Hillcrest Launches New Version of its Kylo TV Web Browser

--Says "Advanced Users" Will Be Able to Configure Kylo to Access Hulu, Which Had Blocked It

Hillcrest Labs, a company best known for its Freespace in-air pointing and motion-control technology and its Loop pointer (see, for example, the article published on itvt.com, November 11th), is today unveiling the latest version of Kylo, the free Web browser for TV that it launched in March (see the article published on itvt.com, March 23rd). Designed for what Hillcrest says are the "millions of households" that connect their PC's or Macs to the TV (and thus competing in the emerging OTT market against Boxee, among others), the browser is designed for a "10-foot" viewing experience. To promote the availability of the new browser, Hillcrest is offering its Loop pointer device for half price ($49) through June 11th.

According to Hillcrest, the new version of the Kylo browser (Beta 0.7), which is available at Kylo.tv, offers a range of new features, including the ability to launch it from a plug-in created for Windows Media Center; hide its control bar and keyboard; configure its settings in order to access Web pages designed for other hardware platforms; perform enhanced zooming; print from the TV; and more.

Unlike "other applications or Web sites," Hillcrest says, Kylo is not a "'walled garden' of aggregated video content, but rather a true Web browser that lets users go where they want across the Internet" (note: in its launch presentation for Google TV, last week, Google also touted the idea that consumers want to be able to enjoy a full Web browsing experience on their TV; while recent conventional wisdom has held that consumers are not particularly interested in surfing the Internet on their TV, instead preferring to do so in the "lean-forward" environment of their PC or laptop, Hillcrest cites a December, 2009 "State of the Media Democracy Survey" by Deloitte, which found that 65% of US Internet users--and 74% of 14- to 26-year-olds--would like to connect their televisions to the Internet). "We have been very pleased with the initial consumer response to Kylo and the pent-up demand for an open Web experience on TV," Hillcrest founder and CEO, Dan Simpkins, said in a prepared statement. "Since launch, we have been soliciting the feedback of users to make the Kylo experience even better, and we think people will welcome the new product features. We have placed more control in the hands of consumers so they can use Kylo to access the sites that have the content they want."

Referencing the decision of studio-backed broadband video service, Hulu, to block Kylo immediately after the browser was launched--apparently out of concern that viewing of its programming on TV sets rather than computers might cannibalize its parent companies' audiences (see the article published on itvt.com, March 23rd)--Simpkins added: "We know that one feature that is likely to attract attention is the capability for advanced users to configure the Kylo browser to access Hulu [see "Domain-specific user agent string setting" below]. It remains our position that Kylo is simply a Web browser based on open-source Mozilla code, like Firefox. We fully respect the rights of content owners and aggregators, and as such, we do not deep link, re-index, divert users past ads, or overlay different user interfaces on video players. However, we believe consumers should be able to use the Kylo browser to visit any site on the Web on the display screen of their choice. Our hope is that a respectful dialog with Hulu will encourage them to consider changing their policies."

New features claimed by Hillcrest for Kylo Beta 0.7 include:

  • A plug-in for Windows Media Center. According to the company, this feature enables consumers who use Windows Media Center on a computer connected to their HDTV to launch Kylo and then easily return to other Windows Media Center applications after surfing the Web.
  • The ability for users to select an auto-hide option for the Kylo control bar. For video sites that do not offer full-screen mode, Hillcrest says, this feature is designed to give users the maximum viewing space possible. According to the company, the control bar reappears when the cursor is directed at the bottom of the screen with a mouse or Loop pointer.
  • Domain-specific user agent string setting. Hillcrest says that "advanced users" can now change the user agent string used by Kylo via the application's new settings. According to the company, this feature, which it points out is used in conventional browsers, "can improve compatibility with some Web sites like Hulu" and can also enable Kylo users to view sites that are designed for platforms such as the Apple iPad, the Nintendo Wii or the Sony PlayStation.
  • Better zoom indication. According to the company, the new version of Kylo makes it easier to discover and use Kylo's zoom capabilities for reading Web pages "at a distance across the living room."
  • Default zoom level setting. According to the company, this new setting allows users to set a minimum zoom setting for all Web pages, which it says is particularly useful for users with 1080 HD resolution settings.
  • Enable/disable auto keyboard. In its default setting, Kylo automatically presents an on-screen keyboard to enter text on Web sites as appropriate. With the new version of the browser, Hillcrest says, users who typically have a keyboard handy can select this setting to keep the on-screen keyboard hidden.
  • Multiscreen support for Mac. According to the company, Mac users can now target their secondary screen as the main browser screen for the Kylo browser. Previously, only PC users could do this.
  • The ability to print from the TV.
  • An updated directory of links. Hillcrest says that the Kylo directory--designed as a fast index of popular Web sites--has been updated with a range of new and increasingly popular sites, including RadioTime and several photo sites, in order to "further expand the experience of Web surfing in the living room." According to the company, the directory contains links to dozens of sites across a range of topics, including TV, movies, music, sports, games and more. Kylo also provides users with a bookmark feature, allowing them to set up their own directory of sites.

Together with press materials on the new version of Kylo, Hillcrest sent [itvt] a statement attributed to CEO, Simpkins, on Google's new Google TV platform: "For the past decade, Hillcrest Labs has pioneered award-winning products that combine the Internet and TV," the statement read. "To that end, we welcome the addition of Google TV and its forthcoming advancements. We believe that Hillcrest Labs is exceptionally well positioned to serve this emerging market through our TV software applications, our own branded products (like Kylo or the Loop pointer), and other remotes or peripherals that license our Freespace in-air pointing technology."

North America