SanDisk on Monday launched a PC-to-TV video player that lets users download content from a USB port, and then carry the files over to a living room television for playback through standard audio/video sockets. In addition, SanDisk also unveiled a video download site called Fanfare which would compete with Apple's iTunes music and video store.
SanDisk is calling the device Sansa TakeTV, and claims that it's a simpler alternative to setting up a wireless network, running wires across a living room, or burning video on a DVD. "Sansa TakeTV is the most easy-to-use, straightforward solution for watching downloaded personal video content and other shows in the comfort of the living room," Daniel Schreiber, senior VP and general manager for SanDisk's audio/video business unit, said in a statement.
Apple and Microsoft have added features to their operating systems to make the Mac and PC, respectively, act like a digital video recorder for content downloaded off the Web. Most consumers, however, prefer to avoid the complexity of setting up a wireless or wired network in order to connect their computers to a TV, experts say. SanDisk is trying to get around these hurdles by offering a device that's similar to a USB flash drive.
To use the device, consumers would plug it into a USB port on a PC or Mac, and drag video files on the computer to the device. Consumers would then slip the gadget into a cradle plugged into standard A/V sockets on the TV and see an on-screen guide to select content using TakeTV's remote control.
"It's actually a good idea because companies have been challenged in making that connection (between the PC and TV)," said Steve Wilson, analyst for ABI Research. "And they're leveraging a model that people are very familiar with."
SanDisk also was smart in not focusing on the delivery of high-definition content, which would have made the device too expensive for average consumers, Wilson said. Launching Fanfare was also a good idea, because it gives customers a place to go immediately after buying the device, rather than having to look for their own content.
The product supports video formats DivX, XVID, and MPEG-4, as well as the Vista, XP, Mac, and Linux operating systems. The TakeTV player costs $100 for 4-Gbytes of storage, which holds about five hours of video. An 8-Gbyte version that holds up to 10 hours of video costs $150.
Fanfare, which was launched in beta on Monday, offers TV shows for download. The service requires the user to first download software to access the online store and manage downloaded content. The site offers free and paid video. The latter typically costs $1.99 an episode.
While Apple's iTunes is the most popular music and video service on the Web, the company has had its problems with content providers. In August, Apple said it would not offer NBC Universal's lineup of new shows for the upcoming TV season because of a rift over pricing. NBC wanted to double the wholesale price Apple pays for each TV episode, a move that would have forced it charge customers $4.99 per episode instead of the current $1.99.