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New products cater to YouTube-loving generation

Get the scoop on hot new products that give you access to YouTube content on screens other than your PC.

If you are like many of the students that I speak to, you have a handful of LCD displays around you – on your mobile phones, iPods, laptops and other assorted gadgets. That being said, you probably have no desire to own or watch traditional television. For the Facebook-addicted, iTunes-loving generation, television is “too push” and YouTube has become your source for on-demand “video snacking.”

Gone are the days of watching whole shows; it’s now about enjoying the relevant content. The generation of fast-food dinner consumers has their own brand of fast-consumption video content and this audience justified Google paying $1.65 billion for the video site in the fall of 2006.

This being said, when you are ready to buy a high definition television (HDTV), watching YouTube videos on your laptop may not be the best way to enjoy the content for either a “rich experience” or access to these videos on the go. Fortunately, there are now a handful of products that provide YouTube content on screens other than your PC. This is not the first time that there has been a battle for data connected devices in the living room. Many, other than video game consoles, have failed in the market but none had supported YouTube until now.

The first product to allow YouTube content on a television was the NETGEAR EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD ($349). This living room device will also find music, videos and photos on your network PCs or storage devices or even an attached USB thumb drive and display them on a television. Once your PC is running the Digital Entertainer software, you will be able to watch the full library of YouTube videos. Unfortunately, a PC is required to sit in the middle of “the transaction” and decode the video from the YouTube Web site, and then pass it through your wireless network to the television decoder. This makes the setup a bit more complex, but gives access to the full library of videos within the site.

Apple announced its iTV product at Macworld in January 2007, then released it as the AppleTV in March. This product oozes both physical style and a beautiful on-screen user interface, but is only compatible with HDTV television supporting component or the latest digital HDMI inputs. The internal 40 ($299) or 160 gigabyte ($399) hard drive syncs with your computer running iTunes so you can watch some of your videos, pictures or music with your computer off or out of the house.

The ability to watch YouTube content, which was enabled by a free software upgrade (version 1.1) in late June of 2007, enables the AppleTV to stream those videos directly from the Internet. It does not require a computer in the middle of the connection to perform the transcoding process, but you will only be able to watch those videos that have been transcoded by the staff at YouTube to the H.264 format – something that is taking place at their discretion. This means that some of your favorite videos you have found on your PC may not be available on the AppleTV immediately. They are working to make more videos available for this platform however.

The most noise in the gadget universe came from the iPhone with its built-in YouTube icon from the home “deck” of the device. However, you will need to have your phone connected to a WiFi hot spot.

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