I'm not sure whether I should call the new Theatre HD Player Kodak's answer to Apple TV, but that's the best analogy I can come up with on short notice. Whether it is or not, Kodak is doing its best to get into your living room with a little Wi-Fi-enabled black box that connects to your HDTV, displays images and other multimedia content, and links directly to Kodak Gallery, the company's online photo-sharing service, and Flickr. Due to roll out in September, the Theatre HD Player will retail for $299.99 and continue to add features through firmware upgrades after it's launched.
Kodak calls the Theatre HD Player, "An interactive device displaying personal content--pictures, video, podcasts, music--and Web-based content on a HDTV, while wirelessly connecting to a household's private Wi-Fi network." In a nod to the Nintendo Wii's popularity, Kodak includes gyroscopic remote, and you navigate the onscreen menus much like you would with the Wiimote. Like Apple, Kodak has an alliance with YouTube for video content. RadioTime is onboard for streaming audio.
In its press release, Kodak notes that the "Theatre HD Player lets consumers relive their favorite, and even forgotten, memories in customized slide shows, incorporating their personal music and video collections, Internet Radio, plus online video- and photo-sharing sites. Consumers can also edit and upload images and videos to popular online content sharing sites on their HDTV from the comfort of their living room." It's able to display high-resolution still images in a 16:9 aspect ratio and 720p video through it's HDMI and component video connections.
I got a look at the unit last night at an event for the product's unveiling (along with a few other Kodak products) and thought it had some nice features and an elegant menu system. There's some promise here. However, the Theatre HD Player is going to pose a marketing challenge for Kodak. Company reps seemed to shrug off the fact that the little black box's price tag approaches that of the Playstation 3, which not only has built-in memory card slots (and a hard drive), a good photo viewing application, and the ability to play back music and video files from your computer, but there's that built-in Blu-ray player--and oh, it plays games and has a Web browser. In my humble opinion, this device needs to cost less than $200 and probably closer to $150 to be viable. Of course, I keep telling Apple TV reps the same thing about their device, but that hasn't seemed to have had much of an impact.