For years, there's been talk about the coming "battle for the set top box" as various companies look to be the point of control into (and out of) your television. So far, the battle's been pretty quiet, but it's been heating up. What's happening is that internet connectivity is finally starting to play a role. This became clear last year when Cisco bought set top box maker Scientific Atlanta, showing that they clearly believed networked set top boxes were the future. Since then there's been a lot of attention placed on place shifting efforts like Sling Media and Orb, as well as Microsoft's expected attempt to backdoor their way into this market with the Xbox and Xbox Live. Two more announcements today highlight the trend. First is Yahoo buying Meedio, makers of software to help turn your PC into a DVR offering. It certainly raises some questions about Yahoo's next steps in getting onto your TV. Ever since Terry Semel came to Yahoo, it's felt like he was trying to figure out how he can put Yahoo on TV in some manner -- so this seems fitting. Perhaps more interesting, though, is the deal AT&T has done with Akimbo, provider of a set top box that allowed people to download and view content on their TV from the internet. One of Akimbo's big problems was content. They couldn't convince enough interesting or compelling content providers to take part, especially when they had a tiny market presence. And, in true chicken and egg fashion, it was then difficult to get anyone to sign up, because the content wasn't compelling. However, with AT&T offering Akimbo's service via its own set top box, it suddenly opens up a much bigger market, and may attract a lot more content providers (while also lowering the initial hurdle for potential viewers as well). In fact, this actually brings AT&T a step closer to the vision we were just discussing for IPTV. Instead of copying traditional cable TV, really offer something different, and route around all of the problems they're facing with things like franchising. Of course, the big hurdle here is still the big content providers who seem fearful of anything new. However, if AT&T can help bridge the gap by offering a compelling business model and a large market of users, things could get a lot more interesting pretty quickly.
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