Cisco exec: STBs could disappear

A senior Cisco executive has predicted that set-top boxes as we know them today could almost disappear as cable migrates to IP video, and services are increasingly driven by new, cloud-based infrastructures that support new screens such as Apple ‘s iPad.

“Set-tops are clearly moving to the point where they are either a piece of software that lives in another device, or they’re virtualised totally in the cloud,” Ken Morse, CTO of Cisco’s Service Provider Technology Group told delegates at a Light Reading event on ‘Cable Next-Gen Video Strategies’.

Morse suggested that as consumers connect more and more devices to their networks, there would be opportunities for service providers to manage those devices.

He nevertheless emphasised that legacy set-tops were still relevant, and could continue to deliver programming from servers on a cloud-based network. A subscriber with an iPad, for instance, could use the device to order video-on-demand (VoD) programming delivered through a 10-year-old set-top.

Morse also predicted that within seven to 10 years, all cable operators would rely on using IP technology to deliver video to a home. Within the next two to three years, all service providers would also rely on IP technology to deliver content to subscribers within a home.

Morse highlighted the opportunities for service providers to profit from helping subscribers manage cross-platform content, pointing out that a colleague had spent $4.99 to order a movie from Apple TV, and later realised that he had the same movie available as part of his Netflix subscription.

According to Morse, the biggest asset service providers have is their existing subscriber base. “It’s really about protecting that investment,” he asserted, noting that there were opportunities to retain subscribers both through legacy set-tops and new cloud-based technology and gateway devices.

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