Netgear Puts A Set-Top On A Stick

Las Vegas – International CES 2014 -- Netgear is the latest CE vendor to  throw its hat into the emerging market of HDMI-connect set-top sticks.

Netgear, follling a path blazed by devices such as the Google Chromecast, Sony Bravia Smart Stick and the Roku Streaming stick, has launched the NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle, a device with on-board 802.11ac WIFi and 1080p/60 HD decoding that will  initially hit the market in the first half of 2014 with support for the Android app platform. The device will also be outfitted with Miracast, a protocol that lets users send video and other Internet-sourced content from a mobile device to the TV.

But, unlike HDMI-linked streaming sticks from those suppliers, Netgear’s entry, also labeled as the NTV300D, won’t be focused on the retail market but will instead be pitched to service providers. In fact, Netgear  is working on a version of the product that will be compatible with the Reference Design Kit (RDK), Naveen Chhangani , director of product management for Netgear’s service provider unit, said.

The RDK is a pre-integrated software stack for IP-only and hybrid IP/QAM clients and gateways that’s being managed by Comcast and Time Warner Cable and designed to accelerate product development cycles. An RDK-optimized version of the NeoMediacast should be ready by the second half of 2014, with MSO tests expected to get underway by the third quarter, Chhangani  said.

Smaller, more portable devices are increasingly expected to become part of the RDK arsenal. Here at the show, Alticast said it will demonstrate an RDK-based HDMI set-top stick, but so far has not revealed its hardware partner for the project. Elsewhere in the emerging set-top stick universe,  Azuki Systems and LG recently teamed on an Android-powered streaming device that will serve as a small, IP-capable unit capable of handling authenticated TV Everywhere apps, cloud DVR services and transactional VOD fare.

In RDK environments, Netgear’s new dongle could be made to work in tandem with the vendor’s new “headless” gateway, the HMG7000, which would give the set-top stick access to a consumer’s “home cloud,” Chhangani explained.  As designed, that headless gateway includes a video transcoder that can convert QAM  video to streams that can be delivered to IP-based devices hanging off the wireless home network.

“Multiscreen is becoming a must,” Chhangani said.

The new NTV300D dongle is also capable of accessing content directly from the Internet-fed cloud.

Netgear did not divulge pricing, but Chhangani said the NTV300D will likely sell for in the sub-$50 range. The device itself can be powered by a TV’s USB port.

The NTV300D also represents another leg in Netgear’s service provider strategy. Netgear, which counts Comcast among its customers, also makes a line of DOCSIS-powered standalone modems and voice gateways.