In an earlier blog post, I was talking about how the future televisions was really not so much about televisions per se, but more about how to televisions of the future are going to be Internet enabled, and how there’s a push right now to integrate high definition, flat screen TVs with the ability to have Internet interaction. Some companies seemed to be pushing for this as a all-in-one solution; like the all-in-one computer. But the problem with having all of your components in one place is that if they’re all integrated together, if something fails the whole piece has to be repaired, the whole thing has to be taken in and service.
Running in the situations like this are terribly inconvenient. Taking for instance if you have an Internet enabled television and the brains of the television is most effective, then you lose the ability to watch television altogether if you have to have that unit serviced. So while manufacturers may be moving in the direction of trying to create the smart television of the future, I don’t think the answer is going to be strictly an all-in-one solution. I think what you’re going to find is that the best solution, and the most economical, is to find a set top box that gives you the ability to do a wide array of things that are Internet enabled that will simply plug into your existing high definition television.
So, just as you would with a television and a DVD player or your set-top box for cable; so as you would for an Internet enabled device that allows you to stream media to your high-definition television.
What are they?
Essentially, the small computers that had the ability to access the Internet and stream content from a variety of locations and display that on your high definition television.
A couple of years ago, I made the comment that cutting the cable for your cable TV; detaching yourself from the traditional system of watching TV shuts; and you can think the world of video-on-demand and DVR’s. Video-on-demand and DVR’s have blazed a trail to the point where people understand that content can be provided on demand, things can be recorded and stored in playback, and jumping over the irritation of watching the repetitive commercials. But you can also think high-speed Internet service.
Internet service providers have been competing with themselves for years over who can provide the fastest Internet service and thanks to them raising their transfer speeds we have finally reached the point where we can have devices that can stream content to our house, and high-definition, where we can what media the way we want to, and when we want to.
As with a bunch of other technically inclined individuals, a recognize the benefit of being able to have your media and content on any device you want it pretty much any time that you want.
The traditional networks like ABC, NBC and CBS are about the find themselves in a situation where they are nothing more than content providers competing with thousands of other “channels” on the Internet that don’t produce content the way they have traditionally. One of saying is, these new ancillary devices that can stream content to your TV, most of them had gained popularity of the fact that people can watch their programming with a video-on-demand type service in response. It’ll have to watch the commercials, they don’t have to sit around and wait for the specific Showtime, they can simply play the programming whenever they want; as much as they want to.
What kind of of media can you get through them?
The majority of the set-top boxes seem to be mainly focused right now on streaming content from places like Netflix. The set-top boxes don’t seem to be focused too much on understanding a myriad of video formats, but they do have the ability to read, and picture formats like JPEG and they can read common MP4 video formats.
Consumers are going to continue to expect a lot out of the set-top boxes with functions like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Skype and having the ability to connect USB devices to them, and some of these devices have those abilities, but there still not very robust.
I can make a comment like that because if you simply look at support forums or do just a general Google search on any of these devices, you’ll see where consumers keep asking for the ability to do this or the ability to do that, or they’re having problems with playing different media formats. All these types of compatibility problems causes a level of angst that people just don’t want to deal with. People want things to work.
What’s the benefits of a set top box like this?
And having these ancillary devices to stream content to your home, and being able to pay for just the channels that you want to watch, is just what the customer base has been asking for for years with cable providers. Comcast cable, within the last year, I started doing some trial tests for à la carte programming for their cable TV. I haven’t seen the results from the trials from the à la carte testing with Comcast, but I think what Comcast is going to find is that they’re going to have to fall in line with what the other streaming media services are doing in order to compete. Consumers have had enough of the decades of programming control but the networks have over the consumer, now the consumer wants control of what he watches and when.
Services like Roku, Apple TV, Google TV and boxy, the services can only get better. Mass amounts of entertainment videos and interaction is available to the Internet every day and interaction is more important to customers than 3-D television or huge display, it’s the interaction of the Internet is going to draw the customers into their services. And for what these providers are charging for their services right now, it’s a great choice for the consumer.
Take for instance, Roku is pushing a current deal to where it includes one of its set-top boxes with six months of Hulu plus programming. This is actually pretty good deal because there’s virtually no risk involved with trying the service and the customer gets an opportunity to see how things are going to work, what to expect from other similar type services; assuming that never used any other video streaming service before.
In one of the biggest benefits of having an ancillary set-top box is that if you need to upgrade your Internet experience, you don’t have to upgrade your television; you just need to purchase a new set-top box.
What’s the problem with them?
Just as the old video stores of the day, media content providers like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO and Pandora; these are the pioneers of Internet media providers. You can get these media services through your PC or through your smart phone but the set top boxes, like from Google TV, they’re all shooting to be able to provide all those different types of media, shooting that through your living room to your high definition television; and they’re doing all this at a lower price than what you’re having to pay for traditional cable programming.
The unfortunate factor is the media content providers like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon is that they can’t provide everything that the consumers want to see. You’re still having to fight with the large networks and the cable companies to build a stream the information over the Internet.
It seems like a simple concept simply to take this media and stream it to an individual’s home using their existing Internet connection, but traditional cable companies around fight tooth and nail with license agreements and fees, and advertisers to keep the entertainment/media locked in and proprietary.
In addition to the networks want to block the content, just like the movie studios don’t want the movies to be released on RedBox; consumers have been accusing Internet service providers of not observing the rules of net neutrality, which means Comcast is getting higher priority to their network traffic and not so much to services like Netflix and Hulu. About two months ago, I believe it was reported that Netflix was the number one culprit/producer of network traffic in the country.
And what’s the good news?
Set top boxes like this are going to keep popping up, the going to get better and media providers like Netflix and Hulu and Amazon, they’re going to keep increasing their media libraries and they’re going to keep working on their agreements to stream content to pretty much any customer that wants it.
In addition to customers getting entertainment exactly how they want it, you’re going to start seeing the price of cable subscriptions and media subscriptions go down gradually, but I believe you’re also going to see that offset a little bit with the Internet service providers starting to charge for Internet service as though it’s a standard utility.
Companies like Comcast have already reported drops in cable subscriber levels and a huge increase in Internet service subscriptions.
There’s one thing that I know for sure, as soon as these set-top boxes reach a level where there’s WebCams, face recognition, voice-recognition, Skype and the ability to load customize applications, and start understanding the types of content that I want to see, I’m going to be all over this.
Larry Henry Jr.
…via Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11