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Today Apple announced that it has expanded its Apple TV offerings to include several top channels from the A&E network. Apple TV users now have access to the Lifetime, A&E and History Channel apps but there is a catch. To view shows from these channels, Apple TV owners will also have to be active subscribers to a cable package that features them, specifically from DirecTV, Verizon FiOS, and Cablevision Optimum.
Today's additions are part of a larger build up of content that Apple has been pushing for the last few months in an effort to compete with Roku and Google's Chromecast. Unfortunately Apple TV content is still very limited, and with deals being made that force people to subscribe to cable to use features on the set-top box, I think that Apple TV will still remain in the niche market of Apple champions.
Reports are making the rounds that owners of the first generation Apple TV are having problems that are keeping them from connecting to iTunes. Users are reporting on the support forums for the device that performing standard fixes like reboots and restoring aren't fixing the connectivity issue.
The issue started about the same time iPhone users on iOS 6 reported they could no longer access FaceTime. Apple's fix for that issue was to tell people top upgrade to a newer version of iOS. Apple has yet to say officially when or if the first generation Apple TV device will be fixed.
Orange is the New Black is one of my favorite shows, so my personal recommendation is: if you haven't watched it, do it. You will not regret it, but Netflix has just unleashed the full trailer to season two, something you can watch below:
It looks great, continuing off of the massive cliffhanger of the first season. Orange is the New Black's season season debuts on June 6, where Netflix will do what all networks should do: making all of the episodes available at once.
Today Netflix announced that it has began streaming its first pieces of 4K content to customers with 2014 model 4K TVs that support the H.265/HEVC decoder. House of Cards gets the title of the first TV series to get streamed in 4K, and a couple of nature documentaries are also being offered in 4K. Unfortunately, those who have 4K televisions that were manufactured or bought in 2013 will not be able to enjoy these offerings from Netflix due to codec incompatibilities.
Website HDTVTest is reporting that the 4K streams coming from Netflix are being delivered at 15.6Mbp/s and show obvious signs of compression, but does look better than Netflix's previous high-quality offering of the so-called "SuperHD" format. Unfortunately there are just not enough 4K TVs out there at the moment for widespread testing results to call back to, but I feel that Netflix will have a long journey ahead before any full-quality 4K content is passed on to customers.
Being one of those people who love to tear things apart to see what makes them tick, I look forward to iFixit's new device teardown every time something new is released. This weeks Amazon Fire TV was no exception, but it is a little disappointing to say the least. iFixit managed the teardown in no time at all, and what was reveled is a single-board design that leaves little repair room that a DIYer would be capable of.
Scoring just a 6 out of a possible 10, the Fire TV is nothing more than another board in a box, meaning that no other electronic components reside off of its PCB. This is the way most devices are being manufactured in modern times as components are continuing to shrink and SoC's are increasingly becoming more powerful and capable of multi-tasking. The device does feature a Qualcomm Processor, 2GB of RAM and 8GB of NAND flash. It's basically any smartphone produced in the last two years minus the screen.
Rumors of an Amazon-built set-top have been floating around for the better part of the last year, and today those rumors proved to be true. This morning Amazon.com announced the release of its all new Fire TV set-top box, a media streaming device that fully incorporates the Amazon ecosystem. Amazon is pulling out all the stops as well, and has enlisted Gary Busey to even record a promotional video for the new device.
Measuring in at less than an inch thick, the new Fire TV set-top box is capable of streaming full HD content to your TV over a common HDMI connection, and includes a remote that allows you to voice your commands, search for movies, and a wealth of other things. Amazon is also offering a separate video game controller that retails for just $40. Fire TV is not just closed to Amazon content, but features apps that integrate Netflix, Hulu Plus and many more services right on the box.=
Google's Chromecast is already a very powerful HDMI streaming dongle, but today the inexpensive device gained support for three heavy hitters in the online media realm. Rdio, Crackle, and VUDU have all released apps for the device, and now allows users to stream music, watch internet videos, and stream movies from their VUDU digital collection straight from the Chromecast.
Rdio, VUDU, and Crackle have all released updated versions of their apps for iOS and Android to enable Chromecast support, making them the latest three content providers to join the Chromecast revolution. While Rdio and Crackle offer their normal services to casting, VUDU allows its users to stream HDX quality copies from the users digital collection as well as control playback, subtitles, and more, however, not all VUDU content is supported, and is based on each particular studio's licensing.
If recent reports are true, Apple is in talks with Comcast to bring a new On-Demand service to the next-generation of Apple TV. Some rumors state that this would be an app-based service, while others suggest that the upcoming fourth-gen Apple TV will function as a fully digital cable box when connected to a Comcast cable line.
We already know that the device will function very similar to other set-top boxes such as those offered by Roku, but the introduction of digital cable service could change the game for everyone, similar to how TiVO shook things up when it began being integrated into digital cable. The new Apple TV is said to feature an entirely new OS, as well as a complete UI redesign that will bring the device up to speed with current OS X and iOS visuals. Apple is expected to launch the new Apple TV sometime in the next few months, so I guess we will not have to wait for long to see if the Comcast rumor is true.
If you have been following technology and home theater gear long enough to remember the transition from SD to HD programming, you know that it took a while and no one wanted to spend the money on a new HDTV until there was a lot of content. The same thing is going on now with the migration to 4K content.
4K TVs are expensive, but the big issue is that people don't want to spend the money until there is content out there to watch. Samsung and 20th Century Fox have announced that they have teamed up on a new 4K UHD content ecosystem. The partnership will bring 4k content for Samsung fans to watch via the Samsung Smart Hub platform.
That Smart Hub platform will be available across the entire UHD TV line from Samsung. I would assume that the company would give access to the content system via some of its set top boxes, computers, and Blu-ray players as well.
Google's Chromecast is one of the better HDMI streaming dongle's to hit the market in the last year, and now our friends across the pond are going to be able to experience the awesomeness that is Chromecast! Today a new rumor has emerged that the Google will finally launch the Chromecast in the UK on Wednesday March, 19th.
If true, this launch will see an end to an eight month long delay that has seen the Chromecast waiting in the wings for its UK debut. In those eight months, Google has seen several competitors emerge and launch in the UK, including Roku's Streaming Stick. This could lead to less than stellar sells for the Chromecast in the UK, or it could some how boost sales with people who are curious as to what all the hype is over a $35 media dongle. Only time will tell, but I am putting my money on lower sales as a result of the delay.