Archives For HDTV

Vizio Dumps Yahoo For Google?

Dave Zatz —  January 3, 2011 — 6 Comments

2011-vizio-lineup

Vizio’s begun dropping details on their 2011 lineup, including what could be a defection from Yahoo connected services in favor of Google’s broader ecosystem… which corresponds nicely with a Vizio expansion into mobile gear.

This year Vizio Internet Apps (VIA) will become or be augmented by VIA Plus, their take on Google TV. While the Goog’s connected television platform is currently pretty rough, it’s not a bad horse to bet on. Especially given the obvious Android-powered mobile device tie-ins Vizio’s promoting.

Vizio is no stranger to the connected television space, having been the original Yahoo Internet TV widgets pioneer and delivering possibly the first mass market QWERTY remote. In fact, our temporary bedroom television is a Yahoo-powered Vizio and I’ve quite enjoyed streaming Netflix and Vudu video content over 802.11n… without requiring a separate box.

We’ll reach out to Vizio with hopes of clarifying the fate of Yahoo widgetry on their HDTV hardware.

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Our big move begins today, although the movers don’t actually arrive until next Saturday, and I’ve been debating how to best handle our television situation. At the time of purchase our bedroom and living room HDTVs were top notch and reasonably sized for their respective placements (and eras). But bigger is better… Except when it’s a large tube TV I no longer want to mess with. So the current plan is to hand down the 30″ Panasonic HDTV CRT tomorrow to the in-laws for basement usage, leaving a void in our new master bedroom. Ultimately, the 42″ Panasonic plasma will move up there. But I’m not ready to research and purchase our next living room television (~55″).

So I swung by Costco yesterday looking for a smaller and economical “temporary” bedroom television. And, as you can see from the pics, I landed on a Vizio — the 22″ M221NV, for $230. It’s probably not the best display, it’s definitely not even close to good sound, but it’s Yahoo widgetized! There was a nice looking 23″ Samsung at the same price point, but I figured the integrated apps might be fun to have around. Although Sony and Google would have us think different, Internet-connected televisions aren’t a new phenomenon. In fact, the folks behind the Popcorn Hour used to build HP’s retired solution and Yahoo TV has been around a few years.

By default, a number of widgets are pre-loaded and viewable in the collapsable ticker. Not only can you add and remove apps, but I discovered you can even load custom content for a quick look – like the local weather or stock prices (see bottom right pic). I couldn’t remember my Pandora credentials and gave up on the tedious text entry, but had better luck efficiently linking Netflix. Over the integrated 802.11n connection, a few minutes of playback was super smooth and looked good. I had wanted to link my Vudu account, but it seems like I may only be able to create a new one. Will need to examine that further.

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As far as what I don’t like, the remote is perhaps the worst fingerprint magnet ever. Also, it relies on the Yahoo Widget blue button to cycle through screen resolutions and viewing options – something that wasn’t apparent (as I skipped the quick start guide). Lastly, it’s not clear which apps can expand beyond a sidebar display into fullscreen or how I’d toggle it.

In the end, I assume this TV will be perfectly suitable for a few months of bedroom CNN and HGTV… and suspect we’ll also get in a decent amount of box-less video streaming. Although, we’ll save the big event content for our living room. At the end of its service period, I imagine the Vizio will become a kitchen TV or maybe an external 1080p computer display that could serve double duty for various blog projects. I continue to be amazed at how far flat panel display prices have fallen. Beyond that, it’s also pretty surprising that one can get a display with Internet-connected content for $70 less than the cheapest Google TV product.

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QOTD: Record From HDMI?

Dave Zatz —  November 2, 2010 — 4 Comments

Today’s question of the day comes to us via Rick in the comments:

Do you know of a way to get an HDMI signal into a TiVo like device? I would like to record my own stuff and watch it with instant replay etc. Do you know of a solution?

This is an interesting topic that we’ve touched on before. There’s nothing that technically prevents recording data or a signal transmitted over HDMI. However, HDMI licensing specifically prohibits DVR-esque recording. At least that was the case when I last examined the spec, back during my Slingbox days. Interestingly, Gefen put out a “HD Personal Video Recorder” ($999) a few years back that either intentionally or accidentally ignored the HDMI recording restriction, as I had no problem whatsoever grabbing Comcast’s 1080i HBO feed. But that’s since been corrected and, generally speaking, Rick’s probably not going to find a reputable, mainstream DVR product to meet his requirements. He’ll need to record from existing component connectivity or pick up something like the HDFury that converts a digital HDMI signal to analog (in addition to spoofing a HDCP handshake) if his source box has limited HD outputs.

Well, this is unexpected. When Vudu dramatically shifted course to de-emphasize their own hardware in favor of a licenseable software platform, I figured their original set-top would wither and die. As it turns out, the companies did right by their customers and have ported the newer appilicious Vudu experience in its entirety to the early adopters that (barely) kept Vudu – afloat before being acquired by Walmart.

In addition to the app platform, Vudu’s original P2P movie queuing has been replaced by the CDN-powered HDX 1080p streaming. Plus, the new experience is web-based – so Vudu hardware should mirror Vudu-enabled HDTV and Blu-ray players going forward.

Lastly, as you can see from the pics, I dug my Vudu out of the closet to verify the update. And I had forgotten how heavy it is – several pounds, compared to the several ounce (new) Apple TV. My, how times have changed. (via Engadget)

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FCC Orders CableCARD Reform

Dave Zatz —  October 15, 2010 — 26 Comments

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As expected, the FCC met yesterday and ordered some short-term CableCARD adjustments in the name of reform. But, while I’m glad to see these issues in the forefront, I’m doubtful this moves the needle in any significant way. We’re still left with flakey SDV tuning adapters, a generation of hobbled S-Card HDTVs, and non-”cable” television providers, including DirecTV and AT&T U-verse, who will continue to operate closed networks.

Ben Drawbaugh (EngadgetHD) suggests I’m a pessimist. Although, I’d say mine is a fairly realistic view based on past performance. I do believe, at the end of the day, industry will have to collectively decide what’s best for their business to move us beyond this quagmire. As I’m uncertain of the FCC’s legal scope and backbone. So television providers voluntarily opening up their platforms, or at least working business deals, is the most realistic way forward for folks left unsatisfied with the generic STB and walled gardens.

On a practical level, the most obvious change will be the FCC requirement that cable providers permit CableCARD self installs (within 9-12 months) if they allow self installs of their own equipment. Why most MSOs haven’t gone down this path on their own is beyond me, as it’d be more efficient and economical for everyone — all it generally requires is a phone call (or web UI!) to provide numbers for pairing. When moving to my current Cox Communications neighborhood a year ago, the first installer skipped his appointment and the second who actually showed up prepared to work still had me billed me $30 per TiVo/TV — ultimately costing me $60, plus 4 hours of waiting around followed by 2 hours of monitoring the technician. For reference, I believe their own hardware installs were freely provided (maybe promotional) or you could just pick up the gear at the office yourself. So it’ll be nice to see a little parity instead of additional CableCARD roadblocks.

For additional (less pessimistic?) coverage, check out GeekTonic, Engadget, and the Washington Post. Or just review the entire 59 page FCC order below — download it or send it fullscreen for more comfortable reading.

Since Dave quoted me in his last post, I figured I’d better weigh in officially on the Google TV debate. First, I’m surprised everyone is so taken aback by the price. Given the amount people are willing to spend on new iPads, smartphones, and game consoles, $300 (Logitech Revue) doesn’t seem unreasonable to me for an entertainment gadget. That said, you do have to know what you’re getting… and what you’re not getting for the money.

Several people have asked me if they can buy Google TV to replace their existing pay-TV subscription service. That’s not what Google TV is for. Yes, you can make it work that way if you want. Use OTA broadcasts plus content from Internet video services and the web at large, and you can cobble together your own TV package. But you won’t get ESPN, or access to the same amount of cable network content that you can get with a cable subscription. TV on the Internet is still hit or miss. Adding a Google box to your set-up doesn’t change that.

What Google TV does do is organize all your viewing options in one place on the big HDTV in your living room. The apps look entertaining, and Google has even gotten content providers to design their web-based content to make it more HDTV-friendly. If you like to bring up videos on the web and share them with people in the room, Google TV is also good because it builds in a full Internet browser. You can even access personal content off your home network and play it through the Google interface. Cool stuff.

Google TV looks like a lot of fun. But, bottom line, it’s probably overkill as an add-on to your cable subscription. Personally, I already have a DVR, VOD, and a Roku for watching Netflix. Not to mention the netbook usually in my lap. Do I need a Google TV on top of all that? Not really. Someone’s going to have to convince me that I want it enough to make up for the fact that it’s mostly superfluous. Fun, but not really useful.

Online rabble-rouser and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban announced back in May that several new Comcast markets would start carrying the HDNET channel this year. Now, reports on several user forums suggest the launch is likely to happen this week in Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle. (The Chicago area reportedly started seeing rollouts earlier this month.) Although I’ve seen no official word of the launch date on either the Comcast or HDNET site, the number of details leaking out across the web suggest this rumor’s for real.

If you’re not familiar with HDNET, the content is primarily guy territory: MMA fights, scantily clad women, etc. However, the channel also carries some in-depth news programming, including Dan Rather Reports, and the HDNET Concert Series. In addition to the main HDNET network, there’s also HDNET Movies. No word yet on when that channel might get additional Comcast carriage.

Retransmission negotiations continue to be a major battleground for content and service providers. But when you’ve got a popular network, it seems the content provider is the one likely to win out in the end.