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Samsung’s CableCARD Retail Box Nears Launch

A CableCARD-based box from Samsung that will blend subscription cable TV services with over-the-top video services and other IP-based applications is inching closer to its official retail launch.

Spotted Wednesday by the ZatzNotFunny blog, online retailing giant has apparently been accepting pre-orders of the product, referred to on Amazon as the “GX-SM530CF Smart Cable Box with Built-In Wi-Fi”, since August 25. 

According to Amazon, the product “[u]sually ships within 1 to 2 months,” will sell for $199.99, and will come equipped with on-board Wi-Fi, provide access to Samsung’s Smart Hub app platform, and support apps Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video.

The Amazon page did not provide an image of the product. The image above came from an earlier Samsung FCC filing that outlined the company’s intentions to launch the product in time for the 2013 holiday season. Samsung, which has previously referred to the product as the Smart Media Player, was not immediately available Thursday to provide further comment on the product.

Unlike TiVo boxes that support cable pay-TV services along OTT, Samsung’s one-pound entry won’t integrate local DVR storage for a DVR, and it’s not yet clear if the device will support attached storage. The lack of on-board storage has also sparked speculation that Samsung will hitch the product to a cloud-based DVR product and perhaps lean on a derivative of the cloud DVR service originally developed by Boxee (Samsung bought Boxee this summer and subsequently shut down Boxee’s network-based DVR offering on July 10).

The Samsung device shows up on Amazon just weeks after the company scored a conditional FCC waiver that cleared Samsung to sell the device without an analog tuner.

Its debut will represent the rare introduction of a CableCARD-based device tagged for retail, and follow the recent launch of TiVo’s “Roamio” product family.

The CableCARD has not generated a large market for retail video products. According to the most recent CableCARD report issued by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the top nine incumbent cable operators have deployed 603,000 of the security modules for use in retail devices, such as TiVo DVRs and TVs, that contain CableCARD slots, versus about 42 million in operator-supplied set-tops.

The Samsung GX-SM530CF has been “verified” as a Unidirectional Digital Cable Product (UDCP), according to a list of CableLabs-approved OpenCable devices that was last updated on August 21. The Samsung unit is considered unidirectional because it does not communicate via the cable upstream path. TiVo has successfully integrated with some cable VOD systems by setting up sessions via the DVR's IP connection.

Samsung also sells cable boxes directly to MSOs that are leased to cable TV subscribers. Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cablevision Systems are among Samsung’s biggest domestic cable operator partners.