Why the Samsung MediaLive is a missed opportunity

7 August 2008 No Comment Mike Evans

Samsung MediaLive media streamer
Media streaming from PC to TV could finally be making its way into more people’s homes thanks to the new Samsung MediaLive. The MediaLive lets you stream just about any content you like from your PC to your HDTV either wirelessly or via Ethernet. Movies, tunes and images can all be streamed regardless of whether they’re encoded in AC3, H.264, JPEG, MPEG2, MPEG4, WMA, or WMV formats.

This is an exciting development, but also a somewhat disappointing one at the same time, as I’ll explain (and maybe rant a little!) after the jump.

Excitement!

Samsung MediaLive media receiver showing user interface
OK, first the excitement. Ever since I set up MediaMentalism in 2006, it’s been obvious to me that we’re slowly working our way to a home in which we’re all able to share our media wirelessly from one device (such as a PC) to another (a TV). What I didn’t count on, though, was exactly how slowly such a vision would take to develop! It’s two years’ later, and still there’s no such thing as an iconic media streamer that the average person in the street can identify.

The Samsung MediaLive is therefore an exciting development in that it brings that vision one step closer, as it’s a well engineered product from a large blue-chip electronics manufacturer, rather than a no frills toy from some random Chinese bargain basement company that no-one’s ever heard of, or a one-product wonder from a company with big ideas but a development budget too small for mainstream market penetration.

No, Samsung are big and they’re highly respected. The Samsung MediaLive is therefore a big deal, and best of all, has been given a genuine brand name (MediaLive) rather than some arbitrary (and unpronouncable) arrangement of digits and numbers. If Samsung are prepared to push the MediaLive concept, we could all have media streamers in our hoems in just a couple of years.

Disappointment!

And so, naturally, to the disappointment. Samsung keep referring to the MediaLive as a device for seamlessly sharing content from a PC and a Samsung 2008 HDTV; in other words, it’s not a generic box for transferring media, it’s a proprietary Samsung box that will only work with Samsung HDTVs.

This is a crying shame and an opportunity missed, as the MediaLive looks really good and has the potential to be a huge seller in the average home, if only it connected PCs to any TV, not just Samsung’s 2008 HDTVs.

Still, Samsung are no different from other manufacturers; Sony have been doing the same for a couple of years with their media streamers. That’s the problem with getting devices to share, I guess. No-one told the manufacturers that their devices should also share with devices from other manufacturers, rather than just their own!

The strategy of locking people in to one manufacturers’ technology is as old as the hills, but we’re in a different age now. The Internet and the Web has brought with a whole new generation of products and users who are used to the open model of free sharing, and the services that result are far richer, and far more rewarding to the companies that provide them, than a closed model will ever be.

Even the mobile phone networks are realizing this now, tearing down their walled gardens and letting their users access the entire Web, rather than just the isolated parts of it that each network controlled.

A call to arms

It’s time the electronics giants woke up to this fact and recognized that their devices are no longer seen as one part of a monolithic entertainment system with every component made by the same manufacture; rather, we buy them as individual devices that we hope will integrate with other devices from other manufacturers, with the whole set of disparate devices forming a single home network, the nature of which is unique to every home.

Entertainment systems are a thing of the past: unlock your fixed ideas and open up your business models, before somebody else comes along and steals your market from under you!

Full details of the Samsung MediaLive adaptor

Samsung MediaLive media streamer
OK, rant over! The Samsung MediaLive is actually quite a great media streamer by all accounts, and can even be installed behind your (Samsung 2008!) HDTV, making it a set-behind box, rather than a set-top box!

Better still, because it’s a Windows Vista Media Center Extender, the user interface displayed on your HDTV is all Vista, and not some crummy series of menus thrown together at the last minute.

Looks rather good, you’d have to agree!

Full details follow:
Samsung MediaLive media streamer
Samsung Electronics America Inc., the leader in the U.S. digital television market, lets consumers view PC-content on a Samsung HDTV with the retail launch of the company

 

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