McTiVia, a new set-top box now on sale in Harvey Norman stores, is looking to take the world of computer screen sharing and VPN geo-location tricks and make them as casual as using any other standard set-top box. With drawcards like easy access to Hulu and Netflix and an easily portable form-factor, McTiVia is hard to ignore.
McTiVia is Mac and Windows friendly (starting life as a Mac product and then widening to include the world of Windows) and the box itself is all about the screensharing. Install the software on your PC and connect the McTiVia to your TV via HDMI. The McTiVia can run over Ethernet or Wi-Fi (.11n), and it can also run as a separate access point to give a clean, unshared wireless connection to ensure high-quality throughput.
While McTiVia is promoting its VPN credentials, the service is actually supplied by VPN-S as a free 30-day trial. Ongoing service is charged at $9.95 per month. The VPN service is installed and run on your PC like any other software.
And this is the interesting point with McTiVia. It's actually not all that new in principle. It's not anything that someone who knows what they're doing hasn't hacked together before. But in practical terms it cuts away a lot of the fuss and makes it fairly simple to get your computer screen onto your TV.
From there you get access to the full decoding power of your desktop. Silverlight playback? Check. Latest Flash? Check. Any video format? Check. Running 720p over wireless, the compression is visible. But if you're looking for perfect performance you can go wired to up the quality.
The McTiVia runs in one of two modes. Video mode adds a three second buffer to smooth the video experience. Application mode delivers real-time interface for better control of the computer system.
There are also McTiVia apps for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. iPhone and Android are limited right now, but Blackberry can apparently play back any content. There's also a Cydia app available for streaming anything at all from your iPhone to your TV.
The biggest oversight is no controller at all will be included in the box. You can plug in any wired or wireless USB mouse and/or keyboard to control your computer through the McTiVia. Or you will soon be able to purchase a special controller that is a clever keyboard/mouse combo that looks like a standard IR remote. But nothing at all packed in? Seems like a hurdle for a device that is all about taking away the hurdles.
This is a fascinating product that will be interesting to watch in the market. It's trying to take more technical home streaming concepts and make them mainstream. Will it work? The team selling McTiVia into Australia were the guys behind taking Topfield and making it the biggest DVR in the local market, so they know how to sell set-top boxes.
The McTiVia is selling for $299, putting it in the same territory as the Boxee Box and new Smart TV boxes like the LG ST600.