January 07, 2013, 3:04 PM — Netgear will build Google TV software into a high-end version of its NeoTV video-streaming box coming out at the International CES.
The home-connectivity specialist already sells three NeoTV systems for accessing various video services, but its NeoTV Prime will significantly expand the platform's capabilities. It will give users access to the Google Play lineup of videos, music and apps, plus live TV, a Chrome browser and GoogleTV PrimeTime, a search tool that looks for videos across numerous live and online sources in addition to Google Play.
Priced at US$129.99 and debuting on Monday, the NeoTV Prime will go on sale immediately at Fry's Electronics stores in Las Vegas, expanding to other big U.S. retailers and online stores throughout January and the first quarter, said Damir Skripic, a product manager at Netgear. It's larger, more powerful and more expensive than the other NeoTV models and is intended for tech-savvy users who want to combine multiple video sources and online activities in one device, Skripic said.
Sony, LG Electronics and other established consumer electronics makers have introduced products based on Google TV, which competes against the Apple TV video and audio streaming box. But all these connected TV devices are hobbled by the fact that content providers still prefer to use cable and satellite, IDC analyst Jonathan Gaw said. The distribution deals they make are very lucrative, and consumers aren't ready to match that revenue with direct payments, he said.
"You still need to have a way that the content people get paid for producing the content," Gaw said. "This is a big business, and they're going to move very cautiously."
Based on industry forecasts, Netgear expects the market for connected TV products like the NeoTV Prime to grow by an average 20 percent annually over the next few years.
To control the NeoTV Prime, users will get a remote control with a touchpad, and they can download an iOS or Android app for controlling the system through their smartphone. On the back of the remote is a small QWERTY keypad.
Netgear compares the NeoTV Prime to Apple TV, saying it offers several features Apple doesn't include. One is access to live TV programming from the user's pay-TV provider, with the ability to search channel guides for upcoming shows through PrimeTime. The NeoTV Prime can also tap into personal content on an external hard drive, which can be connected to the device via a USB port on the side, Skripic said.
Despite the similarities between the two products -- both are small, square black slabs with curved corners -- Netgear isn't worried about Apple objecting to its design, Skripic said. The NeoTV Prime is about twice the size of the Apple TV and is made of different materials, he said.