Archives For Media

The Vudu Status Report

Dave Zatz —  March 6, 2009 — 11 Comments

vudu

It’s been awhile since we’ve talked Vudu here on ZNF, so it’s time for a 2009 status update. The year started with a second round of layoffs, which came as no surprise given some of the funding chatter that came my way late in 2008. Not surprisingly, Vudu followed this by announcing a renewed focus on licensing the Vudu platform and permanently slashed prices on their standard box by 50% $150 is a much more compelling and competitive price point.

On the experiential end, Vudu now offers HD movie purchases in addition to rentals. In this day and age, however, I have no desire to own digital content. I’d rather rent on demand. Of interest, a pair of iPhone apps have been also released. The official app provides an efficient method to browse and rent HDX titles on the go – so they’re ready for playback when you get home. The Vudu iRemote, like the TiVo DVR iPhone remote, utilizes your network and built-in Vudu home automation hooks to provide touchscreen device navigation.

vudu-iphone

This week, version 2.2 of Vudu software was deployed to boxes, consisting of mostly minor enhancements and fixes. However, the next update is rumored to address some of Last100′s concerns by providing local network storage/archiving… and extender streaming functionality. Something many of will look forward to.

iphone-kindle

As a guy who’s been reading e-books for nearly a decade on handheld devices (Palm V , Dell Axim, PPC 6700, etc), I’m pretty psyched this AM to see Amazon follow through on promises to expand the Kindle experience beyond their own hardware. While both Stanza and eReader are installed on my iPhone, they don’t offer nearly as many titles as Amazon. More importantly, they can’t compete on price. (Amazon’s best sellers and new releases run $9.99.) However, my hopes of a directly integrated bookstore have been dashed with the initial Kindle on iPhone app release. In fact, Amazon’s own shopping app can’t even purchase Kindle books. I assume this is a temporary limitation, and Amazon.com is optimized for mobile Safari. Because as an infrequent and spontaneous (book) reader, I know I’ll be looking for titles in an airport just before boarding a flight.

kindle-font

Obviously the iPhone reading experience is much different from using Amazon’s dedicated Kindle hardware. The screen is smaller and while the backlight is great for reading in dim locations, a bright LCD can be visually fatiguing. Above, notice the macro Kindle e-ink shot taken by Tumblr lead developer Marco Arment. He’s concluded the little splotches are unintended artifacts, a result of immature tech. However, I believe this is intentional – mimicking the the composition of paper. Certainly the Kindle screen is easy on the eyes. When it’s not blinking with each page turn.

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drobo-firmware

This is the first time in my 25+ years in computing that a hardware manufacturer has informed me that it wants to charge me for a firmware upgrade. I innocently checked my Drobo for firmware updates yesterday and was startled to receive the message above.

It was bad enough that my DroboShare experience was a disaster. Despite promised upgrades, Data Robotics support folks could never get it to work properly with my Vista 64 or my XP systems on my home network – others had the same problem.  They just gave up. To this day, my DroboShare sits unused on a shelf in my closet – $300+ wasted. In-depth forum posts that I wrote about this topic on the DroboSpace forum are now hidden behind user account walls – viewable only by Drobo owners. Serial numbers are now needed to access their forum. This wasn’t the case last year.

To have to pay for firmware upgrades, which primarily amount to nothing more than bug fixes over time, for Drobo hardware is ridiculous. I gather that if they ever do fix the DroboShare problems which made the product unusable from the beginning, I’ll have to pay an upgrade fee. Give me a break!

I still love my Drobo, but I’m beginning to resent Data Robotics.

Dale Dietrich is a Toronto-based technology, video game, and interactive media attorney. Read more at The Daleisphere.

Hulu Drops The Hammer

Dave Zatz —  February 18, 2009 — 33 Comments

the-piratebay-logo

I sort of figured this day would come… Based on my perception of the licensing/royalty complexities and content providers fear that a current web video catalog piped to the television competes with live broadcasts. Hulu has shown their true colors – spawned of big media and beholden to big media. And Boxee has become a victim of their amazing success:

two weeks ago Hulu called and told us their content partners were asking them to remove Hulu from boxee. we tried (many times) to plead the case for keeping Hulu on boxee, but on Friday of this week, in good faith, we will be removing it

We don’t yet know what this might mean for others, like PlayOn, D-Link DivX Connected, and SageTV HD Theater, that also deliver Hulu content to the boob tube. Even if these folks don’t hear directly from Hulu, they’ve got to be rethinking the development resources they dedicate to Hulu support going forward. Related, I don’t believe this move foreshadows Hulu’s own set-top box. It’s just more of the same old school, short-sighted thinking that crippled the record labels. Good luck with that.

We knew Amazon Video on Demand was headed to Roku‘s media streamer ($99) early this year. And now, via their forums, we have word that the service has entered private beta. I had hoped Amazon VOD functionality was hidden within the recent 1.5 software update, however it’s rolled into a more significant 2.0 upgrade. Which potentially means a longer wait. Although, the refresh may also contain YouTube access. Look closely at the Amazon.com screengrab above for some (possible) visual confirmation. I can’t say YouTube excites me all that much. But combined with Netflix and Amazon, Roku’s negotiated quite the impressive trifecta for such a tiny, inexpensive box. But what I really want to know (still) is: Will Amazon VOD be offered in HD?