Archive for February, 2009

Zatz Not Funny: iPhone apps of the week, placeshifting cable TV, Hulu drops the hammer, mobile broadband choices

A periodic roundup of relevant news from our friends at Zatz Not Funny

The free media-centric iPhone apps of the week

Dave Zatz: Roxio Streamer is a brand new app that hooks into their OS X Toast 10 software ($80) to transcode and stream transferred TiVo video, EyeTV recordings, and a variety of other media from Mac to iPhone or iPod Touch over WiFi.

Cable’s new approach to Placeshifting

Mari Silbey: Although we’ve seen some minor attempts by cable operators to let subscribers place-shift their TV programs – witness Comcast’s Any Room initiative – for the most part cable TV customers are stuck watching their shows in one place. Today several news outlets are reporting that the big cable companies have a plan in the works to change that.

Hulu drops the hammer

Dave Zatz: I sort of figured this day would come… Based on my perception of the licensing/royalty complexities and content providers fear that a current web video catalog piped to the television competes with live broadcasts. Hulu has shown their true colors – spawned of big media and beholden to big media.

Choosing a broadband card (Verizon or Sprint)

Dave Zatz: In choosing a broadband card and service, most modern 3G hardware should be fine. Assuming you can get a good deal (which you usually can), the key factors in making a decision are access, coverage, and contract terms.

Video: 26 minutes of Palm Pre goodness

It’s a quiet day today on the news front after the flurry of announcements that came out of Mobile World Congress (MWC). And although I already highlighted five new handsets that caught my eye, none captured my imagination quite as much as the Palm Pre and accompanying webOS that was unveiled last month.

Sadly, we didn’t learn much new about the Pre at MWC, such as an exact release date (either in the States or here in the UK), but the good folks over at precommunity.com did capture an extended demo – all 26 minutes – of Palm’s comeback device. Once again it looks like bloggers and the wider press could look but not touch, nonetheless things are a lot less rushed this time and even in the space of a month the Pre’s software appears much more complete, making the wait that bit harder. Full video after the jump…

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Hulu blocks Boxee, could Firefox, IE and Safari be next?


quick intro to boxee from boxee on Vimeo.

The news that Hulu has asked Boxee to remove access to its content is ridiculous on many levels.

Not least is the fact that, in relation to Hulu, technically speaking Boxee is just a web browser that happens to be optimized for a ‘ten foot’ or TV-like viewing experience rather than for when you’re sat directly in front of the PC. And crucially, since Boxee has yet to license its software to set-top box makers or build a box of its own, the only way to get Boxee content onto a TV is via a PC (aside from running Boxee on a hacked AppleTV). Once the PC is using the TV as its monitor, any content can be displayed on the television, including using a standard web browser such as Firefox, IE or Safari to access Hulu or any online video site. All Boxee has done is design a better browsing experience for when you’re sat further away. In other words, Boxee alone doesn’t enable Hulu to be viewed on the TV, it just makes it more convenient.

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MWC: Five handsets that caught my eye

This week’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona has seen a flurry of handset announcements boasting, amongst other features, more megapixels, support for HD video, OLED screens and touchscreen UIs. Here’s five handsets that caught my eye.

Samsung Omnia HD

Not content with competing on megapixels alone, the Omnia HD, as the name suggests, is the first smartphone to both record and playback High Definition video. And that’s proper High Def (720p) unlike the slightly misleadingly named Touch HD from HTC. However, there’s much, much more to like about the Omnia HD, not least its 3.7″ AM OLED touch screen, which if the screen on Nokia’s N85 is anything to go by (I have one on loan right now), will be absolutely stunning. The device also has full DLNA certification, meaning that it’s possible to share media shot or stored on the handset with other UPnP AV devices, such as a PlayStation 3 connected to a High Definition TV.

OS-wise, the Omnia HD uses the latest Symbian OS and the touch-friendly version of S60, although Samsung have customized the home screen quite a bit, including various widgets as first seen on the Tocco.

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Nokia announces 'Ovi' mobile app store – is that a Facebook app I see?

MySpace and Facebook are cited as early partners

Apple may not have a physical presence at this week’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, but the company’s influence can be seen everywhere. Not least in Nokia’s newly announced third-party application store.

The Ovi Store will offer “a range of content including applications, games, videos, widgets, podcasts, location-based applications and personalised content”, and will be available on both S60 and Series 40 devices. The first handset to ship with the store pre-installed will be the recently announced Nokia N97, which is set to launch by June. Sensibly, Nokia will also make the Ovi Store available to existing S60 and Series 40 handsets through a simple download in May. Revenue from paid-for apps will be split 70/30 in the developer’s favor, exactly the same deal offered by the iPhone’s App Store. All very Apple-esqe, so far.

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Weekly wrapup: HD Netbooks, PS3 streaming, Google Latitude, Spotify, Nokia, Facebook, and more

Here’s a summary of the last two week’s digital lifestyle action on last100. Note that you can subscribe to the weekly wrapups, either via the special weekly wrapup RSS feed or by email.

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Internet TV

HD video coming to a Netbook near you

I may have jumped on the Netbook bandwagon a little early, as these low-cost mini-notebooks are about to get a whole lot better. Especially in terms of video playback.

Vudu’s latest price cut is a start, here’s what else they need to do

Any price cut is a welcome one and, slowly but surely, Vudu is getting closer to the ‘feels like free’ price point that I’ve argued is needed if the service is ever to go mass market. For that to happen, however, here’s what else Vudu needs to do.

The numbers say it all: why Netflix went exclusive with XBox 360

In a joint announcement, Microsoft and Netflix have put out some numbers on the success of Netflix’s ‘Watch Instantly’ Internet TV service on Microsoft’s XBox 360 games console.

Rivet 2.0, another Mac to PlayStation 3 streaming solution

To get the Mac to talk to the PlayStation I’ve been using Nullriver’s solution, MediaLink, which, aside from occasionally needing to restart the application, has worked a treat. However, as of this week, Nullriver has some competition. Cynical Peak Software have updated their Mac to XBox 360 offering with support for the PS3.

Mobile

Should Nokia get into bed with Facebook? Err, yes

There would of course be internal questions about how much to prop up a potential competitor, but in the social networking game, network effects (number of users) win out and Facebook has this in abundance.

Turn your iPhone into an Apple Remote

Another remote control application has hit the the iPhone’s App store. This time, “Rowmote” emulates Apple’s own remote control, the Apple Remote, which used to ship for ‘free’ with the company’s consumer Macs but now has to be purchased separately at an additional cost of $19.

Google Latitude shows what’s wrong with Nokia’s social location (SoLo) strategy

If the next frontier is mobile, a key battle ground is going to be location-based services. And, drilling down further, location-based social networking, such as the ability to share your current location with friends. Yesterday, Google went head-to-head with Nokia and a plethora of startups with such an application.

Digital Music

Spotify, a very compelling music streaming service

Spotify isn’t browser-based but instead offers a very nice desktop client (Mac and Windows) that has a distinctively iTunes look and feel to it. Since the service has licensing agreements with all four majors and a bunch of indies, one way to think of Spotify is as a massive jukebox in the sky.

A year after launch, free music service Qtrax has all four majors but questions remain

Twelve months ago, free ad-supported music download service Qtrax launched in a blaze of controversy, most notably claiming it had support from all four major record labels, which was news to them. Qtrax is going after the holy grail of music, free and legal downloads, and so it wasn’t surprising that the company faced a licensing uphill battle. A year later and all the “t”s have been crossed and the “i”s dotted: EMI, Warner, Sony BMG and Universal Music are on board, and a relaunch is planned for next month.

That’s a wrap! Thanks for reading.

- Steve

Zatz Not Funny: Kindle 2, Media Extenders, Netflix and Win Mob

A periodic roundup of relevant news from our friends at Zatz Not Funny

The Amazon Kindle 2

Dave Zatz: After months of leaks, speculation, and zero inventory, Amazon’s second generation e-reader has arrived.

The week in media extenders

Dave Zatz: With improving sales and increased consumer awareness of network-sourced content, perhaps AppleTV will graduate from “hobby” status later this year. At the very least, Apple’s showing a bit of life around this initiative by distributing a customer survey.

Netflix Queue Manager for Windows Mobile

Dave Zatz: CES is a huge event, so it’s no surprise we might have overlooked a few hidden gems… such as the Mobile Manager for Netflix demo-ed at CntrStg. As you might expect, given the app’s name, Mobile Manager for Netflix allows you to manage your queue(s) and see the discs you have at home.

Archerfish brings video analysis to Placeshifting

Dave Zatz: One of the most frequent requests I received while employed by Sling Media came from small businesses and higher-end home owners looking for more enterprise-esque video monitoring with placeshifting features, but at reasonable prices. While Sling hasn’t yet acted on this demand, video analytics firm Cernium answers the call next week with the release of Archerfish.

Should Nokia get into bed with Facebook? Err, yes

Nokia is in protracted talks with Facebook about ways to further integrate the hugely popular social networking site into select handsets, reports WSJ. Although any partnership deal has yet to be struck, and may never be, according to the article, citing “a person familiar with the talks”.

An obvious feature that’s being explored is deeper integration of Facebook user profiles and contact info into the phones address book, similar to the INQ1 and the yet-to-be released Palm Pre. “When users looked up a contact, they could see whether their Facebook friends were logged on, send them messages and post comments on their profile pages.”

A potential stumbling block, however, is Nokia’s concern over how much mobile-specific user data Facebook would get their hands on. “Nokia doesn’t want the service to provide Facebook with an avenue to compile data about cellphone users, such as their Web browsing or purchasing habits…”

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A year after launch, free music service Qtrax has all four majors but questions remain

Twelve months ago, free ad-supported music download service Qtrax launched in a blaze of controversy, most notably claiming it had support from all four major record labels, which was news to them. Qtrax is going after the holy grail of music, free and legal downloads, and so it wasn’t surprising that the company faced a licensing uphill battle. A year later and all the “t”s have been crossed and the “i”s dotted: EMI, Warner, Sony BMG and Universal Music are on board, reports AP, and a relaunch is planned for next month. However, a few questions remain.

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Spotify, a very compelling music streaming service

My music streaming weapon of choice used to be Pandora, the Music Genome Project-based service in which a group of experts have analyzed the component parts or ‘genes’ of thousands of tracks in order to recommend like-minded music. I not only found its recommendations (play tracks similar to artist or genre x) to be more accurate than rival Last.fm, but also loved its simple User Interface, designed perfectly for when I’m in a lazy listening mood. The problem is that Pandora stopped being accessible from the UK a while back. Enter Spotify, a new music streaming service, which this week publicly launched in the UK.

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