Friday, May 20, 2011
Updates on the Netgear NTV 550
As followers of the media streamer reviews on AnandTech already know, I have been in possession of a review unit of the Netgear NTV 550 since CES. It was a CES Innovation award winner, and the specifications and price point convinced me that this was one of the media players with immense potential.
More than 6 months after the unit appeared in the market, the firmware is still not stable enough to warrant a review. In addition to this, news came out recently that Netgear had decided to drop pursuit of Netflix certification for the NTV550. I reached out to get some official statements regarding the current status of the NTV550 in Netgear's product development roadmap. First, let us take a look at why the plans to support Netflix on the NTV 550 was scrapped.
Netgear demonstrated Netflix on the NTV 550 during CES with the v2.0 Netflix UI (not the updated UI which is being seen in recent CE products). The only hold-up was the final certification process. It was supposed to get cleared in 3 - 4 weeks, but that never happened. What happened behind the scenes?
The precursor to Netflix certification for any CE device is the certification of the SoC platform (along with a core SDK version). The NTV 550 was the first CE device using the Sigma Designs 864x platform to pursue Netflix certification. Since Netflix hadn't certified the 8642 before, its comprehensive testing revealed some issues with the SDK. After updates from Sigma, Netgear sent the NTV 550 again to Netflix. Unfortunately, it came back with some issues the second time around too.
Around this time, Netflix decided to devote more resources to CE platforms with v3.x UI. Sigma Designs had to spend more time getting its SDK up to speed. In the meanwhile, Netgear decided it wouldn't be worth it to risk getting rejected again. After all, Netflix's resources were being utilized every time the NTV 550 was sent for certification. Netflix certification pursuit for the NTV 550 was stopped In order to ensure continued cordial relations between Netflix and Netgear.
My takeaway from the whole discussion was that Netgear took a risk in bringing up Netflix support for the NTV 550 despite being in the know about the SMP 8642 not being Netflix certified. Even more surprising was the fact that Sigma Designs never undertook Netflix certification for 8642. Considering the fact that most, if not all, Blu-Ray players come with Netflix access, it is surprising that their flagship Blu-Ray SoC was not sent for Netflix approval. In the future, CE manufacturers should probably ensure the usage of a Netflix certified SoC platform before advertising Netflix availability on their DMA product.