Orb TV: the latest device bringing web to TV

Orb TV alonephotoAdd Orb TV to the list of devices that is attempting to bring the web to the TV. The Oakland, Calif.-based company launched the product on Thursday — a hockey puck shaped object (pictured on the left) that promises to deliver all sorts of content  available on the Internet straight to your TV.

Orb TV is selling for $99 (purchased only through its website)  and can help you find any show regardless of the source including content from Hulu, YouTube and CBS or from your computer like photos, according to Orb TV.  Users control the device through a smartphone app and can search simply by typing in a show like “Glee.”

“Our belief is that the evolution of digital media has been stymied,” said Orb TV CEO Joe Costello. “The whole premise it that it should be enjoyed anywhere, anytime and to make it simple. The last part hasn’t happened.”

Sound familiar? Of course it does because Orb TV is going up against several other device makers, including Roku, Boxee, Apple TV and Google TV, in a race to dominate the living room in much the same way.

Costello said that Orb has a couple of advantages over the competitors in that the device lets people view anything you can get for free on the Internet on the TV.  “We can’t be shut down,” Costello said. Several broadcasters, including CBS, ABC, NBC and Hulu have blocked their content from appearing on Google TV for example.  (Check out NYT tech columnist David Pogue’s devastating review of Google TV here.)

Western Digital enters crowded digital living room with new device

This holiday season, technology companies are singing a familiar refrain: “Everybody gather around the TV.” With Apple Inc and Google Inc already rolling out their devices to plug into the home television, the connected living room just got more crowded, as hard drive maker Western Digital Corp has updated its television media player just in time to compete with the likes of Apple TV and Google TV for the almighty holiday shopping dollar.WD TV Live Hub

Western Digital’s latest offering, the WD TV Live Hub at a price point of $199, is an update to the Lake Forest, California-based company’s  last media player. A key difference is this one comes with a 1 terabyte hard drive built-in, while the previous version had to be connected to an external hard drive for stored movies, music and photos. Western Digital also upgraded the interface on the device and gave it  a wireless keyboard made it compatible with wireless keyboards, which users can wield from the couch. Like the previous version of WD TV, this device has Internet connectivity. It can stream movies from Netflix, download films from Blockbuster, access a user’s Facebook page and more.

While Apple TV is priced lower at $99, that device is mostly geared toward streaming rented TV shows and movies over the Web, whereas Western Digital is taking a bet that users will want to download movies and TV shows, not just stream them. Hence that 1 terabyte of storage.

Is Apple preparing a counter-attack to Google’s TV move?

Apple is keen on describing its Apple TV business as a “hobby.”

But one week after Google barged into the living room with its high-profile Google TV announcement, Apple suddenly looks like it’s taking its hobby a lot more seriously.

According to technology blog engadget, which cites an anonymous source “very close to Apple,” the Cupertino, California company has a new version of its Apple TV in the works that completely overhauls the original product.

The price of the Apple TV will drop from $229 to $99 (read: priced to move), and the device will be based on the iPhone operating system and pack Apple’s home-grown A4 processor under the hood.

Apple’s tablet: No time for a flop

With Wednesday’s expected unveiling of the Apple tablet, the tech world is bracing for a device that could revolutionize everything from mobile computing to the newspaper industry. But what if the tablet doesn’t live up to expectations?

While Apple is known for its golden touch, the company has had its share of flops. The five products below represent some of Apple’s biggest disappointments; but theyNewton also provide important lessons that can be found in its smash hits.

Newton: First released in 1993, the Newton represented one of the first attempts at a mass-market, touchscreen-based handheld computer. But the brick-sized Message Pad family of devices that ran the Newton operating system were too big and, at $700-plus, too pricey. And the mixed results of the initial version of the handwriting recognition made Newtons an easy target for criticism.

Blockbuster throws its hat into the set-top box ring

Blockbuster got into the set-top box game right in time for the holiday season with a new digital media player that brings fewer but newer titles from the Web to TV six months after arch rival Netflix launched its $99 Roku set-top box. Netflix followed that launch with similar partnerships with Tivo, Samsung, LG Electronics and Microsoft.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. While the number of people who watch movies or TV via the Web is still small, media and technology executives believe a host of new technologies will make Web to TV a mainstream staple. Vudu already sells a $299 set-top box that lets users download TV shows, while Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PS3 game consoles can also be used to download programming from the Web for TV viewing.

Apple of course is trying to take a bite of the market with its Apple TV device that lets viewers download shows from their computers onto their TVs.