I was fortunate enough to be hooked up by a fellow blogger, Casey Carpenter, with a much sought after Joost invite. My collegue Keith Peters got an invite a few weeks ago and was immediately innundated with requests for an invite. It turns Joost has been pretty stingy with their Beta tokens which has lead to them even being sold on eBay! So yes I lucked out big time! Thanks Casey!
I downloaded for the Intel Mac, (it’s not available for Mac PPC models) and the installation was a cinch. First off, the app is hot. It’s slick and clean and fits well into Apple’s IPTV approach with a very Front Row-ish feel. Usability was obvoiusly a focus, I had no trouble finding all the buttons to leverage the assortment of videos they had to offer. There are also several widgets within the beta, offering features like chat. The chat feature follows the programming and allows users to talk specifically to what they are watching, and it lives in a transparent window in front of your program, so you can watch as you chat. This reminds me of all the times I see my brother-in-law (who’s in college) constantly chatting with his pals on his Mac while watching TV. Putting both these items in one spot makes a lot of sense and allows for further interaction possibilities. I’m not sure of this, but I believe Joost will also be open to third-party widgets, which can make for some cool mash-ups of features and media.
The codec they are using suprises me a little. Joost uses the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC digital video codec standard as implemented by CoreCodec’s CoreAVC. If Joost as a vehicle is only going to support these particular streams, I suppose this makes sense. But the video quality of the offerings they had in the beta falls a little short (little grainy and blurry). Granted there is probably a lot of optimization that can be done to the source content, and I won’t go into the fact that because of rights issues the actual media available right now is kind of lame (unless you like Mr. Magoo). But I can see past that. One thing that would be nice is support for other streaming protocols, like wmv, and flv. It would be nice to have a universal player some day.
Another thing that was a little odd was their approach with ads. I was watching a documentary about the Bismark, an ill-fated German battleship during WWII, and was starting to get engrossed when suddenly a Maybeline ad popped into the player, eliminating the UI so I could not fast forward or option out. I had to watch this thing. Don’t get me wrong, I know ads are going to be a necessary evil in any commercial content delivery system, but there was something jarring about it. With most programming you get a sense of when a commercial is coming, like a build-up that screams of “we’re going to commercial”. Not with Joost. Commercials are placed at some sort of interval. Could be at a particular time in the programming, could be something else.
In terms of technology, Joost could be what IPTV is for computers as what the iPhone might be for mobile. There is virtually an endless amount of feature-sets you could build into an app like this that can be community driven. And from a business standpoint there are endless different revenue generating schemes that could be leveraged as well, from subscription rates, to consumer directed ad revenue, you name it. If you can think it up they should be able to build it in while retaining the positive user experience the app’s foundation already emodies.
So while I’m not ready to give up my Miglia Tv MiniHD in place of Joost just yet, it won’t be long before this software based solution will render my hardware based one obsolete in the future. If you lucky enough to get an invite, go check it out.