San Mateo, Calif.-based PRISMIQ today announced the second generation of its Media Player product, the Media Player/Recorder (MP/R). Like the original, the new unit will have a CardBus slot in the back for adding 802.11g/b support and has integrated Ethernet, either of which can used for watching video on your TV even when the files are stored on the PC. The MP/R, unlike the original, can also record the video to your PC in the first place using digital video recorder (DVR) functions, ala TiVo.
“We rely on the home network to transport the TV signal [we record] to a drive or set of drives in the home, whether on the PC or network attached storage,” says Brad Kayton, vice president of marketing for PRISMIQ. The MP/R itself has no built in hard drive, unlike most DVRs out today from Replay or TiVo.
The MP/R set top box is not integrated with any cable box or satellite receiver, like the DVR functions found in some products today (including a successful unit TimeWarner provides to digital cable customers). Instead, the MP/R sits between the cable box and the home network. Video passes through it, is encoded to MPEG 4 format to use minimum bandwidth (MPEG 2 is an option), and transferred via the home network to the drive or drives specified as servers by the included MP/R software.
“We have a distributed media server,” says Kayton. “It will see every drive on the network. So if you have two PCs, we’ll see both. We default to get 25 percent of the available disk space on each [for storage]. But all the drives are aggregated to be seen as one big storage depository, even though they’re distributed.” The software has no facility for mirroring video from drive to drive for backup purposes, but Kayton says standard backup software could handle that for most users. Since the video is recorded in discreet MPEG 4 files, they can be transferred or downloaded for viewing on other items, such as the portable RCA Lyra A/V Jukebox.
Program data, key to recording the right channels with a DVR, will be provided by either Tribune Media Service, or TV Guide, or maybe both, says Kayton. Data would download to the units via the Internet, whether broadband or dial-up. Kayton expects 98% of the customers who buy the MP/R will already have the high-speed Internet access.
A key selling point might be the lack of a monthly fee. Because there’s no hard drive in the box, Kayton says his company can make back its money for the most part on the initial sale of a unit for $299.95. They’re guaranteeing the no-monthly-fee deal for at least the first three years of ownership.
Multiple MP/R units in the home can take advantage of the same store of recorded video. The MP/R will continue to play a variety of digital media formats, from MP3s audio to ShoutCast streams to Divx video and others, like the original. It will also continue to supply Web chat/instant messaging.
The $299.95 unit won’t ship until April or May of next year, but PRISMIQ is announcing today because the unit already won something: the CES Innovations Award from the Consumer Electronics Association. The CES tradeshow is next month in Las Vegas.
PRISMIQ previously sold the Media Player via its own site and at major online retailer Buy.com. They expect to be in major retailers with the new MP/R, and maybe even through broadband providers.
“We’re on a collision course with TiVo,” says Kayton. “I like TiVo, and we want more companies to offer this functionality, not less, to expand the market… better to see it in 20 million homes than just 10.