I Played With Joost and I Was Underwhelmed 

Thanks to the GigaOM/NewTeeVee folks, I snagged myself a copy of Joost and started playing with it. First, for those who don't know, Joost is basically TV over the internet. They've got a big peer-to-peer network setup (the guys behind Joost stared Kazaa), and your client lets you basically flip through channels and pick out shows to watch on demand.

It's very much like the on demand video you might get through your cable company. Except the quality is crappier, the selection is crappier, and the delivery is crappier. Otherwise, it's just like your local cable on demand.

That's probably too harsh an assessment of Joost, which is very much in a beta/technology preview mode right now. They're signing up new content providers on a near-weekly basis, so the content will likely get better very quickly. I just don't imagine that I'll ever have a major use for Joost, except as an occasional time-killer.

For example, if I'm at home, I've got a 46" HDTV hooked up to Comcast cable and an HD DVR. If I'm lying on the couch, I can inevitably find something on the DVR or on live to watch, particularly if its in HD. If I'm really bored, I've got Netflix, as well as Comcast OnDemand (where I can stream HD movies, if so desired).

If I really can't find anything to watch, I've got Netflix "Watch Now" which streams at better quality than Joost. And, for that matter, has a much better selection.

The other advantage all of these other mediums/models have over Joost? No commercials. Granted, I'm paying up front for them, but (unless I'm stealing someone's wireless) I'm paying for the network connection that Joost is coming over too. If I really wanted to cut my bills, I could drop everything but Netflix, and probably still have more to watch, at higher quality, on my HDTV, than Joost can offer right now.

Putting another bullet into Joost is the fact that the major networks are offering a bunch of their shows online in pretty decent quality video, with minimal commercials. I've watched the entire runs of Raines and Andy Barker, P.I. on NBC.com. The quality is not noticeably different than Joost's quality and it's through a web browser, rather than a specialized client.

Now, I'd argue that Joost is dead today, but isn't dead for the future. If they can beef up the network delivery to deliver even near DVD quality video, that'd be a nice step up. Taking it one step further, if they could make deals with the major content providers to deliver the shows I'm interested in, then you could even make the argument that it might start to encroach on cable's on demand services. If they can deliver live (or near-live) sporting events, so that I could watch the Sox or Celtics from a hotel room far away, that would be probably the killer app for this technology. Or, if a show like Scrubs got cancelled, but lived on in a Joost delivery mechanism, that'd also go a long way towards helping Joost make it's mark.

For now, Joost is a second rate on demand service, with a bit of a wonky interface and a crappy selection of content.

(I didn't touch on some of the community type features that Joost offers because I don't really care about them. Why would I want to chat with random people watching the same show? Rarely, for me at least, is TV an interactive endeavor.)