Third in a series. Two weeks have passed since we last visited this topic, but I wanted to be fair with this next part before writing it. As you will recall from part one, I decided to replace my Windows Media Center HTPC and the NetGear NeoTV 550, because both are so old and slow. While I wanted to do so with one box, there was a major stumbling block -- most of our movies are ripped to ISO images. I would prefer a Google TV to replace both, but in the end got a Micca box to take the place of the HTPC and then still ordered a Vizio Co-Star because I simply could not resist.
Things have not gone entirely as I planned. In fact, as you may recall from part two of this series, nothing has really gone the way I had hoped.
Over the years the little network within my humble abode has grown. It started as a way to connect a laptop and a desktop, but has since become a conglomeration of multiple devices -- a desktop, three laptops, an HTPC, a home server and even three smartphones. Not to mention that the Blu-ray player, DirecTV DVR and Netgear NeoTV are networked. It all comes together in a combination of ethernet and WiFi connections that are controlled through a router in the home office on the third floor of our old restored Victorian, an extender which resides in the entertainment cabinet in the living room -- sorry, "parlor" since it is a Victorian -- on the first floor and a network switch in the basement.
Parts are getting old however -- in the past year I had to buy a new router and replace my daughter's laptop. Recently, more things have become unreliable. My home server, which ran FreeNAS died recently. It was housed in an old tower PC that had once been our desktop. Our HTPC has grown old, despite having been upgraded with new video and audio cards and additional RAM. The Netgear NeoTV is not as reliable as it once was.
Netgear read my mind. Hopefully not all of it, but the company is welcome to my tech thoughts at least. Just recently several of us here at BetaNews wrote about the tech we used most in 2012. In my column I mentioned that my trusty HTPC grows long in the tooth -- you think dog years are rough, try computer years. I started using a Netgear NeoTV instead. As I mentioned then, and will reiterate now, the interface is not flashy, but it works seamlessly. the hardware is robust as well.
In the end though, I admitted my plans in 2013 were to move to Google TV because of the added features -- web browser, apps, you know the routine.
You can be forgiven if you recently purchased a television and came home with what is now called a "smart TV." After all, that's the market trend, and you will be hard pressed to find a boob tube without Internet capability. Honestly, I, for one, am just happy that the industry seems to have stopped trying to force 3D on what looks to me like a most unwilling audience.
Now comes this report -- NPD claims "that nearly six out of ten consumers who own a connected HDTV are accessing Over-the-Top (OTT) video services through the device". OTT means an external device -- any external device, such as a Blu-ray player, DVR, game console or other device. Even those like Roku, Google TV and Boxee.
The year has almost passed and that makes it a great time for reflection. Of course, I have thought most about my family -- what we did in 2012 and our plans for 2013. I have thought of household repairs and projects planned for the coming year, goals I would like to attain, but I also considered what technology I used the most and the changes I made.
My colleagues and I plan personal tech retrospectives. I'm first up.
Amazon is Netflix's biggest competitors, but the company had a gaping hole in its armor. While the app works just fine on the Kindle Fire tablets, it was MIA for every other Android user out there. Now the retail giant has finally made the service available to other users on the popular platform, but before you get excited, there is a catch, and it is a big one.
When you find the app in the Google Play store you will immediately notice two things -- one is that it only works with version 3.2 and up of the OS. The other is even more troubling. The app is for Google TV only. Even the new flagship Nexus devices are not capable of using it.
This week, Google brought a little something from ill-fated Nexus Q to Google TV. Even my non-techie wife is amazed, and that's the point. This little something is really big, because anyone can use it and get dramatic benefits.
The new YouTube for Android app installed on smartphone or tablet now acts as a remote control to Google TV, taking interaction far removed and clumsy and making it intimate, fun and easy. If Amazon and Netflix operated similarly -- and the set-top box got Hulu Plus -- I'd cancel AT&T U-verse, baby.
A shocking rumor hit tech and video gaming news sites Friday afternoon, claiming that streaming video game service OnLive could be shutting down or undergoing massive layoffs.
While he couldn't speak about any layoffs or condition of the company, OnLive's Director of Corporate Communications Brian Jacquet wanted to be clear that the actual OnLive service was not shutting down.
Vizio's Co-Star is one of the first new set top boxes in the second generation of Google TV. It's small, it's powerful, it's the cheapest Google TV yet, and it went up for pre-order today directly from Vizio.
In addition to the Google TV feature package, the Vizio Co-Star includes the OnLive gaming service, making it equal parts connected set-top box, and streaming video game console.
It took just about six months for the first generation of Google TV to be declared a failure. Logitech launched its Revue set top box in October 2010, and by July 2011, they couldn't even give them away. The company subsequently took a $30 million writedown on the venture, and Intel, who provided chips for Google TV, quietly divorced itself from the product.
Google aligned with Marvell, switching the platform over to the ARM instruction set, which fundamentally shifted the architecture and splintered development.
Vizio just dropped what I must say is the first killer Google TV set-top box today. The 4-inch by 1.6-inch high Vizio Co-Star with Google TV will be available for pre-orders in July on vizio.com for $99.99.
The new small form factor Google TV powered device is partners with streaming game service Onlive to promote. The device comes with support for 1080p Full HD and 3D programs. It also has built-in 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth support. There are also integrated USB 2.0 ports to connect external hard drives, keyboards and other peripherals including the recently released Universal OnLive Wireless Controller.
The Google TV platform kind of flopped when first launched in the United States two years ago. Anemic hardware and wonky UI made the experience a total cluster bomb of grief and end-user cursing for anyone that purchased it. Logitech took a $30 million write-off and ditched their failed Google TV product, Logitech Revue.
The set-top box that "augmented" your television viewing experience also launched with the Sony NSZ-GT1 and Sony Internet TV with Google TV. The old consumer electronics behemoth that is no stranger to showing gumption for beating a dead horse will try again. Starting July 25, Sony will release the NSZ-GS7 set-top box in the UK for £200/$199. International launch will follow.
I never expected my 70 year-old mother to ride the cutting edge of technology, but she's there, living in the cloud, which she embraces enthusiastically. What's that saying about not teaching old dogs new tricks? Perhaps you can.
Mom's daily tech is way out there, and you can blame or credit me for lifting her there. But she's a willing participant, happily adopting new habits, which in the end wasn't so difficult once she recognized the benefits. Perhaps your mother will, too, if you give her the chance. Mom uses Android phone (Samsung Nexus S), Chromebook (Google Cr-48) and Google TV (Logitech Revue). She lives in the cloud via these Google-powered devices and associated services.
The weekend before Christmas, mom phoned, excited, to tell me about her new 46-inch TV. She lives on a tight budget, but received an unexpected $350 windfall from Social Security. That's lots of money to her, and she spent most of it on a Sylvania big-screen television. The purchase inspired her holiday present, which I hadn't yet decided on: Google TV.
Mom will be 71 this year, and she's confined to a wheelchair because of diabetes, which also has diminished her eyesight. For my mum, the PC and TV are vitally important, particularly during long New England winters when she can't get out often. Much as the Google Cr-48 Chromebook meets most of her computing needs, the 12.1-inch screen is too small, particularly in context: Mom previously used a 17-inch iMac G5 (purchased in October 2005); the graphics chip failed last year. What mom really needs is something really big, and there Google TV offers the benefits of television and PC in one package.
There's something strange happening at Consumer Electronics Show 2012 that many pundits -- and, of course, the Apple Fanclub of bloggers and journalists -- pegged as impossible just six months ago. Even I asked "Who killed Google TV?" after Logitech, the first of two launch partners, lost its shirt, pants and shoes on Revue. The peripherals maker gave up on Google TV, leaving Sony to go it alone. In July 2011, I asserted: "There will be a second life for Google TV", but who could have guessed it would be this much?
At CES, television-set makers are simply falling over one another to be a Google TV partner, as judged by the number of announcements so far. I've got to wonder: How much of that is because of Apple? For months, there have been persistent rumors Apple is working on a TV. Naturally, the ridiculous rumor mill has this unannounced consumer electronics gear as being trendsetting -- genre transforming -- all sight unseen. Hold on, someone needs to grab me before I fall over laughing. But fear of anything Apple these days is quite the motivator, particularly if the fruit-logo company might stomp into your entrenched business. Better to adopt Google TV fast than be Apple roadkill.