Hardware makers ally with BitTorrent for European, Asian invasions

As BitTorrent rockets past the 150 million active user mark, the company fires off several manufacturing deals that will put the file-sharing protocol on a plethora of hardware including set-top boxes, TVs, and media players in Asia and Europe.

BitTorrent will be available this year on numerous televisions, set-top boxes, and other devices in Asia and Europe. BitTorrent, Inc.

LAS VEGAS--A phalanx of deals involving the commanding general of torrent protocols, BitTorrent, and next-generation hardware marched into CES 2012 today, the unofficial Day Zero of the show. BitTorrent also announced that more than 150 million people used sibling programs BitTorrent and uTorrent last month, making them by far the most popular torrent clients around.

Following up on the announcement from CES 2011 that it would partner with hardware manufacturers to ship their devices with torrent support built in, BitTorrent revealed four companies based in Europe, Russia, and Asia that have prepared new hardware that automatically works with the current BitTorrent program. BitTorrent-certified devices from these companies will carry the BitTorrent logo.

This is more than another hardware partnership, however. In the wake of much negative news about people using torrents to illegally share media files, BitTorrent has spent much of the past two years rebranding itself as a way to easily exchange large-file homemade movies and photos, as well as legally owned entertainment files. In addition to the hardware partnerships, the past year has seen BitTorrent create its first paid upgrade, an Android app, a Web-based interface aimed at iOS users, and explore live-streaming using torrent file-transferring protocol.

Shahi Ghanem, chief strategy officer at BitTorrent said in a written statement, "Peer-based computing is the fastest way to send these huge files over the Internet." This dovetails with the expanded abilities of smartphones, HD camcorders, and dSLRs to record high-quality files that easily can clear multiple gigabytes of space, either individually or taken as a group.

One of the four partner companies is BBK Electronics, little-known outside of the Russian market but massive on its home turf. BBK's devices that will carry the BitTorrent Certified logo include televisions, Blu-ray and DVD players, and media adapters. "Our customers would like to easily playback hi-def content on their TVs and share it with friends. Now thanks to BitTorrent Certification, BBK devices are equipped with a compelling technology ecosystem for personal media," BBK representative Evgeny Zemskov wrote in a prepared statement.

Another company allying with BitTorrent is AirTies, which makes network-attached storage (NAS) devices, set-top boxes, and routers for Europe, Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey. AirTies is also providing a firmware update to existing customers so that they don't have to buy new hardware to get torrent-compatible devices.

The two other manufacturers siding with BitTorrent include Dune HD, which makes media players for the European and Asia markets, and Antik, a Slovakian company, which makes televisions and other devices that are Internet-ready using a protocol called IPTV. Antik is also known for its Juice product line of custom TV firmware and control boxes, and the company says that Juice will integrate smoothly with BitTorrent.

At the time of writing, none of the companies involved have revealed how much any of the BitTorrent-enabled devices will cost at retail.

BitTorrent claimed more than 152 million active users across four operating systems in December 2011, with more than 132 million people using uTorrent and more than 20 million people on BitTorrent itself. uTorrent works on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android, while BitTorrent runs on Windows and Mac.

Editor's note: Using P2P and file-sharing software to distribute copyrighted material without authorization is illegal in the United States and many other countries. CNET and CBS Interactive do not encourage or condone the illegal duplication or distribution of copyrighted content.

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