Trender Research™

Technology meets people.

Belkin did not have a booth at CES this year but I had a chance to catch up with them today for our first Trender podcast. I chatted with product manager Rob Fleck and PR person Melody Chalaban. I am knee-deep in my research for an upcoming report on home audio/video and wanted a chance to hear from one of the leaders building devices around the new Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI) standard for distributing HD content throughout the home.

Belkin has been working on WHDI with folks like Hitachi, Motorola, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, and LG Electronics but was one of the first to manifest a consumer product when it announced its FlyWire box last summer. I had a chance to see a demo of FlyWire at an Amazon sneak-peak PR event in Manhattan last June. I was really impressed with the video quality-- there were no artifacts, no latency, and it could play BlueRay in stunning resolution. The only major limitation I see is that WHDI right now is only point-to-point, but the group is reportedly working on a point-to-multipoint solution that can drive content to multiple receivers throughout the home.

FlyWire (great brand by the way-- as a marketing guy my hats off to Belkin on that one) is a great way to centralize the clutter of devices normally connected to your TV, or to provide a solution where discreet cabling is not possible or just too costly (think stone fireplaces or outdoor patio settings). Like many of you, once that flat panel TV goes up on the wall it becomes artwork, and the spouse's high aesthetic standards apply-- so no new wires please (FlyWire does require a small receiving device that should fit in the space behind most flat panels-- except maybe the newer ultrathin models). I am also impressed that FlyWire made sure to include a back-channel and IR repeater for controlling all of the connecting A/V devices, a tricky bit of magic for many devices in this space.

Again, the only major drawback I see is the lack of a point-to-multipoint solution right now. Until that version becomes available the FlyWire box, when it becomes available to the public later this summer (initially priced at $1499 and currently on pre-order at Amazon), is limited to a single-room solution for pushing content from an A/V rack somewhere in your home to a select HDTV without wires. Sure it goes through walls and provides whole-house range, but as a practical application it is limited to wireless AV extension applications for one room. It is difficult to call FlyWire a true whole-house system if you need one $1499 box for each room and a separate receiver for each TV.

We don't go into how FlyWire compares to the growing number of alternative approaches for home audio/video distribution (you'll have to buy my report for that analysis :-), but we do cover Internet connectivity, pricing, installation, and what is required for consumer adoption. Before I steal any more of the podcast's thunder, take a listen for yourself: click the Podcast interface in the right sidebar.

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