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.
Slacker relaunches with a brand new look and support for BlackBerry 10.
Facing stiff competition from the likes of Pandora and Spotify, popular streaming music service Slacker just reinvented itself with a new look and simplified interface. Its name stays the same, but that's about all you'll recognize (visually) following a major facelift that's supposed to make it easier to discover music with highlighted stations, personalized picks, and exclusive content from Slacker's "expert curators."
The newest entry to WD's media player line sports built-in Wi-Fi and 1080p streaming.
Apple may have hit an affordable price point with its $99 Apple TV streaming set-top box, but Western Digital's new WD TV Play box comes in even lower at $70 MSRP. It's the entry-level model in WD's media player lineup and is similar in function to the now mid-range WD TV Live, minus the ability to play MPEG2 videos and DTS audio. Otherwise, the WD TV Play is able to stream popular Internet channels like Netflix and Hulu Plus, and can tap into your photos, music, and movies from other networked devices.
"I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz ranked as Spofity's most popular love song in the U.S.
Valentine's Day is only three days away, leaving you precious little time to come up with a romantic gift for that special someone. Perhaps just as important is your streaming playlist (or mixtape if you're kicking it old school), provided your Valentine Day plans include music in the background. If so, you may want to consult with Spotify's list of the most popular love songs.
Microsoft scored a console exclusive agreement to keep Redbox Instant off of the PS3 and Wii U.
Microsoft's Major Nelson blog has revealed that the "Redbox Instant" video service by Verizon is coming to the Xbox 360 "in the very near future." The Xbox 360 is the exclusive gaming console launch partner, which means Sony (PlayStation 3) and Nintendo (Wii U) can do nothing but sit on the sideline and wait their turn. If you're already a Redbox Instant beta participant, keep your eyes peeled for an email with a unique code to access the app on Xbox 360 in the coming days.