More people than ever may be using the Internet as a means of watching television and video, but is there yet a need, or indeed a demand, for a set-top box? Steve Jobs doesn’t think so, and as head of Apple, he should know.
The Internet Option
The Internet as a destination for viewing video content, be it a short, user-generated clip on YouTube, a full-length television episode on Hulu, or a movie purchased from Netflix, has never been more popular.
But, while the amount of people watching on their computers is increasing rapidly, not many of those are taking up the option of purchasing and installing an Internet-enabled set-top box to move content from the Web to their TVs.
Set Top Box Choices
This is despite there now being more options than ever in this department, with Apple TV being joined by the Roku box, Vudu, the Xbox 360 and PS3, and even certain Blu-ray players as being Web connected methods of watching Internet programming.
The recognised leader of this field is undoubtedly Apple TV, mainly due to the size and brand recognition of the company itself, but even that is failing to sell in the numbers required to make Apple any money.
In a recent Apple earnings call, Steve Jobs even referred to Apple TV as “a hobby”, a term he used to describe the whole business of set-top boxes.
Apple TV Is A Hobby
Silicon Alley Insider reports him as saying:
“I think the whole category is still a hobby right now. I don’t think anybody has succeeded at it and actually the experimentation has slowed down.”
“A lot of the early companies that were trying things have faded away, so I’d have to say that given the economic conditions, given the venture capital outlooks and stuff, I continue to believe it will be a hobby in 2009.”
So, with the CEO of the manufacturer of the largest selling Internet-enabled set-top box dismissing the current market, what chance have the rest of them got to get even a foothold?
A Long Way To Go
The problem is that the technology has yet to go mainstream. Most consumers will be happy to have their cable services on their TVs and watch the odd video on their computer. But that could change as Web content becomes more varied and more mainstream itself.
As the Web video market grows, the set-top box market should grow with it. But there’ll also be a need for lower price points for the average consumer to want in to the revolution.
For Internet set-top boxes to become the future of television, great content, the right price, and an opportunity to watch programming not available elsewhere are all musts. And while those things are improving, we’re probably still a way off.
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