FiOS TV customers will begin receiving the 1.6 set-top box software update in a staggered rollout beginning later this summer. Since I’ve already covered streaming Internet video features slated for deployment towards the end of this year or early next, this post focuses on more immediate functionality. However, we’ve seen much of this previewed before… The major upgrade had been pushed back to squeeze in a maintenance release (1.5) – inclusive of improved video quality, higher VOD reliability, and support for new Morotola (MPEG-4 capable) CableCARD set-top boxes to meet the FCC’s July 1 separable security extension deadline.
In addition to over 200 bug fixes and enhancements, here’s a run-down of some of the more visible and significant features of 1.6:
Widgets – More informational widgets with 1.6 at launch and going forward. Internet-based data is pulled via RSS/XML. Pictures of news, local weather, and horoscopes below. Though I still prefer Moxi’s ticker style presentation of this info (think ESPN or CNN).
Games – A variety of games will be offered. Some of the casual gaming will be free and/or sponsored (notice the ad in the Sudoku pic below), while other games will incur a fee. Of course the real power and promise comes via Internet-connectivity… and the ESPN Fantasy Football integration looks hot.
HD Streaming – Multi-room viewing will be available in HD. Stream recorded HD content from a DVR to other HD Verizon set-top boxes (DVR or not) around the house, up to two simultaneous streams. Somewhat related, the new Motorola boxes have slightly larger hard drive capacities though an external storage option will not be available until 2009.
Content Discovery – What’s Hot displays what other folks in your region are watching (anonymously). Content discovery functionality will ultimately be expanded to include affinity (friends) and computed show recommendations.
Web Scheduling – Real-time DVR web access will be made available including scheduling, management of currently recorded programing, and a free space indicator. Initially customers in the top tier DVR package will receive access, though it’ll ultimately be made available to all. Related, DVR phone scheduling will also be made available later this year.
PC-based Video Streaming – Verizon Media Manager software will be updated to allow the transcoding and streaming of a variety of PC-based video (including high definition), in addition to the existing photo and music support.
Additionally, Verizon’s incorporated a variety of subtle enhancements subscribers should appreciate – such as concurrent 60 minute buffers on both tuners within a snappier and more efficient interface (less clicking “OK”). Verizon’s also been doing some significant work on the backend to facilitate forthcoming interactive television services. Last but not least, VZ wanted to assure customers that they’re taking feedback very seriously – not only do they continue to monitor forums and blogs, they’ve expanded and formalized external beta testing.