Caavo’s Smart Universal TV Device Controller to Start Shipping Feb. 14

Caavo is for TV lovers, so perhaps it's appropriate that the startup picked Valentine's Day 2018 to start shipping its first product. 

A new TV-connected device that can command and control Apple TV and Roku players, MVPD-supplied set-tops, Blu-ray players, TiVo boxes, gaming consoles and other TV-connected device from Caavo will start to ship Feb. 14, 2018, the startup announced today.

Caavo, a CE company that includes the late Blake Krikorian among its co-founders, said it will offer 5,000 “limited edition” units about a year after it revealed itself to the world. Those Deluxe Sets, priced at a lofty $399 each, will come with a set of custom Caavo cables and unlimited lifetime service.

RELATED: Caavo’s Pitch: One Device to Rule Them All

The commercial debut is a bit later than expected. Last year during its coming out party, Caavo anticipated launching the product in June and to start shipping by September 2017.

Caavo said a group of 300 users have been testing its platform, using their feedback to define the commercial product.

Caavo also announced it had closed a $17.5 million Series B round, extending its total to $32.5 million, with Time Warner Investments and Lauder Partners joining in. Other investors include DCM Ventures, Greylock Partners, Sky, Hearst Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank in helping build Caavo.

The Caavo device is equipped with eight HDMI ports that can connect to the range of aforementioned devices, and uses a lightweight client to detect them and then tie them together with a unified interface.

Instead of requiring the user to toggle manually between separate devices to hunt down what they are looking for, Caavo strives to be smart enough to bring them all together on a single platform and experience, allowing a user, for example, to search for and access a show or movie from individual apps or from a recording made to a local DVR from any of the various devices that are connected to Caavo. Voice navigation is supported through integrations with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

“Content has never been better, but access to that content on the biggest screen, your TV, is really a struggle,” Caavo co-founder and CEO Andrew Einaudi said last year during a presentation made at Recode’s  Code Media event in Dana Point, Calif.

“Call it what you want, the real allure is that Caavo brings together all of TV,” the company noted in a blog post today. “It unifies devices – cable, satellite, streaming boxes and sticks, gaming consoles, DVD and Blu-ray players – and services, apps and content into one simple experience.”

But there are some shortcomings, as The Verge’s Nilay Patel, who got a demo of the product, explained that Caavo supports 4K video but not High Dynamic Range, making it a “tough sell for people investing in new 4K TVs and boxes – the same sort of people who might otherwise spend $400 on a universal control system for all that gear.”  Caavo told him that it hopes that silicon technology will soon catchup to support eight-port HDR and can be introduced in future releases of the product.

Patel likewise recognized that Caavo “is targeting a very small market here,” adding later that the startup is also planning to develop less expensive versions with fewer ports.

Patel, who saw Caavo working in tandem with a Roku player, Fire TV device, Apple TV and a Dish Network satellite DVR receiver, and a PlayStation 4, was keen on the device’s ability to retain centralized “watchlists” that track what the viewer is watching across those platforms.

The Verge also reported that Caavo, at launch, will support apps from Amazon, DirecTV Now, HBO Go, HBO Now, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, PlayStation Vue, Plex, Showtime, Showtime Anytime, Sling TV, Starz, TBS, TNT, and Vudu. So there’s plenty of room for growth in that area.

Though Caavo aims to untangle what can be a mess of TV-connected devices, other gadget experts were skeptical that the launch price will attract a sizable user base:

The Caavo TV unifier starts shipping in February. Several friends and former colleagues work there and I'm rooting for their success. But am concerned with potential market given premium pricing.

— Dave Zatz (@davezatz) December 19, 2017