SnapStream's Beyond TV 3 - The Must-Have Home Multimedia Softwareby Andrew Ku on May 12, 2004 12:00 PM EST
It has been a while since we got back on track to the multimedia stuff. On the hardware side, ATI has been busy pumping out new products like the All-in-Wonder 9200, 9600, 9600 XT, and TV Wonder USB 2.0. Of course, HDTV Wonder is probably the most anticipated thing to come from the ATI multimedia team over the course of the past year and, even perhaps, 5 years. But that is another story for another time (which, of course, we will get to).
Now for NVIDIA, there isn't much that we can discuss, at least for the moment. Their multimedia flagship line, Personal Cinema FX cards, still aren't selling in the same volumes as those from ATI, and it currently looks like they have a long way to go before they make any large strides. Of course, the fact that ATI made the crossover into the true blue mainstream market with their All-in-Wonder 9200 popping up in a Wal-Mart has certainly helped their situation.
On the software side, there isn't much to discuss, minus Forceware Multimedia, which we are still waiting for. (Yes, it has been a long wait.) We were told way back at Comdex and during our Personal Cinema review that it is currently being put through Q&A at their multimedia project partners, but it still hasn't been released to the market yet. Coincidentally, NVIDIA announced a while back that it would be available to download back in October of '03. Reflecting back, they are definitely behind schedule.
In the meantime, there is one major company, SnapStream, that seems to be setting up a good name in their multimedia software shop, and NVIDIA's absence certainly is adding credence for the need of good software. Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 is still only available with a pre-built system from Microsoft certified partners, which is still a shame, since Microsoft still has the best GUI and overall design when it comes to multimedia software. Until Microsoft makes the move to sell Windows XP MCE 2004 by the CD, you are going to have to choose between using the software supplied by ATI, NVIDIA, etc., or whoever makes your TV tuner.
While ATI still leads the multimedia field in the software and hardware for the do-it-yourself, this hasn't stopped other companies from attempting to provide better software solutions for those willing to shell out a bit more. After all, even ATI can only go so far with their house brand (Multimedia Center) before they have to increase the prices of their multimedia packages.
SnapStream's last software iteration was called Personal Video Station, and was fairly well received, even catching the eye and praise of Microsoft. Their latest solution called Beyond TV 3 is an overall over PVS, which means there is plenty to talk about.