Little boxes, on the set top, little boxes full of ticky tacky!

So, Netflix and LG announce yet another set top box. Well, actually they announced that LG would include the Netflix service on “selected devices”. Best guesses are that the service will be added to a dual mode (HD DVD and Blu-ray) player, or even the Television itself.

Here’s the problem with this: it’s Netflix on LG devices and only Netflix. No slight on Netflix, the service is good and the company needs to provide for a non-disc future. However, the industry should be gathering together for a single standard for delivering from the Interent to the lounge room, not proprietary deals with single suppliers. If we want movies from Apple then it’s another set top box (Apple TV). Vudu have their own movie service and their own proprietary box. Tivo is a little more open – it has an API for programmers – but it’s still another box on top of the cable or satellite box you’ll probably still have.

We need a single standard or interoperable standards for delivery of “Internet TV” to Televisions. It has to be simple. TV would not have caught on if we’d needed separate Television sets for CBS, NBC and ABC – but that’s exactly where these companies think we’re heading.

It won’t work. Any device(s) that link the Internet sources with a TV are good, but it needs an open standard – perhaps that’s what google are working on, but even then it won’t help integrate with cable or satellite boxes unless those providers have a significant change of heart.

Apple TV, for all the people who claim it to be a “failure” is the leading device to connect computers and televisions. While its sales are disappointing by Apple’s mega-hit standard, it’s estimated to have about 800,000 units sold in 10 months (took Tivo 4 years to get that far) and it’s way ahead of the competitors, other than Xbox or PS3 which both act at media extenders.

My mantra for 2008 – proprietary bad, open standards (even from one company) good.

3 thoughts on “Little boxes, on the set top, little boxes full of ticky tacky!”

  1. Interesting post Philip.
    I have been preparing a prediction post on my blog that goes exactly along these lines.

    It goes along the path of AndroidTV OS (Which I have hinted in the past), have to cover issues of OpenTV MHP issues, its history and how it relates etc.

    And try to tie it all together.

    As my post on predictions at MacWorld being about Video and the web.. It appears to already be the hottest topic of this year and we are only a few days in.

    This WILL be an interesting year.
    James

  2. Excellent Philip,

    And THANK YOU for pointing out that the AppleTV certainly hasn’t been a miserable failure of any sorts. I think you’ve got the right idea for the long haul by needing open standards.

    Barring open standards, I’ve felt that the two most viable ‘ecosystems’ for setting things up were the Apple/iTunes/AppleTV/+EyeTV system or the Microsoft Windows Media Center/Home Server/Xbox 360 ecosystem. One or the other. Interestingly, in a seeming nod to the fact that many people want ‘their media, their way, even if it means “grey market” downloading, Microsoft recently added Xvid and Divx playback to their systems (previously only Windows Media).

    All along I’ve watched the whole computer/internet+DVR+disc media=central media hub (where all media from all sources ultimately collects and co-mingles on a single, central hard drive (or array), and then streams or syncs to all devices in the house. I set up the Apple system with a Mac Mini+big drive+EyeTV at the core, and AppleTV extenders plus a lot of computers with iTunes sharing. Plus iPods and iPhones of course. I’m frustrated that I must pre-convert any non-iTunes-friendly media (like Xvid/Divx/mkv, etc.) to an iTunes compliant format first, but that’s the curse of the early adopter. Open standards will hopefully come someday, but let’s face it, the ‘gatekeepers’ in the industry don’t want them. They like their little ‘walled gardens’ don’t they?

  3. Philip, we couldn’t agree with you more – open standards are key and no one wants to buy another STB only to have to buy content that only works on that STB.

    you might be familiar with XBMC – the platform to extend the original Xbox into a media center. I’m working with a new startup called Boxee, which is based on the XBMC code, but for Mac/Linux/PC boxes.

    The basic idea behind Boxee is to give an easy and intuitive front-end to your local and online media while tying it all together with a social fabric. It’s completely open-source and there’s an Alpha starting on Monday (for Mac/Linux) which I’d love for you to check out and give us your feedback (and spread the word to your friends!)

    Highlights:
    Watch local(30+ codecs supported) and online media
    Enhance that media via meta-data discovery
    Fully customizable interface and online sources
    Tied in to web services and applications
    Downloadable & Free!
    Remote Control friendly
    and many more…

    Sign up for the alpha at boxee.tv!

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