Google I/O kicked off this morning and is still going on at the time of this writing, but rather than make you wait for a roundup of the highlights, we thought we'd pass along some of the more interesting developments that have already occurred. One of the biggest ones is the introduction of a streaming music service, as previously rumored, to go up against the likes of Pandora, Spotify, Slacker, and eventually Apple, to name a few.
No slacking at Slacker as it sees millions of new subscribers join in three months.
Have you given the recently overhauled Slacker service a whirl yet? Millions of others have. According to Slacker, more than six million new listeners have joined the streaming music service since its February relaunch, with 3.5 million listeners jumping on mobile. Not only is Slacker seeing an influx of new users, but they're listening longer than before and they're subscribing to the service, Slacker says.
It would take many, many lifetimes to watch all of YouTube's content.
Three ex-PayPal employees created YouTube just over eight years ago, but do you think any of them could have predicted just how popular the video sharing site would become? Perhaps, though it would have been hard to conceive of a service streaming out 6 billion hours of content each and every month, which is how much YouTube is currently piping through the Internet.
It's been five years since Roku introduced its first player.
In 2008, the easiest way to stream Netflix to your television without a home theater PC (HTPC) nearby was through a Roku box. For that reason, Roku's first device became known as the Netflix player, because that's really all that it was used for. Things have certainly changed since then. Now five years later, streaming entertainment is big business, and Roku's been there along the way, having just shipped its 5 millionth streaming player in the U.S.
Love or hate Windows 8, you have to give Microsoft credit for its tenacity. Most companies would’ve tucked their tail between their legs and run home crying after the disaster that was Zune, but Microsoft doubled down to bring a better-than-before effort rebranded as Xbox Music to its Live Tile-equipped ecosystem. With unlimited music streaming and the ability to buy individual tracks, Xbox Music looks like a hit on the Surface. (Get it?) But how does the new contender stack up to Spotify?
Note: This article was originally featured in the January 2013 issue of the magazine.
Attention, would-be cord cutters: If you’re going to tell the cable man to shove it, you’re going to want a full-featured media center app to make browsing your digital movies, music, and pictures as pretty and painless as possible. Two of the top no-cost contenders are the open-source XBMC and Plex, a partly proprietary fork of XBMC that focuses on streaming media to multiple devices. Which is the blockbuster and which is the dud? Let’s find out.
Note: This article first appeared in the December issue of the magazine.
Redbox Instant opens to the public with a small catalog and big ambitions.
Redbox Instant is now an official player in the streaming game now that it's open to the general public. The movie streaming site is a joint venture by Coinstar and Verizon, giving the service a fair bit of financial backing and marketing muscle, though the first order of business should be to beef up its catalog of titles. At launch, Redbox Instant offers around 4,600 titles, far less than competitors like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
The newest Roku streaming box features a new interface with a streamlined layout.
Roku this week introduced the Roku 3 set-top box, purportedly the fastest and most powerful Roku player to date. It has a faster processor and an enhanced remote with a headphone jack in case you want to stay up late without waking up the significant other, and a new user interface (UI) that supposed to deliver more fluid browsing and navigation. The new interface debuts on the Roku 3 and will roll out as a free software update in April to all Roku 2 models, Roku HD (model 2500), Roku LT, and the Roku Streaming Stick.
Don't confuse Zotac's StreamBox with Valve's SteamBox, two very different products.
Zotac, a major player in the mini PC category, is "embark[ing] on a new era of digital media sharing" by announcing its new StreamBox and RAIDbox accessories. Starting with the StreamBox, this NUC-sized device is supposed to make it easy to broadcast audio, video, and image files from Android smartphones, tablets, and notebooks via DLNA. It supports display mirroring on select Android mobile devices via Miracast compatibility, Zotac says.
Don't like the 40-hour limit? Blame greedy publishers who keep hiking royalty rates.
Pandora this week put the word out that it's introducing a 40-hour monthly cap on free mobile listening, though the streaming service doesn't expect much of a backlash. According to Pandora, the artificial limit will affect less than 4 percent of its total monthly active listeners. The average freeloader listener spends around half that time (20 hours) listening to Panodra across all devices in any given month, Pandora says.