Author Archive

HBO cautiously wades in Internet TV waters with new show "Hooking Up"

We’ve seen how major television networks such as Fox, NBC, CBS, and ABC and second-tier networks like The CW have been using the Web, but noticeably absent from this activity has been creative powerhouse HBO.

HBO on Monday announced it will be using the Web slightly differently than most, launching its own Web video series called “Hooking Up.” It’s a part of HBOlab, an experimental offshoot of the cable network’s online programming.

Jessica Rose of “lonelygirl15” will star in a 10-part show that begins airing on Oct. 1 on its own site — — and on MySpaceTV and YouTube. Rose is accompanied on the show by video bloggers sxePhil and KevJumba, giving the program three of the Internet’s most popular entertainers.

“I think we’re going to see a lot more hits than had we cast a bunch of funny people you didn’t know,” said Fran Shea, head of HBOlab.

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With little fanfare, Microsoft confirms details of third-gen Zune digital music players

Poor Zune. No matter what Microsoft does, its portable MP3 player is still treated like an ugly stepchild.

Rather than launching the third generation Zune to fanfare as planned on Sept. 16, Microsoft’s hand was forced when a partner — Ars Technica says it was the retailer Fry’s — “inadvertently posted a lion’s share of information” on the new devices, and Microsoft decided it might as well confirm the details.

All of this coming, of course, less than a day before Apple is expected to update its line of iPods with its usual special-event, hyped-to-the-max news conference.

The new Zunes include a handful of new features, none of which will erode Apple’s market dominance, but they are welcomed nonetheless. The first lets you buy songs over Wi-Fi, which you can already do on the iPod touch and iPhone through Apple’s iTunes Store.

Another feature allows you to buy songs you hear on the FM radio, something I would have liked 10 years ago, but now with the iPod (or Zune) who listens to FM radio all the time? The Zune also will be getting some music recommendation features, casual games, and a lower price for the Zune Pass subscription service.

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Will it be enough? Joost to ditch desktop client in favor of Web-based player

It’s about time. Joost, last year’s “It” online video startup, has cast aside its desktop-only client in favor of a browser-based experience.

According to Om Malik, Joost will release a small plug-in that will embed itself in a browser to allow viewers to grab files using peer-to-peer technologies. The new browser-based video player is said to provide better quality than average video sites.

Since the story broke earlier today, NewTeeVee’s Liz Gannes has had a chance to poke around, which is password protected. (It will not be available to beta testers for about two weeks.) In the meantime, NewTeeVee,, and TechCrunch all have screenshots and/or video of New and Improved Joost in action.

While the early, early reviews are mostly favorable — videos start playing in a few seconds, they scale nicely for full-screen viewing — it’s hard to work up any excitement for New Joost, which seems like another version of Hulu, the online streaming video joint venture from NBC and Fox.

Unlike Hulu, however, New Joost suffers from a lack of prime content. Without it, why even bother with Joost?

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Moore's "Slacker Uprising" to forgo theaters and debut exclusively on Web

“Slacker Uprising,” filmmaker Michael Moore’s latest documentary, will debut exclusively on the Internet for free.

The documentary documents the controversial Moore as he treks through 62 cities during the 2004 U.S. presidential election to rally young voters (trailer). It will be available for download from Blip.TV for three weeks beginning Sept. 23.

A DVD of the film will be released Oct. 7 through and Netflix.

“Slacker Uprising” bypasses traditional theatrical release. In fact, Moore’s people say no consideration was given to releasing the 97-minute film in the theaters, which is unusual considering his last two films — “Sicko” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” — are two of the three highest grossing documentaries of all time.

“This is being done entirely as a gift to my fans,” Moore said in a statement. “The only return any of us are hoping for is the largest turnout of young voters ever at the polls in November. I think ‘Slacker Uprising’ will inspire million (sic) to get off the couch and give voting a chance.”

Amazon's Video on Demand service poised to give Apple's iTunes a run for its customers

Say goodbye (and good riddance) to Amazon Unbox and say hello (and welcome) to Amazon Video on Demand.

Amazon launched its new video streaming service Thursday. After a quick downloading and viewing of the TV show “Eureka,” we say Amazon Video on Demand is a worthy contender to Apple’s iTunes.

For one, Amazon’s new video service works where Unbox failed — it plays on Macs. And, another plus, the video starts steaming instantly. A big improvement over the boxy Unbox.

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Android Developer Challenge winners appear polished, ready for sale

It looks like Google may have made the right move with the Android Developer Challenge after all.

The winners of the first developer challenge, announced this evening, appear polished, well thought out, and ready for the first Android-powered phones to hit the streets in the not-too-distant future.

The Android Developer Challenge provides yet another contrast to Apple and its iPhone. Apple announced a software developers kit (SDK) for the iPhone this spring and a few months later the first iPhone/iPod touch applications went on sale at the App Store July 11.

While many of the iPhone applications performed flawlessly, many felt rushed and suffered from buggy behavior. Subsequent releases worked out the kinks.

Google certainly has had its share of problems with the Android SDK and cranky developers, but these Android apps seem tight, well developed, and ready for sale. Of course, final judgment cannot be levied until we actually have working Android phones in our hands and these applications running.

Of the 50 applicants that emerged from Round 1 of the ADC, 10 were awarded $275,000 each for their efforts, with another 10 receiving $100,000 each. A complete listing of winners and entrants is here.

The $275,000 winners include:

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What's in a name? Google's announces the Android Market, not the Android Store

The choice of name says it all: Android Market, not Android Store.

By design, Google is preparing the equivalent of an open-air marketplace for applications that will run on Android-powered smartphones. Google, which announced the Market late this afternoon through its Android developer blog, believes that developers should have an “open and unobstructed environment to make their content available.”

It’s a stark contrast to Apple’s App Store, where developers must submit applications for approval before release. The process has miffed many developers because their iPhone and iPod touch programs may take days, or weeks, before they show up for sale in the App Store.

Like a market or bazaar, Android developers can show up, set up shop, and sell their wares hassle free. Developers can submit applications to the Market using three steps: register as a merchant, upload and describe the content, and publish it.

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Hofstetter proves digital distribution works for indie comedians; lands spot on late-night TV

When we last left Steve Hofstetter, last100’s favorite digital comedian, Steve had offered up his latest album using the pay-what-you-want-model.

So how did that work out for him?

Not bad. Not bad at all.

In addition to making more “take-home” money on this album than the previous two, Hofstetter has landed a spot on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” his first late-night appearance. Hofstetter’s segment, taped at the end of July, will air the night of Sept. 3 (check local listings for airtime).

Hofstetter’s recent success doesn’t end there. Hofstetter, a small, independent artist far from the superstar status of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, embraced digital distribution and alternative business models, and they’ve embraced him.

Just last month, iTunes picked Hofstetter’s second album, “Cure for the Cable Guy,” as a staff pick and one of its top 15 favorite comedy albums of the past five years. “And it’s not even my favorite,” Hofstetter says.

Hofstetter continues to prove that indie artists of all sorts can build impressive careers using alternative distribution methods and business models, social media, and social networks like MySpace and Facebook. In addition to “The Late Late Show” and iTunes, Hofstetter has two scripts in the works — one for a sitcom, the other for a sports comedy show — that are getting attention.

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Warner Brothers to turn on; watch Veronica and Buffy for free on the Web

No matter what the shortcomings of are, it’s always nice to see more free, legal TV on the Web.

Warner Brothers announced it was resurrecting its defunct WB television brand as back in April. It will be available for all to see Wednesday after an extensive beta period.

At the time we liked the fact that a TV exec, Bruce Rosenblum, got the whole TV-on-the-Web thing. “We can’t stick out head in the sand and not acknowledge that there’s an evolution taking place,” he said in April. is rich on content if you like older programs such as “Friends,” “The OC,” “Veronica Mars,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and “Angel.” It even has full shows of “Friends,” “Gilmore Girls,” and “Veronica Mars” that cannot be found on Hulu, the joint-venture online video site from the NBC and Fox networks that will compete with for viewer attention.

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Kindle 2.0 is looking more like Kindle 1.5

Peter Burrows of BusinessWeek today wrote an even-handed post about the coming of Kindle 2.0, the much anticipated update to Amazon’s much ballyhooed eBook reader. And while he feels the Kindle revolution is “awfully evolutionary,” he also questions just how evolutionary it really is.

Burrows says he can confirm that McAdams Wright Ragen analyst Tim Bueneman [via Seattle Post-Intelligencer] has been saying recently: Amazon will unveil a larger-screen Kindle aimed at college students in the coming months. Burrows also says there will be an upgrade to the Kindle base model, which will be thinner, with a better screen, more stylish, and will include fixes to some of the user interface quirks from Kindle 1.0.

Burrows quotes a source who has seen Kindle 2.0 as saying it is a big leap from its predecessor as the iPod mini was from the first iPod. “They’ve jumped from Generation One to Generation Four or Five,” the source said. “It just looks better, and feels better.”

Wow. Kindle 2.0 must be one heck of a device.

But I, like Burrows, wonder.

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