Tag: on-demand content

Amazon Alexa to support voice-activated printing


Amazon Echo on kitchen bench press photo courtesy of Amazon USA

Amazon has improved on the way you can order documents to be printed via the Echo or Alexa-compatible device

Amazon launches Alexa Print, a way to print lists, recipes, games and educational content using your voice | TechCrunch

From the horse’s mouth

Amazon Alexa

Introducing: Alexa Print (Product Page)

What Can I Print (Product Page with Key phrases)

My Comments

Initially, Amazon partnered with HP to offer voice-activated document printing. That is where you could ask Alexa to print out colouring pages, sudoku puzzles, ruled paper and the like. But this tied HP’s ePrint documents-on-demand ecosystem to the Amazon Alexa voice-driven home assistant platform and limited this feature to HP ePrint-capable network printers. Some other manufacturers then bound their online printing functionality to Amazon Alexa so as to provide some form of voice-driven printing functionality.

Brother DCP-J562DW multifunction printer positioning image

.. even through printers like this Brother DCP-J562DW multi-function printer

Now Amazon evolved this feature to work with any network printer that supports IPP-based driver-free printing. That is usually a machine that supports Apple AirPrint or the Mopria driver-free printing protocols, which encompasses most of the printers made over the last five years. Here, the documents would be held on or constructed by Amazon’s servers rather than on HP’s servers.

To get going, you have to say “Alexa, discover my printer” to get started. This would have your Amazon Echo or similar Alexa-capable device discover any network printer on the same logical network as itself. On the other hand, you could use the Alexa app to discover the printer. This would require you to tap the “+” icon then select “Add Device”, then choose “Printer” as the device class to add. It will list any compatible printers on your home network so you can add them.

The Alexa app gives you fine-grained control so you can rename printers like the “Upstairs printer” or “Kitchen printer”; or allow you to delete or disable discovery of specific machines.

Amazon has, at the moment, partnered with particular publishers to offer printable items and has set up some basic printable items like ruled paper, arithmetic worksheets and the like to get you going. There is the ability to turn out crosswords including their answers along with recipes, which may be a rough-shot.

HP OfficeJet 6700 Premium business inkjet multifunction printer

.. or this HP OfficeJet 6700 desktop multifunction printer

It also ties in with the ability for you to use Alexa to buy first-party (genuine) ink or toner for your printer through their online storefront. Here, it will know which cartridges fit your machine, but the question is whether there will be the ability for you to specify standard-yield or high-yield consumables. That is because some manufacturers like HP and Brother offer their consumables in differing yield levels which may suit your needs or budget better.

At the moment, the number of printable resources will be limited until Amazon encourages Alexa Skills developers to build out Skills for this platform that support printing. Here, it could he things like asking for a rail timetable to be printed out or Amazon could even exploit Alexa Print to facilitate transactional printing like turning out tickets and boarding passes.

It will be interesting to see whether Google or Apple will bind the driver-free printing platforms that they own or partner with and their voice-driven assistant platforms to allow this kind of printing using them.

Why I support multiple accounts with online media endpoints at home?

Apple TV 4th Generation press picture courtesy of Apple

The Apple TV set-top box – an example of a popular online-media platform

It is so easy to think of the idea of one person associated with an account-based online media service that is run on a commonly-used online media device. The classic example of this is a smart TV or set-top box that is installed in the main living room. It also extends to smart speakers, Internet radios and network-capable audio setups that work with various online audio content services.

There is a reality that many adults will end up using the same device like the aforementioned smart TV. But a lot of online-media services like Netflix, the broadcast video-on-demand services run by the free-to-air TV broadcasters or online audio services implement user-account-driven operation so customers benefit from their subscription or user-experience personalisation like “favourite shows” lists. With these smart TVs or similar devices, you can only associate the device with one user account for each of these services. This assumes that one person owns and operates the device.

Dish Joey 4K set-top box press picture courtesy of Dish Networks America

Set-top boxes connected to TVs in common areas are used by many people

It is although Apple has started work with having one Apple TV device work with multiple Apple ID user accounts, leading towards concurrent operation of these accounts in tvOS 13. But, at the moment, this only works with Apple-provided online services that are bound to end-users’ Apple IDs.

This reality is driven by the rise in multi-generational households with adult children living under the same roof as their parents. That has come about due to strong financial pressures on young people driven by costly housing in major cities, whether owned or rented. It goes along with that long-time adult reality of maintaining personal relationships under the same roof, while other adults end up staying at the home of another person they are friendly with as a temporary measure. As well, younger adults are increasingly living in share-houses in order to split their living costs easily amongst each other.

Dell Inspiron 14 5000 2-in-1 - viewer arrangement at Rydges Melbourne (Locanda)

An online media account set up on a laptop, tablet or smartphone is typically set up for one user having exclusive use of that device

But a significant number of the accounts for the various online-media services are established on computing devices that are primarily or exclusively used by a single adult. Then a person may decide to register their online-media service account on a commonly-used online-media device to use their subscription or customisations there.

The problem that easily happens is that other people cannot operate their accounts for the same service on that same device thus losing the benefit of their customisations being valid at that device. Or if they do so, they have to complete a rigmarole of logging others out before they log in, with some services having a login procedure requiring you to enter usernames and passwords on the media device using that dreaded “pick-and-choose” method even if the service was set up using social sign-in.

What does the single account problem affect?

Netflix menu screen - favourites

Shows you have marked as “favourite” for your profile in your Netflix account

The situation can also affect the account that is associated with the commonly-used device in a number of ways. This is more so with the content recommendation engines that most online media services implement which help in the discovery of new content that may be of interest. The behaviour of these engines manifests in the form of a “recommended content” playlist that appears on the service’s homepage, the customer email that is sent out to each of the service’s customers with a list of recommended content or a content suggestion that appears at the end of content you were engaging with.

SBS On Demand - favourites screenshot

Another example of shows you have marked as favourite – this time on SBS On Demand

Here, you may have “steered” SBS On Demand’s content recommendation engine to bring up European thrillers due to you watching these shows. But someone else comes in with a penchant for, perhaps, Indian Bollywood content. They binge on episodes of this content and you end up with the recommended-content list diluted with Indian content.

SBS On Demand - recommendations screenshot

The recommended-content playlist like this one can be diluted when there is one account shared by many with different tastes like with SBS On Demand

Another area where this will affect is the list of favourite shows or currently-viewing series that these services keep. Here, you use these lists to identify where you are up to in a show or series you are viewing. Similarly, your member email may alert you to new seasons of your favourite series or if the show is to be removed from the service. But if you started working through a show or series on a computing device you exclusively use but want to continue it on the large-screen TV bound to someone else’s account, you won’t be able to do so unless you log in with your account to continue your viewing there.

In the same context, it doesn’t permit a user who is enjoying the content on the account associated with the commonly-used device to another device associated with their own account. This may be of concern if, for example, you commenced viewing of an episode of a binge-worthy series on the main TV in the house’s main living area but had to continue it on your 2-in-1 laptop in your bedroom because someone else wants to do something else.

Common workarounds

Using a setup like AirPlay, Chromecast or hard-wired connectivity to link your own computing device to the large-screen TV may be seen as a workaround for access to your account even if the set or main set-top device is associated with another account.

But this can yield problems like mobile devices not yielding a best-quality picture with a hard-wired connection or the existence of an Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV setup or appropriate cable that is connected to the TV you want to use. Let alone it not being feasible to carry that desktop computer of yours around to the main TV to watch that Netflix show there using your account and its customisations. Or your smartphone or tablet going to sleep and interrupting your viewing due to it taking battery-conservation measures or simply running out of battery power.

You may find that connecting multiple set-top boxes or similar devices to the main TV with each one bound to different accounts may exist as another workaround. This is typically demonstrated by the use of a games console bound to its owner’s online media service accounts connected to a Smart TV that is bound to someone else’s online-media-service accounts.

But this can look very ugly, become less useable and you may not have enough HDMI ports on your TV or audio peripherals (soundbar, AV receiver) to cater for each set-top device bound to each individual household member’s accounts. It is made worse by most TVs having up to 3 HDMI inputs and most popularly-priced audio peripherals only having the one HDMI-ARC connection to the TV.

What can be done?

An online media service that works through a particular online media endpoint device could support multiple logins with the number being this side of 10.

Here, you could have an option to add or delete extra accounts to the online media-service interface as if you are managing your own account on that interface. The authentication process for adding accounts would be the same as for your own account, whether through supplying a username and password or transcribing an on-screen number in to the Website or mobile app for that service to enrol a limited-interface device.

A question that will come up is whether to have the accounts concurrently operating with the device exposing the customisations associated with each account on the same interface; or require the end-users to switch accounts for exclusive operation when they want to use their account.

Concurrent operation may be considered of relevance to, for example, a couple who watching their shows with each other whereas exclusive operation may come in to its own with an adult who watches their shows by themselves. This can also help with building out content recommendations or the online-media service keeping track of the popularity of a particular piece of content including how it is enjoyed.

What features can this add to online media consumption?

One feature would be the ability to easily enjoy the same content across different devices associated with your account, no matter whether they are exclusive to your account or not. This would benefit where you are working through the same content in different locations like hearing a playlist from that online music service in the car, or at home on the hi-fi; or watching that series on an iPad while you come home from work on the train then continuing it on the TV in the main lounge area at home.

Concurrent operation could also allow for an amalgamated content-choice experience, perhaps with separate menus or playlists for each person. It can extend to providing a list of common favourites or content recommendations that appeal “across the board”.

You also make sure that the content recommendations offered by the online media service reflect your content-consumption habits rather than be diluted by someone else’s choices. This is more so for music or video content that you enjoy and you want to discover similar content.

In some cases, you could have the ability to have the content-recommendation engine come up with content that appeals to the tastes represented by a group of accounts like a household rather than just one account. Such recommendations could be listed alongside account-specific recommendations lists.


What needs to be considered as the rise of online multimedia consumption occurs is the ability for multiple online media-service accounts to be used for the same service on the same device. This means that these services can work well with the reality of multiple-adult households such as couples or multi-generation households.

It then means that the service is personalised to each end-user’s tastes and the content recommendation system in these services reflects what they watch.

The traditional TV guide is still relevant in the online era


Age Green Guide TV guide on coffee table

What will become of the TV guide that lives on the coffee table?

Why people still read the Radio Times | Brand Republic

My Comments

The above-mentioned article highlights how the traditional printed TV guide is faring in the Internet, blogging and social-media age. These are typically the magazines or newspaper supplements that have the listings for what’s on TV over the up-and-coming week and typically live on the coffee table or near the TV so one can make an informed choice about “what’s on telly tonight”. A few recliner armchairs and sofas even have large pockets sewn in to their sides expressly for the purpose of storing the TV guide magazine. Some viewers even use these magazines and look at the critique offered in them to determine what to record on their PVR systems so they can be sure they aren’t missing the good-quality content.

The example here highlights “Radio Times” which is the quintessential TV-guide magazine of the UK and the first of this class of magazine ever published but I would also see it extend to other respected TV-guide magazines and supplements such as those that are part of good broadsheet newspapers. They have detailed reviews and preview commentaries about the shows that are appearing over the coming weeks, usually with the reviews supplied by film and TV-program critics. This is augmented with columns full of commentary about past shows, the people who are behind them whether as acting talent or directing and artistic talent as well as influences that affect the small screen.

The magazines and newspaper supplements augment some of the big sporting or cultural events shown on TV with their supplementary written and photographic coverage and, in some cases, some of these magazines run the awards ceremonies for the TV industry such as the Emmys in America or the Logies in Australia. A few of them even implemented technologies like Panasonic’s bar codes and the Gemstar VCRPlus/VideoPlus/ShowView/G-Code number-codes as a way to simplify the process of programming a video recorder to record TV shows and partnered with the proponents of these systems to put the feature on the map as far as consumers were concerned.

But how could their role be augmented in the online era? For example, they could work with PVR platforms to supply lists of “critiqued content” or “TV highlights” for users to book for recording on these devices. Similarly, they could implement a TV-friendly Web interface and smart-TV front-end so that users can view the magazine’s treatment of the show they just watched or see slideshows and commentaries provided by these magazines on the TV screen. This could tie-in with video-on-demand offerings so that viewers can see pre-recorded interviews and featurettes about their favourite TV content.

These resources would also be needing to cover content offered on video-on-demand services especially as these services are producing their own original content. This is because the on-demand services are fast becoming a “go-to” service for video content especially as younger people are moving away from traditional scheduled TV content. Set-top platforms like Roku that implement PVR-style cross-service content aggregation can also benefit from “critiqued content” lists provided by TV guides.

Here, the goal is to put the resources that the film critics have built up when curating the content for these magazines and supplements and extend it towards on-demand viewing.

Netflix–evolving to the online TV station


What happens at Netflix when House of Cards goes live | Marketplace Business

From the horse’s mouth


Netflix official logo - courtesy of NetflixPress Release

My Comments

I have given some space to Netflix in relation to its new direction as an IPTV channel in the US. Initially this name was an Internet-assisted mail-order DVD-rental business thriving in the USA – the hub of “mail order business”.

Now, this network was moving towards streaming existing content and building up partnerships with various companies associated with the online entertainment business. Here, this led towards cost-effective access to the good TV shows in so much that a lot of American households were “cutting the cord” – breaking off cable-TV service.

As well, Netflix had started to create their own TV content with shows like “House Of Cards” and “Lilyhammer”, In the case of “Lilyhammer” which I have watched when it ran on SBS in Australia, this involved the idea of coproducing this show with Norway’s national public TV broadcaster which I have seen as a big feat for a young online TV station.

This article shows how Netflix is handling the launch of the second series of “House Of Cards” and were seeing it like a “war-room” where they were monitoring who was “cottoning on” to it immediately it was launched. Here, they were able to get a granular view on what was being watched by whom using which kind of devices thus using it as a way to work out what kind of content to put their money towards.

I see this as a new approach to TV content creation and distribution where it is feasible to determine whether shows of a kind are appealing to which people so they can target certain viewer classes more easily using characteristics like “happy ending” or “cerebral qualities”. This is in contrast to standard ratings setups like Nielsens or OzTAM which yield more coarse data about viewership.

As well, identifying viewership practices like “binge-watching” have allowed Netflix to place that risk of planting all of the second-series episodes of “House Of Cards” online rather than letting each episode appear week by week as the normal TV practice prefers.

It is showing that Netflix with its “House Of Cards” TV show is highlighting what the IPTV scene is capable of and is to be about. This is where the technologies that are in place are about exactly identifying what the service’s market wants to watch and providing the content that suits this particular market.

Netflix to test 4K UHDTV content


Netflix starts testing 4K content with batch of public videos | Digital Trends

Netflix begins testing 4K video with goal of 2014 launch | Slashgear

Netflix posts 4K test video to streaming service as it prepares for planned 2014 launch | Gigaom

Netflix testing Ultra High Definition video ready for launch next year | Engadget

My Comments

As the price for 4K UHDTV sets becomes cheaper, it may hit the point were you may be considering buying one of these as the main-lounge-area TV. But the question that will be asked is what content will be available that is natively in this resolution rather than having the set upscale 1080p content?

At the moment, Sony is offering a media player and “download-to-own” content from some of their movie catalogue but this is focused towards those of us who purchased Sony 4K sets. Similarly, there is a European trial for broadcasting 4K content using satellite TV. But the reality is that most of this content will be streamed or downloaded via next-generation broadband and a sufficiently-fast home network.

This has been underscored with Netflix offering a trial service where they provide some test and demonstration footage in 4K UHDTV resolution. This company, known as a “gold standard” for providing “over-the-top” on-demand movie and TV content, are planning to have a full commercial service with real content up and running by 2014.

Netflix’s top brass want to become a key supplier of 4K content as the technology matures and these sets become commonplace. But customers will need to implement next-generation broadband or a premium broadband package with high bandwidth along with a home network that runs with Gigabit Ethernet, HomePlug AV2 or 802.11ac Wi-Fi in order for this service to work properly. For them, any shows that they commission like “House Of Cards” or “Lilyhammer” could be mastered in 4K UHDTV and then delivered as 4K UHDTV content as an option.

Of course, people who use computers with 1080p Full HD monitors or “Retina” displays will benefit from the high resolution, which could be a way to taste the ultra-high-resolution content offered in the demo footage.

Apple iRadio–another entrant to the crowded music-on-demand market


Why Apple’s iRadio could fly or flop | Business Spectator

My Comments

We have seen the likes of Pandora, Spotify and last.fm establish themselves in the new world of listener-driven music-on-demand “virtual-radio” services. These offer the ability for listeners to “pull up” and play songs on what is effectively a “worldwide jukebox”.

They also have a function to play content like what has been listened to previously as a “virtual radio station” with this factor based on what music you have searched for previously or, in the case of last.fm, content you have listened to from your own library.

Most of these services operate on a freemium model which provides free ad-supported listening on a regular computer or allows the user to listen to the content ad-free on more devices for a subscription of up to AUD$120 per year. As well, an increasing number of consumer electronics manufacturers are integrating access to the services as functions for their network-capable audio and AV equipment.

Now Apple has started to enter this crowded market with their iRadio service. This will be typically tied in to their MacOS X and iOS computing platforms through iTunes integration. They are playing on the people who use their computing platforms and offer the same kinds of service – a free ad-supported service or a premium subscription service.

They will have to compete against Pandora, Spotify & Co for both listeners’ ears and ad dollars when targeting this market. This is especially as these services can be listened to from the Apple platforms whether through a Web page or a platform-specific app. There will be the usual limitations of not being able to benefit from iRadio content on devices other than Apple devices.

Personally I would like to see Apple integrate the iRadio service with the iTunes Store in the way that a person could buy the content they listen to using the iTunes “download-to-buy” music store. This could be a way to work their iTunes platform harder and, in some cases, provide a new way of buying music – “buy as you listen”.

Similarly, could other computing-platform companies like Google or Microsoft jump on the bandwagon and license music through their own “virtual radio” services? As well, could a “download-to-own” online music store run a subscription “virtual radio” service of their own?

Another trend that is also surfacing is the creation of software like Tomahawk that integrates multiple subscription music services and your own music library to search for music content or run custom playlists. This capitalises on the fact that one could be subscribing to two or more of these services whether as a free ad-driven setup on one of them and a full paid service on anther in order to catch more of the music or use with more of the devices they have.

What I see of these services is them existing as a complementary service to one’s physical or digital music library and access to traditionally-programmed broadcast radio. Here, these services work as a way to track down elusive items of music to hear them again or to discover music similar to what you are listening to.

Samsung Smart TVs in France now can replace the décodeur for the Livebox service

Article – French language

La TV d’Orange débarque sur les Smart TV de Samsung – DegroupNews.com

My Comments

France has become the first country to bring to the mainstream one of the key pillars for Internet-driven TV. This pillar is for an IPTV or single-pipe triple-play provider to allow us to gain access to their Internet-driven TV service without the need for a set-top box to be supplied by them and for this practice to be seen as becoming mainstream.

Here, people who subscribe to the Livebox service provided by France-Télécom (Orange) and own a recent Samsung smart TV view the baseline TV package for their triple-play service just by using the Samsung TV’s remote control.

This will require the user to perform a firmware update through the TV’s menus. You may have to “press the “Menu” button to bring up the “Assistance” option then bring up the “Firmware update” (Mise à jour de logiciel). Then you have to select the “On-line” (En ligne) option to draw down the firmware via the home network. Here, the set will show up the Orange TV options on its Smart-TV menu when you click the “Smart” diamond on the remote. A question that I would have is whether Samsung is intending to roll this out to the Blu-Ray players and home-theatre systems that have the integrated Internet-TV functionality because these devices would be used to “extend” this functionality to cheaper and older TVs.

At the moment, this will yield the baseline channels but Orange want to take this further with their premium, catch-up and on-demand services. As Orange liaise with other smart-TV platforms to roll this method out to the other platforms, this could become a chance to prove to the IPTV scene whether the smart TV can become the control surface for pay-TV. Here, smart-TV integration only works well with broadcaster-developed video-on-demand front-ends or a smattering of “over-the-top” video-on-demand and subscription-video services which aren’t heavily promoted.

In the US, the FCC could place high value on this concept if all the smart-TV vendors come to the party, as a way of “liberating” the American cable-TV subscriber base from the control of the cable-TV companies. Here, this could be facilitated with a broadcast-LAN gateway for cable-broadcast / satellite-broadcast services as well as this interface for selecting broadcast, recorded-broadcast, online and on-demand material.

Who knows what this could mean for IPTV as the increased number of Smart TVs and video peripherals become increasingly available through the retail channel and the home network becomes a mainstream requirement for the average household.

Soft-goods being available on demand at retailers – could this be real?

Big W disc kiosk lets customers burn on demand

My comments

This concept that Big W is trying, as well as the “on-demand” book-printing machines being tried at some bookshops could easily upset the applecart when it comes to the distribution of “soft-goods” (books, music, video and computer software). It would be achieved through an Internet-connected server installed at a “soft-goods” retailer which is connected to optical-disc burning and/or high-speed “print-to-finish” document-printing hardware that is also installed at the same retailer. These setups could typically take up the same space as a free-standing office copier and be based on today’s computing and networking technology.

Similarly an online content retailer like Amazon could engage in using the technology to “print and deliver” titles without needing a huge warehouse to run their operation from. In some cases, they could use smaller offices to fulfil “print and deliver” orders local to the delivery locations. As well, there have been proposals to set up “buy-download-burn” arrangements so that people can buy music or video material and make it to optical disc on their computer equipment at home. This is in conjunction to the supply of legally-downloaded music through the likes of iTunes, Destra and Big Pond Music and the various proposals to provide legally-downloaded video material, such as AACS’s “Managed Copy” that is currently practised with Blu-Ray.

There could be the idea of titles still being available even though they reach the end of their print run and the contract with the author may preclude further print runs. This definitely can be of benefit with titles that have demand that outstrips agreed supply and it can allow publishers to liaise with the author about whether to do extra runs or not. Similarly, there could be less risk of shops dedicating shelf space to slow-moving titles, yet these titles can be made available irrespective of this fact.

Similarly, there could be “mass-customisation” being available for particular classes of titles. For example, there could be the ability to have computer-software disks full of appropriate programs for the customer’s needs. Similarly, a reference-type title like a Bible or dictionary could be printed with indexing that suits the customer’s needs, such as “white-on-black” for the current letter in a dictionary or a book of the Bible.

What I see with this kind of technology is that content creators who want total control over their content will find that they have lost that control. This may be of concern to content providers who want to be sure of a limited number of copies in existence or make sure of having their content “vaulted” for significant time so as to create a public “want” for re-releases.

It will be interesting to see whether this concept will achieve the mass-market as a way of providing current and legacy “soft-goods” or just simply flounder.