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Apple iPad misses the mark as HD-enabled living room tablet, media controller

Apple iPad misses the mark as HD-enabled living room tablet, media controller

“Missed it by that much!” – Maxwell Smart, Get Smart

Huh. Yeah. That new Apple iPad is full of potential. I really want to want one but it feels like it’s just missing the mark by a hair. And that hair is going to keep this writer from buying. At least for now.

I’m not going to run down all the details of the iPad. I’m sure you’ve read an article or watched a newscast that’s covered the tablet in-depth. If not, watch Apple’s overview video above. That should do the trick.

You see? It’s not a smart-phone and it’s not a laptop. Apple claims it’s a whole new category of device. I get that. And I think the devices it’s directly competing with are the Amazon Kindle (a dedicated book reader) and the netbook (crippled, mini-laptops). But the iPad doesn’t offer the easy-on-the-eyes ePaper screen of the Kindle, making eye-strain a probable issue when reading ebooks. And it doesn’t have the ability to multi-task or the extensibility of a mini-laptop. The iPad only has one port and it’s not standard. If you want to plug anything into it, you’ll need a handful of adapters.

ipad_hero_20100127

So, it’s not the best eBook reader and it’s not the best mobile workstation. At the end of the day, it just comes across as a big iPod Touch or iPhone, right?! Another window to consume media. Well, here’s where Apple missed the boat. They focused on functions that we see everyday on our phones, and functions that other, cheaper devices do better. They spent their keynote speech demonstrating the devices ability to read text and create spreadsheets. They should have shown us new things. Things that this device can do better than anything on the market. Like comic books. Like magazines. Any two-bit e-reader can handle text. There isn’t anything on the market at the moment that can allow a comic or magazine as printed to resonate with a reader in digital form. The iPad can do that. It can display full, large coloured pages as they were designed. As they were meant to be read. And I’m certain it will, through applications like ComicZeal, Comixology and iVerse.

But more exciting to me is the potential for this device to become something new in my home. Like, for instance, to become my media controller. I can envision myself sitting on the couch, leaning back with my iPad, scrolling through all my music, movies, TV, books, comics, magazines. The access is all there in my hands. But I imagine some of this content living on my Macbook Pro hard drive, on an external HD networked through my Airport Extreme or on another dedicated media device like Apple TV or PS3. I should be able to find a movie, no matter where it’s living in my house and click play on my iPad. And when I want to share it with others in the room, the iPad should be able to move the film to my 40″ LCD display, whether through a media centre like the Apple TV or directly through a wireless DLNA connection. All of these things are possible with the hardware built in to the iPad.

When I say that the iPad misses the mark, it’s really in relation to our expectations of the product. We were hoping for something revolutionary and transformative but were shown more of the same. Only bigger. In hardware terms, it fails to make the grade by not including a more universal port (like USB) and a webcam to video chat. I’m not sad that it doesn’t include a Blu-ray drive. I think it’s ridiculous to expect a thin, handheld device to contain a spinning optical drive. I got over carrying my discman around with me about fifteen years ago.

In terms of the software, the sky is the limit. Anything is possible. So, to my mind Apple really missed out on impressing its consumers and critics by failing to provide an example of the potential of the product, leaving it up to application developers to dream of new directions for the product. It could be so much more if Apple will only allow it to be. If they have the vision to take it there.

Will I buy an iPad this year? I’m still undecided. Do I hope it succeeds? Absolutely. I look forward to owning an iPad that proves itself to be more than my iPhone. And more comfortable on my lap and in my hands than my Macbook Pro. And if it manages to somehow become interoperable with my Blu-ray player so much the better!

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Blu-ray Picks for the Week of December 22

Blu-ray Picks for the Week of December 22

We’re only a few days away from Christmas, which means there’s not much time left to pick up that perfect gift for the Blu-ray fanatic in your life. If you’re having trouble finding something, we recommend using our handy-dandy gift guide, full of ideas from boxed gift sets to the best Blu-ray player in the world. If you still don’t see anything you like, maybe one of these new releases will float your boat.


District 9 Blu-ray

I just watched District 9 on Blu-ray. This is one of the best films of the year. I’m blown away! And not only is the film itself amazing but the Blu-ray is damn fine as well. Great looking, packed with great special features and a killer demo of God of War 3 for the PS3 which cost me several hours of my Sunday evening. Super-extra-highly recommended!

Amazon: $17.99


Family Guy Presents: Something Something Something Dark Side Blu-ray

I’m not a big fan of Family Guy. But I loves me some Star Wars! So I’m game to check out any send-up of the franchise. I watched the Blue Harvest Family Guy film and wasn’t that impressed but I can’t say I didn’t have any fun watching it. There’s something kind of cool about how slavishly they follow the original films. Anyway, I’m looking forward to watching Family Guy Presents: Something Something Something Dark Side.

Amazon: $18.99


(500) Days of Summer Blu-ray

I literally just accepted delivery of my review copy of (500) Days of Summer a couple of minutes ago. I’m so excited to see this! There’s been a lot of talk about this film being one of the better releases of the year. A sort-of romantic comedy for intelligent people. Let’s hope it lives up to the hype!

Amazon: $24.99


Extract Blu-ray

Extract is the new film from Mike Judge, the man who brought us Office Space and the King of the Hill animated TV series. Word of mouth on this film has been less-than stellar. In fact, some folks flat-out don’t care for Extract. But I think high-expectations, based on Judge’s stellar Office Space, have muddied the waters a bit, not allowing the film to be judged on its own merits. I’ve got my review copy here and hope to see for myself tonight. Review pending…

Amazon: $24.49


ALSO AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY THIS WEEK
Clicking an image will take you to Amazon.com where you can learn more about and purchase the Blu-ray disc:

It Might Get Loud Blu-rayAll About Steve Blu-rayIchi Blu-ray



Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Blu-rayAmerican Pie Presents: The Book Of Love Blu-rayStaten Island Blu-ray



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The Top 10 Reasons the PS3 is the Best Blu-ray Player

The Top 10 Reasons the PS3 is the Best Blu-ray Player

ps3-slim-011In most cases, when a machine is capable of performing a great variety of tasks, it rarely has the ability to do any one thing particularly well. That’s not the case with Sony‘s Playstation 3. It can do a whole mess of things and amazingly manages to do most of them as well as any competitor. On top of being a technological jack-of-all-trades, the PS3 is the best Blu-ray player on the market. Here are ten reasons why:

10. FAST, ACCURATE, STABLE BLU-RAY DISC PLAYBACK: From the get-go the PS3 was heralded as an amazing Blu-ray player, capable of the fastest load-time of any machine on the market and the ability to playback any type of Blu-ray disc (single-layer, dual-layer, discs with complex BD-Java content, etc.) Several years on, it’s still up near the front of the pack due to the powerful Cell processor at its core and constant firmware updates that assure it stays up-to-date. And just to make sure all its playback-bases are covered, the PS3 is one hell of an up-converting DVD player!

9. BLU-RAY PROFILE 2.0 AND BEYOND: There are still a lot of early profile Blu-ray players on the market. They’re the ones being sold off for low, sub-$100 prices at the moment. And they’re probably great for playing back your favourite Blu-ray films. But players with modern firmware, called Profile 2.0 are capable of so much more, like Bonus view picture-in-picture, BD-Live networking and more! I bought my PS3 long before Profile 2.0 was upon us, comfortable in the knowledge that it was the only player available that could be upgraded when the time came. I am just as confident now that the PS3 can handle anything the future throws at it. Like the ability to playback future 3-D films on Blu-ray (see #4 on the list!)

8. HIGH-DEF VIDEO GAMES ON BLU-RAY: This is a no-brainer. The Playstation name is synonymous with video games. And though the PS3 can do so much more, it is, at its core, a video-game platform. It possesses the ability to deliver cutting edge graphics, sound and gameplay stored on Blu-ray discs and crunched through the uber-powerful Cell processor. And with studios finally becoming more comfortable with programming for the intricacies of the system, the PS3 is exploding with incredible, inventive and graphically sumptuous titles like Uncharted 2, God of War 3 and the amazing Little Big Planet. Oh and don’t forget, you get to play them all online over the free Sony Network!

7. FULLY UPGRADEABLE AND CUSTOMIZABLE: Sick of using your PS3 controller to manipulate the on-screen keyboard? Grab that old PC keyboard you’ve got laying around and plug it in. Voila! Instant PS3 keyboard. What’s that you say? You want to video chat with your pals? Likewise, plug in any-old PC compatible web-cam and you’re in business. The PS3 is not only user friendly, it’s customer friendly. Sony has learned from their mistakes of the past and no longer forces you to buy system-locked hardware to make the most of your machines. In fact, they almost encourage you to upgrade the PS3 hard-drive storage yourself by making it easily accessible and compatible with any 2.5-inch SATA notebook hard disk. Turn that 80GB system into a 500GB system in no time!

6. PSN STORE: Download movies, TV, music, games and more through Sony’s PSN store. With a constantly upgraded line-up of new content, you’ll be sorely tempted to forego watching your latest Blu-ray for the instant pleasures of the PSN download. Keep in mind, these shows don’t look anywhere near as good as the content on a Blu-ray but the convenience is incredible. And, let’s face it, there aren’t many people who’ll pay $40 for The Proposal on Blu-ray but a few dollars to watch a download of it is within the realms of acceptability! Sadly, the store experience differs by region with the USA having the most robust selection.

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God of War III Playstation 3 game demo included on District 9 Blu-ray

God of War III Playstation 3 game demo included on District 9 Blu-ray

District 9 Blu-rayWhen we posted the details for the District 9 Blu-ray disc a couple of weeks ago, we had no idea that it would include a demo of the upcoming God of War III PS3 videogame! The combinination of PS3 videogame and Hollywood film is an industry first for Blu-ray in North America and a pretty exciting development, if you ask me.

I’ve never been terribly interested in playing BD-Java games, as some discs have offered up. They seem like tacked-on ideas half-heartedly concocted in an attempt to fulfill the promise of Blu-ray discs extensibility. What I am interested in though, is a full featured PS3 game propagated from the film I’m watching and on the same disc! I understand that if this does indeed come to pass, it’ll most likely only be on a Sony disc of a Sony Pictures film. Fair enough. So no X-Men or Batman game/movie combos. But hope springs eternal for something really cool on the upcoming Spiderman 4 Blu-ray disc, likely to be issued around the holidays in 2011!

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Netflix Streaming Coming to Playstation 3 in the USA

Netflix Streaming Coming to Playstation 3 in the USA

Microsoft can’t catch a break this week! First came the dashed hope of an Xbox 360 Blu-ray player accessory, now comes the news that their Netflix Streaming feature is no longer exclusive to their gaming console, despite the fact that they were touting it as such only a scant couple of months ago. Netflix and Sony have announced that we’re only a month away from seeing the streaming movie service debut on the PS3…only in the USA, of course. We Canadians are going to have to suck it up once again and wait for the priveldge of a no-doubt far inferior service to appear on our gaming consoles. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Details of the Netflix/PS3 deal in the press release:

Netflix on the PS3
    COMING SOON: NETFLIX MEMBERS CAN INSTANTLY WATCH MOVIES AND TV EPISODES STREAMED TO TVs VIA THE PLAYSTATION®3 COMPUTER ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

    With Movies Streamed Instantly from Netflix, Blu-ray/DVD Playback and Downloadable Videos via the PlayStation®Network, the PlayStation 3 System Offers The Industry’s Most Comprehensive Options for Watching Movies and TV Shows

    FOSTER CITY and LOS GATOS, Calif., October 26, 2009 – Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. (SCEA) and Netflix, Inc. [Nasdaq: NFLX] today announced that they are joining forces to make thousands of movies and TV episodes from Netflix available to be streamed instantly to TVs via the PlayStation®3 (PS3™) computer entertainment system. Netflix expects to begin streaming via the PS3 system next month at no additional cost to Netflix members in the United States who have a PS3 system.

    Today’s announcement pairs two of the most popular and fastest growing home entertainment brands in the U.S. The PS3 system’s installed base has reached close to 9 million units in the United States, and Netflix recently reported 11.1 million U.S. subscribers as of September 30.

    The partnership further solidifies the PS3 system as the most complete home entertainment hub on the market today, enabling consumers to play high-definition games, watch Blu-ray movies, listen to music, view photos, browse the Internet, and download content from PlayStation®Network − from exclusive games to blockbuster movies and popular TV shows. PS3 system owners will soon enjoy an unparalleled experience watching their favorite movies and TV shows streamed instantly from Netflix, downloading from the PlayStation Network or watching Blu-ray/DVD media. The Netflix offering expands on the entertainment experience delivered to PS3 system owners via PlayStation Network.

    For only $8.99 a month, Netflix members can instantly watch unlimited movies and TV episodes streamed to their TVs and computers via Netflix ready devices such as the PS3 system and can receive unlimited DVDs delivered quickly to their homes.

    “The PlayStation 3 system has always been about more than just gaming, and it will soon be the only platform in the industry to offer consumers such a variety of convenient options for enjoying movies and TV shows,” said Jack Tretton, president and CEO, SCEA. “Whether you want to watch content on Blu-ray disc and DVD, download it from the PlayStation Network’s video delivery service, or stream videos instantly from Netflix, the PS3 system is the only solution that offers it all.”

    “As instantly watching movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix becomes an increasingly popular way to enjoy the Netflix service, our goal is to rapidly expand the devices that stream to our members,” said Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings. “As a leading game console and Blu-ray disc player, bringing Netflix to the PS3 system is a real win for both Netflix members and PS3 system owners.”

    Initially, watching movies instantly streamed from Netflix via the PS3 system will be enabled by a free, instant streaming Blu-ray disc that is being made available to all Netflix members. The free instant streaming disc leverages Blu-ray’s BD-Live™ technology to access the Internet and activate the Netflix user interface on the PS3 system, which must be online via Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

    Netflix members simply slide the disc into their PS3 systems to reveal movies and TV episodes that can be watched instantly. These titles are conveniently organized into a variety of categories based on members’ personal preferences, popular genres, new arrivals and members’ individual instant Queues. Members can use the Netflix Web site or navigate directly on their PS3 systems to add movies and TV shows to their Queues. With the PS3 system’s Wireless Controller, members can choose a movie to watch from their instant Queues or just play directly from any of the lists. They also have the ability to read synopses and rate movies. In addition, they have the option of fast-forwarding and rewinding the video stream via the Wireless Controller.
    Netflix members and PS3 system owners can now reserve a free instant streaming disc for PS3 systems by going to www.netflix.com/ps3. Upon availability, the instant streaming disc will be delivered for free by first-class mail, generally one business day after members request it.

    About Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc.
    Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. continues to redefine the entertainment lifestyle with its PlayStation® and PS one® game consoles, the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system, the PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) system, the ground-breaking PlayStation®3 (PS3™) computer entertainment system and its digital services which include the PlayStation®Network and the PlayStation®Store.

    Recognized as the undisputed industry leader, Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. markets the PlayStation family of products and develops, publishes, markets and distributes software for the PS one® game console, the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system, and the PlayStation 3 and PSP systems for the North American market. Based in Foster City, Calif., Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. serves as headquarters for all North American operations and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.

    About Netflix, Inc.
    Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) is the world’s largest online movie rental service, with more than more than 11 million subscribers. For only $8.99 a month, Netflix members can instantly watch unlimited movies and TV episodes streamed to their TVs and computers and can receive unlimited DVDs delivered quickly to their homes. There are never any due dates or late fees. Netflix members can exchange DVDs as often as they want using a postage-paid return envelope. Members can choose from a vast selection of DVD titles and a growing library of movies and TV episodes that can be watched instantly. Netflix is partnering with leaders in consumer electronics to bring to market a range of devices that can instantly stream movies and TV episodes from Netflix directly to members’ TVs. These devices currently include Blu-ray disc players and new Internet TVs from LG Electronics; Blu-ray disc players from Samsung and Best Buy’s Insignia brand; the Roku digital video player; Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console; TiVo digital video recorders; and, soon, the PS3 system and Internet TVs from Sony and VIZIO.

Previously on The Blu-ray Blog: Netflix Streaming Comes to Samsung Blu-ray

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