roku-media-player

Yesterday’s news, today! While we patiently await smartphone search from our Rokus, two notable updates worth sharing slipped my radar late last year. First, the originally anemic “USB Media Browser” has steadily improved as it evolved from a private app into a Roku-branded initiative… now featuring DLNA support, in addition to the new “Media Player” label. Next, the formerly free Plex channel has implemented a one-time $4.99 fee. Fortunately, those of us who’d previously installed the channel have been grandfathered and Plex provides new users a free 30 day trial – so folks can see for themselves how useful it is in handling our digital media libraries ahead of a purchase.

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Amazon is out with a release trumpeting their stellar Fire TV reviews and announcing several welcome updates.

New Prime Browse
While Amazon touts blazing fast quad core Fire TV speeds, those gains are partially offset by inefficient browsing. Sure, the UI is quite attractive with box art and large icons, but good luck trying to simply find a listing of your Prime videos (as you easily can via the competing Roku pictured above). Well, good news, organization will at the very least be partially remedied in the near future via “Prime browse”

Voice Search To Expand
Voice search, via remote, is arguably Fire TV’s tent pole feature. However, at launch, only Amazon content and Vevo are officially supported. Amazon says we can expect “full catalog” Hulu, Crackle, and Showtime integration this summer. Unmentioned is Netflix … yet, as the 800lb streaming gorilla, I fully anticipate support is on the way (along with a current app) and that they warrant their very own press release.

Fire TV App
Another Fire TV complaint has been the lack of a smartphone and tablet app. Fortunately, Amazon says they’re on the way. While I 100% prefer a physical remote, with tactile feedback and easily shared, there are times when the second screen is particularly handy. Foremost, a touchscreen will solve the frustrating keyboard entry challenge of app registration and search (for all the properties yet not available via voice).

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Amen. Sonos has finally concluded that, under most conditions, they can provide reliable music streaming over existing WiFi networks without requiring their $50 Bridge. Not only does this represent a cost savings for potential new customers, but it also provides a far simpler conceptual approach for civilian consumers who may be most familiar with Bluetooth speakers. Sonos can now (or soon) be described simply as a WiFi speaker (with whole-home benefits). And, of course, some neurotic folks such as myself will just be happy with less clutter. Beta testing commences in the next few weeks - register your interest here.

A few weeks back, the USPTO published TiVo’s latest patent: Program Shortcuts, which is effectively an update to their 2009 filing. As a non-patent attorney industry observer, I’ve seen substantial resources wasted litigating a variety of obvious, generic functionality that perhaps should be free of protection. Indeed, generally speaking, “bookmarking” isn’t new or unique … across a variety of platforms, including a long history of favoriting set-top channels, setting upcoming show reminders, and tagging On Demand video content for future viewing.

With the soap box behind us, TiVo’s Program Shortcuts patent does indeed provide some interesting clues as to their upcoming direction. And, given the refiling, beyond reassigning the patent from TiVo employees to TiVo itself, one can assume the company is both serious about the described functionality and presumably closer to implementation. From the abstract: Continue Reading…