New BlockBuster VOD box runs Linux

Nov 26, 2008

In a better-late-than-never move, Blockbuster has introduced a video-on-demand (VOD) service accompanied by a “free” set-top box (STB). Like TiVo, Roku’s Netflix box, and many other modern Internet-enabled A/V gadgets, Blockbuster’s new VOD STB runs Linux.

Blockbuster claims its new VOD service offers “thousands of titles from the latest movie releases to classic favorites.” The company’s phrasing appears to be a thinly-veiled jab at Netflix’s VOD service, which currently seems to be limited primarily to TV shows, documentaries, and mostly older (“classic”) movies.



Blockbuster’s VOD service uses 2Wire’s MediaPoint STB
(Click to enlarge)

Like the Netflix VOD STB, there’s a $99 upfront pricetag associated with the Blockbuster offering. But that’s where the pricing similarity ends.

While Netflix’s box (made by Roku; pictured at right) has a one-time cost of $99 followed by a minimum monthly subscription to Netflix ($8.99+ for unlimited downloads), Blockbuster currently is providing its VOD STB (made by 2Wire) free with an advance rental of 25 on-demand movies for $99. Thereafter, VOD titles are available for $1.99 each.



Main menu of Blockbuster’s VOD service
(Click to enlarge)

STB specs

The VOD STB itself is a Blockbuster-specific version of 2Wire’s Mediapoint Digital Media Player, which, we’ve confirmed, runs an embedded Linux OS.

Although a detailed data sheet is not available at this time, the user’s manual (PDF download) can be found on Blockbuster’s website.



Rear panel connections (see list below)
(Click to enlarge)

In response to our request for details on the innards of the STB, 2Wire sent the following summary list of specs:

  • Processor — Broadcom 7405 chipset (described in two PDFs, here and here)
  • 2 x USB
  • SD Cardslot (not used in the Blockbuster release)
  • Networking — Ethernet and 802.11b/g WiFi
  • A/V ports — composite, component, HDMI, digital audio
  • Software platform — Linux

Bottom line

Although we plan to review the box in a future article, we’re already skeptical of the growing number of single-service Internet-connected A/V entertainment boxes. What we’d really like to see is a reasonably-priced, open-platform STB that serves as an A/V gateway to multiple Internet-based services — one consumer-friendly, environmentally-designed, low-power gadget “to rule them all,” if you will.

On this one box, we’d like to be able to gather: Netflix, based its the monthly subscription; VOD content on a pay-to-play basis from Amazon, Blockbuster, etc; free video from YouTube, Hulu, and various TV channels’ websites; and free Internet radio from Shoutcast-style sources.

Update (12/1/08) — Dave Zatz, over at ZatzNotFunny.com, has just published an article relating his experiences in unboxing and setting up the Blockbuster OnDemand STB. “The big surprise for me is that Blockbuster OnDemand is not purely a streaming service. Video can be played back while streaming, without transport controls, and/or once the download has completed,” says Dave.




PLEASE COMMENT BELOW

11 Responses to “New BlockBuster VOD box runs Linux”

  1. Nate says:

    The popcornhour is almost there for all your needs. Check it out…great community forum too!

    http://www.popcornhour.com/onlinestore/

  2. Stephen Warren says:

    Um, the popcornhour doesn’t appear to do *any* of the stuff people want in a unified media player (Netflix, Amazon, Blockbuster)

    That said, I could be wrong; their website is very low on the details of what the box can actually do.

  3. David says:

    Too bad they couldn’t do something with Nintendo. The Wii streams videos from YouTube wonderfully as does the Nintend Channel app, although it’s only for watching game “info-mercials” at the moment.

    It would be nice to use the Wii to watch VOD content as well, such as that from BlockBuster.

  4. M.Mandell says:

    Factual correction: After the initial 25 for $99 movies are “as low as $1.99″. Most recent movies are $3.99.

  5. banana face says:

    that mythical box you wish for already exists. it’s called “any desktop computer with a tv card.”

  6. Kennon says:

    “appears to be a thinly-veiled jab at Neftlix’s VOD service, which currently seems to be limited to a lot of TV shows, documentaries, and older (“classic”) movies.”

    Characterizing the Netflix watch-it-now selection in that way is pretty sketchy. I mean if you consider movies like Spiderman 3, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, No Country for Old Men, Pirates of the Carribean World’s End, and Apocalypto older classic movies then sure I guess but…

    Does it have all the new releases as they hit DVD? No, but it is unlimited and included in even the lowest end plans. It supplements a decent 2-4 disc at a time mail in plan nicely which is exactly what I am pretty sure it was supposed to do. At $4 a pop for new releases (which is only like a buck less than picking them up at the store) I think we are looking at yet another poorly planned and soon to be failed venture by our friends at Blockbuster. I mean most basic digital cable/sat plans in North America have “Movies on Demand” for $4-$5 or less already (many of them free) so whats the Blockbuster value-add here???

  7. deviceguru says:

    @Kennon:

    Apologies if I seemed to be demeaning the Netflix box. I have one and like it a lot; but I really wish there was more content available to it. Rumor has it that Roku (or Netflix) may be planning to add other download sources (beyond just Netflix videos) to it… here’s hoping!

  8. P.Woods says:

    Does this come with a CD of Linux + GNU s/w code?
    If not, there could be a lawsuit.

  9. deviceguru says:

    @P.Woods:

    Devices that contain GPL/LGPL software do not need to ship with their GPL/LGPL software’s source code. What is required is for the sellers of those devices to supply it by some means (and at a reasonable price) to customers who request it.

  10. Luka says:

    Check out Neuros Link at http://www.neurostechnology.com/neuros-link, it’s open source.

  11. Scott says:

    HDTivo now does Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and various other internet streaming (radio, etc).
    I’d be surprised if Hulu and Blockbuster don’t eventually make it on there as well, unless they have an exclusive deal with Netflix to counter a BB app.