The Akimbo Player is a $200 set-top box that provides access to the company's broadband video service. When it becomes available in June 2004, the player will allow users to download and view a variety of popular and specialized programming on their televisions for a monthly $10 fee.
Upside: Browsing programming choices through a simple onscreen interface, users choose to download videos from Akimbo's various partners: everything from CinemaNow's library of more than 3,000 Hollywood films to specialized content such as Africa Movies, Billiard Club Network, and GolfSpan. A built-in parental-control system keeps racier offerings such as Danni's Hard Drive and Naked News from inquisitive young eyes. The player's hard drive can store up to 200 hours of video using a highly compressed (1.5MB per second) Windows Media Player 9.0 format.
Downside: The quality is far better than that of the streaming Webcasts you'll see on your PC, but this isn't video on demand--you have to wait for the programming to download before being able to view it. Akimbo is pushing the "all you can eat" nature of its programming but acknowledges that future partners may opt for pay-per-view charges above and beyond the flat monthly fee. And thanks to built-in digital rights management, the downloaded movies can't be easily archived to DVD.
Outlook: Akimbo is bowing its service with its own hardware but may opt to bundle it with other network-enabled hard disk devices, such as DVRs. Either way, its success of the service will no doubt be determined by the demand for the company's programming.
Editor's note: Josh Goldman, CEO of Akimbo, previously served as president of CNET's consumer division.