Archives For Video

verizon-cablecard-lockdown

Verizon may find themselves dethroned as the top TiVo-friendly “cable” provider come August when they implement the Copy Once CableCARD flag — presumably at HBO’s request and in at least one market (Dallas Fort Worth). On channels and programs with this particular CCI Byte notation, TiVo owners will be permitted to DVR shows as they normally would. However, they’ll be unable to transfer those recordings to other TiVo units or offload them via TiVoToGo for mobile playback or archival purposes. TiVo owners with TiVo Premiere hardware will retain the option to stream recorded programming between units, but owners of older TiVo hardware and/or in a hybrid TiVo environment will find themselves out of luck. Fortunately, Verizon indicates this change will be specific to “certain premium channels” … which is more consumer friendly than Cox Communications or Time Warner Cable’s approach of locking everything down, other than the locals, in some regions. As with many such initiatives, this move inconveniences legit cable subscribers while doing nothing to limit piracy. And so it goes.

(Thanks, Brennok!)

sony-googletv

The latest generation of Google TV hardware is poised to launch, featuring devices from the likes of Vizio and Sony. And it appears Sony’s second generation “Internet Player with Google TV” (NSZ-GS7) is up first — hitting store shelves next month and available for pre-oder now ($199). Unfortunately, it looks to be more of the same. While Google TV does offer a few clever tricks, including the Chrome web browser, video overlay, and QWERTY remote, the overall experience is lacking. As the Verge asks, “When does ‘It has potential’ turn into ‘It’s not good enough’?” For the same money, you could get the similarly equipped Boxee Box with active community or three of the more app-centric Roku streaming players. There are rumors of a massive Google TV update announcement later this week… Yet, if it pans out, Sony and Google made a tactical error in introducing this product now. Which would be par for the course.

Microsoft’s offering a free weekend of Xbox Live Gold service to entice new subscribers. While an Xbox 360 ($200 and up) nets you a solid gaming platform, to enable the most compelling online features, such as collaborative gameplay and Netflix streaming, one must subscribe to “Gold” — which retails for $60/year. As regular reader James (jcm) says, the Xbox 360 currently offers arguably the most complete video streaming experience in terms of quantity/quality of apps, polished interface, and integrated search. Yet, the annual subscription irks me and I’ve allowed my service to lapse. Heck, for the same money, one could buy a fee-free Roku LT streamer ($50).

But I went ahead and dug my Xbox 360 out of the closet to partake in the Free Gold Weekend (6/1 – 6/3) to check out the new Amazon Instant video streaming app. As an Amazon Prime member ($80/year), I’m entitled to all sorts of “free” content. Although, I have to say my primary motivation was to check out Amazon’s new Watchlist – overcoming their most significant technical shortcoming compared to say Netflix or Hulu Plus, as recently pointed out by Engadget HD’s Richard Lawler: No queue is a bizarre way to live. Continue Reading…

windows8-mce

The untimely death of Windows Media Center has become something of a self fulfilling prophecy for Microsoft as they skate to where the puck was rather than it could go… under their care. No, Media Center hasn’t actually been EOL-ed. But it’s been banished to a higher tier Windows 8 package or “Pro Pack” upgrade. Hoping for significant updates? Good luck with that:

What version of Windows Media Center will be included in Windows 8?
The version of Media Center included in Windows 8 is what we shipped in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. It is much consistent with what shipped in Windows 7.

Adding insult to injury, Microsoft will no longer fund MPEG2 codec licensing under Windows 8… meaning no DVD playback for you (without third party software). It’s a real shame as Media Center has been and remains a stellar product. But, as Microsoft did with Windows Mobile, they’ll let it atrophy and whither away as they’re lapped by their competitors. Or will they? As MS is wisely doubling down on the Xbox brand and ecosystem. Unfortunately, Microsoft missed their opportunity to merge the Media Center, MediaRoom, and Xbox divisions into a unified living room juggernaut as we begged years ago.

Assuming you’re less doom and gloom than I am regarding Media Center’s future prospects, you can always download the free Windows 8 Release Preview and follow these steps to take a remarkably familiar Media Center for a whirl: Continue Reading…

In a page out of the mobile industry’s playbook, Microsoft is testing a subsidized Xbox bundle via their branded storefronts. Instead of paying $300 up front for a 4GB Xbox 360 console with Kinect, and potential $60 annual service fee covering online services, this dealio requires only a $99 investment… followed by $15/month for the duration of a two year contract. And, like a cell carrier, Microsoft will run a credit check if you choose to partake and imposes an early termination fee (ETF):

Mathematically, the “promotion” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, unless you’re strapped for cash, as it ends up running $40 more at MSRP over a two year period ($460 vs. $420). More importantly, both Xbox 360 hardware and Xbox Live Gold are frequently offered below MSRP.

MS should be applauded for attempting to lower the barrier to entry. But this isn’t the correct solution. A better approach would be adding a Roku-esque Xbox Live streamer to the mix. However, we’ll continue to recommend the competing PS3 over the Xbox while service fees and Microsoft “Points” remain in effect.