Netflix & Roku Team Up for a $99 Set-Top Box To Enable Watching Movies on TV

We all know that IPTV is "not there yet", and the rising cable and satellite prices are killing subscribers. Due to lack of high-speed internet, viewing video over IP has suffered a setback, but more and more companies are trying to come up with similar devices that could help solve this problem. Netflix, the most low-priced online DVD rental service now teams up with Roku to introduce a device which will allow customers to watch movies easily on their televisions without involving mailing DVD's. Starting today, Netflix will begin marketing the $99 device that will allow subscribers to play thousands of movies and shows on their televisions instantly, for no charge beyond their normal subscription fee. With the device no bigger than a paperback, and so attractively priced, I think there's a chance it will lure more customers to the online DVD giant, who's been fighting to re-instate its supremacy with tough competition from TiVo, BlockBuster and more!

The size of a small paperback book, the set-top box is made by Roku, a California-based start-up known for its Internet music players. Netflix, based in nearby Los Gatos, owns a small stake in the company. Netflix already has a large subscriber base, and it has been offering online movies on their computers for about a year by streaming them over an Internet connection. But with this new set-top box, Netflix customers who have plans of $8.99 a month or higher will have access to an unlimited number of movies over the Internet. Just plug the settop to your PC and your TV, and you can view the live-streaming content directly on your TV rather than the small PC screen.

Roku’s box is simple to use. All the settings and sorting through the videos is still done on your PC, which makes it much simpler to handle. And unlike the Apple TV or TiVo devices, the Roku box does not have a hard drive. It plays video directly from the Internet by way of an Ethernet cable or home wireless network. Roku recommends that users have a connection speed of 1.5 megabits a second or faster, because slow connections could lead to buffer problems and video freezing. The device’s $99 price( vs $299 for Apple TV) will most likely attract new customers, though only those who have high-speed broadband connection. On the other hand, the Roku box will not provide music and photos, like AppleTV.

Live streaming of content is the next generation of entertainment, and Netflix is not the only one trying to find its place. Stalwarts like HP, Amazon and Apple are already planning to offer similar or imprved services in the near future. So finally, who will survive and who will fade away all depends on the pricing and the quality and quantity of content that they offer.

With cable and satellite companies trying to expand their video-on-demand services and players like Netflix & Roku offering these kind of services, no matter who wins, its going to be much more affordable for the end-user and we can look forward to many more viewing choices over the next couple of years!!

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Personal Health Records Now on Google!

I'm sure we've all been to see a doctor several times, and the most annoying part, other than getting an appointment and waiting for your turn, is to fill out the sheets of health conditions and medical history, not just yours but your family's too! Believe it or not, I was so inclined to launch an online tool that would maintain medical records online, but its just that several others, including Google, beat me to it!:) Google Health is now open to public, where you can choose to update your medical records and information that could be used for future doctor visits, eliminating the need to fill out any more forms!

Google Health has been a "pilot project" for the company, and after a year and half of development, it is now live and offers online personal health records to the public since Monday. It allows the user/patient to send personal information, at his own discretion, into the clinic record or to pull information from the clinic records into his Google personal file. There have been several players who did this previously, (WebMD & Microsoft too), but this concept was a bit hard to accept as people are skeptical to put their personal medical information online. But will a technology name like Google help shun the old fears and coax people into accepting this? A two-month trial this year held at the Cleveland Clinic found that patients were eager to use the Google health records as they somehow felt more safe sharing their information with Google because its a trusted name in online security.

As soon as you enter Google Health, you land on your Profile page. You can create a new profile or update an existing one with your medical information like allergies, procedures, medical conditions, family history and more. You can import medical records from a clinic or make them available to your doctors, but only if you explicitly choose to do so. A list of tabs on the left give you a summary of your profile and also attached test procedures and results. As all Google products, this is fairly simple to use.

They also offer other useful services like "Find a Doctor" and "Explore Health Services" just like any other online program. The look and feel of this tool is simple, and Google is not selling advertisements (yet!). What information should be shared with doctors, clinics and/or pharmacies is totally controlled by the individual (or at least that's what it says!) More than two dozen companies and institutions have already announced partnerships with Google Health, including Walgreens, CVS, the American Heart Association, Quest Diagnostics, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic. They all hope to capitalize eventually (by ads or sponsorships) on the trend of seeking health information online, and the potential of web to help consumers manage their own health care and medical spending.

If you accept that this system is secure, and that your privacy would not be violated, i can see a lot of benefits for this. One, you don't have to rely on your memory trying to remember when was the last time you had a cold or got a vaccination. Its really easy to share history with your doctors, especially when you change them, as you don't need to re-iterate about your conditions to the new physician. Its also useful to request a doctor to view these records before you fly across states or countries just for an appointment and then to be told that the doctor cannot treat you because of a "glitch" in your records! And its so much easier to choose off-the-shelf medication if you can discuss the records with a pharmacist before-hand!

Like everything in life, I can see that Google Health has its pros and cons. With the growing threat of internet fraud, people would be justified to be skeptical about something like this. But with more and more people turning to the web for finding cures to simple medical problems, there are a lot of benefits of sharing medical records online, only if used in the right way,. Whether Google Health weilds its power on people or not, only time will tell!

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Blackberry Bold vs iPhone-2

blackberry bold 9000People are still waiting with bated breath for the release of next-generation iPhone which promises 3G, GPS, enterprise software and more. But looks like RIM will fascinate the crowds with its latest Blackberry Bold, supporting 3G networks worldwide, as well as Wi-Fi and GPS, all packaged in a sleek, elegant yet bold look! RIM (Research in Motion) has always been an industry leader in dishing out cool and powerful blackberry devices. Like Apple, it has a huge fan-following, and with this new Blackberry Bold, it has a headstart in the 3G market which could impose serious competition to the next iPhone version, supposedly being released in June.

Comparing Blackberry Bold with iPhone-2

Equipped with support for tri-band HSDPA and quad-band EDGE (for worldwide support), 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, stereo Bluetooth and both assisted and autonomous GPS, the Bold is RIM's most powerful and most connected BlackBerry to date. With a look and feel similar to iPhone(except for a smaller screen), it comes with a QWERTY keyboard, rounded corners, and personalisable back-plates. The keys are sculpted for easier typing and navigation, and even with a smaller display size than iPhone, the images look much higher-res on the Bold 9000. However, the Bold does not have a touch-screen, which could make it a wee bit less attractive than its competitor.

The Blackberry Bold's 624-MHz StrongARM processor with full MMX (multimedia extensions) is the most powerful CPU on a handheld and can handle full-motion video on its 480-by-320-pixel, 65,000-plus-color display for a smooth and crisp picture. With its 1GB of on-board secure memory (on top of its 128MB of flash) it offers attractive storage for personal and business data that you'd rather not store on an SD card. It also features a 2-megapixel camera capable of up to 5X digital zoom.

RIM has been the dominant player in the corporate-oriented smartphone space for some time. By introducing Bold, it is looking to transform a simple messaging device into an attractive device that is fast and easy to use for e-mail, offers multi-media features, as well as support for 3G, GPS and Wi-Fi. RIM has also announced a deal with Thomson Reuters to create a $150 million venture capital fund to invest in companies developing applications and services for the BlackBerry and other mobile platforms (remember iFund??!!).

The price is not yet determined, nor does RIM share any details on which U.S. carrier will introduce the Bold (though AT&T seems to be the most likely). However, there's no single-carrier commitment like the iPhone. The Blackberry Bold is supposed to hit the market in Summer 2008, possibly around the same time frame as iPhone-2 (around June). So if you've been waiting for buying a cool, sleek new device, it might be a good idea to compare the two and see which one fits your needs! While iPhone continues to be a choice for video and multimedia features with its large display and attractive touchscreen, the Blackberry Bold could be a competitive option for business and enterprise needs.

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Solar-Powered Workspace Desk - No more dungy cubicles!

Though you may find it hard to believe, there are many people who love their jobs, but it's the location of where they do their job that can make the task unpleasant. Cubicles and offices can get very dull and dark, the artificial lighting does not help much, nor do the artificial plants! Research shows that a little daylight, fresh air, and greenery would do wonders to a workers mentality and perhaps even increase work productivity. What if there was a way to actualy make this happen? Before you start thinking that I'm insane, let me tell you that I'm talking about the Solar-Powered Desk which acts as an eco-friendly outdoor workspace so you can choose to work in your campus, without wasting your time!

What do you do when you really need some light and fresh air, but cannot afford to take a break? You could grab your laptop and work under a tree, but that not being the most productive way to work, you'd be forced to step back into the dungeons in no time. Not any more though! Just carry this solar powered outdoor workspace with you and you can work outdoors as much as you want!

Designed by Mathias Schnyder, the solar powered outdoor workspace is basically a chair with solar roof that retains and converts solar energy. The energy is then delivered to an outlet in the middle of a round table in front of the chair, serving to be a power-outlet for your laptop. You can even carry a group of these chairs together for an outdoor conference! A neat way to conduct an off-site, I must say! Nicely contoured with no sharp edges, its a great ergonomic design too.

There is no information yet on the price or the availability of this solar powered outdoor workspace. But it sure looks like something companies could invest in! Just imagine how much more you'd enjoy working outside enjoying the summer sun! In fact, this could also be a great alternative to home-offices as with these solar-powered chairs you could work in your garden or backyard, in a more relaxing, refreshing and brighter environment. This idea surely appealed to me, just like the Solar Laptop Bag. It looks elegant, is eco-friendly and definitely useful; now let's just hope its priced good too!!

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Animated Wi-Fi Detector T-Shirt - Tech and Fashion Sensation

Can you imagine your life without internet and wi-fi hot-spots?? Definitely not, right? well, the only concern would be unavailability of wireless access everywhere. Fret not, my friends, for the ultimate in fashion and technology is here, and you can buy it for simply $30!! ThinkGeek offers an animated Wi-Fi Detector T-shirt that makes your Wi-Fi dream come true. With this cool t-shirt that detects 802.11b and 802.11g networks, you no longer need to open your laptop just to find out a wi-fi hotspot!

The Wi-Fi Detector shirt is a Think Geek exclusive available online for $29.99. The shirt features glowing bars that illuminate as the wearer gets closer to an IEEE 802.11b or 802.11g access point. Inspired by Cingular's "raising the bar" logo, the embossed print on the t-shirt intensifies with proximity to access points and connections; a classic white and blue signal meter on a black background does more to your style too. And what's more, its not just a tech-geek-freak thing, you can remove the peel-off the animated decal from the front of the t-shirt and wear it as a regular shirt. And yes, it can be easily washed too, so don't worry!:) Check out some cool features below:

Glowing animated shirt dynamically displays the current wi-fi signal strength.
Shows signal strength for 802.11b or 802.11g
Black 100% Cotton T-Shirt
Animated Decal is Removable (with hook and loop fasteners) for Easy Washing
Battery Pack is Concealed in a Small Pocket Sewn Inside the Shirt
Runs for hours off three AAA Batteries (not included)

I think its a cool fashion gadget that's affordable too, and will definitely strike a chord with the young generation. Designed precisely for the tech-savvy, this Wi-Fi Detector Shirt will surely win you some deserved attention!! So what are you waiting for? Check it out on ThinkGeek and order one for you today!

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Opera Headphones with Kleer Wireless Technology

opera wireless headphonesWhenever I have to travel in a bus or flight, I make sure I have my iPod and Panasonic headphones tucked into my travel kit; but everytime I wish I had a pair of wireless headphones that can easily sit behind my head while I sleep and listen to my music, without all that wire-entangling mess! That would be such a cool gadget, not to mention comfortable too! So I was plesantly surprised to find that Opera Headphones using Kleer technology are designed for just this, and are perfectly matched for all the Apple iPods!

Made by Korean "company" DigiFi, the Opera is a headset that wraps around the back of your head — the 'buds are still tethered together, but there's no cord going from your ears to your iPod. Instead, you plug a Kleer wireless transmitter into your player's headphone jack and you're good to go. In fact, up to four people, each with Kleer earbuds, can tune into the same transmitter! Now that's cool!

So what is this Kleer technology I keep talking about? Well, its a wireless technology that claims to have better specifications than Bluetooth. It is optimized for high quality wireless audio transmission between portable audio devices. Kleer’s patented sub-sampling radio architecture combines lossless audio transmission, low-power consumption, low latency, and best-in-class ISM band co-existence to provide far superior audio quality with up to 10 times the battery life of a comparable Bluetooth solution. In the case of the Opera, all you need to do is plug in the Kleer wireless transmitter to the MP3 Player’s headphone jack, and the headphones will be synced wirelessly to your player.

RCA's Jetstream MP3 Player used the Kleer technology, and now Opera is the second revolutionary product designed on the same technology. The initial price of this wireless headphone is set at $98 for one kit (earbuds and transmitter, which might be a wee bit more than what one would wish to pay. But the product looks promising, and if they can get to a universal solution that works across multiple devices, Kleer technology's Opera Headphones may prove to have a lot of buyers, including me! So lookout for these when they are out in June 2008 - it's surely a neat way to make your iPod wireless!

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