Orb and Microsoft’s New TV tricks

Microsoft is going to launch a new version of Windows XP Media Center in a big splashy ceremony today in LA. Where else! Suddenly LA is all that for the tech types. Anyway they are also going to release a new product called, Media Center Extender, a device that allows a television signal to be sent from a Media Center computer to a television in another room, by way of a wireless network. More at PaidContent. While Microsoft has been making all the noise, lets not overlook this new company called Orb Networks. Orb has a new service that costs $9.99 a month, and allows “subscribers to remotely access their digital media files — even watch live television — from any gadget with an Internet connection.”

Orb contends any files on a user’s PC — including copy-protected ones, such as songs downloaded from Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes Music Store, or films from online movie service MovieLink — will be playable on-the-go through their service. Orb’s streaming technology essentially keeps the same copy protections, including the usual restrictions against making digital copies and sharing them freely over the Internet, but lets users access their media however they choose.

Sounds familiar? Well Sling Media is going pretty much the same thing. (Sling has strategic investment from Microsoft by the way, which gives it a better chance of survival and perhaps long term success!) Key differences are that Sling is a hardware device that can route information from your TiVO and Television and not just PC. Nevo Media Server that comes with some of the newer HP handhelds does pretty much the same thing, except in the LAN environment. Orb seems to be a bastard child of both these approaches.