Orb Networks Shutting Down; A Farewell to Orb

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The Orb TV An early pioneer of the streaming revolution bit the dust this week, with the news that Orb Networks has been acquired by an unknown buyer, and will soon wind down operations.

 As reported Wednesday by Engadget, Orb’s founder and CEO Joe Costello posted a note on the company’s website that Orb’s team and technologies have been acquired by one of its strategic partners, and its services will soon wind down. Neither the buyer nor the purchase price was disclosed.

With this news, I think of Orb the way I expect to think of BlackBerry on the inevitable day that that company gets acquired and/or shut down: Even though they weren’t able to innovate nearly as quickly as their competitors, they were one of the first in the space, and I’ll always have fond memories of using the technology.

The first Orb product I used was something called the Orb TV, a hockey puck sized- and shaped device that plugged into your TV, with component cables, in the style of the Roku or Apple TV. The difference was, it accessed files directly from your computer and streamed them to the TV, with the user’s mobile device serving as a remote.

The device was quite buggy, hard to set up, and didn’t always work. It lacked HD, and couldn’t use HDMI cables. But I’ll always remember it for two things- it was the first device I ever used to stream Netflix on my TV, and my then-one-year-old son, who had just started walking, would always try to grab it from the TV stand and walk away with it. I have a home video in which I can be heard telling him, “no Noah, not the Orb!”

I reviewed Orb TV here, in our predecessor magazine E-Gear, and looking up the review I’m astonished that it was only two-and-a-half years ago, the strides that have been made in streaming and living room technology in the time since are nothing less than stunning. So many things are possible with content and streaming and devices now that weren’t even imaginable in early 2011.

In the ensuing years, Orb tried a few other things, such as Orb Music and a Blu-ray-based edition that connected to a disc. But I’d barely heard anything about them in awhile- reminded of their existence only when scrolling past the Orb app on my phone- so I figured today’s news was only a matter of time.

Here’s the full text of Costello’s note:

Over the last 9 years Orb has built many great products in the streaming media market. Along the way it became clear that the only path to the best consumer experience was industry wide adoption of a foundation technology like Orb’s. For the last 18 months we have been working to make our underlying technology a de facto standard for streaming media. We made a tremendous amount of technical and market progress, but we were clear from the start that we would need one or more big strategic partners to help us complete the vision.

We are proud to say that Orb’s team and technology have been acquired by one of the large strategic partners who completely shares the Orb vision for building a standard platform for media solutions and beyond. They had already been investing aggressively in this technology and felt that Orb’s work was perfectly aligned with their vision and would significantly accelerate and expand their offerings and capabilities. Orb will be leading the streaming media effort in the new company. We feel confident that this will lead to far broader adoption, better consumer experiences and many more product options for customers. Stay tuned for announcements about the fruits of this joining of forces later this year.

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