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Apple TV Take 2 – This Podcaster’s Perspective

As per Engadget (and TUAW and few zillion other gadget blog sites already), the "Take 2" update for Apple TV is loose and available for download.  As I type these first sentences, my system is in the process of downloading and upgrading. 

As always, I'll try to give the Podcasting / New Media angle on my initial thoughts re this reboot.

The "promise" of Apple TV (Take 2) is an interesting one – we don't need to hook this thing up to a computer to get some real power.  What we have now is a machine that connects to the Internet without a computer somewhere acting as our person inbetween.  I like the theory – how well does it work?

First thing of note – Subscriptions in YouTube.  This could and will be amazingly powerful if we get enough of these boxes (or any box that allows for YouTube subscriptions) in front of people.

Second thing of note – Entering in anything (logins/passwords) via the remote is really annoying.  I can only imagine entering a Podcast RSS URL (haven't done it yet).

Number 3 – The movie rental process is incredible.  Nice and clean.  Gorgeous.  I will be renting movies this way.

Number 4 – Podcasts.  Wow.  Yes, you can subscribe, etc., but there is also a play on demand kind of option in here.  You pick what you want to watch and can either watch or subscribe as you wish.  Nice. 

Your Podcast Perspective is this … this changes EVERYTHING.  I'll be writing more here as soon as I soak it all in.

Color me very impressed.


Did Apple TV Kill Netflix?

Note: I'll be talking with Don McAllister from on tonight's New Media Matters Show re this very topic. Join us live if you can. If not, of course, you can always subscribe to the show.

I can't tell you how excited I am about the Apple TV “refresh.” I've already checked multiple times to see if my upgrade is there. No dice at this point.

The big question is of course, with movie rentals as part of the mix, did Apple “kill” Netflix? Any of the other models?

Last night I watched both an episode of “Law and Order Criminal Intent” and the first part of “Letters from Iwo Jima.” In my (physical) mailbox is “Once” – a movie I've heard great things about.

Were those available via Apple TV, cost would have been $1.99 for the TV show and $3.99 each for the two movies. If the kids were crazy tonight and I waited until 8p to finish “Iwo Jima,” I'd have to pay another 4 bucks. Total cost, assuming timing was good, would have been ten bucks.

I'm on the “one at a time” with unlimited streaming plan at NetFlix (I streamed the first 2 – looked great – my HDTV has a VGA input). Total cost is $9 – for the month. And there are, dear friends, another 27 days before I get charged the $9 again.

At my Albertsons is a Redbox station. If you don't know these guys, check 'em out. Very cool. They have “Iwa Jima” as well – at a buck a night. If the kids are crazy and I need to return the movie a day late the total charge is $2, not $7.98.

These things ad up.

Apple TV won't kill NetFlix on price.

What about convience?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, those first two pieces were click and stream – as easy as the Apple TV.

Yes, I had to wait a day for “Once” to show up in the mail but, honestly, I'm ok with that. Lots of people are.

And that stream now list at NetFlix is only going to get bigger.

And that buck a movie in a vending machine a half a mile way is pretty nice too if I got nothing to watch.

Yeah, she's no deal breaker – in the movie rental space at least.

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Hulu Impresses

I got my Hulu beta pass yesterday.

And, before you ask, they don't give you any passes or invites to give away – at least at this point.

First impressions are very nice. The video is very smooth and I'll have no problems integration those shows into my little Year of Living Digitally experiment. Full screen looks as good, if not better, than any other system (minus, maybe the ABC HD stream options)

How long are the commercials? I actually skipped over content on new shows (King of the Hill), old shows (“Classic Battlestar Galactica”), and movies (The Jerk?) At this point the commercials at the commercial breaks are either absent, or short 15 second types. I'm sure they will/might change that in the future but I'm enjoying the experiment as it stands.

I've been streaming the NBC shows this season and have been enjoying the process/thought of streaming video on demand over the Internet. Hulu provides for the same experience, in better quality, with fewer clicks to get to the content, and a screen far-less messy.

I'd say that's a step in the right direction.

FWIW, I've embedded the most recent episode of King of the Hill over at the Year of Living Digitally. Turns out the embed feature works with certain shows and not others (originally, I was going to embed last night's Chuck) and won't let you go fullscreen or pop out of the frame.

But you do get an idea of the streaming quality, ease of use, etc.

Good job NBC.

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Why The Europeans Watch Online And What We Can Learn From It

The Techcrunch piece about 45% of Europeans watching TV online should be of little surprise – but not for the reasons you might think. Despite TechMeme buzz on this topic, I have a few thoughts that I haven't read yet.

Mark Evan's points out the bias in the study, but I'd suggest an even simpler suggestion – the more complicated it is to watch the shows you want, the more likely you are to find an easier way.

If we look at England, we find competiting satellite options for some of the most popular shows. You can get 24 on one, but not the other. The same is true for Battlestar Galactica and a few more. Is it any wonder that I know more Brits who have just given up and grab it all from Bit Torrent than those who put up with the nonsense?

When I lived in Germany, our family's cable package included several French channels. Certain shows hit French television months if not years before the Germans got them (and vice versa). Didn't matter, we had them both. Now, all over Europe, if you buy a satellite, you can get special “cards” for your boxes at a flea market that do wonderful things. I don't think I need to spell this out.

Europeans have a proud history of getting around the rules to get the television they want. The Internet simply, now, provides the easiest way to do so.

Nobody should be surprised that they're going to the Internet for their TV.

Television, though, should be asking why they try to make things so darn hard – and how things might change if they start serving their audiences.

At least the audience they have left, who haven't given up.

I'm sure there are some left.

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Elsewhere At This Week

We offer the clicks so that you don't have to surf

Have a great weekend!

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Some Strange YOLD Results That I Didn’t See Coming

January 2007 is over for the Year of Living Digitally project. I learned something very interesting in my first month:

Not only can I get everything I want, it's cheaper (and better) this way.

We did that piece on the numbers of it all. This path is a bit annoying (technically), but actually cheaper in the long run … but it is more important than that. Here's why:

The infrastructure is already in place to buy content ala carte. Right now, it's the “big guys” to select from, but that will be changing soon. Amazon is already pushing hard their relationship with but we'll see a dozen more just like 'em before the end of the year. Heck, indie bands have been using CDbaby as their iTunes connection for over a year now. The infrastructure is quickly coming together – for everyone.

Ala carte is getting more and more attractive to almost everyone. I told my most non-techie friends of the Year of Living Digitally project and they're comment was that they've been doing that for years – they just called it renting the shows they liked from Netflix (and not paying for cable) – and they don't even need an Xbox (or Apple TV). Even my non-techie Father has mentioned that is must be nice to send my money to the people who deserve it (instead of the cable company).

Ala carte is a model that smaller content producers can thrive from. They know their stuff is good enough and that a profit can be made from just a tiny slice (heck, sliver) of a big network's pie. It scares the #(*& out of the big content providers because they've been used to forcing a lot of garbage with the “package.” This package concept is quickly beating eatin alive by many ala carte options. Heck, look at what iTunes did to revive the single.

I'm just thinking out loud here but if the world is moving to ala carte and the infrastructure is quickly coming into place where anyone can sell ala carte, we just need a big index of content to choose from.

Ain't that what this whole Internet is about?

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1 Tivo for Sale at Ebay – The Year of Living Digitally Begins

First step, unplug and sell the Tivo. Done. We'll miss the dear friend. I hope she goes to a good home.

In case you missed it, she's on the auction block because in 2007, the Colligan family gets their new media, only from the Internet – and via legal channels at that. You can track it all at RSS

Second step, explain to the family why cutting off the cable on 1/1 means you can't watch the Rose Parade and try to rest peacefully knowing that the Star Wars fans will put all the best from the event online. Thank goodness for my account.

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With All That Zune Bashing, I Thought I’d Link To This

In my Year of Living Digitally project, I had one “hole” in the plan. I had no way to watch MP4 or MOV video Podcasts on the television in “true” couch potato mode.

Yes, I could hook up the video iPod via the video cables, but I'd have to run the shows from the video iPod, not a remote control.

Yes, I could hook up a computer to the TV, but don't really want to do that yet. I'm holding that option open – but I just don't feel that a computer hooked up to the TV is something most folk will be willing to do.

Yes, I know iTV is coming and, … I CAN'T WAIT.

But what do I do between now and then?

Well, it turns out that Zune converts video content (MP4, MOV, etc.) to 320×240 before it shoots it over to the Zune. I'll leave the deeper implications of that approach open to the peanut gallery.

So, I can connect my Zune to my Xbox and watch all the Podcasts I want with my cool XBox remote. All the details are here.

320×240 ain't perfect. I much prefer the WMV versions of Podcast's that got 'em but, friends, I now can watch Ze Frank on my television.

Merry Christmas Sports Racers.

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I launched today. Lots of upgrades are coming but the heart of it is there.

This is the Blog that will track the Colligan Family 2007 experiment (I wrote about earlier) where all media that enters our house in 2007 comes only from the Internet, and via legal channels.

Feed is at for those of you who want to play along at home.

I would appreciate your comments on the best Blog and sites about the digital home – I have lots to learn. I need Media Center, Apple, Xbox, Unbox, Democracy Player, open source options, etc. … I need it all. Well, I don't need PVR stuff as I won't be taping anything – but other than that, I got an education in front of me.

And I hope to return the favor.

And, of course, please recommend the best video Podcast options for a family who doesn't want to buy everything they watch at $1.99 an episode.

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2007 – The Year Of Living Digitally

Update: The Year Of Living Digitally Blog Has Launched

Things are going to be a little different in the Colligan household next year.

In short, all media that comes into our house will be delivered, legally, over Internet.

How am I going to pull this off:

Music – Rented and digitally purchased only. I'm guessing at this point an iTunes/Yahoo Music hybrid for commercial stuff? Perhaps the Zune Marketplace if they clean it up a bit? Of course, I'll need to stream this all over the house.

Television and Film – A mix of iTunes, Amazon Unbox and the Xbox Live Marketplace. Perhaps some of the online options like CBS Innertube if I go with a Media Center and can run it easily from a remote. I also expect/know that I'll be watching a lot more IPTV stuff.

For TV and film, I (and the family) might be watching a lot less crap that I did this year. That's just a bonus.

And, when the iTV project from Apple is finally released, I'll be able to put it to the real test.

Mix that with a marked increase in Podcast consumption and, well, I think it will be a great year.

Magazines and Newspapers – PDFs on a Sony Portable Reader and RSS on a Nokia Internet tablet. Perhaps something printed now and then, but I'd love to go as green as possible here.

But, I'm the easy one to convince.

I ‘ve got a 1st grader and a preschooler who luv the kids show. I've got a wife who loves the fix-it-up-shows. I've parents who like to babysit and if I don't have something for them to watch once the kids go down, that's just cruel.

Sounds like the makings of a cool blog and Podcast series, eh?

This is also a pretty big investment on my side. Getting an entertainment system that will handle this hybrid won't be cheap.

So, two things here.

1 – Any suggestions from my readers on how to make this as cool and as seemless as possible would be greatly appreciated. Tips on making it as affordable as possible would be great as well.

2 – Any corporations in this scene who want to sponsor this experience, go ahead and contact me. Sure would be cool to get your products in the videos audios, and blog mentions that will come from this, won't it? Corps that don't want me saying exactly what I think should not apply.

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