eHomeUpgrade: Pre-Packaged Media Servers

eHomeUpgrade gets a question about non-do-it-yourself media servers. They only point to two, the Telly MC1000 and the ONEbox.

What’s interesting is the differences and similarities between these two products. The Telly is based on Linux, and the ONEbox runs Windows XP Media Center Windows XP Home plus the ONEbox Media Center. Both are $899US and are shipping today.

So which one to get? Both are built on the VIA C3 platform, the Telly running at 933Mhz, the ONEbox at 1Ghz. Windows XP by itself would suck a lot of oomph! out of anything. This seems to be the processor of choice for these types of devices – likely because of its low power/heat requirements as well as its low cost.

The ONEbox adds in a Radeon 7500 with 64MB of memory, while the Telly uses on-board video. In all likelihood, the ONEbox is going to have a big edge here.

The Telly has an IR trackball plus optional remote and keyboard, while the ONEbox includes an RF remote. This means you can use the remote out of site of the ONEbox, controlling it from another room.

Now on to some of the more fundamental differences.

The Telly is billed as completely expandable – they encourage people to add a second internal hard drive, or to plug-in an external FireWire one. As well, new features are downloaded as they are developed, and a small notice says the software is open, although they may just mean “easily extensible”. Interact-TV calls the media platform EOS. Interestingly, given the recent XAML/XUL hype, the GUI apps are written in what they call ItvXUL (probably just XUL with some extensions).

Continuing with open-ness, the Telly uses a webserver portal to give you access to material on it remotely – everything from scheduling shows to accessing media. The ONEbox uses VNC for remote access, typically the Java-based browser applet

The ONEbox is a closed application on top of Windows XP Home. A page on their site notes a rather small list of compatible hardware, but does note that anything which is compatible with Windows XP should work. There is some other strangeness, like recording media files in a proprietary “SSF” format. They do support “re-compressing” to Windows media formats.

They certainly have a much better selection of connections (below, left) than the very basic Telly (below, right).

[image:657,left,10,10][image:656,right,5,5]

As well, the ONEbox’s 6-in-1 memory card reader is something else that every media PC should have. The cost is low, and it guarantees that end users will be able to stick their particular digital camera or MP3 player memory card into their media center.

In the end, the website of both companies screams “small-time”. Interact-TV might become successful if they manage to expand their EOS platform, licensing it out to other media PC players (most notably, the hardware manufacturers like MSI or Shuttle) that are creating interesting barebones media PCs. I don’t see how ONEbox differs substantially from Windows XP Media Center (in fact, I’m still not sure that it isn’t the same…).

And $899US? This market isn’t going to take off until that price-point hits $499US.