Sigh, Another Box

I'm happy and sad. The recently announced Netflix Player, by Roku, seems like something I would have ordered the second I saw it. I've been a Netflix customer nearly as long as they've been around. I talk up their service to anyone who will listen. I eagerly joined in on the Watch Now beta testing, and put up with the new client downloads seemingly every time I watched something. I even keep a Windows partition around on my MacBook, just so I can have IE and watch now capability (no Parallels on the MacBook).

Then there's my good buddy Roku. Well, it's more like a friend of a friend. The founder of Roku, Anthony Wood, is the man that gave us the ReplayTV, and it is well documented how much I love that thing.

So we have Netflix and Roku...together. They give us a fairly priced, one time cost, little box that will let me watch Netflix movies on my TV with no computer involved. This should be awesome...but it's not.

It's another box. I don't want another box. The days of a towering electronics stack being cool are long gone. I was there. I wanted to buy a separate CD player from my DVD player because it would be better and it would look sophisticated and privileged. I don't care about that sort of thing anymore. I want my hardware to blend in with the furniture. I want it elegant, but minimal. I want fewer things to dust. Fewer cords to plug-in. Fewer remotes to handle. Fewer interfaces to tolerate (most of them suck).

So what happened Netflix? We saw reports that you were bringing your service directly to the TV. Is that still coming? That's where it's at for the end game. No extra boxes. Just a service in the box. TVs are frickin finally getting smarter. Samsung's InfoLink looks pretty interesting for a start. RSS feeds for stocks and weather. Sounds familiar.

I think Apple has Netflix beat on everything but the price with their Apple TV. The Apple TV isn't just a movie box. It's a content box, with movies being one of the content types. Apple is pushing hard for you to buy stuff through the Apple TV, but is quite capable without spending a penny. I love its ability to subscribe to video podcasts. Where's that feature Roku? I love that it can play YouTube and view Flickr. Can't Netflix make these partnerships too?

Did I mention the Roku box is fugly? I'm eager to see what the other hardware vendors that have deals with Netflix will bring. The Roku box looks like a Radio Shack composite video switcher from the 90s.

The thing that kills me is that even though this thing is ugly and another box, I still want to buy one because that crappy experience will be amazingly pleasant compared to the crappy experience of booting a whole other OS just to access Netflix content and then sit at my computer desk for 2 hours.


Factory Reset Your Rental Car

On a recent business trip, we drove a Ford Edge with the Microsoft Sync system that I'm sure you've seen on TV lately. We played around with the system quite a bit and in the process turned off some of the beginner options and put the system into the advanced mode. This got me thinking. Will the next person be screwed? Will the rental company bother to set the Sync back to the settings that are appropriate for new users? I highly doubt it.

This is an interesting problem because not only are cars getting more and more gadgets, but we might be seeing opportunities for your private data to stick around.

5 years ago, the only traces you'd leave behind in a rental were how tall you were based on the seat position, the radio station you liked, and maybe some trash from your favorite fast food place. Now, you might have a navigation system with the customers you were visiting stored as waypoints, or your phone's contacts loaded into the Bluetooth handsfree system.

So will car manufacturers build a way to reset or wipe all of the car's systems with a simple keypress sequence? Are they even thinking about this sort of thing? Does anyone know of solutions available in the marketplace today?