The great thing about Internet radio is that you can access tens of thousands of stations from across the globe, so there's bound to be something for everyone. Even better is if you can access all that content in the palm of your hand. WunderRadio is banking on just that with its line of apps for a variety of mobile devices, including one tooled specifically for the Android platform. Sadly, although the app works quite well, we still think $6.99 is a bit too steep a price tag for what is essentially free (mostly ad-supported) content. If WunderRadio … Read more
Just like floppy disks gave way to CDs, then CDs to DVDs, followed by USB flash drives and SD cards, the time of game discs has an end in sight. Mind you, there's still a great need for them right now in the console and portable games world, but services like Valve's Steam on the PC (and now Mac) side have shown--in just a few years time--that the packaged game can make a graceful transition to the digital storefront.
What's more interesting, however, is the wave of new technologies that compete with Steam, and other download services like it--not only for PC games, but for console titles too. These streaming technologies, which include names like OnLive, Gaikai, Otoy , and InstantAction, promise to free us completely from the need to download software in the more traditional sense, and instead stream titles from a server cluster hundreds or even thousands of miles away from where you play them.
In a few months time (when this technology is more common) it will give you, the consumer, an alternative to buying new gaming hardware, while at the same time letting you pick up and play a new game on just about any Internet-connected device. Such a model may turn the gaming hardware industry on its head, but it opens up new avenues of utility for tablets, mobile phones, and even that 5- or 6-year-old computer that would have otherwise been hopelessly unable to run most modern-day titles.
When will it be like that? Soon, but not just yet. Many of the below services we're about to delve into are not live, or are live but aren't open to the public. Several are working on partnerships, back-end technology, and pricing. This story is to help serve as a primer for what each one promises to bring to cloud gaming, as well as some high-level detail on how it works. Read on to find out what could be taking the place of your next game console, or high-end graphics card purchase.
OnLive Availability: Limited public preview (with waiting list) Price: Free year of service as part of launch promotion, $14.95 a month afterward. Game price varies by title. Titles: <20 Platform compatibility: PC, Mac, MicroConsole TV adapter Killer app: Solid launch lineup, and both rental and purchase options.
Onlive first premiered at last year's Game Developers Conference, and opened up to a public preview a few weeks ago at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Its premise is that it lets you stream full PC games over to your PC, Mac, and, soon, TV--the last of which requires a small piece of hardware the company is calling a MicroConsole.
Unlike standard PC games, playing these titles requires no space on your hard drive, or a beefy processor and graphics processing unit. Instead, all that work is done in the company's server farm, then piped over the Internet. This lets users on just about any hardware or platform play titles--as long as they have an active connection.
Playing games on OnLive requires that users be connected to the entirety of their gaming experience. Connection also plays an important part in determining the quality of the feed that's getting piped back to the user, be it an SD or HD stream.
Using the service requires paying a monthly membership fee, although right now the company has a partnership going with AT&T to provide new users with a free year of service. The games themselves cost money on top of that, though usually at a lower price than the boxed copy, or even digital download. These "playpasses" usually come in the form of an up-front purchase that lasts as long as the game is on the service. There are also shorter playpasses that work for just a few days, and can be had for a fraction of the full price of a title.
OnLive saves game settings and progress on its own servers so you can access it from multiple computers without having to cart around save files. This information is kept even if a user's subscription has run out, so that they can come back to it at a later date.
Along with the playing of games, OnLive adds a few extra goodies on top of the experience that typical PC and console gamers don't get. The first being something called "brag clips," which is essentially a screen-recording tool that captures a segment of your gameplay and lets you share it to others on the service. OnLive also features a live performance area called the "Arena," where other OnLive users can watch you, along with several other players at once. … Read more
I'm a big proponent of cloud-based music services for mobile devices. I struggle figuring out which 500 songs I want on my 8GB iPhone at any given time, and the problem gets worse as as I download more apps. So it's gratifying to see an explosion of mobile music services in the last six months. Start-ups and established companies alike seem to believe that the current model, where users transfer songs from a computer to their phone using a wired connection, is not long for this world. Instead, these companies are coming up with various ways to dispense … Read more
Google is among the biggest proponents of a collection of Web technologies that reproduce many important features of Adobe Systems' Flash, but it's not yet time for regime change at YouTube.
One of the most important parts of the upcoming HTML5 standard is support for video that can be built directly into Web page without requiring a plug-in such as Flash Player. Other open standards such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for formatting, Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), and Web Open Font Format (WOFF) for typography can mimic Flash features, but Flash's ability to deliver streaming video to multiple … Read more
Today, Hulu officially announced Hulu Plus, a premium subscription service that gives you all-you-can-eat (er, watch) access to streaming TV shows and movies for $9.99 per month.
Here's a sampling of what you can watch right now, for free--no invitation or subscription necessary:"30 Rock," Season 4, Episode 1"Ugly Betty," Pilot"Spaced," Season 1, Episode 1"Parenthood," Pilot"Grey's Anatomy," Season 6, Episode 1"Wipeout: The Top 10 Moments of Wipeout""Cosmos: The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean""Great Museums: Wild Thing: The Smithsonian National Zoo""Super Size Me"
Remember, that's just the stuff in the Free Gallery. If you switch over to the Featured, Popular, TV, Movies, or Recently Added sections, you'll find pretty much everything Hulu has to offer. The apps are simple, straightforward, and elegant.… Read more
Streaming music from the cloud to your computer or mobile device is nothing new, but doing so with your own library is something that's on the brink of becoming an everyday occurrence with upcoming efforts by Google, HP, and possibly even Apple.
Enter mSpot, the latest service to promise free and unlimited streaming from the cloud to your computer or Android device. The company on Monday is finally opening up this service to everyone following a month-long private beta.
To get it to work, users need to install a small piece of software on their Windows or Mac computer. … Read more
Sometimes the most successful products aren't revolutionary, but simply a refinement of an existing idea. Just as the iPod put a new spin on the MP3 player and the Snuggie remixed the Slanket, the Kula TV from Sungale riffs on the portable television concept.
On paper, the premise of the Kula TV seems airtight: give customers a Flo TV-style device with more capabilities and no monthly subscription fee for tuning in streaming television. Unfortunately, after putting the Kula TV through its paces, the reality of the device falls short in just about every imaginable way.
Trying to look … Read more
Here's how you know streaming video has gone mainstream: when mass market retailers are getting in on the game.
Scheduled for a holiday release is a new digital video service that will be available on TVs and Blu-ray players sold at Sears and Kmart. It's called Alphaline Entertainment, and will be available on devices from Sharp, LG, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, and RCA by the end of the year. Customers will be walked through the set-up inside the store by customer service representatives so that they can just take it home and begin watching movie content at once.
The … Read more
Last week I asked if it was time to pull the plug on home phone service, and the response was through the roof! Thanks for all the great comments and suggestions. Much to think about.
Next up: cable, the white whale of monthly subscription services. I gotta have my Internet, obviously, but can I live without cable TV? That's an extra $70/month or so I wouldn't mind keeping. (Heck, it would pay for my iPhone!)
Obviously there are countless ways to watch TV that don't involve cable. Services like Fancast and Hulu stream all kinds of … Read more
If you have children between the ages of 3 and 11, there's an app you have to get: Tales2Go. It provides on-demand access to more than 1,000 children's audiobooks and stories--everything from "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" to "Junie B. Jones."
The app is free, but a one-year subscription costs $24.99, which is a steal in my book.
However, if you download and register Tales2Go using a valid e-mail address between now and midnight tonight (Pacific Time), you'll get a summer's worth of streaming absolutely free.
Specifically, instead of expiring … Read more