It's amazing what you can find if you spread your wings from the main halls at CES in Las Vegas. Indeed, a visit to Caesar's Palace and the Rovi developers' forum was a fine place to see upcoming and existing technologies that may otherwise have been missed. Simple.TV being one of them.
Like Slingbox before it, Simple.TV is a TV set-top-box that can placeshift live television footage via the Internet to a separate receiving client, whether that be on an iPad, Roku device, Boxee Box or Google TV. Unlike Slingbox, however, it also contains a PVR (DVR, for our American chums) so you can set recordings and watch them remotely.
The Simple.TV STB sits in your house, plugs into an external aerial or the included mini HD one (only good for areas with particularly good reception) and works much like any other digital TV tuner and PVR. However, it also connects to your home network, and can therefore be accessed by any compatible network device both in home and out - account protected, of course.
In the states, it can also connect to your existing cable box, but will be DVB-T2 in the UK, therefore offering all the channels available on Freeview HD.
On its US launch, in Q2 this year, your Simple.TV box and content will be available to be accessed via applications on the aforementioned iPad, Roku, Boxee Box and Google TV, although we're of the understanding that other platforms may follow. And, depending on whether you opt for the basic no-subscription or subscription service (Simple.TV Premiere at $4.99 per month), you can access different features.
Included with the price of the box itself, you get 1080p HD video, all of the viewing and recording functionality of a PVR, and in-home streaming (to one of the compatible devices). But, if you pay the subscription fee, you can also use series link, get a full EPG with Rovi information support, and can stream content remotely to up to five separate devices. As there's only one tuner, we believe that you can only watch the same content on multiple devices at once, but you can also stack Simple.TV boxes to add extra tuner capabilities.
In use, through the iPad at least, we were very impressed during our demo. Recordings are presented as thumbnails, which are generated from stills, logos and covers via Rovi's metadata engine, while the whole user experience is clean and simple. In fact, you would never tell that you're accessing your own set top box at home, and swear blind that the tuner was in the iPad itself.
The video streaming qualities are adaptive depending on the Internet connection, and even in a wireless zone where a million things were competing for bandwidth, we got some sharp, smooth images - not HD exactly, but close. It was certainly better than most standard definition content looks on a flatscreen TV.
We're not sure of British prices at present, but are assured that they will be reasonable and comparative to their US counterparts. The UK version of Simple.TV will be coming "around six months after the US launch".
You can find out more at www.simple.tv.