The Genie Mini Client
looks like a DIRECTV receiver, only smaller. It's supposed to, that's the idea. It's supposed to look friendly and familiar. But open up a client and you won't find any of the things that make a receiver or DVR work -- no hard drive, no tuners, no decoder, no access card. The client is just that... a client. In other words, it's really nothing more than an adapter that processes remote control commands and gets all its video from the DVR to which it's attached.
There are some rumors that future clients will be even smaller, perhaps smaller than the remote control itself. They'll just hang on the back of the TV and connect to power, coaxial cable and HDMI. I'm sure that if they wanted to, DIRECTV techs could make a client box that looks like a streaming stick or flash drive, but that might mean sacrificing things like an infrared receiver that would give compatibility with universal remotes. It would also mean a higher cost to manufacture and a shorter lifespan, things DIRECTV is trying to avoid.