Tuesday Tidbits: Remote DVR Gets Court OK, Mozilla Firefox 3.5 Ships
The past 24 hours have brought news that a lot of tech enthusiasts have been waiting to see--no, not Apple's report that chief executive Steve Jobs is back on the job after a successful liver transplant.
One item comes courtesy of the Supreme Court, which yesterday let a lower court ruling stand that permitted Cablevision Systems Corp. to offer a "remote storage" digital video recorder service to its subscribers.
Cablevision's idea was fairly straightforward: Instead of putting an individual hard drive under each subscriber's TV, why not let customers save their recordings on a centralized server? But a long list of companies in the movie and TV business--to name a few, Major League Baseball, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, the Screen Actors Guild and CNN--objected, claiming that Bethpage, N.Y.-based Cablevision was really offering a video-on-demand service and should pay them extra for the privilege.
Individual viewers would be hard-pressed to see any such difference; whether the video they watched came from a box in their living room or in a data center somewhere, the experience would be about the same from the couch. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed with that logic and rejected the lawsuit (see this recap of its ruling by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a brief in support of Cablevision); when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal, that ended the case. Now Cablevision is free to roll out this feature--and, more importantly, other companies can experiment with other video-recoding services that rely on network storage.
(For an interesting exercise, compare the logic in this case to the history of My.MP3.com, a music service that let people listen to streaming copies of the music on their own CDs.)
The other tech-news item comes from Mountain View, Calif.,-based Mozilla, which shipped the next version of its Firefox browser this morning. Mozilla Firefox 3.5--a free, open-source download for Windows 2000 or newer, Mac OS X 10.4 or newer and recent versions of Linux--brings a few distinct upgrades from last summer's Firefox 3.
Other 3.5 features may need some time to pan out. For example, it can--with your permission--estimate your physical location and pass that on to Web sites, which can then provide information tailored to your neck of the woods. (See Flickr's implementation of this feature.) Firefox 3.5 also includes built-in, no-plug-ins-needed support for free, open audio (Vorbis) and video (Theora) formats. Despite their cost and licensing advantages, those formats have yet to see much use compared to the likes of Adobe Flash--but will Firefox's endorsement lead more sites to give them a shot?
Firefox 3.5 looks to be off to a fast start--a page at the Mozilla site tracking downloads of the new browser has gone from recording a little over 1 million downloads to almost 1.4 million while I've been writing this post.
I have, of course, installed this browser on one computer and will soon do so on a few others. My plan is to write about it for my next column, and you can help with that: If you've installed Firefox 3.5, what do you think of it? And how would you compare with the other popular alternatives to Microsoft's still-dominant Internet Explorer, Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome?
June 30, 2009; 4:34 PM ET
Categories: TV , The Web , Video
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