TiVo co-founders gear up for launch of their QPlay TV streamer

TiVo (S TIVO) co-founders Michael Ramsay and Jim Barton are going to release their new QPlay video streamer any day now. The duo’s company, dubbed Invisioneer, hasn’t officially revealed its plans yet. But it looks as if it is gearing up for an early adopter beta test, and as part of these efforts just published a demo video of the QPlay product as well as other interesting documents online.
qplay adapter
The demo video, which appeared on a subsection of QPlay’s website a few days ago, shows us how QPlay is going to work, as well as how the company is going to pitch the product: At the center of the offering is a red TV streaming box that looks a bit like an external hard drive, and connects via HDMI to a consumer’s TV. QPlay comes without a remote control instead using a dedicated iPad (s aapl) app that the company has been testing for some time.

QPlay's iPad app is the main remote control for the streaming device.

QPlay’s iPad app is the main remote control for the streaming device.

QPlay owners can use the app to start the playback of queues, which one can think of as playlists consisting of videos around a certain topic or from a certain publisher that auto-play, one after another. There is some social component to it, which allows QPlay users to share their queues with other users and access other users’ queues.
QPlay touts social sharing as a key feature.

QPlay touts social sharing as a key feature.

QPlay doesn’t stream from the iPad, but instead accesses videos directly from the internet. That makes it possible for clips to play after the iPad is turned off, similar to the way Google’s Chromecast works.
The narrator of QPlay’s demo video, who gets a lot more screen time than the actual product, calls it “like TV, but better,” and also makes it clear which audience Ramsay and Barton are shooting for with this product:

“And since the QPlay service is constantly adding popular programming, I’m thinking about dropping cable.”

qplay promo video pic
The whole demo is notably light on the actual content that is going to be accessible through the service. Here’s what the narrator has to say:

“[Queues] can contain any kind of video, like movies and TV shows, Vimeo (S IAC) and YouTube, (S GOOG) breaking news, even the latest from Facebook (S FB) and Twitter(S TWTR).”

We reported in December that QPlay was looking to also include premium video services like Hulu Plus and Netflix, (S NFLX) but the absence from this video makes me think all of that may not be available at launch. The video itself shows content from YouTube, Vimeo and Revision3 owner Discovery Digital.

Discovery Digital content is prominently mentioned in a demo video of the QPlay TV adapter - but there's no word on Netflix or Hulu Plus.

Discovery Digital content is prominently mentioned in a demo video of the QPlay TV adapter — but there’s no word on Netflix or Hulu Plus.

The QPlay website is officially still in pre-launch mode. But in recent days, a lot of additional details have been added, including the company’s terms of service and privacy policy. Both contain a fair amount of standard boilerplate legalese, but here’s a part of the TOS that’s pretty interesting:

“During this Early Adopter phase, use of the Service is free after purchase of the Qplay TV Adapter. We reserve the right to charge for our service in the future. You will always be informed of such changes and have the option to discontinue use of the Service before you incur any charges.”

This makes it seem as if Ramsay and Barton are considering adding additional paid service levels to QPlay in the future, which makes sense. There’s no word on the pricing of the QPlay adapter yet, but in order to compete with Chromecast & Co., the company will have to shoot for a low price tag and try to figure out other ways to make money. Even at a low price, though, it’s unclear whether QPlay will really have a chance to differentiate itself from the pack, especially with Amazon (S AMZN) looking to get into the market as well.