IPTV is going to be a hot acronym when it comes to mobile entertainment. Short for Internet Protocol Television, it's a catch-all phrase used to describe live, on-demand television services, in this case on a computer. VDC has launched such a service that it hopes will help it carve out a nice section of this high growth industry.
How it Works
The VDC service is a browser-based system compatible with Windows machines and Windows Mobile based PDAs and smartphones (Mac support is expected later this year).
VDC Live uses Windows Media Player embedded in the browser to play the streaming video. The quality is remarkably good, even at lower bitrates. The player even works in full screen mode with few artifacts, which is better than other video services we've tested.
Programming is also available through VDC's proprietary "peel-and-stick" viewer, or virtual television set, that can be placed anywhere on the PC desktop, allowing television to stream while surfing the net or using other computer programs.
PC interface, the previews on the right are live action (view large image)
The limiting factor right now with this service is the content. You're not going to see much in terms of brand name content, though VDC hopes to change this as they grow.
At the moment they offer: AP Global Newswire, AP News Bytes, Fashion TV, MavTV, The Pentagon Channel, NASA Television, Q Television Network (QTN), Men's Outdoors and Recreation, Healthy Living Channel, iDrive, Resort & Residence Channel, High Definition Demo, Adrenaline Nation TV, Video Game Channel, Resi Moovie Classics, QVC, ShopNBC, and Celebrity Shopping Network.
VDC is also close to rolling out a few branded channels exclusively for Windows Mobile PDA and smartphone users including TLC, Discovery Channel, and BBC America. Those channels should be live at the end of next week.
The service costs $11.95 per month, which for the content listed above, is a little pricey. VDC knows this though and is working extremely hard to bring on more mainstream content providers.
From what I understand a primary hurdle is content licensing, which is why you're going to see channels like TLC on the PDA exclusively right now. TLC doesn't have online distribution rights to all of the programming they air; however, they do have rights to distribute to mobile devices. It is important to note though that VDC does not charge extra for their PDA content; that is included in the service fee.
Bitrate options and capture of the NASA channel
The VDC service is also available anywhere you can get on the Internet, something that makes it more flexible than other services like MobiTV, which is geared toward PDA and smartphone users only.
VDC is also easy to install and use, a core advantage it has over something like Slingbox, which requires additional hardware and a dedicated client to view the video.
Mobile entertainment services like VDC are going to be important as users demand more access to programming while on the go. While VDC's content offerings are a little thin, they do offer tremendous quality in an easy to use interface, with PDA/smartphone access for free.
It's definitely worth checking out; they currently offer a few channels for free, like NASA Television, that showcase the quality of the service.
To test the service, visit the VDC site on your PDA, smartphone or PC, no need to register. You can subscribe for $11.95 per month.
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