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HDMI-stick runs Firefox OS, acts like Chromecast

Jun 24, 2014  |  Rick Lehrbaum
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A Firefox OS developer evangelist tweeted a photo of a prototype HDMI stick that runs Firefox OS and offers DIAL-based, Chromecast-style media streaming.

Mozilla developer evangelist Christian Heilmann posted the photo below to Twitter on June 19, and followed it up with a few sparse comments in answer to readers’ questions. Heilmann describes the device as “a fully open TV casting prototype device running FirefoxOS… Open boot loader and all.”



Firefox OS HDMI-stick prototype
(click to enlarge)

The unnamed Firefox OS device, currently in prototype form, is being readied for production by an undisclosed device manufacturer. Few details regarding the mystery HDMI-stick device was shared, other than that it makes use of the DIAL (DIscovery And Launch) media-casting protocol popularized by Google’s Chromecast device.

DIAL is described on its home page as “a simple protocol that second-screen devices can use to discover and launch apps on first-screen devices.” It’s based on combination of UPnP, SDP, and HTTP protocols, and is noteworthy for its ability to let tablets and smartphones cast content to smart TVs, Blu-ray players, and set-top-boxes without needing to be paired with those devices. “DIAL,” a trademark of Netflix, is said to be supported by Roku’s popular HDMI-stick media player, although not much has been done with it there, yet.

 
HDMI streaming sticks diverge…

When the Firefox OS streaming stick arrives, it will join an increasingly crowded field of similar devices, based on a diverse range of embedded Linux and Android OS stacks. A representative sampling of HDMI-stick-style media streaming devices we’ve tracked over the past few years appears below. Click each section’s title to access our detailed coverage of each device.


    (click to enlarge)

  • Roku Streaming Stick — Initially released in January 2012 and updated with full HDMI compatibility earlier this year, Roku’s $50 streaming stick is powered by a customized embedded Linux stack and essentially implements a complete Roku Player on an HDMI stick. Like Roku’s other players, the stick device is said to offer more than 1,200 content channels in the U.S. and 750 channels in Canada, the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland. The device also offers media rendering capabilities via third-party, installable apps, and may also include DIAL features at some point. (details)

    (click to enlarge)
  • Plair — Touted during its debut as offering AirPlay-like media casting capabilities, Plair’s $49 Linux-powered “Plair 2″ device — now fortified with claims of Chromecast compatibility — offers AirPlay-like beaming of multimedia content from Apple, Windows, and Android devices to “any HDTV” with an available HDMI port. In addition to its reliance on an embedded Linux OS, the device includes some Android aspects in order to enable future incorporation of Android apps, company co-founder Saad Hussain told LinuxGizmos. (details)

    (click to enlarge)
  • Bravia Smart Stick — Sony’s $150 Bravia Smart Stick brings Google’s Google TV stack to an HDMI stick form-factor. As such, it offers a combination of live TV, media streaming from the web, plus apps, games, and web browsing. It also provides various voice recognition features. (details)

    (click to enlarge)
  • Chromecast — Google’s groundbreaking $35 Chromecast HDMI stick enables the casting of multimedia content to HDTVs from the Chrome browser of desktop and laptop computers, and from Chromeast apps on mobile devices. The device initially supported content from Netflix, YouTube, and Google Play, but has steadily increased its coverage. Chromecast is said to run a stripped-down Google TV stack (itself based on Android), and it implements the DIAL casting protocol (discussed above) that enables it to stream content directly from the Internet via instructions received from a first screen device (PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone). (details)

    (click to enlarge)
  • Biggifi — BiggiFi says its $79 HDMI-stickstyle device essentially turns HDTVs into supersized Android tablets. The BiggiFi device is claimed to let users run unmodified Android apps on their TVs using their phone or tablet as the TV’s touchscreen — including motion input for games — without screen-mirroring overhead latency. Instead of casting multimedia to the device from a tablet or smartphone, a BiggiFi app on the handheld device turns the tablet or smartphone into a remote touchscreen for the BiggiFi-enabled TV. (details)

    (click to enlarge)
  • HDMI-stick-style mini-PCs — The $100 Ugoos UM2 Android device, shown here, is typical of HDMI-stick-style, media streaming mini-PCs available from numerous manufacturers, mostly in China and Taiwan. The UM2 runs Android 4.x on a quad-core Rockchip RK3188 ARM Cortex-A9 SoC, offers HDMI video output, WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, and provides a pair of USB 2.0 host ports for connection of external peripherals and power. Other examples include Rikomagic’s MK802III LE (Picuntu on a Rockchip RK3066 SoC), Zhongshan Gosinggo’s Gosinggo GSG-TB-06 (Android 4.x on an Allwinner A10 SoC), and Always Innovating’s OEM HDMI Dongle (Android 4.x on a TI OMAP 4 SoC).

 

Firefox OS 1.1 released

Meanwhile, Mozilla’s Firefox OS team has just announced the release of v1.1 of its Linux-based OS. Quoting From the release: “Only a few months after Mozilla released its first Firefox OS phone into the market, it has released the new and improved Firefox OS 1.1 update along with new range of powerful handsets. Firefox markets this operating system as truly open source as opposed to Android’s Google. Our Mozilla Firefox support crew reports that these new features will attract more people to this device.”

The Firefox OS 1.1 update is said to include “hundred of improvements,” including MMS (Multimedia Messaging service) support. Further details are available in the release announcement.
 

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