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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Netflix and LG announce a hybrid set-top box

A lot of folks I've spoken to lately are pessimistic that any stand-alone set-top box can make a dent in the market...including products from Apple, Vudu, or Building B. These people are of the opinion that the only boxes that can succeed are those deployed by cable and satellite companies.

I have a sense, though, that one way to succeed in the stand-alone set-top box market is to sell a hybrid box ... one that slices and dices, serving several two (or more) purposes. I own a Toshiba-made box, for instance, that plays DVDs and acts as a TiVo. What would get me thinking about upgrading? A new box that plays high-def DVDs, sucks down Internet video, and also acts as a TiVo.

Netflix and LG Electronics are heading in this hybrid direction with their announcement today that new boxes from LG will support streaming movies, delivered over the Net, from Netflix's service. CNet says the box will also play Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. From that story:

    [Netflix CEO Reed] Hastings said the LG partnership was the first of many such deals for Netflix. "We'd like to see a hundred Netflix-capable boxes," he said, noting he also was exploring partnerships with makers of Internet-connected game consoles, cable and satellite companies.

Netflix has about 6000 movies available for streaming today, compared with 90,000 DVDs available for rental, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In the NY Times coverage, Hastings says, “Eventually, as TVs have wireless connectivity built into them, we’ll integrate right into the television.”

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