The battle for your status space heats up

The battle for the place where you view the status updates of all your friends no matter what network they’re on has heated up.
Both Yahoo Pulse and Windows Live have just tightly integrated their updates with Facebook. You can see all the status updates of your Facebook friends in Yahoo Pulse and Windows Live. You can comment on them and update your own status all from within Yahoo Pulse and Windows Live.
We have for sometime now been able to see our Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace and Buzz friends status in our twitter clients such as Seesmic, Tweetdeck and Hootsuite and update our status in those social networks. But the integration in Yahoo Pulse and Windows Live is much richer. Perhaps we might see Google Buzz going down the richer integration route?
Another approach was taken by Digsby which like Yahoo and Microsoft gives you a richer experience combined with a live presence through integrated chat.
These new, richer experiences combined with the ability to pull in contacts from our other social networks, shows a growing trend towards social media interoperability rather than just data portability. We are now able to operate across networks rather than just import our other networks into the new network.  We no longer need to open several networks to keep updated and share. We are beginning to be able to do that from within whatever network we’re operating at the time, with Yahoo and Microsoft leading the way.
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Internet enabling my TV (in the UK)

How much of the internet do I want on my TV?

  • I am mainly interested in video services rather than everything on the internet.
  • if possible connections to my social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter so that I can share my thoughts about what I am watching especially if my friends are also watching the same programme.
  • I don’t want to pay for a monthly subscription for Sky or Virgin Media so it will have to be a Freeview or a Freesat TV.
  • I want access to UK TV Catchup services such as BBC iPlayer
  • I want access to Video on Demand services so I can watch a film of my choice.
  • I want access to Web TV so I can watch TV from countries other than the UK
  • I would also like access YouTube to view my favourite videos mine and my friends videos.

Please note: this blog is about internet enabling TVs in the UK, so there is a lot of content specific to the UK only.

Network Media Receivers

My earliest attempt was to connect a network media receiver to my TV in order to access content I stored on PCs on my home network. This allowed me to view my pictures, video, recorded TV programmes and music but didn’t give me access to the internet.  I then tried a piece of software that did give me access to certain parts of the internet but was fragile and very clunky. There are now of course network media receivers that give you access to content on your home network and windows onto certain parts of the internet like YouTube, NetFlix, Flickr.

Quiet PC with Remote Control

This took me to the stage where I considered a quiet PC connected to my TV and to the internet via my home network. I looked at Asus Eee Box and the Aspire One but settled with just connecting a laptop running Boxee which gave me remote control access to many Boxee “channels”.  Channels is the term sed by Boxee and other such portals to describe the different video on demand providers like Netflix and Pandora as well as YouTube, Flickr and Facebook.

Video Set Top Box

Boxee then launched their own Video Set top Box the Boxee Box to compete with AppleTV and the Roku box. Each of these gave you access to a number “channels” – Video on Demand services like Netflix (subscription) Hulu (not UK) and of course YouTube, Photo services like Flickr. Boxee has the advantage that it also gives me the BBC iPlayer. Roku is interesting because one of its channels is ‘Framechannel which I also receive on my WiFi Photo frame.  Framechannel in itself provides a large number of channels including Flickr and Facebook photos.

Internet enabled Freesat Player

One of the biggest prizes was to be able to access the BBC iPlayer on my TV.  I could do this with Boxee but Freesat then activated their ethernet port on their boxes and the BBC iPlayer became available on my Freesat box ( a Humax Foxsat HDR).  Now there was the possibility that my Freesat box would be come my portal to Catch Up TV and Video on Demand.

The BBC announced that Project Canvas was likely to be given the go ahead by the BBC Board and that ITV, channel 4 and Five were all signed up. Even better project Canvas was to be an open product allowing other parties to use the standard to deliver their Video using the same standard. Thus we have the possibility of Project Canvas enabled set top boxes giving us access to all the UK Catchup TV services and a plethora of other Video over the internet services including paid for services all using the same video over the internet standard.

Internet enabled Freeview Player

Freeview boxes do have an ethernet port but this has not been enabled. However there are some services based on Freeview boxes There are two subscription based services – BT Vision and Taltalk TV. Both are based on Freeview boxes but also supplying catchup TV and Video on demand. Both have also joined Project Canvas (see above).

For a non subscription Freeview box service there is Fetch TV which has a a viable Video on Demand service and includes access to the  BBC iPlayer.  3View have just brought their box to the market . This provides access to your home network, YouTube, email, Facebook and Twitter with iPlayer coming soon.

Internet enabled TVs

Finally there is the Internet TV There are a couple of interesting examples here. First is the Cello iViewer TV which gives access to the BBC iPlayer, YouTube and other WebTV services. Secondly there are TVs from Sony, Samsung, LG, Vizio that make use of the downloadable widgets from the  Yahoo Connected TV Service to give you access to Amazon Video (not UK) & Blockbuster (not UK), Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo News etc.

Conclusion

So where does that currently leave me?  I haven’t been that successful in linking my social networking sites to the programmes or channels I am watching, although I can view them separately. I have largely dispensed with the network media receiver leaving me with:

  • My ethernet connected Freesat player that gives me access to the BBC iPlayer and the possibility of the other catch tv services and Video on demand services through Project Canvas later this year.
  • Boxee running on my laptop connected to my TV that gives me access to the BBC iPlayer, YouTube and lots lots more, using my Windows Media Centre remote control.

Roll on the release of software and Set Top Boxes that will use the Project Canvas internet video standard.

Then of course there is always Google TV on the horizon

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Outlook synchronised with my fixed line phone

I have just purchased a Siemens Gigaset 685 DECT telephone system with Bluetooth and answer machine from John Lewis (best price I could find) Gigaset 685 Duo

a DECT phone with Bluetooth
a DECT phone with Bluetooth

I have longed to be able to synchronise my fixed line telephone with my Outlook contacts. We have long been able to do to do this with our mobiles.  Indeed our household mobiles are all windows mobile 6.0.

Now at last there is a phone out there that will do it.  It achieves this by using Bluetooth. Siemens provide some software to run on my laptop that allows me to send selected contacts to the handset.  The handsets can also receive contacts beamed from our mobiles.

I thought that the only way we were going to achieve this was to use a dual fixed line/ VOIP phone (that didn’t need a PC).  With these  you can access your online VOIP contact from your fixed line phone.  However these do not allow you to use your VOIP contacts list whilst dialling out on the PSTN. The only way to use the VOIP contacts for those not on VOIP is to use services like Skype Out and that will cost.  My current fixed line telephone service tariff from Tiscali gives me free calls to 01 and 02 numbers.

Siemens does offer an IP phone in the Gigaset range with Bluetooth so I could have had the best of the both worlds. But I settled just for Bluetooth as all our mobiles have wi-fi and use Skype.

My ideal would be for the handset to access my Outlook contacts direct over wi-fi but Bluetooth is a good comprise.

My next project is to tie all this up with my online contacts – IM, email, social network contacts.  I am currently experimenting with Digsby.com and using my Yahoo contacts to synchronise with my Outlook Contacts.  But that will be the subject of a later blog when I have sorted it out.

By way of an aside this blog entry was created using Windows Live Writer  (WLW) a very neat blog writer. WLW is part of the Live suite of applications that also includes Live Photo Gallery which allows me to upload my photos direct to Flickr

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