Monsoon Makes TV Place-Shifting a Social Event

The Slingbox isn't the only product that will allow you to "place shift" and "time shift" your video. A lesser-known company called Monsoon also has a device called HAVA that lets you watch your local cable feed on any screen in your house, or on a broadband-connected PC or mobile device halfway around the world.

Like the Slingbox, the HAVA box connects to your TV cable lines, and lets you plug an Ethernet cable into the back of the device. The HAVA box grabs the cable programming and shoots it out over the Internet. Here at CES, Monsoon announced that they taking this video place-shifting thing a step further by adding a social element to it. Not only can you watch your own cable anywhere and anytime, but you can now tune in to what your HAVA-using friends around the world are watching, too, with a new service, called Monsoon SociableTV.

At the SociableTV web portal, you see a screen showing what each of your HAVA-owning TV buddies is watching, whether they live in Poland or across the street. If you like what they're watching, you can click on the small video window above their name and tune in.

It gets even more social. Monsoon has also built in a small area at the bottom of the viewing screen where you can chat with your friends about the shows you're watching.

"Monsoon's SociableTV supports the social Web movement because consumers not only want their content wherever they go, but they also want the ability to watch the Super Bowl or a rugby game with their friends, regardless of their location," says Monsoon CEO William Loesch.

SociableTV is one of the simplest, most straight-forward approaches to social viewing I've seen. The service will become available (at no charge) in the second quarter of this year, Monsoon says.

Monsoon also announced a HAVA Player for Apple's iPhone. The new app will let HAVA customers view and control their home television and services via the iPhone's touch screen interface. Pretty cool.

The HAVA boxes are already selling nationwide through Best Buy, direct from Monsoon at www.myhava.com, and through a few other online retailers. The least expensive one is $99 and has no wireless or HD capability. The top of the line, at $249, can distribute video wirelessly to other devices in the home, and can record video you want to keep onto an external drive or onto your PC's hard drive.

For all the latest CES news, check out our complete coverage of CES 2009.

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