Digital 5, Inc. of San Francisco, California, has introduced a new home multimedia-networking device that can be set up and used by the non-technically gifted. Known as Netplay, this device enables multimedia on a home PC server to be scanned and consolidated into a unified media database, then streamed directly to a DVD player (or other consumer electronic device) in real time and viewed and/or listened to immediately on that DVD player. Netplay consists of client-server hardware and software that embeds network technology into consumer electronic friendly platforms. This hardware and software creates a peer network in a home to enable streaming multimedia (pictures, video, music) from the Netplay Server (usually a PC) to the Netplay Client (DVD player or other consumer device, even a radio). The Client software receives the streamed data from the network, presents it to the decoder chip, which decodes the stream and plays it on the Client device (DVD player, etc.). Netplay has an intuitive user interface that appears on the device connected to the DVD player and is accessed by a consumer-friendly remote control. In a Netplay-enabled home, various types of media can be shared throughout the home through any consumer electronic device.
With Netplay, multiple users are able to access media from the central Netplay-enabled network Server and send it to another playback device elsewhere in the home (a Netplay Client Server device). The hardware addition of a PC card slot and a small ASIC transmit "glue logic" to a midrange DVD player that enables it to be a Netplay DVD. This is very functional, as the Netplay technology is already embedded into the MPEG decoder chip found on the DVD motherboard and the consumer doesn't have to purchase any additional processors or media player chips. The Netplay Servers and Netplay Client Server devices can be either wired or wireless.
The innovative Netplay device is also very affordable. The embedding of Netplay directly into the MPEG chip adds only about $20 to the cost, while a Netplay midrange DVD player retails from $125 to $200 US. For wired Ethernet networking between Netplay Servers and Netplay Clients, the hardware components are as low as $10 US; and for wireless networking, an 802.11(b) wireless card currently costs about $50 US. An 802.11(a) wireless card currently costs $100 US, but the prices of both the (a) and (b) types of wireless cards are falling and should cost less in 2003. Since Netplay is "network agnostic," it can be embedded to utilize either a wired or wireless connection.
The Netplay Server device brings together the media stored on a PC and makes it playable throughout a home on various Netplay Client Servers (television or other electronic devices throughout a home). While this capability has been available through the use of complex networking, until now only the technically gifted could design a home network similar to this. Netplay makes it easier for the rest of us to have streaming media and video access without having to possess a Computer Science degree.