I journeyed up to Verizon’s New Jersey headquarters last week for a highly informative briefing by the guys defining FiOS TV product requirements and managing the engineering personnel. In addition to demo-ing the maintenance release due this quarter and having customer questions/concerns addressed, I’m the first person outside of Verizon to check out some compelling features they’ve got in the pipeline. It’ll take me at least two posts to cover all the info and, since the media extender functionality has got me all fired up, we’ll start there. The features below are pretty far along in development and slated to hit FiOS TV boxes in Q1 or Q2 of next year.
FiOS TV as Media Extender
Verizon’s FiOS TV Interactive Media Guide (IMG) currently offers rudimentary photo and music PC sharing capabilities. However, with upcoming releases, music and photo navigation will be enhanced (folders, playlists) AND the ability to stream video from “Media Manager” will be added. All sorts of file formats (AVI, MPEG4, DiVx, Flash, etc) will be transcoded on the fly. Currently, the transcoding is resolution-independent… Meaning you can throw any size video at it and, while the video will stream PC->DVR as MPEG2, the resolution won’t be touched. Thinking about all the HD video available via BitTorrent, I can see Verizon choosing to throttle back resolutions during the development process in order to keep transfers efficient.
Mobile and Web DVR scheduling
During my previous visit to Verizon, I checked out an early build of the mobile DVR scheduling software. This time around, I saw a fully operational and beefed up handset client. Not only can you browse your custom guide and schedule recordings instantaneously, you can also delete recordings and adjust parental controls (per channel even) on the fly. Given the cramped keypads of most (non-smart) phones, Verizon will allow you to search by voice! Similar functionality (other than voice search) will also be provided via a rich web interface.
A variety of casual and more involved games are also coming to FiOS TV. The simpler ones will reside on the box, while the video based “pay per day” and subscription games (powered by SnapTV) will stream some elements like VOD. The DVR will never replace your Wii or Xbox and this doesn’t particularly interest me. I’ll be curious to learn if they find a (paying) audience for this feature. If nothing else, “games” are nice line item when folks make the inevitable cable company set-top box comparison.
Set-Top Boxes Get Social
Can’t figure out what to watch? Look to your neighbors for help. “What’s Hot” displays what other folks in your region (think: state) are viewing. The real-time results (sampled every three minutes) are based on anonymous data.
While I didn’t even cover the additional guide views, tuner swapping via remote, or other small enhancements… these are the biggies on tap for the first half next year. I’ve got more info tucked away in my notes and in my head, so feel free to hit me with questions. If I don’t know the answers, I’ll compile the queries for Verizon – they appear quite motivated in reaching out to current and potential customers. Speaking of which, let’s reserve comments on this post to these new features since there’ll be another post (in the next day or so) covering concerns with the current build and the Q4 maintenance release.