Streaming Already the Rage at Consumer Electronics Show

The drumbeat of consumers demanding the ability to watch video content on any device at any time continues to grow, as evidenced across practically ever press conference and the opening keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2007), which started Sunday in Las Vegas. And the drum that’s beating the loudest is the one representing the movement of content from the PC to the living room or home theater.

Even before the exhibit halls open today, Sony, SlingMedia, Microsoft, and a host of other software and hardware vendors have announced devices or plug-in modules to allow content to be streamed from the internet to the flat panel displays that consumers purchased in record numbers this past holiday season.

Sony, for instance, announced a box with the completely unsexy name of "Sony BRAVIA Internet Video Link" that wins the award for most-integrated streaming media box. The IVL is actually a module that plugs into a few key BRAVIA flat panel displays, enabling these displays to wirelessly receive and store content from local computers, the general internet (read, user-generated content) or key content providers such as AOL and Sony Pictures. Sony is using technologies it now owns thanks to the Grouper acquisition last year, and the move has been planned for some time since the device appears to use hardware internal to the select BRAVIA displays it currently works with.

SlingMedia announced its SlingCatcher product, which is set to ship in mid-2007, revealing just a few of the features that the device is capable of. A spokesperson said additional features will be announced closer to the official launch date, but the two features currently being touted are the ability for the device to receive content from a SlingBox (regardless of whether the SlingBox is on a local home network or elsewhere on the internet) and the ability for the SlingCatcher to play content available on the web or a local PC (somewhat akin to the feature set that Apple had previously announced for the product it has code-named iTV). The intent of the SlingCatcher, according to company officials, is to augment the social networking aspects of streaming media, effectively allowing groups of people to create their own content channels comprised of a mixture of SlingBox and internet-based video content.

Speaking to Reuters about the SlingCatcher, co-founder Blake Krikorian said he’s not worried about iTV, and that SlingCatcher is designed to show "anything you have on your laptop, any type of media, any web site, or web-based video and project it wirelessly at the push of a button onto your television set."

"I can go to any site, any video content, any formatted content, and get it to play on my big screen TV," says Krikorian. That's a huge difference between what we're doing and what others are doing."

Apple, for its part, is expected to announce the final iTV product on Tuesday at the Macworld 2007 Expo in San Francisco, where StreamingMedia.com will also provide coverage.

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