by Andrew Robinson 

You may know that portable digital video is available now, at least in some fashion. Apple’s iTunes Music Store has been selling U.S. television shows since October, with an huge increase in the last month, for your video-capa­ble iPod, albeit in the U.S. only so far. Sony’s Playstation Portable can play Sony movies that you buy on Sony for­matted media, and there are some other downloadable video initiatives that have cropped up, none which look too promising. Back in the States, there are systems like ReplayTV and TiVo, which allow one to record television shows to hard drive, skipping television commercials and recording multiple channels, for viewing at a later time. All this isn’t new, but it’s the convergence of all of the above that piques my interest.

I’ve had a video-capable iPod for months now. I love it. Besides music and photos, I now watch television shows I’ve transferred off of DVDs I have to my iPod, allowing me to watch episodes of Stargate SG-1 or 24 on the way to and from work. Where is this leading?

A friend of mine recently came back to Tokyo. He likes watching television after work and the hotel television wasn’t that interesting after three weeks last time he was here. So, this trip, I was interested in seeing how he had set up things to watch the Superbowl or Battlestar Galactica while over here. Suffice to say that he had no less than three different ways to watch television, direct from his house in Connecticut — All legal, all low cost and very do-able today. With him, I watched video, both steaming live and pre-recorded, wirelessly on his laptop and on his Sony PSP in his hotel room. I don’t have space to detail how this was done, but keep in mind that first there are people like my friend, who piece together disparate pieces of technology to come up with novel solutions. Then there inevitably follows companies that streamline such ideas into solutions for the rest of us. Write these names down: A convergence of systems from companies like Slingbox, ReplayTV, TiVo with a server to download them securely over the ‘net, gives us a peek at what’s coming to a portable video unit near you. Recorded video from your televi­sion or your DVD, moved to your laptop at work or your iPod on the train, and viewable on demand.