Archive for October, 2008

After on-off relationship, Netflix streaming comes to TiVo

It may have taken four years but they got there in the end. Netflix and TiVo today announced that the two companies have began rolling out access to Netflix’s ‘Watch Now’ video streaming service on Internet connected TiVos.

As Dave Zatz notes:

The process probably hasn’t played out exactly the way TiVo and Netflix anticipated when they initially inked a development agreement in 2004… In fact, the struggle to find content and move this project forward drove Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to declare there’s “no work going on,” “no content,” and “no point” in 2005. Fast forward a few years and it’s pretty clear that the landscape has drastically shifted. Content is everywhere and Netflix intends to serve as many platforms as possible: “We want to be integrated on every Internet-connected device, game system, high-definition DVD player and dedicated Internet set-top box.”

It’s pretty impressive that over the last six months Netflix has delivered on its promise to bring its Internet TV offering on to many devices beyond the PC. What sounded like pie in the sky – especially in light of the company’s on-off relationship with TiVo – has actually panned out, in which Netflix streaming is available on game consoles (Microsoft’s XBox 360), set-top boxes (Roku), DVRs (TiVo) and Internet connected DVD players (LG and Samsung).

See also: Don’t call it a hobby: Netflix and TiVo continue to push Internet TV into the living room

Want to hear more from Netflix’s CEO? We got a spare ticket for NewTeeVee Live in San Fran. on Nov 13 where he’ll be speaking. (See: NewTeeVee Live: last100 reader discount and ticket giveaway)

NewTeeVee Live: last100 reader discount and ticket giveaway

It’s time again for GigaOm’s annual conference – NewTeeVee Live – covering the business of online video. And best of all, last100 readers qualify for a discount. Actually, strike that. Not only do you qualify for a $200 discount, but better still we have one free ticket to giveaway!

But first the details of NewTeeVee Live…

NewTeeVee Live
Television Reinvented
Thursday November 13, 2008
Mission Bay Conference Center
San Francisco, CA

Television is being reinvented. What are the business opportunities for you in this age of online video? Attend NewTeeVee Live to find out.

NewTeeVee Live is the premier conference for the creators, technologists, and distributors of the next generation of TV. It is the conference where we ask the hard questions about online video, push forward the most interesting topics into next year—and cut the deals needed to make it all happen. Last year’s conference sold out early and garnered rave reviews for it’s mix of influencers, top executives and media industry thought leaders who made the deals.

Who’s coming? The creators and producers of “Heroes” and “CSI”, the CEOs of Hulu and Netflix, the VPs of Digital Media for ABC, FOX and Lucasfilm and many more senior executives who are driving the decisions that effect the future of online video. All of the key influencers in web video will be on hand to discuss the future of new media. So don’t miss your chance to be there.

Last100 readers get a special $200 discount with the code “LAST”. Click here to register now –

So how do you enter to win a free ticket?

Simply leave a comment below with a link to your favorite Internet TV news or feature as covered by last100 (we know you’re a regular reader) and tell us why you chose it. Remember to include your email address in the comment form otherwise we’ll be unable to contact you if you win. The winner will be chosen randomly from those entries that qualify. We’ll close comments in one week’s time. Good luck!

BBC iPlayer on Wii gets a UI overhaul

Six months after launch, the BBC has finally got around to redesigning its version of iPlayer for the Nintendo Wii games console to make it more suited to being operated from the couch. Initially taking a ‘keep it simple, get it out fast’ approach, explains the Beeb’s Anthony Rose, the original Wii version of the public broadcaster’s seven day TV catch-up service made do with the 2 foot user interface designed for the PC. “The new Wii version has a simplified user interface that presents just a few options on screen at a time and nice big chunky controls – easy to aim at with a Wiimote.”

Rose also takes the opportunity to defend the BBC’s original decision to build a Wii version of iPlayer rather than one for Sony’s PlayStation 3. “The reason is simple: there are twice as many Wii units in the UK than PS3s”. Additionally, the original PS3 web browser had “some odd quirks which have increased development time”, says Rose. In other words, a PS3 version is still in the works.

… we’re not quite there yet as the PS3 uses a slightly older version of Flash which doesn’t support some of the features used in our media player, and the very promising Flash 9 update now available on PS3 has some compatibility issues. Our Flash developers are working on it – stay tuned for updates.

See also: BBC iPlayer lands on Wii – who said Nintendo doesn’t do media center?

Sonos delivers touchscreen controller via iPhone

Similar to Apple’s own ‘Remote’ app for iTunes, Sonos today released a free download that turns an iPhone into a wireless controller for the company’s Multi-Room Music System. Now Sonos owners or prospective buyers can do away with the official remote and opt to use their iPhone or iPod touch instead, which not only may work out cheaper – the Sonos CR100 is priced at $400 – but also provides the touch interface that some users have requested. On that note, Dave Zatz shares this interesting tidbit:

… more fascinating than the software itself is the iPhone Controller back story. Sonos has heard the touchscreen requests, but hybrid analog/touchscreen prototypes didn’t fare well in their usability testing and a pure touchscreen device was uncomfortable for some. Whereas the iPhone demographic is obviously already in tune with touchscreen conventions.

While it’s surprising to learn that Sonos has thus far been unable to develop a touchscreen controller that resonates with its userbase, by releasing an iPhone app out in the wild they’ll gain a lot of valuable user feedback that would otherwise be hard to come by. The move also demonstrates once again the versatility of Apple’s multi-touch UI, whereby the on-screen virtual buttons can be infinitely reconfigured for different purposes.

See also: Logitech announces Squeezebox Duet, takes aim at Sonos

View the official video demo of Sonos Controller for iPhone after the jump…

Continue reading »

Netflix streaming to Mac courtesy of Microsoft! Could Nokia phones be next?

Oh the irony

Netflix has finally began rolling out a version of its video streaming service for Mac users, and it comes courtesy of Microsoft. Although only available initially to “a small percentage of new Netflix subscribers”, with a full roll-out anticipated by the end of the year, the new PC-based version of the company’s ‘Watch Now’ service is powered by Microsoft’s Flash competitor Silverlight, a technology that crucially includes its own cross-platform ‘studio approved’ DRM solution, thus enabling Netflix to support both Windows-based PCs and now those running MacOS (Intel only).

Along with adding Mac support, Netflix says the adoption of Silverlight delivers a number of usability improvements too, including “a faster, easier connection” and “a breakthrough in timeline navigation that vastly improves the use of fast-forwarding and rewinding.” Yes you read that right, fast-forwarding and rewinding. Who said the revolution wouldn’t be televised?

In the future, it’s very possible that Neflix’s use of Silverlight could see its streaming service reach even more devices beyond PCs and set-top boxes currectly supported. In particular I’m thinking of mobile phones and Internet tablets from Nokia. The Finnish handset maker has already announced that it plans to support Silverlight on future handsets, starting with those powered by S60, with S40 and Maemo devices to follow. And from a marketing perspective, a partnership with Netflix would make a lot of sense as it would surely help the company shift more handsets in the US. In this regard, Nokia has previous form too. The company’s flagship smartphone, the N96, is in part being sold in the UK based on its support for the BBC’s iPlayer service.

Hands on with the Google phone: a solid device that won't unseat the iPhone

I kind of felt like I was cheating on my wife — in this case an iPhone — when I checked out the new Google phone the other day at a T-Mobile store. I must admit I was seduced.

After more than a year of writing about the so-called Google phone and the Android mobile operating system, I actually held one in my hands. The G1, as it is known, called to me. It wasn’t as poorly manufactured as I feared it might be; its display was bright, crisp and intoxicating; its operating system seemed fun and promising.

At first blush, I was smitten. But as in any relationship, the more time you spend with someone — or in this case something — the more you learn.

What I learned about the G1 I’m sharing with you. Like the wise Om Malik, I prefer a less formal review format because there are many fine reviewers out there who’ve been testing the G1 for weeks. Like Uncle Walt from the Wall Street Journal. Or David Pogue at The New York Times. And all the usual gadget and mobile blogs.

I tend to focus on the user experience of any product, which in this case is important as the G1’s chief competitor, Apple’s iPhone, seemingly has cornered the market on usability and consumer imagination. Since the release of the iPhone 3G in July, Apple has sold nearly seven million phones this quarter.

For the so-called Google phone to reach that kind of success, it must complete with Apple on the user experience battlefield, not just over features and functions. This will be harder for the G1 because it has three parents, not one like the iPhone.

There’s Google, developer of Android.

There’s HTC, the manufacturer.

And there’s T-Mobile, the carrier.

In the near future, other manufacturers and carriers will be involved with the development of Google phones. All of them will provide different interpretations of Android with new features and functions and user experiences. Will they rival that of the iPhone? Or will they become another, albeit solid, contender?

We have our first answer.

Continue reading »

Don't call it a hobby: Netflix and TiVo continue to push Internet TV into the living room

No longer content with dissing his company’s own offering, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is now calling the whole product category a “hobby”. But that isn’t stopping others from forging ahead to bring Internet TV into the living room, with both TiVo and Netflix rolling out partnerships this week to give their customers more content and hardware choices respectively. But first back to what Jobs said during the company’s Q4 earnings call on Tuesday.

“I think the whole category is still a hobby right now. I don’t think anybody has succeeded at it and actually the experimentation has slowed down”, said Jobs in answer to one analyst’s question about how Apple sees the digital living room opportunity in the next year. “A lot of the early companies that were trying things have faded away, so I’d have to say that given the economic conditions, given the venture capital outlooks and stuff, I continue to believe it will be a hobby in 2009.” (via Seeking Alpha)

That’s a fairly dire prognosis from Jobs, and suggests that the company might purposely be taking its eye off the ball when it comes to the living room, especially as Apple pursues more developed and profitable markets such as that of the iPhone (although you should always be careful when taking what Jobs says at face value). Either way, for those companies that are still in the market, now seems like an ideal opportunity for greater experimentation and to give consumers more non-Apple choices. On that note, let’s return to those announcements.

Continue reading »

Google's big bet: Android beyond the cellphone

Much of the iPod’s success, says Steve Jobs, is down to the fact that Japanese consumer electronics companies don’t produce elegant software. He makes the same accusation of handset makers too. They can do hardware but they “just can’t seem to get the software right.” Enter Android, Google’s open source OS, which although explicitly designed to deliver better software for Internet-connected cellphones, will also soon find its way onto all manner of devices.

“Over the last few weeks I have learned that numerous companies are tinkering with Android in an attempt to get the OS to power a whole slew of gadgets — everything from set-top boxes to navigation systems to mobile Internet devices to smart picture frames”, reports Om Malik.

Motorola have already confirmed that it has at least one Android-powered handset in the pipeline, but the company is also a major player in the television set-top box space and is said to be exploring the potential of Android in the living room too. Malik also says he’s heard from “fairly reliable sources” that two large PC makers are experimenting with Android-based Internet devices. None of which I find surprising. From both a technical and business point of view, Google has laid the foundations for Android to move quickly beyond its cellphone roots and, the company hopes, eventually become a ubiquitous platform.

Continue reading »

My new Macbook and me (first impressions)

Late yesterday afternoon I purchased one of the new Macbooks (announced on Wednesday) and in the process finally retired my trusty 12 inch Powerbook from daily blogging duties.

I’ve only really had the new machine fully set up and operational for about a day (after transferring over my user accounts/data, and installing essential apps such as Firefox, Skype etc.), and while I may get around to doing a full review, I wanted to first share my initial impressions, a few of which have surprised me.

Continue reading »

Apricot Computers relaunches as Netbook maker

What is it about 80’s computing icons making a comeback as a Netbook maker? First, the relaunch of the Commodore brand – if by name only – with the catchy titled UMMD 8010/F. And now it’s the turn of Apricot Computers who, after being left dormant for years by former owner Mitsubishi Corporation, have re-entered the UK market with the rather nice looking PicoBook Pro.

The device meets the typical specs of most Netbooks currently doing the rounds, sporting a 8.9 inch wide screen screen (1024 x 600), 1 GB Ram, 60 GB hard drive, VGA output, 1.3 MP webcam, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, two USB 2.0 ports and a 4 in 1 card reader. The PicoBook Pro comes in two flavours: Linux (Novell SUSE Enterprise) and Windows XP.

In terms of how Apricot intends to differentiate the PicoBook Pro from others in this crowded market, the company has chosen to use a VIA chipset rather than Intel’s Atom platform, which CEO Shahid Sultan told me offered better integrated graphics and at least as much bang for your buck. (Having said that, he did hint that next for Apricot might be an Atom-based Netbook with a larger screen.) The company also claims its Netbook is one of the greenest in the marketplace, and Sultan was keen to talk up the build quality of the PicoBook Pro compared to competing products such as the “plasticky” Eee PC, making it more suited to business users.

See also: Don’t buy a Netbook pleads PC industry

I got to spend a few minutes with the PicoBook Pro at a press event on Thursday, and my first impressions were good. Expect a full review in the next few weeks.