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By any measure, Google TV has been a failure. In fact, I’d say they’re not even in the game. And no company has paid the price more than Logitech with their bad bet on Google’s initial foray into the living room. Just how bad has it been? More Logitech Revue hardware was returned in the second quarter than was actually purchased. Ouch. I’m sure both Google and Logitech shoulder their fair share of blame – neither did an effective job explaining the unique benefits of this product or platform. But the software experience failings themselves are on Google. At $250 or $300, as originally priced, there are very few people I could (or did) recommend the Revue too.

However, as of today, the Logitech Revue is now merely a hundred bucks. And its capabilities and shortcomings look much different at this price point… First off, in my experience, Google TV offers the very best television-based web browsing experience. Neverminding for a moment those blocked sites. Next, while the Google TV platform has remained relatively stagnant and most “apps” are actually just reformatted webpages, you’ve got access to core services similar to what’s found find competing platforms in this range - like the new Roku 2. In fact, I’d say Netflix, Amazon VOD, Pandora, and YouTube make the Revue fairly well rounded. Pulling it all together is the full-on wireless QWERTY keyboard… which ran $99 until last week. So now you get Logitech’s complete Google TV experience for the price of the keyboard.

Of course, it’s not entirely clear how committed Logitech will remain to this product or Google TV in general given the massive hemorrhaging. But if they deliver the marketplace-powered Android Honeycomb Google TV update this summer, as promised, it’s a whole new ballgame.

As much as people like to hold Netflix up as a competitor to cable TV, the truth is it’s much more akin to HBO in both value and price. The one big difference between the two is HBO’s steadfast determination to tie its distribution to cable subscription packages. On that front, the company got another boost today with the official launch of the HBO Go and MAX Go (Cinemax) apps for Charter subscribers. These Internet apps mean authenticated users can get HBO and Cinemax shows virtually anywhere. And with Charter on board now, the only big players without mobile HBO on the docket are Cablevision and Time Warner Cable.

HBO is following in ESPN’s footsteps, proving that good content can dictate carriage in the online world as much as it can in the traditional pay-TV space. However, the more HBO expands its online content, the more it sets itself up as a direct rival to Netflix. Both are roughly the same price, and offer a mix of great content along with some middling stuff. HBO distinguishes itself in the original content domain, but even there, Netflix is looking to make its own waves. So the question becomes, are people more likely to pay for something separate from cable, or for a bundled cable add-on? And if we want both, just how high do we think we can we stretch the monthly entertainment budget?

As we increasingly construct virtual identities and migrate our digital possessions into the cloud, it’s a worthwhile exercise to periodically reflect on these increasingly amorphous services. And my top two concerns are security and dependability.

On the security front, my guiding principle is an assumption that just about any host can and will be hacked. Which is why we turn to encryption for additional layers of defense. Unfortunately, some companies offer insufficient protection or overstate their capabilities. For example, it now appears that cloud file storage and sharing provider Dropbox embodies both. Whereas the company originally claimed user files were encrypted in such a way that even employees couldn’t access the data, it turns out encryption is handled on Dropbox servers and they maintain the encryption keys. Meaning, yes, employees can and have accessed user data… leading to a FTC complaint. Additionally, a recent service update inadvertently left all Dropbox accounts without password protection for about 4 hours – a startling development. Is Dropbox unique in their shortcomings? Continue Reading…

Amongst Apple’s announcements this week was an unveiling of the long rumored iCloud. And it looks to be a pretty massive multitiered synchronization and storage service, that’s scheduled for a full release this fall. iCloud’s evolved MobileMe elements, such as calendar and contact sync amongst ones various devices, don’t interest me the way Apple’s photo and music cumulus pipelines and locker do. Today, we’ll focus on the audio…

In addition to the obvious and long overdue ability to re-download purchased iTunes, onto any of your gear, iCloud will provide an online digital locker – unlike any other studio-blessed solution. “iTunes Match” lets you:

store your entire collection, including music you’ve ripped from CDs or purchased somewhere other than iTunes. For just $24.99 a year. iTunes determines which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with a match is automatically added to your iCloud library for you to listen to anytime, on any device. Since there are more than 18 million songs in the iTunes Store, most of your music is probably already in iCloud. All you have to upload is what iTunes can’t match. And all the music iTunes matches plays back at 256-Kbps iTunes Plus quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality. Continue Reading…

There was a lot of hype leading up to Microsoft’s keynote at the E3 conference earlier this week, with huge speculation that the company would launch a new live TV service on the Xbox. The announcement itself, however, was a bit of a let-down, at least for those of us in the US. After years of trying to get into the TV game, Microsoft’s latest foray involves live TV as an Xbox app. Sounds great, except the service is only scheduled to launch in the US “by the end of 2012,” and no major broadcast partners have been announced yet. Given how long it took Microsoft to add the Xbox as a U-verse set-top option with the AT&T service, I’m not holding my breath for a speedy deployment.

From Engadget’s coverage of the keynote, it looks like Microsoft has already worked out its guide software and DVR menus for Xbox TV. Execs also announced a new YouTube channel on Xbox Live, and there are hints (see photo above) that Microsoft is making headway with ABC. ESPN content is already in place, so that’s perhaps not a surprising development.

Dave and I sat down with a Microsoft rep back at CES when rumors of an Xbox live TV offering in the US were already making the rounds. And Microsoft has had live BSkyB TV on the Xbox in the UK since 2009. (Thanks, Lawler) It’s certainly progress, but other players are now pursuing the same over-the-top holy grail. Verizon theorized about FiOS as an app back in January, Comcast has said it will bring live TV to iPads later this year, and Time Warner launched a live TV app for the iPad back in March, with Cablevision following suit in April. Microsoft could have been a front-runner years ago with its Xbox-as-trojan-horse. In 2011, it’s just another player at the web TV party.

Yesterday at the D9 conference a new player entered the content discovery market. Fanhattan debuted an iPad app for finding TV shows and movie titles online. Reminiscent of the old Comcast Fancast site (now Xfinity-branded of course), Fanhattan shows you where to find the videos you want so you don’t have to go trolling around the net searching Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, etc. It’s competing against several other content discovery engines - Clicker, GetGlue, Miso and more – but Fanhattan’s focus isn’t as heavily centered on social sharing as its established counterparts. In my opinion, that’s a strength for the new app. You can get social if you want, but if you just want to watch TV, you can do that too.

There are nine basic modules for TV and movie selections: watch now options, episode details, reviews, cast and crew info, video clips (if available) soundtrack details, fan gear, connect options (Facebook or email sharing), and similar content. You get to this information by tapping through to either the TV or movie main menu and then browsing or searching through different categories. Filter selections include the ability to browse by user ratings, top picks, release dates, and much more. You can also search for titles by keyword.

The Fanhattan interface is quite visual, and, being an iPad app, entirely powered by taps and swipes. I have a few nitpicks about the design, but overall it’s very effective. Continue Reading…

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Over the years, we’ve surveyed a number of video monitoring kits – including Archerfish, Vue, and Dropcam. While all have brought a number of novel software enhancements or distribution methods, they’ve all also bundled disappointing low resolution cameras. Given my positive experiences with Logitech’s Google TV video conferencing camera and after catching footage of this iPad app in action, I reached out to Logitech’s PR firm to take a look at the Logitech Alert security solution.

Off the bat, it’s clear their HD video capture hardware is in a different league – both fit and finish and actual streaming. Additionally, while I’d have preferred a wireless camera it’s probably a smart decision to bundle Powerline network adapters for efficient setup and reliable connectivity. Unfortunately, Logitech camera placement options can’t match the extremely flexible Vue cameras. Yet, at the same time, the batteries won’t die before I get around to reviewing the product… as there are none to mess with.

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On the software front, I was a bit bummed to discover that Windows is required for initial setup. But once complete, video can be accessed via a Mac OS X browser or mobile app. Indeed, I’ve already sampled live video of the sunroom via my iPhone. And I wonder who could have possibly left our vacuum torn up like that. ;) Continue Reading…