HDMI streaming sticks are everywhere now, but a new one powered by Alticast, and shown for the first time at CES, comes with an interesting twist. The HDMI Media Express Stick includes both the Reference Design Kit (RDK) software bundle developed by Comcast (and now jointly managed with Time Warner), and Android support. That means it can be used as a set-top alternative by cable companies while also including access to Android apps.
Alticast CTO John Carlucci ran through a demo that showed multiple cable UIs running on the streaming stick. One was Korean (Alticast is headquartered in Korea), but one was the Cox Trio guide. The demo in no way confirms that Cox has decided to roll out an HDMI adapter a la Chromecast, but the idea isn’t inconceivable either. Cox has hinted strongly at licensing the RDK software, and has been progressive about testing new device models. The operator ran a brief trial in Orange County using the Fan TV hardware and software last year.
At the bottom of the Cox guide in the Alticast demo, there was also a bar of icons linking to popular Android apps. Carlucci said some of the apps, including Netflix, will only be supported in the second generation of its streaming stick solution, but the launch of that version isn’t far off. Personally, I have a hard time imagining any US operators offering direct access to the Google Play Store on their hardware, but I can see them including some select apps like Twitter, or an Android photo gallery app.
Meanwhile, the HDMI stick Alticast showed was manufactured by FXI Technologies. Called Cotton Candy, the hardware has made the rounds at trade shows for more than two years. However, Carlucci said Alticast’s solution is actually hardware agnostic, meaning operators can choose a different manufacturer if they prefer. The Cotton Candy version has an HDMI plug on one side, and a USB plug on the other, allowing it to plug into a TV or a PC.