The Roku Streaming Stick & Channel Update

Roku I am a big fan of Roku. I currently have version one of the Roku 2 XS which I love and version 2 is even smaller. However both have the problem of being separate boxes which means more wires to run to the TV and another power cord to plug-in. Roku has an answer to this problem the Roku Streaming Stick. Ed from Roku showed off the product at CES 2012

The stick is a little larger then a regular USB stick and plugs directly into a HDMI port. It is Roku’s answer to smart TV. It has the same chip and ram as the Roku 2 XS with the same great performance. It is based on the MHL standard. The one problem I see is that for this to work the TV has to be MHL capable, which I suspect many TVs especially with the lower price models are not.

This may confuse consumers, Roku needs to make it clear which TVs this will work with or what to look for It will come with a motion control remote that has WiFi built-in. The remote control will have power and control out. The Roku Streaming Stick can also be controlled by the TV remote.

Roku Streaming Stick

The Roku currently has 400 plus channels. The channels are organized in the store by categories, including favorites, religion, sports, movies and more. Among the channels available in the Roku store are TPN.TV and the Blubrry Network. Roku is continuing to update the channel store, to improve its interface and usability. The Roku is currently in over 2 1/2 million households and is still growing. The Roku Streaming Stick should be available in fall of 2012 and run between $50 and $100 depending on model.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast network

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Independence USA Reality Show

Do world events have you rattled? Ever thought of learning to live off the grid?

Follow Frank Belcastro as he attempts to drag his family (sometimes kicking and screaming) toward his goal of being able to live completely on their own, off the grid.

“Independence USA” premieres on January 18, 2012 exclusively on GBTV.Com, Glenn Beck’s new streaming Internet-based television network. “Independence USA” is produced by GBTV and The WorkShop, L.L.C. whose team has produced shows for History, ESPN, ESPN Classic, Animal Planet, HGTV, trutv, Travel Channel, Lifetime, Discovery Channel, TLC, The Golf Channel, and Broadcast Syndication. The show will air weekly on Wednesdays.

The “Independence USA” trailer has hit reality show written all over it. In my opinion this is going to be a real game-changer for the concept of streaming video and new media. This is the first professional-quality TV series aimed at a mainstream reality TV audience produced exclusively for an Internet-based television network. Though networks have played around for years with streaming re-purposed television shows and movies, this is the first time a network is being built from the ground up, one module at a time to create a pay TV network for exclusive distribution on the Internet.

Will people subscribe to an Internet-only high definition TV network? The answer is, yes they absolutely will subscribe provided that the content is there. It’s highly likely that the addition of the “Independence USA” reality TV series will get many people over the hump and cause them to pay.

People already in the new media/streaming media space should welcome GBTV, because it is going to be a game-changer. It’s success will likely cause a bit of a land rush towards streaming. Devices such as the Roku are in a great position to reap those land rush benefits. The presence of professional level TV networks on the Roku will potentially have a bit of a “halo effect” for existing new media creators.

GNC-2011-12-15 #729 Task Saturation @ 195%

Things have been busy here in a good way. I have been pulling some 19 hour days. Hopefully by Sunday things are going to cool off just a bit and I can enjoy the holidays. I hope you will stay tuned in through the Christmas break as I will be cranking out shows throughout the holiday period. We introduce a new sponsor to the show tonight details below… I talk about GoDaddy.com coming on board as out CES 2012 Official Media Sponsor and the Special Offer!

Note: I am hiring 5 writers email me geeknews@gmail.com

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On The Net, Less Can Offer More

For some time now I’ve been using an iOS/Android app called “Heytell” to communicate with a number of friends and relatives. Heytell’s appeal is that it offers reliable asynchronous voice messages that are quick and easy to send to people when you don’t want to invest the time in a phone conversation. Heytell’s success as an app is that it offers something that’s less than a phone call but does it very well indeed.

Text messaging is successful and popular because it offers the opportunity to send quick and easy messages directly to the cell phones of others if you don’t want to invest the time or effort into writing a full-fledged email. Text messaging’s success is that it offers something that’s less than an email but does it very well indeed.

For some time now, I’ve been experimenting with various set-top boxes, including the Western Digital WDTV as well as built-in apps in a couple of different brands of Blu-Ray players, the software version of Boxee, an Apple TV, and even a Mac Mini connected to my HDTV. All of them had their strengths, however, it still felt as if something was somehow wrong or missing from each one of those experiences and user interfaces.

Over the weekend I bought a Roku 2 XS. The Roku is by far the best set-top box experience I’ve ever had. Roku has got it right. They’ve currently got well over 100 apps to chose from, with many more constantly being added. Roku has a tremendous amount of content provided by those third-party apps, and content drives success. Content is king and always will be.

It hit me what the appeal of a box such as Roku is with its third-party apps. These streaming apps, such as Crackle, Netflix, etc. are something less than a full-fledged cable or broadcast TV network. They can have lots of highly-specialized content to choose from, such as Netflix, or such a small amount of highly-specialized content that it’s only updated once a week. Big traditional cable and broadcast networks provide only one program at a time that the viewer has to make an appointment to watch. Roku video streaming apps provide specialized content that in many cases could never make it on a traditional broadcast network because the audience would be too small. That same specialized content begins to have tremendous appeal in a Roku app venue where it’s something less than a full-fledged network environment, yet delivered very well indeed.

On the Internet, less really can be more.

GNC-2011-11-12 #722 CES 2012 Support Needed

Ok for the business folks out there that need some extra exposure. I have a ridiculous deal for you, get heard and seen on this show through the dates below.. Pony up to the bar and help support the Support staff for CES 2012. All moneys earned will go towards those team members support cost for the show.

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Roku Coming to UK and Canada

Roku LT

Roku LT

Today, Roku announced it will be going International: starting in the United Kingdom and Canada. The Set Top Box plans to launch in these countries early 2012. Currently, they are making a call to Canadian and European developers to start creating content for this popular medium.

Roku was founded in 2002 by Replay TV founder Anthony Wood. The privately held company started with the SoundBridge – a network music player. Since then, the company created the PhotoBridge before developing the Roku in 2008. Four generations later, the Roku LT, Roku 2 HD, XD and XS (with Angry Birds) are current models you can purchase starting at $49.

“This year has been one of many accomplishments for Roku in the U.S. In July, we introduced Roku 2 which brings casual games to the TV and last month we unveiled the $49.99 Roku LT. We’ve added casual games including Angry Birds and PAC-MAN as well as premiere channels including HBO GO,” said Roku Founder and CEO Anthony Wood. “And now we’re looking forward to kicking off 2012 by expanding to Europe and Canada and providing consumers abroad with the best in streaming entertainment – a natural evolution for Roku.”

Recently Roku launched games like Pac-Man and Galaga, along with services like CNBC 24 hour and HBO Go (with cable subscription). Of course, Roku was the first STB to offer Netflix, and also has premium channels like Amazon and HuluPlus. Not to mention the TechPodcasts and Blubrry networks.

Ubuntu Linux Heads for Smartphones and Tablets

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.

$49 Roku Might Be the Golden Ticket for Cord Cutters

Roku LT

Roku LT

This morning, Roku announced a $49 model of their popular Over the Top TV solution. The Roku LT is a very slimmed down version of the box. It does up to 720p video (which most content providers are creating content for), and while you cannot play Angry Birds or have a USB and Ethernet port (it’s a WiFi device, too) like the $99 model, it does have all the other functionality of this popular internet appliance.

Roku has been growing, adding many new channels including EPiX, which has been convincing people to cut the cord, as GigaOM discusses. Roku also added HBO Go – which is a On Demand service offered by HBO. You still need to order a cable package to get the OTT channel.

There are other great channels on Roku that do not require a cable connection, such as the TechPodcasts channel and Blubrry. You also have the Netflix, HuluPlus, Revision3, KoldKast, Glenn Beck, NHL, Fox News and many other channels.

The LT also undercuts the Apple TV by $50. Roku was already the lowest priced box, with a $59 and $79 version of the box. But this new magic price point turns the OTT box into a “great gift”. With the holidays fast approaching, this might be the hot item.

So with this news, will you finally be purchasing a Roku? Let us know!

Netflix Kills Qwikster, DVD by Mail Still Netflix. Suffers $200 Dollar a Share Loss.

netflix logoMaybe it was the weird spelling, the fact it was too close to Qwikstar (the Amway rebrand) or the twitter is owned by the Pot Smoking Elmo. Nonetheless, Netflix announced today they will not be seperating the company into two. Netflix DVD rental will still be $8 (with an additional $8 for streaming).

How Netflix Screwed themselves in the last 3 Months.

In July, Netflix came to the realization their service was not priced efficiently for the company to make a profit. Therefore, they announced by Sept 1st, they would be changing price plans.

The service separated the streaming from the DVD rental. For $8, you could get one DVD at a time. Add another $8 and you could get Netflix streaming. It was a move that happened too fast, so people lashed back.

Last month, Netflix’ CEO Reed Hastings outlined plans to separate the DVD by mail business and give it’s own name – Qwikster. People started speculating Netflix was planning to sell the DVD mail side and focus more on streaming. Within 14 days, Netflix saw a major decline of customers (Some calling the idea “Qwikstupid”) .

Netflix stock dropped almost $100 a share from Septembers’ announcement, and over $200 a share from July. Netflix lost millions of dollars in the last 90 days with these changes. Needless to say, this is not a great business plan.

What Netflix Needs to Do to Recoup this Large Deficit.

First of all, it would be a VERY GOOD idea to offer at least 1 free month to current customers (although 3 months would be better). After all, these are the people that stuck through it all. Next – cut the service price for DVD rental and streaming. Meet in the middle – $12 a month for 1 DVD at a time and streaming.

Reed Hastings also needs to put together a very big public apology. I don’t think it’s time for him to pass the CEO reigns just yet, but maybe Netflix needs to shake up the board a bit. This was a horrible idea that was ultimately agreed upon by the directors.

Will You Go Back to Netflix?

This is the biggest question. After all these bad decisions, would you choose to go back to Netflix? They do have the most coverage in streaming options, being on most Over the top TV solutions and game consoles. Still, loosing 1/3 of their operating share makes you wonder if they can ever get back to the $300 / share peak they enjoyed back in July.

I personally use the Netflix streaming service – I abandoned DVD rentals simply because they sat on the coffee table for weeks at a time. With new additions in AMC’s Walking Dead and Discovery’s Mythbusters to streaming, I have a month’s worth of shows to watch. Tron Legacy also showed up this month, which gives me more of what I really crave – top movies that are only a year old.

XBox Turning into Over the Top TV Solution? XBox Live TV Coming…

Xbox TV partners

Xbox TV partners

I watch over a lot in the Over the Top Television space. Internet TV, IPTV, whatever you want to call it, it’s a great way to get watchable content without having a full cable lineup.

Last week, Steve Ballmer announced their TV initiative over XBox Live. Over 40 providers have signed up for this venture, including Comcast, HBO, BBC, Rodgers on Demand (Canada), Televisa (Mexico), and other countries including Germany and Italy (20 in all). Best part, if you already have an XBox 360, you have the hardware to do this.

“Today’s announcement is a major step toward realizing our vision to bring you all the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, made easy,” said Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “Combining the world’s leading TV and entertainment providers with the power of Kinect for Xbox 360 and the intelligence of Bing voice search will make TV and entertainment more personal, social and effortless.” – Press Release

Add to conventional TV line-up the on-line video providers like Crackle, YouTube, Zune and more. Then there is audio content from Last.fm and iHeartRadio. Finally, Social networks like Twitter and Facebook to round off the service.

The Game System that Became More

Whereas companies like Roku that integrated smaller games like Angry Birds, XBox won’t have that problem. It’s a game system over a TV content distributor. You can play Gears of War, Tweet about it, then watch a video on how to play Gears of War (or another show).

Unified Dashboard in XBox Live

With the unified dashboard (looking similar to the Zune software), you can browse your shows, play the games, work your social networks and more. You will connect to the Comcast Xfinity service to get all that service has to offer.

Getting Rid of the Remote with Kinect

This might be the best part about the XBox TV. By using voice controls and your Kinect, you can gesture to a channel, play, pause and move on. It might get harry if you have more than one person wanting to watch different shows. Still, could you imagine a world without a remote control?

It won’t all be free, though.

Right now, to get HBO Go, you need to have a cable subscription with HBO. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon – especially with channels like HuluPlus. Of course, that is just like many of the OTT systems out there. Pay for a subscription and get the content.

Once again, there could be conflict if you have multiple family members where one wants to play a game and the other wants to watch a movie. So this might not replace a cable box or DVR just yet.

The Xbox Live TV service is expected to come out before the holiday season. The announcement comes before then so you can plan purchasing an XBox 360 or Kinect system for your loved ones to connect up quick. While the OTT solution is more pricey than a Roku or Apple TV, it does do more than just watch video, view pictures or listen to music. It also has some great game titles. It also has a new way to browse through your content.