Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.
January 2009 will mark the first anniversary of Apple's switch in positioning Apple TV from something that transferred computer-based content to a PC to a video vending machine that allowed direct ordering over broadband. In doing so and cutting a few dollars off the price, the company became the leader in a small category of products exclusively focused on displaying networked content. However, it's been far from alone there. The installed bases of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, which offer similar functionality, far exceed those of Apple's little box. Recently the long-delayed SlingCatcher
came out of the gate, which -- with a little finagling on a PC screen-- can display virtually any video content available via broadband on a television using its SlingProjector technology.Vudu
, a startup that had launched a similar a la carte device, has pushed deeper into the custom installation channel as of late. And CinemaNow, which had partnered with HP on its MediaSmart televisions and standalone device, was recently purchased for $3 million by Sonic Solutions. The acquiring company likely has designs on using the service to support its at-home DVD burning technology QFlix.
And on the low-end from Roku -- the roots of which were as a developer of PC-stereo bridging products -- has come a nondescript box that streams movies from Netflix for $99. A year before MovieBeam finally had its plug pulled, its receiver device was available for even less than that.