Thursday, November 27, 2014
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Tech Bummers: Pebble Watch, Hulu, Pirate Eye

Am I the only tech follower in America who sees a problem with the Pebble Smart watch and Jawbone's new Jambox? Who envisions disasterous results from the rumored move of Hulu behind a paywall? And don't get me started about PirateEye.

Tech Bummers: Pebble Watch, Hulu, Pirate Eye

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Am I the only tech follower in America who sees a problem with the Pebble Smart watch and Jawbone's new Jambox? Who envisions disasterous results from the  rumored move of Hulu behind a paywall? And don't get me started about PirateEye.  

A Weighty Pebble: The news media have been frothing  over the massive success of the Pebble Watch on the fundraising site Kickstarter. An e-ink touch screen watch that can read and relate to content (from e-mail to exercise programs) on an iPhone or Android smart phone, Pebble developers were looking for $100,000 in backing to get the project off the ground. Then they raised that amount in just two hours and have now accumulated more than $7,600,000 in funding from 51,300 Kickstarter contributers (average $148 per person).

Each backer will get a watch in return. But the thing is - will they  actually want to use the device, after they  handle it in person? I've got a Phosphor-brand timekeeper that uses a similar sized (though not touch sensitive) e-ink screen and can vouch that this thing is HUGE - more like a bracelet than a watch. It  barely fits under my shirt cuff and is twice the weight of a conventional time piece.  Its' cute name notwithstanding, Pebble may prove more like a boulder to some.

A Jaw to Pick: Jawbone also is facing a girth challenge with its just announced Big Jambox  - a  battery powered and Bluetooth enabled speaker. The original Jambox - about the size of two stacked sticks of butter - is great for packing and taking on the road, to make an instant sound system with music streaming off your mobile phone or tablet. You can even use the little thing as a speakerphone. Big Jambox, now available for pre-ordering, is $100 more (at $299), twice as large and, at 2.7 pounds, three times as weighty. Uh, there goes the charm and convenience factor.

Aloha Hulu?:  Free access to TV shows via the Hulu.com web site may disappear, if you can believe the report dropped by the New York Post yesterday.  Probably trading on information from sister News Corp. company (and Hulu backer) Fox, the report suggested that Hulu will be moving to an "authentication" or "paywall" model with at least its basic, ad- supported service. Thereafter, Hulu streaming of TV shows would only be available to people who subscribe to a cable or satellite TV service,  blowing away all the "cable cutters"  who've been enjoying  Hulu on their computers to keep up with "Modern Family," "The Simpsons," etc.

 Fox and its Hulu partners Walt Disney (ABC) and NBC/Universal (owned by Comcast) have got to be feeling intense pressure  to protect the turf of traditional cable/satellite partners.  NBC/Universal has already announced it's putting most 2012 Summer Olympics web coverage behind a paywall.

 But if denied legal access to the content - in most cases duplicating over-the-air broadcast  TV - won't  cable cutters then resort to more illegal file sharing of shows, eliminating the count of their eyeballs for ratings and advertising purposes?

CinemaCon Job: Some pretty cool stuff was popped at last week's  CinemaCon, the  movie exhibitors'  convention in Las Vegas. 

A preview of Ang Lee's first 3D venture "Life of Pi"  was highly praised; reactions were mixed for the super resolution 3D  process Peter Jackson is deploying for  "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." 

Also getting  a good buzz was the  plan for digital distribution of movies to theaters via satellite, announced by the Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition (Warner Brothers, Universal and the theater chains Cinemark, AMC and Regal).

Ah, but then there's PirateEye - a studio-funded surveillance system using sensitive cameras to scan a darkened theater and target wrongdoers. The prime target is  pirates pointing  camcorders at  the screen. There's also the option here to bring down people  talking on their cell phones - and I've got no problem with that.

Still, where does the spycraft end? What about the young lovers stealing a peck in the dark, horror upon horrors!  And how about  the budget-minded consumers sneaking their own popcorn and candy into the theater? Should these wrong doers be "nailed" too?  Who's going to police the police?

Jonathan Takiff Daily News Columnist
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About this blog
Jonathan Takiff covers all manner of high tech gadgets – and the entertaining stuff you play on them – for the Philadelphia Daily News, philly.com and the McClatchy Tribune News Service. Reach Jonathan at takiffj@phillynews.com.

Jonathan Takiff Daily News Columnist
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