Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Vizio Hits CES With A Whole New Product Line

Posted by Alan at 4:49 PM on January 10, 2012

Vizio, one of the most popular HDTV makers in the United States, has come to the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show with a whole new product line that is getting a lot attention.  The lineup includes new HDTV’s, Tablets, Blu-ray players, and media players.

There are brand new Vizio V.I.A. Plus TV’s in 47 inch, 55 inch, and 65 inch versions.  “The V.I.A. Plus experience features an intuitive, app-centric interface on every device, making it easy for consumers to understand and navigate as they move between devices. Users can also access thousands of apps from the Android Market™ for even more entertainment options.”  V.I.A brings a large selection of apps, featuring iHeartRadio, The Wall Street Journal, M-Go, plus a lot more.  Most importantly this provides a gateway to the Android Market, which opens up a world of thousands of apps that will all be available right on your TV.

This technology is also included in other products like the new Vizio VBR430 Blu-ray player, which comes with a touchpad universal remote with a QWERTY keyboard and it can easily connect to any DLNA-compatible computer to let you play and view pictures, videos, and music.

The VAP430 Stream Player has built-in Google TV.  Vizio refers to it as “one of the most advanced Stream Players with built-in HDMI ports that lets users connect existing components like gaming consoles or set-top boxes for unified access to all media sources through the VI.A. Plus touchpad remote. It even supports 3D content and 3D streaming.”

All of these products are either available immediately or coming very soon.  You can learn more by visiting the Vizio CES site.

 

Ubuntu Linux Heads for Smartphones and Tablets

Posted by Andrew at 5:01 PM on October 30, 2011

ZDNet is reporting that Canonical is intending to make the next release of Ubuntu, 12.04, a LTS (Long Term Support) release with intention of then expanding Ubuntu beyond desktops and laptops into smartphones, tablets and smart TVs, with a target of 2014 for an all-platform release.

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, in an interview said, “This is a natural expansion of our idea as Ubuntu as Linux for human beings. As people have moved from desktop to new form factors for computing, it’s important for us to reach out to out community on these platforms. So, we’ll embrace the challenge of how to use Ubuntu on smartphones, tablets and smart-screens.” The full announcement is expected at the Ubuntu Developer Summit, which starts tomorrow and runs for a week in Orlando, Florida.

Having already been in discussions with partners for around 18 months, it seems that this is more than wishful thinking, but one can’t help feel that the whole Palm-HP-WebOS debacle bodes badly for any company wanting to get in on the smartphone and tablet space. If HP can’t make it happen with a solid OS and Zen of Palm, what hope has Canonical? When quizzed about this, Shuttleworth said that he saw “Android as its primary competitor…..We’ve also already heard from people who are already shipping tablets that they want Ubuntu on the tablet.” And of course, “Ubuntu already has a developer and customer base.”

While there’s no doubt that the mobile space is still maturing and there’s plenty of change still to come,  I have a hard time seeing Ubuntu on anything but a small niche of tablets and an even smaller niche of smartphones. iOS and Android have their foothold and Microsoft will be a solid third if Windows Phone 7 continues to deliver and Windows 8 delivers as expected. A fourth player is going to have difficulty making inroads, especially one as relatively unknown as Canonical and Ubuntu.

Smart TVs are a more plausible destination as the internal software is of less concern to the consumer. Most people buying a TV are looking at the exterior brand such as Sony, Samsung or LG, and not what’s inside, although this may change if a “Powered by Roku” or “Google TV inside” campaign runs. Plenty of change to come in this space too.

I wish Ubuntu every success.

Xbox Boosts On-Demand in the UK

Posted by Andrew at 3:42 AM on October 7, 2011

Earlier in the week, Microsoft gave the Xbox a big push in the race for HDMI 1 with Steve Ballmer announcing Xbox TV and partnerships with over 40 content providers. Jeffrey Powers has already covered the main announcement on GNC but I wanted to add a little bit of UK spin.

In the UK, additional programming boxes such as the Roku, Boxee or Apple TV are very rare. Most of my friends would enjoy their gadgets and technology but I don’t know a single one of them who has an extra box. However, many of them would have a games console and there’s a fairly even spread of Xboxes, Playstations and Wiis. Consequently it’s no surprise that the race to provide on-demand content is taking place on the consoles.

Most people in the UK are using the availability of on-line TV to catch up with programmes they missed when they were originally broadcast. What typically happens is that you go into work and some says, “Did you see…..last night? It was brilliant” and you watch the programme through the various free on-line services. The BBC’s iPlayer is very popular.

Reviewing Microsoft’s press release, here are the organisations that will provide on-demand content available in the UK on the Xbox. I’ve ignored the standard social networking sites, such as Facebook and YouTube, but have added the organisation’s background so that non-UK residents can get a feel for what’s happening.

In terms of the numbers, the traditional terrestrial and satellite broadcasters have the greatest presence and there’s only one major UK broadcaster missing from the list, ITV, which is a conglomeration of regional broadcast companies.
LOVEFiLM is owned by Amazon, Crackle is a Sony property and blinkbox is 80% owned by Tesco, one of the UK’s leading supermarkets.
The challenge will be to get consumers to pay for the on-line film rentals. Here in the UK, there is lots of good free programming which was originally broadcast but is now on-line through the broadcaster’s portals via tools similar to iPlayer. It will be interesting to see how the paid-for market develops and if the games consoles are key to the transition. It’s certainly where the media companies need to be for the UK market.

TV Networks Stick Collective Finger in Dike

Posted by Alan at 7:12 PM on October 22, 2010

Over the past twenty-four hours you have probably heard the news that some of the major networks, such as ABC, NBC, and CBS have blocked access from Google TV.  I don’t know if I should be surprised or not.

I’ve grown accustomed to them doing this sort of thing – Hulu (NBC and Fox) blocked Boxee, and didn’t even want your PC hooked to your TV.  But in recent months it seemed to be changing – Hulu is going on set-top boxes, TV Networks are making apps for things like the iPad.

Now in the past day they have tried to suddenly turn back the clock, by blocking the Google TV set-top box.  It seems to go against the tide they had been riding recently to a more open, freely available content future.  They saw this coming years ago as they watched the music industry struggle.  While they have not yet given up their DRM, as music had to, they were finding ways to (mostly) satisfy viewers by rolling out Hulu and placing content on their own web sites, and, as I said previously, even releasing apps and putting Hulu on real TV’s.

They saw bit torrent as their own personal Napster, and they were right to.  It was, and if they don’t figure this thing out soon then it still could be.  There’s no shortage of apps and directories available to even the most casual users to get all of their TV shows while cutting the providers out completely.  And this kind of move is the type that pushes people in that direction.  The music industry has shown that low prices and wide availability can work as a business model.  The TV industry seems bent on showing that low availability can’t work.

Maybe it’s the wide-open, PC-style approach that Google TV takes that is scaring them.  After all, they were never really afraid of a few geeks hooking PC’s to TV’s.  But, when the process gets vastly simplified by a device, then the game really begins to change.  And those high-profile, big-profit hostage negotiations like the one going on in New York between Fox and Cablevision lose their value.

The one thing they don’t seem do get, or maybe they get, but haven’t sensed the urgency of, is that they are running out of room quickly.  As the old saying goes, they are putting their finger in the hole in the dike, but they can’t hold back the flood much longer.  They need to figure out the revenue model for this new technology yesterday.  Blocking access to Google TV is already a flawed plan.  Anybody can go in and change the ID of the Chrome browser and get their access back.  It takes 30 seconds.  And early adopters are the kind of people who know how to do that.  These days knowledge is digital and once it’s out it’s not coming back.  The content producers and networks are running out of time and, even in that race, they are running in the wrong direction right now.

Will GoogleTV Be The Winner In The Long Run?

Posted by Alan at 3:40 PM on October 14, 2010

The recent introduction of GoogleTV by Logitech and Sony has generated a lot of hype.  At the moment I am not so sure that it deserves it.  It’s nice and it looks useful, but I can do more with my HTPC and I don’t necessarily think it’s better than Roku or the upcoming Boxee Box.  And the Logitech box is pricey at $299 and Sony’s TV’s are going to be pricey as well.

But, I wonder about it down the road if Google chooses to really pursue it.  Let’s face it, they do drop things all the time as if they just lost interest.  But I doubt that GoogleTV will go that way.  There are too many partners and too much at stake.  All of the talk these days surrounds online TV and cord-cutting.  This is the future of entertainment and there are a lot of companies who want to control it – and none is more powerful than Google.

What I find interesting about Google’s play here is that, while companies like Roku build a box with apps, Google is creating a platform.  They aren’t building a box.  They created a platform to power everyone else’s boxes and other types of devices.  Logitech can make a box and Sony can make TV’s and Blu-Ray players, and Dish can make a box and they can all use Google’s platform.

One interesting thing I noticed was GoogleTV’s lack of support for tuner cards.  At first glance I thought it was an oversight or that maybe they were still working on it and it would come in an update.  But, after further thought, I am not so sure of that.  Do they want to try and force the revolt from traditional delivery?  Force the content to go online so that the cord becomes obsolete?  Maybe.  After all, why else would they not support tuners?  It would seem a no-brainer to try and get into cable company DVR’s.  But I can’t find anything that suggests the support will be coming.  And they have to realize that, while the crowd who visits sites like this may not mind having a DVR and separate box like GoogleTV, a large portion of the population doesn’t want two boxes and many won’t even understand the need.  Obsoleting DVR’s and forcing everyone online where everything will be on-demand certainly would be good for Google’s business…

Prices drop, sometimes quickly, once a new technology is out, so the initial prices of these offerings from Logitech and Sony aren’t a real concern to me.  For now I am happy with my current setup.  But I know big changes in media consumption are coming and I think building a platform may be the smarter bet in the long run.  The battle for our living rooms is heating up and it’s going to be fun to watch this fight unfold.