The entertainment business just doesn’t get it

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.  This is an ignornat decision based on old media thinking end of story.  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.  Content 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.  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.  Hulu and Boxee together are just another outlet / channel / option for people to consume the content they want.  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.  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.

Disney Digital Copy

Disney Digital Copy - Wall-E

I just activated my first Disney Digital Copy for Wall-E
and I was very pleasantly surprised by the relative ease of the process. I could see my parents easily navigating this process without questions and that’s a definite win on the consumer tech front.

You just insert the DVD (Disc 3 for Wall-E) and run the app which pops up on start. Once you do that, iTunes pops up and ask you for the code to unlock the “download.” Once confirmed, the digital copy copies into your iTunes library and you are good to go. You can copy or stream this version to AppleTV and of course take it with you on a laptop or iPhone / iPod.

Convenience is good!

Not linking with Bravia Internet Link

As exciting as the possibility for Day and Date releases are within the current test by Sony is incredibly frustrating. We have a number of Bravia LCD sets in our house yet none currently have the $299 Bravia Internet link accessory and I have no reason to believe buying this will offer anything beyond this for the time being.

I already have a few ways to get internet content to my television (AppleTV and a Wii) and thus far watching YouTube has remained a rare, because I can experience. Of course downloading or streaming movies is great and currently I enjoy that via AppleTV though nothing in the available selection is currently playing in the theater.

The main cause of my frustration is Sony’s standard view that they need to control the end to end experience. There are plenty of ways to distribute high bandwidth content online and a few options on the DRM front as well. The NYT piece makes no mention of the PS3 as a receiver in the system, so for now I will assume it is not an enabled component. The PS3 represents the greatest distribution point for Sony and could cover a few bases for marketing the experience as well. Bravia’s Internet Link is yet another thing a consumer has to purchase and fiddle with and adds complexity to an already crowded space by the TV. I get that everyone wants to control the full deal here, but if you make it complicated and difficult or worse proprietary – the consumer will just continue to work around the system.

I look forward to the day when I can enjoy a high quality currently in-theater production from the comfort of my couch. Who wouldn’t want day and date feature (not DVD release) in their home theater? I am even willing to pay a premium for the pleasure over the theater ticket price to make up for the lack of concession sales. $300 is a bit more than I am willing to gamble on Hancock. If instead Sony offered videos through AppleTV, PS3 or even (gasp) the XBox, people would be more than happy to download and watch. Actually I would buy a PS3 if that was the conduit here … it would enable multiple experiences for the family and actually deliver some value.

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AppleTV Gets Day and Date with DVD Release

Gizmodo confirms Apple will be releasing movies from the major studios on the same day to AppleTV as DVD. I honestly prefer the quality of AppleTV over my Cablevision on-demand system and like the extra functionality of portability to my iPhone or iPod. Even with these details though I really hope this is just the first step.

As I’ve said a few times here, DVD release should not be the end game. It’s theatrical release and I’d be willing to pay a premium for the privilege. There’s limited value in getting just the movie on the same day I can get the full DVD. Helping my wife and I see a movie that’s being released to theaters — something that’s quite hard for families with young children — would be truly powerful and worthwhile.

For now I think I’ll keep on buying those DVDs I want and just ripping them for portable use.
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DVD Day and Date? No Thanks!

NewTeeVee has a bit on the alleged potential for Day and Date for VOD with DVD releases.

Raising the price of HD movies on VOD and releasing them the same day they come out on DVD would be a boon to the industry, according to a new survey from consulting firm Oliver Wyman. The company found that consumers would be willing to spend $7 to $9 for an HD movie on demand if released at the same time as the DVD.[NewTeeVee]

As I’ve noted previously, the way to do day in date is with the theatrical release NOT the DVD. I’m more than happy to pay more for the full DVD release, which will deliver a higher quality production and all the extras. Thanks to Amazon, you can pre-order and have it arrive on release day already.

A family with kids understands that controlling the video is key. We are currently watching There Will Be Blood in our home … started on Sunday and will finish (possibly even restart) when we can this week). VOD would expire and require a second purchase to complete. A second purchase would be more expensive than just buying the DVD to begin with…

If the movie was available at the same time as the theater, I’d actually be willing to pay more for the convenience, but these DVD release options just make no sense.

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All Nokia Media

I decided last week that I wanted to simplify my mobile media experience and ordered a 6GB microSD card so i could my N95-3 and N810 for evrything instead of also carrying my iPhone just for a few albums and podcasts. I’ve had an iPod since it was first released and have had my computer media experiece live inside iTunes. The full Apple ecosystem is strong and I’m a firm advocate of sync and go … Or at least I was.

For the most part the songs and albums stay the same on my ipod and it’s really podcasts that change with any real frequency – daily to weekly as things update. I thouht the 6GB card would be mainly in the tablet vs the phone as I started planning this but thus far (day 3) my plan has shifted a bit back to the phone. I’ve actually ordered a second 6GB card to use in the tablet so I don’t have to share and so each device can focus on some key pieces of the experience. A surprise arrived on Friday as well in the form of the Nokia N81 8GB which is designed to optimize the mobile music experience and I’ve been playing with that along with the N95.

Music and Video

Right now I have music on both phones and a limited amount of converted video on the tablet. The phones serve as really nice music players – quality seems solid on both. I have yet to do an A/B test as my recently updated iPhone (1.1.2) has not been reactivated… I’ve yet to swap its sim back from the N95 to complete the activation process!

The Nokia podcasting application does a great job importing my opml from iTunes and is able to update on a schedule or manually with a wifi connection or via cellular data. I’ve been manually switching things between wifi at home and cell on the go so I can get the latest stuff for my commute. Since I am unable to install anything on the work machine and do not have an itunes there’s no way to get an updated set of podcasts … Or even a quick download during the day on the iPhone. The Nokia phones however easily take care of business without the assistance of a computer which has really been quite awesome.

The N81 integrates podcasts directly into the music player which is something I’m hoping makes it back upstream to the N95 with a firmware update. In either case you can access podcasts as a genre and using the keypad you can live search through your collection of both music and podcasts. The Nokia Podcasting app also supports video which works nicely too though I’ve gone into the app to playback rather than use the music player which does not show video. When there’s an update to the Nokia Video Center application for the latest tablet OS2008, I will also subscribe there and predict my viewing preference will be the tablet’s larger screen.

Movies and TV shows are pretty easy to convert for the N810. Unfortunately video does have to be converted which takes time, but is relatively straight forward with the right tools. MediaConverter is probably the simplest to use and with the promise of making a file the tablet can play it’s hard to pass on it. Handbrake and (if you use Windows) Nokia’s new video conversion application also work well though if Hanbrake is your preference you might want to copy the settings from one of the other apps to make sure you get playable files.

Phone + Media Player

Like you would expect the Nokia phones pause and resume playback for phone calls much like the iPhone… So there’s no magic there, but it works relieably and well. The N81 has a dedicated music button next to the naviwheel and the N95’s multimedia key serves the same purpose. I discorvered today that a press and hold which brings up the music player on the N95, can also bring you right back to your previous application … A nice and I am sure not well known function.

The more I’ve used the phones as media players I can really see the potential benefit to an A2DP headset which would deliver stereo sound and also let me handle calls without switching things around my ear. My Shure E4C earphones are great but if I knew or needed the flexibility daily a wireless single unit would be killer.

What’s missing?

Amazingly the N81 is not supported by Nokia’s recently updated Multimedia Transfer application which would let me take advantage of playlist syncing as well as photos through iPhoto (though I use Aperture). While the N95 is supported, I’ve chosen to maintain a parallel experience and did a bulk copy (~4GB) using mass transfer mode on the N81 and a card reader for the N95. As it happens my mac mini media server crapped out at home so I had the external media drive on my desk and did a hunt and find to then drag over on both devices. This process took considerably longer than it would in iTunes to find what I first wanted and then actually to copy over. The Mac finder estimated over 2hours and after about 30 min I walked away. When I returned both were ready to roll. Sync is a really great thing to have and I hope that the Nokia Multimedia Transfer application (which has also been brutally slow for me) supports the N81 or that Nokia develops an actual plugin for itunes much like they did for iSync.

Copying video to the N810 was also done through a card reader and I will continue to do that as the video files I am using for my mobile needs are not really things I want clogging up iTunes.

Final thoughts

Outside of the initial bulk load, day to day use has been a pleasure. Music and podcasts are easy to access and update and video podcasts as well as converted video on the tablet all play well. Since I am already well converted as a two-piece mobile user, this plan works great for me though there’s no reason why the phone alone would not also do a lot of good. Of course you can’t playback any iTunes Store content as there is no Apple DRM access on anything other than their mobile devices, but that’s far from a deal breaker for me. Most of my content is from my own physical media collection and Amazon’s MP3 has an excellent DRM-free collection for “need it now” moments. I’ll probably dabble with the Nokia Music store when it eventually works in the US, but I’m less of a fan of Windows DRM.

Just as a sidenote, this entire post was written on the N810. That’s definitely not something I ever considered with the iPhone.

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Apple TV Delayed!

There’s quite a bit of buzz today regarding Apple’s announcement that the Apple TV will be delayed until at least mid-March. It seems unlikely that a bug is the cause since it was supposed to have shipped this week to make the February deadline they had announced.

My guess is that there’s an enhanced something coming and they needed to wait due to some other detail that’s still being worked out. Per my earlier post, I’m hoping it’s a distributed content system through torrent and that additional formats outside the iLife system are enabled. Granted for most people iLife formats and organization will be the ideal situation, but if you have a very large collection of media, it’s quite likely that itunes and iPhoto are not enough to playback / manage all that you want. iTunes is doing just fine for my music collection, but iPhoto needed to be passed over for Aperture, which to my knowledge gets no love from AppleTV – yet.

Just as an additional thought, there might always be something more direct in the form of a content deal that needed to get resolved for the official release. That could be pretty interestesting as well – though I’d prefer to have the option of managing my own ripped or created material in addition to what’s available in the iTunes store.

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Some thoughts on the new video services

I’ve been playing a bit with Joost and Zudeo and am am quite impressed with the overall quality as well as speed in which things are happening. I should mention that I use a (almost) 30 / 5 Mbps down cable connection which I tend to also use with either a GigE wired connection at my desk or a 802.11N wireless connection, which by US standards is about as good as it gets. 😉 I am not sure if the experience I’ve been having would be as good on other network connections, though I am sure that entry level broadband would make it tougher to speed through selections…


Zudeo, which is built on Bit Torrent, enables shared downloads of content – you get to keep what you download. The bit torrent system tends to reward you through Karma. The more you upload, the more speed you can achieve in download. I found the content to be pretty interesting though it’s pretty heavy on Movie Trailers and shorts – not real TV-like stuff or premium tier offerings – at least not yet. There’s no DRM here so I guess that’s to be expected.

Regardless, you can get true HD content downloaded VERY quickly and it seriously looks awesome. Not too unlike your initial experience with HDTV though, once you get past the WOW that picture looks awesome effect, you start wondering what you want to spend time actually watching beyond some extreme sports and landscapes. If you do get into Zudeo, make sure you’ve got some spare HD space as it’s pretty easy to download a lot very quickly…

The interface can be confusing if you venture into the advanced settings as you’ll find yourself deep in Azureus which is the Bit Torrent client that’s really running things. If you’ve never used Bit Torrent and particularly Azurues, there can be way too many things to consider. Granted, you probably won’t have to mess with much beyond your default download location, but you may need to adjust your firewall or router to enable better connections outside of your home network’s NAT configuration.

Here’s a sample of what to expect:


For the more mass-minded consumer, Joost will probably be more appealing. So far, the Joost team has delivered a seriously elegant system focused on watching. Joost is run by the team who brought us Kazaa and they’ve retained their intellectual property to deliver robust P2P applications and it totally works and works well really well.

Joost’s interface flows. It’s hard to really compare it to anything as it’s pretty unique – at least to me. I find the space is optimized for video with other elements floating on the perimeter of your screen inviting you to either explore or simply ignore.

Finding something interesting to watch is easy enough and from what I understand the content flow has only just started. I’ve been enjoying the Fifth Gear car program as well as some National Geographic pieces and the occasional World’s Strongest Man. While there’s no HD content here, I think it’s technically feasible to expect it in the future – perhaps following the 1.0 release.

While Zudeo works with as a single play system – no playlists – Joost will play an entire channel once you select where in the queue you’d like to start watching. When you quit and restart, it begins with your last viewed program and as a show is ending you get a nice pop-up that states what’s next. There are some ads which appear in between shows though they are (so far) only on for a few moments which is far from in the way or offensive.

Here’s a sample of what to expect:

Apple iTunes / Apple TV

As most people know it’s easy to one-click your way to some shows and movies from iTunes and I expect that when Apple TV arrives this week, it will make the experience of watching considerably better than the current system of rigging your machine to a TV. The Apple TV will be there happily awaiting a sync from your main store-connected system much like your iPod does today. My only issues (and it’s not even here) are the reliance on iTunes and the iPhoto. I get that it makes live simple to use a standard base configuration, but I’d really like to use content that is not managed in iTunes – archived DVDs for one – and I don’t use iPhoto anymore now that Aperture is in the picture so I am not sure how I will be able to enjoy HD quality pictures on my TV. Front Row does not recognize my Aperture library at all… Hopefully there will be a way to extend the capabilities through a plugin or a hack to better enable access to content I already have – not just what I buy from Apple. I’m looking forward to checking it out when it arrives and I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

The Peer to Peer future?

After spending the time I have with Zudeo and Joost though I have to wonder where the P2P / Torrent part of Apple’s delivery strategy might be. By sharing the power to deliver massive blocks of content it’s clearly possible to deliver higher quality than we are used to seeing come through the iTunes store. I can’t think of too many people who want to watch low resolution video on their HD screens… come to think of it I didn’t know too many people who wanted low resolution audio either, and Apple has sold over 2 Billion songs.

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Canola 1.0 beta2 ready for mass trial

Simply point your browser to and have fun. They are using the latest installer tech for Maemo, so by simply clicking the install link, you’ll have the application repository automatically added which makes everything quite nice…

Once the repository is on your tablet, you’ll be able to track updates within the application manager as well which is quite handy – especially as you install beta software.

Have fun!

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Steve Jobs loathes DRM just like rest of us

This is simply awesome. From Steve Jobs…

Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player. [Steve Jobs @]

Now there is unfortunately nothing here stating that they will in fact abolish DRM, but it is a massively public statement from the current leader in*digital distribution on how the system can be open and fair to both consumers, stores and device makers. I know I am not alone in wishing we get there sooner rather than later. DRM sucks for everyone.

Wal-Mart and Studios in Film Deal but they won’t play in my house

Today the company will introduce a partnership with all of the six major Hollywood studios — Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Sony, 20th Century Fox and Universal — to sell digital movies and television shows on its Web site (, becoming the first traditional retailer to do so. [New York Times]

While I am not surprised to see that Walmart is embracing Windows DRM (other than Apple’s FairPlay, it’s the only game in town), but check out this lovely view of their website on a Mac:

Walmart's Video Download store as viewed on a Mac through Firefox

To me, this is a total F-U. It’s a complete lock-out. Walmart is saying, there’s only one platform that we recognize and that’s Windows through IE. I was able to get the page to load with Safari, but Firefox and Camino but displayed the loveliness above.

The only thing I can give credit to Walmart for is that they have a single price for each film (prices actually vary by title) which will let you get both a download and a portable version for the same price – which is the default.
BTW — I just noticed that Apple has an ad on the NYT page promoting iPod and iTunes which not only competes with this service, but is completely incompatible.

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Boing Boing: MPAA: it’s OK to copy movies if you keep them in a vault

A classic double standard… whatever they need to work for them. The MPAA is the worst of the worst.

MPAA: it’s OK to copy movies if you keep them in a vault

During the Q&A at last night’s screening of Kirby Dick’s “This Film is Not Yet Rated,” Dick recounted the story of how his film was unlawfully duplicated by the MPAA’s ratings board. He submitted one copy of his movie to the MPAA, extracting a promise that no more copies would be made — the MPAA’s own anti-piracy materials describe making a single unauthorized duplication as an act of piracy.

Once it got out that the MPAA had made its “pirated” copy of Dick’s movie, one of the MPAA’s lawyers called Dick up to admit that the cartel had indeed made an infringing copy, but not to worry, “The copy is safe in my vault.”

At this point, I raised my hand and asked if Dick thought anyone caught downloading movies from the Internet could get off the hook by saying, “Don’t worry, I keep my copies safe in my vault?” [Boing Boing]

Networked DVR

When I first read the headline I got very excited, but then I realized this is not what I was hoping for…

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Cable operator Cablevision Systems Corp. (CVC.N) said on Monday it plans to introduce a video recording service as early as this year that aims to replace the living room digital video recorder.Digital video recorders made by such companies as Cisco Systems Inc.’s (CSCO.O) Scientific-Atlanta and TiVo Inc. (TIVO.O) allow subscribers to pause and rewind live television programs and store programs on hard drives included on their home set-top boxes. The Cablevision service, by contrast, will allow customers to store programs on servers located at Cablevision’s facilities. Cablevision said the move is designed to cut the cost of installing and fixing digital video recorders, which are prone to malfunction.It will operate over existing cable systems through customers’ current digital set top boxes. Though the company said it had not yet priced the service, it expects cost-savings to be passed on to customers. [New York Times]

I sincerely hope that Cable companies decide this is the low-end version of the DVR service and continue to offer / allow a more high end recording capability. My experience with cable DVRs has been quite good. What I would love is for a shared recording space so I can easily browse programs recorded centrally (or simply from a second box) in a different room. This technology already exists and Scientific Atlanta offers a version of the box I already use (8300HD) which enables multi-room functionality. My home has all the connective lines needed – just coax – to make this happen.

Additionally, with “recording” done on the external network, you essentially just offer an enhanced on-demand service which is fine for some instances, but defeats any hope of portability other than streaming. The EyeTV 200 I’ve recently added enables me to auto-export to iPod format which enables my content to be synced with a docked iPod – or streamed through iTunes on any other computer. If I had systems running Front Row, I’d be able to stream quite easily on my home network.

I know I am not in the majority of consumers nor do I view technology through the mass market filter, but I can’t imagine people want less from their content services and providers…

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Big Networks limited view of VOD

So now that the iTMS has announced a successful foray into video it seems the impact has been realized and other deals are starting to flow in, which is great news … in theory.

In Januaray, if you are a Comcast subscriber you’ll be potentially able to view CSI, Survivor, NCIS and Amazing Race for $.99.  Of course, you have to live in one of the 17 markets in which CBS owns and operates the stations… not sure how you figure that out now in a simple way, though clearly in January you’ll either find the shows available or you won’t.  Affiliate owners are against this type of system as they announced as well when Apple cut the ABC deal on iTunes as it (in their view) cuts into their ability to sell advertising.

NBC Universal announced their deal as well, though it’s with DirecTV.  Same price $.99 which is nice, but you will need to buy a new set top box because the shows will download overnight and be saved on the hard drive.  If you don’t have the box, you’ll have to watch on programmed intervals much the same way PPV works today…

Only Networks and Carriers could make it so complex and limiting…

So now aside from Fox, you can find some network, prime-time programming through some additional locations which is interesting but you can’t possibly get everything in one place and you can only watch on your TV at home. 

What would really make this interesting and potentially cool, would be HDTV for starters.  These are the existing network delivery systems and it would be easy enough to do.  It would in fact be a unique selling proposition that iTunes can’t beat – for now anyway.  CBS and NBC are trying to make it more attractive to go through your TV rather than iTunes with a lower price, but my guess is that many of the people actually interested in this type of thing are already using a DVR of some kind and can already record their favorite programs for free.  

In our home, we have 2 DVRs, each with 2 tuners capable of recording 2 HDTV channels at a time.  We don’t have digital portability, but we can seriously record a lot of stuff without conflict if we need to… In fact we actually end up recording a few of the same things to both boxes so we can watch upstairs or downstairs.  There’s currently no way to beam content from one box to another … (though the capability exists in test markets SA 8300MR anyone?)

I know this is all still early and more toe in the water than anything… it’s just interesting to see that the old world needs to hold on tight as the new more disruptive world enhances a viewer’s ability to enjoy content where and when they want.  Which would you rather be?  Enhancing the relationship or providing a continually limited and controlling view on how it should work.

More from the WSJ, NYT and

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