Television must be broken, because everyone's trying to fix it.
Fanhattan joined the long list of companies set on "simplifying the TV experience," with its announcement of Fan TV, a small streaming box designed to integrate cable TV, streaming video and DVR recordings through a single interface. The pebblelike box was designed by Yves Behar and includes a buttonless, touch remote that lets you swipe your way through your content.
If the box looks good, the user interface looks even better. The company released several sleek screenshots that are certainly prettier than anything your cable company can offer, while also offering options to watch content on streaming services like Hulu Plus and Redbox Instant. The polished interface and cross-platform capabilities shouldn't be surprising to anyone who has played with Fanhattan's iOS app, which offers a similar ability to search among many online streaming services.
But how does it work?
Fan TV sounds great, but it's hardly the first solution aimed at uniting your TV, streaming video, and movies into a single box.
It's the same territory that's been tackled, with decidedly mixed success, by Google TV, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U, and Boxee Cloud DVR, not to mention the upcoming Xbox One. What none of these devices (with the exception of TiVo) has been able to do is get the support of cable companies for the deep integration that would make the longed-for "ultimate TV box" possible. Essentially Fan TV is betting it can pull of the kinds of deals that have eluded Google, Microsoft, and the other tech giants trying to rule the living room experience.
In fact, Fan TV is making an even riskier bet than most players in the field. Rather than using an HDMI input -- like Google TV or the Xbox One -- Fanhattan claims, "Fan TV will replace the need for a separate cable box, DVR and streaming device." That seems to indicate Fan TV will stream content straight from cable providers, which have been largely resistant to that kind of technology. (With some exceptions.) If those deals don't happen, Fan TV will be little more than a me-too streaming box, with no other method of integrating cable TV content. Until there are more details and partnerships announced, it's hard to take Fan TV as more than a neat demo.
Fan TV is scheduled to launch "later this year," but pricing has not been announced. The big question will be whether it's a single fee for the box or if Fan TV's will require a monthly subscription, like many similar devices already do.