Take that, Boxee Box! Take that, Roku Player! Sure, those companies are adding lots of content to their broadband set-top boxes through channels or apps developed by third-party content partners. But while those guys are competing to get more apps delivered to the TV through a standalone box, Vudu has taken the approach a step further by getting those apps actually embedded onto the TV.
Vudu announced a number of partnerships with CE manufacturers today that will put its new app store into their Internet-connected TVs and Blu-ray disc players over the coming year. Mitsubishi, Sanyo, Sharp, and Toshiba have settled on Vudu’s app store as their sole provider of streaming video and Internet services.
In fact, while Roku and Boxee have been pushing into the set-top market with low-priced standalone devices, Vudu has been edging out of the hardware business altogether, preferring instead to sell software licenses to consumer electronics manufacturers, and to take a cut of sales for videos shown on its software platform. (To be fair, Boxee is also licensing its software for the Boxee Box; all manufacturing, inventory management, and distribution is being handled by its hardware partner, D-Link.)
There is one big difference, however, besides the app or channel stores that Roku and Boxee offer and the one that Vudu is rolling out: While Roku and Boxee both offer open software development kits (SDKs) and APIs so that anyone can develop for their platforms, the Vudu app process is more tightly controlled, as one might expect from a piece of software being embedded into consumer TV sets sold by brand-name manufacturers. A Vudu spokesperson says that getting an app into the Vudu store requires a level of cooperation and partnership with the company. And while Vudu does have an SDK and APIs to enable integration with its service, not just anyone can build an app.
That said, the list of apps is pretty impressive, with more than 100 available in the first quarter. The list includes typical social apps such as Pandora, Flickr, Facebook and Twitter, but it also features a number of apps from premium content providers, like HBO’s Big Love and True Blood apps. Also available will be apps from the AP, NY Times, CNN, Revision3, and Showtime.
In addition to the launch of its app store, Vudu is announcing the availability of its video service on new HDTVs and Blu-ray disc players from LG, Mitsubishi, and Vizio, as well as the addition of its service to Samsung, Sanyo, Sharp, and Toshiba products. Altogether, Vudu’s streaming video service will be embedded on devices from seven of the top nine CE makers.