Wall Street Journal tech columnist Walt Mossberg looks back on two decades of consumer electronics and the impact of tech innovation on our personal and professional lives.
The first line of his first “Personal Technology” column in 1991: “Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it’s not your fault.”
Mossberg takes a trip down memory lane recalling the era of his early reports: “Mobile phones were huge bricks. Digital cameras for consumers cost a fortune and took monochrome pictures. Digital music players and video recorders, e-readers and tablets were nowhere to be found.”
From Motorola’s MicroTac Lite pocket-size phone ($1,500-$2,500) in 1992 to Apple’s popular iPad today, Mossberg offers an interesting snapshot of personal technology spanning two game-changing decades.
Featured in the article: AOL, Apple’s QuickTake digital camera, Windows 95, Netscape, Palm Pilot, Sony Vaio, iMac, DVR, Google and more. There’s also an interesting Tech Timeline graphic included.
A new report from media forecasting firm Magnaglobal shows that by 2016 cable subscriptions will dramatically decline as online becomes the medium of choice.
Magnaglobal predicts that 9 million households will not subscribe to traditional pay TV services (triple today’s amount), of which 4 million will be cord cutters who cancel their service to opt for content via the Internet.
Additionally, The New York Times points out that the number of young consumers who have never signed up for cable or satellite service, but rely on services such as Hulu and Netflix for their media, will continue to grow. “The number of people who never signed up for cable is expected to double — to 5 million, from 2.5 million today — by 2016, according to the report.”
The growth of DVR ownership is also expected to decline, as consumers continue to adopt devices that enable streaming of content via the Web.
The new TiVo Premiere Elite quad tuner DVR will allow users to record four shows simultaneously, while watching a fifth.
The device will reportedly only record from digital cable and Verizon FiOS, says Gizmodo.
“The THX-certified box uses the TiVo Series4 guts, has a 2 terabyte hard drive (~300 hours of recording space) and spits out video at up to 1080p resolution,” according to Gizmodo. “Plus, it has the standard array of outputs for connecting your TV (HDMI, Component, Composite, Optical audio, RCA audio). And of course, services such as Hulu, Netflix, Pandora and YouTube are also available.”
TiVo’s press release suggests the DVR will serve as an entertainment hub with “its ability to send content to other TiVo devices in the home, or integrate seamlessly with home automation remotes. TiVo Premiere Elite offers MoCA as a networking option in addition to its integrated Ethernet connectivity. By integrated MoCA support, custom installers can use the coaxial cabling within the home to connect the TiVo Premiere Elite to the home network in setups where an Ethernet connection is not available.”
Since Fox implemented its 8-day delay of content availability on Hulu, downloads from BitTorrent for shows such as “Hell’s Kitchen” and “MasterChef” have increased 114 percent and 189 percent, respectively. Others are watching Fox shows on video sites including YouTube.
Moreover, the situation is creating negative consumer reactions as consumers are forced to find content elsewhere.
“One of the main motivations for people to download and stream TV shows from unauthorized sources is availability,” reports TorrentFreak. “If fans can’t get a show through legal channels they turn to pirated alternatives.”
The post suggests that some consumers have indicated they will be returning to their DVRs and may even dust off their VCRs in response.
Gizmodo, a noted cynic when it comes to connected TVs, praises the interface and general functionality of the new Insignia Connected TV.
Through a partnership with TiVo, the Insignia Connected TV will be available on BestBuy.com and at Best Buy stores. The 32-inch model will be priced at $499 and the 42-inch model will cost $699.
“TiVo has evolved from its roots as the DVR that changed the way consumers interact with entertainment, allowing us to customize and deliver solutions that best meet the needs of our partners like Insignia,” said Jim Denney, general manager and VP of Product Marketing at TiVo.
Features include 1080p LCD, 120Hz and Audyssey sound processing. Entertainment options include Netflix, CinemaNow, YouTube, Pandora and Napster — plus apps from the chumby content network such as Facebook, Twitter, Photobucket, Accuweather, Reuters News and more.
Gizmodo comments: “The set’s interface is refreshingly simple, responsive, and natural…the real pull is the TiVo blood inside. No, there’s no DVR integrated — but for the first time, I looked at an ‘app TV’ that didn’t make me want to light it on fire. TiVo knows software. It shows.”
Nearly a quarter of Generation Y viewers are now opting for Internet-connected TVs over broadcast.
A new survey from Knowledge Networks indicates viewers 13 to 31 are more likely to cut the cord than other generations.
Of this demographic, 44 percent still watch regular prime-time broadcasts, compared with 66 percent of baby boomers.
It is interesting to note that Generation Y also uses DVRs significantly less than Gen Xers.
Multichannel News asks: “Will the younger generation at some point subscribe to ‘real’ TV? Or do their current media-consumption habits point toward an eventual decline of traditional television viewing?”
The legal debate continues regarding the divergent approaches to cloud-based music lockers proposed by Amazon, Google and Apple.
The 2008 Cablevision decision in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals allowed for a remote DVR feature (when done at the direction of users and separate copies were stored for each user as would be done for an in-home DVR). The decision is the strongest legal case for a music locker service.
EMI’s current suit against MP3tunes.com will also impact the situation. EMI asserts that music locker services must remove material if they become “aware of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent.”
While Apple has signed agreements with the major labels, it has not yet done so with smaller labels.
According to Ars Technica: “Either Apple wasted millions of dollars on licenses it doesn’t need, or Amazon and Google are vulnerable to massive copyright lawsuits.”
Google and Amazon will assert their rights under DMCA Safe Harbor and the Cablevision case. In addition, they may have some protection under rights they have to sell music through their online stores.
MediaMall, the group behind the popular PlayOn media software, announced this week a closed beta of an online service that allows users to record online video for later viewing (including offline).
PlayLater works similarly to a DVR, allowing “recording” of online video from sites such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and major networks.
Early reporting suggests playback of DRM protected files only on approved programs running on PC (using Windows Media Player), Android, iOS, Google TV, game systems, etc.
PlayLater is expected to eventually be available for $5/month, or $50/year.
CrunchGear reports: “Believe it or not, the term DVR is actually appropriate here. I’ve used the service and it actually records the programming and wraps the video file in a DRM-laced .plv container that’s only playable on approved programs.”
Google announced it has acquired Inglewood, California-based SageTV and the company’s multiplatform DVR technology.
SageTV integrates broadcast, Internet, Netflix and Hulu via its Home Theater PC (HTPC) software.
SageTV Placeshifter enables users to view TV from any high-speed Internet connection, similar to Slingbox.
Although details have yet to be announced, we may see SageTV functionality incorporated into Google TV.
From the SageTV site: “We’ve seen how Google’s developer efforts are designed to stimulate innovation across the web, and as developers have played a core role in the success of SageTV, we think our shared vision for open technology will help us advance the online entertainment experience.”
The Engadget post features the SageTV press release and a 4-minute video (created by user jaredduq).