With Fan TV, Fanhattan Thinks It Has the Home Entertainment God Box

For years – years -- we've longed for a so-called God box that could corral everything into one place. One box to rule them all, as it were.

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Fan TV

Here are a few truisms when it comes to the entertainment content that people consume at home:

1. If you’re a cable or satellite subscriber, the interface on the cable or satellite box that’s connected to your TV is probably at least five years behind where it should be. At least.

2. If you get content online, you probably get it from more than one service (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon or iTunes, to name a few).

3. You probably have more than one box connected to your TV.

For years – years — we’ve longed for a so-called God box that could corral everything into one place. One box to rule them all, as it were. In fact, here’s yours truly longing for a mythical God box way back in 2007. I’m older, heavier and wiser now. Still no God box.

But the same people who brought you the very popular Fanhattan app and website (I named the iPad app as one of 50 must-haves) have been working for two years on a single box that connects to your TV and pulls in content from all over the place. It’s simply called Fan TV. In fact, Fanhattan is changing its name completely to Fan TV and it hired Yves Behar to design the box and the remote. This could be serious.

Fanhattan CEO Gilles BianRosa showed off Fan TV at the AllThingsD conference this week. According to AllThingsD’s Bonnie Cha:

BianRosa called the Fan TV an input 1 device, meaning that it plugs into the first input of your TV and acts as your primary set-top box. There’s only an HDMI port, an Ethernet jack (it also has Wi-Fi) and a power connector on back, so setup should be simple. And it provides access to live TV, on-demand content, DVR and streaming services.

The device is powered by components similar to the ones found in a tablet. There is no hard drive; everything is in the cloud, including DVR recordings.

The battery-operated remote is interesting in and of itself. It communicates via Bluetooth, and there are no buttons on it at all. Instead, the surface of the remote acts as a touchpad and has 200 sensors. You just swipe the surface to navigate through the menus and change channels, while a quick tap will select an item. Without any buttons, users won’t be able to manually enter channel numbers and that’s by design. However, there is an onscreen keyboard if you want to search for a TV show or movie.

Sounds incredible, no? If you’ve ever used the Fanhattan website or app, you know that its true power lies in its ability to let you find things you want to watch, regardless of whether they’re on TV, streamed from Netflix or purchasable from iTunes. Imagine the same interface, but on your TV and all controlled with a simple yet fancy touchscreen remote. Check out the video on this page to see how everything works.


Fan TV

There’s a catch, though — and it’s a big one. If you subscribe to a cable or satellite service, Fanhattan is going to have to convince your service provider to let the Fan TV box act as your cable or satellite box as well. As Cha notes, “Fanhattan’s big challenge may not be getting consumers onboard but the cable providers. BianRosa said they are working with paid TV providers to bring Fan TV to market together.”

Aside from “working with” whoever Fanhattan’s been working with, there’s no info about how much this box would cost, when it would be available and which partners would come along for the ride.

BianRosa said during his interview at D11, “We’re not ignoring them. We want to work with them, and we want to make their service look great. As an industry, they’ve been underserved by getting set-top boxes manufactured by Cisco and Motorola. Those companies don’t really face consumers. They are clients of those cable companies, so they don’t really care about design and usability.”

That quote, perhaps better than any other, basically sums up one half of the reason why there’s been talk of a God box for so long, but no actual God box in reality. The other half is the steadfast determination by broadcasters, cable companies and content producers to protect how their content is accessed. If BianRosa and company are actually able to pull this God box off, they’ll indeed be performing a miracle.

Fanhattan Introduces Fan TV Set-Top Box [AllThingsD]