Blog Post

Do standalone boxes have a chance?

Akimbo, the San Mateo, Calif.-based start-up, was one of the first to develop a new Internet video on demand box, betting that is content package service will benefit from the integrated hardware+service experience.

The company is throwing in the towel, and instead focusing on making its content package work on as many platforms as possible. From AT&T’s Home Zone box to future devices, possibly from the likes of Linksys (Cisco is an investor), Thomas Frank, CEO & President of Akimbo says, “We simply want to be in everyone’s box.” (Full story on NewTeeVee.)

Previous attempts to create demand for a stand alone box have met a similar fate as well. “What consumers want is a multipurpose box,” says Frank. That is why we remain sanguine about the prospects of Vudu Labs, another start-up with video-movie box that downloads movies using P2P technology. The challenge for box makers is not that of technology, but instead it is about convincing consumers to add yet another box to their already overcrowded home entertainment set-up. Akimbo is smart in cutting their loses right now.

Just like DVR technology ended up in the set-top box, the IP VoD service is quite likely to end up in the set-top box – though it is tough to say when. Why? Because one box that has prime position in consumer homes – the set-top box (cable, dish or telco) – remains closed. It takes the carriers (of all hues) too long to deploy the newer IP based services, mostly because they threaten their legacy businesses.

Cable operators are going to resist an Akimbo like service because they have spent billions on their VoD services. Phone companies, however could (and should) use Akimbo type services to offer more video content, giving consumers more options, and a reason to switch away from cable. That said, there is opportunity for someone to develop a truly open multi purpose platform for IP-based entertainment services. Maybe boys from Slingbox or Hewlett-Packard should attempt that.

7 Responses to “Do standalone boxes have a chance?”

  1. I agree with Rob Freeborn. I don’t think it has anything to do with “consumers wanting a multipurpose box” — it’s about who has the distribution. If people have to take action to go pick out a box, buy it, and hook it up, it’s too much of a barrier for other than the early adopters. But if the cableco or telco says “you will now use this box” then that’s that.

  2. I think a standalone box is the perfect form of market entry for the cutting edge/early adopter crowd – the crowd that may already have a standalone Tivo, a couple of gaming consoles and a media center PC attached. What they HAVE to do is make sure that the architecture of the platform is modular enough that when Comcast, TW or AT&T comes calling it can be forklifted out and added as an option to that central box.

    Delivering their service via a piece of hardware to begin with is irrelevant as long as that solution can be ported.


  3. Om:

    you are right on the money. I have been evangelizing a multi-purpose box for over two years now and not only that I also built one. See to see our box. Right now we have launched in India, but of course we plan to conquer the world. :-)


  4. Do they have a chance ? It depends what you call standalone. I agree that there’s little chance of a new equipment coming into the home, especially if it’s to provide services available with an existing equipment.

    Howevern there are untapped boxes in the home, to which the consumer usually attributes much higher value, namely game boxes. I could very well see a Microsoft or Sony doing the right partnerships and undercutting the VoD business from the service providers. In fact, the Wii’s navigation interface is a first step in that direction, I suspect.

    So let’s not bury boxes, they may still come back under different guises !

  5. Om, regarding your last comment, TVersity has been working under the radar for a few years now to enable an open IP based video device ecosystem. Today our technology allows almost any Internet multimedia content to work on almost any connected device that has multimedia capabilities, both in the home and on the go.

  6. Rodger

    Bugger the Set Top Box’s with LCD/TFT/Plasma replacing the old CRT as the preferred form of Lounge Room TV, why not go with Acer, LG, Samsung and the like, who have shown the new wave, TV’s with built in Analogue, Digital (SD&HD) Receivers, VGA input, RGB, RCA, Inputs, 300Gb HDD’s, MMC/SD Card reader ports, the only thing these do not have is broadband internet connections built in so you can chat or read email, but hey give them 5 years and we’ll see.

    but that’s all small fries, most new toys wont reach market saturation, where is the now infamous WebTV, I saw my first ever unit 3 weeks ago in a Pawn Shop for $50au ($35us?). this was suppossed to be the be all and end all of Web Surfing for the masses. the old Commodore +16 has had a better shelf life than the Web TV.

    I.P. Broadcasts are a sure fire feature of the future, of Lounge Room TV, but to be honest MOST homes do not have Multimedia Lounge Rooms yet so any predictions are merely wishful thinking

  7. hey…

    not to gloat…. but i tried to talk to these guys along time ago. no one ever got back to me. i was trying to give them some insight into what this whole thing regarding content, streaming, videos, boxes, etc… could be regarding their biz model…

    so… like a whole lot of others who think that because they got some cash they have a God granted right, they got f*ed!!!

    and to be blunt, they really are just struggling, trying to put a different name on the same pile of excrement!!

    good luck!