The Internet is coming to the flat-screen TV in your living room, and one of the devices that’s making this possible is the set-top box provided by your cable TV company. A new report estimates that hybrid set-top boxes will be worth $1.4 billion by 2014.
The $300 SlingCatcher connects to your TV and plays back video files from various sources, including your PC, a USB drive, or one of Sling Media’s Slingboxes. Setting it up is simple: Connect it to your TV (via HDMI, composite, component, or S-Video), connect it to your network via Ethernet, and plug it in. If your TV is not in the same room as your router, you’ll want a set of Sling Links: These extend the reach of your network over your powerlines. They’re simple to use (and a much better option that snaking a 100-meter Ethernet cord throughout your house), but they start at $80.
Where some set-top boxes link to your PC and let you access the video files remotely, the SlingCatcher takes a different tactic. You install an app called SlingProjector onto any PC on the same network (Windows only, so Mac users are out of luck), which displays any active video content on your PC onto your TV. Read More about SlingCatcher Mostly Impresses
2008 was supposed to be the year when Internet video finally reached the living room, thanks to a whole bunch of set-top boxes. Part of that mix was supposed to be P2P, either in the form of distributed streaming, or good old BitTorrent downloads. Well, guess what: It hasn’t really happened — at least not on a large scale. Most of us still watch YouTube and Hulu on our laptops, and file-sharing continues to be almost exclusively PC-based.
So whatever happened to all those P2P set-top boxes that were supposed to revolutionize not only how we watch video, but also how those bits reach our living room? With the year coming to a close, we decided to check back, report about progress (and failures) and give an outlook for the fate of these boxes in 2009.
It’s just unreasonable to expect that people need a TiVo, VUDU, Roku, Slingbox, Apple TV, and a PC sitting next to their TV — though to get every last bit of their functionality combined that’s really what you need to do. What if you could get your TV, your DVR, your web video, your personal media sharing, and your place-shifting from device to device and TV set to TV set all powered by a single set-top box?
An all-in-one device is the promise of the new Janus from San Mateo, Calif.-based Entone, a nine-year-old company that sold off its VOD business for $45 million to Harmonic in 2006. The company recently raised a $14.5 million Series B round for its new focus on IPTV.
Janus, which will be out in trials soon and fully available next year, will only be sold through Entone’s operator partners. The idea to enable them to provide a cheaper and more flexible alternative to cable TV offerings, with everything transmitted over the open Internet rather than with a dedicated pipe into the home. It’s something similar to what French Telecom does in France, according to Entone CEO Steve McKay. “We’re stealing from that concept and making it available in the United States,” he said. Entone, with its previous product called Hydra, claims to be second in U.S. IPTV box market share to Motorola — but it doesn’t even have any deployments in California, where it’s based. So while it doesn’t have to go the retail route, it’s not like the Janus will exactly be widely available.
Here’s a video we shot last week at Entone HQ of McKay demonstrating the new device.