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8/23/2006
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You Can Take It With You: TV On The Small, Small Screen

A 50-inch plasma display may be cool, but try fitting one in your pocket. We show you a variety of options for taking TV wherever you go--without a wheelbarrow.

Full-Length Streaming Video

If you're a true videophile, you won't be satisfied with just picking up short clips on your cell phone. But if you have a PDA with network access (either through local Wi-Fi service or as part of a smartphone combo like a Treo), you can get streaming full-length video using one of the following methods.


TV On The Small, Small Screen


•  Streaming Video Clips

•  Full-Length Streaming Video

•  A La Carte Clips And Shows

•  Self-Recorded Content

•  Setting Expectations


Be careful, however -- the services described below use the Internet to deliver content, so make sure you have an unlimited data plan from your carrier or you could be hit up with some serious data charges. For the Treo 700s, for example, this will run you around $50 a month from Verizon. But the same service will also let you constantly update your e-mail and surf the Web, so you'll probably already be signed up if you're a real online junkie. Obviously, if you're using Wi-Fi to connect, this won't be an issue.

Streaming TV Services
For a $10-per-month subscription fee, MobiTV lets you view your fill of live video from over 20 channels, including MSNBC, Discovery and Discovery Kids, TLC, ESPN, ABC, Fox Sports, CNBC, four music video channels, CNET, CSPAN and CSPAN 2, and Nano TV. In addition to PDAs and smartphones, MobiTV offers service for selected cell phones on Sprint and Cingular, as well as a few smaller carriers.

If you're into less traditional content, you could go with Rok TV. The channels, available for 99 cents a month, are eclectic, to say the least. They run the gamut from Bollywood movies to conspiracy theorists to golf tips. Players are available for many smartphones and the Windows Mobile device family.

Getting Real
PDA users can also watch real-time streaming video with RealPlayer (for both PalmOS and Windows Mobile platforms). Alternatively, you can download content to your PC and transfer it to your PDA using a storage card, then watch it later.

Windows Mobile devices also come with support for the Microsoft video formats (WMV and AVI), and there are free and commercial players available for PalmOS that will play them as well. Apple's QuickTime video format doesn't appear to be well supported on handhelds, however.


SlingPlayer Mobile.
Click image to enlarge.


Slinging TV
Finally, you can start your own streaming video service by purchasing a Slingbox. This unit, which can be had for between $150 and $230, streams your live and recorded TV content over the Internet to wherever you happen to be. It works with digital video recorder (DVRs), DVD players, cable set-top boxes, satellite receivers and even VCRs. For another $30, you can purchase the SlingPlayer Mobile, which runs on Windows-based PDAs and smartphones. This player allows you to tune and watch live programming, or retrieve recorded programming from a DVR.

A La Carte Clips And Shows

If you'd rather get your TV shows one at a time than subscribe to a service, try the following options on for size.

Shows For Your iPod
If you happen to have an Apple video iPod, you can purchase programs from the iTunes store and play them on your iPod. The available content includes programming from ABC, NBC, MTV, ESPN, SciFi, Comedy Central, Disney, Nickelodeon and Showtime, among others. Single episodes of shows such as Battlestar Galactica and The Office typically cost around two dollars. You can also purchase entire seasons of shows.



The Office on the iPod. Click image to enlarge.
Unfortunately, iTunes videos are only viewable on a video iPod. Google Video is also moving into the pay-as-you-go video market but doesn't have a portable player option yet.

Tiny DVDs
Another option for owners of Sony's PlayStation Portable gaming device is to purchase UMD minis. These tiny DVD-like discs will let you watch full-length movies on the PSP. They're not cheap, though (Pirates of the Caribbean will set you back nearly 27 dollars on Amazon), and there's no good infrastructure in place to rent them.

Movies On The Go
There are also a number of emerging services, such as Vongo, that allow you to download movies to mobile devices. The choices as far as players and movies go are still fairly limited, but it's an expanding market and will become a more viable solution in the near future.

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