A Year in the Lab
The OTT lab turned a year old this month and, as they say, time flies when you’re having fun. It’s been a whirlwind year for streaming video, and we’ve seen a lot of changes in the services and devices over such a short time (with more change on the way.)
First off, we’re seeing a lot of new ways to control our streaming players. The new 2nd-generation Google TV devices (one of which is joining the lab this week) come with a 3-axis motion sensitive remote, which allows you to move the cursor across the screen with a flick of the wrist (versus 37 flicks of the trackball on the 1st-generation Sony remote). And I’ve already written about the state of remote control apps for iOS and Android, some of which include voice control features.
The Kinect camera for Xbox 360 became a lot more integral to the TV experience in the lab this year, and we’re beginning to see new methods of input for the other devices as well. On the Xbox 360, we can now use voice and gesture to control Hulu, Netflix and other TV apps – that is, as long as there’s not a lot of activity from humans or pets in the room. Which brings me to another happy addition to the lab: Little Ollie (with Aunt Stella in the background.)
s you might guess from the photo, the standard Xbox controller has been getting a lot more use than the Kinect lately. And my Thursdays, which were fun to start with, now have the added bonus of vicarious puppy ownership. (Note to self: Hide all plastic remotes from Ollie. His teeth particularly.)
Now, on to the services:
Amazon continues to improve its free streaming catalog for Prime members, bringing it more in line with Netflix’s content selection, and also expanded to more devices, including the Xbox 360 and Sony PS3.
Netflix is holding steady, following a tumultuous several months following the Qwikster Debacle — in which Netflix lost around 800,000 subscribers (it eventually gained most of them back.)
And all 3 of the major streaming services – Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon – made the foray into original content since the lab opened.
Meanwhile, we’re still waiting to see what materializes from the partnership between Verizon and Redbox for a streaming video service.
After a somewhat heated battle (I’d call it lukewarm) Boxee and Comcast are partnering to create a decryption dongle – similar to the live TV dongle we got earlier this year – that will allow us to pipe our encrypted Comcast services through the Boxee Box. We’ll see if anything comes of the Boxee DVR rumors this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see something along those lines come out of Boxee’s Cloudee service (which currently acts as a cloud storage service for user-generated video.)
And speaking of new ways to watch Comcast video, we got the AnyPlay service in the lab up and running, allowing us to watch live TV on the iPad. We’re lucky to be in one of the trial markets for AnyPlay, which will eventually be rolling out across the US. It consists of a streaming set-top box (the Motorola “Televation” box in our case) that takes the incoming cable signal, re-encodes it, and streams it out over the Wifi network. Oh, how I wish I could get this service at my house.
Given the amount of change swirling around OTT during the lab’s first year, it’s hard to guess what all will happen in the next 12 months. But I can make one pretty confident bet: The cable cord still won’t stretch as far as the farm where I live!