Archives For mari

5 Geeky Gifts Under $50

Mari Silbey —  December 14, 2012

As the clock winds down on holiday shopping, here are a few more gift ideas for the geek in your life. And if your loved ones don’t like them, they can always take the return money and buy the latest whiz bang thing after CES in January. (Dave and I are both going, by the way.) Just keep in mind that half the products announced at CES never make it to market, so maybe these gifts are their best bet after all. At $50 or less, they shouldn’t be too hard on your wallet. 

Winegard FreeVision FV-30BB HDTV Antenna

Winegard FreeVision FV-30BB HDTV antenna

Now that OTA TV is making a comeback, it may be time to invest in that HD antenna. The Winegard FreeVision FV-30BB gets good reviews from users on Amazon, and it rings in at a manageable $37.84. Some locations will have a hard time getting OTA signals no matter how good the antenna, but this should boost the chances of a decent signal, and some high-quality, freebie television watching.

iPod Building Block Speakers

iPod Building Block Speakers

Shaped like Legos, but apparently without the commercial naming rights, these iPod docks are a cute, kitschy way to broadcast tunes locally. The iPod Building Block speakers are reportedly compatible with the iPod®mini, iPod®Touch (1st Generation), iPod®nano (1-4th generation), iPod® (3-5th generation), and iPod® Classic. Pick a color (no red or blue in stock, unfortunately), and the speaker dock is yours for only $21.99.  Continue Reading…

Aereo Headed to Smart TVs

Mari Silbey —  December 6, 2012

Video Nuze VideoSchmooze 2012 Colin Dixon and Chet Kanojia

At yesterday’s VideoSchmooze conference in New York, Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia told the audience that his company will soon release more applications for the 10-foot television experience. Aereo is planning to launch apps for a variety of smart TVs shortly, and for adjunct TV devices, including the Roku. Aereo has a private channel for the Roku today, but will release a more complete experience for the device in the near future. Kanojia also noted that “conceptually” games consoles make a lot of sense for Aereo too.

To date, Aereo is still only available in New York City, and it continues to fight for its legal right to exist. Broadcasters want to shut Aereo down because the company gets around retransmission fees by assigning a tiny antenna to each customer and transcoding over-the-air signals for delivery over IP. So far the courts haven’t forced Aereo to close its doors, but the legal battle has only just begun.

Meanwhile, Aereo’s technology is sophisticated enough that I’m still theorizing the company has a back-up plan if its current business model doesn’t survive. Aereo also has an advantage in that its technology costs are minimal. Kanojia threw out one stat yesterday that drove home that point. He said that the cost of transcoding a single stream of video a couple of years ago was around $6,000. Today, that number is in the single digits.

A Tablet Dilemma in 3 Parts

Mari Silbey —  November 15, 2012

I have three tablet purchases to consider this holiday shopping season. And oddly, each one involves a different operating system.

To start, there’s the obvious. With the launch of the iPad Mini, my Apple-obsessed husband finds himself percolating over whether to ask for the new, smaller Apple tablet. Sexy as it is, there are two detractions. First, no Retina display. Since he already has the iPad 2, it would be nice for a new purchase to include the Retina upgrade. Second, the data plan. My husband is grandfathered in on an unlimited AT&T data plan, which would likely go away with the transition to LTE. Keep in mind to that he just traded in his iPhone 4S (at a profit) for the new iPhone 5, so he is covered on the new Apple gadget front. What’s a gift-giving wife to do?

Next there’s the new Microsoft Surface RT.

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I continue to be fascinated by Yahoo’s  persistence in the connected TV market. Earlier this week, the company announced an expanded, multi-year partnership with Samsung to keep the Yahoo Broadcast Interactivity platform front and center on Samsung TVs. Even while Yahoo’s smart TV features and widgets have failed inspire much interest from consumers, the company is still doggedly pursuing a position in the living room. And it just might have a long-term strategy that works.

Yahoo’s TV play isn’t aimed at consumers. It’s all about advertising, and getting a platform embedded in connected TVs now for future applications. The consumer electronics guys know they need a platform, and by and large they also know they have to find experienced partners to implement one. Yahoo fits the bill, and it has the added benefit of not being as threatening as, say, Google or Apple from a partnership perspective.

That said, Yahoo isn’t the only game in town. Its biggest direct competitor may be Rovi, which is aggressively targeting the CE market and has its own deals in place with Samsung,  Sony and Toshiba. Yahoo and Rovi don’t offer the same features and functions, but they are both going after the same valuable territory in the connected TV market. Count the new Samsung deal as a win for Yahoo’s side.

Right in the middle of Halloween and Hurricane Sandy, my new report for GigaOM Pro on the future of the electronic program guide (EPG) went live last week.

If you’re a subscriber, you can read the whole write-up including market trends, recent technology innovations, company details and predictions for the future. If you’re not, have no fear.  As promised, GigaOM is kindly allowing me to publish an excerpt here. Drop me a line if you have any thoughts, questions, or insightful commentary to add, or if there’s another long-form topic you think I should turn my attention to next.

From What the Shift to the Cloud Means for the Future EPG in the U.S. 

Market Disruptors

…Beyond the traditional service providers, hardware manufacturers, and software companies that make up the television ecosystem, a number of new players are entering the market with disruptive models. On one end are new hybrid service providers, many of which are small operators or startup companies. Then there are the consumer electronics companies, including smart-TV manufacturers and retail set-top providers. Finally there are behemoth companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft, which are approaching the television business with capital and expertise built in other industries…

CE companies are attempting several different strategies that range from partnering with guide providers to building their own cloud-based platforms to relying on simple and inexpensive client-based guide software. The connected-TV companies are largely taking the first approach. Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba, for example, all partner with Rovi, although Samsung in particular has stated its ambition to create a connected-TV platform. The retail box providers, however, are more of a mixed bag. Apple licenses Rovi guide technology for Apple TV, and it appears that Google does the same to support its user interface for Google TV, though little has been said about that relationship publicly. Boxee ports its own software onto branded boxes that are made by other manufacturers. And Roku relies on its own inexpensive client-side guide software in order to keep consumer prices down. In each case, these hardware providers have their own branded guides, but the underlying technology sources vary widely.

The final group in the market-disruptors category is the sleeping giants – large companies in different industries that have begun to encroach on the TV-service-provider space. Google and Apple began offering their own retail set-tops years ago, but they have largely maintained those products as sideline businesses, providing access only to web content and not focusing major resources on breaking through in the more traditional television-service-provider space. The big question is whether Google and Apple will change their strategies in the future.  Continue Reading…

Morega TV quad-stream transcoding demo

Dave digs the TiVo Stream, and has a professional history with Sling, but those guys aren’t the only placeshifting players in town. Morega is another contender, powering the DirecTV Nomad box and with other deals in place for its media networking software. I know this in part because I’ve been doing some indirect work for the company, but also because Morega has been upping its profile in the cable space. I can’t say my perspective is unbiased on this one, but Morega has some cool stuff going on.

First off, the Morega software does streaming and syncing of content coming in through your TV. Depending on how a provider wants to use the technology, you can:

  • Stream live or recorded TV to other devices (locally or beyond)
  • Sync recorded TV to a mobile device for offline viewing

Morega demo media source boxAnd, at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo show last week, Morega showed off quad-stream transcoding, i.e. four streams transcoded at once so that you can be moving lots of different content around to lots of different places. (Shot above shows real-time transcoding displayed on a laptop screen for demo purposes) Continue Reading…

ActiveVideo CloudTV Guide October 2012

On the one hand, with more HTML5 program guides in the works, the TV UI is going to get a lot prettier and a lot more functional. On the other, if Dave’s ticked off now about the ads on his Panasonic Viera TV, just wait until these web-based guides really get going as new ad delivery platforms. In case you hadn’t noticed, television is going the way of the Internet. And that means aggressively targeted ads will soon be the norm.

We’ve still got a few years before the connected TV ad transition takes hold, but HTML5 guide development is already well underway. In addition to the NDS Snowflake guide at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo last week, I saw web-based UIs from ActiveVideo, Rovi and Arris. The first two were of ActiveVideo’s CloudTV interface, which is already deployed by Cablevision*, and the third was an ActiveVideo proof-of-concept VOD guide. The fourth was Rovi’s web-based guide, and the fifth and sixth were an HTML5 guide from Arris.

NDS Snowflake guide 1

The SCTE Cable-Tec Expos is an engineer’s show, but there are always a few hidden gems with broader appeal. One of them this year was the NDS HTML5 Snowflake guide. You can’t find it anywhere in the U.S. yet, but UPC has deployed it in the Netherlands with the new Horizon service. And now that NDS is part of Cisco, there may be a better chance that some version of Snowflake will end up with a cable, telco or satellite provider near you.

There are a few key things to know about Snowflake. First, even though it’s HTML5, it doesn’t have to run on an IP box. NDS creates an abstraction layer on top of existing set-top software to support the guide, which is actually hosted in the network. (A handful of other companies are doing this too now, by the way.) Second, while your set-top doesn’t have to be an IP box a la the AT&T U-verse model, the fact that the guide is IP-based means it runs on tablets and smartphones too. Third, in addition to the pretty UI, web-based guides like Snowflake can add in a whole lot of new information – think personalization, content recommendations, and eventually targeted advertising.

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