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Posted at 8:00 AM ET, 11/19/2010

Orb brings Internet to TV, says networks can't block like they did to Google

By Cecilia Kang

large 8x10 Orb render_VP.jpgYet another company is offering a way to bring the Internet to your TV. Orb Networks launched its OrbTV Thursday, promising to bring Hulu, Netflix and anything you watch on your desktop to the living room.

But wait, how will Orb keep the television networks from blocking shows in the same way they did to Google TV? Orb, based in Oakland, Calif., hasn’t brokered deals in the way that Roku has with Hulu and other distributors like Netflix have with Hollywood studios.

Orb chief executive Joe Costello said that the networks couldn’t do that because all his company's $100 box does is wirelessly connect your PC to the television set. Industry analysts say they think the networks are going straight to the browser – Chrome – on Google TV, recognizing certain properties on the browser for those users and blocking their Web shows that way.

In a telephone interview, Costello talked about how Orb works and how the all the attention in Washington these days on Internet TV shapes up. Here’s an edited version of our conversation:

Q:Why are we seeing so many people enter this space now?
A: Consumers have wanted this for a long time but tech and consumer product companies haven’t delivered. The whole promise of digital is that there is tons of media content that is simple to move around. It’s just bits after all. So it should be simple and transparent.

Q: So what's behind the the hold up?
A: Fundamentally, because some content people didn’t like the fluidity of their content and the cable guys posed some opposition. But the technology has been around. Consumer products companies just didn’t put in the energy to put in a complete solution for people. Apple did it, but besides them you have to be a systems integrator and IT person to do this.

Q: What exactly are you offering?
A: We are solely focused on moving digital media transparently around existing stereos, speakers and television sets. Our first product was for music, now we have Orb TV. So whether its Netflix, Hulu or Youtube, you can get it on your TV.

Q: What’s from stopping those firms, or the networks, from blocking their content from your users?
A: They can’t shut us down. This goes into our underlying technology that we’ve developed for the last six years. You need one computer on a network with a Web browser and our software and a wireless connection. As long as there is a computer there, you can’t stop it from receiving the Internet.

The problem with Boxee and Google TV is those specialized boxes are trying to receive directly so they can be shut down. They don’t have normal Web browsers so it enables (content providers) to shut down those devices.

Q: How will things shake out?
A: We’re in our adolescent years. It will all get worked out eventually. People can watch on television anything they want if they are willing to plug their PC into the TV. There’s nothing wrong with that the networks can’t and won’t stop that. All we are doing is easing the burden of doing something goofy and making easy. We play all the ads, there is no adulteration and so it is completely clean that way. We are not trying to steal content.

Q: But the networks say they aren’t making the money they want to when companies like you bring Web shows to the TV.
A: There is going to be a transition period and at end of which they will be able to make more money from targeted advertising. If I can do targeted advertising, then much better for you to be targeted your ad for the Hulu version of Glee than trying to troll for fish on open ocean. So this is just a transition period.

Q: What do you make of all the regulatory discussion in Washington on retransmission fees, the Comcast/NBC merger and regulations that would bring standard technology to the set top box?
A: I am watching these things because fundamentally, the cable guys are trying to keep their oligopoly and to hold on to as much as possible. I was on a panel last week in which the question to cable companies was whether they will be entertainment companies or not. In Canada, they have all become entertainment properties. Maybe that will be the case in the U.S. too. In the end, you have to add value. In end, cable provides great service. Content guys provide great set of programming.

Related Stories:
Networks block Web based shows from Google TV

The battle for your TV viewing habits

Internet TV Battles come to head at FCC

By Cecilia Kang  | November 19, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Online Video  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Now that broadband grants are out, Commerce seeks money to make sure funds aren't misused
Next: NCTA head McSlarrow to resign spring 2011

Comments

This sounds bogus to me. While the technology is a work around for the Google shutdown, how long do they think it will take for the content providers to come up with a work around for the Orb box?

I'm guessing it won't be long...

Posted by: Bill481 | November 19, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

This sounds bogus to me. While the Orb technology is a work around to avoid a Google type shutdown, how long do they think it will take for the content providers to come up with a work around for the Orb box?

I'm guessing it won't be long...

Posted by: Bill481 | November 19, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Orb looks like a brilliant solution. From what I read here, all it does it connect your computer to your TV screen. You can then use a service like TVDevo.com to get TV online and "beam it" to your big screen.
So, as long as you have an internet connection, you can watch TV through these 2 companion services.

Posted by: meganbrod | November 19, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Orb looks like a brilliant solution. From what I read here, all it does it connect your computer to your TV screen. You can then use a service like TVDevo.com to get TV online and "beam it" to your big screen.
So, as long as you have an internet connection, you can watch TV through these 2 companion services.

Posted by: meganbrod | November 19, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the double post!

Posted by: meganbrod | November 19, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

There is no need to buy an Orb or Apple TV or any of the other boxes to watch television from the internet.

You don't even need a TV set to watch television.

If you are fortunate enough to have one, a 27" iMac on a coffee table is all you need, along with the acquired skill to download whatever programming you might want, from all over the world. Entire seasons, if you like. All without commercials.

That is the real future of television. For many of us, the future is already here.

Posted by: TheBabu | November 19, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

This is one of the BIG reasons you need net neutrality laws, how quickly do you think that comcast, cox, verizon, and AT&T broadband providers will allow streaming video through their networks when their cable TV subscriptions are plumeting?? The method that Orb uses is NOT fundamentally unique and "unblockable" by the broadband providers, any streaming video is at the mercy of being choked down whether its from Apple TV, Roku, Any Netflix hardware, or even Orb. The question that you want to ask Orb is how do you change channels and use your mouse from a great distance in the home?? Do you need fancy wireless keyboards etc?? The interface is KING, just ask Apple and look at their stock price. :) Republicans and democrats can NOT let the broadband LOBBY win the "if its not broken, why regulate argument" This whole column IS the argument and its clearly BROKEN. We dont need regulation, just neutrality and no provider adjustable chokes on content flowing through.

Posted by: HTech | November 19, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

TheBabu, Have the 27"Mac and wireless service. How do I use it as you suggest?

Posted by: Woodwitch | November 19, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

TheBabu is right. Anyone can find US TV shows being streamed online in real-time if they go online and look. Cable companies are going to freak if people start dropping secondary boxes and just go with one to keep bundled pricing, or maybe none at all. Plus, they can't, or won't accommodate people who want to watch regional programming. I got DirecTV to be able to get the YES Network and MSG, etc., from NYC, but then that gets spotty TV when it rains. I needed a way to watch TV through the web, see my NY teams without paying for a whole season of games for every team, and figured it out through trial and error. No one is playing fair with me, and letting me just pay for what I want, so I am doing my own thing now and they are losing my business.

The other thing is that when companies like FOX force rate increases on Dish Network and Cablevision, etc., the consumers in a bad economy will start cheating or canceling. Inevitable. Content stealing is going to keep happening and it is going to blow up in everyone's faces soon.

Posted by: dabraat | November 19, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I have been doing this since the advent of the video card w/tv tuner some 10 years ago. Granted I have two computers. one in my office and one in the living room. the living room one is a cheap pentium 2 from god knows when. small wireless keyboard wireless mouse. full internet capabilities on my 50 inch

Posted by: harleycanuck | November 20, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

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