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  Vecta on the Set Top Box
  Viewers of cable, satellite or digital TV have become used to the Set Top Box as the means to convert the incoming signal into a form usable by the TV display which generally includes only a UHF tuner for analogue terrestrial broadcasts.
Although some sets - integrated TVs - are available that incorporate the Set Top Box function in place of the tuner, competition between cable, satellite, and terrestrial standards for digital TV have limited them to high-end widescreen devices.

Most people continue to buy analogue TVs confident, perhaps, that STBs will make them future proof in the uncertain evolution of digital TV.

The Set Top Box is itself evolving as processing power increases and memory and semiconductor costs fall. On the one hand, costs and size can be squeezed to reduce the ticket price for admission to the world of digital TV; on the other, features can be extended by using a hard disk, DVD writer, multiple tuners and an Internet connection to incorporate many of the features of a VCR and enhanced forms of Interactive TV.

In the UK, a low-cost Set Top Box for a free-to-view multi-channel digital service is restoring some confidence in digital terrestrial TV following the collapse of an earlier commercial venture which failed in the face of relentless pressure from digital satellite TV.

Set Top Boxes with CD/DVD player/recorder, higher processing power, more storage, and an Internet connection will allow content providers to deliver multimedia services through a combination of physical and transmission-based distribution. The viewer could record and play programmes received via transmission, physical DVD media, or over the Internet. Sony's planned PS-X is a step along this exciting route; Panasonic's range is getting close to this functionality too.

Alternatively the future Internet PC could incorporate facilities to receive DVD-style programmes transmitted or decoded from a player. By reducing repeated programming, broadcasters wil be able to achieve better use of spectrum capacity.

The Set Top Box, with its potential to evolve into low-cost and high-functionality variants, is likely to remain a key feature of digital TV. Just as open standards encouraged PC innovation in a horizontal market so also the Set Top Box will allow the digital TV market to evolve more quickly.

Our Digital Commerce Experts Network is dedicated to exploring the key issues related to developments in digital commerce and entertainment. This involves projecting the evolution of the competitive platforms - games consoles, mobile handsets, PC, and TV, identifying popular applications and understanding revenue models and valuations. It also requires identifying issues related to supplier and partner selection for commerce.


Our extended network ensures we have the expertise to help you solve just about any business or technology problem.

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Vecta Consulting Limited, Mulberry House, 2 The Spinney,
Cottenham, CAMBRIDGE, CB24 8RN

Tel: +44 (0) 1954 250222, Fax: +44 (0) 1954 252333

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