Cablevision prepping PC to TV Media Relay

Cablevision has announced a new feature that they are calling “PC to TV Media Relay”, the idea of which is to stream the screen contents from a personal computer to a special channel on the customer’s cable box.  They are planning to get a technical trial going by June of this year.  From the press release:

Specific examples of the kind of content that consumers currently view on their PC, and will now be viewable on the television include:
• Personal stored media such as photos, home videos and music;
• Internet content including streaming video sites and audio such as Internet radio;
• Some productivity applications including email, documents and spreadsheets;
• And, other Desktop applications such as widgets.

This sounds pretty good, especially since my primary computer is no longer in the same room as the TV.  This is the first announcement from Cablevision about this technology, so there may still be several changes to it before it sees the light of day as a product.  Still, I am left wondering about several aspects of the implementation.

Audio? The press release suggests music as being one of the kinds of content which can be enjoyed, yet makes no mention of streaming the audio from the PC to the TV.  Are people just going to enjoy looking at their music, or will they be able to listen as well?  I think we have to assume that the audio will also be streamed, so in what format?  How about bitstreaming digital audio straight through to the home theater receiver connected to the TV?

Control? Being able to view the PC’s screen contents is good, but the release does not say how the computer will be controlled during the remote viewing.  Having to walk back to the PC from the TV every time you wanted to type a different URL or click onto the next web video would be an inconvenience for some, and a deal breaker for others (like me, whose PC is three sets of stairs above the TV).  I notice these cable boxes all have USB ports…

Bitrate? The release does not mention any of the details as to the quality of the video streamed from the PC.  Cablevision’s HD ready cable boxes can output a 1080i signal, so does that mean I will be able to stream full resolution 19201080 video from a PC?  If it’s doing 1080i, what bitrate can the stream support?  Enough to say, make a Blu-ray playing on the PC watchable on the TV?

Latency? What will the response time be between an image appearing on the PC screen and it being streamed to the TV?  Will it be fast enough to support gaming for instance?  I would imaging that the plan is to have the stream be fed from the PC to the cable modem, which would then inject it onto the Coax network for the cable boxes to decode.  If this is not the case, and there is an intermediate processing step at Cablevision between the cable modem and the cable box, latency could suffer greatly.

Overscan? A lot of televisions do not display the entirety of a video feed, cutting off the edges.  How is Cablevision going to prevent the UI elements visible around the periphery of the PC screen, such as the start menu and control buttons for maximized windows, from being clipped off the edges of what is visible on TVs with overscan?  How will that fix be implemented so people using LCD or other TVs that do not overscan do not have black bars around the picture?

Security? Is this designed to be an always-on stream?  Will there be an indicator on the PC if the TV is currently viewing the stream?  What kind of system requirements will be necessary to stream a high quality video feed?

The PC to TV Media Relay is many months off from even testing, so hopefully we will get answers to these questions as time goes on.

It does sound very interesting though and I am looking forward to hearing more.

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