Move over TiVo and Apple TV; there’s another box in town. Western Digital—you know them for portable hard drives and DVR expanders—today is launching WDTV, a recession-friendly $129 adapter box that takes media stored on a computer or portable USB drive and displays it on TV.
The direct-connect box connects via USB to a laptop or a USB storage device—and outputs movies, TV shows, digital images and music to a TV or entertainment system. The box supports 1080p HD and an HDMI connection, but only a standard composite A/V cable is included in the box.
“We wanted to break consumers’ tie of being close to the PC,” says Scott Rader, senior product manager of branded products at Western Digital, who set up WDTV, My Passport Studio 800 and a selection of other WD products in simulated living environments last week at the W Hotel in New York.
“More and more people are collecting content like movies, videos and photos on their PCs,” Rader says, “so we did a lot of focus groups and studies to determine how and where people use their digital content. We found that they wanted to break away from the PC and get to the TV.”
Quoting research from Parks Associates, Rader says less than 3-percent of broadband households currently connect a PC to a TV. At the same time, he said, 14-percent of consumers want to be able to do it but that existing solutions have either been too difficult or too expensive.
“We wanted to create a product that’s very simple to use,” Rader says. WDTV stays at the home entertainment system and accepts video, images and music from a connected USB drive. WDTV is designed for direct connection to a PC or USB drive and can’t be used in a wireless mode. It also accepts USB connections from digital cameras and camcorders with USB outputs. ArcSoft software converts digital files to formats optimized for the device. Users can create simple slideshows using WDTV and can select media via artist, track, genre or cover art. The WDTV graphics user interface is HD resolution.
The company is also introducing the My Passport Studio 800, a 2.5-inch 500-gigabyte portable storage drive ($249) with a FireWire 800 interface. At the W, the company showed the drive connected to a MacBook Pro. Rader says unique drivers boost the transfer rate using turbo technology.
“People are starting to transition from 3.5-inch to 2.5-inch drives,” according to Rader, due to a big push for portability. “Although consumers like the large capacity of 1-TB and larger drives, what they really like is portability. More and more people are buying laptops to be mobile within and outside of the house so they’re looking for portable devices as accessories.”
Click here for slideshow of WDTV & My Passport setups.
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