San Mateo, Calif. — Networking supplier Buffalo launched an under-$100 networked A/V client that takes advantage of the audio and video real-time transcoding capabilities of Buffalo software loaded onto a networked PC.
The company’s LinkTheater Mini, at a suggested retail of less than $100, is designed as an entry-level product “priced to get into multiple rooms in the largest number of homes,” said Mediabolic’s president Daniel Putterman, whose company provided the device’s middleware.
“Based on our own internal research, [digital media players] with this sort of functionality typically retail for about $200, and ‘budget’ models sell for at least $150,” a Mediabolic spokesman said. “To our knowledge, the LinkTheater Mini is the first DMA product introduced that breaks through the $100 barrier.”
The Mini, slightly larger than a VHS cassette, uses an Ethernet connection to stream audio, video and still images from a networked PC or from Buffalo’s networked NAS to a connected TV or audio system. For video playback, the Mini client incorporates a decoder only for MPEG-2 video, but a PC equipped with Buffalo software will transcode WMV, AVI DiVX and other video files to MPEG-2. For audio playback, the client decodes MP3 and PCM files, and PC does not transcode WMA files to MP3 or PCM. For images, the client decodes the JPEG, BMP and PNG formats, but the NAS and PC transcode GIF images.
“If the media player on the PC is able to play back the video format,” Mediabolic contended, “then it can be played back on the LinkTheater Mini.”
The client, NAS and PC software are compatible with devices certified by the Digital Living Network Alliance. They are available in Japan from the Nagoya, Japan-based company, which is evaluating whether to bring them to the United States. If it happens, it will be in stores in early 2006, said a spokesman for Mediabolic, whose middleware is used in the devices.
Mediabolic also noted that transcoding engine is Buffalo’s and that the client’s firmware can be upgraded.
The LinkTheater Mini’s “simple setup, ease-of-use and attractive price make it appealing to a broad consumer audience,” claimed Mediabolic’s Putterman. “You just plug it in, and it works.”