Sponsored by


    Subscribe to Blog Posts

Streaming Devices

Netflix Announces Major ISPs Deploying Their CDN Caches; New 3D Streaming

Last June, Netflix announced plans to build out their own content delivery network by giving ISPs free caches to place inside their networks. Called Open Connect, Netflix’s new platform allows network operators to provide higher quality streaming and more importantly, gives them control over the video that flows through their pipes. This morning, Netflix announced which ISPs have joined the program which include Cablevision (U.S.), Virgin Media (UK), British Telecom (UK), Telmex (Latin America), Telus (Canada), TDC (Denmark) and GVT (Latin America).

Netflix says that Open Connect is now serving the “vast majority” of Netflix video in Europe, Canada and Latin America. Netflix wouldn’t clarify exactly how much of their traffic that is, but did say back in June that more than 50% of their traffic in the UK alone was coming from their new CDN platform, so clearly it’s grown quite a bit since then. Netflix said their goal is to have “all of our members served by Open Connect as soon as possible” and while they haven’t given out a time frame just yet, realistically it would probably take them 24-36 months to have nearly all of their International and U.S. video streams being delivered from inside ISP networks.

In addition, Netflix says that their Open Connect partners now have the ability to offer a limited number of videos in Super HD and 3D streaming, with 3D streaming being limited to North America only. I tried to see if I could test one of the videos, but my ISP Verizon isn’t in Netflix’s Open Connect program. Netflix has launched a new page on their website where consumers can check to see if their ISP is in the Open Connect program by simply going to www.netflix.com/superhd.

Netflix told me their Super HD videos are encoded for 7 Mbps and that the 3D streaming videos require 12 Mbps at the high end. Currently, only the PS3, WiiU, Windows 8 devices, Roku, Apple TVs (1080p model) and select smart TVs and Blu-Ray players are supported.

It’s also interesting to think about how Netflix’s Open Connect program could help protect their business. For some time now, service providers have been feeling the pressure by having to backhaul a lot of Netflix’s traffic, at their own cost. They only thing they can do to combat it is spend money to built-out, which means they put that pressure back on the consumer by raising rates or implementing caps. Over time, it will be very interesting to see if any of the ISPs that have Netflix caches inside their network allow content from Netflix not to count towards consumers caps. I don’t know of any ISPs currently thinking of doing that, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Very_few content owners can build out their own CDN, but for Netflix it makes perfect sense. They have enough traffic to make it more cost-effective than using third-party CDNs and even more importantly, it allows them to provide an even better user experience. Based on recent data Netflix has given out, their average broadband stream is delivered at just over 2 Mbps and for mobile devices, those streams average 600 Kbps. So over time, their Open Connect initiative will allow customers to be able to get much better quality video, something every content owner is always striving to improve on.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Netflix’s CDN plans then save the date to join us on Monday May 20th at my Content Delivery Summit in NYC, where Ken Florance, VP of Content Delivery for Netflix will be our opening keynote speaker.

Read more:

Netflix’s Streaming Cost Per Movie Drops 50% From 2009, Expected To Spend $50M In 2012

Netflix’s CDN News Being Overblown By Many Wall Street Analysts, Focus On The Facts

Average Family Of Four Probably Has 10 Netflix Enabled Devices In Their Home Today

Netflix Announces New Content Delivery Network, Offering Free Caches To ISPs

Hulu Opens A Pop-Up Store In Century City, Lets People Test Out Hulu Plus

I don’t know if Hulu has more of these, but in Century City California, Hulu has taken over part of the retail space of a restaurant that’s been boarded up and has opened a pop-up store. You can get hands-on with Hulu’s streaming service and check out how it works on multiple devices. Not sure if this going to be a permanent mini-store or was setup just for the holidays, but it’s a great idea for letting consumers test out Hulu’s service. Click on the image to see a higher-res copy of the photo.

Free Giveaway: Win A New Slingbox 350 – The True TV Everywhere Device

If you are looking to access your full linear TV lineup wherever you go from your computer or mobile device, then the Slingbox is the only way to go. I’ve still got one brand new Slingbox 350 left over the Streaming Media West show last month and will give it away to one lucky reader of my blog.

To enter the drawing, just leave one comment on this post with your full name and submit the comment using a valid email address. I’ll pick one lucky winner at random next month. You must have a U.S. postal address as I will not ship it overseas outside the United States. Good luck!

Roku vs. Apple TV: How To Chose The Right $99 Streamer

[Updated March 5 2013: The Roku 3 has been announced. See my updated post here for a comparison of the Roku 3 vs. Apple TV] or keep reading below for a comparison of the Roku 2 vs. Apple TV. And if you want a shot at winning a free Roku 3, I’m giving one away to one lucky reader of my blog. You can enter the drawing here.

While there are currently seven different $99 streaming boxes in the market today, the two most popular and best-selling are the Roku 2 and Apple TV. I get a lot of questions from readers asking me which box I think they should buy and many always want to know how the two boxes compare. While I have done many side-by-side reviews in the past, here’s the latest comparison on how the boxes stack up, the pros and cons of each and the factors you should use to determine which $99 streamer you should buy. While Roku currently has four different models of boxes available on the market, ranging in price from $49 to $99, this post will compare the $99 Roku 2 XS to the $99 Apple TV. And if you want to win your very own Roku 2 XS or an Apple TV, I’m giving both away in two separate drawings. (Enter Apple TV drawing | Enter Roku 2 XS drawing)


To date, Apple has sold over 6M of their $99 Apple TV devices and Roku has sold more than 3M globally. Based on available industry data, they are the number one and number two selling $99 boxes in the market today. It’s no wonder considering both boxes come loaded with features including HDMI out, 802.11n Wi-Fi, an ethernet jack and support for 5.1 surround sound and 1080p video. Both boxes are about the same in size (Roku 2: 0.9″ x 3.3″ x 3.3″ vs. Apple TV: 0.9″x 3.9″ x 3.9″) and consume very little in the way of power (Roku 2W, Apple TV 6W). Each box comes with a 90-day warranty and a simple power cord with no power brick. You can add an extra one year warranty to the Apple TV for $29 or $$15 for the Roku 2. While both are great streamers with very similar hardware, there is one big compatibility difference between the two that could determine which one you should buy.

If you plan to hook the box up to a newer TV with built-in HDMI, then both boxes are a great choice. But if you have an older TV without HDMI, the Roku is your only option. Unlike the Roku 2, the Apple TV has no support for older TVs. The Roku 2 XS supports older TVs and provides 480i video quality via composite video and has support for analog stereo via left/right/composite video RCA, thanks to a mini-jack. So if you have an older TV with no support for HDMI, The Roku 2 is the box for you. Two other hardware advantages the Roku 2 has over the Apple TV are a microSD card slot for additional game and channel storage and a USB port.

While the Apple TV has a mini micro USB port, it cannot be used to playback local content via a USB device. The port is only used by Apple for servicing the unit. Since the first generation of the Apple TV device was released (the 720p model), many have speculated that Apple would enable the mini USB port to allow users to play back local content. However nearly two years later, that has not happened. Roku’s USB port can be used to playback content from a USB hard drive or thumb drive and supports MP4 (H.264) and MKV (H.264) content only. So if you have content in these formats and want the option to playback some local content, the Roku 2 is the box to choose. The Apple TV box has an optical audio port and the Roku 2 XS doesn’t, so that might be important for those who want to use these boxes for audio content more than video.

Setup/Wi-Fi Strength

Both boxes are super easy to set up, passing my Mom test which has involved me giving her each of these boxes to set on her own. Roku’s box takes a bit longer to set up than the Apple TV as Roku requires you to go to Roku.com on a computer to enter all of your contact information and credit card details. While Roku only collects your credit card data to have it on file in case you make any content purchases via the Roku Channel Store, many have voiced their complaints that it is an unnecessary step in the setup process, especially if you have been given a Roku 2 as a gift, are giving it to a young person with no credit card or simply don’t want to have your credit card on file with Roku. Currently, there is no way to skip entering your credit card details in the setup process, so if this is a problem for you, stick with the Apple TV, which doesn’t require any credit card details during setup. (Updated: Roku now gives you the option to skip entering your credit card info in the setup process if you want.)

As long as you know your Wi-Fi password and the box is within range of your Wi-Fi signal, each box takes less than 10 minutes to set up. I have seen many in the industry debate which box has better Wi-Fi strength, but I have yet to see any testing of the two that has shown conclusive results. A lot of factors go into how well Wi-Fi works including the type of Wi-Fi router, the position of the router and the type of Wi-Fi protocol (a/b/g/n) being used. Everyone has their own unique setting within their house that determines how strong and how far their Wi-Fi signal works, so it’s very individual. That said, both boxes have what I would consider to be identical Wi-Fi strength and of all the testing and use of the boxes I have done over the years, I’ve never encountered any Wi-Fi differences between the two.

Remote Control

When it comes to the remotes, both work very well and are very responsive. One of the things I don’t like about the Apple TV remote is that it doesn’t take standard sized batteries. It’s not a huge deal breaker, but I have a lot more triple AAA batteries lying around for the Roku remote, as opposed to the watch batteries (CR2032 or BR2032) that the Apple TV remote takes. The Roku 2 XS comes with a Bluetooth game remote with motion sensing for playing games and supports what Roku calls “instant replay”, which allows you to skip back in 10 second increments while a video is playing without having to re-buffer the stream. Apple’s remote is smaller and much thinner than Roku’s, but personally, I like how Roku’s works better than the Apple TV remote. Apple’s remote design is all about less is more, but I tend to find the few additional buttons on the Roku remote are there for a reason and are used often. All of this aside, no one is picking one box over another based solely on the remote and both remotes work very well and work from 30′ away.

In addition to the physical remotes that come with these boxes, you can download remote control apps for your iPad/iPhone that will control your Roku 2 XS or Apple TV. See this link for Roku and this link for Apple TV.

Content/User Interface

As for the content available on both devices, this is really where the Roku 2 is the box to beat. Apple TV supports content from Netflix, Hulu Plus, MLB.TV, NHL GameCenter, NBA, Flickr and YouTube as well as the ability to purchase and rent content from iTunes. It also supports some free Internet content from folks like Revision3, WSJ and others, but all of that content is lumped in under the Podcast heading in Apple TV, so most folks probably don’t see it. The Apple TV use to support $0.99 rentals from ABC, Disney, Fox, and the BBC via iTunes, but Apple has since discontinued that option and shows now have to be purchased for $2.99. For those that want XBMC support on the Apple TV, it’s possible, but only works if you are willing to jailbreak the device.

The Roku 2 has channels for Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO, Epix, MLB.TV, NHL GameCenter, NBA, Major League Soccer, UFC TV, CNBC, FOX News, NBC News, AOL HD, TED, Pandora, Crackle, Flickr and has support for PLEX. Roku has more than 250 public content channels listed on their website, has an open SDK and as a result, has a lot of content partners working to bring more channels to Roku devices. In addition, you can browse over 1,000 “private” channels available for the Roku and add them if you know the correct code. (see the list of private channels here) Compare that to the Apple TV which today, has no SDK and doesn’t run any apps on the box. (Updated: Roku says they have more than 600 content channels, but don’t have them all listed on their website, which is in the process of being updated.)

While Roku has support for nearly every content channel around, it does NOT have support for YouTube. For more than a year now, Roku has said they are working on an official channel, but they won’t give any estimate on when it will arrive. Some have been speculating for over 18 months now that the Apple TV will run apps in the future since internally it has 8GB of Flash storage, but none of that has yet to happen. So when deciding which box to buy, don’t listen to rumors of what the box may or may not do down the road, evaluate the boxes in the market based on what they can do today. If you want the most content choices available, the Roku 2 beats the Apple TV hands-down. But if support for YouTube is a requirement, then the Apple TV is your only choice. I should also mention that neither the Apple TV or Roku 2 XS are DLNA compliant, so is that is a requirement for you, then pick the $99 Vizio Co-Star or the $99 Western Digital WD TV Live box. Neither box has any kind of we browser built in, so you can’t browse the web with the Roku 2 or Apple TV.

The Roku user interface is not as polished as the Apple TV interface, but it’s simple, easy to navigate and you can customize the layout of the channels. The browsing experience on the Apple TV is great for picking movies and TV shows in iTunes, with large cover art, straightforward navigation and Rotten Tomatoes ratings. Both the Roku 2 XS and Apple TV have simple interfaces and while they look different, they both perform well and do exactly what they should, with dead-simple navigation. In addition to streaming content, the Roku 2 XS also allows you to play nearly 30 games, with the most popular being Angry Birds. Roku’s regular remote doubles as a gaming remote and works really well for simple gaming. And if Angry Birds is something you’re really into, Roku even has a limited edition version of the console that comes in red.

Playing Videos From Local Computer

If you’re into Apple devices and already have an iPad, iPhone or Mac, then it makes a lot of sense to pick the Apple TV over the Roku due to how all the devices work together in Apple’s ecosystem. You’ll have less content choices than the Roku 2 XS, but all the devices talk to one another and sharing content amongst all the devices is very easy. Any movies or TV shows that you purchase in iTunes via the Apple TV are stored in the cloud and will be available for download to an iPad or iPhone. Enabling your Apple TV to see your local computer allows you to stream just about any media you have on your computer that is running iTunes including your music collection, any video that iTunes can play and your photo collection.

And with Apple’s Airplay technology, you can start watching a video on an iPhone, iPod or iPad and then move that content over to the Apple TV in realtime, for content rented or purchased via iTunes. Airplay also supports the streaming of video from third-party apps on the iPad and iPhone to your TV set with Apple TV in the middle, but only if the app developer enables Airplay functionality. For instance, Airplay works with TNT’s iPhone app, but is disabled in TNT’s iPad app. Also, Airplay does not allow you to play back any DVD images from your computer.

While most people aren’t aware of it, the Roku 2 XS can be used to playback content from your local computer, but it is not as easy or seamless as Apple’s solution to use and it is not built-in to the Roku. Installing a third-party channel on the Roku, like Roksbox, or using PlayOn or PLEX will turn your computer into a media server that can stream movies, pictures, and music from you computer, wirelessly to your Roku device. That said, the Roku 2 XS will NOT play back iTunes content that has been protected via Apple’s DRM. Even with PLEX, the Roku 2 XS can’t playback Apple’s copy protected content. So while you can play back content that is in your iTunes library, it just can’t be content you purchased from iTunes that is protected via Digital Rights Management (DRM). I’ve also experienced cases where the Roku will play back some music tracks but not others depending on how it was encoded. Content purchased via the Roku 2 XS through Amazon Instant Video can be downloaded to an iPad via the new Amazon Instant iPad app.

Replacing Your Cable TV (cord-cutting)

Despite all the hype about cord-cutting, the Apple TV and Roku 2 XS will NOT allow the average person to drop their cable TV package. Neither box has an internal hard drive for storage, has no DVR functionality and has no support for picking up live TV stations via an over-the-air antenna. In addition, many of the content services available for the devices don’t won’t have every piece of content you want, at the quality you want and in the business model (rent/purchase/subscription) that you want. Even a great subscription service like MLB.TV has local blackout restrictions, so these $99 streamers are not a replacement for cable TV for 99% of consumers.


While many people are always willing to give their two cents on which device you should buy, everyone has different tastes when it comes to the type of content they want to watch, how they watch it and whether they rent it, buy it, or play it back from a local computer. Do your research and figure out what YOU want the box to do as opposed to what others are using it for. Picking the best box is pretty easy if you can answer the following questions:

  • Does the TV you plan to hook it up to have support for HDMI?
  • What specific content do you want to watch?
  • How do you want to get your content? Via subscription, purchase or both?
  • Do you want the ability to play back content (MP4, MKV) via a USB drive?
  • Do you want to use the streaming box for casual gaming?
  • Do you already own other Apple devices and want to use Apple’s ecosystem?
  • Do you plan to play back a lot of content via iTunes?

Keep in mind that these boxes are cheap at only $99 and getting them via Amazon means you can take advantage of their great return policy. If you pick one up and it doesn’t work the way you had hoped, return it and try a different one. At $99 each, with free shipping from Amazon, and an easy return process, you really can’t go wrong by trying them out. That said, the Roku 2 XS and Apple TV are only two of the SEVEN streaming boxes currently priced at under $100. (If you are looking for a box that streams Netflix and other subscription services and also has the Google TV platform built-in, then check out my review of Vizio’s recently released $99 Co-Star box.)

When it comes to deciding which $99 streaming box to get, there are a lot of choices in the market. I’ve created a chart that shows the hardware specs of each device and also lists which content choices are available on them. You can check out the chart and compare a total of 13 different boxes by visiting www.StreamingMediaDevices.com

If you still don’t know which box to get or have additional questions, put them in the comments section or drop me an email and I’ll be glad to help you try to pick the right one, based on your needs. And if you want to try and win your very own Roku 2 XS, Apple TV or Vizio Co-Star, I’m giving all three of them away in separate drawings. You must enter each drawing separately.

Free Giveaway: Win A New Roku 2 XS

Earlier today I reviewed the Apple TV player in a head-to-head comparison with the Roku 2 XS in an article entitled “Roku 2 vs. Apple TV: How To Chose The Right $99 Streamer“. To go with the review, I am giving away one Roku XS device to a lucky reader of my blog. To enter the drawing, all you have to do is leave one comment on this post and make sure you submit the comment with a valid email address. The drawing is open to anyone with a mailing address in the U.S. and the winner will be selected at random later this month. The drawing is now over. Congrats to Larry S. who won the item.

I’m also giving away an Apple TV unit and a Vizio Co-Star unit. You must enter each drawing separately. Good luck!

Free Giveaway: Win A New Apple TV

Earlier today I reviewed the Apple TV player in a head-to-head comparison with the Roku 2 XS in an article entitled “Roku 2 vs. Apple TV: How To Chose The Right $99 Streamer. To go with the review, I am giving away one Apple TV to a lucky reader of my blog. To enter the drawing, all you have to do is leave one comment on this post and make sure you submit the comment with a valid email address. The drawing is open to anyone with a mailing address in the U.S. and the winner will be selected at random later this month. The drawing is now over. Congrats to Addison L. who won the item.

I’m also giving away a Roku 2 XS unit and a Vizio Co-Star unit. You must enter each drawing separately. Good luck!

PS3 To Stream NFL Sunday Ticket: Still Costs $300, Must Be Paid All At Once

This morning Sony announced that for the second year in a row, their PlayStation3 system can be used to stream the NFL Sunday Ticket from DirecTV. The bad news, those who don’t have the NFL Sunday Ticket Max plan will once again have to pay $300 if they want access to the games. Even those with the Max plan won’t be able to stream all the games, as only out-of-market matchups will be available. Sony said that unlike last year, where customers could pay over a 3-4 month period, this year the $299.995 needs to be paid all at once to make it “easier” for them to manage.

While it’s great to see more content available via devices like the PS3, charging $300 really is way too expensive, let alone charging it all upfront. Considering MLB.TV is a third of that cost, and gives you access to thousands of games over the course of the year, DirecTV should make this more affordable. I’m sure there are a lot of people like myself who don’t want a dish on their roof, can’t have one installed and would be willing to pay about $150 a year to get access to the games. But at $300, it almost as if DirecTV doesn’t want people to sign up for it.

Last year, there were also quite a few issues with the system, most notably being the fact that while you could pause a game, if you un-paused it after the game had ended, it wouldn’t pick up where you left off but would give you a message telling you the game had ended. I hope they have fixed that along with how much the streams lag delay wise. Also, it seemed like a lot of times, the quality of the video was not in HD and was simply a SD feed being stretched, which is not what you should be getting for a $300 service. It’s hard to find specs on DirecTV’s website saying exactly what the video quality specs are. So for $300, customers expect and should get a better service this year, and I hope that’s the case. I’ll see if I can test it out and do a review.

How much would you be willing to pay? $150? $200?

Vizio’s Co-Star Streaming Box Will Be Back Up For Order Sept. 9th

If you were interested in buying Vizio’s new $99 Co-Star streaming media box and missed out on the pre-order, the good news is you don’t have to wait much longer for them to be back in stock. While the Vizio.com website currently says ‘Temporarily sold out”, Vizio let me know that they will open their website back up for orders on September 9th. And if that batch gets sold out, the company will have more in stock, available for ordering on September 18th. So check out my hands-on review of the device, put the date on your calendar and get ready to place your order for this nice little box. And if you want to try and win one for free, you can entering my drawing, where I am giving one away.

New $99 Google TV Box Announced: Called The Hisense Pulse, Ships In November

Earlier today, a new $99 Google TV box was announced by Hisense, a company that sells flat screen TVs for cheap, mostly in stores like Walmart and Costco. Named the Hisense Pulse with Google TV, the company says the box will ship in November and will have support for 1080p, built-in WiFi, HDMI in and out, ethernet and a double sided remote control featuring a built-in touchpad and dedicated Netflix button on one side and a QWERTY keyboard on the other. The company says the box is small, with the dimensions being 4.5″ x 1.4″ in size.

If you ask me, this sounds like the exact same box that Vizio just released, the Co-Star, which I just reviewed. To date, it’s the only box in the market with HDMI pass-through and allows the overlay of live TV, but it sounds as if they won’t be the only device with this feature much longer, once the Hisense Pulse comes out. The question I have though is what the build quality will be like with the Hisense Pulse. Some people may compare Vizio to Hisnese and say they both make cheap TVs, but that’s not accurate.

Vizio is known for making good quality gear, affordable. Hisense is knowing for making ok quality TVs, cheap. Most have probably never heard of Hisense before and while their TVs are in some cases $100-$400 cheaper than a Vizio or Samsung, the picture quality is not as good as the major brands. When their 40″ 1080p LCD TV is selling for $299 at big box retailers, you know they had to skimp in the quality somewhere. Hisense’s TVs do get good reviews online, but most of the positive remarks are the price, with many saying things like, “not as good as my Samsung“, and “it is not the best out there in terms of picture quality.”

I’ve seen many Hisense’s TVs at the store before, but have never tested one at home, in my lab, so I’ll have to get one and see how it performs against my Vizio, LG, Sony, Samsung and Panasonic models. All this aside, the biggest hurdle Hisense will have with their $99 Google TV box is that most have never heard of the company, so they are going to have to spend a lot of money to market the device. But it does look like more Google TV boxes on the cheap are going to be coming to the market, which is great for consumers.

Part Two Of My Vizio Co-Star Review: Your Questions Answered

Last week, after I posted my review of Vizio’s new $99 Co-Star streaming box, I got a lot of questions from readers wanting me to comment on certain features of the box. So I’ve made a list of the questions, done some additional testing and have provided answers to them below. I’m also giving one of these boxes away, so go here to enter the drawing.

[In addition to these questions, I also got a few others that I sent to Vizio asking for more details. I’ll update this post as soon as they respond.]

Do you know when the next wave of Co-Star’s will be released?
Vizio’s Co-Star device started to be delivered last week, to those who pre-ordered from Vizio.com. Vizio said they sold out of the original run of boxes made just for the pre-order, but said the box will soon be up for general availability. From what I have heard, it sounds like the Co-Star will be generally available in September.

What kind of chip is in the box and what processing power does it have?
iFixit took the box apart and says it is using a Marvell Armada 1500 1.2 GHz Dual-Core Processor, with just 4GB of flash memory to store everything for the OS and Google TV platform. Vizio says their box is so robust that the processor can also support the playback of 3D content, although I haven’t tested that yet.

How does it handle local content playback? Is it better than the Boxee Box?
The Co-Star has excellent video format and codec support, more than the Boxee Box and has pros/cons over Western Digital’s WD TV Live. If you want to playback lots of formats from a local USB drive, the Co-Star device will handle just about all of them. (It does not support ISO or xVID)

What additional content services are coming to the box? Will it have Vudu and Blockbuster On Demand in the future?
Vizio told me that more content services will be added to the box before the end of the year, but aren’t hinting at what those services will be. I really can’t speculate, but I doubt it would be Blockbuster On Demand. I’m also hearing that more content services will soon be coming to the Google TV platform, so it may be that more content for the box comes from Google rather than Vizio.

Did you test the streaming services via WiFi or ethernet? How well did WiFi work?
All of my testing was done via WiFi. The WiFi signal and reception was excellent, even when I moved the box to a TV located on the opposite side of my house from where my router was. I’ve had some reception problems with the WiFi on Roku’s in the past, and the Co-Star seems to have stronger WiFi reception than the Roku. BUT, many factors go into how well WiFi works on any device, including the unique setup in your home. So what worked best for me is not guaranteed to work best for you.

How well does the chrome browser handle flash content?
Using the Chrome browser via the Google TV platform, worked very well. I didn’t have any trouble playing Flash content and it didn’t stutter or have any hiccups.

I’m curious how the Vizio Co-Star stacks up to the Sony Blu-ray Google TV player?
The Google TV platform is the same on both boxes, but Vizio has re-skinned the Google TV platform for their box, making it easier to overlay live TV. But it is really hard to compare the two boxes as the Sony model is a Blu-ray player firs and the Vizio Co-Star isn’t. The Sony Blu-ray player is also 2x as expensive as the Co-Star.

Can’t I get android apps of Hulu Plus and MLB.TV via the Google Play store?
No. Hulu and MLB, along with others, are blocking access to their website if you’re using the Google TV setup. There are no apps in the Google Play store for MLB.TV, Hulu Plus and others for the Google TV platform.

As for Hulu Plus and the other apps, couldn’t you use something like PlayOn as a substitute and still pull them in?
I haven’t tested it, but you should be able to. PlayOn works on the Google TV platform by entering g.playon.tv into the search bar, which will bring you to the page that discovers your PlayOn PC. While you need a keyboard to control Google TV, Vizio’s Co-Star remote should be fine for this purpose since it has the trackpad and keyboard.

I’m wondering if this is an open API leaving the door open for a third-party app to use my iPhone or tablet as a replacement remote?
Vizio hasn’t given me a clear answer on what their API and SDK plans are for the Co-Star, so I don’t know what their long-term strategy is for this.

Since this has the Google TV platform on it, can you hook up a webcam and do video chat like you could with the Logitech box?
Presently there are not any apps available for Co-Star that support video chat, but as those become available webcams could be supported.

Free Giveaway: Win Vizio’s New $99 Co-Star Streaming Box

I’ve just posted a review of Vizio’s new $99 Co-Star streaming media box and as part of the review, I’m giving away one brand new unit to a lucky reader of my blog.

To enter the drawing, all you have to do is leave one comment on this post and make sure you submit the comment with a valid email. The drawing is open to anyone with a mailing address in the U.S. and I will select the winner at random in September. Good luck! The drawing is now over. Congrats to Andy S. who won the item.

And if you like free stuff, I’m also giving away two Google Nexus 7 Tablets.

Gene Munster’s Apple TV Predictions and Data Are Seriously Flawed

If you had to pick one person that is the most outspoken advocate of Apple’s (APPL) still non-existent all-in-one Apple TV, it would have to be Piper Jaffray Wall Street analyst Gene Munster. For more than three years now, Gene’s been very vocal in predicting that Apple is getting ready to release an Apple TV set. The moment he says anything about the device, many people in the media make it into their lead story, even though to date, he’s yet to be right about any of his Apple TV predictions. While I don’t know Gene personally, and for all I know he’s one of the nicest guys in the world, I don’t understand why anyone listens to him when he’s been predicting the same thing, year after year, with no results to show for it.

When he predicted in June that Apple could sell 11M TV sets in the next 3-5 years, the media was all over it. Why? What credibility does he have? Anyone can predict something for many years and eventually might be right, but does that really matter? What info is Gene Munster putting out today that’s usable? I never went to college, I have no journalism courses or even writing classes under my belt and I don’t know what they teach journalists these days. But writers should be more focused on what is taking place today, not what might, could, or should happen 3-5 years from now because in nearly every case, what is predicted never comes true. I see more articles talking about Apple TV, a product that does not exist, as opposed to a device, like the Xbox 360, that actually has a real footprint, real user base and real revenue being generated.

In a previous note, Gene said that the size of the 2013 connected TV market is 110M units. I don’t know where that number comes from but even if we all agreed that’s the correct number to use, that 110M number refers to the global size of the market, not the U.S. market. And as we all know, if Apple were to start selling an all-in-one TV, it would not start off by offering it globally. So the 110M number simply isn’t a realistic size of the market that Apple would be entering. Adding some real data to my argument, Vizio, who is one of the best-selling TV manufactures in the market recently told me that they are forecasting to sell a total of 1.2M connected TVs this year.

Gene’s latest data about a product that does not exist comes to use last week where he surveyed 200 consumers in the Minneapolis St. Paul area and asked them what they would pay for an all-in-one Apple TV. Before you get too excited as to their answers, as the Fortune article points out, Gene says the data he’s collected from these 200 consumers is representative of a population of 300M consumers with 95% confidence. That’s absurd. The findings from a sample size of 200 consumers is supposed to represent the kind of data that would be collected if 300M consumers were interviewed? To put that in perspective, those 200 consumers equals 0.00006666666666666667% of the overall market. But the bigger point is that the data he collected shows people would not pay $1,500 for an Apple TV. When asked how much they’d be willing to pay, the average response from the consumers was $530, for a product that Gene is predicting Apple would sell for $1,500. So his own data collection doesn’t match the estimates and guidance he is giving out.

But according to Gene, if Apple was to capture only between 5-10% of his predicted 2013 connected TV market of 110 million units, it would be a big deal for Apple. On the low-end of that prediction, 5% of 110M is 5.5M units. So Gene is predicting that Apple would sell 4x the number of connected TVs that Vizio expects to sell this year, even though his own survey showed that on average people want to spend $530 for the device? None of this makes any sense. Any connected TV by Apple would easily be much more expensive than a Vizio model. Keep in mind as well, this is all taking place at a time when research firm NPD Display Search says total TV sales worldwide will only grow 2% this year and that global TV unit shipments rose only 0.1% in 2011. The price of an average 42″ smart TV, is between $500-$600 and we all know Apple’s TV wouldn’t be anything close to that price.

Last year, Gene predicted that a standalone all-in-one Apple TV would be available in 2011. In June of this year, he said it would come out in 2012, but then said we should expect it to actually ship somewhere around the first half of 2013. If an all-in-one Apple TV actually ships in 2013, that will be a full five years since Gene has been telling us all that an Apple TV was on the way. This of course is the same all-in-one Apple TV that Gene says must ship with Siri to be successful, a product he gave a D grade to only two months ago when he reviewed Siri’s functionality. In 2009 Gene predicted that Apple would sell 6.6M of the $99 Apple TV set-top boxes that year when in reality, three years later, Apple was barely selling even 3M units. In 2010, Gene said Apple would sell 20-25M iPads in 2011, and they sold 40M. He predicted Apple would sell 4.3M iPads in 2010, they sold 7.3M in one quarter. In 2007 Gene said that within two years, Apple would ship 45M phones a year. In reality, Apple shipped 25M. It’s no wonder that in 2010, on the Apple 2.0 blog, which tracks the best and worst Apple analysts, Gene was ranked 23rd out of a total of 32 analysts. But his poor track record doesn’t seem to stop the media who for some reason, continues to interview him and ask him to give his opinion on Apple products. As far as I am concerned, what Gene is doing isn’t what I would call predicting, he’s simply guessing. And so far, he’s pretty bad at it.

I get that some people are excited about an all-in-one Apple TV unit and if you are a money guy on Wall Street, like Gene is, you’re even more excited about it as you spend most of your time trying to figure out how many units of a new product a company can sell and how you can pump a stock. But we have enough real data in the market today to know what smart TVs cost, how many units are actually being sold, what the growth of the market is and what consumers are willing to pay for these devices. Even with that info available for everyone to see, some of these predictions that Wall Street guys like Gene puts out, are simply irrational and fuel expectations on Wall Street that simply can’t be met. And when wrong expectations get set, we know the outcome from that is never good – for the industry, or investors.