New Google gadget makes you the 'media server'

Google recently launched what it's calling a media server gadget, a new Windows-only application designed to send videos and images from a user's computer to any universal plug and play (uPnP) device.

Typical uPnP devices include the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, and the number of uPnPs available to consumers is growing dramatically. Google Media Server should auto detect all uPnP devices connected to the computer, so users should only have to install and briefly configure the gadget before it works on its own.

The Mountain View-based company designed the gadget to work with version 5 or later of its Google Desktop software, which lets users launch applications and files with single keystrokes, easily find information in e-mails and documents, and search computers.

"Google Media Server is a Windows application that aims to bridge the gap between Google and your TV," reads a blog post yesterday from Google software engineer David Garcia, who may be using that term "TV" a little loosely considering that not all TVs have UPnP. Along with sharing pictures and videos, Garcia said it's also possible to watch YouTube videos streaming from the Internet directly to the display device.

The Google Media Server control panel allows the administrator to set up permissions for the device so any device or only selected devices have access to the server.

Since the gadget is still very early in its development, users may find bugs in the software, and Google has a feedback page so users are able to share their thoughts on what they like and don't like about Media Server. So consider this an unofficial beta.

Of courts, there are a number of other, more mature programs available for users to connect their PCs and TVs together. Furthermore, more users are simply using a DVI or HDMI port to connect their PC directly to the TV so they can use their TV as a glorified monitor to watch movies and share images. Google hopes to compete with these services because its software is free, and it also should be easier to configure than some of the more complicated software solutions already on the market.

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