First Look: Orb Brings the Net to Your Living Room

Oakland startup tries to make it easier

By Scott Budman
|  Tuesday, Aug 24, 2010  |  Updated 11:06 AM PDT
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First Look: Orb Brings the Net to Your Living Room

Scott Budman

The disc is coming.

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They look like coasters.  They could be the next wave of conductors.
 
Imagine a very near future, where you won't need boxes or new wires to bring content from the internet to your TV set.  Or, for that matter, finally being able to get all the music from the 'net (including Pandora and Sirius Satellite radio) to your stereo system.  It's on the way from a company based in Oakland, called Orb Networks

 
Orb comes with more than just cool technology, it comes with a cool executive pedigree.  CEO Joe Costello, famous for creating all those wealthy people when Cadence Design Systems went public, used some of his money to start a tech incubator.  Among the companies rising out of that, Orb Networks.  They got part of the way to where they needed to be, then coaxed Costello back into the top job.
 
"All the content's out there," Costello says, pointing up to the clouds, "you can take all of that internet content, Hulu, etc., and boom, put it on the TV."  And, like Apple TV, and Roku, Orb wants to help you put it there.  No new wires, not even a box.  Just a thin coaster (some female beta testers told Costello they look "like makeup compacts") you hook to your TV or stereo, and bring the content over.
 
The stereo version is out now, costing $89.  The TV version is due in September, and will probably cost about $120.  I've seen them both in action, and can say that - along with your Apple or Android powered smartphone, which you use as a remote - they work well.  The downloads are quick, and - good news for the content providers, like Hulu - the ads are still there.  In fact, you're just bringing over whatever's online, to your homne components.  Extra good news for Pandora app fans:  Pandora, with the Orb, can stream on your home stereo.
 
If Orb catches on, it will likely be because the hookup is easy, and the "Orbs" are small enough to not be intimidating.  In fact, you can even tuck them away  so nobody known how you're doing it.  The goal, they realize, is 'net content, but without having to sit at a desk watching your computer.  Says Costello, "I can get it on my computer, but I want it anywhere, any TV, any stereo system, not just a computer or special device."
 
Stay tuned.  There may be a disc or two in your near future.
 
 Scott can be reached on Twitter:  @scottbudman

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