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TiVo Inventors Follow in Chromecast's Footsteps With Qplay, but Disappoint


The creators of TiVo hope to capitalize on the success of Google's Chromecast with the inexpensive media player Qplay, but does it measure up?

Editor's note: This story has been corrected. It originally indicated that Qplay was a TiVo product. The device was created by TiVo's co-founders, but is not connected to TiVo, the company.

The two men who co-founded TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) and have since launched their own company are aiming to recapture buzzword-y status as the future of home entertainment with Qplay, a new and inexpensive media center for online video streaming that costs only $49.

Roughly the size of an external hard drive, Qplay is controlled by an iPad (NASDAQ:AAPL) app that aggregates video selections into queues. The playlists can be automatically generated from Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), RSS feeds, and fellow Qplay users, or the viewer can simply add clips to a "watch later" queue with a bookmarklet. Co-creators Michael Ramsay and Jim Barton tout the device's ability to provide viewers with a passive or "leanback" experience and stream uninterrupted content without the user having to constantly tinker with a playlist.

"A key to our development approach is that we started from the ground up to understand what people really wanted, how much control they needed, and which capabilities they would value over today's broadcast model," Ramsay writes in a public statement. "We understood that many people still wanted to watch TV and get great content. People wanted to create collections of videos and share them with their friends. People demanded the flexibility to watch video on the TV and mobile devices. We felt if we could address these basic needs, we could start to realize our vision."

There's just one problem, and its name is Chromecast.

At $35, Chromecast already performs much of the functionality of Qplay at launch and does so in a far more versatile way. Currently, Qplay is only compatible with an iPad app, whereas Chromecast can be controlled via an iOS, Android, Mac, or Windows (NASDAQ:MSFT) device. Support is also limited for Qplay, with Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Hulu Plus access conspicuously missing and users forced to aggregate content with a single iPad app. However, app support for Chromecast -- its SDK was released to developers earlier this month -- continues to grow. And Chromecast's leanback experience -- particularly with YouTube's (NASDAQ:GOOG) "Watch TV" queue, accessible to anyone with a mobile device -- mimics what Qplay hopes to accomplish.

Of course, Qplay has only just launched and it is undoubtedly going to draw support from major content providers because of the names attached to it. Accessibility will likely improve across devices and perhaps expand beyond a single app. And it's always beneficial for the consumer to have tech companies competing with one another in the marketplace to ensure upgrades and new features to keep products exciting.

Unfortunately, as it stands, Qplay merely follows in the footsteps of Chromecast and fails to add anything to conversation. That may change in the future, but right now, you're still much better off saving $14 and going with the Google device.

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