September 02, 2004
New Product Catetory: PVPs
As more video is accessible digitally, products are now being created to try and become the IPod of video called Personal Video Players, or in the world of acronyms, PVPs. Two products that have just been released are Creative Lab's Zen Portable Media Center and the Archos AV400. Similar to MP3 players, both these products can allow users to download multimedia files from a PC and let you play them on the road.
Both suffer from the same problem of how a user grabs copyrighted content like a movie or a television show. Without it, it's not a very useful device. The AV400 includes a full PVR built-in to a PC cradle including an IR blaster (to communicate with your set-top satellite or cable box) and the software to find and record your television shows. The Zen, on the other hand, is meant to work with Microsoft's Home Media Center (Microsoft's PVR in a PC).
We have two small children so keeping them distracted on car rides and airplanes is a full time job, and we currently have a personal DVD player we take with us during those times. I can see the appeal of the PVP as an alternative to the DVD player (or a laptop) for a few reasons:
- The battery life on these devices are longer (at least 4-5 hours supposedly).
- You can carry a lot of content without the hassle of fumbling around with DVDs.
- Potentially, transferring content could be easier.
The third reason is significant. Anyone who has a standard Tivo is faced with a lot of hassle to transfer shows to DVD. If you are smart unlike me, you could buy a Tivo with a DVD recorder built-in like the Pioneer Tivo unit. Otherwise, you'll need to either hack the Tivo, a daunting task that can literally take days, void your warranty, and annoy your wife. Otherwise, you need to somehow record analog from the Tivo to a capture card in your computer, again taking time to setup and then taking your Tivo out of commission every time you want to transfer a show. You are also not done yet because once you've got a digital copy of your television show on your hard disk, you've then have to finagle it into DVD format and finally burn it onto DVD, assuming you can find blank DVDs that can read by all your DVD players. All in all, it's a painful experience.
The third reason is also questionably true however with these products. For the Archos, it sounds pretty straightforward to do if you want something in the future, but you are back to square one for both products if the program has already been saved to your Tivo. On top of that, to move a DVD on to one of those units require you to convert the DVD to a video file that takes time, requires you to use potentially illegal shareware, and according to the MPAA, break copyright laws in the process.
Unlike IPod, it will be a while before this becomes a big market. Not everyone has a high demand to have portable video, and there is little interconnectivity for these kinds of devices. If you have the need and a MS Home Media Center as your PVR solution, the Zen might be for you. The AV400 may be a good option for someone who doesn't have a PVR and doesn't need the features of a mature PVR like Tivo. Otherwise, I'd wait and see how the technology evolves.
Posted on September 02, 2004
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The creative product is especially interesting. This is a really great concept. I can't believe it has taken this long for somebody to come out with a similar product.
Posted by: Alex at September 3, 2004 04:07 PM