Converging in the Desert Page 2

Yes, the Big Show is definitely the place to see what's new and different, and Akimbo certainly qualifies. This is the first video-on-demand service for the living room delivered via broadband, marrying the beloved, ubiquitous television to the unlimited capacity of the Internet. With the rapid drop in the cost to send video over the Internet, new codecs to compress video for fast, high-quality transfers, almost 50 million Americans with high-speed Internet access, and many of them with home networks, the time was right, according to Akimbo founder Steve Shannon, another ReplayTV refugee and DVR pioneer.

The variety and esotericism of this Internet content had heretofore been limited to the computer, but the Akimbo service will launch with over 10,000 hours of specialty video in some 50 categories: independent and foreign films, news, self-help, extreme sports, "safe" children's programming, and more—all sent right to your TV. Classic television series should be joining the lineup soon.

The Akimbo Player is a sleek set-top box that can store up to 200 hours of video at a clean yet still low-bandwidth 1.5 megabits per second. Pause, rewind, and archive control are possible via the custom remote and graphic interface. Windows Media 9 Series handles the necessary audio and video compression, with full digital copyright protection. The box drops right into a home network to share either the DSL or cable-modem Internet access through a router (wired or wireless with the optional USB Wi-Fi adapter), outputting S-video and composite video, digital optical audio, and analog stereo audio.

Akimbo will frequently update the onscreen program guide to provide new channels, video previews, and program information so that users can decide what to download to the player and when, for later viewing. The Akimbo Player is expected to start at $199, available soon on the Akimbo Website and in retail stores by the end of the year. The monthly subscription fee for the Akimbo service will be a flat $10 with unlimited content downloads.

Akimbo Player $199
Subscription Fee $10/month
(650) 292-3330

The living-room digital media server might not be a new category, but features, form factor, and price are still evolving. Taking another big step away from the PC and closer to traditional CE products, the Telly home entertainment server from Interact-TV incorporates the company's Linux-based EOS Media Platform, designed and built to be all about digital entertainment in its many forms: broadband Internet, cable/satellite television, and digital audio and video. The hardware is customizable, expandable, and user-upgradeable with off-the-shelf PC components, such as a bigger hard drive, a DVD burner, or additional memory. Software updates are available online.

The Telly can connect to a home network to stream its contents to the PC or display PC content on the TV, with numerous connectivity options: S-video, analog stereo audio, coaxial digital audio, FireWire, USB, and Ethernet.

There are currently two models. The $749 Telly MC800 is the most affordable home entertainment server on the market today. This compact server offers DVD/CD/CD-R/CD-RW/SVCD playback, a 40-GB hard drive, 256 megabytes of RAM, and a trackball remote. It supports just about every digital video format, from AVI to DivX to MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4. The rack-friendly MC800 is also extremely quiet, with a custom power supply, a low-noise high-performance main board, and an aluminum chassis.

The $899 Telly MC1000 ups the ante with CD-rewriting capability, 80 GB of storage, 512 MB of RAM, a wireless keyboard, and more physical room to upgrade. Both pack a built-in TV tuner, a digital video recorder with a subscription-free program guide, and software-based MPEG-4 encoding to create small, easily manageable video files. Digital photo storage is also onboard, with myriad display functions, along with Internet shortcuts to handy information like weather, financial updates, and local movie theater listings.

Telly MC800 Home
Entertainment Server $749
Telly MC1000 Home
Entertainment Server $899
(303) 657-3133