Archive for May, 2009

Weekly wrapup: Hulu takes on Boxee, Sky and XBox 360, Spotify on Android, Nokia Ovi app store, Zune HD

Here’s a summary of the last 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

Hulu takes on Boxee (sort of) with its own desktop app

Hulu have made available their own desktop application (Mac and Windows) that features a “ten foot” user interface designed specifically for operating with a remote control, providing a much better experience when viewing Hulu content via a PC connected to a TV.

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Friday's Internet TV news links: Flip, Sony Ericsson, HDMI, Android, and more

Here are few links for some Friday/weekend reading. All Internet TV-related.

  • Next-gen HDMI Turns your TV into an Internet Hub. New HDMI standard to carry Ethernet connectivity meaning that an Internet-connected TV could act as a hub: “Instead of a having tangled mess of cables behind your TV, the HDTV itself will act as an Internet hub for all those wired goodies in your living room.” (PC World)
  • Video recording on G1 (Cupcake update). New version of Google’s Android mobile OS adds video recording capability, paving the way for support for live video streaming services, such as Qik. (Digitalwerks)
  • Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow Arena movie download service ready for June launch. “Direct on-phone downloads over WiFi or 3G would be awesome, but as most of these services tend to operate, PlayNow Arena will require that users select and download movies on their PCs, cable up their phones, and transfer the media the old-fashioned way…” (Engadget Mobile)
  • The Streaming Content Is There, Just Not Enough People Watching It — Yet. Dan Rayburn gives a great overview of the limited penetration of Internet TV services and hardware. (GigaOm)
  • D7 Video: Pure Digital Demo. Pure Digital (Flip) have demoed a new online video sharing site that aims to be easier to use than YouTube for sharing and viewing home videos with friends and family. A range of playback devices are said to be supported not just a PC. (AllThingsD)

Rupert Murdoch's Sky bringing interactive TV to XBox 360

Image credit: CNet UK

Image credit: CNet UK

Microsoft has long talked up its Internet TV prowess (they’ve been in the space for a very, very long time), with a combination of its consumer led set-top box a.k.a. the XBox 360 and its telco IPTV solution dubbed Mediaroom.

One of the advantages of the company’s connected vision was supposed to be the advent of interactive television based on what the Internet could bring to the table. Think: live instant messaging through the TV with friends while watching the same channel or accessing additional information pulled in from the web, for example. With yesterday’s announcement that satellite broadcaster BSkyB’s broadband TV service ‘Sky Player’ is coming to XBox 360 users in the UK and Ireland, that vision is now a lot more tangible.

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Hands-on impressions of Nokia's N97 [video]

Nokia's N97 flagship phone

Nokia's N97 flagship phone

I’ve been pretty excited ever since Nokia announced it’s soon-to-be-released Nokia N97 all the way back in December. However, it wasn’t till earlier this week that I was actually able to get my hands-on the company’s new flagship device courtesy of Nokia Design Day, an all day press event held at Nokia’s design offices in London. I got to spend about ten minutes playing with the N97 and overall I was very pleased with the device, both hardware build and looks, along with the newly revamped touch UI based on Symbian S60 5th edition. Overall, Nokia appears to have provided exactly what I and many users have been calling for: a phone with the Nseries media production and playback features combined with an Eseries-style QWERTY keyboard and build quality.

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Hulu takes on Boxee (sort of) with its own desktop app

Hulu Desktop

Hulu Desktop

You’ll remember when Hulu decided to block desktop Internet TV browser Boxee for having the audacity to provide a better user experience for playing back the online video site’s content on a television. Content that originates on TV in the first place! At the time Hulu defended the decision, citing the requests of content owners not the policy of the site itself. And yet today, Hulu have made available their own desktop application (Mac and Windows) that features a “ten foot” user interface designed specifically for operating with a remote control, providing a much better experience when viewing Hulu content via a PC connected to a TV.

Hulu Desktop is a lean-back viewing experience for your personal computer. It features a sleek new look that’s optimized for use with standard Windows Media Center or Apple remote controls, allowing you to navigate Hulu’s entire library with just six buttons.

You can download the Hulu desktop app from the site’s new “Labs” section. Don’t think about running Hulu Desktop on anything other than a PC, however, such the AppleTV set-top box, unless you’re cool with breaking the software’s terms of service (via NewTeeVee).

Music streaming service Spotify demos Android app, off-line syncing included!

Spotify on the Google phone

Spotify on the Google phone

Music streaming service Spotify already offers a very compelling desktop experience. The Mac and Windows client features the familiar iTunes-esque User Interface, a fast growing music catalogue and the ad-supported free-ness that is so popular with users who otherwise might source their music from P2P filesharing networks. That’s all well and good but ad revenue alone is unlikely to generate enough revenue for Spotify to stay in business. Instead, the company is hoping that over time enough users will opt for the monthly paid-for subscription version and it’s here that mobile could be key.

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Microsoft takes on iPod touch with Zune HD


New Zune HD

Microsoft today announced its latest Zune portable media player designed to go head to head with Apple’s iPod touch. Dubbed the Zune HD, the device features a 3.3″ 16:9 widescreen capacitive OLED with multitouch, WiFi, and a built-in web browser, along with existing Zune media playback features. Talking of which, the “HD” moniker refers to both HD Radio (offering higher quality audio and additional track and station data), along with support for 720p HD video playback. Interestingly, the device itself only offers a screen resolution of 480 x 272, meaning that High Def videos played back on the device are downscaled, which shouldn’t matter all that much on such a small screen. To view content in its full HD glory, the Zune HD features a HDMI-compatible docking station for plugging into a high definition television.

Of course to really take on the iPod touch, not only will the Zune HD’s web browsing experience need to up its game compared to existing Windows Mobile devices, but it would need to foster its own third-party software eco-system. Something that Microsoft hasn’t yet announced and it’s unclear if the company plans to do so, although I’m not ruling it out. Remember Apple doesn’t call the iPod touch a media player, instead referring to the device as the “first mainstream Wi-Fi mobile platform, running all kinds of mobile applications.”

(via Gizmodo)

Nokia's Ovi Store day one: why aren't the best S60 apps being promoted?

Ovi Store - Why isn't Gravity featured?

Why isn't Gravity being promoted?

It’s day one of the Ovi Store, Nokia’s answer to the iPhone App Store, along with similar offerings from BlackBerry and Google. To say the roll out hasn’t been as smooth as the handset maker would have liked is an understatement to say the least. The service has been plagued by problems, such as really, and I mean really, slow load times, connection errors, the inability for some users to log-in using their existing Ovi account details, and applications disappearing and reappearing in the store itself.

However, as time has passed, things are beginning to settle down. My own experience on my Nokia E71 is that the mobile client for the Ovi Store has steadily improved in performance throughout the day, and at the time of publication – approx 5pm London time – the service is certainly usable, if not as speedy as the iPhone’s App Store — yet.

On the downside, I’m still unable to log-in to the Ovi Store on the desktop (Firefox running on a Mac) where I’m greeted each time with an error: “Sorry, you cannot sign in at this time. Try again later.” In its defense, Nokia says that it has been frantically adding additional servers to cope with “extraordinarily high spikes of traffic” — traffic that it surely should have anticipated.  Teething issues aside, what about the store itself?

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Nokia's Ovi app store launches [iPhone envy]

ovi-storeNokia has begun rolling out its new app store – the Ovi Store – for both S60 and S40-powered handsets. It’s already available in Australia and a growing list of other countries. No UK or US availability — yet, however. I’ll update this post when and if that changes.

Update: the Ovi Store has launched in the UK and US now, although the service is slow and unreliable as Nokia, presumably, attempts to scale it live. Hopefully this will be sorted in the next day or so. It’s early days but not the best of starts.

Announced at Mobile World Congress back in February, the Ovi Store is the handset maker’s direct response to Apple’s phenomenally successful App Store for the company’s iPhone and iPod touch devices. Here’s what I wrote when the Ovi Store was first unveiled at MWC:

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.

However, here’s where Nokia is at least attempting to be different: “Ovi Store is unique in its ability to target content based on where you are, when you’re there, why you are where you are and who else has downloaded similar content”, all of which fits perfectly with the company’s ambitious Social Location (SoLo) strategy.

For those countries where the Ovi Store is already available, users need to navigate to the now legacy Download! app and refresh for new content. The Ovi Store app can then be found in the “Nokia Extras” folder or “Promo” folder, depending on handset and region.

Zatz Not Funny: The future of Windows Media Extenders, Wolfram Alpha, new Bluetooth gadgets, and more

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


The future of Windows Media Center Extenders

Dave Zatz: Bad news for Windows Media Center fans these last few days, as we’ve received confirmation from both Linksys and HP that they’re discontinuing their extender lineups.

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