�did they let �religious issues� get in the way of making some of those decisions? perhaps�but i wasn’t there and i don’t know for sure�and as we all know, hindsight is 20/20.

the last time i checked, tivo was still in business, so that story aint over yet either :-)

As reported last month, TiVo’s been busy updating their online scheduling tools. The refreshed TiVo Central Online is available now and features an enhanced, customizable AJAX-animated grid guide with improved search functionality.

As you may recall, BitTorrent began their uphill battle towards legitimacy by partnering with the MPAA last fall to crack down on movie piracy. Now they’re taking it a step further by introducing a video download service with UK cable provider NTL. Once they add a custom storefront, will the service really be much different than an iTunes or Vongo… other than the P2P method of distribution and download?

Reuters says: UK cable firm NTL is teaming up with BitTorrent Inc., the company behind the popular file-sharing software, to test a new service that will let users purchase movies and music video downloads. “We’re working with rightsholders and ISPs because we view ourselves at the center of a lot of the activity going on here,” said BitTorrent Inc. Chief Operating Officer Ashwin Navin. “There’s been a lot of banter about video over the Internet this year, but for BitTorrent it’s a few years old.”

(via GigaOm)

Blake Krikorian, the co-founder and CEO of Sling Media, had an interesting and frank conversation with MarketWatch. Bottom line: Krikorian asserts he has a several year lead until other services add Slingbox features, during which time Sling hopes to innovate and partner before their technology becomes a commodity. Of course, having a healthy awareness of potential pitfalls doesn’t necessarily mean you can evade them…

I highly recommend the article — it’s good reading.

says: “How much time does Sling Media have before your product becomes a feature, like TiVo?” I asked Krikorian, during an interview earlier this week. “A couple years, at least,” he said, with a certain acceptance that if Sling Media’s service catches on, he will not be so arrogant to try and dominate the market alone. “A technologist has to realize that one day what’s been built is a product, the next day it’s a feature,” said Krikorian. “TiVo had religious issues,” he said, suggesting the personal-video-recording pioneer failed to accept that time-shifting would be a mere add-on. Does that mean place-shifting is a feature and will one day be embedded in cable and satellite boxes too?, I asked. “It could,” he responded. “But a set-top box can get embedded into a Slingbox,” he added in jest, but certainly with the quintessential wide-eyed optimism that entrepreneurs possess.

(via PVRWire)