ViewSonic Delves Into Video Networking

SAN DIEGO -- When you think of ViewSonic, you probably think of computer displays, a product category it's been a major player in for years--or possibly of TVs, a market it's entered more recently. But with computers and consumer electronics converging, networked video is slowly becoming a reality, and ViewSonic is diving in to the teeming home networking market.

At the DemoMobile show here this week, the company unveiled a line of gear for shuttling video, photos, and music around the house. (DemoMobile is produced by IDG Executive Forums, a sister company of PC World.)

Key among the new products are the Wireless Media Gateway and Wireless Media Adapter, both of which are based on 802.11g technology.

The gateway is essentially a media server that can store movies (homemade or otherwise), music, and pictures on its own hard drive. You move such media to the gateway from a home computer: "It's totally drag and drop, and you can use a PC, a Mac, or Linux--it shows up as network-attached storage," says Trevor Bratton, ViewSonic's senior public relations specialist.

Smooth Streaming

The adapter plugs into a TV and connects wirelessly to the gateway, getting video and other content into the living room or wherever else the user has a TV. In fact, Bratton says that one of this system's advantages over existing video-streaming approaches is that multiple adapters can talk to one gateway, so family members can watch streaming video in both the den and the living room, for example.

Some early streaming video products have a reputation for hiccuppy images and audio and other quality problems. But ViewSonic's products produced surprisingly smooth results in demos. And while setup of other products can be thorny, Bratton says that the gateway and adapter work in tandem to make configuration easy: "[the adapter] sees it's a ViewSonic gateway, autosenses it, and boom, you're done."

Who will jump on the streaming media bandwagon? Mostly early adopters at first, Bratton believes. But he thinks that the category will go more mainstream next year.

ViewSonic expects to ship the adapter and gateway in the fourth quarter of this year in several bundles. For instance, an 80GB gateway and one adapter will cost $699.

Besides the Wireless Media Adapter and Media Gateway, the company's networking lineup will also include more typical 802.11g products, such as routers, desktop and notebook adapters, and print servers.

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