We already know Netflix users are begging for easier ways to get streaming video to their TVs–Xbox, PS3, Roku, and Blu-ray players apparently aren’t simple enough solutions. Instead, more and more
people watch TV and film on their computers while fuming because they can’t
easily get all that content–Hulu, Netflix, Amazon–in one place.
The Myka ION aims to bridge that gap as the first gizmo to stream both Hulu and Boxee to big screens (in addition to running full-fledged PC apps, which let you add other streaming services). But it’s not cheap. At $379 (more if you add on a wireless card and a Blu-Ray drive), it’s ultimately expandable but inching toward PC pricing. And that got us wondering whether we’ve been thinking all wrong about the way we stream video.
Here’s where the demand for streaming video has thus far pushed people:
Toward traditional home theater gear (TVs, DVD players, video game consoles) that stream video right out-of-the-box. This is great at first. But these devices aren’t made to upgrade. And at $5,000 for an HDTV or $400 for a game console, you don’t expect to have to scrap it when new services, compression technologies and software render it obsolete. OEMs can build their TVs and game consoles to be upgraded, but they end up adding the cost of a Myka to the retail price.
Toward the iTunes store. Add up the costs of movies and shows, and you’re eventually talking about a financial black hole. Plus you still have splurge for an Apple TV, and fire up your computer to queue up shows or buy movies.
The solution is, of all things, Windows 7. It packs what’s arguably Microsoft’s best innovation of the decade: Windows Media Center, which has gained the ability to stream video and music wirelessly from your home PC to TVs all over your house using little “extender” boxes that are sold separately (the Xbox can also serve as an extender.) Unlike other options–set-top boxes and fancy Blu-ray players–it uses your home computer as the video streaming device, meaning you can add services, browse robustly and even record video like a DVR by patching your cable or satellite TV through your PC. And again, it’s all wireless.
Because the extra hardware you need (i.e., the “extender”) is just a wireless dummy, you’re not sinking money into some soon-to-be-obsolete gizmo, and you’re not limiting yourself to just one service (Hulu and Netflix almost never appear side-by-side on streaming devices.) Your Netflix, your Hulu, your TiVo, even your channel guide gets better when it’s all replaced by a Windows 7 PC.
Many of us might be reluctant to sink money into Windows 7 hardware, especially thanks to bad Vista experiences or the allure of the Mac. But a Windows 7 notebook, used right there on the couch like a giant remote control, might just be the answer to your streaming video woes.