Oakland, Calif. -
launched Wednesday a hockey-puck-shaped Internet TV set-top device that enables watching online movies and TV shows on connected TV screens, just you would from a PC.
The Orb TV system joins Orb's previously launched Orb Music product, which delivers Internet music to connected stereo devices.
The new Orb combines the functionality of Orb Music with video and still image content for the TV sets.
Its advantage over some other systems on the market is a low adoption price ($99 retail from the Orb.com website), and the ability to bring PC-centric content streaming to the TV, both from the PC's storage system and from selected Internet entertainment service partners.
In some cases the Orb system enables users to bypass extra fees that are applied to content viewed on TVs but not PCs, the company said.
"We think we put together a complete solution offering the things that people really, really want at the right price point," said Joe Costello, Orb Networks CEO and founder. "Our device is also super simple to set up and control."
What's somewhat unusual is that Orb TV does not include a remote control, relying instead on users downloading a smartphone app to their iPhone, Android, iPad or iPod Touch devices to send user commands to the Orb box.
Users must also install special software, called Orb Caster, on an existing PC and leave the PC running when using the device to view content on the TV screen.
The software enables Orb to replicate the PC experience on the TV, such as selecting Hulu to play TV shows without the Hulu Plus subscription fee requirement.
"We found that the No. 1 thing people want on their TV is Hulu -- they want that good quality, premium TV content that they have on the Web for their PC," Costello explained. "We provide that experience -- not Hulu Plus, and not some sub-set of things, and it can't be blocked. The approach that we have taken is one that just can't be blocked by these guys like you've seen in all the other boxes."
To find specific programs, the system is designed to let users type the program name into the smartphone app to fetch desired premium content without an extensive search process, Costello said.
Also available through the software at launch are Netflix, requiring a user account, YouTube, for free Web videos, and Flickr, for digital images. Other services will be added down the line, the company said.
The Orb controller smartphone app features a global index of TV shows. Consumers can type in the name of the show they want and then Orb quickly finds the it, without requiring the user to specify its source.
Unlike competitive approaches, the OrbTV bypasses use of an HDMI port, opting instead for component- and composite-video outputs and stereo A/V jacks.
Orb Networks is launching Orb TV through the
website, and will look to ramp up distribution through various distribution partners as the launch progress, Costello said.