Verizon’s FiOS TV Heads East

Dave Zatz —  November 21, 2005

Herdon, VA is the second community to receive Verizon’s TV offering beginning this week. Verizon’s FiOS TV provides television service over fiber optic lines utilizing both traditional broadcast technology and IPTV. They appear to be using the Motorola 6412 as the dual HD tuner hardware platform.

Unlike Verizon’s original deal in Texas, all of Fairfax County, VA has given Verizon the go-ahead to provide video to all residents, regardless of city jurisdiction. Additionally, state law in Texas has been modified which has resulted in Verizon being granted a state-wide license to offer television programming. I sure hope my state and local governments get on the ball – I’m oh-so-ready to dump Comcast.
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XM + Napster Beta Begins

Dave Zatz —  November 21, 2005

XM + NapsterXM and Naspter have begun beta testing their co-branded service. This new service provides a single interface for listening to over 70 XM stations and linking the currently playing artist to Napster’s artist/album information and downloadable selection of MP3s. New XM/Napster integrated players are also on the way. XM subscribers can find out more and download the software here.
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Official TiVoToGo on iPod, PSP

Dave Zatz —  November 21, 2005

iPodTiVo has announced software facilitating the transfer of shows from Series 2 units to both the iPod and PSP. While many techniques already exist (VLC, Videora, PSP Video 9), an officially sanctioned method along with tech support is a welcome addition. Unlike the currently supported conversions to Microsoft portable devices, this new method will embed a watermark within the video to identify the owner. Various news outlets are reporting the software may carry a $15 – $30 fee.

The cottage industry that has sprung up to support conversions and the lack of lawsuits has obviously emboldened TiVo to move in this direction. While they’re a bit late to the dance, this is an exciting to development. Throw in as many digital watermarks as it takes, just give me a quick and easy method of massaging content for playback on my various devices.

TiVo says: The enhancement will include exclusive capabilities such as TiVo auto-sync that will allow subscribers to choose if they want new recordings of their favorite programs easily transferred to their portable devices via their PC. Every morning the devices can be loaded with new programs recorded the night before.

“The increasing popularity of mobile devices for viewing video such as Apple’s iPod and the PSP device demonstrate the enormous consumer demand for entertainment on the go,” said Tom Rogers, CEO of TiVo. “By enhancing our TiVoToGo(TM) feature, we’re making it easy for consumers to enjoy the TV shows they want to watch right from their iPod or PSP — whenever and wherever they want.”

Subscribers will need to purchase certain low-cost software to facilitate the transfer of content from the PC to these portable devices. To discourage abuse or unlawful use of this feature, TiVo intends to employ “watermark” technologies on programs transferred to a portable device using the TiVoToGo feature that would enable tracking of the account from which a transferred program originated.

[Tip via megazone]

Charlie's AngelsThe first high definition Blu-ray feature length film is in the can. Is Sony’s library so poor that they had to go with Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle? Then again, it can’t be any worse than Stealth. Despite their poor taste in content, the disc will be shipped to manufacturers for next-gen player development. Perhaps Netflix is right in stating Blue-ray has won.

Sony says: Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle was compressed and authored in MPEG 2 full high-definition (1920 x 1080) by Sony Pictures’ Digital Authoring Center (DAC) and is now being shipped to BD hardware companies for player testing. Utilizing Blu-ray’s unprecedented storage capacity, the Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle disc features dynamic menus with full resolution graphics and animation, superior audio and unparalleled picture quality. “We are confident this achievement will help everyone understand that Blu-ray is real and poised to enter the marketplace,” said Mr. Feingold. “Blu-ray will bring the highest quality HD experience possible to the home.”

Cisco Buys Scientific-Atlanta

Dave Zatz —  November 18, 2005


Networking giant Cisco just picked up Scientific-Atlanta, one of the largest manufacturers of set-top boxes, for nearly 7 BILLION dollars. The deal, and Cisco’s intent, is especially interesting when combined with Cisco’s earlier acquisition of KiSS, maker of networked home entertainment gear. So how long before we see a cable company DVR with built-in cable modem, wireless router, and UPnP server?

CNN says: Cisco Systems Inc. agreed Friday to buy Scientific-Atlanta Inc., one of the largest makers of set-top boxes used by cable subscribers, in a cash deal with $6.9 billion. “Video is emerging as the key strategic application in the service provider triple play bundle of consumer entertainment, communication and online services,” said a statement from Cisco CEO and President John Chambers. Earlier this year Cisco bought KiSS Technology, a privately held Danish tech firm that makes consumer electronics such as DVD players and digital video recorders that can connect to a home network and access content from the Web.

Netflix Declares Blu-ray Winner

Dave Zatz —  November 17, 2005

NetflixA next generation DVD format war isn’t good for consumers or the industry. When I spoke with Steve Swasey, Director of Corporate Communications, in September he stated Netflix was concerned about a fragmented market and hoped for consolidation. Neflix CFO, Barry McCarthy, touched on this topic during an investor conference call yesterday. In addition to the typical positive company spin and business opportunities you hear in these presentations, McCarthy declared Blu-ray the winner of the next generation DVD war and speculated on high-def disc pricing. It’s yet to be seen whether or not their Blu-ray proclamation is premature.

(Tip and transcription via Davis Freeberg)

Netflix says: As many know there’s been a format war. Two formats have been proposed as a successor to DVD, one sponsored by Warner primarily and one sponsored by Sony. Warner is HD DVD and Sony is Blu-ray. I think it’s pretty clear that Blu-ray has won. Even Warner has agreed to license and to release technology to Blu-ray, only Universal hasn’t made a commitment at this point, so I think the format wars are a thing of the past and I think it’s going to be Blu-ray. I think the content will get priced at a 20% premium. I think it’s going to roll out slowly over time.

CableCARDThomas Hawk got the scoop on Microsoft providing HD CableCARD support for the Media Center Edition (MCE) of Windows Vista in 2006. Even though they’re using the existing one-way standard, this is very exciting news which extends encrypted digital cable beyond the TV.

It makes me wonder if TiVo is sitting on the sidelines waiting for the multistream, bi-directional CableCARD 2.0 or if they’re also pushing forward. It’s much easier to upgrade a computer than it is a proprietary set-top box, so TiVo could be holding out. I also wonder what this means regarding the future of software like SnapStream’s BeyondTV. Unless they too are able to harness encrypted cable, their days could be numbered.

Microsoft says: Microsoft Corp. and Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs®) today announced they have reached an agreement that will allow Microsoft and PC manufacturers to bring to market digital-cable-ready Windows® Media Center-based PCs in the holiday 2006 time frame. “This agreement is an important milestone for our customers who want access to high-definition digital cable content on their PCs and a major step toward enabling a solution for the delivery of that content,” said Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of the Windows eHome Division at Microsoft. “The cable industry is very interested in having the PC serve as another means to allow consumers to enjoy cable programming,” said Richard R. Green, president and CEO of CableLabs. “By working with Microsoft and the IT industry, we have come up with a solution to enable consumers to enjoy the wide range of entertainment options they want.”