Littleton, Mass. — Newcomer ZeeVee said it started taking preorders Thursday for its ZvBox system that lets users watch Internet TV, online video or computer content on any HDTV set in the home.
The PC peripheral device, which is currently available for preorder at $499 exclusively through
Amazon.com, is said to have solved the problems seen in similar Internet video devices ranging from limited content to added subscription fees, to reduced playback and viewing functionality compared with PCs.
ZeeVee, which is a new startup funded by venture capital firms Alpond Capital and JLL Ventures, said the first ZvBoxes will begin shipping to customers on June 30, 2008.
Brian Mahony, ZeeVee marketing VP, said Amazon’s exclusive runs through June, and ZeeVee will soon begin offering the product direct-to-order from its Web site.
“Over the summer we will begin offering it through other e-tailers,” Mahony said. “We are still formulating our plan for bricks-and-mortar retail distribution. So far we have found that a lot of the early adopter community that resonates with this product shops online, so we may not need to go to bricks-and-mortar retail for some time. We have the ability to turn that on as early as September, but we are going to wait and see how things go over the summer, what sort of uptick we get online and map that to supply of the units.”
The ZvBox uses what the company calls “ZvCast technology” to enable viewers to access and transmit anything they can get online or on their computers to all the HDTVs in their homes.
The box connects to the monitor output of a computer producing a new high-definition TV channel that ZeeVee calls Zv. The signal is broadcast on an open TV channel across existing cable wiring where it can be tuned in by any connected HDTV in the house. A software setup wizard in the box scans the connected cable service for open channels and tells the user which channel to tune to on the TV set.
Connections can be made with any coaxial cable line, but initially the system is designed for users with cable TV service. Satellite TV homes will eventually be adaptable, but use a more complicated coaxial cable setup than cable TV homes, requiring special steps, Mahony told TWICE. In some cases, satellite TV homes have previously installed cable TV lines, which can be used to make the connections, he said.
The company said the ZvBox approach is so different that it belongs in a new category, which it calls “localcasting.” ZeeVee defines it as a method for broadcasting anything a computer can do using the home’s existing cable wiring and the TV tuners already embedded in HDTVs.
ZeeVee said localcasting has several benefits which surpass alternative methods for watching Internet video on TV including: subscription free content access, unaltered HD and SD resolution, and use of existing cable wiring to reach HDTVs without interference or the need for multiple set-top boxes.
“ZvBox closes the huge gap that has existed between HDTVs, which have the best viewing experience, and the computer, which provides virtually unlimited content options and many applications already in use by consumers,” stated ZeeVee co-founder and CEO Vic Odryna. “Instead of the walled garden world of set-top box solutions, ZvBox opens up the entire universe of Internet video and computer applications, where innovation usually happens first. And since ZvBox provides a duplication of what you see on your monitor, anything you can do on your computer you can now do on your HDTVs.”
ZeeVee provides a “widescreen guide” called Zviewer that is optimized for a 10-foot viewing experience on an HDTV, to make it easier to find and browse content options.
Mahony said ZeeVee is now speaking with potential content partners that ZeeVee can use to push out popular selections in front of ZvBox users, making it easier for them to access such things as pay or rental movie downloads.
“The beauty of our system is there is not a lot of integration — it just works because we are showing anything you can get on your computer,” said Mahony. “But there are ways we can inject content and make the integration with our own Zviewer more seamless, so part of our conversations are about finding ways to make it easier for viewers to find, tag, put in their favorites and play all forms of content. There are a lot of ways to do that.”
The system includes a specially designed RF remote control, called ZvRemote, which uses an integrated touchpad to control the computer’s mouse and desktop interface from across the house — up to 150 feet away.
An optional RF wireless ZvKeyboard, which is expected to retail for about $149, will be offered to compose email, surf the Web and type text for desktop applications.