An interesting article published on the CableFax industry webpage argues that vendors and suppliers need to loosen their grip on the set-top box in order to keep up with our increasingly open source culture.
But perhaps it's time to examine the cable industry's lease model. Is having all of those logo-branded boxes on the balance sheet worth the pittance consumers pay to rent them? Is it worth dooming customers to a clunky experience when a third-party box could do the job better? Heck, gaming consoles, DVD players and other CE devices could simply double as cable set-tops if the cable industry could just finally… let go. All of this was supposed to happen years ago, by the way, with set-tops proliferating at retail. But it never came to pass for a variety of reasons. And now competition is fierce, online video is the boogeyman and gee… wouldn't it be nice if all those advanced boxes were out there right now?
Using Apple and AT&T as an example, the author notes that both companies are notoriously closed minded, but third party development has made the App Store wildly successful—and AT&T has benefited by letting Apple control all of the hardware and software issues. He even questions whether or not an Apple "iSetTop" for the cable industry would be a "competitive superweapon."
I doubt that the cable industry is ready for Apple to step in, but it appears that cable providers are starting to realize that change is necessary. Spending big bucks for subscriptions each month is increasingly unnecessary, and its only a matter of time before our televisions are all connected to the internet in some form or another. It's nice to know that that there are at least a few forward thinkers in the industry, but everyone is going to have to get on board with this in order to survive. That having been said, the article kind of glosses over the problem of pricing and customer service—an issue which really needs to be addressed first and foremost. Obviously, this would go a long way in retaining customers who might think about jumping ship before cable can catch up with the technology. Hit up CableFax for the full argument. [CableFax]