Co-founders of TiVo, Michael Ramsay and Jim Barton, are looking to revolutionize the way we watch TV … again. And this time, cable isn’t invited to the party. Gigaom details the impending release of a new streaming device called Qplay, developed by the duo’s new company, InVisioneer. The box is reportedly designed to curate video content from multiple sources, allowing users to find videos, create playlists to share them with friends, and, let’s not forget, watch them on their TV.
Internet sleuth and blogger Dave Zatz recently discovered an FCC filing for Qplay, which suggests the device is coming soon to a living room near you. Details about the new device are still a little shaky, but the recent filing, which includes a full instruction manual, gives us some tantalizing hints. What we know so far is that Qplay is USB powered and connects to your TV via HDMI. The box comes with no remote control, and the manual states that controlling and connecting it to WiFi is done via an iPad – which apparently leaves those without the mighty tablet out of luck.
Qplay uses a casting system a bit like Chromecast. However, the system runs on its own dedicated iOS app, which allows users to gather videos from multiple streaming sources in one place, similar to interfaces from premium DVR systems like Dish Network’s Hopper, and TiVo’s own Roamio. From there, users will be able to create, rate, and share video playlists with friends through the Qplay app, as well as via the big boys of social media like Twitter, and Facebook.
Where Qplay will get those videos is still up for some debate. Zatz’s blog post speculates that the box will mostly utilize free video services such as Vimeo and Youtube. However, Gigaom hints at inside information suggesting the box will use pay-for-play services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video. Which of these theories are correct remains to be seen, but it’s hard for us to imagine a streaming device trying to compete on the current playing field without access to the king of TV content: Netflix.
It’s also a little hard for us to believe that Qplay will be based solely on iOS for very long, let alone restricted to users who own one of Apple’s pricey tablets. After all, set-top boxes cater especially to those who don’t want to pay for cable or satellite services, and while there’s a nice swath of iPhone users to choose from, there’s still a wide segment of the public outside the iPad universe. Based on Ramsay and Barton’s history, as well as the pedigree of InVisioneer’s staff, which reportedly includes engineers from Apple, Google, and Linden lab, we’re guessing the company has thought about that as well. In all likelihood, Qplay will start out small, possibly with only a handful of compatible streaming services, and expand to other services and operating systems if and when its popularity increases.
Whether Qplay is successful may very well hinge on many of the questions posed above. For now, we’ll have to wait and see how the new device will fit into the increasingly crowded streaming marketplace. What do you think? Does an interface based on video curation and social media sharing appeal to you? Let us know in the comments, and stay tuned with us as more details surface.