Archives For Media

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Do you find ebook pricing especially onerous given reduced manufacturing and distribution costs, an inability to share purchased content, vendors yanking previously purchased content off our devices, and the number of retired DRM schemes that often take our access with it to the grave? Can’t find anything worth reading or don’t have the patience to wait for that single Overdrive public library ebook license? Well, perhaps digital rentals are a reasonable compromise that we can all get behind. And it looks like Amazon and at least one publisher are willing to give it a shot – beyond textbooks. Continue Reading…

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The Wall Street Journal is out with a report indicating my former employer, and the visionary behind the Slingbox, has landed a new gig:

Microsoft Corp.has acquired a small home-entertainment technology startup to beef up its Xbox unit, according to people familiar with the matter. The company, id8 Group R2 Studios Inc., was created by entrepreneur Blake Krikorian in May 2011. Mr. Krikorian will be joining the Redmond, Wash., software giant with a small team. As part of the deal, Microsoft also acquired some patents owned by the startup related to controlling electronic devices.

Blake’s dabbled and invested in a variety of a projects since moving on from the Echostar-acquired Sling Media, but this latest move is notable as he’s once again assembled a seemingly valuable team and patent portfolio. But, unlike Sling’s exit, R2 Studios is more early gestation – perhaps ripe for nurturing and integration into the ever expanding Xbox ecosystem. Home automation and placeshifting? Sure, why not! Unfortunately, as Ross Rubin tweets, the implication remains that Media Center development has been mothballed.

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“Netflix for Magazines” has arrived in the form of Next Issue. Originally available only via Android tablets beginning in April, Next Issue has now launched an iPad app. And, after catching the press release on Engadget, I took it for a very quick spin. While the venture, backed by Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp. and Time Inc., provide individual magazine subscriptions, its real value is the all-you-can eat access. Two tiers of service are offerred, running $10 a month for “Basic” or $15/mo for “Premium.” The primary differentiator between service levels of publication frequency — Basic seems to be composed of monthlies, while Premium adds weeklies (and The New Yoker) on top of that.

As a voracious reader, I find myself quite interested in Next Issue and many of their current 39 titles… as long as magazines continue to exist. Yet, after a few minutes into the app, I’m ready to cancel my subscription. It does offer some rudimentary interactive features and decent navigation, but the content ultimately feels like scanned pages due to the inability to zoom in/out and the painfully distracting aliased text – as experienced on the iPad 3. The full page interstitial ads don’t win points, either. I can probably get past the ads and zoom, but the awful text rendering is an absolute deal breaker. And, so, I shall terminate my trial early and take another look if/when they improve their fonts for a retina display.

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  April 5, 2012 — Leave a comment

A periodic roundup of relevant news… via our other outlets:

Comcast subscribers may soon get HBO Go on the Xbox
The fact that Comcast has blocked HBO Go on some devices has been a major point of contention in recent weeks. Reports say that Comcast and HBO are closing in on a deal to make the HBO Go app available to Xfinity subscribers on the Xbox and the operator may unlock access as early as this week.

Comcast plans the X3, its first all-IP HD set-top
In addition to building out the Xcalibur platform, Comcast has several other IP initiatives in the works. In February the operator introduced Streampix, an on-demand Internet-based service that’s been compared to an early version of Netflix’s (Nasdaq: NFLX) streaming service. Then there’s the Comcast Xfinity app on Xbox

Google reaches halfway mark with new fiber huts in Kansas and Missouri 
Time Warner has been dismissive of Google’s plans so far. A spokesperson told the Kansas City Star, “This [Google Fiber] is a product that doesn’t exist on a network that doesn’t exist.” Google, however, says it will begin offering service on the new fiber network later this year.

Rovi signs new wide-ranging licensing deal with Sony
Rovi announced that it has signed a technology and patent licensing agreement with Sony covering components of Rovi’s interactive program guide (IPG), which is currently in use by Panasonic, Toshiba, Charter Communications, and Suddenlink, among others.

Google has rather quietly launched a catalog app for the iPad. After it’s last ill-fated attempt to digitize catalogs bit the dust two and a half years ago, the new tablet app (coming to Android devices soon) seems to be the right move at the right time. Even if you don’t enjoy shopping – or feel, like Engadget, that catalogs are best suited for starting fires in the fireplace (fair enough) – the new app has relevance. This is what retail and magazines should be like on a tablet. Digital periodicals have had a rough road so far, but there’s still a lot of potential in the medium, and if you add in an easier way to make money, the business should get a boost. The click-to-buy function gets at that powerful instant gratification impulse, and by couching it in an experience that’s fun, interactive, and playful, catalogs and publications should have an easier time drawing consumers in.

From a purely personal and frivolous standpoint, I love the new Google app. You can page through a range of catalogs with a swipe of the finger, zoom in on images, click to purchase, save favorites to a single location from different stores, share stuff with friends, and even create your own collages pairing together items from all over the place. It’s way cooler than the analog alternative, and much easier than opening up multiple windows on your PC to compare products. There are still a limited number of catalogs available in the app, but that will surely change. I expect we’ll see a big jump before the holiday shopping season. In the meantime, I’m happy with what I can get. It’s about time the tablet shopping experience got a makeover.