Xbox 360 With Zune HD Integration (Fall Update Preview) – Fascinating Implications – Is This The Box I’m Looking For?

The TV on the Internet world has had a bunch of interesting announcements this week. We now know Apple TV is running IOS on the inside (TV Apps anyone?) and Hulu+ is coming to the Roku box. When will we get that ultimate box?

Does Microsoft have a chance with all in this?

Let’s cover the big issues (in my mind at least): Price, Netflix integration, Hulu+ integration, Movies to purchase/rent, Television to purchase/rent:

Roku: $69 and up – Netflix yes / Hulu yes / Movies yes (Amazon) / Television yes (Amazon)
Apple TV: $99 – Netflix yes / Hulu no / Movies yes / Television limited
Xbox: $199 and up – Netflix yes / Hulu yes / Movies yes / Television yes
Boxee Box: $249 – Netflix yes / Hulu yes / Movies yes / Television yes (free/paid)

We just don’t know enough about Google TV (yet) to include here.

Microsoft sent an Xbox with the Fall Update Preview Beta. Very nice integration. Haven’t been able to talk about it until today. BTW, here are Engadget’s thoughts.

Yes, Roku is cheaper but she doesn’t let me play Gears of War – nuff said.

I think Microsoft has something very cool here – but I’d love your thoughts. I got everything I want on this device (minus iPhone integration, of course) and don’t know or see how Apple can deliver on their Apple TV platform (or at least what we know of it today). Boxee is more expensive and does a lot less. Yes, I have some free Internet TV viewing options but there are ways to get that on the Xbox as well.

Embedded below is a video walkthrough of the Zune stuff on the new Xbox Fall Update Preview. More on that over at ZuneLuv.com.

Apple TV Take 2 – Not So Much – Choice

I’ve been chewing on the whole Apple TV take 2 thing for a few days now. Despite my Fanboy status, still completely and totally underwhelmed. Here’s why:

  • Netflix on demand but nobody else (Amazon, Vudu, etc.). I can get more choices cheaper with Roku (and won’t always pay $4.99 a stream). Heck there are $99 Blu-ray players with more functionality and you at least get a Blu-ray player (and $1.49 viewings from your local Redbox).
  • Speaking of cheaper with Roku, I can also get a lot more with that little box as well. Have you seen their continuing channel list? Throw in the possibilities Media Fly allows for and the Apple TV is 1/10th the box.
  • Of course I can’t get Hulu or anything like that with Roku but with the coming Boxee box (yes, twice as much) and the recent Plex Announcements (wow, didn’t see what coming), I will continue to watch Hulu on my big screen – despite what the EULAs say.
  • Missed opportunity. Apple TV should have her own app store – it’s as simple as that. Now, for those telling me “it’s coming” I simply ask – and where will those apps be stored – the cloud? Nope. Not in this release of the box.
  • The whole “amateur hour” dig really got to me. Instead of “people want to watch television and Hollywood Movies” (heaven forbid an Indie, Steve) how about “People want to watch what they want to watch and we’re gonna make it easy.

I know Ed Dale and others tell me this is just step 1 but I’m not seeing it. For a company who wants to “think different” it just smacks of a company rushing to get something on the shelves in time for Christmas.

Your take – fanboy or otherwise?

Google TV – What It Could Mean

I finally got my mind around Google TV and what it “means.”

And it is big.

First of all, it is real competition in the “Internet video on your television” space. With Apple TV admitting being nothing but a hobby and everyone else caring about their efforts with the same passion BP seems to care about plugging the leak, it’s easy to see why we’re getting nowhere in this space. I’ve written previously about the Roku box and Boxee’s plans but what really has happened in the last 6 months, year?

With Google taking this space seriously, we’re finally going to see some passion and growth past what we’re seeing right now. And, with their war chest, this nonsense with Hulu blocking Boxee type situations will be met with a legal war chest that can make things happen. Competition is a very good thing.

But, more importantly, we’ve got another issue at play that is even more vital.

Google in this space represents a true convergence box. This is the “old and new media playing together” dream we’ve had for years but have never seen delivered. I have in my basement plenty of boxes that put obscure Internet video on my screen and I have owned / seen / been briefed on / and have beta tested an equal amount of boxes that place nice with “old media” over the intertubes. The Xbox doesn’t do YouTube (let alone a decent Podcast option) and the Apple TV is as walled as a walled garden can get (even to the point of making it too weak to stream Flash well). When we talk about Tivo or traditional cable boxes, I just have to shudder. fILS and Twitter – silly – nothing else.

Boxee is the best hope in the underdog category (and I applaud Avner’s statements that they can work in a Google TV world) but even their approach to stuff puts a line between the two worlds. A new episode of Burn Notice goes right into my queue but the latest episode of The Totally Rad show does not. It’s just not “all coming together” the way it is supposed to … Yet. Roku is nice for what it does but the channels that aren’t there don’t appear to be coming.

At CES this year I got really nervous watching boxes from the “big names” designed (I believe purposely) to squash out the new media space. Sure, they were still lousy, but they were the only element seeing growth. And they might grow into something acceptable before we get our butts in gear.

Google TV can change this. The commercials speak of a world where the Web and Desperate Housewives can live in peaceful harmony and I’m betting my future that the box that let’s them is the box I want to get behind. Google has the war chest and moxie this space needs.

And they have my full support.

Do they have yours?

Oh yeah, their ownership of YouTube is key too :-).

The Rumors Of Podcasting’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated – But Her Maturity Is Sadly Ignored

Wizzard Media did 1.4 billion Podcast downloads in 2009 – up from 1.2 in 2008.

Video Podcast Network pioneers Revison3 did 1.5 billion minutes of video in 2009, up from less than 1 billion in 2008.

And the numbers keep going up.

Yes, there are some who prognosticate the death of Podcasting who say the numbers are going down or have reached their max. But, if you read the real numbers … the facts don’t lie.

But, we need to be honest here.

These new numbers aren’t from people getting that Podcasting religion. These are coming from iPads and televisions, apps and fan pages, streaming video embeds and on demand buttons. Many of our best audience members have never visited the iTunes Podcast Directory.

In short, people have no more of an idea that they’re getting Podcasting content than they are aware of the codec that delivered them. They got the content the wanted they way they wanted the content.

Oh, and it just worked …

It just worked.

I had lunch today with someone who used to spend 5 figures a month to deliver a small percentage of the media content he’s delivering today with S3. His bill last month was a “few hundred bucks.”

YouTube is now doing 2 billion view days as the standard.

I could go on and on – but I won’t.

If you view Podcasting as anything other than a single part of a multiple-part wonder, your future is bleak.

If you understand just how much we have matured and what you can do about it, you are going to do very well.

Thoughts?

My 2009 New Media Predictions

First, obviously, my scorecard on last year’s predictions.

  • One major podcast network goes down in flames. None went down in flames but only one of them uses the word Podcasting in their marketing material and we even have one that although still afloat, proudly proclaims a copyright date of 2006. I’ll say it now, the only “Network” that matters at all is Revision3, and part of the reason that they matter is because they know that Podcasting is only a smart part of their story.
  • The writer’s strike doesn’t help a single internet celeb go mainstream. Remember last year when the writer’s strike was going to be the nail in the coffin of “traditional media?” Yup, that was a silly notion. I’ll say it again – “traditional media” is doing a great job at being “traditional media” – we don’t want to play in their playground at all because it simply isn’t worth it.
  • Microsoft Zune podcasting numbers will get impressive quickly. Bingo, done, check, out of the park. I dare a single Podcaster in the Zune Podcast directory to tell me that the percentage of Zune listeners to players in the marketplace is lower than the percentage of iPod listeners to players in the marketplace. The Zune is extremely important in this space and is only going to become more so.
  • Managed RSS systems become popular and important. Popular, no. Important, yes. I’ve experienced some extremely profitable launches that have leveraged managed RSS that have given me tremendous content and case studies for Podcast Secrets 2009. The “real money” in Podcasting comes when different customers have different feeds.
  • The term “podcast” becomes synonymous with “channel” for the general public. About half right there. The need to understand the term is becoming less and less important and technologies will only push in this direction. I dare you to find the word “subscribe” anywhere in the Apple TV Podcast interface and I’d bet you more than 50% of new audience members in Podcasting this year couldn’t tell you that Podcasts come from an RSS feed if you pointed a gun to their head. That’s a very good thing (lack of plumbing knowledge, not guns to heads).

So, the predictions for 2009:

  • Now that iPod finally has a competitor in the Zune, you’ll see advances this year in new media aggregation that can only come from stiff competition. Despite our governments attempts recently to kill capitalism, you’ll see it play out in our marketplace anyway. The “winners” will have some much power and strength that the players will fight hard and long to get there. The audience will be the true winners. BTW, these aren’t the “only” players in this space. Boxee.tv continues to impress and if a Hulu.com box ever sees the light of day …
  • The meme that “nobody will pay for content” will quietly die. People have been paying for content for ages, people are paying for content right now, people will always pay for content. New Media makers will find that being paid for content is actually kinda cool and “get over it.”
  • “Cable cutting” will become cool. With the combination of economic concerns and new technologies, “cable cutting” will become very popular (amongst the geeks, but that’s where web surfing, emailing, and instant messaging came from too). This is the act of getting all of your media via the Internet, not your cable coax. It ain’t the best term as many get their Internet from the cable, but you know what I mean. The digital television transition is making a lot more over the air stuff accessible to people who once purchased cable just to get the “local” stations. BTW, a refurbed Mac Mini with an Elgato EyeTV card running Boxee is amazingly killer.
  • The general public will stop treating microblogging (Twitter) as a 24×7 chat room and find some very strong business uses for it. This will not only get people BACK TO WORK but it will enable these service to profit as companies will pay for business usage accordingly.
  • There will be no real competitor to the iPhone in 2009. Anyone/everyone tasked with building the “iPhone Killer” don’t understand what makes the iPhone the iPhone and it will take them at least a year to figure it out – and get it to market. Like the Zune prediction above, this will bring some great competition to our space, but it won’t happen in 2009. Many of us will be able to ride out our 2-year iPhone contracts without even wishing we could jump to something else.

And there you have them … leave your comments below:

Will Somebody Please Explain The Model Here?

Sunday night was the new 24 telemovie. I pondered recording it but I knew it would probably be on Hulu (via Boxee thank you very much) in under 24 hours (pun intended).

And it was.

And I enjoyed it while doing a little work Monday night. Nothing like streaming television, on your terms, with just a commercial per break.

This new media thing is starting to “take off.”

iTunes is offering the download of the 24 telemovie for $14.99 ($19.99 if you want HD).

Mind you, this is the same iTunes that sells 24 Episodes at $1.99 each. This was two episodes of 24. This normally retails for $3.98.

The DVD is $15.99 at Amazon and Best Buy.

The Amazon Video On Demand Service is selling it for $9.99.

When I watched it (again, less than 24 hours after it aired), I noted that not only were there PSAs in a few of the commercial slots (btw, Hulu doesn’t get paid for PSAs, that’s what PSAs are), but a few of the commercial slots were, well commercial less. It was liking watching the DVD.

And by the way, the commercials they did show were for an online project that started last September. I’ll bet you this is remnant advertising purchased extremely cheap.

In short, The $15 DVD is being streamed for free. Yes, I know the DVD contains a bunch of extra stuff (hey who doesn’t want cut video of Jack Bauer running around in the forest?). Yes, I realize there are DVD sales as a piece of the revenue pie but so is that whole advertising model that Hulu can’t seem to make work.

If you’re reading this in America (or have some clever proxies in place), you can enjoy the show embedded below (how many paying commercials to you count in this $15 DVD):

Hulu can’t be making anyone money.

I appreciate their desire to have a single commercial per break and I’ll enjoy the ride as long as it goes here but … streaming ain’t cheap (they’re evening doing it in HD now) and they’ve got nothing to show me that they have a long term plan – or that advertisers are actually buying into this. See, when advertisers “buy into” a concept, you see their add “buys” – that’s where the term comes from. You’ll see an occasional product on Hulu and there are some $$ coming in but getting me what I want on my terms is costing them less than they’re making in the deal.

There seems to be a really silly obsession with streaming at all costs. It’s expensive, bandwidth intensive, and darn it, isn’t making the sales they keep promising it will.

Downloads, not streaming, is the future of media delivery. It’s cheaper – much cheaper – and always ends with a better experience (for the customer at least).

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.

But then again, they’re giving CEOs bailouts for making much dumber moves.

If we want to get anywhere in this industry, we need to do what makes sense, not what’s sexy.

Or are we all just waiting for the bailout?

Boxee.TV – 7 Things I’d Change

I am a HUGE fan of Boxee.TV right now. It has changed the face of my home entertainment center and my strategy for 2009 in some pretty major ways, but that isn’t what I want to talk about here.

As I mentioned in the last Blog post, I bought a new MacBook Pro yesterday (and not for the reasons Mike suggested). I’m finding more and more that the Apple angle on life, etc., is more to who I am and that, really, Windows is just another program for me to run on my Mac.

But that, funny enough, isn’t the topic of this post either.

At my home entertainment center, you’ll see an Apple TV. I’ve loved her for a long time and have done everything I can through that device. I’ve loved her through Hulu and Netflix online despite, well, you know.

Then along came Boxee. She’s installed on my Apple TV.

My Apple TV just hit puberty – I always saw her potential, she’s just now showing it to me.

One sub $200 box gives me television, movies, pay per view, streaming, music, Internet Radio, etc. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am.

But, Boxee.TV ain’t perfect (she’s closer than anything else I’ve seen). Here, not that you asked, is what I’d change:

  • I’d put together a master database of all shows, Podcasts, etc. in one space so you don’t have to know that “The Unit” is under CBS while “24” is a Hulu property (let alone, where in the heck to find Ask A Ninja). If we’re really going to “kill” the networks, let’s KILL ‘EM.
  • I’d have some option between “your friends know nothing about what you watch” and “you friends know EVERYTHING you watch.” Some people don’t want the world knowing about their Hannah Montana addiction.
  • Add a very simple “across the room” email and RSS experience to the program. A simple ticker of your latest email at the bottom of the screen while you’re watching a show could be really fun too.
  • Let us change the background image (I know they’re working on that).
  • Let users “subscribe” to individuals and find out not just the last 6 things that all your friends did – but their entire history as well. Suggest some thoughts leaders in different spaces too.
  • Let content producers produce “channel” options on Boxee. For example, I decide I’m a big fan of Ask A Ninja, I click a button and now the “Ask A Ninja Channel” is there right next to the other Internet video options.
  • Produce a $99 box that runs Boxee.

Played with Boxee yet? Your thoughts?

What The “Spotlight Turns To Notebooks” Event Means To New Media

Like many, I’ve been watching the livebloggers during Apple’s “Spotlight Turns To Notebooks” event. Currently I’m “watching” Engadget and Ars Technica (for those of you playing along at home).

As always, my comments on what this all “means” in the New Media space:

  • First, we start with the obligatory Apple is doing extremely well comment. Is it the “better software” comment that Jobs made? Yes, I can’t/don’t recommend Vista to anyone asking me what computer “they should get.” I push Mac with the obligatory you can always put Windows on it if you must statement. I hope Windows 7 learns something from this. Is it any wonder that with their 17% of their market share, Mac users tend to be close to 50% of the consumption of the New Media we put out and track?
  • The way Apple questions the very nature of products should make everyone take note. The way they asked if they could make the portable music player changed everything and with this new approach to building laptops, we see this spirit hasn’t changed. The touchpad/mouse loses the button. Are you doing anything in New Media that you need to re-examine?
  • These chips are going to speed up video rendering something fierce. Can I hear an Amen?
  • The under a thousand dollar Macbook is extremely important. A total and complete video and audio editing center for around the price of what my parents bought their first VCR for in the 70s. Sales will go up – even in these “times.”

It’s always a pleasure to “watch” these events and participate in them through this “underground” approach. In many ways it is extremely “New Media” – nothing is delivered via the traditional channels and the excitement is as high as a Hollywood premiere or a television season cliffhanger. Apple remains an inspiration and, now, the next task is to convince myself that I really “need” a new Macbook Pro …

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My Roku Box Obsession

In recent news, Roku really wants to run other people’s content (OPC) through their $99 box.

Mark my words, when we have a $99 box that plays Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and a few others (Revision3, get on the box), people will start canceling their cable in droves and this crazy Internet Video thing will start ‘taking off.’

Does anyone reading this have any experience in the Roku API, etc.? How hard is it to get you content on this $99 box?

Either We Get A Cheap Set Top Box, or Google Wins

I’m preaching to the choir here, but there is a MASSIVE DISCONNECT between Web Video and our Televisions right now.

Yes, we’ve got different toy options that do some very cool things (the Roku Box for Netflix, the Popcorn Hour product, Apple TV, the Xbox, etc.) but they remain, to this point, toys. They tend to do just 1 thing (and sometimes not even well) and forget everything else. For example the Roku box is gorgeous for Netflix but ignores Hulu, YouTube.com, etc.

We’ve got some connection options that are exciting (like PlayOn which I wrote about earlier), but they simply aren’t ready for prime time yet. In the case of PlayOn, I don’t know if Hulu is fighting PlayOn or if the coding is bad but it just doesn’t work the way it needs to. In the case of everyone else, we just seem to have these one-offs.

In my Google Tech Talk of a few months back (embedded below), I spoke of my “Year of Living Digitally” project. It was a lot of fun but to this date, to do what I want to do, I have an Apple TV, an Xbox, a Popcorn Hour box, an HD over the air antenna and a dock for my laptop all hooked up to my television (you can imagine how much my family loves this). This was understandable 1/1/2007 but is starting, simply, to get silly.

There is plenty of news about how Joost is going browser-only and how others are following it. My question/statement is this … is the future of Web Video the browser or the television set? Sure, I guess we have an option for browser on our television set but I really don’t think this is where this is all going.

So, in short … we need a box that puts ALL Web Video on our televisions. If we don’t, Google “wins” everything …

And that, BTW, is not an anti-Google statement, that is a nobody should own all of this statement.

Now, here’s the funny trend that I’m worried about (and what causes me to write this piece) … most of the television/Web hybrid boxes and solutions have a YouTube engine of sorts. From the very cool integrated Apple TV option to the feature on PlayOn (that doesn’t crash) and the channel on the Popcorn Hour box, YouTube.com is there: It’s the 800 pound gorilla, they got simple APIs and they’re easy to work with.

So, right now, if I want to get Internet video on the television that works for everyone – I really have only once choice – it’s YouTuboogle.

It can’t be that way. We need box that can handle YouTube (like all of the boxes), proprietary systems (like Hulu, Netflix), and open systems (like Podcasts on the Popcorn Hour box) – all in one device.

The box that does that, WINS.

And if no box does that, Google WINS.

Thoughts?