Zimedia’s Streaming Best Buys (price considered):
Storage & Music
Standalone Cloud storage services like Dropbox receive most of the press. But Amazon’s variety comes with a music store.
Amazon is also a great place to store your music. Music purchases from the Amazon mp3 store can be saved directly to your cloud. And thus can be accessed anywhere and with a growing number of devices including smartphones and tablets. Start off with 5 GB of free storage. Just sign in, sign up for your free 5 GB and start uploading files for backup, storage or to listen to your tunes without taking up space on your mobile device.
Hundreds of companies trust Amazon Web Services for their storage and hosting needs, including Netflix — which accounts for 25% of US Internet traffic — Yelp, Foursquare, PBS, Washington Post, Razorfish, SEGA, Urbanspoon, Tweet Deck, Airbnb, Harvard Medical School, NASA, Virgin Atlantic and more.
Calendar & Google Docs
It’s time to move on from Outlook, people. Google is the place to be. When I use Outlook for email or the calendar, it feels like I’m navigating a rotary phone…plus it’s tied to a machine. Google Calendar and Docs, as well as gmail, is tied to nothing; it’s all on the cloud. Access all of it on any computer, any smartphone, tablet or mobile device. Get calendar reminders on your smartphone.
With Google Apps (formerly Google Docs) user can save Documents, open Office products like Word and Excel — with or without Microsoft Office. When you save documents in the cloud — like resumes, presentations, pictures — they’re always with you.
Google’s smartphone apps — and native integration with most mobile devices — make all of your documents, calendar appointments and messages accessible anywhere with an Internet connection. Save documents, presentations or pictures as a backup or for instant access on any of your devices.
To get started, just sign up for gmail and click “Documents” at the top. [Note: if by the time of this post, Google has changed its navigation bar to a drop-down menu, just click the drop-down and find Documents.] Then start uploading files or Create a new document.
There’s an app for that. It’s not just a saying. There really is an app for everything. News, Shopping, Books, Movies, TV, Social Networking, Checking in and just about anything else you can think of. Some of Tech Weekly’s favorites free apps for productivity and entertainment on the go:
MyFax makes having a fax machine unnecessary. In fact, MyFax improves upon the old-school fax and then some.
No download necessary, just sign up for a MyFax account and you’ll be assigned a MyFax number. (You can pick the area code.) Once you’ve signed in, just click “Send a Fax.” Then enter the recipient’s fax number and attach the document you’d like to fax. Either scan the page to your computer and attach to the MyFax interface OR if the file is already on your computer, just attach. MyFax comes with some cool features including Cover Page Style; Status Flag for Urgent, Review, Comment, etc; and a Message Box. The recipient receives the fax in his/her fax machine, just like a normal fax.
Receive faxes right in your MyFax inbox as PDF or JPEG files. MyFax alerts you immediately via email. In fact, you can view the fax in your email inbox. If you’ve got email on your smartphone, you can view the fax right there. MyFax is a must for mobile work.
Send 100 faxes per month and receive 200 for only $10. Other options include Send 200, Receive 200 for $20. Or Send 400, Receive 400 for $40. Or an unlisted option of Send 50, Receive 50 for $5 per month. The plans can be changed at any time, though you’ll have to call MyFax to do it. Ironically, for an online fax service, you can’t change plans online. Though email is taking over, many businesses still fax documents. So ditch the fax machine and extra phone line and give MyFax a look.
Netflix is the best thing to come to TV since color. It’s move to mobile only strengthens its hold on streaming movies and television content. And once you’ve got a Netflix subscription, it’s free on an unlimited number of devices. Use your one Netflix subscription on TVs, tablets, smartphones, etc. At home and on the road.
Until you’ve streamed Netflix content on a mobile device, it’s difficult to understand. A library of more than 20,000 titles available instantly with the tap of your finger. It’s as close to a dream as you’ll get.
To get started, just sign up for Netflix (streaming subscription starts at $7.99 per month after 1-month free trial) and download the Netflix app for your smartphone or mobile device. You’ll only have to sign in the first time after you download the app. From there on out it’s blue skies and smooth streaming.
Netflix is available on more than 700 devices including PCs; Macs; Internet-connected TVs; video-game consoles; Blu-ray players; Internet video players like Roku and Boxee; iPhone; iPad; Apple TV as well as Android and Windows devices…and more.
Swapping pay-TV for Internet streaming services like Netflix is the latest trend for tech savvy consumers looking to cut rising cable costs in a tough economy. But for those new to Internet TV with little or no knowledge of the streaming landscape, things might look a little confusing.
That’s why most haven’t taken the leap. Too many options. And no clear way to get started. What are the best services? Is Netflix the only option? How do I get the content to my TV? How many TVs can I connect it to? Does the video content get old? How often do they add new content?
For all of those questions and more, I’m happy to introduce the first edition of Getting Started. Getting Started with Internet TV.
What you’ll need:
1. A streaming service.
Netflix is the top dog in on-demand movies for $7.99 per month for unlimited streaming (and no DVDs by mail). Netflix is also rapidly increasing the number of television shows on its roster and has even signed a deal to bring House of Cards exclusively to Netflix, beating out other bids from HBO and others.
Hulu Plus is to TV shows what Netflix is to movies. Hulu Plus is also $7.99 per month. Beyond Netflix and Hulu Plus, the competition drops off. Among the next tier of performers is Amazon Instant Video ($79/year) that also includes free two-day shipping on Amazon.com; Ustream (free); Crackle (free), PlayOn ($5 per month); among others. Most subscriptions are month-by-month and can be canceled at any time.
Once you’ve selected which service you’ll use, go to the website and sign up online. Most services offer a trial period of either one week or one month. Once you’ve signed up, just jot down your username and password. We’ll need that later when we connect it to your TV.
2. High-speed Internet.
At least 3 megabits per second (abbreviated 3 Mbps). The faster the better. You can connect your device to your TV through an Ethernet cable or wirelessly through your home network. To set up a home network, you’ll need a wireless router. However streaming quality is better if the connection is hard-wired with the Ethernet cable.
3. A streaming device.
Hundreds of available devices are ready to connect your TV to Internet video. Take your pick. Blu-ray players; Video-game systems including Xbox 360; Playstation 3; Nintendo Wii; and streaming boxes like Roku, Boxee, D-Link, WD, Apple TV and hundreds more. Just check the box — or online — to ensure it connects to Netflix, Hulu Plus or other Internet channels.
Everything will be clearly labeled. If it’s not on the box, look online. Just make sure your selected streaming service is available on the device. If we want Netflix, we’re good to go with the Sony BDP-S570 Blu-ray player pictured below.
Most devices connect to at least Netflix and Hulu Plus. Some devices feature different channels, like Ustream or Crackle by Sony. Few channels are exclusive. Some TV sets also come with channels like Netflix, Hulu Plus or Crackle built-in. As well as Blu-ray players. Purchasing a Blu-ray player that connects to Netflix or Hulu Plus is a great way to bring high-quality Blu-ray content into your home as well as thousands of on-demand offerings.
Hooking it up
A step-by-step guide
1. Connect device to your TV.
HDMI is best but some devices allow RCA connection for older television sets. After the device is hooked up, then it’s as simple as changing the video input like you would for a video-game system or DVD player.
2. Connect to the Internet.
Connect your device using either a wireless network or wired setup using an Ethernet cable. Connecting your device via Ethernet is the quickest way to get set up and also offers the highest quality streaming. Once the cable is connected to both your modem and your Streaming Device you’ll be connected. For a wireless connection, you’ll need to search for the wireless network and sign in.
3. Sign in to your account.
Launch your Streaming Device and select your desired streaming service, i.e. Netflix. Use the username and password you selected when you signed up online.
You’ll need to verify your device with your streaming subscription. You’ll be given a code that you’ll need to enter online to link the device and service. You’ll only need to do this once. It’s used to verify your subscription and link the device to your account.
You’ll be able to use your streaming account on any number of televisions; the subscription is not tied to any single TV. If you’re adding a box to another TV in your house, you’ll use the same login info. You’ll just have to verify each streaming device with your subscription using a new code, supplied when you launch the service for the first time on each TV.
You can also connect multiple accounts to your streaming device, i.e. Netflix and Hulu Plus.
4. Enjoy your content.
The most compelling difference between content on pay-TV and Internet TV is cost-vs-content. With pay-TV, you pay more for additional content; with Internet TV, you get increasingly more content for the same low monthly price. Netflix is signing new deals and bringing new content to its service on a monthly basis. Same goes for Hulu Plus. The rest are playing catch-up. Which is a win for the Internet TV consumer and the competing services. Increased competition will only expand the amount of programming and the quality of content deals.
For more on Internet TV, check out related posts below.
In six years, YouTube has become the hub of video content on the web, evolving from cat videos to live streaming news and now YouTube Movies. But from all indications, and the words of new CEO Salar Kamangar, this is only the beginning.
“Today, we’re going to start adding around 3,000 new movie titles for rent available to users in the U.S. that will be accompanied by reviews and behind-the-scenes movie extras,” CEO Salar Kamangar posted on the company’s blog on May 9, 2011.
YouTube Movies is today’s Pay-Per-View Channel. Its interface is much more google-esque than YouTube’s homepage and navigation is simple and intuitive.
Users can browse Featured titles at the top, browse by Category, or by Collection. Categories displays movies in a given genre: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Crime Drama, Family, etc.
YouTube has also created what it calls Collections. It’s essentially a Staff Picks selection like, say, “Vincent’s Picks” in a brick-and-mortar rental store.
YouTube displays the Top Movie Rentals in a vertical list to the right with the title’s current rank and whether it’s moving up or down the charts.
Pricing starts at $2.99 per title, others $3.99 and even some free titles. “Free” is also a browse-by-category selection.
From what I’ve seen, the selection compares more to Amazon Instant Video than anything else. By the numbers, Amazon Instant Video claims to have 5,000 titles including movies and TV shows. As I wrote in my post on Amazon in April, I’ve only been able to see about 3,000 (Maybe the others are lost in the Amazon Cloud?) YouTube announced it has “around 3,000 new movie titles.”
Note: in addition to Amazon’s pay-per-title, Amazon Instant Video offers unlimited streaming (as well as free two-day shipping) of the same titles for $79 per year, billed annually. For more on Amazon’s offerings, click here.
One step in competing with Netflix, it appears, is bringing Netflix talent to YouTube.
YouTube has been making some moves, recently hiring execs from Netflix and P&G.
Last year, Google grabbed Netflix vet Robert Kyncl to serve as VP of Content Partnerships. In April, Google’s YouTube picked up another Netflixer in Christian Kaiser, who served as Netflix engineering VP. According to Peter Kafka of All Things Digital, YouTube also brought in product director Thomas Purnell-Fisher, who will, per Kafka, work on “YouTube TV.” YouTube TV is available on Google TV and on any web browser.
Last week, YouTube nabbed Proctor & Gamble digital marketing director Lucas Watson to run sales for the site. According to Advertising Age, Watson was a key component to Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign.
“With Mr. Watson, the company gets an executive who has spearheaded a big increase in digital spending at the biggest ad spender in the U.S. and globally over the past three years…” wrote Advertising Age’s Jack Neff.
YouTube’s Town Hall Channel displays debate topics like Education, Budget, Energy, Economy, Health Care and more. With videos from both sides. After watching each debate topic, users can choose to support one side or the other.
Also available is the Leaderboard, which appears to be popular videos and topics. Users can also submit a question. Every month members of Congress will answer a selection of top-voted questions, according to the channel.
In July of 2007, YouTube and CNN hosted their first presidential debate featuring questions submitted by YouTube users. As noted by Fast Company, in the 2008 election cycle, 7 of the 16 presidential candidates used YouTube to announce their campaigns.
YouTube’s Town Hall Channel moves in on pay TV’s territory. But this is on the viewer’s schedule.
The show covers current events and pop culture, through the eyes of the Internet. It broadcasts live every Tuesday. The current week’s live show is available for replay one day after the episode airs.
“What’s Trending is a new kind of news show connecting you to the top stories and people heating up the conversation online around the world. Get connected and join the conversation around trending topics from global revolutions to entertainment and viral memes. It’s what you need to know to be in the now.” – CBS Channel on YouTube, What’s Trending
YouTube was launched in 2005 by three former PayPal employees: Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim.
In the year that followed, YouTube skyrocketed from a startup flickr-like service for videos to a video powerhouse that would be acquired by one of the biggest players in the digital world.
Two days after YouTube’s launch, Saturday Night Live aired music spoof video “Lazy Sunday.” The video made its way to YouTube, and in one week attracted nearly 2 million views. NBC later asked YouTube to remove the video.
Its first viral video hit came in April of 2006 with Judson Laipply’s “The Evolution of Dance.”
In October of 2006, YouTube was acquired by Google for $1.65 billion in an all-stock transactioin and now acts as a subsidiary of the big G.
Steve Chen and Chad Hurley discussed the acquisition in October of 2006 in a YouTube video.
Chad Hurley stepped down as YouTube’s CEO in November of 2010 and was replaced by Salar Kamangar. Kamangar previously served as vice president of Google’s web applications as well as VP of product management for Google’s advertisement and monetization process.
Today, more than 48 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute, according to the company’s blog. YouTube generates 3 billion views per day. That’s a lot of eyeballs.
In March, YouTube announced it was acquiring Next New Networks, a web-video production company, in an effort to produce original, and higher quality, content.
A statement from Next New Networks CEO and Co-founder Fred Seibert: “Our company will become a core component of YouTube Next, a new team that will focus on super harging content creator development on YouTube, driving deeper expertise in partner audience development, and incubating new ideas that can be shared with the broader community.” –from nextnewnetworks.com.
If you’ve ever searched for a music video on YouTube, you’ll see Vevo is often the first search result. The Vevo Channel on YouTube is near the top for any music-related search. From John Mellencamp to Nicki Minaj. Vevo has its own standalone site on Vevo.com as well as a YouTube Channel.
According to TechCrunch, Vevo is the third-largest source for video on the web after only two years running — and it’s enjoying tens of millions in advertising revenue. Vevo’s advertising rate is comparable to broadcast TV with a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) north of $20 per Alexia Tsotsis of TechCrunch,
VEVO is a joint venture among Sony, Universal Music Group and Abu Dhabi Media. Google and Vevo share all advertising and sponsorship revenue. Though Google has no ownership stake in Vevo.
Vevo’s traffic grew 62% in its first year, from 2009 to 2010, in large part to its partnership with YouTube and its ability to get the Vevo videos to the viewers. In May, YouTube also unveiled the YouTube 100, a measurement of “song traffic across official music videos, user-uploaded videos and viral debuts, and uses this data to provide a holistic view of song popularity” according to the company blog.
“You’re finding more and more of the content you love on YouTube, which is now available on 350 million devices,” said CEO Salar Kamangar, speaking to YouTube users in the company blog.
I’m not sure where Kamangar came up with 350 million (maybe he made it up) but the adoption curve becomes a lot more manageable if whatever you’re pitching is available everywhere. Two companies that have taken advantage of connectivity in the last five years are music service Pandora and streaming-video juggernaut Netflix.
According to a published report from Advertising Age, more than 50 percent of Pandora listening is accomplished on devices other than the PC. Pandora is connected to seemingly everything, from smartphones, tablets and TVs to automobiles and…refrigerators? Yep, the fridge. The high-tech fridge connects to an array of web apps, including Google calendars.
Netflix has also enjoyed subscriber growth due in large part to how easy it is to get Netflix to a TV. Netflix is available on more than 200 devices including PCs, Macs, Internet-connected TVs, Blu-ray players, Internet-video players, Apple TV and Google TV, Apple’s iPad and iPod touch as well as all three current videogame consoles (Xbox 360, Wii and Playstation 3) and more. It’s recently begun rolling out a fully functioning Netflix app for smartphones including iPhone and Android.
YouTube is positioning itself to become a full-fledged TV Channel under recently crowned CEO Salar Kamangar. It’s set to challenge not only pay-TV cable and news networks but also live streaming services and other video-on-demand companies like Vudu and Blockbuster.
If it can successfully incorporate a premium unlimited streaming model — pitting itself against Netflix and Hulu Plus — YouTube could become the center of video activity across the board: on the Internet, on mobile devices and in our living rooms.
“By expanding our content partnerships worldwide and stimulating the success of budding filmmakers, artists and entrepreneurs, we’ll ensure that YouTube remains the best place for the world to see and discover rich talent. So stay tuned—there’s much more to come.” -CEO Salar Kamangar, YouTube blog
Netflix and Hulu Plus have both taken advantage of the internet connectivity of videogame systems — Sony’s Playstation 3, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii (still waiting on Hulu for Wii) — when it comes to streaming video content on our TV’s.
Of the current generation of systems, more than 162 million units have been sold. But neither is personally taking advantage of its online content or users.
Playstation has a subscription service, called “Playstation Plus” that offers game discounts, game demos and free offerings; but no streaming movies or tv episodes. There are options to purchase such episodes, like “A Colbert Christmas,” a special for the Holidays at $6.99. Colbert dubs it as the “Greatest Gift of All.” That’s about as VOD as it gets for PS3.
So Playstation obviously has a desire to attract monthly subscribers. That is the point to its Playstation Plus. One year will cost you $49.99, or you can try a three-month subscription for $17.99.
That works out to a little over $4 per month for the one-year plan. With both Netflix (for the streaming-only option) and Hulu Plus at $7.99 per month, if Sony were to include streaming videos its Playstation One membership, I’d have to believe more owners would take advantage.
[Vudu is a VOD service, acquired by Walmart in 2010. Vudu offers movie rentals, like an online version of a video-rental store. Today’s Pay-per-view. There is no subscription available. Vudu is also available through Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii.]
To this point, Playstation, Xbox and Wii have been sitting on the sidelines, watching other services take advantage of their systems. Fight back, I say! Game on!
Xbox 360 has a subscription plan as well, two tiers actually, in the same price line as Playstation Plus. Xbox is doing a better job with streaming features, as part of their plan includes ESPN content, streamed to your TV. I have a Playstation 3 and a Wii in my household, but no Xbox. I also have a Sony Blu-ray Player. And my Roku Digital Video Player is on the way.
In addition to Movies and TV shows, these systems could offer rentals of their own games, possibly within the same subscription plan or on a tiered plan.
That would merge these two successful methods of video and game rentals: Netflix and Gamefly.
Gamefly is a game-rental service, currently available only by mail, no on demand. But the vidoegame systems are already capable of game downloads via the internet. You can purchase full games or game demos without a disc.
To be fair, Blockbuster recently announced a change to its by-mail rental service: they are now offering movies and games by mail.
If Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are do this, the time is now. By implementing streaming video and/or Internet apps and possibly Games on Demand (GOD?) to boot, they’d have a great shot at competing with services like Netflix and Hulu Plus on their consoles, and could really take a chunk out of game services like Gamefly and Blockbuster.
As of the second quarter of 2010, Sony has sold 41.6 million Playstation 3 units. Xbox 360 tops out at 44.6 in the same time period. And Nintendo Wii, 75.9 million. For a grand video-game total (among PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii) of 162.1 million and counting…
Messages to Microsoft’s PR firm Waggener Edstrom were not returned by press time. Sony Computer Entertainment US R&D could not be reached for comment. And Nintendo Communications PR, well, didn’t answer our phone call.
Links of interest
Hulu Plus: http://www.hulu.com/plus
UPDATE: Amazon has announced that its Amazon Prime membership (a little over $3/month for free 2-day shipping) will now include a library of TV shows to stream to your TV.