It’s been about 6 weeks since I first reviewed Moviebeam (add another week or so for my HD follow-up) and there are a few updates which I felt were worth sharing.
First and foremost, as Dave Zatz reported, you can pick up a unit for $49 instead of $199 by using an online coupon (enter PR49B at checkout). If you were even borderline before, for $49 I don’t know what would stop you from picking it up. Dave also did a video review that you can see if you are on the fence, or just want to see it in action (Ron at Techlore did a review as well).
Next, Magnolia Pictures recently announced they’d supply movies into the system (thanks HD Beat). I’m curious to see where this goes, as I don’t think the real strength of the product is about niche programming. Personally, I think the mainstream movies are key to building their user base right now. And I have a little story to share as to why I think so…
My wife and I wanted to get a movie the other night, and ended up at our local, sigh, Blockbuster. We walked around the new release section, with our autofilters to block out Martin Lawrence, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson films (which actually only left three movies in the entire section!). We saw movie after movie that we recall seeing ‘coming soon’ with Moviebeam, and skipped all of these, despite them being high on our want-list. Mid-browse we decided on ‘stupid comedy’ as our category, and beelined it for JIm Carrey’s remake of Dick and Jane (lousy, and Tea Leoni needs to hang up the acting for doing husky voice-over work, she’s much better at that). Bottom line for us was: we won’t pick something up at the store if we think/know we can just watch it with the m-beam.
I watched Aeon Flux (not as horrible as I was expecting) and Glory Road (continuing to reinforce the statement that all sports movies are good, but none are better than Hoosiers) today, the first in standard definition, and the second in HD. I could be wrong, my contacts might be fuzzy, or it might just be to the long summer days, but the picture quality looked a lot better than before! When I spoke with one of the execs at Moviebeam last month he mentioned that the first few HD titles they had were not the best the system can do, and after watching Glory Road, it looks promising. It’s still not quite as remarkable as the Comcast signal, but it’s much better than the last time I looked at it! If this keeps up, I will have to go do a real side-by-side comparison in the coming months.
Now I’m just waiting for the Ethernet port to activate so I can remove the 25-foot-long phone cable running through my hallway and hook it up to my Buffalo wireless 4-port bridge (also connected to my Xbox, Sonos, and Slingbox). I’m also really hoping that with Internet access comes new features. First and foremost I’d like to see community features incorporated into a Web site as well as the product. I’d like access to some Internet-based content too (maybe Akimbo-based or even Youtube).
I believe the future of the set-top box includes a combination of broadcast services (cable or satellite), datacasting (Moviebeam or …), and Internet access. With this combination comes the ultimate in on-demand, personalized television. Now sprinkle it with placeshifting and DVR services, toss in a great EPG with contextual search and a good recommendation and collaborative filtering engine, and then I’m a happy happy boy.
Other than the fact that I still won’t be able to watch any more Arrested Development, that is…
I’m so with you on MovieBeam needing to activate the ethernet jack. Running a telephone cable from the den to kitchen every week is a PITA. I’m not so gung-ho on community features, though more/better HD is welcome.
Speaking of Akimbo, weren’t they supposed to have a new box out this spring with movie downloads/rentals through Movielink? Someone needs to ping them…
By the way, I was a huge Aeon Flux fan a decade or more ago. At some point I even ended up with a VHS compilation. Also loved MTV’s Liquid Television in general. Still haven’t rented the movie yet… I’ve been worried about how bad it could be.
Ok, we have had our differences in the past, specifically around a certain acting genius with the initials OW but I am willing to let bygones be bygones now that I realize we are in total agreement on AD – oh and your future set-top box scenario.
BTW, I have an Akimbo (another great steal when they dropped their price to below $100) and while it is completely first-gen but I hear promising things about future versions. I would absolutely include an IPTV element in your TV future.
One last note. Talking to a recent satisfied Kaleidescape customer about the joy of having instant access throughout the house to a large DVD-based collection, I picked up on something that I hadn’t thought of before. This person included TV show DVDs in the mix along side feature movies and it dawned on me that MovieBeam could do the same. It would be just as easy to buy/rent episodes of TV shows through their interface too, right?
I haven’t seen any solution, real or proposed that accommodates the growing library of archived TV content – maybe iTunes Music Store comes close. Trust me when I saw that if you put all three seasons of Arrested Development on your “box” and it would take off faster than an animated racing car voiced by a certain Owen Wilson.
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