For the past couple of years, Dish's kangaroo-themed CES announcements have centered on its Hopper DVR, which acts as a command center for whole-home Dish systems, enabling you to access content on Joey set-top extender boxes in other rooms and stream it to mobile devices using the Hopper's integrated Sling feature.
For 2014, the company has shifted gears a bit and the headline act here at CES is not the Hopper, but the Joey, which will soon come in four versions (aka a "troop") instead of just one. Along with the standard Joey, Dish is introducing the new Super Joey, the Wireless Joey, and the "Virtual Joey," which is really just an app. All are scheduled to be available within the first half of the year.
Dish also has some upgrades in store for the Hopper, but they're software upgrades, with enhancements to the user interface, content discovery, and the Dish Anywhere app, which will soon be available for Android devices.
The other bit of the news that's sure to get some attention is that Dish will be bringing its Virtual Joey app to Sony's PS3 and PS4, enabling owners of those game consoles to use them as virtual Dish set-top boxes so long as they have a Dish Hopper subscription (it's an easy way to add a Joey to another room or TV without having to pay the monthly fee for the box). Yesterday, Dish announced that LG Smart TVs would be Virtual Joey-enabled, but the PS3/PS4 announcement allows the company to reach a broader audience with Virtual Joey.
New physical Joeys
The original Joey won't look any different, but it will get some changes on the inside that Dish says will improve its performance, doubling its speed.
The new Super Joey is scheduled to be released early this year (Q1), and Dish CEO Joe Clayton says that as its name implies, it's a "super-powered" Joey. It adds two additional network tuners to the Hopper system, so you can record up to eight shows simultaneously when using Dish's controversial PrimeTime Anytime recording feature that records every show in prime time from ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC while offering you the option of stripping out the ads. (The Hopper's ability to autoskip TV commercials on its recordings is the subject of ongoing lawsuits from the major TV broadcasters, including CBS, the parent company of CNET.) Previously you could record up to six programs.
Meanwhile, the Wireless Joey, due out in the spring (Q2) is arguably the most interesting new Joey in the troop. Instead of having to deal with connecting a coaxial cable, you simply plug the Wireless Joey into a power outlet, then connect it to your TV via HDMI (or a composite connection for older standard-definition TVs). The Wireless Joey interfaces with your Hopper via a Dish 802.11ac Wireless Access Point (it connects to the Hopper) that creates a private wireless network that can be shared by two Wireless Joeys per Wireless Access Point. The 802.11ac Wi-Fi offers better range and performance, and Dish claims the wire-free Joey's operation will look and feel just like a wired Joey.
The key benefit to going wireless is that you have much more flexibility in where you place your TV in a room (it doesn't have to be near a coaxial connection), and the new box should work well for wall-mounted installations.
Dish has made some big changes to its Dish Anywhere app. With last year's Hopper upgrade, users could record shows and then transfer them to their iPads. However, doing that required you to run a separate app, Dish Transfers, to move content to the iPad. Now Dish Transfers has been integrated into Dish Anywhere, which will soon (Q1) run on iPhones (and iPod Touches) as well as Android smartphones and tablets. Kindle tablets will also get the app early this year. (We haven't confirmed yet whether older Kindle tablets will be able to run the app.)
Dish Explorer for the iPad is also being enhanced with voice search features for live, OnDemand, and recorded shows, and you'll also be able to search with your voice for title, actor, and genre.
Dish transformation: part 3
We're still fleshing out the details of some of the announcements and will update this post with new info as we get it. But summing things up, after the introduction of the Hopper two years ago, "part 3" of Dish's transformation, as CEO Joe Clayton bills 2014's announcements, it appears the company feels it's solidified the foundation of its system (the Hopper) and is now in the process of building out and enhancing its peripheral components, which were certainly ripe for an upgrade.