WinHEC 2007: Monsoon Introduces Full Wireless Control and Distribution of Live TV

Monsoon Multimedia had quite a presence at WinHEC this year. Monsoon is offering the first “affordable” wireless video server, enabling full Windows Media Center Edition (MCE) functionality, letting you record and burn media to CD and DVD, and letting you wirelessly connect to your existing home network. The device also gives you PVR functionality for live TV, including the ability to pause, rewind, and fast-forward the live feed.

I spoke to Monsoon’s Colin Stiles on Wednesday afternoon, and he talked up his company’s HAVA, which promises to extend the home-media experience in amazing new ways. Letting you control live TV over the Internet, HAVA completely bypasses your router to provide seamless video throughout the house. “The solution doesn’t even disturb your existing network infrastructure,” Stiles said. You can send your TV signal to your PC, cell phone, or handheld device any time, anywhere.

A favorite device in the IPTV market has been Slingbox, a device that lets you move your media around your home and elsewhere. According to Stiles, the Slingbox has some limitations, and that’s where HAVA comes in. The HAVA device is similar to the Slingbox, digitally streaming your TV signals to a PC or mobile device, but moving away from the Slingbox’s one-PC limitation, HAVA lets you “multicast” for viewing on multiple clients throughout the house. You can watch TV on multiple PCs simultaneously.

Monsoon lists several differentiators that set HAVA apart from the Slingbox. For example, it’s wireless. Its built-in 802.11a/b/g capability is unique in the market. The multicasting concept is also unique. HAVA has a TV tuner built right into the device, and we’re excited about the notion of liberating the PC from the living room. Crucial to the Monsoon approach (another differentiator from Slingbox) is its concept of “hole punching,” the same technology the Skype uses to punch through network address translation (NAT) settings and deliver content without interruption.

HAVA Wireless HD, the company flagship, supports 1080i, 720p, and 480p HD video input, and Monsoon is looking toward 1080p HD on the horizon, with the introduction of HDMI inputs. (The device now supports component video, composite video, and S-Video.)

HAVA comes in three flavors. The top-of-the-line Hava Wireless HD costs $249, the non-wireless HAVA Platinum HD (comparable to the Slingbox) costs $159, and the HAVA Gold costs $129.

“It all adds up to an incredibly flexible product,” Stiles said. For more information, take a look at Monsoon’s Web site.

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