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September 07 2011

Happy Birthday, Television: 26 Essential Connected TV Resources

The high-definition Super Bowl replays and 3D animated films of today wouldn’t be possible without the genius of Philo Farnsworth, inventor of the electric television.

On Sept. 7, 1927 Farnsworth transmitted the first image via television — a simple, straight line. His image dissector camera tube created an electron image which, in turn, generated an on-screen representation recognizable by the human eye. Two years later, Farnsworth had tweaked his invention enough to transmit the first live images to television, one of which was a 3.5-inch portrait of his wife, who sat squinting into the bright light then necessary to transmit a picture.

Since television’s inception, the world has witnessed its impact on advertising principles, news distribution, the music industry, technological innovation, political coverage and, well, reality. In recognition of the first electronic television developed 84 years ago, we’ve compiled a roundup of resources that cover the latest in TV tech — today’s web-enabled platforms and the social viewing experience.

June 13 2011

Boxee’s Mac, Windows & Linux Software To Get Major Updates

Boxee users on Mac OS X, Windows or Linux can expect a major update to the media center with a social twist later this fall.

On the official Boxee blog, Boxee CEO and co-founder Avner Ronen wrote that the Boxee team is working on delivering a new version of the downloadable Boxee software to end users that better matches the software that ships with the Boxee Box by D-Link.

Ronen goes on to explain the reasons for delays in the development of the Boxee software, noting that “We know Boxee users on computers have been frustrated with the long wait.” The reason for the wait, as most users have probably surmised, is the Boxee Box.

When Boxee first started in 2007, it wanted to build its own set-top box but realized that the cost in developing such a product was out of reach. Thus, the company focused instead on building software to run on Mac computers, Apple TV devices and Windows and Linux PCs. In 2009, flush with funding and a hardware partner, the dreams of building a box became an attainable reality.

Ronen writes:

“The effort to build the Boxee Box involved writing on a completely new OS, handling a totally different and more involved setup process, support for new security mechanisms, writing a new browser, integrating new hardware libraries for video, audio and graphics handling, and many more tasks. It was (and still is) an enormous task for a relatively small team, keeping in mind that we weren’t ‘starting from scratch’ — we were adapting a product and code base that already existed which is considerably harder.”

We’re impressed with Ronen’s transparency in the matter, even if the answer isn’t something Boxee fans like hearing. The goal is to bring the downloadable version more in-line with the CE version and to keep development better aligned in the future.

For do-it-yourself media server fans, Boxee — even without significant updates — remains a good choice. Still, other platforms, notably XBMC (the project Boxee is based on) and Plex are both charging ahead with development and new features. XBMC has experienced a renaissance of sorts in the last year, with builds available for a growing number of platforms and a host of new features.

Do you still use Boxee on your media PC or have you moved to something else?

More About: boxee, htpc, media center, software, XBMC

For more Tech & Gadgets coverage:

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March 01 2011

Boxee Gets Additional Funding in Its Bid for Living Room Domination

Connected TV startup Boxee announced Tuesday that it has a closed a $16.5 million round of funding. The round was led by Pitango and Softbank, and included previous investors General Catalyst, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures.

Boxee raised $6 million in August 2009. Since then, the company has nearly tripled in size, released the 1.0 version of Boxee and shipped the Boxee Box. As a longtime Boxee user, I’ve enjoyed seeing the company evolve from its XBMC and Apple TV hacking roots into its own entity.

The connected device space is both nascent and crowded. Boxee’s goal has long been to get its software on as many types of devices as possible. In addition to its software for Mac, Windows and Linux and the D-Link Boxee Box, the company has also formed partnerships with Iomega and ViewSonic.

CEO and co-founder Avner Ronen writes on the Boxee Blog that the company will use its latest round of financing to continue to focus on building out the product, adding more content and acquiring more partners.

Getting More Content on More Types of Devices

When the Boxee Box was released in November, it appeared without support for some services that users expected to see, namely Netflix and Vudu. Both services are now available on the Boxee Box and the company plans to continue to seek out more content partners.

What sets Boxee apart from some of its competitors in the connected device space is that the software not only provides users with access to online content but to local network content as well. Bringing local media to connected devices is less difficult than it has been in the past — thanks to technologies like DLNA — but Boxee is one of the few platforms that offer a cohesive experience for all kinds of content.

This approach works quite well in the context of a home theater PC — after all, using Boxee’s software developers kit, developers can create apps to bring all kinds of content into the fold. Boxee remains one of the best ways to power a home theater PC. The struggle — and the test for the company moving forward — is balancing the flexibility that Boxee users have become accustomed and the realities of licensing content for connected devices.

More online content is becoming accessible through the living room, thanks to services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant. Boxee’s challenge will be to make these sorts of partnerships to bring sanctioned content to Boxee-powered devices, without crippling or interfering with the Boxee desktop software.

More About: boxee, boxee box, connected devices, connected tv, funding, pitango, softbank

For more Startups coverage:

February 14 2011

Netflix Arrives on the Boxee Box

Happy Valentine’s Day Boxee Box owners — Netflix is now officially supported on the D-link-produced connected device.

Netflix was one of the first services to get official support from the Boxee media center software, so it came as a surprise (and disappointment) to some when the actual Boxee Box shipped without support last fall.

Fortunately, the wait is over. Boxee founder Avner Ronen announced the news on the official Boxee blog, noting that a software update to make Netflix accessible in the U.S. and Canada is now available. Users can manually update the firmware or wait for the update to hit their boxes in the next 24-hours.

Rather than using the custom interface designed for the Boxee desktop software, Netflix for the Boxee Box uses the official Netflix UI that the company recently released for the PlayStation 3. That means Boxee Box owners will get the benefit of the interface updates and tweaks that Netflix is able to deploy on the fly.

The Premium Content Quagmire

As connected devices go, the Boxee Box has some of the most impressive technical specs and third-party content options. The beauty of Boxee is that it can interface with existing devices on a home network to play back media files of practically any stripe, as well as offer support for streaming and online content.

The problem for the Boxee Box has been that some third-party services — like Netflix — have been slow to hit the device. Last month Vudu was officially added to the Boxee Box, helping fill a void for feature-length commercial content.

It isn’t clear if Hulu Plus will make its way to Boxee. Hulu took great strides to block (or attempt to block) access to its site from early Boxee software implementations, but in the ensuing 22 months, the streaming video site has launched the subscription Hulu Plus offering and provided access to devices like the iPhone, iPad, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, TiVo, Roku, and assorted connected TV sets and Blu-ray players.

This is representative of a growing problem — not just for Boxee — but for any device maker that wants to offer users more choice and variety in content offerings.

Looking at the various streaming media services that are available in the U.S., finding a device that supports every major premium service is impossible. What is more problematic is that getting access to non-premium content, like regular Hulu or network TV websites, is difficult on most connected devices without opting for using some browser-agent changing tomfoolery.

In short, as we edge closer to finally making connected devices a common part of the living room, the content available on those devices can fall short of expectations. Yes, individuals can always build and configure a stand-alone HTPC, but that requires an investment in both time and money that outpaces a sub-$200 set-top box.

As a Boxee Box owner, I’m excited that Netflix support is finally on the flagship device. I have at least six other Netflix-capable gadgets in my house, but having Netflix built into Boxee means I can see myself using that device much more often.

What do you think of the Boxee Box and the general state of connected devices? Let us know.

More About: boxee, boxee box, connected devices, connected tv, netflix

For more Tech & Gadgets coverage:

February 09 2011

5 Tech Advances That Are Transforming Digital Entertainment

AdvertisementThe Innovative Entertainment Series is supported by Dolby. Superhero. Mayor. Status update reader. Adam West could read your Facebook status, live.

tech imageThe idea of “sitting around the campfire” persists into the modern age. Now, however, there is much less “campfire.” The idea has come to mean a group of people sitting around a communal piece of entertainment.

Fire used to be a really big deal, but now, with motion gaming, 3D technology and touchscreen interfaces, you can get that campfire experience with some of the latest, most creative advancements in digital entertainment.

The picks below are obviously not exhaustive, and the timeline necessarily skews to more recent tech (the radio was also a huge advancement, but you’ve probably heard of it). Still, the selections below promise — or promised — to blow open how we experience digital entertainment. Gather ’round.

1. Motion Gaming

When the next generation video game consoles hit the market, most hardcore gamers saw the Nintendo Wii as a novelty — a toy. The console lacked the computing power of the Xbox 360 or PS3, and you played by waving your controller at the screen. The Wii then proceeded to outsell both consoles consistently. Oh, snap.

The Wii has not only been a success, but it has changed the way video games are played. Sony and Microsoft have both now jumped into the motion gaming craze with the Playstation Move (with controllers much like the Wii’s) and the entirely hands-free Xbox Kinect. Both the Move and Kinect have been selling well, with the Kinect actually outselling the Wii, ending Nintendo’s dominance on the console sales charts. Despite some grumbles that motion gaming is just for the casual crowd, its simplified and natural controls make it a good time to be a gamer of any skill level.

2. 3D

Gone are the days when 3D was just a gimmick stapled onto bad theme park rides. Also gone are the days of having to put on those red-and-blue glasses to get a grainy 3D experience. The new wave of 3D is sharper, more colorful, and more complex than ever. Plus, we get to wear much cooler glasses.

3D has not only changed film, but its also invading our homes with 3D-enabled televisions and even game systems like Nintendo’s hand-held 3DS. While 3D technology has been around for a while, technology, like upped frame-rates and extraordinarily fast computers have made it both easier and less-expensive to produce. The tech is also making its way to consumer cameras and even 3D-enabled laptops.

Not only has 3D changed the way we experience entertainment, it’s changing how much we’ll pay for it. 3D movies both cost more and make more money, while TV execs are scrambling to get 3D shows for those expensive new TV sets. The highest-grossing movie in the history of movies? James Cameron’s 3D spectacular, Avatar.

3. Digital Television

Digital television providers like Hulu may not seem like a big deal. It’s just the television you’d normally watch, but on a smaller screen, right? Hulu has changed how we receive our shows (a day late, but with total control) and has changed how advertisers think of commercials. You’re able to vote up commercials you like, and even enjoy interactive features like brief product demos and videos within commercials.

Digital (and usually free) television has also paved the way for a whole new generation of TV viewing with the release of a slew of digital cable boxes like Google TV, Apple TV, Roku, Boxee and more. These boxes make it possible to get movies from Netflix, watch television through digital providers, and sometimes even circumvent major providers like Time Warner and Comcast.

The digital format allows for more interactivity with social networks while doing away with some downsides of appointment television. Digital television probably won’t kill the TV business as we know it, but it is a creative and viable competitor to the long established giants.

4. AirPlay

Wireless networks like Bluetooth and grand-daddy Wi-Fi have had a huge impact on digital entertainment. More than just connecting to the Internet, these network make all those television boxes mentioned above much easier to use and far more flexible.

Bluetooth headsets, either the bane or light of your existence, wouldn’t be possible without wireless networks. Apple is trying to up the game on Bluetooth as well, with the introduction of its aptly named AirPlay system. By putting wireless technology into your speakers, you can play media from iTunes on any enabled speakers with just the click of a button. More than that, AirPlay also allows you to send videos, photos, and more to any screen that is hooked up to the system.

5. Touchscreens

Touchscreens had a mixed reputation for some time. The idea always fascinated us, but the grimy, ill-functioning screens stationed at museum information posts didn’t leave a great first impression. Apple upped the game with the iPhone and it’s incredibly responsive, entirely enjoyable UI. Since then iPhone, imitators have had their shot at touchscreen fame. The iPad was just the latest iteration of Apple’s touchscreen magic. The next wave of tablets, however, look like they will give the iPad a serious run for its money.

Touchscreens are a must-have UX for any company’s stable of mobile products and has actually created a new style of enormously successful apps. Do you think Angry Birds would be as much fun on a QWERTY keyboard?

What are some of your favorite pieces of creative tech that have changed the way we consume digital entertainment? Does YouTube count? What would you add to this list to make it better? Sound off in the comments.

Series Supported by Dolby

The Innovative Entertainment Series is supported by Dolby. On February 18th, Adam West comes to Facebook to make status updates sound amazing. “Like” the Dolby page to get started.

More Tech Resources from Mashable:

- 7 Pairs of Stylish 3-D Specs for Fashionable Film Fans
- 6 Great Gloves for Touchscreen Gadget Lovers
- 5 Stylish Computer Mice for the Design Aficionado
- Especially For You: 8 Great Gadgets You Can Personalize
- 5 Beautiful Keyboards to Spice Up Your Boring Desk

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, enot-poloskun

More About: airplay, Apple TV, gaming, google tv, hulu, Innovative Entertainment Series, nintendo 3ds, playstation move, video games, xbox kinext

For more Tech & Gadgets coverage:

January 31 2011

The Truth About Cutting the Cable TV Cord [VIDEO]

Ad agency Hill Holliday recently conducted an experiment, asking five families to give up cable TV in favor of connected TV devices for a week.

The growing availability of online content and video subscription services, coupled with an exploding market for connected devices, has pushed the idea of cord cutting — or dropping a traditional cable TV subscription package in favor of online video sources — into the mainstream. But how viable is the concept, really?

For its experiment (which the agency stresses was not intended as a scientific research study), Hill Holliday provided each family with a different connected device: the Roku, Apple TV, Xbox 360, Boxee Box and Google TV.

The agency conducted interviews with the participants at the beginning and end of the week, and also had the participants record their own thoughts throughout the process. Hill Holliday compiled that footage into a short video clip and presented the results of the experiment at last week’s TVnext summit.

Check out the video:

Connected Devices Aren’t Cable Box Replacements (Yet)

The big takeaway from the experiment is that in their current iteration, connected devices are not drop-in cable box replacements. Ultimately, this makes a lot of sense.

As Hill Holliday notes in its write-up of the experiment, none of the connected devices used in the study are advertised as cable TV replacements. Most of these devices are promoted as a way to augment regular TV viewing and not as a sole provider of video content.

Where connected devices fall short of emulating the cable TV experience (at least in this experiment) can be separated into two areas:

  • Lack of live content
  • User experience

The Live TV Conundrum

Live content is a problem for which there is no easy solution. Live streams of special events — the Olympics, the State of the Union, global rock concerts — are becoming more common, but traditional programming is still largely available online only after it has aired on regular TV.

Live sports content is actually making a lot of headway on connected devices — with subscription offerings from the MLB, NBA and NHL. This content is great for sports fans — it’s basically akin to the various packages offered by satellite providers like DirecTV — but it can be expensive for the viewer who just wants to watch an occasional local or national game.

Interestingly, the solution for live content on connected devices is actually being offered up by the cable companies themselves.

After ignoring users who consume content on devices that are not traditional TV sets for the better part of the decade, cable companies are finally ramping up their own connected offerings.

In December, Comcast released the first version of its XfinityTV app for the iPad. The initial release of the app allows users to treat it as a giant remote control, but future versions will include the ability to stream OnDemand content on the iPad. Comcast has also said it will offer live TV streaming through the app in the future as well.

Meanwhile, Verizon is already testing some live streaming apps for the iPad and other tablets.

I have long been of the opinion that the cable companies have the most untapped potential in the evolving connected device market. Rather than competing against offerings from Amazon, Netflix and iTunes, cable companies should leverage their strengths and make content more accessible on computers, tablets and smartphones.

What Connected Devices Can Learn From Regular TV

The biggest hurdle for connected devices, in their current form, isn’t necessarily with content — it’s with usability.

One of the experiment’s participants commented on how TV is a “passive” experience. This is true. For better or worse, television requires very little effort on the part of the user. Aside from changing the channel or looking at the onscreen TV guide, television is just “there.”

Connected devices, on the other hand, demand a lot more user effort. Viewers have to make conscious choices about what content they want to watch. This is fine if someone wants to watch a specific movie or TV show, but it can be less satisfying for the channel surfer. There is much less serendipity built into the current generation of connected devices.

TiVo, arguably the biggest disruptor in the television industry during the last 25 years, understood the importance of becoming part of the passive experience. TiVo updates itself in the background, fuses its interface in with that of the cable box and works just like a living, breathing VCR.

Aside from content disputes, the biggest user complaint we hear about Google TV is that it is too hard to use. In other words Google and its partners didn’t take a TiVo approach to integrating with the living room.

Likewise, even the best set-top boxes have usability issues that prevent them from truly operating as background devices. A frustrating aspect of setting up Boxee or Roku is that despite being “connected,” these devices require using a computer or smartphone to set-up or enable accounts with Netflix or Pandora. Apple makes the Netflix sign-in process much less time consuming, but even then, a user cannot sign-up for a Netflix account from within the Apple TV.

Connected devices and their associated services are by design, not going to match the totally passive nature of a traditional television set. That doesn’t mean that the setup process and playback options can’t be better optimized to fit in with other aspects of the television.

Where this is particularly true is when it comes to finding content. Rather than having to search services individually, connected devices could take a page from Clicker’s playbook and make it simple to search across providers from a single interface.

What Connected TV is Good For

The nature of this experiment was purposely strict. Still, in my own unscientific experiments, I have seen some different results when observing how regular TV watchers (and non-techies) adapt to connected devices.

For Christmas this past year, I got my parents — who represent the older end of the 18-65 television viewing demographic — a Roku box. I did not get this box as a cable replacement, but I intended for it to augment their viewing options. After I set it up and signed them up for Netflix, my parents love the Roku box, which they use to watch old movies and catch up on old episodes of 24

On a similar note, I got my mom an iPad for her birthday back in August. The device has become an integral part of her life and she takes it everywhere. Just this weekend, she was telling me how she uses the ABC app to catch up on her TV shows while putting on makeup in the morning.

Neither the iPad nor the Roku has taken on the role of replacing the regular cable box. The DVD player is certainly getting less use and TiVo — particularly for newer content — is less loved. But both devices are simply a way to extend and enhance viewing options, not a way to replace existing methods.

Connected devices are becoming a reality and cable companies should be worried that consumers now have alternative ways to view content on their TV sets. Premium movie services like HBO and Showtime should also be concerned about Netflix’s growing dominance. Plus, while connected devices might not be ready to replace cable boxes yet, for many people they certainly can justify a switch to a less-expensive cable package.

Still, from my own observations (as well as the results of the Hill Holliday experiment), the real impact of connected devices is to the viewing ecosystem as a whole, rather than just the cable specific niche. For now, connected devices are best used to augment viewing options.

What do you think of the results of this experiment? Have you traded in cable for a connected device? Let us know in the comments.

More Digital TV Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Reasons Connected TV Could Flop in 2011
- 4 Predictions for Connected Devices in 2011
- Why Connected TVs Will Be About the Content, Not the Apps
- What Consumer Electronics Companies Must Do to Make 3D Profitable
- 7 Pairs of Stylish 3D Specs for Fashionable Film Fans

Photo courtesy of Flickr, theogeo

More About: Apple TV, boxee, connected devices, connected tv, hill holliday, iptv, roku, tv

For more Media coverage:

January 19 2011

Boxee Adds HD Movie Rentals From Vudu

Good news Boxee Box fans, support for the high-def movie rental service Vudu is coming in the next firmware update. The update is going out over the wires now so users can either manually update now (Settings > System > Update) or the Boxee Box will do it in the next 24 hours.

Vudu has already been available to users who use Boxee on a Mac, Windows or Linux PC via the Vudu app. The service, which Walmart purchased last year, is unique in that it offers lots of new-release content (generally same day as DVD) but its HD streams, particularly in HDX mode, are incredibly good. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that HDX is the equivalent of Blu-ray, but for my eyes, only Blu-ray offers better picture quality.

Vudu support is a big win for the Boxee Box, a device — which despite its promise — has had a harder time gaining some traction, in part because of some early software bugs and the lack of support for commercial services like Vudu.

In its blog post, Boxee points out some of the new enhancements and bug fixes in the new firmware, including:

  • Support for language selection in subtitle/audio
  • Forced subtitle automatic selection during MKV file playback
  • An option to ignore the prefix in the sort order for movies/albums/artists that start with “The” and “A”
  • Enhancements to Browser performance
  • Browser opens in lower resolution to allow easier reading of text
  • Browser is zoomed into Video by default for non-auto fullscreen websites
  • Direct launch of website when defining full URL in the search bar
  • Preselecting the current chapter when opening chapter selector for MKV/BluRay

Seriously, check out the bug fix list — it’s pretty massive. Boxee is also on-track to bring Netflix to the box in the next few weeks.

We’ll be testing the new Boxee Box firmware and its Vudu support, and reporting on our thoughts in a future post.

Have you ever used Vudu for movie rentals? What do you think about the Boxee Box? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

More About: boxee box, connected tv, streaming services, vudu

January 04 2011

Boxee Gets a New Hardware Partner

Just in time for CES, Boxee has announced a new hardware partnership with Iomega that will bring the Boxee media center software to a series of Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices.

Dubbed Iomega TV with Boxee, the new devices are similar to the Boxee Box by D-Link that started shipping back in November. The Iomega TV with Boxee will be with either 1TB or 2TB hard drives or in a model without onboard storage. Like the Boxee Box, the Iomega TV with Boxee runs on the Intel Atom processor and with built-in Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, composite and HDMI outputs and support for additional storage via USB.

In its blog post announcing the new product, Boxee notes that the shared system-on-a-chip architecture between Iomega’s devices and the Boxee Box will make it easier for Boxee developers, as the firmware can be virtually identical.

The Boxee software platform supports more than 150 different apps that let users access online video, Twitter, Facebook, Pandora and more. Boxee is also a social platform, meaning you can share what you are watching with your friends and also see what they are watching or listening to.

The remote control that Iomega is using is also similar in its setup as the innovative remote Boxee introduced on the Boxee Box.

This partnership is an important move for Boxee, a company that has built up lots of good will amongst users, but is finding itself smack in the middle of a veritable buffet of connected device solutions and options.

Not only does Boxee face competition from companies like Apple, Roku and the Google TV, the device makers that Boxee needs to partner with are often rolling their own interface and connectivity options. Boxee’s biggest strength remains the ease at which the software can connect users with their offline and online media. When it comes to accessing existing content — Boxee is almost unparalleled in its support of formats and codecs. However, as users increasingly move to consuming most of their media from streaming solutions, partnerships with these companies becomes essential. Frustratingly, some of the supported services that work just fine on Boxee running on a Mac or PC are still in the process of being ported to the Boxee set-top systems.

We still think Boxee has a better handle on managing and serving media — from a technical and usability aspect — than most of its competitors, but the hardware and service partnerships — especially when talking about connected devices — are essential to the platform’s ultimate success.

The Iomega TV with Boxee is slated to be available for purchase in February 2011. The diskless version of the box will retail for $229.99, the 1TB model will retail for $299.99 and the 2TB version will retail for $349.99.

In addition to acting as a Boxee interface, the NAS also supports DLNA for better integration with the rest of your connected devices. Iomega will be at CES showing off the new devices — and we’ll be sure to swing by to take a hands-on look.

Reviews: Boxee, Facebook, Pandora, Twitter

More About: boxee, boxee box, ces2011, connected devices, connected tv, iomega, iomega tv with boxee, nas

For more Tech coverage:

December 16 2010

How Connected Devices and Consoles Compare [INFOGRAPHIC]

As 2010 draws to a close, we’re finally starting to see new and improved connected devices for bringing streaming content to the living room hit the market.

Devices like Roku, Boxee Box and Apple TV all promise an affordable way to bring online content to your TV, while consoles like the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii are continually updated to support more programming options like Netflix, Hulu Plus and more. As more and more devices gain connectivity, differentiating one from the other becomes more of a challenge.

We’ve already compared how some of these devices stack up to one another in a recent infographic, but the gang at PlayStation have taken it upon themselves to do something similar.

The interactive infographic (which is in Flash, sorry mobile users), is meant to highlight what features various game consoles and set-top boxes support.

The infographic is obviously designed to present the PS3 in the best light, omitting price and connectivity options from the list. Still, it’s not a bad way to eyeball what services offer access to what.

If an individual wants a Blu-ray player and connected content, the PS3 is a good deal. For those who want more streaming content and care less about games, however, devices like the Roku, Apple TV and Boxee Box are more affordable.

We should note that while Sony indicates that the Xbox 360 does not support Hulu Plus content, support is expected to come in January.

What connected device do you prefer in your living room?

More About: Apple TV, boxee box, connected devices, connected tv, hulu, infographic, netflix, playstation 3, roku

For more Tech coverage:

November 23 2010

Why Your TV Deserves a Roku XDS This Holiday Season

Mashable 10 Logo

This post is part of the Mashable 10, Mashable’s gift guide of the 10 hottest gadgets that will be on everyone’s wish list this holiday season. We’ll be publishing one new post each weekday until November 26.

Roku Gift ImageThe connected device market is white hot right now. With the Boxee Box, the new Apple TV, Google TV, plus game consoles and Internet-connected television sets and Blu-ray players, there are a lot of options for consumers who want to easily get online or networked content on their HDTV.

Although we own — and are fans of — many of the various connected devices on the market, for the Mashable 10, we have to give it to the Roku XDS. Combining a small profile, a growing content library and support for both Netflix and Hulu Plus, the Roku XDS is an affordable, versatile way to sate your IPTV needs.

The Roku player started its life as the Netflix Player — a box designed at Netflix to allow users to stream content directly on their television sets. A few weeks before release, Netflix decided to adjust its streaming device strategy, spinning off the Netflix Player to a company called Roku. The device was introduced to the market in 2008 with support for Netflix and Amazon Video-on-Demand.

Since then, the Roku team has added support for more and more services — including Vimeo, Major League Baseball, Pandora, UFC, the NHL and most recently, Hulu Plus.

Lots of Features, Low Price

Roku has three models, the $59.99 Roku HD, the $79.99 Roku XD and the $99.99 Roku XDS. Every Roku player can support HD video and includes built-in Wi-Fi. The Roku XD and XDS also support 1080p HD video and Wireless-N Wi-Fi. The XDS, our Roku of choice, also supports dual-band wireless and can play music, videos and photos from an included USB port.

While not as small as the Apple TV, the Roku still has a very small footprint and can easily be tucked out of sight.

In the past year, Roku has really raised its game when it comes to supporting more types of content and services. Because it’s a streaming-only player (unless you use the USB port on the XDS), content is all sourced from the net. This means that new channels are added via free software updates.

What we like about Roku, however, is that unlike some other set-top box solutions, the interface and video are made for use with a remote control, offering easy access from the couch or the bedroom.

The new Apple TV is a nice device — but it only supports iTunes, YouTube and Netflix. Google TV has potential, but it’s expensive and it’s blocked by virtually every major online producer. The Boxee Box shows great promise, but it’s still working out some of its kinks and costs $100 more than the Roku.

If you want to watch Netflix, peruse Hulu Plus, rent a movie or TV show from Amazon, tune in to live sports content and listen to streaming music services, Roku has you covered.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Liliboas

More About: Apple TV, boxee box, connected devices, connected tv, hulu plus, iptv, mashable 10, netflix, roku, roku xds, tech

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November 11 2010

This Morning’s 4 Biggest Stories in Tech and Mobile

Social Media News

Welcome to this morning’s edition of “First To Know,” a series in which we keep you in the know on what’s happening in the digital world. We’re keeping our eyes on four particular stories of interest today.

Google Street View Under Investigation by FCC Over Privacy

Google can’t seem to shake off the controversy surrounding Google Street View; the company is now being investigated by the Federal Communications Commission over whether its street-mapping product has violated Federal privacy laws.

Mac OS X 10.6.5 Is Now Available

Apple has released an update to its desktop operating system, Mac OS X 10.6.5, which includes improved reliability with Microsoft Exchange servers, stability and performance enhancements in graphics applications and games, and a number of bug fixes.

There is no mention of AirPrint in the update; many believed Apple would enable AirPrint wireless printer sharing with iOS devices in the next OS X update.

Boxee Box Begins Shipping

The highly anticipated Boxee Box has begun shipping to 33 countries. Support for Netflix and Hulu should be arriving soon, Boxee announced in a blog post.

The Wall Street Journal Launches Edition for Android Tablets

Close on the heels of the release of Samsung’s Android tablet, the Galaxy Tab — first on T-Mobile (November 10) and then on Verizon (November 11) — The Wall Street Journal has announced that it has launched an edition for Android tablet devices.

Further News

  • Walmart announced this morning that it would ship 60,000 items from its online catalog — including all electronics — for free leading up to the holidays.
  • The New York Times announced this morning that it will begin publishing bestseller lists for fiction and nonfiction e-books in early 2011.
  • On Wednesday Mozilla’s Messaging group launched F1, a Firefox extension that functions as a toolbar for sharing content across social networks.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DNY59

Reviews: Android, Boxee, Firefox, Google, Hulu, iStockphoto

More About: android, boxee box, galaxy tab, Google, google street view, mac osx, mac osx 10.6.5, wall street journal

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October 20 2010

Boxee Box Starts Shipping November 10

Amazon will start shipping the Boxee Box to customers on November 10, with other retailers throughout the world offering the device beginning on November 17 both online and in stores.

This is great news for fans of the media center software with a social twist. Just last month, Boxee finally announced the start of pre-orders. The $199 device faces growing competition in the connected TV space, not just from the likes of Apple TV and Roku, but from the new Google TV as well.

Boxee’s advantage in this space has always been its application API that makes it easy for developers or content providers to extend the platform. In addition to the Boxee Box, Boxees’ software is also available for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux.

D-Link, Boxee’s hardware partner on the Boxee Box, is really stepping it up to help get the units out to more countries at the same time. Pre-orders are already available in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, and other countries in Europe can expect to pre-order units or find them online or in stores by mid-November.

Boxee will be launching the box and demoing Boxee 1.0 on November 10 in New York City. If you’re in the area and you want to attend, you can RSVP to the event. You can also check out the Boxee Blog for more information.

We can’t wait to see the Boxee Box in action and are really looking forward to doing a proper head-to-head against all the big players in the space this holiday season.

What are your thoughts about the Boxee Box? Which connected TV device are you most interested in?

More About: boxee, boxee box, connected tv

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October 01 2010

Connected TV: The New Battle for Your Living Room [INFOGRAPHIC]

After years of false-starts and not-quite-there implementations, it appears that the connected TV revolution is upon us. Finally, consumers will have access to affordable technology that will let them access web content and content from their Macs or PCs from the comfort of the couch, without expensive HTPC setups or complicated software. The battle for the living room is finally here.

Three of the big contenders in this space are the new Apple TV, the upcoming Boxee Box, and the recently updated Roku XDS. All three units work without a hard drive and stream content in HD from the web to your TV. All three also offer the ability to access non-web content too (via add-ons or over a network).

How do these devices stack up when it comes to price, features and supported services? Our inforgraphic puts this battle in perspective:

Internet TV Infographic

As an aside, one other contender in this space, Google TV, is also coming this fall. However, unlike the other devices, it integrates with cable or satellite TV, in addition to offering access to some web services. We omitted Google TV from this lineup, but will take a look at how the device compares to the competition once it ships.

Right after we commissioned this infographic, Roku announced that it will be adding Hulu Plus support to all of its units later this fall.>

What do you think of the 2010 Battle for the Living Room? Is there one product that interests you more than others? Let us know your thoughts.

More Tech Resources from Mashable:

- 10 Dead Simple Gmail Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts
- 11 Astounding Sci-Fi Predictions That Came True
- How Brazil is Blazing a Trail for Electronic Democracy
- 10 Killer Google Chrome Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts
- 11 True Stories Behind Tech’s Top Names

More About: Apple TV, boxee box, connected devices, connected tv, infographic, internet television, roku, television, video, web video

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September 13 2010

July 16 2010

The Boxee Box is Un-Boxed [VIDEO]

I love Boxee, the media center with a social twist. While I’m disappointed that I won’t get to have my very own Boxee Box until later this fall, the Boxee crew has just posted a video showing off the final device.

The box is small, has a unique shape that will make it easy to either hide away or fit on a component shelf and it promises to be the easiest way to bring the Boxee experience to your TV. Boxee has partnered with D-Link on the Boxee Box and D-Link will be bringing it to stores.

With Google TV, a rumored Apple TV refresh, and support for online services like Netflix and Hulu Plus coming to video game consoles and other consumer electronics, the competition for the living room is much tougher than when the Boxee Box was first announced last fall.

Still, Boxee has the user interface down and a growing number of content partners. We want one in our living room.

What do you think of the Boxee Box?

More About: boxee, boxee box, connected tv, internet tv

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June 16 2010

Internet TV Faceoff: Google TV vs. Boxee

This Web Faceoff series is supported by GMC.

Last week in our long-running Web Faceoff series we wanted to know which smartphone would win in a knock-down, drag out fight: the HTC EVO 4G or the new iPhone 4?

The winner of this battle turns out to be the HTC EVO 4G at 54.6% (5,091 votes) to the iPhone 4’s 39.5% (3,680 votes) out of a total of 9,327 votes. The tie vote brought in 556 votes for a total of 6%.

This week we turn our attention to a trend that’s still busy taking off: Internet TV. From YouTube to Vimeo to all the great web series emerging and beyond, it’s clear there’s a lot of worthwhile content to be found online. But what about when you’re sitting in front of that other screen, the television?

A number of solutions from Roku to PlayOn to various flavors of media streaming software are working on bringing the Internet video experience to your big screen, but two of the emerging frontrunners in the space are Boxee and Google TV. The former has been making popular social media center software for the desktop since 2008 and is now manufacturing a set-top Boxee Box to attach to your TV. Google TV is a relatively new entrant into the space, but the search giant’s clout will undoubtedly make it a major player in the trend towards widely-available Internet TV in the living room.

So now it’s time to put the two head to head: will Boxee or Google TV win the hearts and minds of Mashable readers? Or do you prefer neither: another device has captured your attention, or perhaps you’d want a solution that trumps buying a separate set-top box — simply hooking up a PC to the television, or getting Internet video through your game console? Cast your votes by Thursday, June 17 at 12:00 PST, and be sure to let us know why you backed the winner you did in the comments.

Which Internet TV solution do you prefer: Google TV or Boxee?customer surveys

Faceoff Series: Overall Results

Week 1:
- Mozilla Firefox vs. Google Chrome
- WINNER: Firefox, 4600 votes (Chrome: 3310 votes, Tie: 911 votes)

Week 2:
- Tumblr vs. Posterous
- WINNER: Tumblr, 1809 votes (Posterous: 1496 votes, Tie: 256 votes)

Week 3:
- Pandora vs. Last.fm
- WINNER: Last.fm, 1187 votes (Pandora: 1156 votes, Tie: 122 votes)

Week 4:
- Twitter vs. Facebook
- WINNER: Facebook, 2484 votes (Twitter: 2061 votes, Tie: 588 votes)

Week 5:
- WordPress vs. Typepad
- WINNER: WordPress, 2714 votes (Typepad: 267 votes, Tie: 357 votes)

Week 6:
- Windows 7 vs. Snow Leopard
- WINNER: Windows 7, 3632 votes (Snow Leopard: 3278 votes, Tie: 121 votes)

Week 7:
- TweetDeck vs. Seesmic Desktop
- WINNER: TweetDeck, 3294 votes (Seesmic Desktop: 1055 votes, Tie: 260 votes)

Week 8:
- Microsoft Office vs. Google Docs
- WINNER: Microsoft Office, 1365 votes (Google Docs: 994 votes, Tie: 315 votes)

Week 9:
- Apple iPhone vs. Google Android
- WINNER: Google Android, 3323 votes (Apple iPhone: 1494 votes, Tie: 228 votes)

Week 10:
- AT&T vs. Verizon
- WINNER: Verizon, 1161 votes (AT&T: 538 votes, Tie: 118 votes)

Week 11:
- Google vs. Bing
- WINNER: Google, 2180 votes (Bing: 519 votes, Tie: 97 votes)

Week 12:
- iPod Touch/iPhone vs. Nintendo DS vs. Sony PSP
- WINNER: iPod Touch/iPhone, 704 votes (Sony PSP: 639 votes, Nintendo DS: 482 votes, Tie: 108 votes)

Week 13:
- Digg vs. Reddit vs. StumbleUpon
- WINNER: Digg, 14,762 votes (Reddit: 11,466 votes, StumbleUpon: 2507 votes, Tie: 1032 votes)

Week 14:
- Old versus new Twitter retweets
- WINNER: Old style retweets, 1625 votes (New style retweets: 699 votes, Tie: 227 votes)

Week 15:
- Gmail vs. Outlook
- WINNER: Gmail, 3684 votes (Outlook: 980 votes, Tie: 590 votes)

Week 16:
- Boxee vs. Hulu
- WINNER: Hulu, 626 votes (Boxee: 591 votes, Tie: 106 votes)

Week 17:
- Nexus One vs. iPhone 3GS
- WINNER: Nexus One, 6743 votes (iPhone 3GS: 2818 votes, Tie: 592 votes)

Week 18:
- Foursquare vs. Yelp vs. Gowalla
- WINNER: Foursquare, 1182 votes, (Yelp: 661 votes, Gowalla: 509 votes, Tie: 143 votes)

Week 19:
- AIM vs. GTalk vs. FbChat
- WINNER: GTalk, 2189 votes, (AIM: 1257 votes, FbChat: 511 votes, Tie: 203 votes)

Week 20:
- Music Ownership vs. Music Subscription
- WINNER: Ownership, 533 votes (Subscription: 299 votes, Tie: 237)

Week 21:
- Match.com vs. PlentyofFish
- WINNER: Plenty of Fish, 430 votes (Match.com: 334 votes, Tie: 187 votes)

Week 21:
- Google Buzz vs. Facebook Vs. Twitter
- WINNER: Facebook, 3353 votes (Twitter: 1828 votes, Google Buzz: 1298 votes, Tie: 651 votes)

Week 22:
- HTML5 vs. Adobe Flash
- WINNER: HTML5, 3892 votes (Adobe Flash: 1779 votes, Tie: 660 votes)

Week 23:
- Project Natal vs. PlayStation Move
- WINNER: Project Natal, 1268 votes (PlayStation Move: 668 votes, None: I don’t like motion controllers: 170 votes, None: I prefer the Wii: 150 votes)

Week 24:
- Chatroulette vs. Hot or Not
- WINNER: Chatroulette, 742 votes (Hot or Not: 281 votes, Tie: 99 votes)

Week 25:
- iPad vs. Netbooks
- WINNER: iPad, 3098 votes (Netbook: 1969 votes, Tie: 605 votes)

Week 26:
- Amazon Kindle vs. Apple iBooks
- WINNER: Apple iBooks, 1227 votes (Amazon Kindle: 928 votes, Tie: 118 votes, Neither: 276 votes)

Week 27:
- Next-gen iPhone vs. Droid Incredible
- WINNER: iPhone 4G, 9765 votes (Droid Incredible: 8175 votes, Tie: 1318 votes)

Week 28:
- Facebook “Like” vs. “Become a Fan”
- WINNER: “Become a Fan”, 3161 votes (“Like:” 1634 votes, Indifferent: 719 votes)

Week 29:
- Physical keyboards vs. Virtual keyboards
- WINNER: Physical QWERTY keyboard, 2563 votes (Virtual keyboard: 2010 votes, Prefer T9 typing: 176 votes, Tie: 346 votes)

Week 30:
- Google TV vs. Apple TV
- WINNER: Google TV, 1674 votes (Apple TV: 617 votes, Neither: 341 votes, Both: 242 votes)

Week 31:
- Twitter vs. Newspapers
- WINNER: Twitter, 1005 votes (Newspapers: 418 votes, Neither: 282, Equal: 211)

Series supported by GMC

This Web Faceoff series is supported by GMC.

For more technology coverage, follow Mashable Tech on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Tags: boxee, boxee box, content, Google, google tv, internet tv, playon, roku, video, Vimeo, web faceoff, web series, youtube

January 07 2010

Boxee Beta Goes Public and Boxee Box Specs Revealed

Today on the company blog, Boxee revealed the specs for the Boxee Box and announced that the Boxee Beta is now officially open to the public.

Lots of us at Team Mashable are big fans of Boxee, the media center with a social twist. The company and its software have made some big announcements at CES this week, including the unveiling of the Boxee Box that it’s releasing in conjunction with D-Link later this spring.

I’ve been using the Boxee Beta for several weeks and it’s quite impressive. The UI overhaul is significantly better, and moving from one app or programing source to another is efficient and quick. You can download Boxee for Mac OS X, Windows or Ubuntu Linux.

Boxee Box Specs

Barb had a hands-on with the Boxee Box and its super-cool remote yesterday, but today Boxee has revealed the guts of the $200 device.

The highlights:

Powered by the Tegra 2 (T20) — a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 CPU
NVIDIA Graphicsthat can play 1080p video from locally stored content and stream HD content
Utilizes Adobe Flash 10.1, meaning HD and web content should play back smoother and require fewer resources
RF remote (so you can hide the box behind a cabinet)

Boxee also highlights what the Boxee Box won’t feature, namely a hard drive and an IR port. IR dongles will be supported (and I assume the Boxee iPhone app will work, since it connects via Wi-Fi), but the team was unable to get both IR and RF into the device. The QWERTY keyboard aspect of the Boxee Box’s remote does make a strong case for using the packaged remote, even if you’re a universal remote junkie (like me) with a Logitech Harmony One or similar controller.

As for the hard drive, it’s not being built into the box as a way of keeping costs low. The beauty of something like the Boxee Box is that it can take content from your entire network and display it in your living room. You can connect a hard drive directly to the Boxee Box via USB if you really do want to have more localized media storage and streaming.

As a Boxee fan, I can’t wait for this device to hit shelves. What about you? What do you think of the Boxee Box? Have you tried the Boxee Beta?

Tags: boxee, boxee beta, boxee box, CES 2010

CES: The Popbox Emerges to Vie for a Spot Next to Your TV

When it comes to bringing online video content to your television set, you’re about to have a lot of options to choose from. The Boxee Box will be one, Roku another and shortly the newest contender in this growing space will be the Popbox.

Made by Syabas, a company that has been making hardware streaming devices primarily for the A/V enthusiast under the Popcorn Hour brand, the Popbox is a sleeker, more user-friendly Internet set-top box made for a more mainstream audience.

Like other Internet media centers, Popbox has a number of channel partners on board to provide content: Twitter, BlipTV, Crunchyroll, IMDB, Netflix, NextNewNetworks, Revision3 and more — check out the full list of partners. The user interface is similar to other offerings, designed for use with the included remote control.

Popbox vs. Boxee

Popbox will be hoping to take advantage of two factors in the race to win the hearts and minds of Internet video enthusiasts: price (at $129, it will come in below the Boxee Box’s expected $200 cost) and time to market (slated for a March launch, the hardware will in all likelihood be available before the Boxee Box’s “sometime in Q2″ release date).

Still, Boxee has built a loyal fan base for its popular software media center who will make a great existing market for its device. They are also embracing a more “platform-agnostic” approach, where Mac, Windows and Linux clients will still be in active development at the same time as the hardware solution. Popbox has a much more hardware-centric approach, and has no current plans to offer a pure software solution.

In either case, it’s about to be a great time to think about how to bring Internet content to your television. Do you already watch online video on your TV? If so, what’s your solution?

Popbox Images

Tags: boxee, boxee box, CES, CES 2010, internet tv, media center, ONLINE VIDEO, popbox, set-top box, syabas, tv

January 06 2010

CES: Hands-on With the Boxee Box [VIDEO]

We’ve been eager to get our hands on the social media-center-software-turned-hardware Boxee Box since it was announced back in November. The fact that it was shaping up to also be cute as a button certainly played a part.

We had a chance to go hands-on with the device here at CES and also chat with CEO Avner Ronen in the videos below. The Boxee Box is officially Extremely Shiny, and its unique angular design will set it apart in the living room while remaining unobtrusive overall — a good fit for the home theater setup. We’re especially impressed with the choice to build a chatpad into the back of the remote control. It solves the problem of “How do I search?” without requiring an extra add-on or kludge — just the remote you already have in your hand.

Upon handling the remote, I remarked that the tactile feel of the keyboard reminded me a lot of the Xbox 360 chatpad accessory, which turned out to be more than idle comparison — Avner confirmed the remote was actually designed by the same team. The keypad was comfortable and the unit is a great size for holding in the hand and typing with your thumbs.

Check out the videos below and let us know if you’re considering a Boxee Box for your living room (or elsewhere). It will be out in the second quarter of this year for around $200 from partner D-Link.

Boxee Box

Boxee Box Remote

Tags: boxee, boxee box, CES, CES 2010, gadgets, social media, social tv, tv

January 05 2010

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