Zviewer offers an almost-useful full screen browser for web video

Web sites like Hulu, YouTube, and TV network sites turn your computer into a sort of video on demand terminal. Missed last week's episode of The Office? Just go online and watch it for free. That's all well and good when you're sitting in front a web browser. But what if you want to watch TV from the comfort of your couch?

ZeeVee is a company that offers offers an overpriced $499 set top box that you can stick next to your TV to your computer to grab internet video which you can then transmit to your HDTV for viewing with a remote control instead of a keyboard. Today the company released a beta version of its Zviewer software for PC so that you can try the interface for free on your computer. And if your computer already happens to be plugged into your TV like mine is, and you already happen to have a wireless remote control like I do, there's no reason to pay a dime.

So I was pretty excited to take Zviewer for a spin. But after playing around with it for a few minutes, the excitement has dissipated. First of all, the software is really designed for users with HDTV displays. The menu text is really too small to read on a standard definition TV. I know that the digital cutoff is coming soon, but would it have been that tough to let users toggle between high resolution and lower resolution modes?

Second, the Zviewer browser is basically a frontend for Firefox 3.0.3. That's good, in that it means any web video you can play in Firefox you can also play with Zviewer. But it also means that once you find the program you're looking for using the custom Zviewer interface, you click play and a version of Firefox opens up. If you have a $130 ZvRemote control that's designed to let you navigate the web pages without a keyboard and mouse, you're golden. If you have a standard media center remote control, things might be a bit more complicated.

Zviewer certainly shows promise. The software has the potential to turn your computer and television set into an easy to use video on demand terminal that's reliable enough for you to cancel your cable or satellite subscription. But today it's still just a bit too awkward to use unless you shell out the cash for ZeeVee's custom hardware.

Zviewer is free while in beta and is available for Windows only. A Mac version is expected soon.

[via ZatzNotFunny]

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