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Okay, so I’m a little behind on my FiOS TV widgets. In the last few weeks Verizon has introduced two new ones, bringing MLB and Yelp into the FiOS fold. The new widgets do pretty much what you’d expect. MLB brings you news, scores, stats, and player updates, and if you’re an Extra Innings subscriber you can also get customized alerts for up to ten different teams. Meanwhile the Yelp widget offers a local business directory with customer ratings, and details on venue pricing, parking, etc.

The big question here: do users want this stuff on their TVs? I’ve generally been a fan of Verizon’s widget work in the past, but TV widgets are now in direct competition with ever-present apps on smartphones, smartbooks, and (smart?) slates or tablets. Users may not always have a mobile or computing device nearby, but when they do, it’s often going to be the better choice for looking up specific information or engaging in social interaction. Think about it. Are you more likely to tweet on your TV or from your phone? Continue Reading…

As announced last night, the Opera Mini web browser is now available as a free download from the iPhone App Store (iTunes). This is one of the first real alternatives to the Safari web browser that ships with the iPhone.

While there are other browsers in the App Store, they all use the same WebKit rendering engine as Safari. Opera Mini takes a different approach by offloading much of the heavy lifting to a remote server — where Opera will compress JavaScript, images, and other data and then send it to your phone. This means your phone will actually have to process fewer bits to accurately show a web page, and the end result is that Opera Mini should render pages more quickly than Safari under some conditions.

I took Opera Mini for a spin on my iPod touch this morning, and I have to say, it doesn’t really feel that much faster than Safari for most tasks. Read the rest of this entry »

There may be a space in between modern smartphones like the iPhone or Google Nexus One and old fashioned phones that do little more than make phone calls. The T-Mobile Sidekick, for instance, is a feature-phone that lets you surf the web and chat, but which doesn’t support third party apps.

Now Microsoft is hoping to jump into feature phone space in a big way. The company introduced KIN today. KIN is a new cellphone platform with a heavy focus on social networking and sharing. The two handsets Microsoft is introducing will let you connect to Facebook, MySpace, Windows Live, Twitter, and other services to share photos, videos, messages, and other items.

Sounds like a smartphone, right? Read the rest of this entry »

vue-hardware1

The Vue Personal Video Network bundle has been shipping for a number of months now. And in the time I’ve dilly dallied with my review hardware, Vue has seen some notable improvements since the possibly reserved launch coverage.

The $300 Vue bundle consist of a wireless base station, which you hardwire to your router, and two wireless cameras to remotely monitor just about anything from a Flash-capable browser. Or (now) iPhone app! The cameras are quite small and clever, as magnetically paired and positioned on their half sphere mounts. Additional cams can be purchased for $100 each. Video resolution isn’t horrible, maxing out at 640×480, but Vue’s frame rate seems low and you’re going to need good lighting for best results. Another heads up for prospective buyers is the Lithium Ion CR123 camera battery requirement. Avaak, the company behind Vue, expects battery life to run about a year — by estimating 10 minutes of usage a day. But, during my eval period, I burned through a pair of batteries and replacements ran me about $14.

Pretty much everything, from setup to viewing, is handled via web browser at VueZone.com. You can flip between camera feeds, adjust viewing sizes, and snap still images or record video clips. Additionally, both live feeds and archived content can be shared with friends, family, or business associates via VueZone. Plus, Flickr and YouTube upload options are provided. An initial knock on Vue’s video monitoring solution was the lack of motion detection and scheduled recording capabilities as found in competing products. However, through a recent firmware update, Vue now offers a variety of scheduling options as pictured above.

Catching up with company reps at CES didn’t yield details on product updates. However, Avaak has just secured $10 million in new financing/investment.

Click to enlarge:

Comcast data usage meter

The Comcast bandwidth meter pilot has reached my house, and for the first time today I got a look at our household data usage. Understand, we still have plenty of room under the Comcast 250-GB cap. However, I had hoped that our usage would barely register on the meter (like Jeff Baumgartner’s :)), and instead we hit a healthy 43 GB in the month of December.

Again, 43 GB is nowhere near our 250-GB monthly allowance. But I’ve considered our bandwidth usage to be pretty low, particularly compared to what it could be if Netflix had a better selection of Watch-Instantly flicks, or if I started using Skype video again. Not to mention, I’d like to get around to spending my end-of-year Mozy bonus from Dave, and there’s no telling what an initial data upload or disaster recovery download could do to my numbers.

In other words, I was hoping to have more room for my data usage to grow. It sounds like quintupling my highest-usage month would be a lot, but I can envision a time in the near future when that wouldn’t be a hard thing to do. Will caps keep up with usage patterns? Will Comcast stay so generous? Here’s hoping.