If you have not noticed already, podcasts are catching on. Okay, for the still uninitiated (and there are plenty of them), a podcast is a recorded audio or video programme that one can stream or download, making broadcast content flexible like books and magazines. Vidcast and vodcast are more fashionable words for a video broadcast, although podcast is a common term.
Even as thousands of video podcasts get uploaded on to the Internet every day, with millions viewing them around the world, it may be said listening and viewing are not as pleasurable as one may like these to be. Why should one need to be glued to a personal computer screen to be able to watch these? Why shouldn't one be able to put one’s feet up on a couch, sip a coffee and enjoy some bigger screen experience – like one does in a living room or a movie theatre?
Or, looking at this from the other end, why should you miss the latest one-day match between India and Australia just because you are away from your television for some reason? Can't you just beam these signals to wherever you are? It looks like such fantasies can come true. Three exciting new products promise to change the way you look at visual content from the net and your television network. Without even necessarily owning a computer.
PodBoxxtv: Internet video on your television
This device gets connected to your television like a set-top box, and plays back videos from the Internet for an enhanced viewing experience. It just needs a broadband Internet connection to do so. There is no need for a PC.
The operation is a simple Plug and Play, with no complex configurations required. And you don't need to go all over the place seeking the desired content. PodBoxxtv categorizes the vast amount of video content available on the Internet into topic areas and channels for easy navigation. Users can navigate and play videos using the embedded Internet Video Channel Guide, all manageable by a remote control.
The current model needs a cable to connect to the broadband source; however, if this is not convenient, users can buy the optional Ethernet bridge (gaming adaptor) on the PodBoxxtv website for it to work in a wireless environment. Plans are currently underway to integrate wireless capability in future models.
Does this product have competition? Not really, says J. Barry Lowther of Cytec Corporation, the manufacturer of this device. "The key differentiating factor is that PodBoxxtv is not a media extender. It does not require a PC or Mac to be used and it provides an 'Open' library of podcast video content available to the consumer. Unlike other products, PodBoxxtv does not base its library of podcast content on negotiated arrangements which limit the consumers viewing choices. Currently, PodBoxxtv has over 400 podcast channels in its Internet Video Channel Guide, and the number is growing," he adds. Podboxxtv’s device is expected to start selling sometime this month, initially through orders from its webiste (http://www.poxboxxtv.com). The US retail price is expected to be $340 (Rs.13,000). Sales in Europe and Asia are expected to follow soon.
A company representative said they are in talks with prospective partners already for sales in India.
HAVA: Podcast your TV content anywhere
Would you like to watch television content on multiple PCs connected to a wireless home network? Or even sitting in office or on a holiday through an Internet-linked computer? If so, HAVA from Monsoon Multimedia is what you should be picking up.
This device allows you to watch content from any video source - television, camcorder, a DVD player or video download recorder TiVo - up to 300 feet from the HAVA box over Wi-Fi or can be used to transmit and watch video anywhere in the world via the Internet. And all of it as full screen 720 x 480 pixels broadcast quality unlike some other competing devices, streamed at an unusually high average speed of 8Mbps.
There is more to it. Users can control all the functions of the video source from their PCs itself. They can also get TiVo like functionality with the ability to store and record on to their PC hard disks, and burn this content onto DVDs; the PC can also operate as a Personal Video Recorder with pause, fast forward and rewind functions. Windows XP Media Center Edition PC users can also use HAVA as a wireless tuner to add full multimedia capabilities to their PCs. Users can also continue to use their wireless network for services such as web browsing, email, chats, printing and file transfer while watching high quality video wirelessly.
The product will be launched in the US in the spring of 2008 with a price range of $299-349 (Rs. 12,000-14,000) and would be available in India in the coming summer with a similar price tag. It can also be bought online at myhava.com.
Viewsonic PJ258D: The iPod Projector
Your iPod video's 80 GB of hard disk space may be full of videos, but how much fun can it be watching it all by yourself on the small screen? Blow it up with Viewsonic's PJ258D projector fitted with an iPod dock for high resolution viewing brightened by the 2000 lumens of the device.
And not only video, it can also play your music too. The playlists can all be managed with a remote provided for the purpose. And your iPod gets charged while on the projector itself, to give you uninterrupted viewing experience. Its portability is a strong point too. Of course, you can use this projector for business presentations too.
This luxury does not come cheap though; its street price is Rs. 72,999. Now, once you have such devices, you can stay at home, invite your friends, but the get the popcorn ready.
(The author is a technology analyst and publishes a blog, TechGazing.com)