It's been a long road for SimpleTV, but their streaming TV box is finally set to ship to users. Following exhibitions at CES (News - Alert), and a Kickstarter campaign that ended successfully, not to mention a false start or two, the box is finally on hand, and it's looking like a very robust alternative indeed.
SimpleTV has been described as a combination of a Slingbox and a TiVo (News - Alert) system, which allows users to take their current television signals and convert them into video streams. Said streams can then be sent to PCs, mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad, a Roku box, or to an Apple TV set-top box via AirPlay (News - Alert). Not bad in its own right, but since the SimpleTV box also offers a USB connection, meaning that users can hook up their own external hard drives to the device and get a DVR-style component, meaning that, essentially, the schedules of networks and content providers now no longer matter in the least.
Naturally, such a device has been marketing primarily to the cable cutter market, as the SimpleTV box doesn't include a video out port or anything related to pass-through capability, which means that incorporating it into a cable setup is going to require a line splitter. Additionally, there's a further downside here in that the SimpleTV box doesn't have a Wi-Fi component, which means users will have to hook it up with the Ethernet jack. Not always a problem, of course--especially for anyone who's got a nice multi-port router to work with--but certainly not the most convenient approach.
While basic service is free--and this includes streaming to any device that apps are offered for--there are paying services that offer a little extra. For $4.99 a month, or $49 for the year, users can get in on a recording program that will allow an entire season to be recorded just by selecting the show, as well as improved program guides with information on the programs on that guide and streaming to up to five different devices.
Early reports suggest that the interface is easy to work with, even if the price--at $149--might be a bit higher than the target market will be interested in. The extra costs of an external hard drive for recording, as well as access to the premium services, will likely also drive sales down a bit, but considering that these are mainly one-time costs, likely won't drive them down very far.
The product is a nice one indeed for the cable cutting market, but could use a few extra features to make it a truly robust offering. After all, considering the dominance of HD televisions of late, it doesn't make much sense that the SimpleTV doesn't have an HDMI jack. Sure, this could be an addition slated for the future, but HD digital television is going on right now. Why not be ready to accommodate it from the word go?
Still, as cable cutting solutions go, the SimpleTV box might be a reasonable one to look into. It might be worth the wait for an improved version to make an appearance, but for those who can't wait that long, it may be worth going on now.
Edited by Brooke Neuman