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Monsoon Set-Tops To Place-Shift TV, DVR Video To Smartphones

4/17/2008 02:06:00 PM Eastern

San Mateo, Calif. — Monsoon Multimedia set-top boxes will extend TV place-shifting to Windows Mobile and Symbian-based smartphones and PDA phones in the coming months.

The set-top units currently place-shift to remote computers and laptops that are broadband-connected, to local computers connected to the same home network as the set-top box, and to Nokia’s Linux-based palm-sized N810, a Wi-Fi-equipped Internet tablet. The application for the N810 will also work on the planned N810 WiMAX Edition, due in time for the launch of Sprint’s Mobile WiMAX network in select cities in coming months.

Place-shifting applications for versions five and six of the Windows Mobile Professional and Standard OSs are due in April, followed in the second quarter by an application for Symbian S60-based smartphones, said Thierry Doyen, sales and marketing senior director. The mobile applications are free.

Monsoon offers four HAVA place-shifting set-top boxes, the first of which became available in mid 2007. The set-tops, priced from a suggested $129 to $249, enable consumers to place-shift live video from a connected TV tuner and stream recorded video from a connected DVD player or DVR. PCs and laptops must be XP and Vista PCs equipped with a Monsoon application. An application for the Mac OSX might be available in the third quarter, Doyen said.

All four models, including the opening-price HAVA Gold at a suggested $129, connect to up to three video sources in the living room, including cable or satellite tuner, DVD or Blu-ray player, and DVR. From a networked local PC or remote device, consumers can control all video components as well as program the DVR, which can be programmed by inputting channel and recording time. An electronic programming guide, however, is planned.

The $149 HAVA Platinum HD adds component inputs and the ability to transmit an HD program in widescreen aspect ratio, though not in full HD resolution. Platinum takes a 720p or 1080i signal and converts it to standard-definition resolution before streaming it over a network or over the Internet.

Platinum also adds PC software that stores streamed content, enabling the PC or laptop to pause, rewind and fast-forward streamed content. The stored program can also be burned to DVD. The storing capability isn’t yet available for mobile phones or for the N810 but is in the works.

At $249, the HAVA Titanium HD adds Wi-Fi to make a wireless connection to a Wi-Fi-equipped broadband router or modem, and it features two USB ports. One is for plugging in an external USB HDD drive that can then be used as a DVR. The other USB port is for the included Wi-Fi 802.11g adapter, which sits in a cradle and is connected to a 3-foot USB cable so the adapter can be located in a spot with good reception.

Also at $249, the HAVA Wireless HD features built-in 802.11 b/g card and analog NTSC/cable tuner. It lacks connectivity to an external USB HDD. An add-on digital-TV tuner, however, is in the works for connection via USB to HAVA Titanium HD.

All four set-tops enable multiple networked PCs within the home to simultaneously view live TV or DVR content, with the number of PCs and devices limited only by the bandwidth of the network or broadband connection. Only one remote client at a time, however, can view a space-shifted program, but the remote device can be watching while multiple home PCs watch the same program. Only one video source at a time, however, can be streamed simultaneously to all of the networked PCs and remote device.

The HAVA devices stream video at an average 6Mbps in MPEG-2 format directly to PCs in a home network to deliver a full screen at 720 by 480 pixels. The set-tops stream MPEG-4 over the Internet.

Monsoon has demonstrated a HAVA that streams HD content in full HD resolution to local networked PCs, but not to remote broadband-connected PCs, using a wireless 802.11n connection, but availability hasn’t been announced.

HAVA set-tops are available at Fry’s Electronics stores, TigerDirect.com, www.myhava.com and other select retailers nationwide.

Monsoon, which is not affiliated with speaker maker Monsoon Audio Systems, claims some advantages over Sling Media’s Slingboxes, which also place-shift video content to remote PCs and wireless phones. One advantage is the inclusion of Wi-Fi in two models, although Sling Media offers powerline-network adapters at extra cost for use with its set-tops. Monsoon also boasts the ability to stream video simultaneously to multiple PCs and mobile devices, Doyen said.

Monsoon Multimedia’s founders previously founded Dazzle, which developed PC hardware and software products to compress video into MPEG format, and they founded Emuzed, where they developed a DVR product Media Center PCs. Monsoon also provides digital-video development services to cellphone and consumer electronics manufacturers, including reference designs.

Sling Media was the first company to offer TV place-shifting to remote PCs and to mobile devices. It offers two Sling Box set-top boxes, priced at a suggested $179 and $229, to stream live and recorded TV to remote Windows and Mac computers. For an additional $29.99, different versions of the SlingPlayer Mobile application are available to stream video to mobile devices based on the following mobile operating systems: Palm, Symbian S60, Windows Mobile Pocket PC (2003, 5 and 6) and Windows Mobile Smartphone (5 and 6). The company is also developing mobile applications for the Symbian UIQ OS, due in June, and BlackBerry OS, due sometime this year.

The UIQ OS supports touchscreen capability, but the Symbian S60 doesn’t.

The Slingbox Solo at $179 connects to a single video input and lacks analog tuner, and the Slingbox Pro at $229 features analog NTSC/cable tuner and video inputs for three sources: SD composite, SD S-Video and HD component.

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