April 16, 2007

Internet TV: First Impressions

I am still waiting for an update from Joost that will add support for my Power PC Mac Powerbook. But since I still have a PC running Windows XP, I couldn't wait to test it out.

**Since this is just a beta version, I won't complain about the bugginess or the A/V not being in sync.

Joost's 0.9.2 beta interface is sleek. There are not too many buttons and it actually opens up to consume most of your television. The point the Joost team is trying to achieve is that this is TV on steroids and not just a window next to your Instant Messenger List and Web Browser. I get that because of the article I read in Wired Magazine.

Better than TV?
There are two notable differences from a regular T.V. that are suppose to create that "TV done right" mood. I'll start with the first and most obvious feature, which is the ability to customize your channel list.

This is something I can reasonably do with a newer set, but it wouldn't have a channel guide. [Comcast has a channel guide but no feature to let you edit channel lists.] Overall I wasn't really impressed with the functionality of moving from channel to channel. If I was searching for a new show I may want to watch instead of the current program, the show list completely engulfs the screen. It was a tad overwhelming and I found myself wishing I could get the same feature in a small column off to the side.

Features are mostly annoying...
The real sell of Joost is being able to watch the programing at your own pace without ever worrying that your DVR will soon be full and automatically play. That is something unmatched by competitors. But the clunky menu of shows kills it for me. I'd rather have it in a widget form..which brings me to the second prominent feature: Widgets.

I like the concept of Widgets, always have and always will, but I have a 17 inch monitor on the PC and only so much resolution before everything starts slowing down to a crawl. Widgets for most computer screens simply take up too much screen real estate to be useful. There's a chat function, a message notification and even an option to rate the show your watching. None of these need to be as large as they are for the small screen I have.

Pending your watching this stuff on a much larger, high quality monitor, I'd say this could be corrected. A simpler solution would be to re size and retool those cumbersome Widgets.

My initial reaction remains that its TV that I can control better on my computer, and as soon as I got frustrated at the buggy A/V, I switched to NBC so I could catch up on Heroes. The NBC.com player may be basic, but it gives me full screen and just one ad per section.

I'm interested to see how I'll react to Joost on a laptop though.


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