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Samsung Moves to Low-Cost Set-Tops

Samsung will be introducing a $179 digital television set-top this fall that is designed to receive over-the-air ATSC broadcasts.

The DTB-H260F set-top, which will feature an HDMI output and an electronic program guide, is aimed at the roughly 5 to 10 million existing HDTV sets that have already been sold without any reception capability, says Rich Long, senior marketing manager for Samsung. It will also target customers who want to buy a standalone widescreen HD display but don’t want to pay for a cable or DBS set-top box.

The DTB-H260F replaces Samsung’s previous ATSC over-the-air set-top, the SIR-T451. That model, which had a DVI output, costs $259, and is significantly larger than the new unit.

With the shut-off of analog broadcasts coming in February 2009, Samsung may also look to produce a low-cost digital-to-analog converter set-top aimed at the estimated 70 million analog TV sets that currently aren’t hooked up to a cable or DBS box.

"We’re working toward that," says Long, who showed a mock-up of the DTB-H260F at Samsung’s "Christmas in July" product review in New York this week.

Samsung is also making progress in the cable set-top space as well. The Korean company has developed an OCAP-compliant HD cable set-top, the SMT-H3050, that Time Warner Cable and Brighthouse Networks are expected to deploy in select markets this fall. At retail, Samsung will also be introducing a 56-inch DLP 1080p HDTV set that will be fully OCAP-compliant and will feature a two-way CableCARD to enable video-on-demand and other interactive features.

Another interesting new Samsung product is the "FlipTop," a compact device that integrates a DirecTV satellite receiver with a 10.2-inch LCD screen that swivels through 180 degrees. The unit can be folded shut like a laptop for storage, and the image on the LCD display can be inverted, allowing the FlipTop to be mounted upside down under a cabinet. The $499 product is aimed at providing DirecTV service in tight spaces like a kitchen or bathroom, says Long, or perhaps even in an RV, provided the driver is willing to travel with a DBS dish.