The fourth screen era begins

AT&T has announced HomeManager, a touch-screen broadband base station that, as the name suggests, manages and consolidates several communications functions. It leverages the U-Verse broadband connection and supports voice calling, e-mail and access to internet-based information services.

AT&T and other carriers have been talking for the last few years about three-screen strategies, and how to better integrate broadband communications functions via the TV, the mobile phone and the PC. HomeManager looks to be a step toward making that happen, though HomeManager itself also looks like a fourth screen being added to high-tech households. Will that be one screen too many?

At a cost of $299, 3Screens.net blogger Alan Weinkrantz wonders why AT&T doesn't offer a rebate, which is a good point. HomeManager requires customers to sign up for a two-year contract for AT&T High Speed Internet or sign up for AT&T U-verse TV, Internet and voice.

HomeManager doesn't have any further monthly service charge, and it looks like a pretty sleek and useful device. However, there are an awful lot of broadband appliances out there now vying to be positioned near consumers' TVs or other devices. Some of them provide online video, some of them provide converged wireline/wireless voice access, and others, like HomeManager and a similar offering Embarq announced earlier this year, look to bridge the gap between traditional landline voice and Internet-based communications and information services.

Will the fourth screen help consumers manage the first three screens, or is it destined to become another under-used resident in increasingly crowded household entertainment centers?

-Dan

For more:
- see this story at Telephony
- check out photos and AT&T's press release at Gizmodo
- read this blog post by Alan Weinkrantz

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Embarq also has looked to re-define home communications

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