Archive for April, 2012
It only makes sense that the Google TV initiative to increase personalization would extend to videos served up from its YouTube site, and now the official app has been updated to do just that. The new version brings recommendations meant to pull gems you might like out of the ever growing pile of content available, as well as a way to search between the new YouTube channels on your TV. Also users should notice improved video quality since the app will automatically try to play content at the best available resolution from the start, and if they find something interesting, it now supports +1 sharing to Google+. The new app is already live on Google Play, compatible devices should be pointed that way for the new experience.
Ah, yes. The end of the week is upon us. Of course, this means that the latest installment of our tablet publication has arrived. Stepping up to the plate this time around, Brian Heater takes a look inside LASR, the Navy’s Robotics Lab, and Richard Lai chats with MSI co-founder Jeans Huang. After a strong debut last week, Ludwig Kietzmann is back with Reaction Time and his take on Journey. Our brand spankin’ new hands-on section looks back at Spotify’s Android preview, Alexandre Herchovitch’s HP Pavilion DM1, MIT’s Arduino-powered DrumTop and Google Drive. We spend some quality time with the T-Mobile HTC One S, LG Viper, ASUS TF300 and MSI GT70 while Switched On tackles Kickstarter project funding. Looking for something more? IRL reveals our personal gadget stash, the Stat takes a look at tech jobs, Tapbots co-creator Mark Jardine handles the Q&A and Box Brown offers the Last Word on Facebook’s recent purchase. Go ahead and hit your favorite link below to snag your copy of this week’s e-magazine.
Sky is reportedly considering splitting its stereoscopic programming into separate Sports and Entertainment channels as its content stable swells. Speaking to Pocket-lint, movie bosses Simon Rexworthy and Ian Lewis confirmed that they don’t have enough time in the schedules unless sporting coverage is hived off to a distinct “Sky Sports 3D”. After the split, Sky 3D would only broadcast films, factual and TV content, with the caveat that they’re prioritizing quality over quantity. Lewis mentioning that one recently-released flick has been blacklisted from the service after making the testers sick, although he neglected to mention its title.
Details remain decidedly light on this one, but it looks like Samsung could be about to expand its AllShare media streaming / sharing service with a new piece of hardware. A device dubbed the AllShare Cast Hub has now turned up in some FCC filings, apparently packing some HDMI connectivity and dual-band WiFi capabilities. Unfortunately, that’s about all that the filings reveal, but it’s not too much of a stretch to infer that the device is a media hub of some sort, presumably with the ability to stream media from your computer or smartphone to TVs that don’t already support AllShare out of the box. We’re guessing Samsung will fill in the rest of the details sooner or later, but those into test reports can dive into the links below right now.
The NFL has finally realized the reality TV potential of its big night, and moved the process of making several young players millionaires to prime time. While Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are cemented as the top two picks ,there’s plenty of drama left for the rest of the first round and those that follow. Whether you’re watching to see what your favorite team does or where a player you watched in college goes, it’s just the start of the offseason festivities for football fans. We’ve preferred the NFL Network’s coverage to ESPN’s in recent years, we’ll see who wins the day in 2012.
(April 26th, 8PM, ESPN & NFL Network)
This weekend the NBA Playoffs get underway and ABC has the opening games. We’ll have to wait a little longer to know who will be playing who in each matchup, but until then, you can see the Bobcats try to avoid breaking a record for futility Thursday night on TNT.
One word: Unpredictable. Most of the top teams are already out after round one, but that’s just life in the NHL Playoffs. The chase for the Stanley Cup continues this week, but your guess is as good as ours when it comes to who has the edge. Many games are still TBD on the schedule, so keep your eyes peeled to find out when and where they’ll be playing.
What HiFi: New from Sony is the CMT-V75BTiP all-in-one audio system with built-in iPhone/iPad dock, CD player and DAB+ radio. The speakers use Sony’s patented Magnetic Fluid technology which…
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TiVo’s rebranding its Premiere line of DVRs in order to eliminate customer confusion in the lineup. The range will now comprise of the Premiere, while the Premiere XL is unsurprisingly renamed Premiere XL2, while the quad-tuner Premiere Elite is now called the Premiere XL4. The first two are suitable for over-the-air programming, while the latter is limited to those of you with cable or FiOS subscriptions. New livery and branding should arrive in stores soon, although TiVo’s website is yet to reflect the changes.
If you have a smartphone or tablet, chances are good that there’s a version of the MLB At Bat 12 app available for your device. And it appears that baseball fans are discovering the free program in unprecedented numbers. The free At Bat Lite version gives you scores, video highlights, news reports, and more. The full-featured version costs for the whole season, and delivers pitch-by-pitch animation of live games, radio coverage, and more.
Is it a popular feature? According to an MLB press release, just eight days into the season the app had been downloaded more than 3 million times. And the service had already delivered a daily average of more than 800,000 live audio and video streams (not to mention all the video clips). On Wednesday, April 11, fans viewed more than a million live streams.
Who needs to worry about lousy television or radio reception? If you’re within the reach of WiFi, you can get a digital-clear audio or video stream, and the price of for the whole season is likely viewed as a bargain by many fans. This app is probably especially valuable for fans who are not within reach of their home team’s broadcast footprint for a significant part of the season.
1 million streams in a day may not be a huge number by some measures, but consider this; the average television audience for the 2011 World Series was just 16.6 million. That means that on a random mid-week day early in the season, the number of audio and video streams on this app was equal to 6% of the total television audience for the World Series. I don’t see how you can conclude anything except that consumers are accepting mobile digital devices as a viable alternative to traditional broadcast radio and television. Whether its movies, television episodes, music, or live sports, we are turning to streaming sources on the Internet in growing numbers.
If this keeps up, you’ll be getting a new toaster when you upgrade your cable subscription.
Cablevision announced on Friday that members of its Optimum Rewards loyalty program now get a new perk: discounted car rentals from Hertz. The deal also offers free rental upgrades and free membership in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards.
Wow, when I sit down in front of my television, I often find myself thinking about renting a car. Not. I’m not saying that there isn’t value in this new partnership between the two partnerships, but I think it is a strong indication of just how lost the cable services are in general these days. Cablevision is in a particularly difficult situation in its New York City metropolitan market, because it faces competition on a number of fronts, and not just satellite services. According to The Bridge, Cablevision’s subscriber list has been slowly but steadily dropping since the fourth quarter of 2010. Most large cable services show similar results.
The cable services have to figure out how to deliver more perceived value to their subscribers while charging more for the same service due to increased retransmission fees, infrastructure maintenance, and other rising costs. They have to fight off the pressure for a la carte pricing of their enormous inventory of linear programming channels, while finding a way to get video on demand (VOD) offerings to compete with online streaming and DVD rental services. They certainly have a difficult task on their hands, but I’m not clear that putting the subscriber in the driver’s seat is the solution.
Ubergizmo: Music lovers, if you’re looking for a set of new headphones to use while on the move, Pioneer has recently outed two new headphones. One of which is aimed at audiophiles and the other…
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On Monday, the Consumer Electronics Association announced that participants in the eCycling Leadership Initiative managed to recycle 460 million pounds of consumer electronics in 2011. This number is even more impressive when you consider that this is more than one and a half times the 300 million pounds that was recycled in 2010. Drop-off locations increased from 5,000 in 2010 to 7,500 in 2011. The CEA also reports that 96% of all the recycling was performed by certified third-party recycling facilities.
This is an important step in the right direction. The program has set an ambitious goal of 1 billion pounds recycled in 2016, which will keep a football-stadium’s worth of waste out of our nation’s landfills.
If you want to participate by recycling your unwanted consumer electronic devices, you can find the nearest drop-off location at the GreenerGadgets website.
The legendary rapper, Tupac Shakur, made an appearance at Coachella in California last weekend, in spite of the fact that he’s been dead for more than 15 years. He performed on stage alongside Snoop Dogg, including a “live” shout-out to the Coachella audience. Putting aside the creepy factor of performing with dead singers, let’s talk briefly about the technology.
Let me say at the outset that even though I was not there, it appears that this production was a triumph of technology. The creators apparently combined video recordings and computer animation and audio manipulation to create a completely new performance by the rapper. It is impressive, to say the least.
What I wish people would not say, however, that it is a “holographic” image. Just Google “Tupac hologram” and see how widely the term was used to describe this production. As I understand the technology, it is not a hologram; there is no 3D component to the display. It is simply a 2D image projected onto an invisible screen. It’s not clear if it’s rear or front projection, or if perhaps there is some sort of beam-splitter material involved. But in any case, it is not a 3D hologram. When you move your head from side to side, you see different views of the object; you can see details on the side of the object that were not visible before. With a projected image like this, it may look like 3D because you can move your head and see objects placed behind the image, but the image does not change. It’s as if it were constantly turning to face you, no matter where you move.
If you’re too close to the projection screen, you can see a strangely distorted image:
The image of Tupac appears strangely thin from this angle.
This is not the first time that the press has incorrectly named this sort of production a hologram, and I don’t expect it to be the last. But I still wish that they’d use the term correctly.
After raising the price of its NFL Sunday Ticket package last season, this year DirecTV is dropping it back down for current subscribers, to just 9. Of course, most of the impetus for the price drop is probably because so many current subs are people who signed up for the service last season with Sunday Ticket as a freebie, but we’re sure regular customers will gladly keep the cash in their pockets. Another change for the 2012 season is the NFL Sunday Ticket Max package, which includes all the extras of SuperFan and To-Go (RedZone Channel, streaming to iOS and Android mobile devices, Short Cuts, VOD highlights, etc.) extras as a part of the bundle for an extra 0 to existing customers, or for 9.95. There’s no word on any additional game consoles or internet only packages yet, but at least with the lockout a distant memory, football fans have all offseason to decide if they want to shell out for it.
Verizon is remembering how to turn to subscribers into cash, reporting consolidated revenues up 4.6 percent year-over-year to billion and earnings of .7 billion — boosting earnings-per-share by 15 percent. By comparison, revenues were billion in Q1 2011, and a mere billion last quarter, which resulted in a billion net loss. Big Red’s performance is now as strong as ever, with subscriber numbers up five percent to 93 million, and with 47 percent of those customers using insanely profitable devices called smartphones. On the TV and broadband side side, its FiOS unit now tops five million internet customers, and added a net total of 180,000 video subscribers. And that new upgrade fee hasn’t even kicked in yet.
Two weeks ago, Best Buy announced that it was planning to close 50 stores as part of its cost-cutting moves designed to help reverse its recent financial losses. Over last weekend, the company released a list of the stores that will close.
These stores are expected to close permanently by May 12. This obviously is a tough decision for the company, and eliminates the jobs of many people who work in those stores. The silver lining in this cloud is that we now have locations and a timeline, so if one of these stores is near you, you may want to watch for closing sales that could offer some special bargains.
Here is the list as posted on the Best Buy site:
|Casa Grande||1004 N Promenade Pwy||Casa Grande||AZ|
|Lake Pleasant||10134 W Happy Valley Rd||Peoria||AZ|
|East Palo Alto||1751 E Bayshore Rd||East Palo Alto||CA|
|Westwood||10861 Weyburn Ave||Los Angeles||CA|
|Manteca||934 Perimeter Dr||Manteca||CA|
|Moreno Valley East||27220 Eucalyptus||Moreno Valley||CA|
|Ontario||4120 E 4th St||Ontario||CA|
|Pittsburg||4405 Century Blvd||Pittsburg||CA|
|Jamboree||2857 Park Ave||Tustin||CA|
|Arapahoe & Parker||15800 E Briarwood Cir||Aurora||CO|
|The Forum||9370 Dynasty Dr||Fort Myers||FL|
|Oldsmar||11655 W Hillsborough Ave||Tampa||FL|
|Fayetteville||128 Pavilion Pkwy||Fayetteville||GA|
|Loganville||4014 Atlanta Hwy||Loganville||GA|
|Addison||1038 N Rohlwing Rd||Addison||IL|
|87th & Dan Ryan||8900 S Lafayette Ave||Chicago||IL|
|Deerfield||200 S Waukegan Rd||Deerfield||IL|
|Matteson||4707 Lincoln Mall Dr||Matteson||IL|
|Mundelein||1100 N Rt 83||Mundelein||IL|
|West Dundee||979 W Main St||West Dundee||IL|
|Speedway||10500 Parallel Pkwy||Kansas City||KS|
|Back Bay||360 Newbury St||Boston||MA|
|Wareham||2421 Cranberry Hwy||Wareham||MA|
|Inner Harbor||600 E Pratt St||Baltimore||MD|
|Hunt Valley||118 Shawan Rd||Hunt Valley||MD|
|Biddeford||405 Mariner Way||Biddeford||ME|
|*Brooklyn Center||5925 Earle Brown Dr||Brooklyn Center||MN|
|*Edina||3200 Southdale Cir||Edina||MN|
|*Hutchinson||1350 Hwy 15 S||Hutchinson||MN|
|*Lakeville||18350 Orchard Trl||Lakeville||MN|
|Rochester South||4540 Maine Ave Se||Rochester||MN|
|*Rogers||20870 Rogers Dr||Rogers||MN|
|Ellisville||15678 Manchester Rd||Ellisville||MO|
|Monroe||3151 W Highway 74||Monroe||NC|
|Rocky Mount||1100 N Wesleyan Blvd||Rocky Mount||NC|
|Millard||12210 K Plz||Omaha||NE|
|East River Plaza||517 E 117th St||New York||NY|
|Steelyard Commons||3506 Steelyard Dr||Cleveland||OH|
|Salem Mall||5031 Salem Ave||Dayton||OH|
|Caguas||Las Americas Expry PR52 Zafiro||Caguas||PR|
|Middletown||890 W Main Rd||Middletown||RI|
|Hickory Hollow||5255 Hickory Hollow Pkwy||Antioch||TN|
|Techridge||12901 North I-35||Austin||TX|
|*Woodlake Parkway||6218 Woodglen||San Antonio||TX|
|Landmark Mall||5901 Stevenson Ave||Alexandria||VA|
|Cosner’s Corner||9745 Jefferson Davis Hwy||Fredericksburg||VA|
|East Richmond||4410 S Laburnum Ave||Richmond||VA|
|Mill Plain||16611 Se Mill Plain Blvd||Vancouver||WA|
* indicates stores notified March 29, 2012 of closure plans
Note: Two stores in Kansas City, MO (Metro North) and Scottsdale, AZ (Shea) permanently closed in February 2012.
The latest update for Roku 2 and LT boxes is rolling out to all now, bringing the boxes to v4.6 and reportedly improving system navigation performance “by up to 50 percent”. As noticed by Zatz Not Funny when it first started leaking out, this version includes the French language support required by Roku’s Canadian launch (that’s the channel selection for Canada pictured above) this week, while the official blog notes several other fixes and tweaks that should make launching channels like Netflix and BBC iPlayer a more reliable experience. As usual, it should be pushed to every box over the next couple of days, but you can speed up the process by manually checking for an update. Have an older Roku player? Don’t worry, Director of Product Management Tom Markworth closes telling owners to “stay tuned” for future updates coming their way as well.
Did you not get enough Swedish furniture pr0n yesterday with the announcement of Ikea’s Uppleva? Well, we’ve got a slew of new images and some new details for you. As far as specs, it seems that the sets will be available in 24, 36, 40 and 46 inches and all are LED backlit. They’ll also all sport WiFi and “smart TV” features including the Opera browser — except for the 24-incher, which must accept its role as the runt of the litter. The TVs will also come attached to three different TV bench designs in six different finishes. While we weren’t able to score our own units yet, M3 did and you can check out their hands-on out at the source link.
Gallery: Ikea Uppleva
On-demand TV viewing continues to secrete itself into the fabric of your live and now its squeezing more viewing hours out of you from hotel rooms across the US. DirecTV‘s HD DVRs pack the typical programming guide and recording options, plus the ability for hotels to add up to 50 channels of their own content to the recorders — meaning plenty of hotel infomercials dying to be paused, live. DirecTV has now officially launched its Residential Experience, bringing its DVR technology to 110 hotels across the country. Fortunately, the systems also include the hygienic touch of an anti-microbial remote. Classy.
What Hifi: It’s not on sale yet, but Denon says its forthcoming Cocoon wireless speaker – shown here in pre-production form – will be available soon. The Cocoon automatically connects to your…
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We’ve known for what feels like ages that Windows 8 would come in at least two flavors: one supporting x86 devices and one for ARM machines. Now Microsoft’s ready to put a naming scheme on its much-anticipated menu for the operating system. According to a post on the Windows blog, ARM devices will get Windows RT, while x86 / 64 devices will run Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro (also for x86 devices) will offer the suit-and-tie set added features for “encryption, virtualization, PC management and domain connectivity.” Windows Media Center will be packaged as an add-on for the folks who go Pro. For a full break down of what each version will hold hit the source link below and check out our hands-on impressions of the OS preview here.
Among several new announcements for NAB 2012, Panasonic had time to show off its new microP2 card. It does all the high speed transfer pro video shooters have come to expect from their P2 hardware, but in a package that’s the size of an SD card. Panasonic also showed off a companion adaptor that could be used to make the new micro-sized cards compatible with existing PCMCIA-based hardware, however they will need a firmware upgrade (at an unspecified cost, of course) first. Of course, that’s all still off in the future, since these won’t hit the market until spring 2013. Check out our gallery for a few more pictures and look after the break for the press release.
Gallery: Panasonic microP2 storage
In 2000, Sony was worth an impressive 0 billion. Today, some estimate that it has lost 90% of that value and is worth just billion. A report from Reuters indicates that the latest cost-cutting strategy will involve laying off about 6% of the company’s workforce, or about 10,000 jobs. It is planning to sell off some divisions and merge others. For example, it is creating a new LCD small panel company called Japan Display that combines the resources from Sony, Toshiba, and Hitachi.
These are hard times for Japanese LCD makers. The liquid crystal technology was originally invented in the United States, but it was the Japanese who first managed to develop it into commercial products. Now the Korean giants of Samsung and LG dominate the business, with Taiwanese and Chinese factories taking ever larger shares of the pie. As reported here, Sharp has had to sell half of its interest in the world’s largest LCD factory to Foxconn’s parent, Hon Hai. (This move was set in motion in part by Sony’s decision not to exercise its option to increase its investment in the plant.)
As the demand for large flat screen HDTVs continues to cool, the downward pressure on prices and profits continues unabated, making it more difficult for these companies to recoup their enormous investments in the technology. Whether Sony can survive remains to be seen, but the company is but a shadow of its former self, and it may not have the strength left to play with the big boys.
When most people think of YouTube, they think of user-generated content (UGC) that focuses on cute cats and fan videos. The fact is that YouTube has had pay-per-view content for years, and now its movie rental library is filled with some appealing and current titles with something for just about everyone.
But a recent post in the company’s Partners and Creators blog points toward an expansion of the pay-per-view offering from third-party content providers. YouTube has announced that members of their YouTube Live program will now be able to create live streaming content, and charge a fee to view it.
Some people may see this as just one more attack on the tradition of “free” content on YouTube and on the Internet in general. I tend to view it a bit differently. This could be a huge boost for events with niche audiences, such as rock bands or sports that cannot draw an audience large enough to attract coverage by a major network. The pay-per-view option will let some or all of the cost be shared by the fans of the content, reducing the need for commercial sponsors. I expect that this model could end up making much more content available, not less, because it creates the opportunity for the coverage to be “crowd funded” by the very people who want to access the content. We’ll have to see how this develops, but I think it’s a move in the right direction.
What HiFi: 50 Cent took a swing at the Beats by Dr. Dre range of headphones as he launched his new SYNC by 50 wireless headphones. No stranger to ‘beef’, the hip-hop stars are now set to…
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It looks as though 2012 will pick up right where last year left off when it comes to dust-ups over retransmission fees. Owners of local stations continue to hit cable and satellite subscription television services with increased charges when the contracts come up for renewal. The FCC won’t let the services use the same content from adjacent markets, so their only leverage is to turn the channels off and let the subscribers scream. And the screaming doesn’t end when the lights come back on, because the services are just going to fold the increase into the renewal rate.
The latest incident was a doozie, involving DirecTV and 23 of Tribune Broadcasting’s local television stations. The list of 19 affected markets included some major regions: New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Tribune turned off the stations starting at midnight Saturday, March 31, and the agreement was not settled until the evening of Wednesday, April 4.
My guess is that consumers become increasingly upset about the ongoing blackouts, and the FCC is going to start feeling the heat from Congress to come up with a workable solution, such as a “no strike” clause that extends the current contract for a fixed period of time. The underlying problem is that the content providers have more leverage than the services, and until the negotiations can be held on a more level playing field, the blackouts are likely to continue.
Gizmodo: Yamaha’s home theaters and soundbars have always been excellent—even before you consider that they offer great value for the money. The newly refreshed 0 YHT-897 home theater in a…
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For football fans the NFL Red Zone and ESPN Goal Line Channels have streamlined game day viewing by focusing on switching between scoring opportunities from simultaneously airing games and now Major League Baseball has its own version (there’s already a web edition dubbed Full Count). The MLB Network Strike Zone went live Tuesday night on Bright House Networks, DirecTV, Dish Network and Time Warner Cable, airing live look-ins on league games and highlights without any commercial breaks. Although there are baseball games throughout the week, Strike Zone will only broadcast on Tuesday and Friday nights during the regular season. We’re not entirely convinced this will work as well as baseball or cause people to sign up for the sports tiers it seems to mostly be placed on the same way its football counterparts have, but it might be just the thing for baseball fans that can’t stand following just one game at a time. Check the press release after the break for channel lineup details, and let us know if you’ve had a chance to check it out yet.
Comcast’s Xfinity TV app for iOS has seen more than a few updates since it launched back in 2010 that added support for video on-demand streaming anywhere, live TV in-home with additional hardware and made various tweaks to the UI. Despite all that, until today’s update doing something as doublechecking what was scheduled for recording on your DVR required popping out of the app and signing into a different webpage. The new integrated DVR Manager can be seen above and confirms, yes, that Deadliest Catch is securely in our queue for this evening. We’re not sure what’s going to happen in the season eight premiere, but we suspect someone is going to worried about whether or not they’re catching enough crabs on this trip.
Ever come across a great YouTube video but didn’t have time to watch it? It’s kinda hard sticking a Post-It note on your monitor that will help you get back to it later when you want to find it again. Fortunately, there’s a new solution that people are using.
I’ve been spending a lot of my time lately helping small businesses use online video for marketing, and one of the great sites that I’ve come across is ReelSEO: The Online Guide to Business Video. It’s a valuable resource with lots of valuable information. One of their recent posts was about a service called “Read It Later“. This service lets you flag items on the Internet that you want to see again later, and syncs this list to your computer and mobile devices. It was originally intended to create a quick reading list of documents and other text, but apparently its users have other ideas on how to use it. According to the company blog, about a quarter million of the items save in January 2012 were videos. And 92% of those were for YouTube videos. And videos longer than five minutes made up nearly one third of the top 1,000 most-saved videos.
My take-away from this is that online video is no longer the empty-calorie potato chip snack of the Internet experience. People are turning to video more and more for all sorts of content: entertainment and information, user-generated and professionally produced, short and long. There is a fundamental change happening to how content of all sorts is being delivered and consumed. The Internet continues to be a powerful agent of “disintermediation” and we are rushing to gain more-direct access to our information.
This ship has sailed and I don’t see it turning around any time soon.
After a short delay, Comcast subscribers are now on the list of users able to access the HBO Go streaming app via their Xbox 360s. Although some HBO content was already included in the Xfinity TV app, it wasn’t all there however a change in the policy was rumored and then eventually confirmed late last week. We’re still left to ponder what exactly cause the hold up, and why there’s still no hint of streaming access on Roku or Samsung. The news was tweeted earlier from the HBO Go official account, you can head there and check out another one of those promotional teasers, or just take your Comcast account credentials to your Xbox and get to streaming.
The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has issued a recommendation that Samsung stop making certain claims about its 3DTVs. In a release last week, the NAD made the following statement:
Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD concluded that the advertiser’s substantiation was insufficient to provide a reasonable basis for messages conveyed by the claims – that Samsung active 3D televisions provide a superior 3D picture viewing experience to passive 3D televisions, including LG Cinema 3D televisions.
Samsung has claimed that passive 3DTV only presents half the resolution delivered by Samsung’s active 3DTV products, and that the passive technology results in black horizontal lines and jagged lines in the images. The NAD recommended that the company stop this practice, as well as not using a ”left lens” only view of the TV images in 3D mode as this is not representative of what a viewer will experience.
The release also includes a quote from Samsung indicating that it “respects NAD as a self-regulatory body and will comply with NAD’s recommendations.”
Advertising consumer products based on complex technology is always tricky, especially when a company tries to present one as innately superior to another. In this particular case, I believe that the NAD has reached the correct decision, and I’m encouraged that Samsung intends to comply with the recommendations.
The writing is on the wall. Or perhaps it is just encoded in microscopic pits on a polycarbonate disc. But wherever you choose to read the signs, it is clear that physical distribution of entertainment media is on the way out. It has happened in the music industry, and we appear to be reaching a tipping point for movies as well.
New research by IHS Screen Digest Research predicts that in 2012, U.S. consumers will pay to watch more movies online than they will watch movies recorded on DVD and Blu-ray discs. Note that this research covers the money paid for legal downloads of this content. The forecast is that we will watch 3.4 billion streaming “views” this year, compared with 2.4 billion viewings of movies on discs. And their forecasts call for the online views to continue to grow rapidly while the disc views continue to decline.
IHS also makes an interesting point. Even though streaming views will dominate in 2012, the physical discs will continue to generate more revenue. The streaming movies are expected to earn just .7 billion. (Forgive me; did I really write “just .7 billion”? That is still more than the annual GDP of Belize! My apologies.) In contrast, the physical discs will likely generate .1 billion this year.
This may seem like a wildly lopsided comparison; who wouldn’t want 6.5 times more revenue? Keep in mind, however, that the marginal cost — the cost to produce the next copy of a product — is nearly zero for the streaming version. The physical version has a disc, packaging, handling, and shipping that go against that extra money. So as the market matures and the online movie services can further streamline their operations and reduce costs, it is possible that they will make more money even though consumers pay about $.50 per streaming video on average, compared with an average .72 for the physical discs.
From where I sit, I think the Netflix decision to move away from physical discs and toward streaming services was the right choice at the right time. These numbers appear to support that decision.
Have you ever heard of Hon Hai? It’s the parent company of Foxconn, which in turn has been in the news a lot lately as the firm that assembles many of Apple’s products. Foxconn is a giant in its own right, assembling components for a wide range of manufacturers, large and small. And now it is taking a giant step to becoming even bigger on the world stage. Hon Hai announced last week that it was buying half of Sharp’s interest in Sharp’s Gen 10 LCD panel plant, which is handles the largest substrates of any LCD plant in the world.
Sony was Sharp’s original partner in the Gen 10 plant, but that company’s financial hard times led it to cancel its commitment to make further investments. Sony will still have a stake in the plant under this new arrangement, but it will be just 7% while Sharp and Hon Hai will split the remaining 93%.
This is an important development for both Hon Hai and Sharp. For Sharp, it helps decrease the bleeding caused by the debt service on this huge factory. According to some sources it currently is running at as little as half capacity, due to the downturn in worldwide demand for flat panel televisions. At the same time, Sharp has announced that it will focus on manufacturing its own television sets only in the larger sizes of 50″ and above. It will job out the smaller sizes of Sharp-branded sets to other companies, including Foxconn. For Hon Hai, this new deal provides an inside track for panel supplies, giving the company better vertical integration.
I suspect that the eventual winner in this deal will be Hon Hai. While Apple is certainly a major customer, this move will make Foxconn even more attractive as an alternative to the Korean duo of LG and Samsung for major brands looking to outsource their high-end LCD TV production. I would expect that they were able to buy into Sharp’s operation at distress-sale prices, and as the worldwide economy recovers, that investment will likely gain in value.
If you want to read more about this deal, I recommend an excellent analysis written by David Hsieh of DisplaySearch.
In case you’ve been wondering why Netflix tends to recommend the movies it does, there’s a post on the company’s Tech Blog breaking down the various levels of its system. Remember the Netflix Prize contest? Teams of researchers produced competing algorithms capable of more accurately predicting how members would rate movies, but while some of the early winning efforts are still in use, the million dollar solution was never implemented because the potential gains were too small to justify the engineering effort needed. Additionally, while Netflix still hasn’t implemented individual profiles for household members yet, the blog indicates it does try to recommend something for everyone, seeking both accuracy and diversity — which may explain some of more out there picks in our personal “recommended for you” list. Where available (read: outside the US) Facebook integration plays a part too, as well as a variety of information used to find movies similar to those previously viewed. The proof of how all these parts come together is ultimately judged by the viewers, while we wait for part two with more data to pore over — is Netflix managing to accurately pull any flicks you want to watch out of its catalog.
Gizmodo: For 0, the new Plantronics BackBeat Go Bluetooth headset isn’t just super-cheap—it’s probably the best-designed, most-convenient set we’ve ever seen. This is a headset…
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Video gaming consoles have come a long way since the early Atari 2600 and other devices. We’ve gone from pixelated little cartoon characters to almost life-like “meat puppets” that live out adventures in an immersive three-dimensional world. The Xbox 360, Playstation, and Wii provide a window onto interactive entertainment enjoyed by millions of consumers worldwide. And now they do so much more than just play games.
In fact, according to an article in the LA Times, Microsoft reports that Xbox 360 users spend more than half of their time online with the Xbox Live service watching video and listening to music; less than half of that time is spent playing online games. Now, if you add back in the amount of time spent playing games offline loaded locally from a disc, then gaming still dominates but it is still interesting that other forms of entertainment are taking hold using the gaming console as the hub.
This news was part of Microsoft’s announcement that it was adding applications for HBO Go, Major League Baseball, and Comcast’s on-demand video service for its subscribers. This is in addition to existing services including Hulu, Vudu, YouTube, Netflix, and ESPN. Microsoft already has more than 20 million subscribers to the Xbox Live service who pay a monthly fee to access the video and entertainment content. That’s almost one-third of all Xbox owners worldwide. If Microsoft were a cable company, this many subscribers would nearly it tie it with Comcast for the top position.
People still have plenty of reasons to stick with their cable or satellite subscriptions, but as the monthly fees rise, the alternatives begin to look more attractive. If you can access the content you want over a broadband connection — even if that requires an additional monthly fee of or more — it looks like more and more consumers may join the “cut the cord” movement. It looks as though streaming video may be the path to the appealing “a la carte” pricing for entertainment programming, and there is a herd of millions of video game console camels like the Xbox 360 that already has its nose under the edge of the U.S. consumers living room tent.
Last week, Microsoft launched three (anticipated) new services on their Xbox Live system. Subscribers can now get Comcast’s XFINITY TV, HBO GO, and MLB.TV. You need to be a subscriber to each of these services in order to get it streamed to your Xbox (just as you have to have a Netflix subscription to access its programming), but it is a big step toward expanding the “what you want, where you want, when you want” choices for streaming entertainment content.
But that’s not the story that created a buzz. It was a little item in a FAQ posted on Comcast’s website:
Q: Will watching XFINITY TV directly on my Xbox 360 use data from my XFINITY Internet monthly data usage allowance?
A: No; similar to traditional cable television service that is delivered to the set-top box, this content doesn’t count toward our data usage threshold. The Xbox 360 running our XFINITY TV app essentially acts as an additional cable box for your existing cable service, and our data usage threshold does not apply.
Now, in order to use the XFINITY TV service on your Xbox, you need to subscribe to both the Comcast XFINITY TV with On Demand and XFINITY Internet service, in addition to the subscription to Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE Gold. If you use the XFINITY TV service on your Xbox, the streaming content won’t count toward your 250 GB per month data cap. Streaming content from other services — such as HBO GO or Netflix — does count against your cap. And that’s the problem.
Critics claim that Comcast is providing preferential treatment for its own content over that of other services. In its defense, the cable giant points out that the data never actually “leaves” its own network, so it doesn’t really count as “Internet traffic.”
In my opinion, this is a mighty fine line to draw and the distinction will be lost on the average consumer. The bigger issue is that it could lead to other companies providing similar advantages to their own programming, or even programming provided by their partners. What if Hulu Plus made arrangements with a broadband service provider — such as Comcast — to pipe its content directly to their servers? Comcast could say that wasn’t Internet traffic either, and thus Hulu Plus could “buy” preferential treatment over a competitor such as Netflix.
This could well be the opening salvo in a new sort of “data access warfare” that would effectively eliminate net neutrality. Or it is possible that competition among the services that provide Internet access to consumers will force them to raise their usage caps to such high levels that it’s not an issue. After all, phone companies offer “unlimited” long distance service for a fee; perhaps the Internet access market will head in a similar direction.
We can’t know for certain how this will turn out, so the best we can do for now is to keep an eye on the situation and guard against results of the Law of Unintended Consequences.
There’s a reason that more cartoons are in 3D than live action content. That’s because animated images typically are much simpler than real-world objects, which means that they can be manipulated more easily and precisely. This is important when you are trying to adjust the differences between the left and right views of a scene.
The problem gets even worse when you are trying to create a second view from a single image to create a 3D image. You can extract lots of depth cues from a single image — and even more cues if you look at a series of moving images — but it’s difficult to create a natural-looking object in the foreground as the background moves behind it. A company called YUVsoft has developed new algorithms that address this problem, with striking results.
This is just a still image that I grabbed from the YUVsoft website, but I recommend that you follow the link above to see the original animated sequence. I added the yellow circles to point out the serious artifacts that can happen when you try to “move” a foreground object against a background when you have something that you can see through, like hair. See how the hair in the top circle has smeared; in the lower circle, a weird “window” with sharp edges has appeared. The new process from YUVsoft does a much better job of preserving the natural look of the original image.
Why is this important? As 3DTV gains traction in U.S. (and worldwide living rooms), there will be a huge demand for additional content. And with technology like this matting from YUVsoft, content providers will be able to reach back into their back catalog of 2D content and remaster them for 3D distribution faster and at a lower cost than they can today. The toolkit for improving this conversion process is growing every day, and developments like this from YUVsoft show just how much progress we’re making.
Distro Issue 35 gets smart with the Smartphone Buyers Guide, HTC’s army of Ones and Nokia’s Lumia 900Friday, April 6th, 2012
Just last week, Nielsen announced that smartphones now account for almost half of US mobile ringers. As such, we thought it only fitting to dedicate this, the 35th issue of our fine weekly, to those intelligent pocket dwellers. In it, we’ll bring you our top handset picks from the big four and beyond, with the Spring 2012 edition of our Smartphone Buyers Guide, as well as our in-depth impressions of the HTC One S, One X and Sense 4 UI and Nokia’s Lumia 900. Also in this issue, a look back at the history of the smartphone in this week’s Stat, a Q&A with Jared Polin of FroKnowsPhoto and the comic stylings of Dustin Harbin for the Last Word. So hit the appropriate link below and enjoy!
To be fair, when we heard that Time Warner Cable’s TWC TV app for Android tablets might add live TV streaming by the end of March it was described as a “very loose” projection, so it’s not much of a surprise we’re still waiting for it now, in April. It is still coming however, and a new post is up on the blog teasing the above image of the app in action and promising to make the feature available in the next few weeks, certainly by Memorial day. we should also note, it’s for Ice Cream Sandwich loaded tablets only — they have the required “security and stability” (read: DRM) necessary. Also noted is that developing a live video streaming app for iOS was easier simply because of the limited number of manufacturer, OS and hardware combinations, which mirrors what we heard previously from Netflix. Still, it’s on the way, so if you’re looking to use your slate as an extra TV screen in the home, you should look next to your manufacturer to make sure it’s been updated with ICS.
The fourth quarter of every year for consumer electronic retailers is like the rainy season for farmers; it’s a make-or-break time of year when you have to compensate for the slower sales from the other three quarters. So it was like the Dust Bowl when Best Buy posted a .7 billion loss. This is not quite as bad as it might seem, because their fiscal year ends on March 3, so this only includes December’s sales from last year. Also, the bulk of the loss was due to one-time charges for items including its mobile phone business and the closure of its big box stores in the United Kingdom.
All the same, .7 billion is a big number, and the company has announced plans to deal with the loss. It will close 50 of its United States big box stores this year and cut about 400 additional jobs. In spite of these 0 million cuts, the company expects to increase its presence by opening more stores with much smaller footprints.
Clearly, the landscape for consumer electronics retailing is changing in this country. There appear to be more forces at work than just the down economy, as the Internet gives consumers more places to shop and to compare prices. Best Buy is trying to survive these shifts, but looking at the recent history of retailers such as Circuit City, CompUSA, and 6th Ave Electronics suggests that this could be a challenging task.
The BBC has home field advantage for the 2012 Olympics, and it’s revealing more details about how it plans to broadcast over 2,500 hours of live sports on 24 channels that viewers can watch pretty much anywhere. Director Roger Mosey indicates it started out as a way to watch all 24 streams on the BBC Sport website via PCs or mobile devices, but has been expanded to offer the streams through television operators as well. So far Sky and Freesat are confirmed in, while Freeview users can punch up two extra channels via the program guide or red button. On this side of the Atlantic, the most recent news is that NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) will be right alongside the broadcast NBC channel (which has its own streaming plans in combination with YouTube) with a “record” amount of Olympic coverage. It could air as many as 300 hours of content from London, as well as some of the Olympic Trials. Hit the source links below for more details, we’ll probably be hearing much more before the Olympic Flame makes its way to the stadium July 27th.
While Amazon has continued to grow both its video on-demand and all you can eat Prime Instant Video services content-wise, playback on the TV is still limited to relatively few devices. You can add a major one to the list however, since the app has just started popping up on the PlayStation 3, as pointed out above by Joystiq. While the Xbox 360 has always supported the downloadable files brought over from PCs since the days of Unbox, other than a limited selection of Blu-ray Players and HDTVs, the PS3 is immediately the service’s most widely available connected TV platform. If you’re looking for it, it should pop up right below competitor Netflix under the video services tab the next time you power on your console.