I wasted several hours last week trying to figure out how to watch the “Mad Men” videos in my iTunes library on my 3-year-old TV set. It goes without saying that all I figured out was that it wasn't going to be easy. Now, I'm sure many of you will answer that it's not hard at all and refer me to how-tos that include instructions like the following:
• "Find the trapezoid-shaped VGA outlets on the TV and on your laptop."
• "If your HDTV doesn’t have a DVI connector, use a cable that is HDMI on one end and DVI on the other to connect to your laptop."
• "After you’ve connected your laptop to the TV via video cable, connect the mini-to-RCA cable from your computer’s headphone jack to your TV.
As far as I'm concerned, that's like explaining how to make a phone, by instructing: "Connect the transmitter. When you hear the combination 350/440Hz tone, use the frequency generator to generate dialing tones." You get the point.
Apple, of course, has a high-priced, walled-garden solution to sell me: Apple TV. But as someone who has so far resisted the Apple iPhone's siren song, I'm not ready to delegate my entertainment choices to Steve Jobs any more than I'm going to let him decide for me what constitutes acceptable phone service.
The continuingly frustrating facts of TV anywhere — at least for those of us who would rather spend Saturday afternoon watching a “Mad Man” marathon and sipping daquiris than setting up a home network — sent me over to PacketVideo's TwonkyBeam site for some consolatory window-shopping.
Making its official debut at CES last month, TwonkyBeam is a free browser plug-in (only currently available for Microsoft Internet Explorer) that, in a nutshell, lets you simply drag and drop to stream content between networked devices.
Internet radio to your audio system, Flickr photos to a digital photo frame and, yes, those “Mad Men” videos to a TV set or even an iPhone. TwonkyBeam has another valuable capability: It helps discover content on your local network and shows you compatible devices for playing it.
Of course, there's that little word, “networked," which is the crux of the whole thing. However, TownkyBeam works with 163 (as of last count) DLNA-compliant playback devices, "digital media renderers," as well as PacketVideo's own TwonkyVision media manager and server, mobile versions of which were released for Android at CES.
What's next? The next generation of TwonkyVision, according to PacketVideo VP Neil Sharma, will be embedded and bundled with mobile devices as well as released in a Firefox-compatible version. You can download a free, trial version of TwonkyMedia here.