Four screens and a cloud: War of the Electronics Eco systems

The world is increasingly becoming a four screen world, while most people say the PC is doomed, I beg to differ, but that is beside the point. Apple changed the game with the ipad and they would love everyone to remain a devout follower, but other companies want a piece of the action.
The term electronics Ecosystem is being increasingly used to refer to four screen devices manufactured by the same electronic manufacturers that communicate seamlessly with each other. The four screens here refer to TV, PC, mobile phone and tablets. The big players in this business at the moment are Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Sony.
Each of the companies has their strength and weakness, while apple has consistently been able to innovate while the others have tried to catch up. They still have weaknesses, which show that they have not entirely won the war. It helps that apple creates finished products, usability, hardware, software and services it is all one product where every part is built with the other in mind.
Software is an important oil for the engine of seamless integration of the devices, and for any of the companies to win the war, there has to be a common platform between their devices that runs smoothly on all their devices. They also need to have interested developers creating apps for their platforms, here we not just talking about normal apps, but cross-platform apps that give the same smooth performance regardless the device. Microsoft and Google mainly concentrate on building seamless software that is compatible with all forms hardware allowing integration across the 4 screens and supporting services that keeps everyone on their eco system.
Although Apple, Microsoft and Google sell media content, Amazon has mastered this area, making them a great distribution channel that everyone can’t do without. The introduction of kindle fire only reinforces this role. They are not known for making software nor are they into four screens, but with the way the game is currently played, they might probably venture beyond their comfort zone.
I would hate to be locked into an ecosystem where I can’t legally get the contents I want, be it movies, books or music. Amazon assures me that regardless the platform I will always have media.
The Sony Play station 3 has seen massive updates, which prevent it from just being seen as a game machine, but also a media device. Its ability to play blue-ray, add apps that allow streaming and Sony’s entertainment service makes it a winner. Since the Play station network can sell games directly to the Play station, all Sony needs to do right now is to tie its movie, music and movie service together under a fixed subscription every month. This is a service that should be available across all its platforms. This would be better than third-party services since they already have four screens and a cloud service. Why pay a monthly subscription that entitles you to movies, books and music then pay separately for games. If there is a provider that can give me all including games.
Thinking about all the possibilities, I don’t think anybody has entirely got it right at the moment, which makes it safe to assume Apple can easily be unseated from its current dominance.
It is not necessary to be locked into an ecosystem as each company playing to its strength might push services across platforms, but will give incentive to lock remain locked in.

At this time it is hard to say who the winner of this phase will be, but the competition will always be great for us the consumers

Google +:The integration to ‘The Everything’

The past week has seen Google rise up to the face book challenge, and I think they have done a good job with Google+, although I can’t find everyone in there yet. Google+ promises to be a better deal with Circles. What excites me the most, about circles is probably the next phase, Google integration to ‘The everything’. Just as face book has built massive integration to web pages, web apps, media server devices, gaming devices, smart TV and phone apps that take statistics, allow us share videos, music, gaming trophies, TV programmes and our preferences for media types with friends. Google will probably follow suit. There will be Google + icons everywhere and almost in everything, but we have the right to decide which circles to share with. This will allow us build split personalities, likes and preferences to share with different people.

It will be possible to make a girl friend think I’m an attentive nice guy, meanwhile in my other circles I would be boasting with my gaming trophies that show I am a hardcore gaming recluse.

The other good thing with Google+ is it will put a face to most login authentication related to Google. One revolving profile around YouTube, Gmail and all Google related services(less passwords to memorize)

 

Serviio:Play .mkv with playstation 3

Long time no post, been torn between a million things and trying out serviio. This is a really great piece of software with a lot of potential and it’s free. But I am not absolutely impressed with it. It has one great edge over most DLNA servers I have tried out, which is its ability to transcode.

The other great thing about serviio is that it can be set up to run on NAS devices. It also has the ability to tag your media files based on available online metadata. As expected it works with all DLNA compliant devices. Its console is quite simple for a quick configuration and once I had the server up; my Play station had no problem with picking it up.

What got me looking into serviio is the media file format it supports. Most media servers for Play station 3 can’t play .mkv files, but serviio can. It can also play the following video formats:

MPEG-1 (.mpg, .mpeg), MPEG-2 PS (.mpg, .mpeg, vob, mod), MPEG-2 TS (.ts, .m2ts), MPEG-4 (.mp4, m4v, mov), AVI (.avi, .divx), Windows Media Video (.wmv, .asf), Matroska (.mkv), Flash (.flv, .f4v), DVR-MS (.dvr, .dvr-ms), WTV (.wtv)

The format range is wider than most media servers I have tried out. When setting up, I had problems getting serviio to pull files over the network; this might be probably because I did not try hard enough or some configuration issue. I would refer to it as a usability problem, unless media servers are not meant for the simple minded.

Serviio is the recommended media server for Sony devices by Sony UK. But that does not stop me from getting DLNA errors every now and then or maybe that’s my router failing again.

 

You can find serviio at http://www.serviio.org/

You can download it at http://www.serviio.org/download

To find out how to do stuff check out the forum at  http://forum.serviio.org/

DLNA: The DNA of home media

 

DLNA, yes that’s what this blog is all about.  Just imagine, you walk into the house, you fall on the couch, flick on the TV with a remote, too tired to sit at your PC. But you want to watch a video tutorial or a movie located in the hard disk of your PC. Better still you want to listen to the playlist you created at work or you are in the kitchen with your head phones and want to listen to the ambient playlist you created the day before on your PC. You are at a friend’s place and want o share a wicked video you downloaded the day before on your home NAS. DLNA makes all of this possible; it makes it possible to access all your media from a centrally stored place in your home.

The idea of DLNA is to have a standard way of sharing media between various media devices from various manufacturers. DLNA means Digital living network alliance and all certified compliant devices are will be able to talk to each other within a network. Most of the software and hardware mentioned earlier in this Blog are DLNA compliant.

The DLNA  standard for digital living was worked on by companies such as ACCESS, AT&T Labs, Awox, Broadcom, Cisco Systems, Comcast, DIRECTV, Dolby Laboratories, Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard, Huawei, Intel, LG Electronics, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Panasonic, Promise Technology, Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics, Sharp Corporation, Sony Electronics, Technicolor, and Verizon .The whole idea was initiated by Sony in 2003 and the devices are everywhere with the idea evolving.

There are three classes of DLNA certified devices, Home network devices, Mobile handheld devices and Home infrastructure devices.

The Home network devices consist of Digital Media Servers (e.g. NAS, PC), Digital Media Players (e.g. PCs, Game consoles), Digital Media Renderers (e.g. TVs, audio/video receivers), Digital Media Controller (e.g. Internet tablets, PDAs), Digital Media Printer (e.g. Networked photo printers).

Mobile Handheld Devices consist of Mobile Digital Media Server (e.g. mobile phones, portable music players), Mobile Digital Media Player (e.g. mobile phones, mobile media tablets), Mobile Digital Media Uploader (e.g. digital cameras, mobile phones), Mobile Digital Media Downloader (e.g. portable music players and mobile phones), and Mobile Digital Media Controller (e.g. (PDAs) and mobile phones.

Home Infrastructure Devices consists of Mobile Network Connectivity Function and Media Interoperability Unit .

The Aim of DLNA is that with little or zero effort, home network devices can serve media in the home network.

 

For full information of compliant devices check out

http://www.dlna.org/home 

Playon:Stream MTV on the Wii on demand

A lot of people say the future of television is “on demand”. Programming as we know it is on the brink of extinction, time will tell.

Playon is an essential step in that direction. It is software that gives the possibility of watching favorite shows from video on demand websites such as Netflix, Hulu, etc. on your television using your Wii, Xbox or Playstation with home internet connection. It also allows streaming over the network to your android phone or iphone without any hassles. I can certify that no tech knowledge required for the setup. I know boxee is for movies and Playstation for games, but to say that is to under estimate the power of new generation game boxes.

I know it’s getting boring having a lot of software that does almost the same thing, but that is what makes the consumers king. It really is great to know you have a lot of choices. My rant about Playon has been long overdue. I am installing the software as I write. Playon requires a PC acting as a server, would have preferred if I could leave it running on my NAS while I shut down my computer, but that does not kill my anticipation.

After installation, setup looks easy, and during setup I can add my Netflix, Hulu, Amazon video, Pandora, and fox soccer accounts. There is a tab in the set up called plugins; this is the strength of Playon. Here you can write your own script, buy scripts or download free ones that enable more channels for the Playon setup. The possibilities are all the Video on demand channels existing on the internet not just YouTube. So far I could find scripts for A&E, Crackle, Crunchyroll, Fox News, LocalFiles, MTV, NASCAR, Openfilm, PGA Tour, PlayOn Live, PodCasts, S P Studios, Spike TV, Syfy, TED and many more. There is also a Tab in the setup that allows to make status update about what you are watching to Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

After a few tweaks, I click apply and save, switch on the Playstation and navigate the browser to videos. Playon was auto detected; I then navigate to YouTube and played a video, which stream nicely. I tried out cartoon network; unfortunately the videos are only available in the United States.

I also tried out MTV and it worked great, been itching to listen to John Legend’s slow down all day and it streamed well. Like Tversity or Twonky, Playon  plays video from PC or hard disk with help from VLC. It’s a great tool if you hate TV programming. It comes with a 14 day trial where all the channels work after that its 5 dollars a month, which is cheaper that a hotfile subscription. With the subscription you get free patches and updates.

Playon works on all UPnp devices, so it is not just limited to the game boxes. Check out all UPnp enabled devices at

http://www.upnp.org/

Download Playon at

http://www.playon.tv/

Check out channels available on Playon premium

http://www.playon.tv/content-channels

Video on Playon use and setup for playstation

To download Plugins for Playon go to

http://www.playonplugins.com

http://www.playonscripts.com

http://www. playonlabs.net

And finally if programming is your thing, you can find Playon API at

http://www.playon.tv/channels/developer-guide

How to choose the right media player

Check out the Link below for a Guide.

http://www.twonky.com/upfiles/DLNA+Best+Practices.pdf

 

Tversity: serves media on PS3, Xbox and Wii for free

Tversity is Kick-ass, it’s simply awesome. The best part, there is no 30 days limitation on the free version. Tversity is another tech trinity top-notch software that works. It turns the Playstation 3 into a media HUB. While the PC which is the server hums quietly somewhere in the house, you can watch movies and listen to music on the Playstation 3, when not playing mortal Kombat.

Tversity allows to play personal media off a Home NAS device or internet media on any TV, set-top box, any game console(This time I mean all three, Playstation 3,Xbox and the Wii) and on any smart phone (Iphone/Ipad, Blackberry or Android).

This is the first convergence software I am coming across that can handle any type of codec. The application is great for organizing media and has metadata tagging functionality. It is also the first application I am coming across that plays any flash video site on TV not just YouTube.

Tversity is another reason to keep a television; it keeps entertainment in the box.

Check out videos of tversity below

http://www.g4tv.com/lv3/27596

Check out Tversity at http://tversity.com/

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