Why wait for YouView or GoogleTV

I knew as soon as I decided not to wait for YouView or GoogleTV that there would be an announcement and sure enough TalkTalk announced that YouView  would be ready about September which incidentally is about when GoogleTV is expected in the UK according to the Telegraph.

So if I am not going to wait which box should I go for. There are so many to choose from. There’s the Roku , the Boxee, Apple TV, WD TV Live to name but a few. A lot depends on whichInternet services (channels) you want access to, remembering that the channels in the UK differ from those in the US. 

In the end I went for the new SONY network media and internet streamer the SMP-N200 which was only recently released and only £80 at Amazon.

SONY SMP-N200

The channels that Sony in the UK provide access to are shown in this interactive graphic

So if I was to ditch my laptop mashup what was I wanting from my box?

Physical
  • Well it would be nice just to have a small box that is always in situ ready to roll and was a lot less expensive than a laptop or nettop.
Internet Streaming
  • All I really needed was a half decent movie service. With the Sony I could get LoveFilm Instant for £4.99 a month and Sony Entertainment Network for PAYG movies.
  • Oh and any CatchUp TV services I could get. The Sony gives me access to BBC iPlayer and Demand 5 & the possibility of ITV player and 4OD to follow.
  • Access to YouTube channels would be good too and with the Sony I can sign into my YouTube.
  • Maybe even some social media? The Sony has Facebook and Twitter. I would have liked access to Flickr and/or Picassa but you can’t have everything can you?
Network Media
  • What about access to my NAS (LaCie LaCinema HD) where I store my photos, music and videos  – it can do that as well.
  • Does it do DLNA so I can pick up media on one device an play it on another.?  Yes it does that too. See the item My multi-room media shifting set-up on this blog
  • What about an Android app to manage the box and my network media. Yes it has that as well the Sony Media remote. Although I prefer a combination of the very neat Sony remote control and the much less bloated BubbleUPnP for catch and throw.
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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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