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On the Set-Top

Five years ago if you tried to get the media to talk about set-tops, you were usually laughed out the proverbial door. I distinctly remember one cover of a Forbes magazine with a big picture of a Motorola set-top splashed across the front. I remember it specifically because it was such a novelty. Set-tops were uninteresting in the middle part of the decade. Everyone wanted to talk about cell phones and MP3 players instead.

Now things are different. Everyone wants to talk about set-tops. The FCC wants to talk about how to accelerate set-top innovation. The CE pubs want to talk about retail set-tops. And service providers want to talk about everything you can do with their set-tops (most of which are made by Motorola) in the new digital world.

While set-tops get bad-mouthed pretty regularly, they’ve become increasingly popular with consumers in the latter half of this decade. Set-tops brought digital video recording to the mass market. They made in-home TV networking possible. They’ve enabled the growth of Video on Demand services. And they’re supporting new interactive TV apps.

The biggest complaint against set-tops as a category seems to be that consumers don’t want another box in the living room. But I’m not convinced that’s really true. Consumers buy new boxes all the time: audio speakers, DVD and Blu-ray players, media servers, and Internet video hardware. It’s all part of consumer gadget lust, and boxes can be upgraded a lot more frequently than the big flat-screen TV mounted on the wall.

Some day entertainment technology may all take place in the cloud. As far as Motorola’s concerned, that’s just fine. Motorola is a leader in video encoding, video encryption, and video infrastructure. As we look to 2010, however, there’s still a lot of growth and change ahead for the set-top. As far as Motorola’s concerned, that’s just fine too.

4 Responses

  1. That’s the nicest looking set top box I’ve ever seen. Is it only a prototype?

  2. Dan- Not a prototype. It’s an MPEG-4 DCX model set-top. Cablecos started rolling them out in the second half of this year. See: http://connectedhome2go.com/2009/07/13/motorola-mpeg-4-set-tops-in-the-wild/

  3. People don’t want another STB that does the same thing as their TV is supposed to do. And before you talk about inovation let me remind you that most Moto DVRs distributed by cable co’s feature 160GB HDD, nothing innovative about that.

  4. We need to add more multimedia to the set-tops, I would like to plug-in my usb flash drive to the set-top and reproduce my mp3 files and watch pictures (jpeg files), reproduce mpeg movies etc…

    Customize the EPG, social networks (flickr, facebook, myspace), youtube on our set-top perhaps using docsis, etc…We need to add more and innovate in order to give value to the set-tops, If we don’t innovate we will have the same issues that we have with the mobile market…

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