Commentary

Thanks, Amazon for That Low-Def Rebate

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How many years has it been since we all settled on standardized WiFi protocols? I remember the early days of wireless networking (I tested them all) when proprietary formats ruled and you didn't even bother trying to mix and match hardware receivers and transmitters. The units from the same manufacturers barely managed to find one another. But for all of the progress we have made in compatibility, WiFi remains the most inscrutable, consumer-unfriendly and ultimately unreliable piece of the connected home. When my Apple TV HD trailers take forever to buffer and play I still don't know who to blame: my WiFi connection, ISP, Apple's pokey iTunes servers, or the fact that my cat passing across the living room may have disrupted the bouncing "N" radio waves. Why my wirelessly connected hardware in my living room fluctuates in performance is a mystery to me. I am trying to train the cat to go reboot the router for me - but his claws catch on the Cat-5 wires and then everything goes down.

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The vagaries of WiFi are a blind spot for the over the top video segment. Everyone wants to pretend its not there, but I suspect that millions of families out there struggle with this as the loose link in the home entertainment chain everyone else is trying to foist on them. I stopped counting how many times I have seen my video streams to the Apple TV, Roku and Goolge TV boxes here in the home test lab seize up as they wait for the stream to catch up.

And so I was pleasantly surprised that at least one content provider recognized the issue and its possible effect on my choices of media provider. Amazon just sent me a customer service letter telling me that they detected some of the movies I had rented in HD may not have gotten to me in high res. "Because you may not have been able to playback one of your rentals or purchases in HD quality, we have issued you a one-time Amazon Instant Video credit of $1 for each of the HD movies and TV episodes you have purchased from us for a total amount of $3."

I get a rebate for standard definition delivery. Not too shabby. A low-res refund. This was a smart move on Amazon's part. At little to no cost to them they communicate to early adopters their commitment to aesthetic quality in the delivery of the goods, underscore that they too (hear that, Apple) are committed to HD experiences, and show an understanding with consumer frustrations over the rickety path video still takes to the living room.
2 comments about "Thanks, Amazon for That Low-Def Rebate".
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  1. Phil Leigh from Inside Digital Media, Inc., May 6, 2011 at 2:16 p.m.

    Presently few industry observers appreciate that recently authorized TV Band White Spaces will solve Steve’s problem.

    Wi-Fi typically uses frequency bands that can carry a lot of data such as video, but don’t propagate well through the atmosphere or around the house. Those frequencies are typically 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.

    Future home wireless routers will use TV White Spaces *in addition to Wi-Fi frequencies*. TV signals are restricted to two bands (1) 0.5GHz – 0.7 GHz and (2) 0.05 GHz to 0.2 GHz.

    There are two significant characteristics about the TV bands. First, they travel better through the atmosphere and can therefore be received further away from our wireless home routers. Second, they can better penetrate walls and enter rooms within the home than conventional Wi-Fi frequencies. In point of fact, such characteristics were the *conclusive* reasons that the bands were selected for TV broadcasting sixty-odd years ago -- they do a good job of transporting video into, and throughout, our homes.

    In sum, future routers will fundamentally change our conception of a home Wireless LAN. It won’t be just Wi-Fi anymore. It will use the Wi-Fi and TV Band Frequencies depending upon which provides the best connection to the applicable device – whether it be a Wireless LAN-enabled TV, Blu-ray Player, TiVo, iPad, or smartphone. In the future they’ll all have wireless “radio” chips that use both Wi-Fi bands and TV bands.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 6, 2011 at 9:34 p.m.

    Clawstraphobia Batman !

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