Looking to spur sales of its $99 Loop remote control, Hillcrest launched the Kylo browser on March 22, boasting that it would allow Web video viewers to more easily navigate content on Hulu and other sites. Hours after the product debuted, Hillcrest announced that Hulu was blocking access to its Web browser, which is based on open-source Mozilla code. (See Hillcrest: Hulu
A Hillcrest spokesperson declined to say how many people have downloaded the Kylo browser since March, other than noting that the number is “substantial.” Targeting heavy Web video users and consumers that are cutting the cord on their cable TV subscriptions, Hillcrest faces competition from over-the-top Internet video firms such as Boxee and Roku Inc. , and technology giants such as Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG).
Hillcrest’s announcement today comes less than one week after Google said that it was teaming up with Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE), Logitech Ltd. , and other firms to launch Google TV this fall, a platform aimed at delivering Web video and applications to the TV in millions of homes. (See Google TV Comes Out, the World Tunes In and Google TV Channels Jinni & Rovi .)
Hillcrest competes with Logitech, which is supplying remote controls, wireless keyboards, and set-tops for Google TV. However, Hillcrest has licensed its Freespace technology to Logitech for use in one of the company’s remote controls.
While Google TV poses a competitive threat to Hillcrest and other companies looking to generate revenue from viewers that want to consume Web video content on TV, Hillcrest executives said the development is good news for the sector. And although Hillcrest doesn’t have an agreement with Google or any of its Google TV partners, the company says it is talking to consumer electronics manufacturers about licensing its technology for use in TVs and other broadband-connected devices.
“There are a number of CE manufacturers that are actively talking to Hillcrest about ways to bring pointing into a variety of devices, ranging from set-top boxes to next-generation television sets,” a Hillcrest spokesperson said.
The software update will allow Kylo users to access Hulu content, but it requires users to take several additional steps and to make manual adjustments to the settings on the browser. Hillcrest’s spokesperson said the software update is targeted at “advanced users.” [Ed. note: We'll check today to see if Hulu tries to block Kylo's workaround attempt, since it did just that when Boxee created a workaround of its own.] (See Hulu Blocks Boxee's Workaround Solution.)
In tandem with the Kylo update, Hillcrest has also reduced the price of its Loop pointer to $49, offering the discounted price June 11. The company said it is temporarily cutting the price to celebrate the Kylo release and to drive sales in advance of Father’s Day.
In addition to offering users a way to access Hulu content through Kylo, Hillcrest said the software update contains a plug-in that will allow users of Windows Media Center to launch Kylo and easily return to other Windows Media Center applications after surfing the Web. The software update will also allow users to hide the control bar on the Kylo browser, which it said will give users more viewing space on video sites that don’t offer a full-screen mode.
— Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable