Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chips Are Down For Boxee

Boxee announced their 'Boxee box' to a huge fan fair and the kind of hysterical acclaim that only the US tech media can generate back in February, and then.... Nothing.

The box was intended as the answer to those wanting to 'cable cut' in the US and simply run their TV from a broadband enabled box.

However, the reality is that the chips used in most STBs have a heritage from the mobile industry and have been re-purposed for IPTV. At the same time, the majority of video online uses Flash. As a result the chips aren't capable of decoding Flash and running H.264 video at the same time (Flash's mobile woes have long been documented by Steve Jobs and others).

So now Boxee have had to turn to Intel to make their box work. Intel are finding it considerably easier to come down to the level of IPTV as the other chip manufacturers struggle to raise their game and seem to be making considerable inroads into the STB chip industry. With over 200m units sold last year and more and more devices such as flatscreen TVs building in IPTV capabilities this is fast becoming a very lucrative market.

It also provides control of the living room, a core strategy for companies as diverse as Microsoft, Apple, Sony and Google.

The Boxee saga will turn out to be a sideshow to all of this, but is likely to be an important footnote when the history of digital TV is written.