At least one of the CE executives I’ve talked with concerning their newest television introductions both for 2008 and 2009 referred to their new products as “Not Your Dad’s Oldsmobile.” Well some of these devices are your dad’s Oldsmobile…a car that was discontinued a few years ago after a nearly 75 years of greatness because the companies added too many unneeded features…. That’s the same feeling I got from the new Internet TVs.
The TV folks want you to use your $2,500 to $10,000, 42-inch to 72-inch Plasma or LCD TV as a conduit to the Internet…but it’s false advertising to say these devices connect you to the Internet. In truth, they connect only to a small part of the Internet.
Panasonic’s version of Internet is a weather channel and You Tube. Period. Samsung, Sharp and LG’s offerings are almost as skimpy. The Big Fish, Sony, is offering a tad more. Sony is using its theatrical affiliation with Sony pictures to offer a few more Internet channels. And, thanks to its CEO Sir Howard Stringer’s former affiliation with CBS, they’ve also added some of CBS’s proprietary content. Sony also offers a nice programming guide but, all in all, it’s still not worth the added cost of the Bravia Internet adapter.
And, unless you are one of the seven people in North America with Ethernet in your living room to support these otherwise terrific TVs, you will need a super Wi-Fi connection to view the Internet content, also putting you back in your Dad’s Oldsmobile, as watching video over web is like slow and choppy…and a terrible experience. The sort of experience that killed the Oldsmobile.
For the time being, until these companies offer a full Internet experience with no degradation, you may be better off buying their non-Internet based TVs or trying one of the Westinghouse Digital, Toshiba or truly underrated, JVC HDTVs….that don’t promise an Internet experience which is largely unfulfilled.
Take It With You
I recently used my all-around Archos 705 home-mobile player recorder as a mini TiVo…taking and transporting my home content to my son’s home on this much-better than-an-iPod device, since he doesn’t have cable TV. I was probably skirting some copyright issues by bringing him some TV and music content but the experience was so easy. I didn’t need any software or a PC…just my old reliable RCA audio, video cables. In a few minutes I was able to connect my TiVo (or any DVR) to the Archos… and voila, I was able to watch some of my (and my son’s) favorite programming at his home. And it gets even better. I also copied thousands of home photos, home movies and digital music on to his laptop. One important reminder: many of the features of the 705 and its smaller counterpart, the 605… require constant firmware updates to take advantage of Internet Radio and Internet TV.
Streaming Without Screaming
In full disclosure, the last marketing position I held before going back to journalism and custom research was to launch TiVo for Philips. Since then, I’ve seen the company make mistakes, rebound with a terrific new CEO and, in the process, deliver the video recorder that offers the best combination of television, home networking and online services. TiVo’s ability to play and stream your PC’s digital music or selected Internet radio and audio services over your TV and integrated audio component system has been way better than its competitors….including the pricey Sonos and the handful of Sonos imitators. Since these TiVo services come built-in to any Series II or HD-based TiVos, it is also the cheapest and easiest to setup and run. But now I think there’s a reason to spend $300 or so for the new Squeezebox by Logitech.
While I’ve written about Squeezebox before, it wasn’t until recently that I realized that the Squeezebox was becoming the device of choice over my alma mater, TiVo, for listening to my PC music collection…or to web based music services… anywhere in the house. Because of its reliability with, either through Wi-Fi or a direct Internet connection via Ethernet, Squeezebox is now my favorite (TiVo and Sonos require really powerful Wi-Fi connections). It took about 10 minutes to set up using a really easy Squeezebox system set-up wizard. I also had free, Internet-based music, including thousands of Internet radio stations and online music services. Even the sometimes problematic Rhapsody service played well here and my own digital music collection on my home audio component system sounded better with less interference than with any other system I’ve used. The remote showed every feature and made it easy to switch from my own music to Internet radio to Internet services quickly.
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Richard Sherwin is a former syndicated technology columnist and TV/Radio analyst, who has also been a marketing executive with IBM, Philips, NBC and a chief advisor to several manufacturers and service providers.