Orb Networks to shut down, suffocated by the cloud

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Streaming media company Orb Networks said Thursday that it will shut down, having been acquired by an anonymous third-party company that will absorb its media platform technology.

That means anyone who uses the Orb Live or MyCast service will be unable to do so soon. MyCast, the free service, may shut down as early as this month, the company said in a support document. Orb will maintain the Orb Live service until the end of 2013.

Don’t expect to buy either the Orb TV or Orb Music MP-1 streaming devices; those products were discontinued in May, the company said. It will, however, continue supporting them until the end of the one-year warranty period.

When Orb got its start nine years ago, the company’s technology was one of the first to allow “place shifting,” or being able to view one’s music, movies, and photos across the Internet, streamed from your PC’s hard drive. In 2005, the company won a World Class award from PCWorld, in recognition of its innovative technology for magically streaming all sorts of multimedia files. In 2010, Orb launched the Orb Music MP-1, a small gadget for streaming music throughout the home.

Over time, however, the company’s technology was duplicated by a number of other software products, including Windows Media Player. Eventually, the ability to store files in the cloud, whether it be on services like Microsoft’s SkyDrive, or in specialized services like Flickr or Google Play Music, made Orb irrelevant.

“For the last 18 months we have been working to make our underlying technology a de facto standard for streaming media” Joe Costello, the founder and chief executive of Orb, said in a blog post. “We made a tremendous amount of technical and market progress, but we were clear from the start that we would need one or more big strategic partners to help us complete the vision.”

Although Orb didn’t name the partner, GigaOm reported that the buyer was Qualcomm, which will use the technology as part of a “standard platform for media solutions and beyond,” according to Costello.

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