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New AT&T U-Verse Features Coming

att-log.jpgI check in occasionally on the U-Verse Users Forum, an unofficial site covering AT&T’s IPTV service. There are two interesting things I found today. First is a map showing where U-Verse service is available across the US. I’d show it here, but you have to register on the site to view it and the lawyers would probably be unhappy if I provided a workaround. On my more ambitious days, I contemplate trying to create a map that shows service coverage of all broadband operators and where specific service features (like DVR and whole-home DVR) are available. Some day I’ll find the time.The second thing I found was a list of future applications AT&T has publicly stated it will deploy for U-Verse customers. Maybe none of the applications are particularly surprising, but how many operators commit publicly to new features?

  • U-verse Voice: coming 2007, it will be integrated into the U-verse TV service by having caller ID information display on your TV screen when people call
  • Multiple HD Streams by the end of this year
  • Whole-Home DVR: setup recordings from any TV and watch recorded content from any TV
  • Photo Sharing: Access your digital photos from your AT&T Yahoo! online albums on your TV
  • Games: Play single or multi-player games from AT&T Yahoo! Games on your TV
  • U-bar: Access weather, sports, stock, or traffic information on-screen while watching a program
  • YELLOWPAGES.COM Information: search for local business information on YELLOWPAGES.COM and see maps from your TV

In related AT&T notes, new U-Verse users can still get free HD service (on Motorola set-tops) if they sign up between now and June 30th.

When is HD Really HD?

hd-apple.jpg

Karen Brown is one of my favorite press/analyst people and she started a conversation at Motorola that deserves a post. Karen asked the Motorola “encoder geeks” how to tell if the video on your TV screen is a high-definition feed or an upconverted standard-definition feed.

First, one executive pointed out that even HD streams can vary significantly in quality depending on the original source material and what bitrate was used to encode the video. Weather can even affect HDTV as evidenced by the wet camera lenses during this year’s Super Bowl.

As far as upconverted SD streams are concerned, there’s no easy way to tell what you’re looking at other than, well, looking at it. HD should be recognizable to the eye simply because of crisper resolution. Upconverting adds in “extra lines” with data that wasn’t there before, so a good eye should be able to spot the difference. However, you can’t run a test on the content because if the video was upcoverted before encoding, the TV will think it’s displaying HD even when the original source was SD. Continue reading