I got to play with an Akimbo Video on Demand (VoD) player tonight, the box looks exactly like a set top box, and includes an IR remote control – the only thing missing from the box is the channel number, and this is deliberate.
Akimbo run a service that provides TV shows, music videos, and movies on demand – the player has video/audio out and ethernet connections, once connected to the internet and powered up there’s a fairly simple registration process to complete.
Once registered you can browse through a list of channels, choose your shows or movies and then select download – the shows are downloaded to the box for you to watch at your leisure – I have a 3MBit connection coming into the home (which feels more like 9600baud with two XBOX live connections, and a handful of PC’s all connected and downloading content) a 25 minute show downloaded in a few minutes (this was Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World “The Missing Apemen”).
The UI on the Akimbo box is simple to use, navigation comprises of up/down/back and select – the remote control also has VCR like controls for pause, rewind, and forward.
The box is currently running on Windows XP Embedded, but the plan is to move this over to Windows CE (the UI is a .NET managed application, so the transition between Windows XP Embedded and Windows CE should be painless), but there’s no way of knowing what the operating system is – the UI is nothing like desktop windows, and there’s no way to get out to a command prompt or run additonal programs.
Here’s how the UI looked while programs are being downloaded to the box.
I like the concept of video on demand, but the problem with this box, and my Comcast DVR STB is that content cannot be shared with other devices on the network – it would be useful to view downloaded/recorded programs on my laptop or Portable Media Center, or perhaps other STB’s around the home.