Apple TV, Roku need Google to take dedicated streaming STBs mainstream
Michelle Clancy | 23-07-2012
The future looks challenging for dedicated set-top video streaming devices to break out of a niche status, according to ABI Research.
Connected TVs, gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, and even mobile devices are quickly conspiring to engender a very competitive market for the digital living room.
Shipments of devices like Apple TV (which leads the market with around 4 million units shipped through 2011), Roku (which passed 2.5 million units in 2011) and Boxee are expected to reach as high as 57 million by 2017. However, gaining mainstream status will require strategic changes on the part of one big player in particular: Google.
"Google has a split personality in this market," said Sam Rosen, practice director of TV & video at ABI Research. "On the one hand, China, in particular, is seeing growing interest in generic Android based set-top boxes and USB (or MHL) dongles/stick devices. On the other hand, it is launching its second generation of Google TV platforms (including the well-priced and impressively spec'ed Vizio Co-Star) where it tries to bring more content relationships and a better ecosystem."
"Dedicated devices have traditionally had a difficult go in the market, often lacking the same value proposition as more full featured products like game consoles," said senior analyst Michael Inouye. "The changing consumer landscape, however, could present a window of opportunity for smart set-top boxes as more consumers allocate entertainment budget, both monetary and time, to streaming media."
Meanwhile, smaller form factor USB and MHL devices are both portable and, like the Android set-top boxes, offer consumers similar services and features found on popular mobile devices. Both of these devices expand the presence of Google Play but also could work well as a companion device for Android based mobile devices, not unlike the upcoming Nexus Q, but at a more appealing price point.
"The future of connected CE will ultimately work together with mobile devices and not against them," Inouye added. "Other CE devices like connected TVs and game consoles are already integrating mobile devices into the user experience, the same will likely prove true for smart set-top boxes as well. If the Android boxes gain popularity this could create a stronger ecosystem play for Google."