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xTV Dongle Means Business

Thanks to Roku, Amazon and Google, the consumer market is now flush with streaming sticks that make dumb TVs smart.

xTV, a startup based in Redwood Shores, Calif., has also entered the market for sticks that connect to TVs via their High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) ports, but its target isn’t consumers but businesses that use TV screens to deliver a message or market their wares.

Formally launched earlier this month, the xTVNow device is a PC-on-a-stick that is powered by Microsoft Windows and connects to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. This self-contained, WiFi-connected platform aims to bring a new level of interactivity to static screens, enabling businesses to layer in feeds from sources such as Twitter, YouTube and news services, and even tailor it their own content.

Consumers who encounter these screens can interact with their mobile device without having to download a separate app. All they have to do is hold up their smartphone to scan a QR code or request a Web link that turns the user’s device into a remote control that can navigate the screen to spool up videos and pull up other customized content.

The general idea is to help those businesses use interactivity to deliver a message, generate sales leads, set an appointment, or even steward a direct sale.

Without some level of interactivity, “it’s hard to get consumers or employees to participate in your media,” xTV CEO Joe Ward said.

Ward estimated that xTV, which uses a subscription model and offers content-production services, has about 125 xTV networks up and running, with most of the initial work involving Microsoft and Azure tech centers, as well as other clients that include Gap, BMW, UST Global, real-estate agencies and health-care organizations.

But he also sees cable operators as a potential partner as they continue to expand their repertoire of services tailored for small businesses and larger enterprise customers.

Ward said xTV has had “some interaction” with cable operators in Europe as well as some engagement with CableLabs, which has encouraged the company to present its technology and platform at its conferences. xTV has inked a deal with a “large” but still unnamed U.S. telco.

“We do believe that the cable operators will be very excited about our platform,” Ward said.