Archives For Industry

Hillcrest HoME TV UI 1

Hillcrest Labs stopped working on its HoME interface for smart TVs close to seven years ago. And yet the UI is still better than most you’ll see on the market today.

I stopped by the Hillcrest Labs HQ earlier this month, and, as part of the visit, got a full demo walk-through of HoME. The reference TV UI includes web apps, movie cover art, a beautiful zooming motion, and easy drill-down options for content discovery across TV and personal media. Kodak used the design in its Kodak Theatre HD player, but unfortunately that product launched in 2008… just before the financial crash, and just as Kodak was starting to slide into bankruptcy.

The HoME interface isn’t used anywhere today, and Hillcrest has decided to back-burner the technology. However, the company still holds numerous patents in the space. While Hillcrest execs have turned their focus to motion-sensing software (more on that another time), they also aren’t closing the door on future TV UI development efforts. HoME could make a return someday.

Hillcrest HoME TV UI 6

In the meantime, check out another photo from my Hillcrest visit. My favorite is the photo library from CES 2005. That happens to be the first year I ever made it out to the Vegas show. Bill Gates was keynoting, and the Ojo video phone was making its rounds. Good times.

Aereo logo and antenna array

Aereo has been super savvy in grabbing headlines of late. If you’re not caught up on the story so far, the start-up TV company has expanded to a few new markets, won another round in court against broadcasters, and left Fox, CBS and others frothing at the mouth and threatening to move free programming over to a paid service model.

The thing about Aereo is, while the conceptual disruption is huge, the impact of the actual service is still vanishingly small.

Continue Reading…

Google Fiber TV

There’s been a flood of video news over the last two weeks, and mostly your friends here at Zatz Not Funny have been too busy to cover the excitement. We promise to do better, but in the meantime, here’s a quick round-up of happenings.

Austin gets Google – It won’t happen until 2014, but Austin is the next city on the list for Google Fiber, and Google Fiber TV. Exact pricing isn’t nailed down yet, but execs say it should stick close to the Kansas City deployments where gigabit Internet service is $70/month, and Internet plus TV rings in at $120 per month.

Vdio launches – The founders of Rdio have introduced Vdio, a new streaming VOD service. It’s no Netflix killer, however, as Vdio comes without a monthly subscription option. Like Amazon VOD or iTunes, everything you want to watch through Vdio requires an individual paid transaction. For now, you also have to be an existing Rdio subscriber.

Simple.TV gets funding – The folks at Simple.TV have branched out from their Kickstarter roots and raised a very official-sounding sum of $5.7 million. Dave says that “by incorporating just a single OTA tuner and requiring owners supply their own USB storage, [Simple.TV] remains the province of geeks.” But the company apparently has bigger plans for its DVR streamer. The founder says the company wants to add cable and OTT content, and extend the software to third-party hardware. Continue Reading…

ACA Summit Matthew Polka Ajit Pai

ACA President Matthew Polka with FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai

You know how a lot of consumers are fed up with rising cable bills, excessive program bundling, and limited access to TV shows? It turns out independent cable operators feels the same way.

Over and over and over at today’s American Cable Association Summit – a policy-driven event put on by the independent cable organization – I heard frustration about the state of the pay-TV business from small cable companies who feel outgunned in a market where the content bills just keep going up. Indie operators have two main complaints, and they’re both related. First, they have no leverage in licensing retransmission agreements because content owners can threaten TV blackouts. Second, in some markets, broadcasters are working together to set licensing fees, a practice the cable operators consider to be collusion. According to Wide Open West CEO Colleen Abdoulah, collusion is taking place in 20% of TV markets and is driving up retransmission costs by at least 22%. Continue Reading…

Aereo hearts cable

People think of Aereo as a cable competitor, but the company’s real fight is with OTA broadcasters who don’t want to lose retransmission revenue. And if Aereo were to win its war in court, some pay-TV providers might very well decide to partner with the company rather than battle against it.

Jeff Baumgartner reports that the topic of cable partnerships came up this week at the annual NCTC winter conference. The National Cable  Telecommunications Cooperative is made up of independent cable operators, and Aereo’s CEO Chet Kanojia participated on a panel at the organization’s recent event. Reportedly Kenojia said Aereo would “take a very open approach with everyone we choose to work with,” and that he’d be “‘ecstatic’ to work with a like-thinking cable ISP.”

In other words, despite its marketing rhetoric, Aereo – like TiVo before it – would love to break into the cable biz.

Personally, I’m convinced that even if Aereo doesn’t win in court, it has other options for peddling its services. Beyond the now-famous dime-size antennas, Aereo appears to be operating sophisticated transcoding and video delivery technology. I imagine the Aereo solution is similar to what the TiVo Stream or Morega’s DirecTV Nomad device provides, except that the transcoding process takes place in the cloud rather than on a device in the home. The basic transcoding isn’t novel – plenty of companies offer transcoding services – but the ability to do it well and at scale is another thing entirely. Until all television content is transmitted in IP, Aereo has another potential technology ace up its sleeve, and plenty of patents to support it.