With Internet TV being praised everywhere for being the next best thing, I just have to wonder if all the hype is really true. Is it possible that cable and satellite providers will go down the drain, and a new form of television, Internet TV, which is based entirely online through your internet connection will take control.
I will take a look at four applications that bring internet television right to your desktop. I will review all applications in the following categories:
Ease of Use
Veohtv, which recently has been released, promises to go above and beyond what Joost has done so far. The interface is slick, the content is plentiful, and the interactivity is in the works and is looking good. This looks like, as it has been said to be, serious competition for Joost.
The content within Veohtv is impressive. You can view almost any type of video online. This makes Veohtv's library of video content extremely prominent. You can also add videos and save them for later viewing. Networks like CBS, ABC, PBS, and others as well have already made content on Veohtv readily available for streaming.
I was impressed with the features of Veohtv. Of the many features included, the most noted one on many sites is the ability to record any video from within the player. It appeared this functionality was not implemented, so will not be considered for this review. There is a nice interactive page which uses yourminis technology, allows you to get interactive with the videos you are watching and I'm sure this feature will be further developed as time goes on. I am sure that in the future things like chat and more could be implemented.
In the ease of use category, Veoh certainly tries it's best to make the experience as easy as possible. I personally enjoyed using my keyboard to do most of the navigation within the application. The familiar Tivo-like interface makes getting to your content easy. One thing I would like to see implemented is better organization of the channels and videos. In it's current state, it is just kinda thrown together in a single page; Whereas all three of the other reviewed applications either separate the content by the genre at the very least.
Content – 4 out of 5
Features – 4 out of 5
Ease of Use – 4 out of 5
Babelgum, unfortunately is lacking in content and as a result the features and ease of use isn't going to save the program itself. It has promise of being a great way to watch streaming/live video, but it just is not there yet. The fact is, without the content, no one is going to want to stick around and use this program. There just wasn't much that I liked about the application.
I realize it is only beta testing, but the fact is that the selection of content on Babelgum was so mediocre that I literally spent more time trying to figure out if there were channels or other video sources within Babelgum that I could access then anything else during this review. Yet another strike against Babelgum is that the quality of the video was not very good in comparison to all the alternatives.
The program itself does have a substantial amount of potential to be great. The interface looks slick and all, but without the content, the features don't really shine and improve the programs value all that much. You can quickly access saved videos on your own "Videos" page, and that is a nice feature. That might have been the only good thing I could say about this program.
Babelgum does operate in a very simple manner. You can access buttons on the bottom of the page to get to the channels or access saved content through the Videos button. A remote control like interface appears on the left side of your screen allowing you to change the volume and channel. Where it is simple, it really doesn't provide anything spectacular to make it stick out of the crowd. It really won't be that difficult to use Babelgum, but the question is when will more content become available for people to make use of it?
Content - 1.5 out of 5
Features – 3 out of 5
Ease of Use – 3 1/2 out of 5
Joost, gives you video from content providers that agree to terms with Joost. It provides live streaming content that is a mid to high quality at most times. Of the streaming content applications that were reviewed, Joost definitely is definitely a contender.
Content-wise, Joost has a somewhat of nice collection of streaming content from various genres. Even though it is a nice collection, it is lacking. For a product like Joost that has so much news and hype surrounding it, there certainly isn't any sign from the amount of content that they currently have that they are determined to make a huge impression in this market. If Internet TV is going to be taken seriously, then content providers need to step up, and companies like Joost need to sign them immediately.
Joost did bring a unique twist to the way we watch video. By incorporating things like widgets to your viewing experience, no longer is watching video just a thing you just watch and listen to because now you can carry on conversations with fellow viewers and even check the news while enjoying your shows. Things like this are welcomed as long as they don't get out of control and heavily distract the user from the content itself.
Joost is a pleasure to use; That is if you have a recent computer which can run it. The interface is slick and it is fairly easy to navigate. The left side of the screen you can access your channels, the right side you can access the widgets and interactive features. On the bottom are the controls and on the top you can get back to the main menu. I have tested Joost on multiple computers, and must say, that a decent to fairly recent computer is very strongly suggested to get the full (and possibly functional) experience.
Content – 4 out of 5
Features – 4 out of 5
Ease of Use – 4 out of 5
Democracy works in a way different from all of the other applications reviewed. Democracy strives to add content from other people and groups that are already creating content or who wish to start creating content. Almost any type of video can be added to this application. Most of what is going on behind the scenes of the slick interface is simply gathering feeds of the video while Democracy handles everything else to bring the videos to you. The only drawback is that there is no streaming; You must download the videos fully to view them. If you have some patience, then the content is almost always high quality and some is even in HD from what I have seen.
Democracy is no slouch on content, offering you a plethora of video from all over the web. You can add YouTube, Revver, Blip.tv, and several other sources of video directly into the Democracy player. The search feature allows you to find all the content you could ever imagine, and it does not fail to impress. If you regularly view any internet television shows online, Democracy most likely can handle everything you throw at it.
With regards to functionality, Democracy stacks up well. Democracy does have a slight advantage just based on the fact that it is really opened up and can allow you to add many things. It has many settings for downloading video content and storing it on your hard drive. Recently, the application added the ability to watch folders on your computer, so now if you download videos regularly, you can view them all from within Democracy as it will automatically detect if new content is available in those folders. So Democracy could also function as an organizational tool as well.
In the ease of use department, Democracy takes a alight stumble. For a new user to these type of applications, Democracy could very well be a slight turn-off for those who don't understand what they should be doing. Other than the fact that the non geeky users might have a rough time with the application, most other people will understand and quickly be in and downloading quality content from many content providers.
Content – 5 out of 5
Features – 4.5 out of 5
Ease of Use – 3 1/2 out of 5
And the winner is... Democracy! So what if you have to download video to view it? If we are using these applications, chances are you have high speed internet regardless. The quality of the video is spot on with Democracy, and there is no shortage of content. Content is the driving force of Internet television. Without it, then what is the point? Be sure to get the "collector's edition" of Democracy, because before long they will be changing the name to Miro. I'll be sure to bring you news about Miro and all the other applications as it becomes available.
For the live streaming applications, I'd have to give the nod to Joost. It's just more polished. Although I personally enjoyed Veohtv a little bit more, I know Joost has the lasting power and I'm confident they will be adding more content in the future. Veohtv is not far behind though, and the competition is sure to heat things up. Babelgum, has a lot of catching up to do. In a few months, if we did this same exact review again, I am sure the results could be different.
To answer the original question of if cable and satellite will soon be obsolete; No, they both will be here for a long time coming. Internet TV just does not have the popularity and content to convert a majority of people who relax and watch television on the big screen in the living-room. I know one thing is for sure. The technology is steadily increasing in popularity, and it might be awhile, but Internet television could make cable and satellite television obsolete in the future. It will be interesting to see how things stack up in the coming years.