SanDisk’s Video Salvo

If your home is like mine, then you have a multi-megabit broadband connection, one or more HD capable TV sets, a wired or wireless home network and one or more PCs (ok mine aren’t all PCs–6 of them are Macs, and one PC running FreeBSD).

While having 7 computers, takes my home out of the norm (is it the number of computers or the fact that 6 of them are Macs?), my home suffers the same dilemma as the average consumer’s home. There is a gaping digital chasm between the personal computer and the television set.

There are several ways to watch downloaded programs and movies on the living room TV. Methods typically involve the transfer of video files over a home network from a computer to some gadget (I have an Apple TV, does that count as another computer?) connected to the TV. But few of them are easy, trust me I have tried them all.

The maker of the Sansa, a distant No. 2 to the iPod, has a new way to view downloaded content on a TV. It could turn up the heat on Apple.

SanDisk CEO Eli Harari says launching Fanfare has less to do with attacking Apple in a potentially tender spot than about establishing a toehold in an incipient market. “The video market right now is just embryonic,” he says. “Media companies have spent a great deal of money creating their content and they don’t want anyone to tell them how to sell it. And we agree with them.”

For David Poltrack, president of CBS Vision, the TV broadcaster’s research division, it’s a matter of getting the networks’ programming in places that consumers will use it. “When we tested the SanDisk product it clearly resonated with consumers,” Poltrack says. “There are other ways to do this with more sophisticated products, but because of cost and complexity they’re not as attractive. This is going to be selling at Wal-Mart (WMT).”

Combining the TakeTV device with the Fanfare service creates the means of tracking ads, he says. “When you plug in that device to the computer and sign in to the service it knows who you are,” he says. “Having people say these are the categories of ads they’re interested in—that opens up a lot of ways for advertisers to use this medium creatively.”

Taking a low-tech approach on PC-to-TV transfers could make a big difference to consumers weary of technical complexity, says Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg. “We know consumers want to watch downloaded video on their TVs. But the biggest weakness is the complexity of the home network,” he says. “This takes the maddening complexity of the home network out of the equation.”

Sounds like a hit to me.

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