Long-awaited Horizon gateway set for launch this week

The long-anticipated Horizon gateway set-top box will be launched this Friday with a rollout in the Netherlands following close behind, multiple published reports claim.

The box, which has at times been labeled the way to defeat Google TV, will serve as a hybrid gateway to digital television and the Internet by combining linear and on-demand content with personal content, as well as affording second-screen functionality. It will be introduced by UPC Nederland at the Dutch film institute Eye for Dutch and by Liberty Global (Nasdaq: LBTYA) at IBC in Amsterdam. UPC will launch in the Netherlands later this fall, followed by UPC Cablecom in Switzerland later this year and Unitymedia Kabel BW in Germany in the first quarter of 2013.

Samsung (OTC: SSNLF) is building the box using the Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) NDS Snowflake graphical interface--at least that's been the word since the unit was first introduced at the January 2010 CES in Las Vegas. It's been long-anticipated because it was seen as the next--or at one time perhaps first--superbox that was capable of creating a wireless network for connected devices, was supported by search and recommendation features and allowed users to integrate personal media content stored in the home or increasingly in the crowd.

The box is also a TV Everywhere (sometimes called TV Anywhere) gateway with applications designed to interface with smartphones and tablets, as well as built-in Web browsers so subscribers can access services both inside and outside their residence. Getting rights to all the content that will make the box attractive was stated as a reason for delays. Now, Liberty Global has developed working relationships with content providers like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to make their content part of a plethora of applications included in a standards-based App Store.

The box will get an immediate audience, incidentally. Liberty Global serves around 8 million subscribers across Europe.

This is not the first time the Horizon gateway was supposed to launch, of course. In March, Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries said that the rollout would begin in Spring 2012 and be available in Germany, Ireland, Switzerland and The Netherlands "before the end of 2012." At that point, Fries suggested that the rollout could be delayed by the need to negotiate the aforementioned content rights that he said are necessary to create "a great user experience."

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