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Syabas to Launch $130 Popbox

Dave Zatz —  January 4, 2010 — 2 Comments

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Syabas, the makers of the Popcorn Hour Media Tank, have announced their intentions to launch a lower-cost media playback device this spring. The Popbox ($130) retains much of the impressive codec and high resolution/bitrate support seen in the Popcorn Hour line, but will also emphasize web content such as Netflix (via “Popapps”) and feature a refreshed user interface. However, it’s not enough to have a good idea in making the transition from geek niche to mainstream — as I learned firsthand with SlingCatcher. They probably have the right hardware, but they’ll also need right UI, the right bizdev folks, and the right project management to pull it all together. But I’m feeling optimistic, given that rich new UI (see below) and Syabas’ solid previous hardware initiatives. So I’ll do my best to crash their CES suite Wednesday or Thursday for more details. Stay tuned.

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Netgear “Push 2 TV” at CES?

Dave Zatz —  December 31, 2009 — 10 Comments

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With CES nearly upon us, the leaks and pre-announcements continue to pile up. Next is Netgear’s Push 2 TV box, which just hit the FCC. So I helped myself to a few test photos and took a quick gander at the manual. The Intel-based technology sounds a lot like “Projector” functionality offered by SlingCatcher. Basically, video output of a computer is wirelessly streamed to Netgear’s small set-top box, which is connected to a television. From the manual:

Intel Wireless Display allows consumers to use their HDTV as a huge, remote screen for their laptop. With Intel Wireless Display, consumers can connect their laptop to their TV and enjoy and share their personal media collections, latest YouTube videos, downloaded or streamed movies, music, or a variety of other Internet content from the comfort of their couch.

Intel Wireless Display appears to be both a hardware and Windows 7 software solution. Which may be bundled into a variety of upcoming laptops (pic immediately below). And I imagine Netgear is likely one of numerous vendors to support the spec for piping Internet and personal video from PC to TV.

I’m curious if there will be any output limitations (think DRM-ed video or the Hulu-dream-destroyer) and of course wonder what sort of price point we’re talking. ($149?) I assume these mysteries will be cleared up next week and I plan to hit Netgear’s press conference bright and early Wednesday. Stay tuned! (Thanks, Brad!)

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Clear WiMAX Fancast Xfinity

While Dave’s been lazing around collecting TiVo and Clear QAM scoops this week ;), I’ve been recovering from two weeks of travel and preparing for next week’s trip out to Vegas. All the travel, however, has given me time to test out some new on-the-road tech. A trip to North Carolina proved fortuitous in light of the latest Clearwire WiMAX market launches. Both Raleigh/Durham and Charlotte North Carolina gained Clear service as of December 1.

I’ve been using Clear in Philly since October, but in my daily routine I rarely venture outside of free Wi-Fi range. Using WiMAX has been fun, but not strictly necessary. On the other hand,while visiting friends (and hotels) in North Carolina, it definitely came in handy. I avoided having to pay for Wi-Fi and  hooked into Clear service several times while riding down Interstate 95 (in the passenger seat). The signal remained relatively strong throughout the Durham and Charlotte metro areas, which means I got work done in the car instead of taking time out from visits with friends. Score 1 for WiMAX.

I also tried out Xfinity during my end-of-year travels. Unlike Ryan Lawler over at NewTeeVee, I had no problems with the Comcast authentication software and was up and running on Xfinity pretty quickly. However, like Ryan, my first TV Everywhere experience still came up short. The way Comcast has the service set up, it’s hard to tell what new content is available through Xfinity that wasn’t already available on Fancast. That’s not a big deal except for those of us trying to document what’s changed. However, searching for content I actually wanted to watch also didn’t produce much of interest. I don’t subscribe to any premium channels (no HBO for me), and my vision of catching old episodes of AMC’s Mad Men quickly faded when I saw that Comcast actually has zero episodes of the show online. I did tune into Men of a Certain Age for a while, but quickly turned to more interesting fare in my email inbox. Xfinity needs more content. Score pending.

More stories from the road next week when Dave and I head to Sin City.

Comcast xfinity tv everywhere fancastThat’s right, today is the day that Comcast officially launches it’s version of TV Everywhere, not quite in time for Hanukkah. While the Xfinity name is somewhat unfortunate, it appears we’re supposed to think of the service as the next generation of Project Infinity. For those of you paying attention, Comcast launched Project Infinity back at CES 2008 in an effort to beef  up its on-demand library. Xfinity goes to the next level by taking on-demand online, a phrase which was, incidentally, the original name for the new service. But I digress.

Comcast has now made Xfinity available to all subscribers of both its broadband and cable TV services. For authentication purposes, users must download software at the Fancast Xfinity site before being able to access content online, but once the Move Networks Abode Air video player is downloaded, subscribers are free to browse cable TV content online at will. Keep in mind that, yes, Xfinity viewing does count toward the Comcast bandwidth cap, but at 250 GB, there seems to be quite a bit of wiggle room. And for bandwidth monitoring, Comcast has promised to release a new Web-based meter in the first quarter of next year.

On the content front, Xfinity service includes shows from AMC, A&E, BBC America, Time Warner, CBS, and a dozen or so other programmers. Premium subscribers to Starz, HBO, and Cinemax can also access shows from those networks online.

To supplement your Xfinity viewing, you can surf on over to Hulu for more content. With the new Comcast/NBCU deal in the works, however, I can only assume that Hulu will, as Ryan Lawler predicts, become something of a lame duck in the next year. In fact, Comcast’s COO Stephen Burke just this week stated that the deal with NBCU lets Comcast create its own hybrid of the Hulu model – part free content and part premium television online.

There’s plenty more to say on the topic of Xfinity, but for now it’s worth it just to sit back and see how consumers react. If you’re a subscriber, please add your thoughts in the comments below. I’ll be putting Xfinity through its paces over the next few weeks as well, so expect to hear more about the service soon.

To Xfinity And Beyond! (Soon.)

Dave Zatz —  December 12, 2009 — 1 Comment

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Chanukah has arrived, yet Comcast’s Xfinity is nowhere to be found. Or is it? I have it on good authority that Comcast did indeed attempt to launch this week. In fact, I’ve dug up at least one live web page (above) featuring dual Fancast-Xfinity branding. Plus, I received an email yesterday announcing the imminent closure of the Fancast Store (screengrab, below right). So we’re probably just mere days away from the unveiling of Comcast’s revamped TV Everywhere web experience, featuring HBO (!) content.