Sorry. I don’t get the drama around having an ‘always online’ console. Every device now is ‘always on’. That’s the world we live in. #dealwithit
Archives For Broadband
As promised back at CES, Time Warner Cable’s newest set-top box is a Roku… and the free “Channel”, comprised of up to 300 channels, is now available to all currently shipping Roku devices – which start a mere $50. As you might expect, access to TWC on Roku requires a traditional cable subscription – and supposedly only works in regions served by TWC. However, unlike Comcast Xfinity or Verizon FiOS TV on the Xbox 360, a TWC broadband account is not required.
Don Wegeng took a look at TWC TV on Roku, and while his initial reaction was disappointment due the lack of On Demand content (compared to the iOS app), he seems pleased overall with the speed of navigating the available live channels and the quality of HD content – once the higher res stream snaps in after a few seconds. However, as you can see from his video walk-thru (below), SD content is rendered with both letterboxing and pillarboxing. Yuck. But, all in all, not a bad first cut. And surely better than every other cable company’s non-existant Roku offering. Continue Reading…
Years ago I was one of the early Clearwire customers with a Motorola WiMAX USB stick and a month-to-month service contract. But despite decent network coverage in both Philadelphia (where I lived) and Las Vegas (where CES proved to be the perfect venue for testing WiMAX performance), I couldn’t justify the ongoing expense of an extra data plan. Broadband at home, plus data on my phone, plus free Wi-Fi at local coffee shops was enough to keep me going.
And that was before Clearwire virtually imploded.
Many people, however, aren’t making the same broadband calculations that I am. And I discovered last week, that the Clearwire WiMAX network is now being used in some interesting ways. The Freedom Rings Partnership and regional ISP Wilco Electronic Systems have started a program under the Keyspot brand in Philly to bring more people online who wouldn’t otherwise have access. If you haven’t had Internet service in the last 90 days and visit a Keyspot location for online access, or to take a class, you can qualify for a free Clear Voyager modem (see above), and a monthly, no-contract WiMAX service plan for $14.95. (One-time install fee of $14.95) That’s more than Comcast Internet Essentials service, which slides in at $9.95 per month, but, as I heard last week at the FCC’s Broadband Summit, it can be difficult to register for the baseline Comcast program. (More on that over at DSLReports).
Perhaps even more interesting, outside the Keyspot program, you can still get a 2 GB/month, no-contract WiMAX plan for $19.99. If you have coverage in your area, and if you can swallow the initial hardware cost ($40 or $50 depending on USB stick or hotspot), that’s a pretty sweet deal. I wouldn’t sign away a year or two for that service given the state of Clearwire as a business. But for certain people (or maybe a small office?), the price point is compelling. Continue Reading…
It was a long time coming, as an eager customer, but Verizon finally pulled the wraps off live tablet television late last year. Their updated iPad app provides FiOS TV subscribers access to 75 channels. Well, in reality, it’s “up to” 75 channels as you may not subscribe to all offerings… as I discovered the hard way. Overall, the app is easy to use and generally works well — turning that iPad into the kitchen or deck television (given it only streams in the home). I did encounter the occasional playback bug, usually resolved with an app relaunch, and the video previews are technically impressive but not quite as useful as traditional channel logos. Presumably more social interaction and Android support will be arriving this year, as well as enabling access from smaller screened smartphones. Given Verizon’s licensing approach, the solution isn’t nearly as expansive as the TiVo Stream. On the other hand, it doesn’t require the purchase of a TiVo ($150+) and streaming accessory ($130).
Dave digs the TiVo Stream, and has a professional history with Sling, but those guys aren’t the only placeshifting players in town. Morega is another contender, powering the DirecTV Nomad box and with other deals in place for its media networking software. I know this in part because I’ve been doing some indirect work for the company, but also because Morega has been upping its profile in the cable space. I can’t say my perspective is unbiased on this one, but Morega has some cool stuff going on.
First off, the Morega software does streaming and syncing of content coming in through your TV. Depending on how a provider wants to use the technology, you can:
- Stream live or recorded TV to other devices (locally or beyond)
- Sync recorded TV to a mobile device for offline viewing
And, at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo show last week, Morega showed off quad-stream transcoding, i.e. four streams transcoded at once so that you can be moving lots of different content around to lots of different places. (Shot above shows real-time transcoding displayed on a laptop screen for demo purposes) Continue Reading…
On the one hand, with more HTML5 program guides in the works, the TV UI is going to get a lot prettier and a lot more functional. On the other, if Dave’s ticked off now about the ads on his Panasonic Viera TV, just wait until these web-based guides really get going as new ad delivery platforms. In case you hadn’t noticed, television is going the way of the Internet. And that means aggressively targeted ads will soon be the norm.
We’ve still got a few years before the connected TV ad transition takes hold, but HTML5 guide development is already well underway. In addition to the NDS Snowflake guide at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo last week, I saw web-based UIs from ActiveVideo, Rovi and Arris. The first two were of ActiveVideo’s CloudTV interface, which is already deployed by Cablevision*, and the third was an ActiveVideo proof-of-concept VOD guide. The fourth was Rovi’s web-based guide, and the fifth and sixth were an HTML5 guide from Arris.
The SCTE Cable-Tec Expos is an engineer’s show, but there are always a few hidden gems with broader appeal. One of them this year was the NDS HTML5 Snowflake guide. You can’t find it anywhere in the U.S. yet, but UPC has deployed it in the Netherlands with the new Horizon service. And now that NDS is part of Cisco, there may be a better chance that some version of Snowflake will end up with a cable, telco or satellite provider near you.
There are a few key things to know about Snowflake. First, even though it’s HTML5, it doesn’t have to run on an IP box. NDS creates an abstraction layer on top of existing set-top software to support the guide, which is actually hosted in the network. (A handful of other companies are doing this too now, by the way.) Second, while your set-top doesn’t have to be an IP box a la the AT&T U-verse model, the fact that the guide is IP-based means it runs on tablets and smartphones too. Third, in addition to the pretty UI, web-based guides like Snowflake can add in a whole lot of new information – think personalization, content recommendations, and eventually targeted advertising.