We’re likely to see these kinds of products pick up more and more steam as the cord-cutting movement progresses: set-top boxes that don’t inherently lack native support for live TV. Instead, just as Mohu — one of the leaders in the HDTV antenna game — is poised to do with its Channels device, a few companies and startups have wisened up to the idea of harkening back to the good old days of simple remote-mashing and channel-surfing by bundling classic live TV in with the slew of streaming and on-demand capabilities that consumers have come to expect from today’s set-top boxes. But with WebTuner — a new breed of “box,” if you can even call it that — this all-in-one bundle concept is turned on its head.
WebTuner (a product from Redmond, WA-based WebTuner Corp.) was unveiled today and is being showcased this week at the 2014 National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas. It offers a single interface for all content types, meaning users will be able to search for content from live television, streaming, and on-demand sources, simultaneously — with one device and one remote. As the startup behind WebTuner puts it, “the killer application for the television is watching TV.”
As advanced and streamlined as the big set-top boxes — Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon’s new Fire TV — have become, they’ve at the same time neglected their original inspiration for all of this: the simple act of watching TV. WebTuner claims that such a platform will allow broadcasters and advertisers to hyper-target ads through the use of even more individualized data and delivery methods.
Physically, the device is simplistic and smartly designed. The box itself doesn’t appear to be much more than a small AC adapter that one might use to connect their iPhone to a wall socket. But the WebTuner box covertly houses an HDMI port and an Ethernet jack. Once the WebTuner is connected to an HDTV (via HDMI) and the Internet (via Wi-Fi or its Ethernet jack), you’re ready to rock. And navigating content should be a breeze with the included two-sided remote —one for simple channel surfing, the other with a QWERTY keyboard for “interactivity.”
But keep in mind that even though WebTuners’ makers are showing off the device at the NAB convention right now, the device doesn’t appear to be ready for the public. WebTuner’s website doesn’t mention anything in terms of beta, release dates, etc. So for now, you’ll have to wait patiently with your Roku and flip back and forth between inputs for your live TV fix.