The confused state of Video

On the day I canceled my Netflix account, they released a set top box that streams videos from their online library through the internet onto your TV. It is getting great reviews.

That doesn't stop it from being stupid. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why companies cannot get this right. If you're going to do a set top box right now, it has to be a killer set top box. It has to be loaded with functionality. The Netflix box does one thing, stream videos (from a libary of 10k movies & TV Episodes). Their entire library is just greater than my que when I canceled.

This is doomed to failure. First, Netflix has to be taking a big loss on this just to stay in the game. That sounds nice, but the only way this pans out is if they get bought out by a complimentary player (like Best Buy). Even then, it is not clear that this would ever turn into a money maker.

The next problem is that this functionality exists already today in nearly every house this will be deployed in. It's called a PC. It makes no sense to me that we can't just get some kind of cheap extender that will extend your PC to the TV. Doing that means you can take advantage of all the media on your PC and the internet. YouTube, DVDs, videos you have legally downloaded, etc. You could watch a slideshow or stream your music library over your stereo system.

Sooner or later TV makers are either going to imbed a simple media OS into TVs or they will come with WiFi that allows you to hook up your PC and stream videos. In the mean time, if we insist that a set top box is required, here is what it has to do to be successful.

  • Access to a HUGE library: It's ok if I don't see "Night Train to Munich" but it's not ok if I don't see "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
  • OTA receiver + DVR: If I can hook up some rabbit ears, I should be able to watch free over the air HD content and record it for future use wherever I want.
  • BluRay DVD: Must be able to replace the DVD player I'm about to buy.
  • Integrate with PC content
  • Stream video from multiple sources on the Internet (YouTube, the networks' websites) etc.
Until this happens, all these set top boxes will fail.

Steve Jobs, get working.