If there's been an underlying theme to consumer electronics in the past year, it's been this: audiences are looking for easier ways to view Web video on their big-screen TVs. That's really the promise of widget- and app-enabled TVs, Blu-ray players, game consoles, and Roku boxes, as well as the coming wave of specialized products such as Boxee, Apple TV, and Google TV. And it's exactly the market for which newcomer Veebeam is aiming as well.
Veebeam can most accurately be described as a PC-to-TV video streamer. Plug the included USB dongle into your laptop, and whatever's on your computer screen will be streamed wirelessly to the Veebeam box that's connected to your TV--without the need for any convoluted wireless networking setup. For what it's worth, the HD version of the box supports output up to full 1080p HD video. Two modes will be offered: "screencasting," which mirrors the display on the laptop screen, and "play-to" mode, which presumably treats the TV as a second monitor (allowing you to use the PC for other tasks in the meantime, while simultaneously streaming the view).
We've seen this sort of "screen scraping" or "screen projecting" products before--the Slingcatcher and the Warpia Wireless USB PC to TV come to mind. But Veebeam can probably best be considered more of an alternative to Intel's Wireless Display technology. We've had good luck with Wireless Display, but not everyone is going to want to buy a new laptop (and the required wireless receiver) in order to get it. By comparison, Veebeam is said to be compatible with any existing Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Mac OS X (10.5 and above) machine.
Like those models mentioned above, the Veebeam's primary advantage is that it can stream anything you can view on your PC screen. There should be no worrying about compatibility or supported services as there is with set-top boxes, apps, and widgets. If you want to watch Hulu, Comedy Central, or anything else, just dial it up in the browser.
Just as important, Veebeam's priced to move. Two models will be available--the $99 Veebeam SD and the $139 Veebeam HD (which adds an HDMI output). That puts the HD model at higher price points than the Apple TV and Roku boxes, but the premium is ostensibly for the total lack of viewing restrictions that those proprietary devices entail. (The trade-off, of course, is that neither the Roku nor the Apple TV require you to have a computer on hand.)
Veebeam is scheduled to be formally unveiled later this week at the Demo conference in Santa Clara. The product will be available for sale soon after on Veebeam's web site and Amazon.com, with distribution in North America and Europe. We hope to have a full hands-on review soon.