Cable Behind the Curve on Video Portability

As was the case with digital TV and DVRs, which were pioneered by satellite players, cable is once again behind the innovation curve -- this time with video portability. Apple and DISH Network broke ground in the portability category this week while cable watched from the sidelines. Apple grabbed most of the buzz by unveiling video-capable versions of its iPod. Featuring a 2.5-inch color screen, the new iPod is available in a 30GB model for $299 and a 60GB model for $399. The multimedia device can play digital audio and video, as well as display photos. Apple has inked initial video content distribution deals to feed the devices through its iTunes service. Consumers can purchase downloads from a library that includes more than 2,000 music videos, six short films from Pixar and episodes from five ABC and Disney TV show, including "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives." Working with Apple, video content providers will be eager to test the portability waters for broadband-connected consumers. Apple aside, adding portability capabilities to existing cable and satellite services is a no-brainer, and DISH Network is first out of the gate with a solution. Called PocketDISH Portable Media Companion, DISH's new line of handheld devices plays MP3 audio and displays photos like the iPod. However, leapfrogging Apple, the PocketDISH allows subscribers to download TV shows from certain DISH DVR set-tops, so they can take their favorite shows anywhere. Using a speedy USB 2.0 link, an hour of TV programming can be transferred to the PocketDISH hard drive in about five minutes. The screen sizes range from 2.2 to 7 inches, as does the price, from $329 to $599. Inquiring minds want to know: which MSO will be the first to offer a video-to-go solution?
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