Hulu announces free viewing coming to mobile this summer

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At Hulu’s Upfront event in New York today, the streaming media company announced some interesting news for cable cutters and entertainment indulgers. Beginning this summer, viewers without paid Hulu Plus accounts will be able to view full episodes of TV shows via the Hulu mobile apps at no cost. The content will still be ad-supported, of course, as even paid members are exposed to advertising, but content will include full TV episodes. Currently, only Hulu members with a paid subscription can access content on mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad and free viewing is restricted to the web. Additionally, Hulu says the company will release “the next generation” of its Hulu Plus app for iPhone around the same time this summer. Read more

Amazon announces $99 Fire TV set-top box shipping today: automatic recommendations, voice search, games and more

Amazon has just announced its Apple TV competitor, dubbed ‘Fire TV’. You can buy it now from Amazon.com for $99. The product roughly resembles an Apple TV in size and shape, but is thinner by a few millimetres and has square (rather than rounded) edges. Spec-wise, Amazon claims it is three times as powerful as Apple TV or Roku. It runs on a quad-core processor with 2GB RAM. The fireTV can stream video at 1080p over HDMI, alongside Dolby Digital surround sound.

Input comes via a Bluetooth remote that features a five-way directional pad and some ancillary buttons. The remote has an inbuilt microphone, so you can speak show titles to have it automatically search for them.

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How-to: Setup and Use Chromecast to stream your content from a Mac and iOS device

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The Chromecast, Google’s streaming HDMI dongle came out last summer. It is compatible with any Android device running 2.3 or later, iOS device with iOS 6 or 7, and any Mac or PC. Initially, users were able to stream Netflix or Youtube from an iOS device and Android device, Google Play Movies and Music only on Android, or cast websites using the Chrome browser on a computer. The Chromecast works differently from Airplay in that you can multitask and do other tasks on the device or you can let it go to sleep while streaming.

Very quickly after its release, Chromecast has received support for Hulu +, Pandora, and HBO GO. Last month a major update added ten new apps including Plex, Vevo, Songza, Red Bull TV, Post TV from the Washington Post, Viki, RealPlayer Cloud, Avia, Revision3 Internet Television and BeyondPod. The most recent update the Chromecast received allowed users to stream Google Play Movies and Music directly from the Chrome browser on a computer.

In this How-to, we’ll discuss how to setup the Chromecast, use it with a Mac and iOS device and explore its gaming potential.

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Report: Apple negotiating w/ media companies for pay TV service, working on full-fledged TV set

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A new report from Quartz today offers some details on Apple’s content negotiations for a much rumored revamped Apple TV. Most of the report echoes what we’ve heard several times in the past– Apple is apparently talking with HBO, Disney, MTV and others about a new TV service. According to Quartz, it could include a pay TV service that would see Apple “essentially becoming a cable company itself,” as well as the release of a “full-fledged television set”:

One alternative being considered is that Apple could essentially become a cable company itself. Under that scenario, sources say, Apple would launch what is formally known as a virtual multichannel video programming distributor. Apple is still interested in striking deals with cable companies that would allow people to plug their cable lines into the back of the TV set, bypassing a cable box, sources say. But at least two years of negotiations haven’t progressed very far.

Sources say Apple has concluded that it doesn’t need all, even most, content providers on board before it can release a TV set that people would buy. It just needs enough good programming to distinguish the new product, which will try to simplify the experience of connecting internet video to the TV.

The report doesn’t offer up any details that we didn’t hear around this same time last year (and the year before that), but it appears Apple could be closer to reaching the deals it needs to launch the next-generation of Apple TV. Earlier today we reported that former Hulu SVP Pete Distad has now officially started his new role at Apple as Product Marketing VP and is thought to be leading Apple executives through negotiations with cable and media companies.  Read more

Amazon Prime now available as a $7.99/month plan (Updated)

Update: An Amazon spokesperson says this is just a test (but you still can order this per month)“We are always looking at ways to improve the shopping experience for our customers. We are testing a monthly Prime subscription. Beyond that, we don’t have anything further to offer.”

It appears Amazon is joining Hulu and Netflix with a monthly subscription plan for its Prime video streaming service, according to a new pricing scheme found by Hacking Netflix. Some users are seeing the new pricing scheme come up, while others see only the $79/year options (compare right and above).

Amazon also offers a one-month free trial (Hulu free trial, Netflix free trial).

In addition to the free streaming video service, users of Amazon’s Prime get access to free two-day shipping on product orders (amazing to have for the holidays—especially on a month-to-month basis), as well as access to the Kindle lending library.

While Amazon’s streaming player isn’t yet available on Apple TV like Netflix/Hulu, its recent iPad app has impressed us. The $7.99/month price comes out to $95.88 per year. So, if you aren’t timid about joining Prime, it is probably better to jump on the $79/year plan.

9to5Toys.com deals: Get a new Toshiba Wifi-ready BluRay player with Netflix for $30, or a Toshiba 24″ 1080P slim HDTV for $150

With more and more first rate content, according to a recent Changwave/451 Group study, Amazon’s Prime streaming service is said to be gaining on industry heavyweight Netflix (graphed below): Read more

Apps & updates: BBC iPlayer, imo.im, MOG, Adobe Proto, more

Aside from our full list of interesting apps and updates hitting the App Store this morning, Hulu is making “Kill Bill: Volume 1″ available to stream free (you can get Hulu Plus free for two months here). We will continue to update the list of apps below throughout the day:

BBC iPlayer version 1.3.2: BBC’s streaming app for its TV and radio networks received a nice update today that brings updated graphics for Retina iPads, improved video playback performance, enhanced Voice Over controls, and the usual bug fixes and performance updates.

imo instant messenger version 3.2: The popular instant messaging app with more than 700,000 users and 50 million messages sent daily was updated this morning with one big new feature previously only available to Android users: voice calling over Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G. All users running iOS 3.1 and up can now make free calls to their imo contacts with no usage of cell minutes and no data usage over Wi-Fi.

TweetBot version 0.7.0: TweetBot for Mac beta has been given a nice update, adding the ability to edit your Twitter profile within the app, animated .gif support, and Storify support among even more features. Due to Sandboxing issues, you will need to manually install the update.

MOG version 2.1.33: Online music subscription service MOG, home to roughly 16 million songs and 500,000 paid subscribers, was recently acquired by Beats Electronics. Its iOS app received a decent update today, with the ability to create and edit playlists, as well as a new album reviews section, and a “better, stronger, faster interface.”

Adobe Proto version 1.5: Adobe’s prototyping app for creating wireframe prototypes of apps and websites was updated today with a few notable features. A full list of what’s new in the update including email and Dropbox sharing, navigation improvements, and more is below:

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Toys Weekend: AppleTV: $90, MacFlux 4, New MacBook Pros $999

Lot of stuff happening at 9to5Toys.com this weekend…

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Amazon has the Apple TV for $89.99 with free shipping.  That’s the lowest price going (remember it just got Hulu – 1 week free here). Speaking of Amazon+free, you can get a free month of the new Prime streaming to iPad using the new app.

StackSocial offers downloads of the popular “Dreamweaver killer”  Square_fluxMacFlux 4 website building editor application for $40.  There is a huge list of great Mac software currently on sale at Stack Social here.

Fry’s Electronics offers the current-generation MacBook Pro Intel Core i5 2.5GHz 13.3″ LED-Backlit Widescreen Notebook, model no. MD101LL/A, for $999. Shipping adds around $11, or choose free in-store pickup. That’s the lowest total price we could find by $129 and even lower than Apple’s refurbished price.

All4Cellular has Applecare for iPhone for $39.99 (usually $99).

Vaas FM Transmitter with Car Charger and Remote for iPhone and iPod – $9.99+free ship

Western Digital USB 3.0 1TB portable drives for $89+free shipping at Go4Computer/Ebay, Tax in Florida.

Viewsonic VX2450wm-LED 24″ Widescreen LED Backlit Monitor: 49.99+Free shipping from Buy.com

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Hulu Plus app is ready for Apple TV, decision to update is “political not technical”

We’ve gotten word that inside Apple there are Apple TVs running the Hulu Plus app natively. The app is feature complete and ready to roll out to Apple TV users on current builds. In fact, it has been ready for at least a month and development is now on hold.

While there are no technical issues standing in the way of the Hulu Plus release on Apple TV, there appear to be some political ones. At some level at Apple, there appears to be some consideration that the Hulu Plus app could eat into iTunes TV sales on the Apple TV. Where Netflix tends to run older programming, iTunes is the Apple TV’s only outlet for current TV programming.

Hulu Plus is available on the iPad and other iOS devices but unlike many other content apps, you can’t AirPlay them to an Apple TV like Apple’s own iTunes videos. Additionally, you can use an HDMI cable to watch the iOS Hulu Plus through an iPad on your HDTV, but mysteriously only in Standard definition, not the native HD Hulu or iTunes quality. Plus, who needs an HDMI-tethered solution?

Adding to the political troubles, Hulu was recently trying to sell itself to players including Apple competitor Google (and Apple itself) but no bidders were willing to bid high enough. Perhaps Apple wanted to make sure that Hulu Plus didn’t turn into a Trojan Horse for one of its competitors?

Hulu Plus was originally barred from all TV platforms, but giving hope to Apple TV users, it recently appeared in HD on the $59 Roku (above) and even a few smaller platforms like the very capable Western Digital’s TV Live (pictured below).

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