Just over a month ago, my cable company and I broke up, and while it’s important to the overall point of this series, I won’t bother repeating it all again here. (Read Connected Entertainment Part 1) For most of you that won’t be important. Now more than ever tech-loving Americans are cutting the cable bills. Many of them realize that for the most part you can stop rearranging your life to enjoy video and audio content. Here’s how I’m doing it.



Strangely enough music is one of those things I rarely consume at home. In fact in the two years I’ve lived on my own I’ve most likely had jamming sessions about twenty times. Four of which were in my living room. For me music is mostly a mobile experience, and using a connected home approach to my media hasn’t changed that reality much. I want to say that I’ll try to do it more but I’ll level with you, I’m usually having a love affair with podcasts when I’m at home. However the new setup will make it easier to enjoy whenever I do get around to it. For example the XBOX that’s become the sole receiver to my 22 inch monitor in the living room. With the Zune Software you can easily stream all of your music on the network and to that XBOX without any hassle. Best of all those plays are also counted in your Zune play count. You can also plug up your device via its USB cable straight into the XBOX and have it treat the Zune as external storage. Unfortunately it will not count towards your plays so if you listen via this message it could throw off your music recommendations in the marketplace. It’s also worth noting that the XBOX’s music playback interface is awful. Simply god awful. Media Center PCs can also get in on the action via Zune.net’s media streaming capabilities or by running the Zune software locally. Personally Zune Software streaming to the XBOX is so simple and easy that out of all these methods it’s the one I will be recommending to all, and using going forward. Now here’s to hoping that interface gets a makeover soon.



Here’s the big cheese during this transition. Before I made the switch I made it a point to think of actual usage scenarios for consuming TV shows as easily in my living room. (Shouts to Matt Akers for the vocab.) What’s interesting here is that in many ways your options mirror audio consumption. You can stream .avi, mp4, and .wmv files across your network via the Zune software to an XBOX, and load them up on your device and have the Xbox treat it as external storage. Here again, I can’t stress to you more how much easier it is to just stream your latest video content around the network. It’s so easy, Staples could do it. At this point a few of you will realize that I’m leaving out a glaring omission: The ZuneHD Dock. Don’t worry I’ll get to it just a little later.



For all Microsoft’s talk about how IPTV and on demand entertainment will change everything, podcasts on all of its platforms seems to lack attention to the basics. Now don’t get me wrong the Zune Podcast Marketplace is great, and it’s gotten a lot better recently with its weekly editorial content, and discovery suggestions and such. What hasn’t gotten better however is the Zune software’s “We do that too!” approach to podcasts in your collection. There is no separation of audio and video podcasts. That’s a weird omission in my book. Second my recurring premise on media streaming to your XBOX doesn’t work here either. With the Zune 4.3 update Microsoft added a separate area for all of your podcasts to live, including a new library in Windows 7. What it didn’t do was give the XBOX Library integration or at least the ability to monitor the podcasts folder. So while I can stream every other kind of audio and video content, podcasts are stuck on my device. Yes of course you could use your USB cable to plug your device into your 360 and have them show up in your audio and video areas on your XBOX, which sounds awesome, except that when you are done, it won’t mark them as played on your device. You’ll have to do that from the device itself when it’s not playing back content. Again, it’s doable, but less steps for the normal people would be grand. For those of you with a Media Center PC, you can also stream your favorite podcasts via the Media Center interface. It doesn’t store anything on the PC from what I can tell so as long as your internet connection is running fine, you’ll be fine. The caveat here is simple, now not only will your software not know where you stopped watching, you also won’t have those shows on your Zune should you decide to take your viewing party on the road. Unlike the other forms of media the only way to enjoy this medium properly is by letting your Zune device be your guide, and connecting via the ZuneHD Video Dock.


ZuneHD Video Dock

Speaking of letting the device be your guide, It’s hella important to note that all of this can be circumvented by picking up the ZuneHD Video Dock and having your Zune store and playback your media in the living room. Since your podcasts are there, it will know where you stopped or it you finished it. You can buy, download, and stream music directly to it as well, something that does excite the geek in me. One thing to note here is just strange the dock can behave sometimes, occasionally the device would not recognize when it was sitting in the dock. You’ll only be syncing video wireless however. The device has not marketplace for buying TV Shows without connected to a PC. Unfortunate but true.

As you have read with this review, this stuff not only gets complicated if you aren’t careful but also varies a lot based on what platform you want to be your primary consumption device. The best advice I can offer you is to do your homework and look for each method’s strengths and weakness. If you want to stream video and not have to go to your computer to download it, clearly the XBOX with its high-def streaming is the way to go. If you’re looking for a way to consume your music in the living room clearly Zune is the approach for you. One thing I want to make clear is that these aren’t your only ways of making the switch from cable to digital services. In part three I’ll cover those.

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