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Bittorrent goes legit: Online Marketplace to debut in February

Bittorrent's CEO offers some tantalizing hints about the company's new premium Online Marketplace--and how it will work with the forthcoming Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD.

As part of the CES announcement of its promising EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD, Netgear announced a partnership with file-sharing upstart Bittorrent. Ashwin Navin, cofounder and CEO of Bittorrent, sat down with MarketWatch editor Bambi Francisco to discuss how the Netgear/Bittorrent combine hopes to battle Apple's forthcoming Apple TV. While the interview is short on technical details, Navin offers some interesting previews of where Bittorrent is headed. The company's new Online Marketplace will offer more than 10,000 titles from content partners including "3 major studios and about 25 indepedent and foreign studios," which Navin hopes will convert the service's existing user base of 135 million users into "legal and paying customers." Moreover, Navin implies that Bittorrent plans to partner with any and all hardware providers, holding out the possibility that Bittorrent-compatible will be more of an industry-wide standard rather than a closed proprietary option.

Sounds promising, but a lot remains left unsaid. Will Bittorrent offer content that's not available at the iTunes Store? How many of those 10,000 titles will be in high-def? Will they be copy-protected using Windows Media DRM? And how much will they cost? There are some things we can infer, however: with no hard drive built into the Netgear, the Bittorrent content--legal or illegal--will need to be downloaded to a networked PC before it's streamed to the Digital Entertainer HD in the living room. In other words, don't expect to click and stream. But thanks to the Netgear's compatibility with YouTube videos, at least you'll have some instant gratification available while you wait for the Bittorrent movie to download.