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8 Internet TV Apps in 8 Weeks

Since we launched last100 (a Read/WriteWeb network blog) just over eight weeks ago, I’ve been obsessively trying out every Internet TV application that I can get my hands on. Here’s a quick recap of the Internet TV apps we’ve profiled so far. And if you enjoy this post, make sure you subscribe to the last100 RSS feed!

Note: Many of the following applications offer very different features and solve different problems. This post isn’t designed to be a product comparison — because it would be like comparing apples with oranges — but instead serves as an overview of some of our coverage to-date.


Platform: Windows / Intel Mac
Status: Invite-only Beta

From the founders of Skype and Kazaa, Joost is an on-demand video service that utilizes P2P technology to deliver a TV-like experience on a PC. In this respect, think of it as cable television without the need for a set-top-box. Additional functionality is provided through a number of built-in applications (called ‘widgets’) which include a channel-based chat room, an IM client (currently GTalk and Jabber only), and an RSS-based news ticker. In terms of content, big names signed up include: MTV, Comedy Central, CNN, Sony Pictures television, CBS, and National Geographic.

Our verdict: Joost is an impressive entry into the world of Internet TV. Its peer-to-peer technology not only lowers the cost of distribution for content owners, but also does it in a way that appears to solve the piracy problem. That said, picture quality could be better, and the license restrictions on content seriously impedes users who reside outside of the US.


Platform: Windows
Status: Invite-only Beta (we have invites)

Babelgum is a peer-to-peer online video service founded by Italian billionaire Silvio Scaglia, which like Joost, aims to combine the “lean-back experience” of television with the interactivity and social elements of the web. Babelgum doesn’t yet have the mainstream content deals that Joost boasts, and instead the company’s strategy seems to be more about helping niche content find and connect with niche audiences, so as to exploit the “Long Tail”. Babelgum‚Äôs additional features include the ability to rate and bookmark clips, as well as create a playlist of channels.

Our verdict: Whether Babelgum can overcome Joost‚Äôs first-mover advantage and make a success of it’s niche content strategy ‚Äî against a backdrop of big media competition ‚Äî is yet to be seen. But either way, the peer-to-peer Internet TV space looks a lot more healthy with at least two competitors rather than just one.

RealPlayer 11

Platform: Windows
Status: Public Beta

The new version of RealPlayer combines media player and jukebox and CD burning functionality (similar to iTunes), with a new flagship feature: the ability to download videos from the web. With RealPlayer 11 installed, when you visit a website with embedded video (Real, Flash, QuickTime or Windows Media), a floating tab appears giving you the option to download the file or ‘record’ it in the case of a live stream. Once you click ‘download this video’ a copy is then placed into your RealPlayer library. The feature only works with web videos that don’t utilize DRM.

Platform: Windows
Status: Public Beta

Our verdict: While it will be hard for RealPlayer to shake off its poor reputation, there’s much to like about version 11. The new interface and jukebox functionality has been appropriately borrowed from iTunes, and the ability to download and save videos from the web, not only works well, but should prove popular with users who want to build their own personal video collection.


Platform: Windows (required to playback paid-for content) / Mac
Status: Full public release

Vuze is an application that enables users to search, browse, and download ‘near DVD’ and HD quality video content, using the peer-to-peer protocol, BitTorrent. In particular the company is pitching the platform as a way for independent video and film producers to distribute their content to millions of users — at no cost — and with a higher picture quality than other competing services. In addition to being an open platform where anybody can publish their content, Vuze has signed licensing deals with a number of larger players, such as the BBC, A&E, and Showtime, who are offering paid-for content: rental and to-own.

Although Vuse can function as a video library, rather oddly, the application doesn‚Äôt have its own media player. That‚Äôs because Vuze is format agnostic, so content producers are free to upload their video in any number of formats, meaning it’s simpler to let playback be handled outside of the application (using QuickTime or Windows Media Player, for example).

Our verdict:Vuze will appeal to independent producers who want to distribute their content at zero-cost and up-to HD-quality. While the option to charge for content is only currently available to those who’ve signed formal licensing deals, an upcoming version of the software will enable all content creators to set their own prices, select a business model (rental, to-own or ad supported), manage territories, and choose whether to use DRM.


Platform: Windows
Status: Invite-only Beta

VeohTV, is is pitching itself as a more ‘open’ alternative to the likes of Joost or Babelgum. Rather than being restricted to formal licensing agreements, VeohTV pulls in videos from thousands of sources — which currently includes NBC, CBS, FOX, YouTube, MySpace, and Veoh’s own video-sharing site — with content browsable via a cable TV-style program guide. In addition, VeohTV enables you to download and save almost any DRM-free online video to your library (similar to the way RealPlayer 11 works).

Our verdict: VeohTV represents a bold attempt to create a simple video player/aggregator for any type of online video, and for that reason we really wanted to like the application. But in reality this is also why it falls short. Inconsistent picture quality and download times ‚Äî although not the fault of Veoh ‚Äî results in a confusing viewing experience, and in attempting to make subscribing to and managing video podcasts seamless with watching other types of online video, VeohTV actually makes the process more complicated. Having said that, many of these issues could be addressed through a few simple interface tweaks, so don’t write off VeohTV just yet.


Platform: Windows / Mac / Linux
Status: Beta (limited to a few European countries)

Zattoo is an Internet TV service which, like Joost and Babelgum, utilizes peer-to-peer technology to deliver streaming video to a PC. However, Zattoo isn’t an on-demand affair, and instead offers live streaming of existing ‘over-the-air’ and cable TV channels. And rather than attempting to re-create the lean-back experience of traditional television, the service is more at home used in a multi-tasking environment, where users watch television in one window on their computer, while accomplishing other tasks in another, such as chatting to friends over IM, surfing the web or writing email.

Our verdict: We really liked Zattoo for its simplicity, near-zero buffering, and good picture quality. The only downside is the limited number of channels (which should increase), and the fact that it’s only currently available in Spain and Denmark, with the UK.


Platform: Windows
Status: Private Beta

Similar to Zattoo, LiveStation utilizes peer-to-peer technology to deliverer live TV to a user’s PC. The software has been developed by UK startup, Skinkers, and is in-part based on technology licensed from Microsoft Research (who get a small amount of equity in return). Of note, the front-end for LiveStation is powered by Microsoft’s newly launched Flash-competitor, Silverlight.

Our verdict: As it stands, LiveStation is more a proof-of-concept, with only one channel being available during its closed-testing phase (BBC News24). However, like Zattto, there’s near-zero buffering time, and picture quality is good.


Platform: Windows / Mac
Status: Full public release

Jalipo is a web-based Internet TV service which offers on-demand (TV shows and movies) and live broadcasts on a minute by minute ‚Äúpay as you goÔø?? basis. Jalipo content — most of which we were unfamiliar with — is viewed in exchange for J:Credits, the company‚Äôs own online currency.

Our verdict: We’re not convinced that a minute-by-minute credit system is the right way to sell online video. If the content is worth watching, it‚Äôs probably worth watching till the end, and should be sold as a complete offering. Jalipo’s video quality is good (at the higher and more expensive bit-rate), though compelling content seems lacking.


Platform: Windows / Mac / Linux
Status: Public preview

Miro (formerly known as Democracy Player) is an open-source Internet TV application that combines a media player and library, content guide, video search engine, as well as podcast and BitTorrent clients. Developed by the Participatory Culture Foundation, Miro aims to make online video “as easy as watching TV”, while at the same time ensuring that the new medium remains accessible to everyone, through its support for open standards.

Our verdict: Miro is quite possibly the best video “podcast” client and player out there. Its multi-format support, coupled with a very well thought out user interface, extensive content directory, and support for a number of popular video sharing sites, makes it a formidable Internet TV application. The only major drawback is the lack of support for the iPod or AppleTV, both of which would be a natural fit.

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