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Podcast #533: Amazon, Dishtenna and Google Chromebox

Google has been making slow and somewhat quiet attempts to enter the Operating System space for a while. The last major concerted effort manifested as a new form of netbooks running the Google Chrome operating system dubbed Chromebooks. These new netbooks were supposed to be a huge hit, but haven’t quite taken off yet. Samsung recently announced an upgrade to the Chromebook line as well as a twist on the Chromebook with a new offering called the Chromebox.

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Google Chromebox

Google has been making slow and somewhat quiet attempts to enter the Operating System space for a while.  The last major concerted effort manifested as a new form of netbooks running the Google Chrome operating system dubbed Chromebooks. These new netbooks were supposed to be a huge hit, but haven’t quite taken off yet.  Samsung recently announced an upgrade to the Chromebook line as well as a twist on the Chromebook with a new offering called the Chromebox.

The new Chromebooks from Samsung are higher powered than the previous models and also include an updated version of the Chrome operating system. The new version looks and feels a bit more like a traditional desktop OS, so it should be more intuitive for users. However, it inherits the same primary gripe: Chrome assumes constant connection to the Internet. Without an Internet connection, Chromebooks are very, very crippled. That makes them tough to use on the road - which is how many people use their Laptops and Netbooks.

The new Chromebooks also cost more than you’d expect. When you consider the limitations, you’d think a Chromebook would seek to beat every other Netbook on the market by price. That just isn't the case. The new models start at $449. Sure that’s quite a bit less than a full laptop, but it isn’t a full laptop. That isn’t much less, and is in fact a bit more expensive in some cases, than other Netbooks on the market running Windows or Linux. Shouldn’t the ChromeOS at least cost less than a Windows version?

A smaller, fixed location version of the device, however, could make sense. When we first read about the Chromebox, we assumed it would fall somewhere between the media streamers of the world like the Apple TV or Roku and the Nettops that never quite took off. We didn’t think it would be a Mac Mini competitor, nor did we think it would displace full desktop PCs. The price of $329 seems to put it right in that range, just between streamers and full computers.

The concept behind the Chromebox, however, leads us to believe Google wants it to be more like a Nettop or PC replacement than a media streamer for your home theater. In fact, Google’s quote at is: "Chromebox is a compact, powerful and versatile desktop perfect for the home or office." The box has two USB ports and a headphone jack on the front and 4 more USB ports, an Ethernet jack, a DVI port and two DisplayPort++ outputs on the back. All the makings of a "just add KVM" device.

The first thing that struck us from a Home Theater perspective is the lack of an HDMI port. Sure the DisplayPort++ outputs support HDMI, DVI, or VGA, but to get them to use an HDMI TV, you’d need to bring your own adapter. Not a great out of the box experience. The second issue is the total lack of audio output options. Sure there’s a headphone jack in the front, but where will you get a 5.1 or 7.1 audio stream from? Those two items alone remove the $329 device from serious consideration for your home theater. Of course the price is a bit high as well.

Admittedly, it would be odd for Google to compete with itself, marketing the Chrombox against any potential dedicated Google TV devices that may pop up in the future to replace the failed Logitech Revue. But at the same time, if you could get a full featured HTPC, in the form factor of a media streamer, for the reasonable price of $329, it would be worth taking a look. Building an HTPC can be costly. Nettops tend to be underpowered to run as HTPCs, so the Google Chromebox could have filled a niche. Granted a very small niche, but a niche nonetheless. And Google still needs to find a way to get SageTV back out to the masses.

So what good is a Google ChromeOS based PC? Great question. We’re asking ourselves the same thing. Google is responsible for all software updates and security patches on the device, so the IT overhead is greatly reduced. If there are companies out that that are Google Docs based, or otherwise use mostly web available or SaaS based software to run their business, the device could work as a simple desktop replacement. As a home computer for kids, so you don’t have to worry about viruses and malware, it could make sense as well.

While the Chromebox concept got us excited when we saw the first article about it, our excitement quickly fizzled when we did a little further reading. Sure there might be some great uses for it, but we’re not seeing them in the Home Theater. We’ll still have to wait for Google to bring a device to market that provides SageTV functionality for TV viewing, recording and streaming, along with the web enabled features of Google TV. It could make for a killer home theater device.



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Reader Comments (9)

I'd love to try out the Greendish but, since the Mohu Super Leaf never really worked out for me I'm pretty worried about trying a product that costs about 4 times as much. I could easily be stuck in the same boat; EVERY non-English speaking channel comes in crystal clear but I can never get all three of the major networks. It may be a physical problem like a hill or mountain somewhere between Glendale and Pasadena that prevents me from decent reception (kind of poor planning with all the available viewers in the San Fernando Valley, but I digress) and I don't want to go through this whole mess again. Or find out the dish has to go on the top of my two-story chimney or something. Argh!

In a side note, it's kind of sad that I've come to this. The movie channels have never held and interest for me, I'd rather rent unlimited discs from Netflix than get the two movies a month worth watching on HBO, Showtime, etc. I'm tired of paying $134.24 a month for Uverse and ending up watching Swamp People like i did last night. In the youthful days of the HDTV Podcast there were terrific things on. History Channel had history, not pawn shop and storage space shows. Discovery had HDTheater, full of great eye candy about nature. It just seems like cable just gives me another 100 channels of nothing any more.

July 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRick K.

Greetings from South Jersey. I listen on the drive in to work, I was a couple of episodes behind when I heard you announce this antenna. Being originally from central Jersey I grew up on New York sports, I am a New York Giant and Yankees fan. When I got married we moved to Medford, NJ, so to watch my football, up went a 110" yagi on a rotor - great reception especially when the Trade Towers were standing (God Bless America). Ok to make a long story short, when I heard about this antenna, as soon as I got to work, I checked it out on the web, then called Dan to ask for more info and bought it same morning! The box is at home awaiting installation, tomorrow is the day (July 7)! Dan said NY will be no problem and with a little tweeking Baltimore is possible with NO ROTOR! I believe him becuse the old antenna could pull Maryland stations at night when things were right. So the digital era killed my New York viewing, maybe the GreenDish gets me back on the beam - I'll let you all know. thank you for the show and your dedication.


July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Hi Joe,

We are doing the review of the Dishtenna next Friday. Please let us know how your install goes. I hope you told Dan that you heard about their antenna on our show :-)

Have a great weekend!

July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAra Derderian

absolutely. He didn't connect immediately but then said 'oh yeah, those guys"! I've had the dish a couiple of weeks already but I had to wait for the installer as he was on vacation and could only come until tomorrow. All I expect is good NYC signals and Philly coming though the back side. Hoping JD

July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Hey, Joe! Was that Daniel Rivera you spoke with? I talked to him this week and he was all over the HTGuys connection. He told me the dish had a 180° receiving arc so directionality may not be a huge issue for many of us. They also have a "noinstall" promo code if you just want to buy the antenna and install it yourself for $100 off. I'll probably be placing my order after listening to the review. Daniel let a little of the cat out of the bag when he told me one of the Guys could pick up some San Diego TV stations (!).

July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRick K.

no installation joy. weather heat index was 106 for Saturday so we rescheduled, that's ok, gave me a weekend to reorganize and integrate new AV recvr. If antenna works I'll need an over-the air DVR - suggestions?

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Good luck with that, Joe. The only ones I could find were the BriteVue and the Channel Master at Amazon but Amazon is not selling the full line, only the top model with internet connectivity. The 7000 is strictly OTA but must be ordered directly from Channel Master website. The Britevue models were reviewed pretty poorly if I remember correctly.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRick K.

Hi Guys I moved to West Palm Beach Florida from Miami which is 55 miles north of the Miami towers. I wanted to get my Miami channels particularly ME-TV. It's not available in West Palm. I tried MOHU, CLEAR CAST, and Clear Stream, none worked . I heard your PodCast on the DTV GreenDish and I hesitated cuz I already lost about 45 dollars in shipping with the other guys when I returned them. I bit the bullet and spent the 3 bigones. They called me and checked location and the guy Dan said "oh your only 50 miles from ME-TV tower. I said only???
He said oh that's nothing, we get fox 29 and bounce in Homestead. Those channels are in my area and we are 90 miles from homestead. (1000KW) Long story short, they came out, did a signal analysis and put it on my gable end facing sw toward Miami. 57 channels including ME-TV!!!!!!! Awsome!!!! I'll never pay for TV ever. Antenna TV, This TV, ION, abc,fox,cbs,nbc,video mix,Bounce tv all cool!

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim P

My Dishtenna came today. Mounted it to the gable facing Mt. Whitney (east) on the first floor, set it up and plugged it in per the instructions (and one quick call to Dan) and just pulled 125 channels to my bedroom TV. I went down to the guest room to scan for channels and got the same 125. After I texted the news to Dan he let me know this is a record for my area. When I scan the big theater room TV I'm going to attempt to get a picture for him.

Too bad I don't have a meter to tell you the signal strength but one TV has an indicator that showed 7's and mostly 8 bars out of a possible 9. Not bad for the far, far west San Fernando Valley! The picture is beautiful and now I can tell the difference between OTA and compressed cable company results (I've had both TWC and Uverse). The power for the amp is ingenious. Very, very happy. This baby is going with me to the midwest when I move.

July 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRick K.

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