Bright Idea: Searching Your TV

January 22, 2008

Last night I was flipping through the channels on my TV looking for something to watch that might actually stimulate my brain instead of kill it (ya, good luck). I usually only watch sports, news, or the occasional documentary or sitcom and so have my usually channels to check. After seeing poker on the sports channels (a game where you can sit down and smoke while playing it is not a sport!), I decided to venture to the maze of the other 300+ channels on the dial.

I had flipped past the movie “The Good Sheppard” earlier and went looking for it again. I flipped and I flipped. I was sure I had seen it. “Why can’t I search this thing?!?!”

Bright idea: Make it easier to search my TV for the show I want.

I know, I know – DVR and digital programming guides have search already! Yup, the kind where you can click on the show type (sports, news, etc.) first then find, or where you have to segment your channels beforehand…the kind that makes you jump to many screen before finding what you need. It’s more of a Yahoo directory than a Google search.

The idea is for search to be as easy on my TV as it is on my computer. Without a keyboard it won’t be as simple but here’s the concept:

1. Press a button on my remote control and a search box pops up on my screen

2. No keyboard so I get a dynamic menu with a list of program types, and I select one

3. The menu changes to show me the programs for that type (maybe ordered by my viewing habits! I like spy movies and if my TV knows I like them then it shows me them first…I know big brother and all that)

It’s a similar thought as what exists today but presented in an easier to use and simple way. Sort of what Google did with search online.

If someone knows of a service that has this already (or if Google is working on it) let me know in the comments.

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Warner Bros. Backs Blu-Ray

January 7, 2008

In my HD vs. Blu-Ray post a few days ago I suggested that a winner in the battle could be decided if Warner Bros. picked a side. To my surprise (and everyone else), on the eve of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Warner Bros. announced it’s backing Blu-Ray. Wow. With the Warner Bros. move, the talk is that Blu-Ray has won. Call me Nostradamus 🙂

Toshiba (main backer of HD) said they’re ‘quite surpised’ by the decision and are understandably pissed and re-grouping. In a PC World report, they Toshiba states:

“We will assess the potential impact of this announcement with the other HD DVD partner companies and evaluate potential next steps. We remain firm in our belief that HD DVD is the format best suited to the wants and needs of the consumer.”

PC World also reports that “the HD DVD Promotion Group’s CES plans went into disarray. Within hours of the announcement, the group cancelled its scheduled Sunday-evening news conference and subsequent media interviews at CES.”

Seems like the decision by Sony to include a Blu-Ray player in the PS3 was a brilliant move. The biggest problem for studios was mass adoption of players. Every PS3 purchase was in effect a Blu-Ray purchase and so Sony created a Blu-Ray market larger than HD, providing a more compelling consumer market for the studios.

Toshiba says that HD has been declared dead before and that they’re re-grouping, but with five of the seven Hollywood studios backing Blu-Ray (only Universal and Paramount are HD backers), it’s safe to say HD is on life support and the plug might be pulled sooner rather than later.


HD vs. Blu-Ray: A Quick Guide

January 3, 2008

With the increasing talk (and non-geek confusion) around HD and Blu-Ray, I thought I’d offer a quick guide to understanding what this digital fight is all about.

What do HD and Blu-Ray mean?

It has nothing to do with the HD on your TV. It’s about making DVDs better. 

Back in 1997 DVDs hit the market and quickly killed VHS tapes.  DVD gives you standard definition, and HD and Blu-Ray are basically an ‘upgrade’ to high definition. HD and Blu-Ray are competing high definition formats, each one backed by some pretty big companies and studios hoping that their format will become the standard.

In the Red Corner:  HD – Toshiba, Microsoft, WB, Universal, Paramount, Dreamworks

Hardware:Toshiba is the big muscle behind HD. They’re the dominant manufacturer and have a variety of HD players in the market since 1996. Microsoft’s Xbox has also released an Xbox add-on (for $180) that makes the internal DVD capable of HD.

Movies:The people making the movies are the ones who will ultimately decide which format, HD or Blu-Ray, wins. Problem is they’re split down the middle. On the HD side we’ve got Universal, Warner Bros., Paramount, and Dreamworks. That means if you want to watch Shrek (from Dreamworks) in high definition then you need an HD player, you can’t get it on Blu-Ray.

In the Blue Corner:Blu-Ray – Sony, Disney, Fox, WB, Lions Gate, Sony Pictures

Hardware:Sony is the big champion of Blu-Ray. The cool thing is that the Playstation 3 comes with a great Blu-Ray player, and since Blu-Ray players are about the same price as a PS3, buy the PS3 and get gaming for the same price! Samsung, Pioneer, and Phillips also have Blu-Ray players. Also, Blu-Ray discs hold more than HD disks (but since you can’t burn your own, it doesn’t really matter right now).

Movies: Blu-Ray used to have the majority of the studios on its side and was looking like it was going to win. In August 2007, Paramount and Dreamworks said that they’re switching to HD and now it’s an even race. On the Blu-Ray side we’ve got Sony Pictures (which includes MGM, Columbia), Disney (which includes Miramax and Touchstone), Fox, Lions Gate, and Warner Bros.

And the Winner is?

HD players are cheaper, but Blu-Ray is coming down in price and if you buy a PS3 you get a Blu-Ray player too. On the movie side, Warner Bros. hasn’t picked a side yet and since they release more movies than almost anyone, when they do it just might spell out who wins.

But WB might stay playing both sides, and things might stay the same. If that happens it’ll come down to the price of the player. The more affordable player could win, or we could see cheaper ‘dual players’ capable of playing both HD and Blu-Ray.

The studios are waiting to see what players people are buying, and manufacturers are waiting for studios to pick a side.

It might be Warner Bros. that picks a side and delivers the punch or it might be a Chinese manufacturer that brings an affordable player to market. If history is any lesson, then this prize fight will end in a knockout. I’ll watch from ringside until it’s over.