Harvard International has today announced the launch of a new range of high definition set top boxes, offering web services and integration with mobile devices.
Bearing the branding View21, the Freeview HD and Freesat HD receivers are aimed at customers who want to “future proof their TV experience” without having to switch to pay-TV.
The receivers will enable users to watch all the standard and high definition channels available on Freeview and Freesat, as well as record shows using the digital video recorder (DVR) functionality.
The receivers have two tuners and an electronic programme guide (EPG) designed by Harvard, which also produces set top boxes under the Goodmans brand. In addition, the boxes offer some catch-up TV services and a range of web apps optimised for use on the television screen.
Developed in partnership with software company ANT and using the company’s Galio connected TV platform, View21 boxes will launch with four in-built web services – BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Flickr, and Twitter.
Paul Fellows, who joined Harvard as chief technology officer from IPTV firm Amino, said that the firm wanted to create an “integrated” product that brought together broadcast TV and the web.
Fellows said that there is often a “big clunk” when shifting between the internet and TV using connected products, but Harvard wanted View21 to offer users a more seamless experience.
The EPG lays out programmes as normal, but there are a variety of filter tabs at the top that show the additional content, such as iPlayer, YouTube and any programmes recorded on the box.
Twitter has been “optimised” for the TV screen, meaning the updates can be shown in a range of ways, such as a news ticker on the bottom of the screen showing the latest tweets.
One of the most impressive features of the box is how it integrates with other mobile devices, including iPhone and iPad. The products come with an app that enables the user to control the EPG using their mobile device rather than the remote control.
The app has a remote record function for setting DVR recordings, while any saved content can be streamed from the hard drive to watch on other devices. This effectively means that the boxes enable a dual-screen viewing experience, with one person watching a channel on the TV and another simultaneously watching another channel or recorded content on an iPad or iPhone.
Harvard decided to create the View21 brand after running a strategic review of the business, which led to increased investment in its technical capabilities and products.
Fellows said that the current digital switchover in the UK has meant more people are upgrading to HD TVs, and so there was more “screen real estate” available to present sophisticated EPGs.
Equally, there has been a 10% growth in average broadband speeds in the UK over the past six months, according to Ofcom, meaning there is more capacity to run services over the internet.
Fellows confirmed that the team is “definitely considering” the idea of offering paid-for content, such as Hollywood movies, on View21 boxes in the future, while the partnership with ANT means that the firm can access existing relationships with thousands of developers for potential future app launches.
In a statement, Harvard chief executive Mike Ashley added: “Following our strategic review we have invested heavily in expanding our technical capabilities – both in software and hardware design.
“The culmination of this investment is a range of products that is innovative, easy to use and affordable. We’ve designed View21 to be a reliable, future-proof solution that enables consumers to empower their televisions with a truly connected, all-in-one entertainment experience.”
The View21-branded Freeview HD and Freesat HD receivers will launch before the end of the year, most likely around Christmas. Fellows said that the products are “aimed predominantly at the mass market”, meaning Harvard will not “whack a premium price” on them.