Julian Clover sees convergence at work in Babel TV’s PC-TV hybrid.
Convergence could be back in fashion, if you have a new TV the chances are you will have noticed connectors that would allow you to link your computer up to the display, and the same goes for computers. USB sticks allow DTT reception, Sky has plans to integrate its conditional access into PCs, and of course the growing amount of TV content now available through broadband.
Dawevision, a company established by the Cambridge entrepreneur Peter Dawe, has produced Babel TV, a device that combines a PC with a DTT receiver and hard drive. Internet on the TV was first tried in the mid 1990s by WebTV. Here there is no attempt to process the Web browser, in this case Firefox, and the only way to increase the typeface for the lean back experience is to use the browser’s own functionality.
The PVR element doesn’t adhere to the Freeview Replay specifications, but carries much of the same functionality, such as alternative instance where the device looks for a second play of a programme if two recordings are already assigned. Powerline links multiple devices together around the house. It is far from being the first device to try to combine broadband access, but it is well executed, particularly in the fusion of PC and TV functionality.
Dawe expresses the frustrations we all share of multiple remotes and a computer on which you spend time downloading all the updated. “You spend an hour or two a month just trying to keep it going and I don’t think I’m stupid,” he says. Dawe’s study found the vast majority of time spent on the TV or computer was spread across just eight applications: watching TV, listening to music, viewing photos, surfing the web, email, messaging, telephone and traditional office type applications.
The computer elements of Babel TV, all open source, provide a different way of providing back up. Copies are cached on the device with the originals being stored remotely. This also means you can access your content from another Babel TV device. “You can just plug another box in and it progressively learns what you’ve put on the central file server. Because they are cached files you get a speed of operation the same as if they were local.”
The basic computer functionality won’t be for everyone, though there is the possibility to distribute photos and music in addition to the open source Open Office programmes, and DTT is restricted to the Freeview services. It could be connected to the main set, but equally it could fill the gap for second sets and family computers around the house.
Currently Dawevision is doing its own marketing, relying on publications like this and curiously The Lady to get the message across. The £295 pricepoint is at the lower end of some PCs, though higher than you might expect to pay for a regular Freesat PVR.