In the latest in our podcast series on IPTV and over-the-top (OTT) video, we speak with Alex Limberis, COO of Syabas, otherwise known as “Popcorn Hour
”. Alex knows a thing or two about digital media, as he was formerly the go-to guy driving Microsoft’s strategy for integrating Windows Media with just about every device that could fit it, including high-profile wins getting WM adopted into the HD-DVD and Blu-ray standards. He has also held executive positions at Dolby Labs, PMI, and Aureal Semiconductor.
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In this podcast, Alex shares with us not only a little of the story behind Popcorn Hour, but also weighs in with his prodigious intellect on the future of the OTT market (hint: it is a much grander vision than what you might think from such a cutely branded company). Please forgive the background noise as I sat down with Alex at the recent IPTV Forum show.
As for Popcorn Hour, the company started in 2001 as a middleware software company that focused on getting its technology baked into a variety of partners’ products, notably HP and Netgear. In 2007 they enjoyed surprising success, primarily with the tech enthusiast community, by launching their own media player device leveraging their software. Popcorn Hour is the consumer electronics brand of Syabas Technology, a pioneer in wired and wireless home entertainment, digital electronics and P2P mesh network broadcasting. The goal of Syabas is to break down the barriers between TV, personal computers, digital storage devices and the Internet by “giving individuals unprecedented control over how they source, manage and experience video, high-definition movies, digital photos, music and more.”
Among its capabilities Popcorn Hour can sniff out your networked digital media and stream it to your HDTV. Other features include the ability to:
• Play the latest high-def DVD and Blu-ray movies
• Support Windows Media, Xvid, H.264 and QuickTime Internet videos
• Display your local digital photos as well as those on Picasa, Flickr and Photobucket
• Play your local MP3 music files and stored CD music files, as well as stream thousands of Internet radio stations and music stores
• Play videos from YouTube and Blip.tv, podcasts and news from MediaFly, ABC, NBC and the BBC
Popcorn Hour also recently announced a new software development kit (SDK) and OTT set-top device profile called the “David Box” (hmmm, I should have asked Alex who they consider Goliath). It allows developers to create new HD applications for deployment on the Popcorn Hour box or Syabas’ partner devices.
Popcorn Hour is still mostly geared for technical types rather than the average consumer. A quick scan of recent reviews included positive comments such as “widest support for digital media formats”, “quick buffering and streaming”, and “openness to third party applications”, while negatives included “difficult to set up”, “poor sound quality”, and “quirks with the remote control.” We would have to do our own review to provide an informed opinion of its merits. Meanwhile, we will keep our eye out for Popcorn Hour as one of a growing number of digital media streamers and OTT video devices that are early pioneers in this evolving market.
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