BBH Report Home Page
November 24, 2002 Provided by System Dynamics Inc.

PRISMIQ - Media Appliances for the Networked Home

We've written several articles this year about "networked media adapters": devices that play audio or video from a broadband connection or a PC over a home network. We've also written about media servers - both PC-based and stand-alone.

The PRISMIQ MediaPlayer is a new media adapter: a low-cost device that connects to your TV and sound system on one side, and over your home network to a capable PC on the other.

We recently met with two PRISMIQ executives - Ken Goldsholl, CEO and Brad Kayton, VP of Marketing. They briefed us on the MediaPlayer and hooked it up in our home entertainment center so we could see it in action. They told us that PRISMIQ is focused on "the network-centric home - not PC-centric or TV-centric".

The MediaPlayer is a networked media client providing audio, video, Internet browsing and chat on the TV screen, leveraging the horsepower of the PC you already have.

  • If you already have a PC serving as a home music jukebox (as we do), the MediaPlayer can play your music in the family entertainment center, using a nice TV-based interface to select songs, albums and "mixes".
  • If you have video content stored on your PC hard drive, it can play the video on the TV screen.
  • Audio and video are carried digitally over the home network and converted to standard audio and video output by the Prismiq device.
  • The MediaPlayer also includes a Web browser optimized for the TV screen.

PRISMIQ's approach is to put most of its functionality on the PC you already have. The package includes software installed on your PC, with the MediaPlayer acting as the audio/video/network interface device. The PC serves as the jukebox for both audio and video.

We didn't have much time to play with the MediaPlayer, but we liked its user interface - it worked well on our projection TV when we used S-video. It comes with a remote control and an infrared keyboard; the keyboard will be priced optionally but you would want to have one if you use the TV for web browsing.

But if you want to insert a DVD in your PC and watch it on the TV, the PRISMIQ system doesn't let you do it. It's not that Prismiq overlooked the capability. Rather it's because the encryption mechanism on copyrighted DVDs prevents you from transferring digital information from the PC to another device over a network. That's where those 5C and DRM acronyms start playing a role -- but that'll wait for another article.

The current version of the MediaPlayer doesn't support WMA audio or MPEG-4 video. Their PC software does real-time transcoding from WMA to MP3, and from MPEG-4 to MPEG-1 or -2, with some impact on PC resources and media quality. Ken told us that PRISMIQ expects that lower-cost chips will enable software decoding of WMA and MPEG-4, and they'll include this in later models, perhaps by the end of 2003.

PRISMIQ expects to ship production units next month, and we're looking forward to playing with one in our home. We'll tell you more about it in a Broadband Home Labs article.

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