Media Streaming

Dec 14 2011

News - Xbox Live TV Round Two: YouTube, MSNBC, Verizon FiOS TV, and More

Xbox MSN App

When the Metro-inspired Xbox 360 UI launched last week, it brought along only a handful of the anticipated Xbox Live TV apps. Well, Microsoft has unleashed a bumper crop of new TV apps today, and judging by the number of regional apps launching, there's something for just about everyone. The Verizon FiOS TV app caused a stir when it was announced, and even though it is more limited than what AT&T is running with U-verse on the Xbox, it should be a welcome addition for FiOS subscribers. Folks in Canada get a similar app for Rogers. MSN and MSNBC are now on tap depending on what part of the world you live in. Finally, we also have the YouTube app launching with the broadest reach, reportedly accessible in 24 countries, though you have to figure out which countries yourself. There are still apps in the wings, but at least now we should have enough content providers to get a sense of whether Microsoft is on track. Just playing with a few of the apps, one also gets the sense that Media Center enthusiasts are getting a sneak peek of what Windows 8 will be bringing to the big screen next year as well.

For those of you in the Xbox 360 Dashboard preview program, some of this stuff is old hat, but for the rest of us today's launch of a dozen new applications on the Dashboard is allbrand new. Beyond the addition of YouTube, FiOS TV, and TMZ (can we give that one back?), Xbox 360 users get access to MSNBC content, iHeartRadio (actual radio!), and a handful of other services starting today.


Dec 13 2011

News - Microsoft Mulling Original TV Content for Xbox Live TV

Ballmet on Xbox TV

Microsoft is still in the process of rolling out TV apps for their new Metro-infused Xbox 360 UI and the attendant Xbox Live TV services, but Microsoft is evidently already looking ahead and considering developing their own original programming. Reportedly two former NBC executives have already been approached about coming on board with Microsoft, which would make some sense given the close relationship that Microsoft and NBC have enjoyed over the years. If Microsoft is still in the executive hiring phase, then any original content is still years away, but it would be an interesting move. We are already seeing Netflix and YouTube trying to differentiate with original programming and Microsoft is currently positioned to time such a content launch with a new console launch. Is anyone else excited about the prospect of a Steve Ballmer sitcom?

Microsoft has hired Tom Schneider, a partner at Stratis LLC, to conduct the search, said the people, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly. Two former NBC executives, Marc Graboff and Jeff Gaspin, have been approached, they said.


Dec 13 2011

News - Buffalo CloudStation Pro Duo Reviewed

Buffalo has made quite a name for itself in the NAS market with their line of LinkStation NAS devices. PogoPlug has carved out it's own little niche as the highly adaptable media and data serving mini-computer and software suite, especially with its emphasis on making sharing across the Internet easy. Well, Buffalo and PogoPlug have hooked up and the result is the CloudStation Pro Duo. It sounds like the CloudStation Pro Duo really does tap into the best aspects of both the LinkStation and PogoPlug, all together is one relatively easy to use and cost effective box. That being said, the PogoPlug software is so versatile and the PogoPlug devices so inexpensive, it might be worth your while to do some comparison shopping to see if rolling your own multi-drive system would work out better. 

The model we are reviewing is the CloudStation Pro Duo. With 2 x 1TB drives which can be either configured for RAID or left as separate drives to allow you to use PogoPlug’s folder mirroring, this seems an excellent way of safely storing data and having it available on your travels as well.

The Digital Lifestyle

Dec 05 2011

News - Crackle, PBS, and Lifetime Take a Trip to Fanhattan

Fanhattan was one of two apps out of a recent roundup of media recommendation apps that I have been playing with quite a bit over the last few days. Fanhattan looks like a media aggregation service, but it doesn't aggregate media so much as aggregate links to other apps that play the media and it's pretty darn spiffy. It's pretty and opens the requisite apps seamlessly. Fanhattan was already tied into the usual heavyweights such as Netflix and Hulu, but now Fanhattan is working on adding smaller and more network-specific apps with the addition of Crackle, PBS, and Lifetime to the list of apps that Fanhattan links out to.


The company has built an app for iOS devices that allows users to search for and discover videos from multiple content providers, rather than having to look in individual apps themselves. So a Modern Family fan, for instance, would be able to see which episodes might be available on ABC’s app as well as Hulu Plus all in one place.


Dec 04 2011

News - Plex Available on Kindle Fire

The Plex team is in the middle of a new round of releases, but it sounds like Amazon gave the team a freebie. Plex has been available on Android for a while now through a variety of different venues, including the Amazon App Store for Android. However, according to the Plex forums, when the Kindle Fire was launched Plex was listed as incompatible. That has changed. As if the Kindle Fire wasn't already shaping up to be a mean little media consumption device, Plex now works with the Kindle Fire out of the box and the Amazon App Store has been updated to reflect this. It is worth checking out Darrin's blog over at Plex for some suggested tweaks to improve the performance of the app on the Kindle Fire until the version on the Amazon App Store geta patched up to make the changes automatically. Now if we could just get a version of Plex for the Nook Tablet.

Kindle Fire owners can now easily access media stored on their home PCs, thanks to the new Plex app for the device. The app also makes it possible to access media libraries shared with other users through the recently-launched MyPlex personal cloud service, which also enables users to access personal media collections on the go.


Dec 04 2011

News - YouTube Gets Channel-Focused Facelift

If you have been to YouTube this weekend, then it likely looked a bit different than usual. Google is in the process of rolling out a major new look for YouTube intended to highlight YouTube's content channels and personalization options. Simply visiting YouTube will reveal the new focus on channels, but login to your Google account and you will gain the option to share through Facebook and Google+ and get a list of personal subscriptions and channels as well as personalized recommendations of channels worth checking out. 

The channel-centric web redesign is just the beginning. Similar changes are in store for other YouTube apps and access points. The first place we are likely to see this occur is in the upcoming Xbox 360 update, but keep an eye out for updated iOS and Android apps to adopt a similar focus on channels. We've commented before on how YouTube viewing time competes with cable channel viewing time, but it looks like Youtube is intent on further blurring the lines between YouTube channels and TV channels. 

What do you think of YouTube's redesign and content channel aspirations?

This focus on channels is part of YouTube’s attempt to evolve from a site that is on average frequented for 15 minutes a day to a destination that invites users to watch for hours. It also ties in with its recently announced professional content initiative that will bring around 100 new channels from celebrities like Madonna and Tony Hawk as well as prominent YouTube stars like The Young Turk’s Cenk Uygur to the site in the coming months.


Dec 03 2011

News - Plex Media Center, Plex Media Server, and Plex for iOS Updated

It's been about a month since the Plex team went on an update binge and they have decided that they are ready to return to the table for another round of updates. These updates are decidedly more low-key than last month's smorgasbord, but there are a lot of bug fixes on the table and even a few new features.

Plex Media Server has been updated to version

 Since it has moved to shipping separately, the Plex Media Server is now a much better standalone application, with support for autoupdate and starting at login.

Plex Blog

Meanwhile, Plex Media Center has been updated to version 9.5.2 and comes with even more new features, including at least one feature that the Plex team obviously expects to be quite popular.

That’s right, our good friend Ryan took a break from saving people’s lives to add refresh rate switching. On TVs that support it, this means perfect 24p playback with nary a shudder, judder, or stutter. I have an old Sony TV set and it works great, taking under a second to switch rates.

Plex Blog

Plex for iOS has also been updated, coming to version 2.1 with full support for the myPlex features launched during last month's flurry of releases.

Nov 30 2011

News - 5 Video and TV Show Recommendation Apps Recommended for You

About a week ago we pointed out an article about, a new content aggregation site that is looking to make its mark by building a social media-infused recommendation engine around its linked content. At the time we noted that's interface and layout would serve it well for the inevitable transition to mobile app deployment. In the meantime, there are a number of other apps already available to help you get your recommendation fix. The five apps covered in this roundup each offer a different take on how to establish their recommendations and social services to complement your television viewing. If I were a Hulu Plus or Netflix subscribers I would definitely make use of Fanhattan, and I really like the look of's episode tracking features. Anyone else got a favorite recommendation engine or app worth checking out?

More than 60 percent of viewers watch TV with a computer in their laps or a mobile device in their hands. So why not use those devices to figure out what to watch next? A growing number of apps are being built to provide recommendations for users trying to figure out what to watch on TV and on their mobile devices.


Nov 29 2011

News - YouTube Adds Disney and DreamWorks Movie Rentals

So there you were Thanksgiving evening, the turkey carcass forgotten at the table, the football games done, and a house full of family overstaying their welcome, and you needed a movie to pacify the increasingly cranky kids that everyone was trying to ignore. If you pulled up YouTube in search of a movie rental then you had the opportunity to rent one of the first Disney movies added to the service. YouTube announced last week that they had signed deals to bring Disney, Disny-Pixar, and DreamWorks Studios movies to the YouTube movie rental service. There is no word on what movies we can expect in the future, but there are already a number of recent films such as Cars 2 and the most recent Winnie the Pooh listed with promise of more classics on the way.


YouTube announced a deal with Disney Wednesday morning that will add hundreds of movies from Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks Studios to its growing catalog of premium VOD titles. The partnership marks the fourth such deal for YouTube with a major Hollywood studio, after previously teaming up with Universal, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros.


Nov 24 2011

News - Microsoft Buys VideoSurf to Improve Video Search on Xbox Live

The Xbox fall update is just weeks away from unleashing the new Metro-inspired UI and expanded streaming media services support on the world, and I am looking forward to seeing everyone's reaction to it. I anticipate a whole lot of angst. It's no secret that one of the big features of the fall update is extensive, integrated Bing search support. Microsoft has purchased video search startup, VideoSurf, to build on that Bing search support and improve the Xbox's position as Microsoft's living room champion. As Microsoft pushes the Xbox further into media streamer territory, managing media is going to become increasingly important and the Bing integration indicates that Microsoft sees much of that media coming from the Internet which is where VideoSurf's technology comes into play.

VideoSurf's search engine is capable of searching 50 million video properties on the internet, and even offers the option to narrow a search to clips, music videos and TV shows. It achieves this by using patented technology to capture content within the video, rather than just relying on the text accompanying it as a guide to the content inside.


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