Yet another box?
So do I put this on top of my: DVD, BlueRay, Cable HD box, Xbox 360, Wii or my PS3? And more to the point do I have any inputs left?
Simple solutions usually beat over-engineered ones, and a UK software startup I've met might have solved a couple of the biggest headaches of watching web video. I came away from the demo wondering why people hadn't thought of doing this before. Currently, there's a problem getting the vast amounts of web content out there - …
Why do you have a BlueRay AND a DVD player? Also, why do you have three different consoles? Can you play all three at the same time? Can you affod to buy games for all three platforms?
The point being, you don't need half that stuff, and most people won't, so most would probably have enough inputs.
If you've got a PS3 anyway - you can already use its in-built browser to go to YouTube and the PSN already has direct access to Aunty's iPlayer (through the 'TV' menu).
Actually, since Vidiactive's solution is a software one, rather than hardware, it's possible it could be licensed by Sony/MS and bundled into a firmware update for the PS3/XboX 360 eventually anyway - or even Virgin Media/SKY for their boxes.
So connecting a small Home Theatre PC to your TV is an "over-engineered" solution?
With one connection you get
- a DVD player
- web browser
- potentially a BluRay player
- anything else that runs on Flash
- anything else that runs on a PC
...another effin' box?
The problem all of these things have is that the standards keep evolving and changing, and in order to avoid having to persistently buy new boxes to replace old boxes the only realistic option is to have a computer-like box that you can update as necessary.
Which means either a dedicated media centre (something like a WDTV that can handle local storage for media but also have network access where needed) or a PC working as dedicated media centre, coupled with a wireless media centre keyboard.
Neither is a great option, but when the Beeb decides to next bugger about with the way in which iPlayer content is served up, or 4OD moves from Flash to Silverlight or whatever, a box you can't easily modify means you wait for a software update from the manufacturer.
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My Sony TV already has Internet capability albeit with a limited number of channerl offerings. For example it has YouTube, DemandFive and DailyMotion, but not iPlayer. Strangely my Sony BluRay player, bought at the same time, has iPlayer as well. I'm not sure why one has iPlayer and not the other (maybe commercial, maybe hardware capacity limits on the TV). However, both have remotely updatable firmware, and both use some form of Internet subsription facility controlled, presumably, by Sony, so who knows what is possible.
So there's nothing technically new here - what they may have is some form of standardised open interface, which is to be applauded, but frankly it's not exactly revolutionary in technical terms. It will be interesting to see how this plays out with project Canvas which does have the potential to be an open interface for media delivery onto all sorts of devices. Quite what future TV has (however delivered) will depend on the ability of content generators to generate a revenue model. Sports and film subscription services are well established, and whether it comes by satellite, Internet, cable or terrestrial broadcasting is scarcely the issue. It's the owners of the rights to the content that is the main issue and just what Ofcom will do to ensure wholesale services are available to the various retail operators. Expect Sky to fight hard on that one with backing from Hollywood, the FA and whoever else has an interest in maximising revenue for their content. The other big potential revenue earner is, of course, advertising. Expect TV channels (however defined) to try and embed unavoidable advertising into the standards.
The crucial difference is that the current systems are one-off bits of content source engineered by a box maker and a few selected content providers, using a variety of proprietary interfaces to offer up raw video in specific codec formats. This has resulted in a profusion of standards: Panasomic has one for its TVs called Vieracast, Samsung has one, Sony has one, Microsoft has one for the X-Box, and there are literally dozens more. Needless to day the choice of content is very limited.
The approach Vidiactive has taken is to concentrate on browser technology: using the open web and building software that can present a video page - and, crucially, control it - in a TV-like way. This is technically new - no-one else has an approach that browses all the open web, puts the video full-screen and controls playback (play, pause, seek, etc.) from a simple remote control. You can think of it more like a video version of the Safari Reader function, with more control.
If you want to do this yourself today using a media PC you need a quiet PC, a wireless keyboard, mouse, and a keen eye and steady hand (incompatible with sitting back with a few beers, note). Even then the playback of video won't be HD if you're using Mac OS or Linux and don't have a fast-hot CPU (see past coverage of Flash Wars on El Reg for background). Even after alcohol-abstention and DIY (you didn't need to get NDIS wrappers for your WiFi drivers did you?) you're left with a power-hungry and expensive setup. Definitely not mainstream. On the other hand, a standalone box containing the Vidiactive software should come in at under £100 retail and even be able to do HD video. Or if you want to wait for a next-gen HDTV box using the new media silicon emerging then the Vidiactive software can fit comfortably in the existing hardware resource.
That's more a commercial issue than a technical one. I'm sure if Sony, Panasonic or the like chose to put browser based internet access into a TV they could, as could any of the set top box makers. It would not be that difficult to put together the relevant bits of software in a black box. After all, most of the required software is Freeware although there are a few proprietary nasties which require licensing (which, unless you are Steve Jobs, can be dealt with).
Of course the obvious company to do all this is Google. In fact the real surprise is why haven't they done it already.
£200 gets you a PS3 that does Blu-Ray, DVD, iPlayer, YouTube, Gaming, FreeviewPVR (PlayTV) PSN Moviestore rentals and purchases in both SD and HD and a tonne of other stuff too. It's also simple enough for granny to use.
So unless this £40, the size of a postage stamp and does not waste any HDMI or SCART or need any interconnects at all, and needs no remote control, then it's an instant fail.
that this gets added to the Freeview+ standard, and so appears in all new Freeview boxes, and would be cheaper (and simpler, for most people) than buying an HTPC?
Should have been done sooner, really. I'll probably be ditching my BT Vision box soon, and an HTPC still seems like the preferable replacement (or not, as my old, CRT shows no signs of packing up anytime soon, so I may just feed it with a replacement Freeview box).
Where I live the ADSL connection is terrible, almost unusable on Sundays. I can't download or cache iPlayer or anything else, as now everything streams. Using iPlayer through my PS3 or Wii is a lottery. If I want to watch uninterrupted decent quality shows, I have to fire up uTorrent.
So a good sounding idea but no use for me or countless others I'm guessing.
In an Antec ISK300 case it's smaller than most DVD players, with a Blu-ray/HD-DVD combi drive and an ION back Atom mobo it silently plays HiDef content as well as doing all the internet stuff, dual receiver tv card adds PVR function all through a standard windows 7 home premium install which is simple enough that my girlfriend can use it and she's blonde.
Hell you've even got a little gaming out of it if you like, not that I'm into that - one box that does everything and it's not an "over-engineered" responses, piece of pish to buy put together by CCLonline and then stuff under the telly with a HDMI connection.
No reason it cannot be done, as others point out; they have done exactly that. I have an old Bush IBX100 Internet STB serving up web pages to the TV but doesn't support video. Virgin Media have iPlayer and other channel OD supported in their STB's.
I personally have no objection to another STB but can understand why others do and I'd really prefer an integrated system where one can seamlessly move between Sky, Freeview, Cable, DVD, PVR and Internet TV.
The biggest obstacle though to finding 'on-line content' to watch is the huge amount of it and having to sift through it.
This is really just another take on the UI. Boxee is probably the simplest software I've come across for Joe Public that allows you to put your computer in the driving seat provided it can be connected to your TV. There is no reason why this approach couldn't simply be applied as a plug-in to Boxee, rather than spawning yet another 'command and control' centre.
Personally (and this is the techie in me) I'd prefer to buy a big screen with _no_ receiver built in, and then add my own hardware to provide content. For example a new Mac Mini with an eyeTV would give me a DVD player, terrestrial digital PVR, media player - local, network and internet... all in one small, quiet box (although it is not cheap). Before you say it, I don't watch Blu-Ray and I don't play games - so just one box. Of course a PS3 would solve both of those omissions.
I have setup a few HTPCs for my chums from a guy who sells them on Ebay, and they have been really happy with it. They use Windows Media Centre, which to my surprise is decent and can now watch TV and go on the interweb at the same time.
This in my opinion is far better than having to buy multiple boxes to do the same job.
I would almost be tempted to buy a Dell Zino HD but it has no integrated TV Tuner (Which is just ridiculous) so until I can get a decent HTPC which is quieter than my mates I will remain stuck in the 20th Century watching freeview and using the interweb on the laptop.
Paris - because I miss her antics.
The problem with people saying "You have a PS3" then just use that for playing DVD's and bin your DVD player is the fact that the PS3, well at least my PS3 won't play anything that is not Region 2 or region 0. I have quite a few R1 and R3 DVD's from the days when you couldn't get a decent R2 release of a film and I've had to keep my modded DVD player for when I want to watch one of these. I'm in the process of ripping them all to my mac, but it's going to take a helluva long time.
Also @AC11:53, you cannot buy anything HD from the Playstation store, you can only rent. They only allow you to buy SD movies and TV shows, just like the Xbox and Apple online stores.
My Neuros OSD is *supposed* to be able to play YouTube videos (the hardware is a bit old, so it will be doing the H.263 ones). The reason it doesn't is because it needs direct access to the video data to pass on to the DSP system. It doesn't run Flash, nor a web browser. All fine and good, except YouTube have a tendency for subtely altering their setup from time to time, as anybody who uses a direct downloader (www.youtubedownloaderhd.com for example) will know - it all stops until an updated version is available.
But, anyway... YouTube on a TV-connected box. Not a new idea...
My TV already has direct network access to Youtube, Netflix, and Yahoo. All I need is Hulu and I am all set without adding anything at all.
Network access was my FIRST priority when shopping for a new TV. This keep it VERY simple. I just added a hard disk to one of the USB ports to play music, video, and photos directly.
It doesn't get any simpler than this.
You can buy HD movie content from the Playstation store just fine.
Why is it everyone spouting about the PS3 not doing this, or not doing that is always getting it wrong and making an idiot of themselves?
I read the article as promotional spam for this start up company. Why? Because there was no detail on how this open source gui was going to be put into my TV or into my set top box. I don't have an internet ready TV, I have a TV with Freeview built in though. How would this software of theirs get into there? Would it be a firmware update or patch of some sort? Would my TV manufacturer, Samsung, be in on this?