Netflix has just launched a set-top box to help the migration of it’s 8.2m DVD rental subs to delivery via the web. This can only be sensible – clearly the DVD isn’t going to be with us forever. Plus the box is being well received – Wired say it is Just Shy of Totally Amazing.
That said, whilst it is a good move, it is also an interim one.
A quick look at the functionality of the box confirms this hypothesis. It’s raison d’etre is connecting the computer to the TV. Beyond that there isn’t much – it has some intelligence that queues up films you might want to watch to improve the viewing experience, but that is about all. I think it will work because it is cheap – $100 to buy and then $0 per month after that – arguably worth it for the benefit of immediately being able to watch movies you have selected on Netflix. Particularly given the unlimited Netflix DVD package extends to unlimited films via their box.
But, as I say, this will be an interim solution. Netflix already has web based video on demand
and once it becomes easy to connect the PC to the TV I would expect
people to use that service and not clutter up their living room by
having unnecessary hardware lying around.
This argument can be extended to set-top boxes generally. As I’ve said before, I don’t expect them to be a feature of the living room for much longer.