Less than a month after Samsung Corp. received a waiver on the analog tuner mandate from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) , the consumer electronics giant's new retail cable set-top (minus the analog tuner) has arrived on Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) for pre-order. (See Samsung Embraces CableCARDs.)
As first reported by Zatz Not Funny, Samsung's retail CableCARD box is now listed at a price of $199.99, with a caveat that the product "usually ships within 1 to 2 months." When the STB was initially discovered, the Amazon product page included a line stating "Get in November 5, 2013." That directive was missing on the page at last check, but additional product information claimed the GX-SM530CF Smart Cable Box was first available on August 25, 2013. There was no image available.
Samsung's new hardware is noteworthy for its potential to breathe new life into the moribund retail CableCARD market. The set-top combines access to cable services with over-the-top video applications, including Amazon Instant Video, Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), and Hulu LLC 's Hulu Plus. Weighing in at just one pound, the box is roughly nine inches by seven inches in size and comes with built-in WiFi.
However, Samsung's new set-top doesn't feature digital video recording capabilities or an embedded hard drive. It's not known whether consumers will be offered an opportunity to purchase cloud storage or DVR service through Samsung, but any additional fees could make the already high cost of the box unpalatable.
While cheaper than a retail box from TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO), the Samsung set-top is much more expensive than streamer boxes and dongles from the likes of Roku Inc. and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). Although the added CableCARD support is a welcome feature, it's not clear that most consumers will be willing to go through the hassle of CableCARD rental and installation for the sake of the box.
At last count, only 603,000 CableCARDs had been shipped for retail video devices, as compared to 42 million installed in set-tops from cable operators.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable