Echostar held the 6th Annual Interactive TV Awards last week in Englewood, Colorado, and my project CNN Enhanced (nominated previously for two Emmys) won for ‘Best ITV News Program.’ Echostar – which runs the DISH Network service – offers over 40 virtual and enhanced channels, including entertainment, news, shopping, sports, user support and games.
I think they’ve outdone themselves – the new iPhone (despite the Cisco product by the same name) looks absolutely killer – taking a completely fresh approach to the UI of the mobile phone, and creating a true mashup of relevant technologies. Apple has posted a great walkthrough of the features including their interesting approach to many of these features at http://apple.com/iphone/ – check it out.
Although I need to see it to really understand and confirm, Jobs keynote speech seemed to describe the new phone as less a touchscreen and more of a ‘proximity’ screen – where your gestures, not ham-handed mashing of buttons triggers responses. So from unlocking it (a side to side gesture over an on-screen ‘slider’) to zooming in on webpages or images by ‘pinching’ the area of interest, this sounds like an amazing step forward. It’s super slim – 11.6mm thick, about the width of the Uniball pen I carry around. It’s running some flavor of OSX, so development of applications will hopefully be straightforward. And it includes some very tight integration with Cingular (exclusive in the domestic market for some time to come) in regards to a visual form of voice mail – where each message can be accessed independently, rather than the typical wading through obscure menus. And it includes robust Wifi and Bluetooth 2.0, with some very smart widget integration from Google Maps (GPS of some sort active here), to Weather (location aware), to Stock Quotes. No RSS shown, but I suspect that’s probably not hard to pull off either. Anyway, at a price of most other ‘smartphones’ like by Verizon PPC6700, this is a strong contender. Too bad it doesn’t include an expansion card slot. My only hesitations here are that although it supports IMAP or POP email, getting to my corporate Exchange server is my top priority, as well as the fact that it’s on Cingular, when I’ve recently moved over to Verizon. I may still be drawn to try this out come June. Price is not bad either, at $499 for the 4gb or $599 for 8gb.
Also announced to day was the shipping date (February) and the final name (Apple TV) of the ITV product mentioned here previously. No big surprises there, although it’s now confirmed to include a hard drive (40gb) as well as 802.11n, the speediest of the current close-to-standard Wifi technologies. These features were both rumored over the last few months.
Not mentioned in the Stevenote was the addition of a new Airport Extreme Base Station, shaped to fit squarely below or above your brand-new Apple TV box. See picture at right. The unit is prices at $179, and includes a USB port for shared devices, as well as a hub to connect other Ethernet devices. Obviously, this is also an 802.11n device. Apple has a new feature built in here to provide extended network storage as well. You can connect an external USB hard drive to your network via the USB port, or attach a USB hub to connect multiple devices. Ideal for network-attached storage of large video, image or music libraries or simply for backups.
Well, it’s deja vu all over again, folks! CNN Enhanced on Echostar (launch, interview) has been announced as an Emmy Finalist for Outstanding Achievement in Advanced Media Technology for the Non-Synchronous Enhancement of Original Television Content, this time by the National Television Academy. As those regular readers of this blog are aware, this project I spent over a year of my life managing was also nominated by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for that bodies’ similar award for interactive television over the summer. Sadly (for me anyway), the award went to TiVO. But hey, at least I can say I’m a ‘two-time Emmy nominee,’ no? And maybe, just maybe, the judges will see just how spiffy our application is and give it the nod. ‘twoud be nice, indeed. And as they say, the nominees are:
- CNN Enhanced – CNN/Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
- Fantasy Football Tracker – BIAP Systems, Inc.
- Passions Vendetta – NBC.com
- Sopranos: Crime. Organized – Deep Focus/HBO
- The Cultivated Life: Thomas Jefferson & Wine – NetBlender
- The-N.com Video Mixer – The N
The awards will be presented at the opening evening event of the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Monday, January 8, 2007. You’ll note that we’re up against the Sopranos this time, as well as some friends over at BIAP. May the best app win!
So, after suing folks who published ‘rumors’ of upcoming Mac products, his Steveness decided to do some rumor-mongering of his own today with a classic ‘one more thing’ during today’s announcement of iTunes 7 and the new feature films on the ITMS. Flying in the face of the Apple-PR bible, he confirmed the existence of an unreleased product well in advance of release: a Macintosh set-top-box optimized to connect directly to HD tv sets. Codenamed ‘iTV’, (and priced at $299) the new box is due in Q1 2007, and will be 1/2 size of Mac Mini, built-in power supply (no brick!),
- Networking: 802.11, Ethernet (not sure what flavor of 802.11, though)
- Video: HDMI connector for the best HD goodness or component RGB
- Audio: Analog via RCA jacks or optical digital
Steve also shows off the UI, a very slick and more 3-D treatment of the existing Front Row interface for the new device and wows the crowd by playing an HD-quality flick. At root, this completes an ecosystem – rather like ITMS and the iPod did for music, you now have a STB device (the iTV), a storefront (Showtime in ITMS/iTunes7), and a portable outlet. If they can bring more content aboard, this has a good chance of taking a strong foothold.
Problems I see – no TV tuner or information on how this might take incoming video from your existing cable or satellite vendor. It’s also unclear if this is going to have a hard drive at all, or provide any kind of DVR features. And I’d worry about the stability of the wireless connection for HD video content (I know my Windows Media Center and 802.11pre-N network struggles with SD at times). I suspect that the lack of a tuner and possibly of a drive are quite intentional – you’re probably less likely to buy flicks and shows on the ITMS if you have free alternatives like ripping content off the cable and saving it to your drive. That sucks. But if this provides access to HD movies, I’m sure I’ll be buying one as soon as it’s available.