I was not surprised to see the Hollywood Reporter and other sources note that Blockbuster, the former 500 pound Gorilla in the video rental business, is looking to develop or partner in a set-top box implementation that would stream movies to the home. That original idea has been implemented by Nextflix/Roku, Vudu, Apple TV, Xbox, Sezmi and a number of others. Over The Top boxes, geared to deliver content directly to the consumer bypassing traditional channels for Video on Demand, isn’t quite to the fever pitch stage to propel it to must-have under-the-tree material, but the concept is gaining traction.
Here’s the rub: too many boxes, too little space by the TV not to mention a shortage of HDMI inputs. I currently have or am testing pretty much the entire gamut of IP-enabled movie boxes, but have to admit I can only try them one at a time. My two-year old Samsung 42-inch LCD has two HDMI inputs and one goes to my digital cable box. My other plasma TV has one HDMI input and that’s tied up with a cable box. I will go into more detail box by box in a subsequent post, but I generally like them all and judge them on three metrics–ease of installation, picture quality and selection of titles. I disconnected my Vudu a while ago, but its picture quality was great and had a great selection of titles. I did have an issue with Vudu needing to connect the box directly to my router to get the necessary bandwidth for optimal viewing. After a while, my family objected to that 50-foot ethernet cord thatt ran from router to home entertainment center.
My general default box is the Apple TV. Apple’s entry serves up YouTube clips, a good selection of movies and TV shows and runs my iTunes music library. My sense is, with its vision for the mobile phone world and portable device space clearly defined, Apple will turn its attention to Apple TV. As we have written in many recent documents, IP-enabled TVs are the future of TV 2.0. Until the majority of TVs come with IP access built in, the bridge solution that is easy to use, elegant in its design and provides monetizable content outside a walled garden, will get early-mover advantage. Will Apple be that first mover? My hunch is will know early next year at Macworld.