Amazon Prime Video announces move to stay ahead of stiffer competition

amazon prime logoAmazon today announced a new partnership to bring even more content to its Prime video service. Prime is, of course, more than just video — it is also free second-day shipping on all orders (which often arrive next day) and a lending library for Kindle customers, allowing for one free book per month.

Now, in the face of growing competition from rivals, the retail giant has snagged a deal with TV network A&E, which will bring “popular series from A&E, bio, HISTORY and Lifetime to the Prime Instant Video service.”

Amazon announces these deals fairly regularly, but there are a couple of reasons why this particular one is a bit more important. First of all, it is a slap in the face of rival Netflix, who previously had, and lost, this deal. Second, there is a looming problem on the horizon and it is, potentially, a big one.

Redbox, the company who brought us those irresistible kiosks, has teamed with Verizon and plans to launch a competitor in early 2013. I have been among the early beta testers for the service and, I must admit, it is compelling.

So, is this enough to keep Amazon ahead of the market? Certainly Netflix still seems to be the dominant player, but Amazon is moving steadily up and now Redbox is coming. Competition, of course, is good for all of us.

ARCHOS TV Connect Controls Your TV Like a Tablet

ARCHOS has come up with another innovative device that you won’t want to miss! It will make your TV viewing experience into something much more interactive. It’s called ARCHOS TV Connect. It turns any HDTV into an Android powered smart TV that provides the full Android ecosystem. There is a specially designed TV Touch remote for you to use.

Instead of sitting in front of your TV, and perhaps clicking the buttons on your regular remote, you use the TV Touch remote. Suddenly, you are able to control your TV like you would a tablet. You can tap, swipe, zoom in or zoom out, select something or type. It even has a full keyboard with Android shortcuts, (including a key for voice controls and voice typing).

You can choose from over 700,000 apps and games on Google Play, and play them on your TV. The TV Connect has dual analog thumb sticks and a gaming mapping tool.

Use TV Connect to call a group of friends or family and have a video chat with them through your big screen TV. ARCHOS TV Connect has an HD webcam for high quality video calling. An LED light will notify you of an incoming call while you are watching TV. It is compatible with Skype or Google Talk.

TV Connect includes the ARCHOS Media Center applications. It will read your favorite video files with format and codec support including H.264 decoding in full 1080p HD. You can stream media content over your home network through WiFi or Ethernet. The TV Connect features HDMI (cable included), full USB host and micro SD slot.

The ARCHOS TV connect runs Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean”. It will be available beginning in February of 2013, and will cost $129.99. You can experience the ARCHOS TV Connect first hand at CES 2013. ARCHOS will be showing off its new line up of tablets, including the Game Pad and more. The ARCHOS booth is in the Central Hall (15322) of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Enforced Obsolescence

Casio TV-470As the last analogue TV signals are turned off tonight in the UK to make way for 4G and digital TV, thousands of TVs, videos and hard-disk recorders will become obsolete literally overnight. While an external decoder may prolong their life, the sheer inconvenience of multiple settings and synchronised recordings will consign many of these perfectly functional devices to the rubbish bin recycling centre. Reflecting, I suspect that this is probably the first time that enforced obsolescence has impacted on me personally.

Undoubtedly, I’ve had other gadgets that have become obsolete but they became out-of-date because I chose to make them so, usually by purchasing a newer devices. If I plugged in and turned on my first laptop, a Tandy 1400LT that ran MsDOS 3.2, I guarantee you that it would still work, albeit with somewhat crude CGA graphics accompanied by whirring floppy drives. The 1400LT became obsolete when I bought an 386SX desktop, but it still worked as designed.

But when I wake up tomorrow, my Casio TV-470 pocket TV and my Pioneer 530H hard disk recorder will be of almost no use as the analogue TV signals these devices need will no longer be broadcast. I find this enforced obsolescence somewhat disturbing as faceless government officials simply made a decision and that was that. Game over for the unfortunate gadgets.

To be fair, the analogue TV signal has had a good run for its money. The PAL system started in 1967 so it’s lasted over 40 years and my TV-470’s been around for about half of that (1991). I hope it’s happy in TV heaven.

Shazam, Now Works with TV Shows

ShazamShazam the music recognition app has been updated to also recognize TV shows . I was trying it out today and it still needs some work. It didn’t recognize many of the shows that I was watching. It either gave back no information or incorrect information. There were times when it took multiple tries before it came back with the correct information.

I wasn’t surprise when it didn’t recognize Bleach, my favorite anime show. However, I was surprised when it didn’t recognize a Rock documentary on Rush. Not surprisingly it recognized most network programing, however it had trouble recognizing the show Major Crimes which is a new series on TNT this afternoon. This evening though it did recognize it, so the database appears to be improving all the time.

Once the show is recognized  it will show the songs that are played on the show. You can play samples of the music. If you are a Spotify premium member you can play the whole song. You can also view the song on Youtube if it is available. You can also view the lyrics, get tour information and buy ringtones. You can also read the latest celebrity buzz, get the cast information, read the latest Tweets. If you are using it on an iOS device you can share to Facebook or Twitter. If you are on Android you can share thru any app that you have, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus

IntoNow, a Yahoo product recognized more shows than Shazam, however once a show was recognized, Shazam had more options available. Get Glue the other media sharing app, is just that a way to share what you are watching. It doesn’t have the information that is available through either Shazam or IntoNow. Shazam needs to improve its recognition of non network shows. However it is on the right path and I do recommend downloading it if you like to share what you are watching to your favorite social network.

Enhance the Movie Experience

Movie & Meal DealEver since the motion picture first burst onto the silver screen, people have wanted to enhance the cinematic experience. From 3D and IMAX to Smell-O-vision, just about every trick in the book has been used to make you feel part of the film, rather than an outside observer. To this fine canon of techniques, UK retailer Tesco and on-line movie service blinkbox are adding….food.

For their “Movie & Meal Deal“, Tesco and blinkbox commissioned top neuroscientist, Dr. Jack Lewis, to study the effects of active ingredients on people’s brains and then suggest food types that complement the movie-watching experience. His findings gave Tesco and blinkbox the perfect, if somewhat unusual, combinations for the ultimate movie night in.

Dr. Lewis reckons these foods match the movie genres.

  • Action – Sun-dried tomatoes coated in cocoa powder will raise noradrenaline which is instrumental to sensations of excitement
  • Comedy –  Fresh fish stuffed with beetroot and coleslaw to supplement the nitric oxide system and improve dopamine availability in the pleasure pathways of your brain
  • Drama – Chopped lemon, lime and mint sandwich drizzled with chilli sauce on wholewheat bread to trigger the RAS (reticular activating system) to remain alert and focused.
  • Horror – Chicken marinated in freshly brewed coffee will take you out of your comfort zone and raise levels of anxiety
  • Romance – Curl up with a spicy curry (not chocolate!) to top up your libido-stoking testosterone levels

Everyone knows that certain drugs can change the way you feel, but the chemicals we take into our bodies through our diet can also have an effect on our mood,” says Dr. Jack Lewis “Choosing to eat certain foods, whilst leaving others out, regulates the availability of ‘raw materials’ that the brain’s chemical messengers are created from. This means that you can tailor your meals to create the perfect mood for a movie night in, no matter what the genre.

The “Move & Meal Deal” is a partnership between Tesco and blinkbox: buy a variety of food and drinks from Tesco and then rent a blinkbox new release movie for just £2 instead of the usual price of £3.49.

Me, I think I’ll stick to popcorn.

iPPea TV Bring Android ICS to the TV

When you think of Android on a TV then you probably think of Google TV, the line of set top boxes that run a dedicated version of Android that is made specifically for the living room.  However, MIPS Technologies, Inc. has announced a new dongle that will bring native Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) to every TV that has an HDMI port, which is pretty much any TV made in the past five years.

The iPPea TV is thumb drive-like device that plugs into an HDMI port and brings the full Android apps catalog to the living room.  This means video and audio streaming, social apps, and games, among other things.  For this functionality, the maker has set the MSRP at $50.

“The tiny iPPea TV is a fully-functioning Android super micro PC that connects to the cloud, accesses a broad range of websites and apps, and delivers a high-quality entertainment experience,” said iPPea CEO Amanda Senkowski. “We are delighted to be using the MIPS-Based Ingenic processor, which provides all of the advantages of an industry-standard architecture, including a broad ecosystem of supporting tools and software. And because of its inherent power efficiency, the device can be fully powered by a standard USB port — such as those available on most DTVs. Also, unlike many competitive PC offerings, no heat sink is necessary in the iPPea TV device.”

Features included:

  • MIPS-Based(TM) XBurst(TM) CPU running at 1.2 GHz
  • Android 4.0.3
  • 802.11b/g/n Wifi
  • USB 2.0
  • 2GB storage with support for up to 32GB external storage via a microSD slot
  • support for 1080p HD video and most popular audio/video formats, and other advanced functionality.

In addition, they are making several useful accessories available at reasonable prices.    There is a wireless gyro mouse, USB LAN Adapter and HDMI extension cable for prices ranging from $8 to $22.  You can find out, as well as place a pre-order, by visiting iPPea.

TEDxBelfast 2012

TEDxBelfastAt TEDxBelfast last night I was inspired by the stories of individuals who passionately believed in an idea and then made that idea a reality. From working with autistic children to building a new arts centre, these people all made a difference. Presented in Titanic Belfast in front of the replica of the famous staircase, it was an unforgettable evening.

Titanic Staircase

As with all TED conferences, the presentations will be posted on-line but that will take a week or two before they are ready. In  the meantime, these are the speakers, their stories and how they made a difference.

David Maxwell of Tyrone Timberframes presented his work with Habitat for Humanity in building highly energy-efficient homes that have no central heating. The significant cost of fossil fuel-based energy can be a big factor in poverty and these homes can save the inhabitants over £1000 per year.

Maureen Murphy, Director of Aurion Learning, grabbed attention with the headline that 70% of training was wasted and proposed an innovative way of providing effective training using the acronym ASSAULT. One of the best bits was that of story-based approach that hooked the learner and got them more emotionally involved.

Fransuer Makula grew up in the slums of Kenya but is now a teacher in a prestigious school in Northern Ireland. Describing the harsh reality of existence as a street child, where death is commonplace, he related how the children dared to dream big. In the midst of utter poverty, these children wanted to grow up as doctors, nurses and lawyers. Fransuer established “Jengana” to help orphans, street children and schools in West Kenya.

Colleen Hardwick, billed as an urban geographer and serial entrepreneur from Vancouver, laid out the loss of personal engagement in democracy. The statistics she presented on the fall of voter turnout over the past few decades were shocking. To counteract the anonymous global nature of the web, she’s developed PlaceSpeak, a community-based website that lets local people be authenticated as stakeholders in local issues without necessarily giving up that anonymity.

Next was an absolute gem…acoustic guitar duo Declan McKerr and Andy Toman, aka Gypsy’s Wish, serenaded TEDxBelfast, equipped with a brand-new George Lowden guitar. His guitars are world-famous with owners such as Eric Clapton and Mike Oldfield. Sublime.

Following a musical theme, Chris Blake, Principal Horn with the Ulster Orchestra, talked about the work he’d done with autistic children and the therapeutic value of music. The results were truly ground-breaking, increasing the evidence between autism and musicality.

Dr Nigel Hart took us all on a trip to the peaks and Mt Everest in particular in his talk on Mountains, Medicine and Mantras. Clearly a keen mountaineer, he combined his medical training with his passion to investigate the effects of hypoxia on humans at altitude. During his climb to the top of the world, he had to rescue another climber who had collapsed. Apt for many shared endeavours, his response to the famous climbing question was not, “Because it’s there” but rather, “It’s not the height or the distance, it’s the people you travel with.”

Anne McReynolds, CEO of the Belfast Metropolitan Arts Centre, had TEDxBelfast captivated by her struggle to get a world-class arts centre built in Belfast. Starting in 1996 and finally opening in 2012, it’s an amazing story of architects and artists (“good clients get good buildings”), buildings and space. If you want to build an arts centre, Anne should be the first person you talk to.

Colin Williams of Sixteen South tackled the “Can’t Do” attitude that has often afflicted Northern Ireland with a great story of “Can Do” success. It’s likely that you’ll never have heard of Sixteen South, a children’s TV production company but if you have kids under five you’ll have heard of Sesame Tree, Big City Park, Pajanimals, and Big & Small. Working with the BBC and The Jim Henson Company, Sixteen South produces these great TV programmes here in Northern Ireland. Fantastic.
Colin’s business plan was pretty clever too. “Do some good, make some money, have some fun.” Good advice for anyone.

Chris Horn completed the speaker line-up with his inspiration for Dublin’s Science Gallery, an exhibition space that takes a creative and artistic approach to the presentation of science and related issues. By taking the traditional remit of a science museum and combining it with the changing presentation of an art gallery, the Science Gallery is an innovation in itself that has proved tremendously successful. So much so that Google recently awarded the Science Gallery $1m to setup other Galleries around the world.

Overall, it was a great evening, with inspirational speakers in a fantastic setting. Thanks also to Davy Sims and Gary Burnett and Mark Finlay for organising #TEDxBelfast.

TV by Apple-A Rant

Sometime this week, if not today there has been a rumor published about the imaginary TV that Apple is building. Most of these reports are assuming the new TV by Apple is a done deal and it is just a matter of time. From the time these rumors started the question that has run through my brain has been why?

I am really not looking for a TV made by Apple. I have no doubt that Apple has the technical know how to make an awesome TV, including retina display and Siri integration. That is not where the problem lies, the problem lies as always with content. Apple somehow has to convince the various content providers to allow their content to be used. Something that Google has been unable to do with the Google TV. Let say they get the content providers to agree to an arrangement, that is just the first problem. Then they have to get the content to the consumer through cable companies like Comcast, which has already shown that they will favor those who have an agreement with them over independent content. Third, it will have to convince consumers that purchasing a new HD panel is worth it. A panel which will probably be over 1,000 dollars if Apple’s history is any indicator.

Instead of creating a whole new TV, I wish Apple would improve the Apple TV they already have. They need to open it up to more third-party video platforms like Plex or XMBC. That way I could watch content not only from providers such as PBS or Aljazerra or HBO Go, but also live streaming from Ustream, Justin TV or YouTube to name a few. Second open up the platform to games and allow third-party vendors to create wireless controllers. Yes, I know a lot of this can be accomplished by jail breaking the Apple TV, but I shouldn’t have to do that. Plus if you do jail break the Apple TV, than you are always in this constant game with Apple. They do an update and you have to wait for the new jailbreak to come out, they do another update and it’s another jailbreak and on and on.

I know I am probably wrong the current Apple TV will continue to remain what it has always been for Apple just a hobby and this fall just in time for the holiday season, there will be an Apple TV monitor for sale in the Apple Store. The Apple pundits will write about it like it is the next coming.  I and all the other Mac fans will be drooling over it, wishing we could afford it.  Meanwhile the hobby which could be so much more will continue to be ignored, I just wish it wasn’t so.

Discovery Communications Buys Revision3

Discovery Communications, parent company of Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, and more, has purchased Revision3, which is a special interest video network that produces shows that people watch online. It is an odd, and perhaps, unexpected, partnership (of sorts) between Cable TV and Web Video, (which many see as opposing forces).

It wasn’t all that long ago that people were speculating that Cable TV was nearing its end. Personally, my husband and I stopped paying for Cable years ago. The cost was more than we cared to pay for it. We didn’t like the idea of being forced to pay for channels that we knew we would never have an interest in watching just so we could get access to the ones that we enjoyed. It felt insulting to pay for the service and then have to sit through a barrage of ads that interrupted the shows.

Instead, we were using legal online resources in an attempt to be able to watch what we wanted to watch when we were ready to watch it. Hulu used to give free access to a plethora of television shows, including entire seasons, for free. It also used to play recent episodes of shows that were currently airing, (but only for a limited time). Eventually, though, what a person could watch for free through Hulu dramatically shrunk, which was disappointing.

That didn’t make us rush out and pay for Cable, though. Instead, we got Netflix. It was less expensive than Cable, it didn’t make us sit through ads, and it let us watch what we wanted to when we wanted to watch it.

My husband and I haven’t hit the point where we have exhausted the resources on Netflix yet, but, I have heard that this is possible. This week, I got an email from Netflix informing me that they have created a Netflix original series called Lilyhammer. So maybe we won’t run out of stuff to watch through Netflix after all.

I find it interesting that Discovery Communications, which is one of the big Cable networks, decided to purchase Revision3. Is this a way for Cable companies to add “new blood” to what they can offer consumers? I’m unsure if I should expect some of what Revision3 currently offers viewers for free to appear on Discovery Communications, essentially behind a “pay wall” of sorts. Or, could it mean that the Revision3 website will soon require people to pay before they can watch the shows? Somehow, my experiences with Cable TV leaves me with little trust in this situation.

What is the Future of Television

New Tek At the NAB show New Tek had a panel Broadcast Minds: The Future of Television with Leo Laporte of TWIT.TV,  Kevin Pollak, Award winning Actor and Comedian, Jeff Jacobs, Vice President, Production Planning, Strategic Initiatives & Business Operations of the MTV Music Group,  Bill Chapman, Vice President of Creative Development/Emerging Technologies of Turner Studios and Jeff Hawley, Director, Customer Experience Group. Yamaha Corporation of America. They discussed the future of television and media, if you are interested in media and where it is going you need to watch it. Among the areas they discussed are:

  • The importance of live streaming as an event.
  • People need to feel like they are a part of a community.
  • Engaging the viewer on the various platforms they are on.
  • Creative people are only limited by their own imagination.
  • Creativity drives technology and vice a versa.
  • Anyone can build an on-demand library of content.
  • The ability to store and send big data is a major cost concern.
  • Social Media has become an integral part of the whole process from creation to distribution.

This should only be the start of this dialog and it needs to continue both online and off.