Some things about watching TV on the Internet are pretty convenient — like the fact that you can watch what you want when you want. Some things, however, are not — like the fact that content you want to watch is all over the place, and you have to go looking for it. Wouldn’t it be great if someone collected all of that great Internet TV content and put it one place?
That’s the idea behind ZViewer, an application that works as a portal into the world of Internet TV but is designed to be used from your couch — not just while sitting at your PC. At this point, ZViewer is still in need of some fine tuning. But, if the company can deliver on what it promises to add, I think I’ll like what I see.
ZViewer, available today in its first beta version, gives you access to a variety of sites and services that offer TV shows and videos, such as Hulu.com, Amazon’s Video on Demand, ABC.com and iTunes. You don’t have to go out to each site and application individually; ZViewer collects the sources of Internet TV and video content and puts them in one place, for easy access.
Once you choose TV shows and videos, they don’t run within ZViewer; the application instead links you to the site or service that is offering the show. If you want to look for a show in iTunes, ZViewer will launch iTunes for you — or link you to the location where you can find it for download. If you want to watch Grey’s Anatomy, meanwhile, a ZViewer browser window (the app is based on Mozilla’s Firefox browser) will display the same collection of ABC shows that you’d see if you went to ABC’s site yourself. ZViewer cuts down the number of links you have to click, though, saving you the time and hassle of finding your way to the right page on ABC’s site. You’re still required to sit through any ads that the content providers show — and you still have to pay for content if the provider charges for it.
ZViewer isn’t the only aggregator of Internet TV and video. Modern Feed offers links to shows, which are organized by title, category, networks and mobile formats. It also allows you to search — a feature that ZViewer is sorely lacking at this point, but which the company says will be added in future versions. Prime Time Rewind also offers a hub for online video programming, much like ZViewer, but adds some social networking features.
Where ZViewer differentiates itself is in its ability to make the transition from your PC to your living room. The app can be used on any Windows PC (and the company says a Mac version is in the works), but its bright, blocky interface is designed to be displayed on a big screen TV. Seen from 10 feet away, all of its icons and text are easy to read. (The same can’t be said of ABC.com, for example.)
ZViewer is from ZeeVee — the Littleton, Mass.-based company behind the ZVBox, a media extender that’s designed to let you view your PC’s contents on your TV. ZeeVee is hoping you will use one of its devices to connect your PC to your TV, and the app includes links to information about purchasing a ZvBox. I had less than stellar results when I tested out the ZvBox, so I was glad to hear that you don’t need one of the devices; you can access the software through a PC that is directly connected to a big screen TV or linked via another media extender.
You can control the ZViewer app using a keyboard and mouse, or with a Media Center remote control. ZeeVee also plans to offers its own remote control product in the coming months.
ZViewer is currently a limited beta — and it shows. While having one source for all of my Internet TV content is a great start, I’d love to be able to search through the shows so I can find out what’s available. Another nice addition would be the ability to see the newest titles; ZeeVee says that’s in the works, too. If it can evolve this application into one that not only collects sources of content, but also tells me what’s on where, it’s one I’d use — even on my PC.