You might not have noticed, but lots of companies are battling to offer the best way for delivering Internet-based TV and video to your TV set. On Monday, SanDisk offered a solution that seems as obvious as it is simple -- a USB pocket drive that has its own small docking port and remote control.
SanDisk executive Daniel Schreiber said in a statement that the Sansa TakeTV video player is "the most easy-to-use, straightforward solution for watching downloaded personal video content and other shows in the comfort of the living room."
Consumers can forget about a "confusing wireless network setup," he said, or having to burn DVDs.
Along with the TakeTV product, SanDisk announced the public beta of Fanfare, a new online digital entertainment distribution platform for TakeTV that offers a list of TV shows for downloading.
TakeTV supports DivX, XVID, and MPEG-4 video, and works with Windows Vista or Windows XP, as well as with current versions of Mac or Linux. One model of the TakeTV drive holds up to 4 GB, or about five hours of video, and costs $100, while the $150 8-GB unit can store up to 10 hours of video.
The reason companies are seeking the best and easiest solution to the problem of Internet video on TV is that the line of demarcation between TVs and PCs for video content has become clear: TVs are the first choice for watching, PCs for searching and capturing. Other current alternatives, such as TV sets used with Microsoft's Media Center or Apple TV, haven't caught on yet.
The Sansa TakeTV is simply used like the USB flash drive it is. The drive is inserted into a USB port on a PC, video files are dragged to it, and then it is removed and put into its TV cradle. The cradle attaches to standard audio/video composite inputs or S-video on the TV. Once connected, an on-screen guide shows the content, which can be selected using the included remote.
A Sneakernet Solution
James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester, said that TakeTV is a sneakernet solution to the problem of connecting the two devices. Instead of "moving the bits from the computer to the TV electronically, you let people carry it themselves," he said.
It works well, he added, when people are motivated, but Apple and others have learned that it's hard enough to get people to buy movies on the PC and then copy them to TV-oriented devices. McQuivey pointed out that "even TiVo has enabled buying directly on the box from Amazon, in order to make it easier for people to find and rent or buy movies."
McQuivey suggested that, longer term, the cable companies might become bigger players in the effort to enable Internet-based TV programs or video on a TV set. Others have suggested that broadband-connected TVs might also be used to directly access Internet video.