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…