Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Digital Living Room - Miles to Go Before You Can Sleep

Yesterday, I attempted to watch a Blu-ray movie obtained from Netflix, produced by Sony studios, on a six month old Sony Vaio multi-media laptop, hooked up to a 25.5 inch Samsung monitor as a secondary monitor. Blu-ray of course is a wonderful standard for high def movies developed by Sony.

It took me two hours and two support calls to get the movie started.

Now it's pretty hard to argue that compatibility should have been an issue with Sony controlling all the technology. If I were not doing consulting to firms in the digital living room area, I would have broken something in frustration. I rarely get so annoyed by technology that I curse out loud, but it was one of those evenings.

So, you may ask, what happened?

The problem began with the InterVideo software shipped with the notebook. When I stuck in the Blu-ray disk, it told me that I need to renew a key in the Blu-ray viewing software. I was sent to a confusing page with the software vendor Corel, a relationship I was unaware I had. My immediate thought: is this some kind of virus problem? The key transaction then failed twice. So far ten minutes wasted.
The courteous and knowledgeable support person in Costa Rica talked me through disabling user account control on my notebook and obtaining a key upgrade. I was fuming by this stage. Not only do I object to an unnecessary key renewal, the software does not even work well. So far, 60 minutes wasted.

But the problems did not stop there. I could not escape the previews on the DVD. Now, I would like to think I am a pretty knowledgeable about the digital living room. People hire me to look at their products and do competitive comparisons. But it was practically impossible to get to the movie. I think I saw the previews seven times. Unlike most people I have two media computers with Bluray from different vendors. Same problem on both my desktop and my notebook. Total time wasted now at around 70 minutes.

On the second support call, we determined that a second Netflix Blu-ray disk, immediately went to a main menu from which you could play your movie easily. Admittedly, the second disk did reveal I had a bad setting on my desktop, causing the colors to be wrong, which I eventually fixed by letting the video app control color settings. The conclusion from the second support call was that the Blu-ray disk was defective.

Now, I am not a typical user. I am way more persistent. I eventually figured out a way of getting to the movie with some additional experimentation. Total time invested over the entire evening ended up at over two hours. But I would have to say that the experience was ridiculous. A media notebook that can't play media. A Blu-ray disk that won't let you get to the movie on it. Disappearing menus. Software that won't let you play your movie on your external monitor. Multimedia computers that have non working registration software that prevent usage.

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