Panasonic details plans for Firefox OS TVs

Panasonic shared a few more details on its Firefox-OS powered TVs this week, announcing that Firefox OS will be used for six different models in its 2015 line of TV sets. The company still didn’t say when exactly these TVs are going to be available, or how much they will cost, but it did share a few more tidbits on features available on the platform.

Panasonic’s Firefox OS TVs will feature a relatively simple UI, dubbed My Homescreen 2.0, that will allow users to pin their favorite apps and content sources and quickly access them from the launch screen. TV channels can also be sorted by favorites, and there will be some universal search functionality for apps and local content. Panasonic will also add some kind of multiscreen functionality to send content from “a Firefox browser or other compatible application,” but it’s unclear what other apps would be compatible, and what kind of underlying multiscreen technology the TVs are going to use.

Panasonic isn’t the only one using Firefox OS for the TV screen. Matchstick has been working on a Firefox OS-powered dongle that directly competes with Google’s Chromecast. The startup initially wanted to ship its streaming stick to Kickstarter backers this month, but is now aiming for an August release date.

Panasonic first showed off its Firefox OS-powered TV at CES this year. Check the video below for a first demo:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=midsZK1Q0RU]

Matchstick streaming stick delays shipping to get Netflix and faster chips

Matchstick’s Kickstarter backers will have to wait a bit longer to get the Firefox OS-based streaming stick: Matchstick is delaying shipments until August, the company announced Friday.

Matchstick wants to use that time to put digital rights management (DRM) in place — a key requirement to get premium video apps like Netflix — and also update its hardware to a faster chipset. Originally, Matchstick wanted to ship first devices to backers in February.

In an update posted to Kickstarter Friday, Matchstick said it has been exploring a number of new applications for the streaming stick that would require higher local processing power. That’s why Matchstick is now planning to ship with a quad-core chipset as opposed to the dual-core Rockchip CPU that was originally announced when the company launched its Kickstarter campaign back in late September.

I had a chance to see some of those applications during a brief demo in San Francisco on Thursday: Matchstick Content Manager Dan Lee showed me the prototype of a video conferencing app that would use a phone’s camera in conjunction with the TV display as well as a second-screen app that displayed contextual information relevant to what was showing on TV on the phone.

Lee also said that a big focus for the coming months will be DRM. Matchstick has decided to use Microsoft’s Playready DRM in order to get access to Netflix and other premium content services. As a Firefox OS-based device, it has to build a lot of things from scratch to make content protection work, and Lee said that Matchstick intends to contribute code it develops to integrate DRM schemes back to the open source community.

By embracing DRM, Matchstick does follow in Mozilla’s footprints. The browser maker has only recently begun to implement DRM for its browser in order to not lose out on Netflix as the video service is switching from Flash to HTML5. However, Mozilla’s decision has also been heavily criticized by DRM foes, and some of Matchstick’s backers may feel the same about the company’s decision.

To get ready for the now-delayed launch, Matchstick is also planning to staff up and raise some funding for its U.S. operations. Currently, the company employs about a dozen engineers in Beijing and 6 employees in Santa Clara.

Check out this video I shot earlier last year, before the product as officially announced, for a first glimpse at Matchstick:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS0VUOfrycw]

TCL and Philips add Firefox OS-based Chromecast competitor to TVs

Matchstick, the Firefox OS-based Chromecast competitor that made waves on Kickstarter last year, is teaming up with TCL and Philips/AOC to integrate its technology into TVs, monitors and set-top boxes. Matchstick CEO Jack Chang told me at CES in Las Vegas Monday that he expects these new partners to ship around one million devices powered by Matchstick’s multiscreen technology this year.

At the core of the partnership between [company]Matchstick[/company], [company]TCL[/company] and [company]Philips[/company] is Flint, a new technology that brings multiscreen interaction to Firefox OS-powered TV devices. Flint is essentially Matchstick’s answer to Google Cast, with the key difference that it is completely open source, allowing anyone to build Flint-capable hardware or software. “With Flint, we are hoping to extend to all kinds of consumer electronics devices,” Chang said.

Chang said both TCL and Philips already have devices that are powered by the same chipset as the original Matchstick streaming stick, which made it easy to port Flint. TV sets and other devices from TCL and Philips will still run their own native apps, but also offer multiscreen interaction through Flint as an added benefit, Chang explained. Flint-powered devices from TCL and Philips are expected to be available as early as Q2, and Chang told me that both companies would make them available worldwide.

At CES, Matchstick is unveiling Flint with a number of demos, which include HTML, Android and Firefox OS apps capable of flinging content to the TV. As with Chromecast, Flint is capable of handing off interaction to the cloud, so that users can launch media playback on their phone, and then do something else or even turn the phone off, with playback continuing on their TVs.

Unlike Chromecast, it will also allow ad-hoc mode, meaning that users will be able to stream directly to the device without the need for any internet connectivity — something that will come in handy for travelers looking to watch videos in their hotel room.

Word about a Firefox OS-based Chromecast competitor first got out when I got hold of one of these devices last June. Matchstick then started a Kickstarter for its streaming stick in October, and raised some $470,000 in the process. The company is expected to ship its first streaming sticks in February.

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