Do We Really Need a Set-top Box?


Have you noticed this new trend of "connected TV"?

It showed up at CES in full force, with every TV manufacturer out there having its own version of a television that connects to the internet - showing YouTube videos, latest news, stock market tickers or even your collection of photos out of Flickr or Picasa.

Chris Albrecht at NeeTeeVee  questions this evolution step:

How much of the Internet do you want on your television? Is the full web on the TV the way of the future?

I believe that while the question is valid, this is a done deal - television sets will be connected to the internet. Just like pretty much every other home appliance (OK, maybe not your washing machine...). Little by little, it seems that the interactivity that formerly existed in set-top box is moving down to the television set.

Set-top box vendors should be worried. Very worried.

Stacey Higginbotham just reported on GigaOm about Chumby's deal with Broadcom:

For anyone who recalls the Chumby as a countertop device for accessing widgets, you're thinking of the right company. It's merely joining a growing pack of those looking expand its efforts beyond hardware to become a platform.
With that in mind, Broadcom's decision to add Chumby is a nice way for the platform to gain traction in TVs or in set-top boxes.

In TVs or in set-top boxes. I wonder.

As televisions get "smarter" the nagging question is - do we really need a set-top box?

I have one at home, sitting on my TV set, connected to my cable operator. It switches between TV channels, provides an electronic programming guide (EPG) and supports video on demand (VOD).

I guess that in a few years time, this will change: I will have an internet-connected TV. I will access the programming guide directly through the internet. And as for VOD, I can stream movies and TV shows over the internet. Even channel switching can go over IP. Bottom line - no real need for a set-top box any longer.

Cable and satellite operators should be worried too. Very worried.

After all, with a connected TV, why do I even need an operator? With a good internet connection, I can stream shows and movies from anywhere I want. Just think of having Boxee embedded into your TV set - no need even to install it on a PC and connect it to the TV. No wonder content providers are already taking a Hulu punch at Boxee.

So, are the days of the set-top box numbered, or will it find other features that won't fit in a television set? And if it will, what might those features be?

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Web Based TV is the future.

No set top box.

Broadband Internet Access + always on browser = access to all forms of media.

Consumers will access premium content through web based ISP portal. ISPs do not need to invest in software and hardware solutions.

It will be nice without a cable/satellite box. Live and On demand content on the Internet - no more need for DVR.

ISPs differentiating premium in browser internet broadband accessed services to consumers to is just around the corner.


While I think you are correct in your general assessment of where we're headed, I do feel this is not "just around the corner", but rather at least 5-10 years ahead. The main issue here (besides usability and the need replace all current equipment) is bandwidth - until we have enough bandwidth and the capability to unicast shows to all viewers this can't happen.


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