So the content is not spectacular. The interface is nice. It’s mostly an Apple-style black semi-transparent HUD. Although the app can run in a window, it’s clearly intended to go full-screen. The only interface I can think of that tries to do something similar is the one I get from my Rogers digital set-top box, which is uglyclunkyhorrid, so Joost clearly wins for look and ease of use.
Wait a minute though. There’s a feature called “my channels”, which as it sounds is your personalized list of channels you like. However, as it’s your default channel listing, it comes pre-populated by Joost, and it contains a lot of stuff guaranteed not to appeal to me, such as poker and driving channels. It’s easy enough to add to “my channels” – you go to the channel catalogue and browse, and click ‘add’ when you find something you like. But removing channels from “my channels” must also be done from the channel catalogue, and it gives you no indication which channels you have subscribed to. So you must go laboriously through every channel and check whether it’s detail view says “add” or “remove”. There’s no way to purge items from within “my channels”. Furthermore, some channels apparently can’t be removed. Anyway suffice it to say that the interface is nice for basic use, but falls apart for advanced usage (if you can call what I was trying to do advanced).
Search is nice to have, that’s for sure. I’m not sure how great the chat is in the context of on-demand programming.
The app has no support for the Apple Remote. I suppose this will be added eventually, but it seems like an oversight even in beta. The best place for this thing to live is on my mini hooked up to the TV, but without remote support I can’t give it a shot.
There were performance hiccups as well. I tested both over airport and over ethernet, and I have a 5MBPS connection, and both stuttered at times. Nothing terrible on the standards of internet video, but something that would certainly bug you if it happened to your cable account.
The biggest drawback to me: ads. This is why I bring up what I want from TV, and why it isn’t necessarily the same as what others want. But I most definitely do not want ads in my TV. What I like about TV is serialized one-hour drama, and to a lesser extent half-hour comedies. My perfect TV system would allow me to quickly and reliably grab those episodes and watch them without commercial interruption. So what I am looking for is much closer to iTunes / AppleTV / Front Row, and/or BitTorrent, than it is what Joost is offering. That said, I know of people who just like to vege out and flip channels and see what’s on some of the more obscure cable channels. For them, joost could be a nice, free substitute for a $70/month cable bill.
I’m guessing that eventually I will be able to use it in that way as well. I yearn to ditch my cable, and may well do so soon, and keeping Joost around won’t cost anything and might come in handy now and then. But it’s not going to change my world or anything.