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September 17 2013

Sony Bravia Smart Stick Is a Feature-Packed Chromecast

Sony is taking on Google with the unveiling of its new Bravia Smart Stick, a tiny device that works with your HDTV much like Google’s Chromecast.

Set to debut later this week, the Smart Stick will plug into your TV's HDMI port and bring with it Google TV software, essentially turning your basic Bravia television into a Smart TV.

Feature-wise, the SmartStick will offer users more than Chromecast.

The Chromecast is basically a simplified Chrome browser running on a dongle. When you play content on the device you have to use your smartphone or tablet to essentially point that stick to a URL. Most anything you can play in Chrome you can play on Chromecast; individual apps, however, have to add Chromecast support before they can be used with the dongle. Currently only Netflix and YouTube are supported, with Pandora support on the way. Read more...

More about Sony, Bravia, Google Tv, Tech, and Gadgets

May 07 2012

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February 11 2012

January 09 2012

LG Smart TV With Google TV Revealed at CES 2012 [LIVE]

We’re kicking off our first liveblog at CES from the LG press conference — and all eyes are on the LG Smart TV with Google TV.

The company announced last week it would release the TV during the event. It also said the device will be a 3D TV with a QWERTY remote to operate the Android-based interface. The screen size remains a mystery.

You can expect to see a number of other products from LG, including a new 4G LTE smartphone, announced at today’s event. We’ll tell you all about LG’s latest releases in the liveblog below. Join us at 11 a.m. EST/8 a.m. PST for updates, photos and commentary from Mashable editors.

More About: CES, CES 2012, google tv, LG

January 06 2012

LG to Roll Out Its Own Google TV at CES 2012 [PICS]

LG announced it will introduce its own Google TV-equipped HDTV at CES 2010. The company says its “LG Smart TV with Google TV” will be an all-in-one unit , although it didn’t reveal the screen size yet.

The 3D HDTV will use LG’s Cinema 3D technology that uses lightweight glasses that don’t require batteries. Along with that, LG touts its “magic remote QWERTY,” incorporating a small keyboard and controls to operate Google TV’s updated Android-based user interface.

With LG announcing its version of Google TV, it joins Sony, Visio and Samsung with hardware supporting the format. After Logitech announced that it’s bowing out of the Google TV fold, it appears that a few more manufacturers are stepping up to take its place in short order.

We’ll have a chance to see LG’s new Google TV-equipped HDTV when we go to CES 2012 next week, and we’ll give you a full report as soon as we take a closer look.

Keep in mind that the main challenge with any Google TV announced in the next few days will have to do with content, not hardware. Google’s biggest stumbling block is getting production studios and content creators to allow their movies and TV shows to be accessible from Google TV. We’ve tested the early pre-Android version of Google TV, and found its main weakness was the lack of quality programming.

Now that the user interface is based on Android, it’s more pleasant to use. But the fact remains: The strength of the platform is its ability to sort through all the TV programs available at the moment, and offer them up to the viewer. If studios won’t let their programs be accessible from Google TV, its power won’t be evident to anyone. In this situation, it’s more important to watch what the studios will do than what LG, Sony, Visio and Samsung will do.

Here’s a new video from Google showing off its new Google TV interface, along with another pic of LG’s Google TV:

More About: CES, CES 2012, google tv, LG

January 05 2012

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.

September 04 2011

Happy Birthday Google: Making Sense of the Web for 13 Years

What were you up to 13 years ago? Maybe you were perfecting the ideal AIM screen name. Or you might have been surfing the “WestHollywood” neighborhood of GeoCities. Chances are, you had been using Yahoo! or AOL as your primary search engines. But Google’s debut on this day in 1998 would change the World Wide Web forever.

On September 4, 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin filed for incorporation as Google Inc. — they had received a $100,000 check from an investor made out to Google, Inc., and needed to incorporate that name so they could legally deposit the check.

Prior to the launch, Page and Brin met at Stanford in 1995, and soon decided to launch a search service called BackRub in January 1996. They soon reevaluated the name (and the creepy logo) in favor of Google, a play on the mathematical figure, “googol,” which represents the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. The name embodied their mission to create an infinite amount of web resources. And that they did.

Since then, Google has become a household name to billions of people worldwide. You’ll overhear senior citizens command their grandchildren to “google” the price of foot cream. You’ll witness toddlers punching the screen of the latest Android phone. And chances are, you’ve navigated the circles of Google+ (if not, let’s get you an invite already).

SEE ALSO: 10 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know About Google

We’d like to guide you on a trip down Google lane, presenting the key products and acquisitions that were born in the first Google garage office, and innovated in the Googleplex. In the comments below, please share how Google has had an impact on your life, and join us in wishing Google a happy birthday!

1996-1997: BackRub

Google was first launched under the BackRub nomer. Soon after, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin registered the Google.com domain name in September 1997. The two arrived at the name as a play on the mathematical figure, "googol," which represents the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. The name embodied their mission to create an infinite amount of web resources.

1998: Google's First Homepage

The original Google homepage prototype debuted in November 1998. Earlier that year Google received a $100,000 check made out to as-yet-unestablished Google Inc. from first investor Andy Bechtolsheim.

In September 2008, the two founders set up shop in Susan Wojcicki‘s garage in Menlo Park, CA, deposited their check and hired their first employee, Craig Silverstein.

1999: The Uncle Sam Homepage

Apart from adding Uncle Sam to its homepage, in 1999 Google outgrew its next office and moved to its first Mountain View, California location. The team announced $25 million in equity funding from Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins in its first press release.

2000: Google Becomes Yahoo's Default Search Provider

Apart from its partnership with Yahoo, in 2000 Google announced that its index reached the 1 billion-URL mark, making it the largest search engine in the world. Google also launched AdWord, a self-service ad program that allowed people to purchase keyword advertising that would appear alongside search results.

2001: Google Image Search

Image search launched in July 2001 with an index of 250 million images. That same year Google acquired Deja Usenet and archived its index into categories that ultimately made up Google Groups.

2002: Google Search Appliance

Early in 2002 Google marketed its first hardware, the Google Search Appliance, a device that plugged into a computer and provided advanced search capabilities for internal documents. In May Google announced Labs, a resource for people interested in trying out beta programs emerging from Google's R&D team. Later Google launched its News tool that provided links from 4,000 sources.

2003: AdSense

Google announced the world's largest content-targeted ad program, later dubbed AdSense after Google acquired Applied Semantics. Earlier in the year Google acquired Pyra Labs, the creator of Blogger.

2004: Gmail

Google launched Gmail on April Fool's Day 2004, but the beta version required an invitation to join. In January Orkut launched as Google's foray into social networking. In August, Google's initial public offering contained 19,605,052 shares of Class A common stock at $85 per share.

2005: Google Maps

Google Maps launched in February 2005, to go live on the first iPhone in 2007. Additionally, code.google.com went live to provide resources for developers, and included all of Google's APIs. The company also acquired Urchin, whose content optimization service helped create Google Analytics, launched later that year. In June Google released Google Earth, a satellite-powered mapping service. In October Reader was unveiled to help organize and consolidate content into a single feed.

2006: YouTube

In a $1.65 billion stock transaction, Google acquired YouTube in October 2006. Google also unveiled Trends, a tool that allows a user to evaluate popular searches over a specific timeframe. Earlier that year Google released Gchat, a Gmail-based instant message service derived from Google Talk. Google Checkout emerged later as a way to pay for online purchases.

2007: Android

In November 2007 Google announced its first mobile venture, Android, which the company called "the first open platform for mobile devices."

2008: Google Chrome

In September 2008 Google introduced Chrome, its open source browser. The surprise was spoiled when the comic book that was meant to help debut Chrome leaked a day ahead of schedule. Later that month T-mobile announced the G1, Google's first Android-powered mobile device. That year Google also added Google Suggest capabilities and site search.

2009: Google Wave

To much anticipation, Google announced its venture into real-time communication via the Wave platform. Little more than a year later, however, Wave was no more. That same year Google launched Mac-based photo application Picasa.

2010: Google Apps Marketplace

In 2010 Google launched its Apps Marketplace, an app store that allows third-party developers to sell their creations. That same year Google unveiled Google Buzz, its latest attempt at social sharing that originated in Gmail. The company also released Google TV after teaming up with Intel, Sony and Logitech.

2011: Google+

Google's most talked-about and participatory social platform thus far, Google+ launched in June 2011 with invite-only access. The tech giant also announced its most expensive acquisition to-date when it bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion.

More About: Google, media, Tech

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

August 26 2011

May 11 2011

Google I/O in a Nutshell: All the News You Might Have Missed

Google I/O 2011 has officially ended, so here’s a quick “all killer, no filler” recap of everything you need to know that happened at the conference this year.

The event was full of announcements, including big pieces of Android news, updates on Google TV, announcements for the super-slick Chromebook, and perhaps most significant of all, the official launch of Google Music.

And it wasn’t all consumer app news. Believe it or not, this developer conference also brought actual news for developers, too. We’ll wrap it all up for you right here:

Google Music Launched

What you need to know: Google’s music service lets you upload any music files you have — including iTunes libraries and playlists — to the cloud. You can access, organize, and play your tunes from any connected device, including computers, tablets and mobiles. Best of all, tunes are automatically synced any time you add new songs on the desktop.

But you can’t buy music through Google Music — not yet, at least. And you can only get an invite from Google directly, so don’t click on any spammy links you see out there on the web claiming to “give away” Google Music Beta invites.

Chromebooks Are Coming

What you need to know: Google Chromebooks, elegant little netbooks that run Chrome OS, are becoming commercially available beginning June 15. Samsung and Acer will be the first companies to manufacture the devices.

Google TV’s Getting More Apps

What you need to know: Google TVs will be getting access to the full Android Market — as well as Honeycomb 3.1 — this summer. New apps might mean better PR for a product some say is in a slump.

A New Version of Honeycomb

What you need to know: Google is rolling out a new version of Honeycomb, its tablet OS. Android 3.1 upgrades will start with Motorola Xoom customers now and will be coming to Google TV this summer. The OS is bringing new, expandable widgets as well as support for USB peripherals, including cameras, joysticks, etc.

The Newest Android OS: Ice Cream Sandwich

What you need to know: Android 4.0 will be Ice Cream Sandwich, and it will close the 2.X/3.X fork. Ice Cream Sandwich will run on all kinds of devices, including tablets, mobile phones and more. Google is hoping this will patch the OS’s overarching fragmentation issues.

Goodies for Developers

What you need to know: App Engine is coming out of preview. Version 1.5.0 will bring Backend support and a fast-compiling runtime for Go, Google’s homebrewed programming language. The company also rolled out a Google Plugin for Eclipse.

Android@Home Does Home Automation

What you need to know: Google announced the all-new Android@Home framework, a set of protocols for controlling light switches, alarm clocks and other home appliances through any Android device.

Google Movies for Android

What you need to know: Google Movies for Android is an all-new app that allows users to rent and play movies on their tablets or phones.

More About: Google, google io

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May 10 2011

Google TV Gets Android Market Access

Google announced Tuesday its Google TV devices will now be able to access customized apps through the Android Market.

Google TV will also be running on the new 3.1 version of Honeycomb.

Made-for-TV websites have been part of Google TV’s value proposition since its launch, as have onboard apps including Netflix, Twitter, Pandora, Napster and more. However, today marks the first time any dev can make and sell apps for Google TV through the Android Market.

Google first unveiled Google TV at its I/O event last year. In spite of impressive demos, the company was said to be delaying a launch because of software tweaks in December 2010. And given the company’s underwhelming marketing and education efforts for the product — and stiff competition from the user-friendly and dead cheap Roku — many have wondered whether Google TV might flop.

However, the new availability of apps for Google TV means that more developers will be enticed to build more apps for Google TV. These third-party applications could give a much-needed boost to Google TV’s publicity and perhaps even its user experience.

As Google TV Product Manager Rishi Chandra stated earlier this year, “We plan to bring developers tools for building applications specifically for the TV and living room, and we plan to bring Android Market to Google TV, so consumers can download thousands of applications to their TVs.”

As was the case with the original Android mobile OS, Google’s projects often get off to a rough start. They’re launched early and require a good deal of support from the developer community to achieve that consumer-friendly polish to which end users are accustomed. And just like the powerful new Androids are miles from their practically unusable forebears, a more open, collaborative Google TV platform stands to compete well in the market of connected television devices.

We’ll keep a close eye on Google TV — especially on the the movement of product from store to living room. We’re sure Google is hoping these announcements and product enhancements will have a net positive effect on sales; time alone will tell if a year of relative dormancy has already hurt the platform’s image too much.

More About: Google, google io, google tv

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April 29 2011

What’s The Matter With Google TV?

Google and its partners made a major bet on Google TV, an ambitious attempt to bridge the gap between the web and TV worlds. But so far it has failed to pay dividends — quite literally, in the case of Google partner Logitech.

On Thursday, Logitech released its fourth quarter fiscal report, and the results were a mixed bag. Operating income was a mere $3.6 million, a far cry from the $24.5 million it made a year ago. But sales were up 4% compared to last year.

Logitech’s income missed the mark largely due to its investment in Google TV, which was revealed in dramatic fashion at last year’s Google I/O developer conference. Logitech developed the Revue, a $299 Google TV-powered set-top box.

As GigaOm points out, Logitech expected to sell $18 million in Google TV-related products in Q4. But in its earnings report, the company revealed that it only sold $5 million in Google TV devices. Logitech also revealed that its inventory is up 28% in Q4 — thanks to all those unsold Google TV devices.

A Series of Setbacks

When we first saw Google TV, we gave Google credit for its ambition. However, we also had a warning for the search giant: get the user experience right at launch. Otherwise, it risked alienating potential users.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. Reviews were lackluster. Users complained about a complicated user experience and an array of bugs. Google delivered an update last month to fix some of these problems.

In December, we heard a rumor that Google would use Android 3.0 to fix Google TV. What we’re hearing now is Google TV will merge with Android Honeycomb and Gingerbread to create one multifaceted OS. This should make system updates and Android app development a simpler process. It could also be the start of the development of Android apps for Google TV, a major potential selling point.

Google’s Options

Google and its partners are far from giving up on their TV project. For one thing, there isn’t one major rival dominating the space. Connected TVs were a hot ticket at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but the market is young and there isn’t a clear winner yet.

The search giant will have a second chance to breath new life into Google TV at its Google I/O conference in May, the same place it first introduced the product and the company’s best shot at sparking new interest in the platform.

So what might Google be able to do to lift Google TV sales and save it from Google Wave’s fate?

First of all, it can go all-in with Android, rallying developers to create amazing apps for the TV screen. Being able to use your favorite Android apps on the big screen — especially games — could be the selling point the search giant needs to get people interested.

Secondly, it can work with its partners to reduce the price. Apple TV costs $100, the Boxee Box retails for $190 on Amazon, and the Roku costs only $59 at Best Buy. The Logitech Revue, which originally retailed for $299, still costs $230 on Amazon. While Google TV is definitely a different product than Apple TV or the Roku, consumers are bound to shy away when they see the price difference.

To distance itself from the negative sentiments that linger around Google TV, the company may feel the need for some kind of public relaunch, with a fresh look and feel to the device. Call it Google TV 2.0. After all, it took multiple releases of Android before the Google phone OS began to gain traction.

Regardless of the strategy, if Google can’t get its TV engine roaring soon, partners and developers may start abandoning the platform — and there is no recovering from that.

More About: Apple TV, boxee, Google, google tv, logitech, Logitech Revue, Opinion, roku

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March 09 2011

Watch Bonnaroo Live on Your iPhone, iPad or Android

Vevo revealed last month the Bonnaroo lineup for 2011, and today, the music video site is announcing that it will be streaming select live and on-demand performances and interviews across Vevo.com and Vevo Mobile, as well as Vevo-connected devices.

Bonnaroo, which takes place in Tennessee from June 9 through June 12, features a bevy of acts of all ilks, including the Grammy-winning Arcade Fire. And, thanks to sponsors like Ford, music fans can now experience the show via Vevo.

Content will be available on Vevo mobile products for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android, Vevo.com, and on devices like Google TV and Boxee. Vevo partners AOL, BET and CBS Interactive Music Group will also feature coverage. Scheduling will be announced soon.

Bonnaroo and Vevo also plan to create a web series that will appear on Vevo’s Bonnaroo Channel and on Bonnaroo’s website.

More and more, events like Bonnaroo are making their way to the web — the Grammy’s and Oscar streams spring to mind — and Vevo is increasingly offering live concert events.

Will you watch Bonnaroo via Vevo this year? Or is the experience only worth it when it’s in real life?

Image courtesy of Flickr, craigCloutier

More About: bonnaroo, boxee, google tv, ipad, iphone, music, vevo, video, youtube

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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

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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

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January 13 2011

What We Learned From CES: 5 Big Consumer Tech Trends to Watch

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The 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a wrap. Tech’s largest trade show tends to kick off the year with a slew of new gadgets and provides a first glimpse into what will be hot in tech for the rest of the year. This year’s CES was no different.

We spent nearly a week talking with tech leaders, testing out products, visiting booths and attending press conferences in order to find out what devices, emerging trends and technologies to watch in 2011. A few trends clearly stood out at this year’s show.

From tablets to the influence of a certain company in Cupertino, here are five big consumer technology trends to watch.

1. Dual-Core Smartphones

Three recently announced phones, the LG Optimus 2X, Motorola Droid Bionic and the Motorola Atrix 4G, all have one thing in common: They run 1GHz dual-core processors.

This year will be the year smartphones take a major leap in power and functionality. More and more phones will come packed with HD screens, 4G connectivity, increased RAM and dual-core processors. The latter is especially important, because users are demanding more and more multitasking capabilities in their handheld devices.

Right now, the only dual-core devices on the market run Android, but you can expect Apple and the rest to launch their own dual-core phones later this year.

2. Android or Bust

CES was once again dominated by Google’s Android OS. The best devices at the show all ran on the Android platform. The biggest draw, the Motorola Xoom tablet, also showed off the upcoming Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” interface, made specifically for tablets.

Why have Samsung, Motorola, LG and many other electronics companies put their money on Google? Simple: It’s the only viable alternative to Apple, who would love to do nothing more than crush Android and CES. It’s an alliance of necessity if anybody is to gain traction against Apple’s growing power and profits.

3. Seeking the iPad Challenger

Thanks to the iPad, 2011 will be known as “The Year of the Tablet.” Microsoft, Samsung, Motorola, BlackBerry and more showed off their tablet devices at CES. The Samsung Sliding PC 7 is a Windows 7 tablet with a nice slide-out keyboard, while Toshiba showed off a yet-to-be-named 10.1-inch Android tablet. Oh, and let’s not forget about The BlackBerry PlayBook.

The winner of the CES tablet wars, though, was clearly the Motorola Xoom. With a 1GHz Tegra 2 dual-core processor, 10.1-inch screen, 1280×800 resolution, 4G connectivity, 32GB of on board memory and the Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” OS, the Xoom clearly outclassed its competition.

Does that make the Xoom a viable iPad competitor? We’ll have to wait and see how many of these devices people snatch up when March rolls around, but for now, it has the momentum, power and potential to give Apple a run for its money.

4. TVs Get Smart, But Will Consumers Care?

Sony, Samsung, Sharp and LG revealed new TVs this year, and every single one can connect to the web and run apps.

LG calls its platform Smart TV. Sony has bet the farm on Google TV. Samsung’s TVs have ultra-thin bezels on top of 3-D and Internet connectivity.

We saw a lot of connected TVs last year, but now they’re essentially standard. Almost every new TV you see from now on will be able to browse the web, connect to Netflix and more. And these TV manufacturers are even signing deals to bring content directly to the device, bypassing cable. Samsung has a deal with CBS, while Sony has penned one with Time Warner.

Still, most people don’t turn on the TV to check out YouTube, and with alternatives like Apple TV and Roku, will consumers really choose their TVs based on how adeptly they connect to the web?

5. Apple Casts a Giant Shadow

One of the most talked about companies at CES wasn’t even there. Instead, it worked behind the scenes to undermine the show and steal the spotlight. And boy, did it succeed.

I am talking about none other than Apple, the world’s second most valuable company. Apple sees Android, which CES has embraced, as a threat and has worked every year to suck the oxygen from the room. Last year, Apple took over the show with fervent speculation about the iPad. This year, Apple did it twice with the the launch of the Mac App Store and the announcement of a press conference to reveal the Verizon iPhone.

It’s shocking that one company can be so powerful and influential that it can undermine technology’s largest trade show, but that’s exactly what Apple has been able to accomplish year after year. The game has become Apple vs. CES and iOS vs. Android.

More Tech Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Reasons Connected TV Could Flop in 2011
- 8 Tech Companies to Watch in 2011
- 8 Gadgets to Watch in 2011
- iPad 2 Rumors: The Comprehensive Guide
- HOW TO: Your Get Your Old PC Running Like New Again

Reviews: Android, Google, Internet, Windows, YouTube

More About: android, android tablets, apple, CES, CES 2011, ces2011, gadgets, Google, iOS, ipad, iphone, Motorola, Motorola Atrix, motorola xoom, samsung, Sharp, sony, Tablet, tablets

For more Tech coverage:

January 11 2011

5 Reasons Connected TV Could Flop in 2011

Jeremy Toeman has worked in the field of convergence between computers, the Internet and TV for more than 10 years. He is a founding partner of Stage Two, a consumer technology product experience firm in San Francisco, and can be found blogging at livedigitally.com.

Forget Google TV scrapping CES, the biggest challenge smart televisions face in 2011 is overcoming customers’ FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).

Up until the early 2000s, buying a new TV was easy. The bigger the screen, the better the television. Sure, some televisions had more bells and better whistles, but in the era of standard definition and cathode ray tubes, bigger was better.

When high definition flat screens became affordable in the middle of the last decade, consumers still felt pretty comfortable buying a new television. With the exception of 720p vs. 1080p and LCD vs. plasma (and a few other little things), there was not a lot of FUD for consumers. People understood (for the most part) the technology they were getting and the value it provided them. They also more or less understood the product life cycle their television provided them.

Now enter smart TVs and 3-D TVs. To the industry, these devices represent an opportunity to upsell consumers with added benefits and features. But to consumers, these connected televisions also introduce planned obsolescence into television life cycles. Planned obsolescence is a concept where companies sell products with a limited lifespan or functionality to encourage repeat purchases and upgrades. The result? Consumers are staying away from new TV. Instead of getting excited for new features, they are getting scared. To quote a recent industry article: “Despite all the hype, 3-D sets haven’t been a runaway success, and Internet-capable ones haven’t fared much better.”

Why is this happening? Sure, a slow economy is one reason, but there are others that are more concerning to television makers and the consumer electronics industry as a whole. It’s my opinion that FUD is a major factor in 3-D TV failure as well. Consumers’ questions include: Do I need more glasses? Does it work with my Blu-ray? Will all titles be compatible?

1. The Internet on TV Sounds Confusing

For average consumers, the thought of hooking up the Internet to their television set sounds confusing. Many wonder what they will have to do to make a smart TV work with their existing home theater setup. People understand a cable box and an AV receiver – sort of (hence the “input one” problem that plagues the industry). Adding the Internet into that equation is off-putting for many people who just want to watch Top Chef. Emphasizing ease of use and simple connectivity should be a main concern for television manufacturers in 2011.

2. The Internet on TV Is Confusing

Most Internet TVs have a poor user interface and force users to confront awkward technology questions (for example, are you using WEP or WPA?). These are issues users don’t enjoy resolving. Conjoining home networking with the home theater just doesn’t sound like fun to consumers. They want to watch their new television without a call to tech support, and that is understandable. Delivering products that are simple to set up and easy to use should be a main concern for television manufacturers. Just because there’s a “pretty” new user interface with humongous buttons to click on and an up/down/left/right interface doesn’t make it a great user experience.

3. Fear of Obsolescence

Before smart TVs arrived, a TV was just a TV. Now a TV is an app store and a browser and so much more. Users will worry that the Internet TV they purchase this year will be outdated in six months. That kind of product cycle is fine for a phone, but it makes less sense for a large TV. Add in turf wars between Apple, Google and others and you have an unstable, rapidly iterating media landscape that most consumers fear to enter. To catch on, new televisions need to demonstrate staying power and reassure consumers that they will still work well in 2015.

4. Customer Support Concerns

Something we’ve all learned through PCs is the incredible ability to “pass the buck” on customer support problems introduced by high tech products. For example, when you can’t get a video game to play right on your laptop, and you call Dell, its support staff will probably tell you it’s a problem with NVIDIA’s drivers, and they tell you it’s actually Microsoft’s fault, and if they even return your call or e-mail, they tell you it’s really EA’s problem, who of course sends you back to Dell (all just to play a video game!).

That’s a long-winded example, but consumers are unfortunately used to that type of service, and nobody likes the idea of calling Samsung’s support people and having them tell you it’s a problem with your Netgear router, who in turn point the finger at your Comcast Internet provider, and they turn you over to Netflix, who sends you back to Samsung (all just to watch a movie!).

5. Poorly Defined Value Proposition

As I wrote in my last Mashable post, most smart TVs are being touted for their technology rather than the benefits they provide people. Instead of telling people that the weather app is on their TV (a feature), the industry should emphasize the personal weather forecasts smart TVs generate that are tailored for individual needs (a benefit). For the average consumer, Facebook on TV sounds like a lot of work (“Where will I type? Do I still “Like” stuff? Does FarmVille work? What else do I need to do?”). Putting Twitter on the television sounds like it is a lot of work. Anything that involves a mouse and a keyboard seems — and is — onerous to the living room context. The value proposition for smart TVs has to be the effortless delivery of content in ways that mirror the ease of standard TV experience.

If smart televisions want to catch on, manufacturers and advertisers must communicate their ease of use, benefits and staying power to overcome consumer fears. Manufacturers must make it crystal clear that smart TVs are a safe, long-term investment that will work in a landscape of changing technologies and content services.

More Tech Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Hip Bluetooth Headsets
- 8 Gadgets to Watch in 2011
- 5 Web Technologies and Trends to Watch in 2011
- School Tech: 6 Important Lessons From Maine’s Student Laptop Program
- 8 Sci-Fi Technologies That Are No Longer Just Fiction

More About: Apple TV, connected tv, consumer electronics, google tv, List, Lists, Smart TV, television, tv

For more Tech coverage:

January 05 2011

5 Technologies to Watch for at CES 2011

The technology world will gather in Las Vegas this week for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), one of the largest trade shows in the world. Countless new gadgets will be revealed, and new products will be demoed in front of more than 140,000 attendees and press.

At last year’s CES, connected and 3-D TVs, Android devices, tablets and e-book readers were some of the show’s big highlights. Since then, a lot has changed: The iPad was a major success, Android’s growth skyrocketed, and motion control gaming is red hot.

So what will everybody be buzzing about at CES 2011? We’ve done our research and compiled a list of five trends we think you should watch for at this year’s show. From the continuing surge of Android to the reveal of Windows 8, we think this year’s show will be an eventful one.

Here’s what you can expect from the show that first introduced us to the camcorder, VCR, DVD and HDTV.

1. The Tablet Revolution

Tablets were big last year, but companies were mostly showing off underdeveloped prototypes.

Thanks to the iPad’s success, the tablet market has been validated, and countless companies will attempt to make a splash in this market and become true competitors to Apple’s wildly popular device.

The top tablet to watch for this year is Motorola’s Android tablet, which will be the first device to run the Android 3.0 OS, called “Honeycomb.” It’s not the only Android tablet that will make its debut this week either. We expect a 10.1-inch tablet from Toshiba and an 8-inch device from Vizio.

While Android will dominate the tablet market this year, we do expect to see some Windows-based tablets. Finally, while we don’t expect it to be present at CES, watch out for discussion surrounding the PalmPad, HP and Palm’s unannounced webOS tablet device.

2. Video Games Invade CES

Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will all have a presence at this year’s show. Nintendo, which normally skips CES, will be doing private demos of the Nintendo 3DS. We’re very excited to play with the device later this week.

Sony and Microsoft on the other hand will be showcasing their motion controllers, the PlayStation Move and the Xbox Kinect. Both devices are selling like hotcakes and we expect to see previews of future games that will utilize their respective motion controls.

As usual, there will be a lot of game accessory manufacturers at the show, launching new peripherals for our favorite gaming devices.

3. Connected Cars, Connected TVs, Connected Everything

“Connected” will be a big buzzword at this year’s CES. It starts with the cars: Ford, Toyota, BMW and others will have a big presence at this year’s show as they showcase their Internet technologies. FORD Sync, OnStar and other connected solutions will be on full display.

Connected TVs will also be big once again. They’ve had a year to mature, and thanks to Google TV, Apple TV, Roku and other connected TV solutions, the market for Internet-enabled TVs has never been bigger. While we don’t expect many Google TV devices at this year’s CES, we do expect almost all the major TV manufacturers to showcase different types of connected TVs and app stores.

Finally, you’ll see even more devices displaying “connected” technology. We saw a connected washing machine here or there last year, but we expect many more connected products to be showcased at CES. Your appliances and your bedroom are the Internet’s next big frontier.

4. 4G Phones and Networks Debut

LTE (Long Term Evolution), the best-known type of 4G network, will be a big selling point at this year’s CES. Verizon will be holding a press conference just to unveil details about its 4G network, but we expect a lot of 4G devices to be unveiled as well, following the success of the HTC Evo 4G.

One such device we’re keen on trying is the HTC Thunderbolt, which will have the distinction of being the first LTE phone on the Verizon network. It’s a 4.3-inch monster of a phone, but we still don’t know all the specs. That will change this week.

Other devices to watch for: The HTC Evo Shift 4G, the LG Optimus 2X and even Motorola’s Android Honeycomb tablet, which will also feature 4G connectivity.

5. Android & CES vs. Apple & iOS

Have you spotted an underlying theme for this year’s show? People will say CES 2011 is all about tablets, but while they will be prevalent, the real star of this year’s show will be Google Android.

Android tablets. Android phones. Android appliances. There will be so many devices running on Android at this year’s CES that you’re going to need an actual android to help keep track of it all.

Hundreds of companies have latched themselves onto Android, some so much so that their fate will be tied to the operating system’s market performance. It’s the only credible counterweight to Apple and iOS. The $300+ billion company will be casting a shadow on this year’s show thanks to the imminent release of the Verizon iPhone and the iPad 2. It wouldn’t surprise us if Apple announced one of its famous press events this week just to take the steam out of this year’s show.

Apple is the reason why everyone’s going gaga over Android and why everyone is so invested in the Google ecosystem. Without Android, Apple could steamroll over CES. It’s a testament to just how powerful Apple has become.

What are your predictions for this year’s CES, what gadgets and technology are you hoping to see? Let us know in the comments below.

More Tech Resources from Mashable:

- 8 Sci-Fi Technologies That Are No Longer Just Fiction
- 11 Astounding Sci-Fi Predictions That Came True
- 4 Predictions for Connected Devices in 2011
- Constantly Changing Technologies: What’s a Software Developer To Do?
- Tough Tech: 10 Rugged Gadgets That Will Go the Distance

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, filonmar

Reviews: Android, Connected, Google, Internet, Windows, iStockphoto

More About: 3-D, 3D, 3D TV, android, apple, CES, ces2011, HP, iOS, iPad 2, iphone, LG, microsoft, PalmPad, playstation move, sony, Windows 8, Xbox Kinect

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December 28 2010

Is Android 3.0 the Answer to Google TV’s Problems, or Is It Already Too Late? [OP-ED]

It was clear from the day Google TV was revealed that the search giant had huge ambitions to bring the web to living room screens across the world. Google stood to make billions of dollars through both its partners and through TV advertising (a fulfillment of the Google Revenue Equation). You can’t say Google doesn’t dream big with its products.

At the time of its launch, we praised Google for its attempt to reshape the future of TV, but warned that it had to get things right the first time to succeed.

Here’s what we said in May:

“As one of the Googlers said in the demo, one of the key aspects of television is that it “just works.” For connected TV to work — whether it be from Google or someone else — it has to be reliable, usable and consistent. I can deal with rebooting my computer if it starts acting weird. I don’t feel the same way about my television set. As it stands, I already curse my cable company provided HD-DVR box for being finicky and having performance issues; if I have to reboot my entire entertainment system because an Internet video gets out of control, I’m not going to be very happy. I also have no desire to have to play tech support for my family when the TV stops working.

Not having had any hands-on time with Google TV, I can’t speak for how well it works compared to the competition — but this is an area that Google needs to absolutely have at 100% at launch. Release early and often may work on the web, but users don’t want to have to troubleshoot their devices in the living room.”

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. Initial reviews have been lackluster, mostly because the OS feels like an unfinished piece of software. From the few times I’ve used it, it’s navigable but not intuitive. It’s usable but complicated.

In other words, they pushed an unfinished product out of the door, and now Google is scrambling to fix its TV product and save the project from implosion. A recent report claims that Google has asked its partners to hold off on launching Google TV devices at CES so that it can tweak the software. We’ve been hearing the same thing from our sources.

Is It Already Too Late?

Google’s going to try to rectify the mistakes it made in the previous release with upgrades it will likely launch in February, we’ve heard. Part of that upgrade will come in the form of “Honeycomb,” the Android 3.0 OS. Unlike version 2.3 (“Gingerbread”), 3.0 is designed for bigger screens. While it’s focused on tablet devices, it will also come with upgrades for Google TV.

We’re not sure what Honeycomb will include to fix Google’s television device, but we expect it to make the interface less complicated, to improve the quality of video search results (Google says it’s working on this) and to add the Android Marketplace to Google TV. These are relatively safe bets for what will come in “Google TV 2.0,” courtesy of Android 3.0.

Will that be enough, though? The core of the problem lies in the speed, fluidity, and intuitiveness of the software. Google TV can be agonizingly slow and the interface can be gut-wrenchingly confusing. I don’t know how Google, Logitech or Sony expected the average blue collar, stay-at-home parent to understand it.

Can Google transform its interface enough to get Google TV started? Google should take a page from Apple’s playbook: Apple TV has been far more successful, thanks to its lower price point and far more intuitive interface.

Maybe I’m asking the wrong question. Perhaps the more appropriate question is whether it’s too late for Google TV to make a comeback. The clock is ticking for Google TV.

More About: android, Google, google tv

For more Tech coverage:

December 20 2010

Google TV Devices Delayed As Google Tweaks Software [REPORT]

We won’t be seeing too many Google TV-powered devices at the next CES, which takes place in Las Vegas in January, because Google needs more time to work on the software, reports the New York Times citing unnamed sources.

Right now, Google’s original partners for Google TV – Sony and Logitech – are the only ones actually selling the devices. Samsung and Vizio are still supposed to reveal their Google TV devices at CES, but we’ll have to wait a little longer for devices from Toshiba, Sharp and LG.

We can expect more Google TV devices after the software is updated, which will probably mean the addition of the Android Market. It should happen sometime next year, NYT’s sources claim.

This is another in a series of obstacles for Google’s foray into TV space; after receiving some lackluster initial reviews, Google TV suffered another blow when it got blocked by several U.S. major broadcast and cable networks.

[via New York Times]

More About: CES, Google, google tv, LG, logitech, Sharp, sony, television, Toshiba

For more Tech coverage:

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