Oct 102011

href="http://www.directv.com/DTVAPP/content/technology/nomad"> src="http://www.gizmolovers.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/DirecTV-Nomad-e1314378711766.jpg?9d7bd4" alt="DirecTV Nomad" title="DirecTV Nomad" width="499" height="149" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-7690" /> Back in August href="http://www.gizmolovers.com/2011/08/26/directv-nomad-coming-soon/">I posted a number of details about DirecTV’s then forthcoming Nomad place shifting product, and href="http://www.directv.com/DTVAPP/content/technology/nomad">it is finally here for $149. It turns out that most of the info I had at the time was correct and, unfortunately, the rumors were generally confirmed. The Nomad is a copy-based device, similar to how TiVoToGo works, and not a streaming system like a Slingbox. So there is no real-time access to your content. You need to load everything onto your mobile device before you leave home. Which is admittedly useful for something like a plane where streaming generally isn’t an option, but if you’re away for an extended time you’ll probably still want a Slingbox to keep up with your shows from the road.

And speaking of mobile devices, right now your options are very limited. You can use a Windows PC, an iPhone 3GS or better, or an iPod Touch. That’s it. The Mac, iPad, and Android devices are all listed as ‘Coming Soon’. Though you can run the iPhone app on the iPad for now. As I previously reported, the Nomad communicates with DirecTV DVRs via Ethernet. Using DirecTV’s existing multi-room system, shows are streamed from the DVR to the Nomad. There they are transcoded to H.264 and saved for syncing with your device. One thing to note, Nomad is a ‘one size fits all’ system. Unlike TiVoToGo, which will transcode to different resolutions and bitrates for different devices, or Slingbox which can stream in anything from 320×240 up to 1920×1080 depending on the device and bandwidth, Nomad has one setting. It transcodes to 720×480 (which is DVD resolution). The bit rate varies, but seems to be around 1.5Mbps.

Up to five mobile devices are supported per account. You can set it up to auto-convert series, etc. Again, it seems to work very much like TiVoToGo, only in a dedicated HW box instead of software on a PC. Transfers from the DVR to the Nomad happen in real time. So a two hour movie takes two hours to stream and transcode. Fortunately, once transcoded and stored, copying to a device happens much faster, with about an hour of content transferred in ten minutes according to reports.

The folks over at DBSTalk got their hands on one early and have written up href="http://hr20.dbstalk.com/docs/Nomad%20First%20Look.pdf" class="broken_link" rel="nofollow">a first look document. There’s also href="http://www.dbstalk.com/showthread.php?p=2861656#post2861656">a running discussion thread in their forums with more info.

Oh, one thing to note, the player app will not work on any jail broken iOS devices.

Via href="http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/06/directv-nomad-is-ready-to-launch-transcodes-dvred-shows-for-mob/">EngadgetHD.

Aug 262011

DirecTV Nomad Engadget noticed that DirecTV put up a ‘Coming Soon’ teaser page for their new Nomad product. The page itself doesn’t reveal much, it is just an image of a DirecTV DVR and the Nomad, along with a Mac, iPad, and iPhone. The FAQ page adds the text “DIRECTV nomad™ Take your movies and shows from your home DVR wherever you go.” All of this isn’t new, we’ve known that Nomad has something to do with making content portable (as if the name didn’t give it away).

But I did find more, the July 2011 DirecTV training video (also streaming) includes a bit about Nomad starting at the 12:15 mark. The site requires a login, but if you’re reading this you’re probably clever enough to find it online.

The video content itself isn’t really worth posting, you don’t see much. But the information given is useful. To have the Nomad you must have an HR20 through HR24 or R22 and they must be connected to the Internet. Only one Nomad is allowed per account, you must have active DirecTV DVR service, and the account must have MRV capability. The customer’s broadband service must be active during installation. At launch, wireless capability will be available in iPhone and Android clients, as well as a PC client. You’ll need to add the Nomad Mobile DVR service to the account. Also, it appears that the Nomad box requires a physical Ethernet connection – but it doesn’t need to be collocated with the DirecTV box so you can stick it with your router, etc.

Based on the video the Nomad pulls content from your DirecTV DVR over the network via DECA/SWiM and transcodes it. That jibes with the need for MRV on the account and how the unit is connected. From the brief look at the back of the unit in the video it looks like it only has power, Ethernet, and maybe a USB port. Note that also means it will not work with the new DirecTiVo as that does not support MRV, according to the info available. (Maybe in a future update.)

Unfortunately, the video isn’t clear on if Nomad provides streaming support, ala Slingbox, or simply transcodes video and makes a copy for your mobile device, ala TiVoToGo. The graphics, to me, imply wireless streaming, but I can’t say they’re conclusive and the narration never states anything either way. There are numerous discussion threads about Nomad around the net, some of which mention being able to take videos on an airplane, which would mean copying. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t stream, they’re not mutually exclusive. A survey from last year (the Nomad was first expected in late 2010 – the DirecTiVo isn’t the only delayed release) implied copying and streaming as well.

The rumor is that DirecTV is working with Morega on the Nomad. Morega and DirecTV are both members of the RVU Alliance. In July Morega received a patent on their system for ‘TV Everywhere’, and the info in their press release does jibe with the rumors around Nomad:

Morega Systems, a developer of content portability solutions, revealed today that the company received patent approval for its breakthrough content portability technology. This unique content delivery solution gives satellite, cable and IPTV service providers, and equipment manufacturers a better way to extend premium, multimedia content beyond the television and the set-top box to support the Connected Home and TV Everywhere.

Today, the predominant way to “placeshift” content – in other words, to deliver content to any device such as a mobile phone, tablet, or a PC – to support TV Everywhere is by streaming content across a broadband network connection. But Morega’s technology takes TV Everywhere to a new level by allowing consumers to placeshift via two methods: adaptive bit rate streaming with quality-of-service or sideloading. With Morega’s unique sideloading solution, authorized users can securely download content either directly from the cloud or from a set-top box onto alternative viewing devices.

This solves two key challenges posed by cloud-based mobile video delivery solutions: First, streaming or sideloading from cable, satellite or IPTV networks at the edge is much more bandwidth-efficient to the operators and requires fewer network resources for transcoded content management and storage. Second, it preserves the original broadcast ads while providing the ability to track and report mobile viewing metrics. Also, with the sideloading option, users no longer need a broadband network connection to view the content.

In addition, Morega’s sideloading technology uses a sophisticated back-office, standards-based and proprietary authentication, encryption and digital rights management (DRM) system to protect copyrighted material and to assure the delivery of high-quality video entertainment content.

The new patent specifically covers the transcoding, streaming and downloading of premium content from a video source to a mobile platform such as a smartphone or a laptop or tablet computer. It also covers Morega’s unique approach to track, restrict and monetize premium content via digital rights management (DRM), which leverages both industry standards from the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) and Digital Transmission Content Protection (DTCP), as well as proprietary methods to protect copyrighted material and assure high-quality video when customers securely download content from either a set-top box or directly from the cloud.

That sounds a lot like what’s expected from Nomad. Also, DirecTV is known to use DTCP-IP with the DirecTV2PC offering today.

There is a thread at DBSTalk with a lot of info sprinkled about. Keep in mind this is all leaked info from a discussion thread and not official information. Reportedly, it does use MRV and the transfers count as one available MRV stream. Transfers happen in real time. The unit has 16GB internal storage and supports up to 2TB of external storage via the USB port. Content is transcoded to H.264 and ‘down converted’ from the original, but no word on what the resolution of the mobile versions will be. (Given the growing number of HD displays on mobile devices, and HDMI output, hopefully not too low.) Content will obey the ‘maximum entitlement date’ – aka expiration date, as set when recorded. (So something that says you can keep it on your DVR only 7 days also stops working via Nomad in 7 days.) It definitely does copying, but the general sense from the thread is that it does not stream. (But no one seems to know for sure on the streaming.)

If it doesn’t do streaming that would be disappointing. DISH Network has their SlingLoaded 922 DVR and the Sling add-on for the 722 DVR which both stream in realtime. And, of course, anyone can connect a Slingbox to just about any video source and stream. Copying is a nice feature for use when streaming isn’t an option, such as on an airplane, but the clear trend is toward streaming services – not just traditional place shifting via Sling Media and Monsoon, but OTT providers such as Netflix and Hulu and MSO services like Comcast’s Xfinity. With the growth of 3G, and now 4G, services, and the ubiquity of WiFi, having to plan ahead and pre-load copies just seems archaic. And if you’re on an extended business trip you can’t access anything on your DVR at home that recorded after you left. So it is useless for keeping up with your shows on the road.

I really hope it does streaming, or they have concrete plans to add it shortly after launch, or I think the Slingbox will remain a better option. Especially if this thread is correct and Nomad costs $150. You can get a Slingbox SOLO for that, and a Slingbox PRO-HD for just over a hundred more.

We’ll just have to wait and see.