Unfortunately, Monsoon Multimedia’s Vulkano wasn’t greeted with the warmest reception upon launch last fall. I was fired up with the Vulkano’s promise when I was briefed pre-release at CES 2010, yet the reality didn’t live up to my possibly unreasonable expectations. I’d christened it a “Godbox” given it’s myriad capabilities – time shifting, placeshifting, local media playback, and Internet-sourced content. But, as we know, good ideas aren’t enough.
But Monsoon’s been listening to the feedback and continuing to broker deals. The firmware has seen improvement and the that work is ongoing. In fact, the Vulkano setup experience continues to be optimized (or is that humanized) and it sounds like streaming, versus copying, of DVR-ed content is under development. YouTube’s pretty lonely as the sole Internet app, yet I hear Monsoon is having discussions with several video providers (the usual suspects) and a selection of Yahoo TV widgets may make an appearance this spring.
Although the Vulkano is relatively new, Monsoon’s got two new devices (and perhaps additional distribution deals) on tap for early 2011. The existing product will be retired and replaced by the Vulkano Blast and the Vulkano Flow. The enclosure remains the same, but there will be some slight internal modifications (such as a new board) to improve the experience and lower the price.
The Vulkano Blast ($199) is essentially the current Vulkano, but it may one day possess the ability to stream high def… in high def (yes!) and will ship with an internal 2.5″ 160GB drive to more elegantly support the DVR functionality. Of course, you’ll still be free to augment storage with various external drives – either to increase your recording space or to conveniently load up your own multimedia. Beyond the current and announced Internet apps, Monsoon intends to offer a full-on browser which can be controlled via smartphone or perhaps some sort of WiFi keyboard. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a definitive answer if they’d spoof desktop browsers enabling us to get in on some Hulu.com action.
The Vulkano Flow is a pure placeshifter. And at $99, with 802.11n, it’ll be hard to beat, comparing quite favorably to Sling Media’s stagnant and more pricey low end offering (SOLO). Monsoon is positioning the Flow as a “mobile accessory,” which makes a lot of sense given how the smartphone market has exploded and Monsoon’s wide array of mobile clients. In fact, they intend to expand their lineup with a Windows Phone 7 client in Q1.
In conjunction with Monsoon’s new, lower hardware pricing, the formerly free mobile apps will move to $10/each. All in all, this one time payment seems very reasonable – and again Vulkano Flow compares quite favorably to the competition, where Sling charges a lofty $30 for their mobile clients.
As (each) launch approaches, I expect to receive loaner Vulkanos. Unlike the last go around, I hope to do something with them to better guide your geeky purchases.