Chinese-e commerce giant Alibaba is planning to sell the second generation of its set-top-box Tmall Box at the upcoming sales promotion gala on Nov. 11, China’s Singles’ Day, according to people with knowledge of the mater. The product is expected to be sold for 399 yuan (US$65) during the sales event, down from the original price of 798 yuan.
The new product finally revived from setbacks brought about by Chinese media supervisor’s order which precluded Tmall Box from streaming contents from online video providers like Youku and Sohu to televisions. I got a chance to take an early peek at the long-waited device.
Unlike first generation of the product which complies with our idea for a “box” with chamfered edges, Tmall Box 2 adopts an elegant unibody design with silver base structure stretching to the upper part of the device as silver stripes. The rest of the cover features white or champagne plastic frame with Tmall logo on it. The box itself is a light and portable device weighed at 243.5g and measured at 118mm×111mm ×26.8mm.
Powered by Alibaba’s in-house operating system YunOS 2.0, Tmall Box 2 has Amlogic S80 quad-core processor, Mali 450 GPU, 8G flash memory and 2GB memory. It supports 300M 2.4G/5G dual-channel Wifi connection.
Once you’ve set up Tmall Box 2, you will be required to log in with Taobao account either by scanning the QR code via Taobao Mobile app or inputting account information to grant access. For most of the smartphone users, QR code would be the best choice. Unfortunately, my smartphone run out of power when I tested it, so I was forced to experience the latter option. The inputting operation is overall convenient, but it is a little strange that the keyboard is arranged in an alphabetical order rather than the Qwerty keyboard which is more familiar to most of the users.
After logging in, it immediately brings you to a main menu plastered with a wide variety of contents including, new movies, TV series, entertainment programs, documentaries, programs for children, games, apps, music, and of course e-commerce services.
One nice difference from other set-top-boxes is that Tmall Box 2 is not all about video and TV contents. As we reported earlier, Alibaba launched an ambitious plan with a list of prominent partners in various sectors like videos, games online educations, music, trying to construct a comprehensive family entertainment ecosystem.
Tmall Box 2 continued cooperation with video content provider Washu Media and added Xiami‘s music streaming service. In addition, it integrated online education contents via cooperation with TutorABC, the online English leaning brand under Tutor Group which Alibaba has invested in, child-focused services of Qiaohu, Babybus., etc. Baidu’s online education service Chuanke is also available on the platform.
The box also added cloud-based games into the system, including several blockbuster games developed by foreign game developers, like World Soccer Winning Eleven, BatMan: Arkham City, Street Fight 4, Lego Harry Potter, Lego BetMan, etc. Since these games are based on cloud, users can play directly without downloading them to local. These games are priced at 4.9 yuan to 14.9 yuan per month. Moreover, Alibaba also joined hands with global leading game developers of EA, Gameloft, Glu Mobile to present more diversified games.
Different accessories might be needed to play different kinds of games. Some casual games can be played with a handy 2.4G wireless controller which comes as a part of the standard package, but some hard-core or body-sensor games have to use either a dedicated gamepad or a sensor bar like that for Wii. The sensor bar is priced at 99 yuan.
The controller, which is very pleasant to touch by the way, also supports voice command, allowing users to search for videos, music, and e-commerce services by voice. I tested the feature several times and the accuracy rate is pretty well. Voice command is certainly a more favorable way to achieve human-machine interaction, especially for set-top-boxes.
E-commerce is certainly a part which cannot be missed for a product developed by the e-commerce giant. It offers pretty much the same services that are available on PC or mobile terminals. To differentiate from other channels, Tmall Box2 added Magic Key (M Key), a button dedicated to e-commerce services, on the controller. With M Key, users can participate different promotion events that are only open to Tmall Box users.
Source: Hands-on With Alibaba’s Set-top Killer Tmall Box 2: It is Not Only About Videos