CES Recap: Cord Cutters Edition

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What happes in Vegas … may help you to get rid of your cable bill. Countless CE makers showed off new gadgets at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Many companies were trying to convince us that they’re gonna have the next iPad, but there were also a few notable gadgets for cord cutters and other aficionados of online video. In case you missed it, here are the five most important new cord cutting announcements from the show:

Boxee: More Devices and More Content

Iomega will make an NAS server featuring Boxee’s media center software that will start shipping in February. Think of it as a Boxee Box with a big hard drive. Boxee also teamed up with Viewsonic to produce a Boxee TV set, which will ship some time in Q2. There was also good news for Boxee-loving cord cutters in search of content sources: Boxee struck a deal with CBS (s cbs) to sell shows directly on the Boxee Box. VUDU is scheduled to show up on Boxee Boxes later this week, with Netflix (s nflx) later this month.

DECE’s Ultraviolet Finally Unveils Its Roadmap, Will Be Available Mid-2011

Good news for cord cutters that are also movie fans: The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) — an industry consortium that includes participation from Hollywood and Silicon Valley — is finally making good on its plans to launch a “buy once, watch anywhere” scheme for buying and renting movies online. Already two-and-a-half years in the making, its UltraViolet digital rights locker will finally become available in the U.S. in mid-2011, with a rollout to Canada and the UK planned for later in the year. UltraViolet will allow consumers to create up to six member profiles that will be able to watch a single piece of digital content on up to 12 different devices, with a cloud-based rights locker that ensures users that purchase a certain piece of content will own it forever — even if the digital store they purchased it from goes out of business.

Hulu Plus Will Soon Be on Android Devices

Hulu showed off the latest mobile app for its subscription video service, Hulu Plus, which will finally making broadcast content from ABC, (s DIS) Fox (s NWS) and NBC (s GE) available on Android devices. The app, which is expected to be released in the coming weeks, will enable some Android users to access Hulu Plus on their phones and mobile tablets. But it won’t work for all customers — just those with mobile devices running Android 2.2 or above.

Netflix Gets a Button on Remote Controls for Direct Access

Pretty soon, cord cutters with connected TVs will no longer have to navigate labyrinthine menus to get access to their favorite content on Netflix, (s NFLX) as a number of consumer electronics manufacturers have announced that they will be adding a “Netflix button” directly on remote controls.

Orb Embraces Blu-ray

While Orb Networks has been in the business of shipping a hardware-based wireless streaming device, at CES last week, the company showed that software is at the heart of its products. Now the company is coming to market with a $20 Blu-ray disc that will work with today’s Blu-ray players and Sony PlayStation 3 (s sne) game consoles to stream any piece of content from a PC to the TV through a Wi-Fi connection. With that price point, Orb is making the possibility of wirelessly streaming over-the-top content extremely cheap and easy. There’s just the question of whether or not online video providers will be able to detect the software or attempt to block Orb from accessing their content.

Did we miss any cool gadgets that could make cord cutting easier? Or did you hope to see something in Vegas that ended up being a no-show? Let us know in the comments, and check out the most recent episode of Cord Cutters below.

Image courtesy of Flickr user PrimeImageMedia.com.

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David Holland

Easier and more pervasive support for premium content sources like Hulu Plus and Netflix on CE devices certainly belong in your list. Expanding content partnerships and device support for OTT platforms (such as Boxee, as you mention) is also good news for aficionados of on-line video. What I’d add to your list, was the progress made by DivX TV throughout 2010, and how this approach is different from those mentioned in your list.

DivX TV is an Internet TV service designed to be accessed on virtually any connected CE device or platform. Unlike more processor intensive and complex platforms such as Boxee or Google TV, DivX TV has been designed for mainstream CE devices, both in terms of the ease of the user experience and in its lightweight hardware requirements. At the show, we were demonstrating the live service on production Blu-ray players from LG. DivX TV is now providing free, on-demand access to over 200 shows, with no external hardware, no account or device set-up, and certainly with no PC-mediation through a local network connection from an app loading from an optical disc.

I’ve used orb, and I’d argue the point about this being an easy solution for most. Easy is you powering up your connected Blu-ray player/TV/STB, and going straight into a pre-installed internet video browser using your existing remote control and surfing free, curated content made for your TV immediately. Think of it as an on-line TV network you will be able to access on a growing number of devices and in a growing number of languages and regions. No keyboard & mouse required, just flip through channels of Internet videos like you normally would change channels on your TV. That’s easy.

We also announced expanded IC support and content partnerships at the show.

Learn more at divxtv.com

David Holland

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