Will MediaSmart “Connect” With Consumers?

The set-top box wars are heating as HP goes from just talking about its MediaSmart Connect to actually putting it on the market. We already know a bit about the device: It plugs into your HD TV and allows you to wirelessly access your digital media stored on different PCs (music, video, photos) or other UPnP or DLNA devices, it’ll let you rent movies directly through CinemaNow, and you’ll be able to watch YouTube videos through it, among other things.

Now we know the price. All this can be yours for an MSRP of $349, with the Connect available for pre-order starting today. But before you rush out to place your order, take note: It only works with Windows (Vista and XP, thankfully), and it can’t grab Apple DRM’d content.

Will this be enough for HP to make its mark in the space? Without a hands-on review, it’s too soon to say, but it’s not looking great. The price is in line with the Apple TV, which hasn’t exactly been a breakthrough product. TiVo already offers movie rentals through Unbox and soon CinemaNow. And companies like Panasonic are building media functions like YouTube directly into TVs, promising to eliminate the set-top box altogether.