I’m just starting a vacation with my family in an area with fairly limited connectivity. This isn’t a bad thing in fact it’s quite nice on many levels. The house we are renting has an incredibly slow but functional Internet connection which is essentially a satellite point to point from across the lake.
We’ve rented the same place a few times and this year found an AppleTV here which I’ve logged into for streaming music to the stereo, (very) slowly browsing Netflix and as I’ve just realized / remembered streaming a good portion of our home music collection via iTunes Match. We’d beamed some Spotify earlier while prepping dinner but it’s quite nice to have access to what’s yours as well. This is the first time I’ve connected my iTunes account on a new / random AppleTV and it’s quite excellent to see it in action.
At this point only Google an Apple offer such tightly knit systems. Amazon has much of this to provide as well but like Google lack the tightly connected hardware like AppleTV – even in its current hobby state – to make things this simple. Now that I’m logged in we can easily (bandwidth limits aside) stream “anything” on our collection purchased or not. The only restriction with Apple’s solution I’ve encountered is they do not sell an advanced package to upload / sync very large collections. Google Music seemed to enable my collection to upload but it’s nowhere near as easy to stream on a stereo here – or at home.
These services and general consumer knowledge of them are still pretty limited in use – compared to the more mainstream use case of an iPod plugged into a stereo though it’s not a hard concept to grasp … I’d love to even see guest access pop up as a feature … I guess that’s part of the Nexus Q when that makes a return. Could be an interesting fall …
I get it. I’ve been living the converged life for years. GoogleTV looks like a simpler version of boxee and seems to have a less than considered UI compared to AppleTV. It has search of course, but how are you typing that in? What about web addresses? Hunt and peck typing is a giant pain from 10 feet away.
Our house is completely wired. We have a media server for video – accessible from any screen. We have multiple HD DVR boxes which are centrally located and can be selected from any of our universal remotes. An AppleTV is also centrally located and is used for streaming music and the occasional movie rental. On rare occasions I flip over to boxee to steam a TED video but that’s rare.
My wife and kids use the media server and the DVR. If we rent a movie I usually take care of it and there has been limited if any interest in online content. There’s no perspective that anything is missing and no real interest in finding more. We are satisfied. I doubt we are the only household like this …
For supplementary online content the primary option is the iPad. It’s always around and available. GoogleTV like quite a few other solutions is solving a problem people don’t have. I’m sure we will all benefit from more targeted TV ads if that sales process works and is cost effective, but the reach is going to be quite limited for a while … Probably a long while too. Apps and widgets for TV are all still trying to be sold… people are not buying new TVs, adding set top boxes or lining up to get them.
Am I missing some secret sauce here?
I’ve been thinking about the potential impact the iPad will make on my home and there’s a natural progression for a certain hobby of Apple’s which of course is AppleTV.
If the iPad succeeds at becoming the predominant home use system as I believe it easily can, it could really be an “instead of” not an “in addition to” sort of thing. Let me explain …
Apple is positioning the iPad as a third device category which it definitely is as they’ve laid out the initial plan. Once it arrives though, the amount of time my MacBookPro is going to get at home will be quite limited. Currently the MacBookPro sits on my desk fully wired and connected to an array of devices. I’ve got 3 hard drives, a slew of USB widgets and a second monitor. Our home media collection streams via an AppleTV connected through our whole house AV system and enables music to stream anywhere and video you reach any tv. The AppleTV is the set top box and my MacBookPro is essentially serving as an overpriced NAS. When it’s time to do some photo or video processing I do need the Mac, but that’s something I do occasionally rather than daily.
The AppleTV or some revised iteration (Mac Mini home server edition?) combining network connected storage and speed could easily replace the Mac and sit on a rack in a closet hosting our personal cloud. While the AppleTV works well, it’s been restricted based on lack of attention. The iPad’s sync capability needs to be adjusted slightly to accommodate wireless sync, but as that’s already something AppleTV handles easily it should not be too challenging a change.
How might this all this all start to work together?
- When I walk into the home and connect to the network, the iPad would know to sync with my home automatically. Any media captured, files created or changed would automatically push up to the system waiting at home and the network would also push new content found (podcasts downloaded, pre-ordered new content etc) back to me keeping both sides current.
- Other iPads would also be notified and could suggest we exchange mutual files based on tags of each other (faces from iPhoto, shared playlists, calendar updates, “digital fridge notes” etc)
- While in the home, we’d be able to move media fluidly between screens. Watching a video on the TV, but want to continue it in the home office or bed? No problem, the iPad easily receives the stream and lets you continue where you left off. Music could be handled in the same way … someone wants to watch a video in the family room when you are listening to music, simply switch the stream over to the iPad.
- Apple’s Remote app for iPhone is a nice but limited suggestion on how home media control might work given the smaller screen of the iPhone. With the iPad, you really can have a substantial view and control of what’s playing across various rooms in the home.
This is of course my “limited” future vision for how these things might come together, but I think speaks to the reality we could be living in as soon as later this year.
Let’s face it. It’s easy to acquire video content these days regardless of whether you subscribe to a particular tier from your cable company or even whether you live in the country. Regardless of this the content companies still do not offer a legit path to offer content direct to consumer on a broad enough scale and so piracy continues. The same basic practices occur across media whether it’s movies, music or even books. For some reason the media business still feels the need to limit who gets to see, hear or read something rather than simply enable access to content given that it’s all bits and has been for a very long time.
It’s this type of mentality that has clearly driven Hulu’s content partners to demand that Hulu prevent Boxee from distributing shows across the Boxee platform. Â This is an ignornat decision based on old media thinking end of story. Â When you consider that Boxee offers Hulu as is – with commercials as they were originally sold, it’s clear this is simply based on believing that the content can be controlled through the old methods.
Boxee is a free software product available to download and install on your (Mac, Windows or Linux) PC or AppleTV and has yet to charge anything more than your time to install it. Â ContentÂ passes directly to you on the platform and screen of your choice and though instead of using your web browser to surf across a bunch of web sites, you get a clean 10′ UI which keeps things really simple. Â Boxee also adds a social layer which lets you share what you’ve viewed or heard and even make recommendations directly to your friends.
Given that network television content remains “free” and culturally we still tend to gather among friends online or at work and socialize about the shows we watch, it’s ludicrous for the media companies to want to stop something that actually enables shared enjoyment of the very content they are trying to promote. Â Hulu and Boxee together are just another outlet / channel / option for people to consume the content they want. Â An important detail which I’m sure will be lost on the TV creation and distribution world is that while Hulu is working to make it from niche to mass, Boxee is still early in the technology adopter territory which makes it ripe for influential discussion and most importantly spreading the word – whether good or bad. Â Ironically, when tech savvy consumers get burned or blocked on one route there always seems to be another which was there all along … still free, without commerical interruption and easily viewable on any platform.
While this feature is not currently in the open beta, Play To highlights Windows 7 ability to be both a control point and server in a DLNA network.Â Whatâ€™s so awesome about this is that a ton of devices already have this baked in and Windows 7 can auto-discover them as well as present itself to them.Â Itâ€™s great to see how easily this system works with existing media devices and formats.
Seeing this feature though also raises the obvious opposite perspective from Appleâ€™s model.Â The iTunes system ONLY works with itself.Â Sure it works on both Macs and PCâ€™s but there is no way without some hacking to get your AppleTV to play with other sources.Â Even then it does not function as a DLNA UPnP device like what was shown in the video.Â Thereâ€™s no way to share media from my Nokia Handset to my television without first syncing to my desktop and then copying â€“ through iTunes â€“ over to the AppleTV.
Appleâ€™s closed system certainly simplifies the consumer experience though thatâ€™s only due to the substantially limited perspective on how we are allowed to share media in the home.Â I have many more things captures media than just those made by Apple â€¦ and I know Iâ€™m not alone.
Thanks to eHomeUpgrade for the tip.
I get and respect Cisco’s desire to dig deeper into the home, but I am not convinced that a piece of consumer electronics gear is the way to to do it.Â According to the NYT, Cisco is looking to develop a “a digital stereo system that is meant to move music wirelessly around a house.”
I can’t help but wonder why Cisco is not simply focusing on enabling the connectivity and distribution piece on the network rather than going for the end-point.Â I’d rather have something neutral that provides access to content (and not just music btw) where I want it – whether that’s in my house or pushed out to my mobile device.Â The limited info on the upcoming Cisco product seems to limit the usefulness to a connected audio component.Â These typically sit in your stereo rack connected to your home network and stream content through as through it was in your audio player.Â Â Sounds a lot like Sonos, AppleTV and quite a few other boxes that have been sold with considerably less success.
There’s no magic bullet here.Â In order to get your entertainment connected and distributed you need to have a way to either view or here it in every room which means cables or wireless kit.Â We chose the wired route and centralized most of the equipment into a couple of racks beneath the basement stairs.Â Each room in our home in which we planned for AV has speakers installed in-wall we’re able to select any source from any room.
My original AppleTV recently had it’s brain expanded through Boxee and now can play both the (limited) protected content we have from iTunes as well as any other file we happen to have accessible.Â Cisco is going to have to win over Apple unfortunately in order to earn access to the iTunes ecosystem and I just don’t see that happening anytime soon either.Â So far, the standard fault of every media streamer is that it can’t play iTunes DRM … I don’t see how Cisco’s solution solves any of this.Â Another box to setup and futz around with as a source?Â No thanks.
I was given a demo of the Nokia Home Control Center solution at Nokia World and it will take a very different approach.Â Instead of trying to provide a streaming end point, Nokia is shooting for a more centralized role in your home and one that I frankly would have expected from Cisco.