iPad mania reaches fever pitch in Bondi Junction
By Adam TURNER
The opening of the Bondi Junction Apple store on iPad D-Day offers an interesting glimpse into the psyche of Apple and its fans.
I've already had my dig at the fanboys today over on my Sydney Morning Herald blog; Fear and Loathing in the Apple Store - a report filed from within the new Bondi Junction temple.
Sure I went a little over the top for dramatic effect, but not by much. If you don't believe me take a look at this YouTube clip, shot by my esteemed ITWire colleague and Delimiter founder Renai LeMay.
Warning: don't drink the Kool Aid.
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PlayStation 3's PlayTV - Australia's best selling PVR?
By Adam TURNER
Sony says in the last six weeks of 2009 it sold more PlayTV digital tuners for the PS3 than other vendors sold PVRs in the entire year.
Speaking at this week's launch of the PlayStation 3 movie download service, Sony Computer Entertainment Australia managing director Michael Ephraim slipped in an interesting nugget - Sony has sold more than 70,000 PlayTV boxes in Australia - a $169 add-on which turns the PS3 into a digital TV Personal Video Recorder. Considering Sony has sold around 850,000 PS3s in Australia, that means almost one in ten PS3 owners went out and bought a PlayTV. They're pretty impressive figures considering the PS3 is primarily a games console. It's obviously an encouraging sign for Sony as it attempts to position the PlayStation 3 as a total entertainment solution.
Of those PlayTV sales, it seems 36,000 were sold during the last six weeks of 2009 which - according to Ephraim - made the PlayTV the top-selling PVR for 2009. Not the top-selling PVR for that six week period, but for the entire year. I don't know where Ephraim's figures come from and exactly what's counted as a PVR, but it's not exactly good news for the likes of TiVo, Topfield and Beyonwiz that they can be outsold by a games console peripheral. If Sony has sold another 34,000 PlayTVs already this year, chances are it's still out-selling the competition.
[UPDATE: I didn't take into consideration that when Sony launched the PlayTV it started offering it as part of a bundle with a 250GB PS3. This obviously isn't the same as sellng them outright. Even so, there are several 250GB PS3 bundles to choose from so anyone who bought the PlayTV bundle did so because the wanted the PlayTV rather than a 250GB bundle with extra games.]
This says to me that PS3 owners are serious about their entertainment, which certainly bodes well for the new movie on demand service. Almost three years ago I posed the question; Digital TV tuner for PlayStation 3, but what's in it for Sony?. Console makers generally sell the hardware at a loss and make their money back on games, content or services. That's why Apple doesn't want a Blu-ray drive or TV tuners in the Apple TV, because you'd buy less content from the Apple store. Putting a TV tuner in the PS3 seems like an odd move because when you're watching TV you're not playing a game, watching a Blu-ray movie or downloading a video - all activities that put money in Sony's pocket.
I put the question to Ephraim at the launch - "PlayTV, what's in it for Sony?" - and he replied with a laugh "global domination". He then went on to say "at the end of the day, the key thing is to position the PlayStation 3 as the ultimate home entertainment device". I actually think "global domination" was a fair answer. Sony does some stupid things sometimes, but someone over there is smart enough to realise that the PS3 is a digital beachhead in consumers' lounge rooms (and wallets). With 850,000 sold in Australia, that's one in every ten homes - you could probably say there's a PS3 in every street in the country. [Again I should mention that Sony has bundled PS3s with new Bravias, so they're not all legit sales].
Ephraim wants to push the PS3 past 3 million sales, surpassing the 2.5 million benchmark set by the PS1 and PS2. Value added extras such as Blu-ray, PlayTV, iView, VidZone and the movie download service all help make the PS3 an indispensable entertainment device which staves off the competition. For example, by acting as a PVR the PS3 might discourage people from buying a TiVo - which has its own movie on demand service. It also puts the Apple TV - Cupertino's one-trick pony - to shame.
The more you look at the PlayStation 3 the more it looks like the perfect entertainment storm, ready to wash away all before it.
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Who's afraid of the digital switchover?
By Adam TURNER
The Australian government is keen to ensure voters don't get left in the dark when analogue TV broadcasts cease.
After several false starts, it seems we've certainly passed the point of no return when it comes to the digital switchover. Then again, you could have said that in the US before Obama gave analogue broadcasts a four month stay of execution last year. Politicians know that television is the soma which keeps the masses sedated and if people don't get their fix they'll take it out on the government at the polls.
If things go according to plan, the Sunraysia region will go digital-only at the end of July and the entire country will be digital-only by the end of 2013. You can be sure Australia's politicians are sweating on the digital switchover as much as any of their other high-profile plans.
The Rudd government faces an election this year so in this week's budget the government committed $375 million over 12 years to ensure rural and regional Australians continue to get their TV fix. The money will support the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) service - a new satellite service designed to provide digital TV to regional and remote Australia. Broadcasters are upgrading some regional "self-help" transmitters to digital and the government has put aside another $99 million for communities that will be forced to switch from self-help transmitters to the new satellite service.
I'm sure Australians living in regional and remote areas wish the government cared as much about providing other services as it does about ensuring the idiot box doesn't go dark.
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HDTVs running Android - time to root your television?
By Adam TURNER
I must say I'm excited at the possibilities presented by Google TV. Veeery excited.
This month Sony is expected to announce HDTVs running Google's Android OS on a custom Intel Atom processor codenamed "Dragonpoint". The two companies are also working with Logitech to develop a wireless keyboard for the televisions that would also act as a remote control.
Google's mobile-friendly Android operating system already runs on various smartphones and tablet computers. The thought of them playing nicely with my television is an exciting one, as it would almost certainly surpass the basic integration we've seen between the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV. For example IceTV is working on an Android app for its Australian Electronic Program Guide. Integrating it directly into my television would be a great way to bypass the hotch potch EPG embedded in the broadcast signal. Running Android on a television could also present new ways to integrate with local media servers as well as online services, plus the perfect platform for integrating social media into the viewing experience. It's all sounds very sexy to a nerd like me.
The openness of the Android platform offers endless possibilities but, as @deptofinternets pointed out, Sony has no obligation to allow third party apps on their Android distro. The more I think about that the more I realised it's true - it's always a mistake to use "Sony" and "freedom to do whatever you want" in the same sentence.
When it comes to Android smartphones there's always the option to "root" the device. It basically means unlocking full root access to the device so you can make modifications and even install custom distros to unlock extra features. Plenty of people do it to their mobile phone, but I'm not sure if anyone has done it to their television... yet. TV hacking could be the next big consumer sport, although I'd say it's a brave man who roots his Bravia.
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Sony's new HDD/DVD recorders - the joke's on you
By Adam TURNER
In this day and age, how can Sony's top-of-the-line RDR-HDC500 digital video recorder still be so pathetic?
I'm writing a round-up of digital video recorders and I thought I'd throw in a mainstream Consumer Electronics device - just to offer some perspective on how the household names stack up against the PVR specialists. Sony's new top-of-the-line RDR-HDC500 seemed like a good choice, and it was - as a text book example of what to avoid in a digital video recorder.
This thing retails for AU$849 yet it has just one built-in television tuner - a combo analogue/HDTV tuner. Once you press record you can't change the channel, not even to watch an analogue channel, another digital channel from the same network or even video from an external input. You can pause live TV to timeshift, but of course the limitation of one tuner means you're in trouble if you're timeshifting when the time comes to start a scheduled recording. You're offered a stark choice - lose everything in the timeshifting buffer or don't record your other show - not very family friendly.
Sony's website claims its DVD recorders let you "watch one digital channel and record another at the same time". When you read the manual on the RDR-HDC500, you're told the way to do this is to press record and then change the channel on your television. That surely smells of misleading advertising - it's like saying a car can fly, when all it can really do is drive you to the airport.
The RDR-HDC500 is little more than a glorified VCR - the kind of product that should have been condemned to the scrap heap at least five years ago. The sad thing is that plenty of people would buy this piece of junk just because it has Sony written on it, even though for the same money you could buy a proper dual-HD tuner DVD/HDD recorder from the likes of Panasonic that makes the RDR-HDC500 look like the Fisher Price toy it is. If you don't care about DVD recording you can also get some amazing digital video recorders from the likes of Strong, Topfield, Beyonwiz and TiVo.
Sony makes some amazing gear - for example the new Bravia televisions are leading the way in terms of online video access. It's hard to believe the same company that builds the Bravia TVs and the PlayStation 3 is still flogging outdated junk such as the RDR-HDC500.
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