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McTiVia Makes Dodgy TV Legal

By Matthew Lentini | Wednesday | 15/06/2011

A wireless streaming device with a twist takes on the world of content delivery, encouraging users to bend the rules to access content cheaply (and most of the time, free) online.

With the McTiVia device from Inspire Technology, users are given a trial version of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that allows them to access geographically restricted content like videos from Hulu.

Many catch-up TV services in the US restrict content to the one country due to legal licensing restrictions from the content providers. The use of a VPN essentially tricks the services into thinking you are accessing content from the US by going through a foreign IP address.

"Using a VPN service isn't illegal," reassures Ivan Knezevic, product manager for the McTiVia.

Inspire Technology have posed the idea of products like their own being used as a simple (and legal) alternative to dodgier methods that otherwise involve piracy.

"This is something that's a lot easier than downloading a torrent," adds Knezevic.

The McTiVia wireless streamer is a small box that acts like a home router, connecting computers to televisions. Rather than sharing content through a link that is then played directly on the TV though, the McTiVia mirrors the image you see on your PC onto your TV - effectively turning your TV into your monitor. And wirelessly.

You can already hardline a PC to a TV (and even record from TV to your PC) with the right video card and a few cables, but McTiVia is aimed at a wider consumer audience.

"Convenience" is the key, says Robert Bonanno who heads up marketing for Inspire Technology, the newly founded company that's distributing the McTiVia in Australia.

With DLNA and other home networking solutions already on the market, Bonanno says that they're taking a new angle because "DLNA is restricted."

While most new TVs can play content straight off USBs and via DLNA, the more obscure file types need specifics codecs through a PC to be played. Even new TVs with browsers have flaws in encoding some browser-based video players.

"No hardware on the market, that I know of, currently supports Silverlight [apart from PCs]," says Knezevic, pointing out that websites like Nine's Fixplay catch-up TV service is only compatible on a PC that can run Microsoft's Silverlight software.

"They're trying to make a 'smart' TV, but you've got the internet which is as smart as it's ever going to be," says Bonanno.

"You've got a lot of customers who last year bought a three and a half thousand dollar TV - they're not going to buy a 'smart' TV."

As for the actual running of the device, it sports a 2.4GHz wireless connection that runs as its own router of sorts, connecting PCs and laptops to a connected TV.

It'll run video content with a three second delay as a buffer for audio and video, ensuring that there's little to no lag in playback, with an option to run in 'application' mode where you physically control your PC on a pixel-to-pixel ratio on the screen, but with lag.

The software supplied is fairly limited though, relying heavily on third party apps to create the truly mobile experience - and continuing the theme of making the dodgy a little more accessible.

"If you're tech-savvy and jailbreak your phone, you can get a lot more content off your iPhone," says Bonanno.

Applications like Splashtop can mirror a PC or Mac screen onto iPhones and iPads, which can then control the screen, thus controlling what you see on the TV through the McTiVia.

The McTiVia is currently out at Harvey Norman retailers for $299, though Inspire Technology is in talks with other retailers like Officeworks on widening the distribution network.

Part of moving to other retailers like Officeworks is to grab the office/business market with office applications like presentations from PC to TV.

They're also working on bringing a QWERTY-keyboard remote control with point-and-click cursor functions to take over the need for a mouse and keyboard when using a PC on a TV. This should hit stores in the next month or two for around $99.

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