SiliconDust offers a $30 conversion to defunct Simple.TV boxes
Imagine spending $200 for a DVR that records over-the-air television only to find out months later that it will no longer work.
That’s what happened to customers who bought Simple TV DVR.
Really Simple Software, the creators of Simple TV, announced their devices would no longer be supported after Aug. 4.
So I thought it was pretty cool when its competitor SiliconDust announced that the company would help scores of customers who had bought the now-defunct Simple.TV. SiliconDust, the makers of HDHomeRun, will convert SimpleTV Gen2 devices into a HDHomeRun Extend tuner for $30.
Once the conversion is complete, SimpleTV owners will get to tap into most of the same features they had before.
Both SimpleTV and HDHomeRun gave users the ability to stream OTA televisions over WiFi.
HDHomeRun DVR is a subscription-based service, so offering the conversion definitely benefits SiliconDust, and it’s a wise move on their part. But the converted Extend tuners will also work with PLEX as an alternative.
If you’re a Simple.TV owner who is considering the conversion, read my review of the HDHomeRun Extend for more information about how it works.
SiliconDust also has a page on its site, detailing the changes that will be made during the conversion. Most notable, HDHomeRun tuners do not currently support Roku or Chromecast. It’s unclear how many second generation Simple.TV devices are on the market, but I will be interested to see what happens to them.
I’ve already spotted , trying to use the SiliconDust offer as a way to unload Simple.TV devices for $9.99. Assuming the device is legit, paying $40 for a HDHomeRun Extend would be a bargain compared to the full asking price.
What happened to Simple.TV?
Simple TV certainly tried to be a competitor and rival to the popular HDHomeRun lineup. SiliconDust had already been in the business of streaming OTA broadcasts a lot longer.
Where did Really Simple Software go wrong?
It’s unclear exactly what happened. Running a business of any kind is difficult at best. A story in Variety reporting on Simple TV’s demise noted hardware issues plagued the first and second generation devices.
Another misstep may have come when RSS decided to develop a Cloud DVR, while maintaining its original service, according to the story.
I’ve never used a Simple.TV. After reading about its performance in a couple of reviews, I couldn’t help but think that the company may have spread itself too thin. Having a product that does lots of things sort-of OK isn’t nearly as important as of doing one thing really well.
Of course, it’s easy for me to say that. Nobody is giving me a cool $10 million to launch some hardware. But it’s odd to see a company like RSS fail after just five years, especially when you take a look at the burgeoning cord cutting market.
New OTA products hitting the market in 2017
Hardware companies of all stripes are rushing to get new cord cutting products on the market this year. Nearly 1 million pay TV customers decided to cut the cord in this last quarter, and analysts expect that trend to only grow. Hardware and software companies are moving in to accommodate the changing landscape of TV viewing habits.
- Mohu have been pushing out new models of antennas like the Leaf Glide and soon-to-be-released Mohu Airwave. The former is designed to draw in hard-to-reach VHF signals. The latter is a wireless indoor antenna will be able to stream OTA channels to devices like Roku and Amazon Fire TV.
- Antennas Direct also just released ClearStream TV, an OTA tuner that streams to apps and allows users to pause and rewind live TV.
- NVIDIA also got into the OTA streaming game this year with their popular Shield TV devices.
- Tablo just released a new DVR that comes with an internal hard drive.
TV manufactures like TCL have continued to see explosive growth in the U.S. market with its line of popular Roku TVs, according to data from NPD Group.
NPD’s recent data shows that TCL is continuing to expand at a staggering rate, including 72 percent year-over-year growth, solidifying the company as the fourth largest brand of smart televisions in the United States.
Combining 4K HDR picture quality with Roku software and OTA capabilities is likely helping the company quite a bit. The company just released its new S-Series model. In fact, Amazon recently released a competing line of 4K HDR TVs with Fire TV software baked-in.
Where is all this going? It’s hard to say, but nobody should mistake the demise of Simple.TV with the viability of cord cutting.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble
I’ll miss my Simple.TV devices. It’s sad but I think all of the users who kept up with what was going on had seen the writing on the wall for quite a while.
I believe their first device launched as a Kickstarter project (I wasn’t a backer). They caught my attention right after they launched their 2nd gen dual tuner device (manufactured by Silicon Dust, which is why they can convert it for so cheap). I was looking for a HDHomeRun and they were on sale on Woot! The Simple.TV gen 2 device as also included in the sale. I was intrigued that the device could also work as a DVR and record to an attached USB drive (Silicon Dust wasn’t offering a DVR solution yet at that point). When I looked around a bit I realized that I could get the gen 1 device (also featuring native H.264 encoding) new with a lifetime subscription code for far less than the cost of lifetime subscription alone so I decided to get one of those and add on a gen 2 at a later time (which I did a few months later).
The closest device/service to Simple.TV on the market is Tablo, which is really the exact same concept Simple.TV pioneered, brought to the market quite a bit later, but they seemed to have more money for marketing and to better polish their software and apps. They both had plug-ins/apps for iPhone, Android, Roku, Plex etc. Simple.TV also had apps for Windows Phone/Mobile & Modern UI which I believe Tablo still lacks. They both let you watch TV and recordings while away from home ala Sling. They even have the same pitfalls such as the need to phone home to their servers for playback from most apps (i.e. if your internet or their servers are down don’t expect to be able to watch TV or your recordings and if the servers go offline forever…you’re hosed like Simple.TV owners are now)
I think you assessment of their failure is pretty accurate. I also think they just didn’t have enough money in the beginning to market themselves properly or polish things quite as much as was needed. They seemed to hope to save the company by making a big push with their gen 2 device (hoping to put out a very solid unit manufactured by Silicon Dust), but the super noisy fan and other issues early on severely hampered that effort and soured user’s reception of the device. It only got worse from there, as a server issue erased a large portion of users accounts from their system. I had to dig out my lifetime service code and register all over again. People who had lost or thrown out their codes were out of luck and others complained there codes were not accepted the 2nd time around. After re-registering, previous recordings were either lost entirely or lacked metadata. I believe I also remember one or two service outages lasting several days where users could neither watch or record with their devices. After all of this, good word of mouth was not something the company had going for them any longer.
I think most users saw the writing on the wall when RSS seemed to put Simple.TV in maintenance mode and refocused on a separate and hardware-less cloud based DVR service. This left everyone confused considering the similar Aereo service had already been ruled illegal in the US, but I think they said they were hoping they could market the service in Europe. At any rate, that never materialized and I guess they felt they couldn’t compete with Tablo and other similar devices, even though they had been first to market with such a device, so they just exited the market and eventually ran out of money.
I obviously know little about their situation, but it’s hard not to wonder if RSS could have survived had they just doubled down on marketing, improving their existing Simple.TV ecosystem, and developing new and improved devices rather than abandoning almost everything they had developed to pursue a different service that ultimately didn’t come to fruition or help them save the company.
I guess they couldn’t even sell Simple.TV in the end so most of that hardware, software, and customer base will just go to waste with the exception of what Silicon Dust can convert to a HDHomeRun Extend and what users they and Plex can gather from the former Simple.TV customer base for DVR use of those devices.
On the bright side, I’ll finally be getting that HDHomeRun I wanted a few years ago.
I have to correct myself on a couple of points. It sounds like RSS’s cloud DVR service (ShowDrive) was in fact going to use an in-home DVR box and then stream the recorded video to their cloud servers for storage and then stream it back again for playback. It sounds like an awfully network intensive way to go about it but I can also think of some neat advantages. They could have minimized storage use by analyzing and combining multiple recordings of the same show/movie and probably even done some cool things like removing channel logos & commercials, and correcting corrupt video segments, so everyone could have a nice pristine version for playback. Going that far would probably be ruled illegal in the end though if any networks caught wind of it.
The ShowDrive site it still up:
so maybe RSS is not totally defunct yet.
It looks like they worked with a partner company called Bush to develop a DVR box for the service and claimed to have other devices on the way about a year ago:
Related articles seem to indicate that the device was coming out August 30th and since there don’t seem to be any reviews or indications of the box being sold at the argos.co.uk site indicated, or anywhere else since then, I’m going to assume something fell through. The user experience was probably too buggy (in typical RSS fashion) for Bush to be comfortable releasing the hardware commercially and I’m guessing the whole experience is stuck in beta testing until RSS can iron out the issues.
I see on the ShowDrive website that they are claiming to have app for iOS, Android, Windows, & Roku as well as HTML5 based web viewing and Chromecast support. I can’t find any of those apps available publicly, but judging by the offering similarity to Simple.TV ecosystem, I’m guessing they intend to heavily reuse the same code that Kickstarter backers and Simple.TV subscribers helped pay to develop. I guess it’s good if it doesn’t go to waste but if ShowDrive actually survives I’m sure a lot of people will be, rightly, upset that they are left with nothing while RSS and other customers benefit from features they helped pay to develop.