Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why so many boxes?

The PC-to-TV connection. One approach is to directly connect the PC to the living room TV. In support of this, the PC must have a new 10-foot UI. Many software companies now offer this, including the Microsoft Media Center UI. A 10-foot UI is controlled from an IR remote, as there is little desire to use a mouse and keyboard when switching TV channels or accessing entertainment content – movies, music and the like.


Why so many boxes? The answer lies in an Internet video broadcaster’s requirement for a box to support a “please use my portal!” strategy. With few exceptions, notably the D-Link DSM-520, these boxes do not support open Internet video browsing. Rather, they are the hardware underpinning for a “walled garden” approach, one that delivers video from the broadcaster’s video library to the TV watcher. The fact that all prior Internet-STB projects with similar business models have failed does not deter repeated optimism for releasing new hardware.

Home users in the US have shown significant reluctance to purchase of any new STB – even the easy-to-use Apple TV. The idea that a user may require one STB per Internet broadcaster seems less than practical. But the business models on trial are driven by a common ambition to be a dominant video supplier or ‘video aggregator’ with a single STB that everyone uses; to be sure, a bit like Apple’s hope that the Apple TV would be the “DVD player for the Internet age”.


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