Sony Brings Location Free TV to PCs

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Sony will begin selling from October a network base-station that can stream live television and other video content through a home network or across the Internet to remote PCs.

The Location Free Base Station is an extension of the company's Location Free TV system, which until now has required the use of dedicated portable displays. The new system will work with normal PCs.

The LF-PK1 unit can stream video to PCs both inside and outside of the home, or wherever it is located. Local clients connect via either a wired link or wirelessly through the unit's built-in wireless LAN access point. From outside the home, access is possible as long as the device is connected to a broadband Internet link.

"Wherever you go on earth you can watch your own content," says Satoru Maeda, head of the Sony division that produced the device, at a Tokyo news conference. While video recorders can be used to time-shift programs, the Location Free Base Station can be used to "place-shift" your entertainment, he says.

Users log into the device via dedicated viewer software and from there it's possible to watch live TV, change channels, and access and control any additional audio-visual devices hooked up to the system, such as satellite or cable TV tuners or video disc players.

Easy to Use

Sony has put some effort into making set-up easy and for most users it will just require a few button presses before the PC is paired with the base station. Each base station can be paired with up to four PCs, although only one client can access and control the base station at any one time.

Sony first showed a prototype of the PC reception software at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. Several other companies also showed competing systems.

Closest to Sony's new system is the Slingbox, from Sling Media. This $250 device works in a similar way and can stream TV to Windows PCs running dedicated software. Another company, Orb Networks, offers an all-software system that runs on a PC at home and can be remotely accessed from a PC, PDA, or smart phone. The company initially asked users to pay a subscription fee for the service but that's now been scrapped in favor of sponsorship.

Sony plans to sell the Location Free Base Station in Japan from October 1 for about $300.

The hardware price is a big reduction from the $1500 and $1100 price tags of its previous base station and portable TV bundles.

The company plans to sell the new device outside Japan, but has yet to fix a launch date.

The LF-PK1 has an IEEE 802.11a/b/g wireless LAN interface and a built-in TV tuner, and can be connected to two audio-visual devices.

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