Venice Project Beta preview

venice-logo-1.pngThe big buzz in software currently surrounds peer-to-peer and streaming television. TV is big business and companies like Microsoft have spent years trying to get us to watch it on our computers. For a while, it looked as if the public were resolutely committed to a separation of TV and PC but with the advent of YouTube, BitTorrent and the iTunes store, more and more users seem to be happy watching TV shows on the smaller screen. Clearly, though, with the exception of Apple’s deals with various TV networks and movie studios, the popular, viral content distribution model is far from what Microsoft envisioned 10 years ago.

For those of you who haven’t heard of The Venice Project, we’ve already prepared a brief summary of what it does. Since then, we’ve finally had an opportunity to try the program and we were really impressed by what we saw. Bound by the confines of a seriously strict non-disclosure agreement, we have to be pretty careful with what we say… but there are some aspects of the program we couldn’t resist sharing with you.

On starting TVP, it’s immediately obvious that this is a member of that new generation of applications: the hybrid between old fashioned desktop apps and modern ‘web 2.0’ software. The stylish, minimal-yet-chunky design makes excellent use of transparencies and overlays to provide a very modern web feel to the program. The main menus can be hidden or shown with ease and are a snap to navigate.

Naturally, there are two key considerations with software like TVP: what sort of content does it have and is the video of a high enough quality? It’s still early days for The Venice Project but it already looks as if its developers have had some success attracting content providers to this new distribution method. While there’s no ‘premium quality’ content from the likes of HBO or ABC, the channels currently available offer a glimpse of what might be to come. And with new content being added daily, TVP ensures that we keep going back to it to check what’s on.

Image quality has always stood in the way of internet TV’s breakthrough but we’re rapidly approaching the point where compression technologies and – more importantly – bandwidth availability make P2P TV a viable alternative to the airwaves. TVP’s video quality is good. It’s not great but we imagine that with more users on board, quality will rocket up to match the quality of sound on offer. Once started, channels rarely jumped or paused for buffering… and contrary to what we’ve read elsewhere, we didn’t see a single pop-up advertisement.

The Venice Project is still a baby but from what we’ve seen of it, it’s going to be a giant in no time. This isn’t just competition for YouTube… it’s competition for traditional TV – and for the first time, we can see internet content distribution really succeeding.

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