Akimbo’s New Lease On Life

Dave Zatz —  October 16, 2005

Akimbo, the broadband video download company, has a problem which takes the form of a set-top box. See, I’m all boxed out… between DVD players, TiVo’s, HD tuner, and even an Xbox I just won’t add to the clutter. Not to mention I’m reluctant to buy a box from a fledgling company with no track record.

So this weekend’s DigitalLife revelation that Akimbo has integrated service into Microsoft’s MCE has got me dusting off my HTPC. They’ll have access to a much larger audience without requiring any upfront hardware costs, giving Akimbo a fighting chance at survival. In order to utilize Microsoft’s browser-based API the Akimbo interface doesn’t have the same polished look as the stand alone box, but that’s a minor concession to make. Service is slated to begin 10/25 using the same pricing model currently in place. I’m excited to see HD content will be available, unlike the box, though that’s not quite ready for delivery and will most likely be offered as a “premium” service.

Recent additions of Discovery and MLB content are positive signs, but long-term success probably requires more content providers (no, the Hallmark channel doesn’t cut it). Since Movielink can stream flicks utilizing Microsoft’s DRM, perhaps Akimbo will enhance their service down the road – downloads are OK, but I’m an impatient guy.

Akimbo on MCE

Which rumors you ask… support for every codec ever invented, well organized interface, pocketable form factor, FM, compact flash? No that other rumor, the one about the screen.

Having played with the Zen Vision(s) over the last few days, I am sad to report the display rumors are true – the viewing angle is crap. I’m not sure what causes the problem, whether it’s the LCD elements, protective coating, or something else. Regardless, the Vision’s specs are great across the board but having to use the device under low light while holding it at a very specific angle is a deal breaker.

The good news is that the Roboraptor, my other must-have gadget of the year, does live up to expectations and will be joining my household shortly.

Zen Visions

VCR HeadstoneI managed to corner some more TiVo folks here at DigitalLife and take some interesting photos.

What I conveniently called system software 7.3 yesterday turns out to be 7.2.1, for those of you keeping score. I looked closer at the “Overlap Protection” feature and while it may be overdue, it’s a very welcome enhancement. Basically if the network schedules a show to end at 9:01, your 9:00 show isn’t recorded. With “Overlap Protection,” on by default, both shows will be recorded with the higher priority show gaining the extra time. As seen in the picture below, you can manually change which show gets priority.
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Dear Netgear,

You like me, you really like me! Your marketing department had a stroke of genius in naming the upcoming streaming media center DAVE 700.

I’m fairly pleased that the Digital Audio Video Entertainer (DAVE) is living room-friendly, assuming a traditional set-top form factor in favor of the current MP101’s compact case. And I don’t mind that you’ve dropped the LCD – after all, my TV makes for a great display. But what really impresses me is DAVE’s extensive format support: DivX, Ogg Vorbis, AAC, QuickTime, and the list goes on. You’ve also represented me well in terms of connectivity, supporting S-Video, Component, Composite, Wireless G, and USB. DVI or HDMI would have been nice, but I can live without given your $200 price point which includes the ability to directly connect an iPod or external drive. The ability to stream content from the Internet, through services such as vTuner, opens the door to many interesting possibilities (see Akimbo’s MCE integration.)

Before I can fully endorse DAVE, though, I’ll need to see your PC desktop client software in action. At the core of all streaming devices like these is the software that catalogs and serves media for streaming. Given your experiences with the MP101 and the newer MP115, I hope we’ll see a mature app with attractive and intuitive interface that quickly identifies then queues up my PC content with low overhead.

Thank you again for the homage,


TiVo LogoTiVo still has a few (minor) tricks up their sleeve this year…

Within the next month or so we can expect a Series 2 software update, which I’ll conveniently call 7.3. It enhances HME functionality, adds show overlap prioritization, and contains the requisite under-the-hood tweaks and bug fixes. In hardware news, a TiVo branded wireless adaptor will be available for sale.

As previously reported Tivo-hosted server-based HME applications will go live. Many of the initial TiVo-produced HME apps will provide similar functionality as Galleon, but without the need for running Java programs on your PC. I got to see a few in action… While I can’t say I was impressed with the little games (TiVo is no XBox), the Podcasting feature is useful and well executed for a first generation widget. TiVo has identified, categorized, and linked to quite a few Podcasts, but you have the ability to manually enter the location of any others you might fancy. The audio content is streamed via your broadband connection through the television.

In order to programmatically compensate for the networks’ strategy of staggered start and end show times (9:01 for example), TiVo will be introducing a configurable “Overlap” function in 7.3.

First spotted this summer in Vegas, I can now provide a few more details on the mysterious dongle of 2005 (not to be confused with the presumably abandoned 2004 TivoToGo dongle shown at CES). TiVo will begin selling a branded wireless G adapter which should result in fewer networking hassles, such as hardware compatibility. Nice enough, but not so exciting… The much bigger news is this dongle “offloads” some of the “heavy lifting” currently performed by Series 2 hardware – meaning both Multi-room Viewing (MRV) and TiVoToGo (TTG) will be noticeably quicker.
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Live From DigitalLife

Dave Zatz —  October 14, 2005

Both TiVo and I are here at the Javits Center in NYC! Bob Poniatowsky, of Tivo Product Marketing, graciously answered some of my intrusive questions – stay tuned for the details. Additionally, Netgear has a new media device on the horizon which I’ll be reporting on. Akimbo, Orb Networks, and some of the Slingbox folks are also here – so we’ll see what else I can dig up.

And yes, I did see TiVo’s VCR coffin. The mortuary music is definitely over the top, though it hasn’t discouraged the decent sized crowd from picking up free boxes.

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Sony Updates PSP, VOD & TV

Dave Zatz —  October 13, 2005

Location Free TVSony made good on their promise to provide LocationFree TV with today’s PSP 2.5 software upgrade. Streaming live television through the house to a PSP is mildly impressive… However, being able to use the Internet to provide a remote television feed (see Slingbox) is quite cool, indeed. What Sony neglected to mention is the cheapest LocationFree TV unit goes for $1100.

This update also provides support for those of us in America to eventually purchase and view video content – perhaps similar to the Japanese video portal. The timing of this announcement is quite coincidental (or not) to yesterday’s release of the video iPod with the ability to purchase downloadable television shows via iTunes.

Sony says: You can watch TV or videos on your PSP™ system by using the LocationFree™ Player. To watch TV or videos at home, you must have a LocationFree™ Base Station (a Sony product sold separately). To watch away from home, you must have a LocationFree™ Base Station (a Sony product sold separately) and access to the Internet using a wireless LAN.

Copyright-protected video can now be played under [Video]. Note that fees may be charged to obtain or use copyright-protected video. Downloadable copyright-protected video may not be available in all countries and regions.

PSP 2.5

(via Engadget)