I’ve had a glimpse into the future of home video and it surprisingly comes from a device I already owned, the Sony Playstation 3 (and it works on the XBox 360 as well, but I haven’t tested). By downloading and installing a small app to my windows machine, I am now able to access online content from Hulu.com, CBS.com, Youtube.com, ESPN.com and soon, CNN.com and Netflix.
The software is PlayOn! which is currently available as a 60 day beta trial, and when released is expected to cost $30.00 when it reaches full release. It’s made by a company called MediaMall who’s got the tantalizing mission statement: “MediaMall Technologies enables Low-Cost & Widely Available Media Services, delivered over Broadband to the Entertainment System, via the PC.” Now how can you possibly go wrong?
The software isn’t completely perfect yet, but it still gives me a better picture than I get with my standard, non-HD cable line. I have occassionaly had some jerky delivery, but I’ve found it I pause for a few minutes, go make some popcorn or something, and come back, whatever I’m watching runs fine. Navigationally, I find the PS3 controller a bit challenging to use, but my 9 year old daughter is getting around like a pro.
Right now, I think the implementation of video via the Playstation is rudimentary and monodirectional. I’m sure we’ll see revisions coming quickly that will add the ability to search for content, plus eventually, all the great Social Media add ons that we expect to see, such as comments, ratings, etc.
Hooking things up was utterly simple.
- Download the PlayOn! Beta app at themediamall.com/playon
- Install the app on your Vista or XP computer
- Turn on your Playstation 3 of Xbox 360
- Go to the Video section of your PS3 system and look for your PlayOn! Media Server (follow their instructions for the Xbox 360, they say it’s easier, which is hard to believe)
- Watch video on the tv.
Okay, the cynics in the crowd are saying “it can’t be that easy.” It is.
Last night my daughters were able to watch Alf for the first time. This morning, I was up early, drinking coffee and watching “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” and later the girls were watching YouTube funny cat videos, then some Addams Family. Not everything is available, but there are enough feature movies, with a good mix of semi-recent and older movies that I’m fairly certain I’ll be watching a very large portion of my video content via Hulu, if for no other reason than for utter convenience.
The worm has turned for media. This is a killer app for several reasons:
- Video quality is better than I currently get from broadcast tv. Your mileage may vary, especially if you have HD.
- My media, when I want it. Yes, I can’t get everything, but I’ve now got the option of seeing the shows I want in my time, not the networks time.
- My television media no longer has to come via DVD or the networks – that means we’ll soon be getting content from independent media companies like Revision3 and we’ll be able to see it on our television.
- Tons of content at your finger tips. It’s not every video ever created, but I suspect eventually that option will exist for us.
This stuff is bleeding edge right now. I’m utterly surprised by how far it’s come. While it’s not for everyone, it is for just about anyone that loves television, video and is even a mild geek.
Where this goes from here is clear: this is going to be mainstream and it’s quite possible that Sony and Microsoft will be taking over the set top box market, squeezing out the cable boxes. It remains to be seen.
I told you yesterday that web delivered video was going to force the issue of scalablity into the forefront for the cable companies in my post “Shel Israel on Social Media Scalability“. Today I can tell you that problem is coming a lot quicker than even I projected.
Update: I have had some issues with the setup, notably I have trouble getting fast forward or “Go To” to work hence I’m having trouble watching the end of a movie I started. After a bit of research, I have found my initial suspicions were correct, this sytem needs a wired connection if possible or a hopping fast wifi setup. Also, as the term “media server” implies, the computer that is acting as intermediary should be a very up to date machine with lots of memory and not a lot else running when you’re using the system.