Set-top boxes facing a grim future?

Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) may publicly be saying it's 100 percent behind its set-top-box business, but that may not matter down the road as consumers increasingly turn to alternative means of accessing their video entertainment.

London's Financial Times this week reported that there was an air of palpable concern over the future of STBs during the IP&TV World Forum last week in London. The paper pointed out that over-the-top delivery increasingly was gaining ground with consumers as more content was put online by companies like the BBC, LoveFilm, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX).

It was a sentiment that also was reflected at last week's OTTCon in Santa Clara, Calif., where several panelists and keynotes pointed out that more content than ever before was becoming available over the top.

STB makers at the London gathering, said the Financial Times, tended to discount worries that devices like connected TVs would push them off the TV stand.

"Set-top boxes are still the best way to improve functionality and ensure security," Amino Technologies CEO Donald McGarva told the paper. "It's still quite a youthful environment for these boxes and OTT--it's not going to be a binary outcome where one wins and the other loses."

Pace CEO Mike Pulli, meanwhile, said the company viewed OTT as a complementary service as opposed to a threat.

"OTT is just another mechanism to deliver content," Pulli said.

Analysts, meanwhile, lauded OTT service user interfaces and user experience as differentiators that could cost STBs, which have been criticized for their often clunky UIs and program guides.

Amino's McGarva, who took over the reins at the company recently, said he's still not worried.

"Set-top boxes have been predicted to die many times now," he told the FT. "So far, they're still going strong."

For more:
- see this FT article (sub. req.)

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