THE great divide between watching TV on your telly and on a computer narrowed considerably in 2014, and the next 12 months could see it vanish altogether.
The concept of streaming programmes to your big screen via either a stick plugged into the back or a set-top box has gained traction thanks to the involvement of Amazon, Apple and Google. Each of them now markets devices that will turn any TV into a smart TV by adding internet-delivered services like Netflix, the iPlayer, 4OD and Lovefilm.
All have one thing in common: they are vehicles for selling you online content from designated providers. As such, the manufacturers make them available as cheaply as possible, to hook you in.
The latest entrant to the market takes a somewhat different view. Vero opens the doors to content from the wider internet. If it’s out there, Vero can display it on your TV.
Vero’s other striking difference is that it’s marketed by a 20-year-old British student. His name is Sam Nazarko and despite his tender years he has form for this kind of thing – his media player for the Raspberry Pi mini-computer has been downloaded three million times.
Vero launches this month – so far online only – with a £125 price tag. That’s considerably more than Google’s Chromecast or Amazon’s line of Fire TV devices – but you won’t be asked for an ongoing subscription.
The Vero box itself is a white cube small enough to fit in your palm, with a dual-core processor inside and an array of USB and HDMI sockets on the sides. You connect it to your home broadband network via either cable or w-ifi and fire up the built-in media player. This is OSMC, a platform developed by Nazarko and based on the free Kodi program.
OSMC can play any content – video, music, pictures – on your home network plus anything it can find on the internet. You can also install third-party add-ons such as USTVNow, which will let you watch free-to-air American channels live.
In short, Vero behaves almost exactly like a desktop computer – except you watch it on your TV and control it with a remote. It’s by no means the first device to do this but probably the first to be sold expressly for the purpose, with three years of software updates guaranteed, and with a nose thumbed to the market leaders. It’s a promising start to the year.