Japanese Consumer Electronics brand, Akai, has launched the AKAI Smart Box, an internet enabled set top box that will allow users to convert all kinds of television sets including CRT, Plasma, LCD or LED TVs into a smart TV. The Smart Box is based on Google’s Android 2.3 operating system and is available across India at an introductory offer price of Rs. 6,590 (M.R.P. Rs. 6990).
The Smart Box comes with a wireless mouse for navigation instead of a remote, and is equipped with a 4GB internal memory and supports memory up to 32 GB through an SD Card slot. The Smart Box runs on an ARM A8 chip. It allows users to connect to the internet and browse websites, read and access online content including books, newspapers, emails, weather, market updates, games, music, videos and access social networking sites on their television through the device. Apart from that, it also supports Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) which allows the user to access and share digital content (videos, photos, music) from his mobile phone or computer on to the TV screen directly when on a common Wi-Fi network. Users can also download Android apps from Google Playstore on their device.
Connectivity-wise, the device supports 2G and 3G networks, WiFi, LAN, and has 4 USB ports, which means that besides a mouse, key-board and webcam, one can also connect a hard disk or a pen-drive and play movies, music and pictures on the TV itself. Apart from that, it can also save pictures and videos recorded through the external webcam connected to the device. The company claims that it supports all popular movie, music and picture formats. It also lets users create a WiFi hotspot if connected to a LAN cable or 3G dongle to transmit WiFi signal to operate other gadgets (maximum 5 gadgets).
While Android based internet connected boxes give access to internet content on TVs, we’re not sure as to how much of this content, specially applications, are designed specifically for TVs. Smart TVs made by tv companies use proprietary operating systems, for which content providers have to make separate apps, but these apps are optimized for TV sets. The Android based box will without doubt give access to Google’s Playtore for apps but not all content available on these boxes would be optimised for TVs. Note that this box is not based on Google’s smart tv platform, Google TV, which is not available officially in India (via Sony or LG devices).
In June 2012, Amkette, the storage and multimedia technology company, announced EvoTV which allowed customers to access Internet on their television using WiFi or a broadband connection. The device, priced at an MRP of Rs. 12,995, is available in the market for Rs. 9,995 with Evo Touch Remote. Telecom service provider, Vodafone had launched an Android based internet access device called Webbox, but it was not marketed as a media player or a smart tv extension.
Apart from that, Slingbox also provides TV streaming media device that allows users to remotely view and control their home’s cable, satellite, or personal video recorder (PVR) system from an Internet-enabled computer with a broadband Internet connection. There’s also Roku Player that users to access internet streamed video or audio services through televisions. However, Roku box is not available in India.