WPCE - Pioneer planning network AV server for US market

Engineers at Pioneer in Japan are working on a client/server system that allows digital audio, video and Internet content to be accessed through televisions in the home and are hoping to launch it in the North American market in the second quarter of 2003.

At the center of the system, which is intended to connect to the same Ethernet network that is already present in many homes linking broadband modems to personal computers, is the DL-1000 server. The unit has an 80G-byte hard disk drive on which music, video and images will be stored, said a Pioneer representative at World PC Expo, where the system was on display on Wednesday.

The server connects to a television set through which the content can be viewed and also uses the network to access streaming content from the Internet, through a custom version of Yahoo Inc.'s Launch multimedia service.

Should a user want to access content through other television sets in the home, Pioneer is also preparing network clients. The DL-500AV units connect to the server unit and pull content across the network for display. With such a set-up, it is possible to watch different content from the server or Internet on different televisions in the home.

Because the units are connected to an Ethernet network, it will also be possible to access content by using computers on the network, but users won't be able to copy content to computer hard disk drives because of copyright controls being built into the machines. Users will be able to send content from computers to the server.

The server is based on a Geode processor running at 266MHz from National Semiconductor Corp. and runs the Linux operating system.

The system will support Windows Media 8 encoded content in addition to MPEG2 and MPEG4 video, said a Pioneer representative. By early 2004, the company is planning to support Windows Media 9.

Beyond North America, there are no plans to put the system on sale at present, said a Pioneer representative at World PC Expo. "In Japan, there is not enough broadband content and in other countries Ethernet in the home is not as common as it is in North America."

With commercialization still around six months away, pricing details have not been decided however the representative said Pioneer hopes to be able to sell the server for under US$1,000 and the client units for between $500 and $600.

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Martyn Williams

PC World
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