What's the Big Deal About a Set-top Box?
Nice of you to ask! One of the main reasons why consumers in the U.S. both have been slow to see interactive services before now but certainly will in the near future is the set-top box. Cable and satellite viewers probably don't spend much time thinking about the set-top box, although savvy home video enthusiasts know that the industry was able to create "cable-ready" TV sets that worked great with analog cable service. Once again, cable and satellite viewers are forced to deal with the set-top box (although there is little evidence to suggest other than the occasional lightning strike), viewers at home put much thought into what the devices actually did, that lack of knowledge is allowing cable and satellite providers to upgrade their customers into new, interactive services courtesy of the set-top box.
TiVo and ReplayTV jumped the gun a bit on the next generation set-top box. TiVo is essentially a computer with a large hard drive and it happens to use the linux operating system. TiVo's take-up was slow because it was perceived to be a very expensive alternative to a very inexpensive VCR. TiVo is the poster child for an experiential consumer product meaning, quite simply, talking about it is far less persuasive than actually having one in the home. Once a consumer took the product home and began to use it, the love affair took off quickly. TiVo received the highest consumer satisfaction rankings in the history of such measurements. But it has taken a while to reach critical mass, and that time lag has allowed both satelllite competitors (DirecTV and Dish Network) to develop and offer their own DVR (or PVR; I'm not sure who has the final say on "digital video recorder" versus "personal video recorder," although I am partial to the latter because I think it communicates more to the potential adopter).
You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as © 2006, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein. Find any typos! Don't smite me, let me know!