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Blockbuster Working on Set-Top Box

Zonk posted about 6 years ago | from the everybody-jump-in-the-pool-the-water's-fine dept.

Television 138

An anonymous reader writes "According to the Hollywood Reporter and news.com, Blockbuster will soon be announcing yet another reason not to go to a rental store. A media-delivering set-top box is in the works for the company, leveraging the store's existing competence in the industry to provide a viable alternative to iTunes, Xbox Live, and Amazon. 'There was no mention of price or how such a service would work in the report. But let's think about this: to compete with Apple TV or Vudu, the device would have to cost around $200, and rentals of movies and TV shows should be around $3 to $4 each, which would be slightly cheaper than rentals of new releases from Blockbuster currently. The big advantage Blockbuster would enjoy over Apple TV, Vudu, and TiVo, it seems, would be selection.'" I still think they're kinda doomed.

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Doomed by the integrated computer (5, Insightful)

athloi (1075845) | about 6 years ago | (#23030352)

I still think they're kinda doomed.

Me too. For the last two decades, people have looked at their computers and wanted the things to be information centers. That includes media, business information, personal contacts, everything through recipes and music.

Read our lips, big corporations. We don't want more gadgets. We want our gadgets to get more powerful and less unreliable so they save us time and make life more relaxing, not more gadgety.

Re:Doomed by the integrated computer (4, Interesting)

beckerist (985855) | about 6 years ago | (#23030422)

I would be more apt to enter into a service, where the hardware I buy would be generic. Sort of like Napster is now for all "compatible" music players.

Basically, I want some company like Logitech to build a sweet-ass DVR-type box with the ability to CHOOSE which services I want to download/buy from.

Re:Doomed by the integrated computer (1)

Sancho (17056) | about 6 years ago | (#23031290)

I think that's ultimately the problem. With traditional physical formats, competing formats eventually die off as one format rises above the rest.

With set-top media centers, it seems like everyone and his brother is making one. If all of the content is available to all of them, then it mostly doesn't matter. But once a major studio gets enough of a donation to be exclusive to one device, it's going to be all over. We'll have another HDDVD/Bluray war where half of the consumers lose.

There's a reason for having standards. DRM tends to break that.

Re:Doomed by the integrated computer (1, Funny)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | about 6 years ago | (#23032212)

Sort of like Napster is now for all "compatible" music players.
Bullshit! Napster isn't compatible with my Dixie cup and string!

Re:Doomed by the integrated computer (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23032662)

Welcome to The Future!
Standard set-top boxes made by any manufacturer that will play standard media from any manufacturer! We call this device a 'DVD player'!

Re:Doomed by the integrated computer (5, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | about 6 years ago | (#23030488)


Give me a service that will work with my non MS media center PC and I'll be all over it.

NONE of them work with the decent media centers, only a couple that kind of work with the crappy Windows MCE product.

I want a mediaportal plugin or a MythTV plugin etc...

support standards not specalized DRM.

Shhhh (0)

mfh (56) | about 6 years ago | (#23030630)

I'm hoping we'll get the cool new codex from BlockBuster, after their failed launch (like we did with DivX).

Re:Shhhh (3, Informative)

maeka (518272) | about 6 years ago | (#23030870)

I'm hoping we'll get the cool new codex from BlockBuster, after their failed launch (like we did with DivX).

DivX [wikipedia.org] did not come from DIVX. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Doomed by the integrated computer (2, Interesting)

NightLamp (556303) | about 6 years ago | (#23031178)

I don't know, I think BB has the potential to create a pretty gadgety set-top-box. Each brick & mortar location could become in effect an ISP and data-centre housing cached (edge network) copies of the movies. I think there is a competitive advantage in there somewhere.
Add in Internet and ad-sponsored rentals and maybe this is a picture of what they're thinking -
"a data-centre in evey BB dumpster".

Re:Doomed by the integrated computer (2, Interesting)

securitytech (1267760) | about 6 years ago | (#23031450)

..and history of milking their position in the market.

Years ago, when there was really no major competitor to Blockbuster besides local mom and pop operations - they took advantage of it with $5 plus dollar a pop movies and ridiculous late return policies.

Blockbuster joined Bellsouth in the "won't see another dime of my family's budget" bucket. And I based that decision completely on their actions when they had little or no competition, and not on current technology & trends.

Conversely, the companies that hold/held a dominant position and used that position to build customer loyalty and satisfaction (Netflix, Google, etc) will always be at the top of the list when it comes to my families disposable income.

It's amazing how companies can become so customer oriented when they actually have to compete!

Too Little, Too late. (1)

amasiancrasian (1132031) | about 6 years ago | (#23032170)

Blockbuster is already on the decline. Its decline is so obvious that it's the subject of mockery. The fact that they still charge a quasi-late fee (even though they claimed they eliminated fees) by calling it a "stocking charge" is proof enough that their store model is doomed. Even their online store doesn't charge a stocking fee for keeping a DVD longer than needed.

It kind of reminds me of an Onion gig: "Please, we're just asking for one more chance," added (vice president of marketing) Waters as she dropped to her knees and extended her arms out to the assembled crowd. They might be able to salvage some business, but as far as being the trendsetter? Too little, too late.

Exit Strategy (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23030354)

I think it's time for Blockbuster to execute their exit strategy. I agree, they are doomed. With all of the existing machines listed providing similar capabilities, why would someone buy yet *another* box to hook up to their TV? And there's also Redbox....

Re:Exit Strategy (1)

uniquename72 (1169497) | about 6 years ago | (#23030552)

If they were smart, Blockbuster (or better yet, Netflix) would partner with someone (like LG) to market a TV with built in downloading capabilities.

Hell, if they were REALLY smart they could even try to pass a standard for downloading streams, and have it built in to EVERY television (then they could all fight over our downloading subscription fees, the way cable companies SHOULD be fighting over our cable fees).

Re:Exit Strategy (4, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | about 6 years ago | (#23030682)

I was commenting earlier about how many businesses are going to fail in the recession due to tight margins now that won't maintain them under duress of less custom.

If, and IMO, IF they want to stay relevant and solvent, what they need to do is keep away from lock-in business models and get on with 'we work with anything' business models. Yes, that would make for weak competition according to some, but if all you had to do was go to Blockbuster and ask the tech guy what to do to get all the movies you can handle, then sign up for their business/app/service they would only win.

Even better if the same system they sell or advocate supports anything else that is not damned^H^H^H^H DRM'd .... but sadly, big business doesn't think that way, no, they want everyone's share of the pie, or at least everyone eating from their pie and nobody else's. Shame really, they have a lot of assets/resources to push the home video/DVR arena into common practice.

Re:Exit Strategy (2, Interesting)

roc97007 (608802) | about 6 years ago | (#23030780)

Perhaps what Blockbuster needs to do is provide a free application that runs on any computer that interfaces with their infrastructure, so you could rent and view video without buying a set-top box. I mean, the box is usually a loss-leader anyway -- the money is in rentals over the long term. So why bother inventing a new box?

What Blockbuster's differentiation could be is to provide a player that plays well full screen with 5.1 or 7.1 sound (*not* in a browser) and plugs-into popular media center software like well, M$ Media Center, and with a published SDK so others could integrate it into MythTV and the like. Make the player as ubiquitous as possible and make money on the rentals.

At very least, they should be looking at integrating with an existing set-top -- tivo for instance -- instead of trying to create yet another box.

Re:Exit Strategy (1)

FLEB (312391) | about 6 years ago | (#23031748)

I think a box of some sort would have to be involved, even if just as one option out of many. For most people, a software-only method means being stuck at a computer, be it sitting in the office watching movies, or clearing a space for the laptop. Few people have the hardware, experience, or inclination to make a generic PC into a media machine, and being restricted to a computer makes the service much less popularly useful.

Re:Exit Strategy (1)

cashman73 (855518) | about 6 years ago | (#23031906)

Until people realize how ridiculously simple it is to connect a S-Video out cable from the PC to their TV. It seems like most of the decent mid-range to high-end video cards are coming with this option these days,... only the low-end, budget PCs with integrated graphics don't have S-Video.

Now that most of the television content producers are putting their stuff on the internet these days, I'm seriously contemplating just getting another computer solely to use for the television connectivity. Seriously. Who needs cable or special blockbuster, potentially DRMed, set-top boxes?

Re:Exit Strategy (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | about 6 years ago | (#23032774)

only the low-end, budget PCs with integrated graphics don't have S-Video.

That's pretty much every computer that's not custom built. I know in my area (dominated by BB and Future Shop) pretty much every computer has integrated graphics.

But, seriously, you expect "normal" people to look at the back of thier computer, look at the ports, recognise that there is a S-video port, realise that thier TV also has this port, and connect the dots. -- This still does not include getting sound from the computer to the TV, which needs not only a cable but [GASP] an adapter-- I think you expect too much from people. It sounds retardedly simple here, but say s-video infront of "normal" people and the eyes gloss. I've seen it happen...

Re:Exit Strategy (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 6 years ago | (#23033018)

> But, seriously, you expect "normal" people to look at the back of thier computer, look at the ports, recognise that there is a S-video port, realise that thier TV also has this port, and connect the dots.

Heavens no. No more than I'd expect them to look on the back of a set-top box, find an s-video, hdmi or dvi port, and connect the dots.

Maybe the product really is doomed.

Re:Exit Strategy (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | about 6 years ago | (#23033040)

My dad hooked his set top box up with component, composite, and coax, then would tune the tv into channel 3...

Re:Exit Strategy (1)

Grimbleton (1034446) | about 6 years ago | (#23032232)

My main gaming rig (with a soon-to-be-upgraded x1900XT) has been hooked up to my 37" widescreen LCD and 5.1 surround sound for the past year and a half, and all it took was one cable for the video and a fe All bow to the DVI to HDMI cable.

They are all DOOMED (1)

HaeMaker (221642) | about 6 years ago | (#23030366)

Why would I buy another set-top box? Unless it can do everything that TiVo can do and better/cheaper, why bother?

Why am I going to buy an AppleTV/vudu that's a TiVo that can't record live TV?

Why pay $200 for a box where your cable box can do (5, Insightful)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 6 years ago | (#23030380)

Why pay $200 for a box where your cable box can do the same thing with on demand with out eating up your internet bandwidth.

Re:Why pay $200 for a box where your cable box can (5, Insightful)

Ucklak (755284) | about 6 years ago | (#23030692)

Can your cable box get you Robocop, Twin Peaks, or La Planete Savauge when you want it or just whatever the media companies decide what you should choose from?

Re:Why pay $200 for a box where your cable box can (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | about 6 years ago | (#23030816)

Can your cable box get you Robocop, Twin Peaks, or La Planete Savauge...?

That's only a problem if you actually want to watch Robocop, Twin Peaks, or La Planete Savauge...

Re:Why pay $200 for a box where your cable box can (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | about 6 years ago | (#23031348)

"La Planete Savauge..."

I wanted to watch this film. Even with Netflix, I had to wait for it to become available on DVD. I would never have seen it if I had cable TV.

Re:Why pay $200 for a box where your cable box can (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23031280)

Probably not, but then neither will Blockbuster, unless, you know the movie was a blockbuster. So, forget about La Planete....

The point is, Blockbuster was never famous for carrying a wide range of titles anyways. Compare them to Netflix and you will see why. So, your argument is correct but self-defeating at the same time!!

Re:Why pay $200 for a box where your cable box can (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23031626)

AND all without a single commercial? Thought not. And forget skipping, thats just trash. If I am paying for a service, I don't want a single damn commercial. Thats why I refuse to pay a dime for TV service.

ISPs will block it. (5, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 6 years ago | (#23030406)

It's doomed because of the major ISPs. Be it Cable or Telco, the service would consume more bandwidth than they have allocated to their customers. Second, it competes with same services they offer.

Re:ISPs will block it. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23030478)

If the ISP doesn't provide the service you're paying for why in the hell would you keep paying for it?

Re:ISPs will block it. (1)

Grimbleton (1034446) | about 6 years ago | (#23032248)

Please, show me an alternative that is superior and costs a similar amount or less. I will gladly switch.

Re:ISPs will block it. (1)

Warll (1211492) | about 6 years ago | (#23030944)

I doubt this will be that big of a problem, after all its the upload that really stresses the their infrastructure not the down stream.

Loss lead (1)

antic (29198) | about 6 years ago | (#23030450)

Perhaps their only chance is to loss lead with a consumer friendly rental package of content, just to get the devices in houses. However, unless they get pretty reasonable penetration, I can't see it working.

Re:Loss lead (1)

Knowzy (950793) | about 6 years ago | (#23030902)

Blockbuster's new management are not fans of loss-leaders. They are the ones who doubled the price Total Access plan (Netflix's competitor) from $17.99 to $34.99 in less than 6 months. Then again, I'm not sure how else they will get a device designed just for the their customer base without taking a loss.

Why the negativity? (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 6 years ago | (#23030456)

You can easily make a box that streams videos for a retail price of $200. Probably even high definition. Blockbuster could no doubt tie it to a service, and take a hit on it to promote their service. Offer a subscription service that allows a selection of videos with popular movies at a premium and they can cover their capital costs in a few months.

Re:Why the negativity? (5, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 6 years ago | (#23031086)

Sell it for $200, with your first 20-40 rentals being free. Once someone has rented 40 movies on the device, Blockbuster have made back most of the cost and the customer has got so used to on-demand movies that they don't think of using other services.

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23033020)

That makes no sense. The studios aren't going to give all those free rentals which means Blockbuster will have to eat all that cost as well. How that allows Blockbuster to end up in a position where they've "made back most of the cost" is beyond me.

Re:Why the negativity? (2, Informative)

Gutboy (587531) | about 6 years ago | (#23031568)

Does everyone forget MovieBeam [wikipedia.org]? It was a horrible failure. Why would anyone want to follow in their footsteps?

Blockbuster working on Top Sex Bot, this is news! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23030474)

Top Sex Bot, this is news. The article however, is not.

missing the boat (5, Insightful)

Dzimas (547818) | about 6 years ago | (#23030554)

The big advantage Blockbuster would enjoy over Apple TV, Vudu, and TiVo, it seems, would be selection.

Bzzt, wrong. Blockbuster will still have to negotiate licensing agreements with the major distribution companies, just like everyone else in the game. They can't simply rip their existing DVD offerings and stream them to customers. Blockbuster's in a tough spot here; if they remain a dealer of physical media, they'll get pummeled by streaming content. Their only hope for survival is to leverage their brand and physical locations to introduce a set-top box that grabs sizable market share. The trouble is that a video rental chain is going to have an extremely difficult time going head to head with the likes of Apple. It'd be like a record chain introducing an mp3 player in the hope that they can prevent iTunes and Amazon from decimating them.

Re:missing the boat (2, Informative)

Knowzy (950793) | about 6 years ago | (#23030820)

Bzzt, wrong. Blockbuster will still have to negotiate licensing agreements with the major distribution companies, just like everyone else in the game.

Blockbuster is planning on streaming their Movielink library which includes ~6,000 titles. Nearly double Netflix's Watch Instantly selection with 3,800 titles [dyers.org].

They have a huge head start in terms of licensing.

Re:missing the boat (2, Informative)

MushMouth (5650) | about 6 years ago | (#23031236)

Except Movielink doesn't have 6000 titles available for rent, they currently have ~1700. It appears that they have more available for purchase, but that is all they have for rent, which is most likely covered by a different agreement.

Re:missing the boat (1)

Knowzy (950793) | about 6 years ago | (#23032862)

Excellent point- I didn't make the distinction. To be honest, I've never used Movielink beyond the free stuff [movielink.com] section (though it's pretty slim pickin's today unless your a huge Rocky and Bullwinkle fan).

Re:missing the boat (1)

Dzimas (547818) | about 6 years ago | (#23032830)

I suspect there's a clause in their Movielink licensing that specifically ties rentals and purchases through the system to a personal computer. Media companies tend to get especially jumpy when someone trots out a new media box for the living room, especially if it offers analog outputs... and I can't see Blockbuster wanting to restrict their set top box to HDMI equipped TVs at this point in the game.

Re:missing the boat (2, Interesting)

grotgrot (451123) | about 6 years ago | (#23032048)

An alternative that takes advantage of their existing stores is that the device takes some sort of memory stick which you fill at the store with the content. That way they can rent digital content, and you won't have to return it. It will be quicker to put several movies on a memory stick at a store than download for quite a while. And having the settop box means they don't have to worry about getting it working with a general purpose desktop machine with all the resulting issues, can lock it down to the particular box etc.

Re:missing the boat (1)

zIRtrON (48344) | about 6 years ago | (#23032432)

Is it possible for Blockbuster to use your "video membership card" as an encrypted storage device?

1. go into BB
2. make your selection from the titles
3. hand over vid membership
4. they put movies on it for you
5. go home, insert card into set-top box
6. ...
7. Profit!!

The only way I see this working... (1)

Gat0r30y (957941) | about 6 years ago | (#23030556)

Is for blockbuster to preload each of these boxes with 1-2TB of movies already, with monthly service contract to access the whole catalog. Additionally, they would have to send out new HDD's every so often with additional content. The Set-Top Box market is already full of on demand options. Unfortunately, knowing blockbuster they will make a 1/2 assed last minute effort to copy someone else who is way ahead of them (Netflix? anyone).

Re:The only way I see this working... (1)

needs2bfree (1256494) | about 6 years ago | (#23031072)

I could see it working with flash based media. Think about it, you go into Blockbuster with your "BlockStick" or whatever they want to call it, you go to the counter, pick your movie, take it home and plug it into your "BlockBox". It would, of course use some heavy DRM. No more media to return and cheap movies. With some hacks, i could see this being used on the PS& or XBox*. It replace scratchy disks and crappy players. I think i would love to be able to do this, especially if they provide me with an app (Linux supported, or course) that would allow me to play it on my computer.

Re:The only way I see this working... (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 6 years ago | (#23031302)

Netflix and LG are almost ready to roll their set top box out that ties into the "Watch It Now" feature of the Netflix site.

Won't work (1)

Toonol (1057698) | about 6 years ago | (#23030580)

This won't work, pretty obviously. But I think Blockbuster will be around for quite a while, because I think physical dvd rentals will be around for quite a while. About half the time I rent a dvd, it's because I need something to watch pretty much immediately. Few people have the bandwidth for downloads to fill that need. Netflix and the Blockbuster mail-delivery programs both work great, but don't fulfill the instant gratification need, either. And neither rents videogames! (What a tremendous lack.)

So, I think they're doomed, but it'll be a decade or two, not a year or two.

Re:Won't work (3, Interesting)

letsief (1053922) | about 6 years ago | (#23030930)

I take it you haven't tried Netflix's Watch Now. You get surprisingly good quality video from cable modem speed internet. I don't think I've ever had to wait more than 10 seconds at the beginning of playback for it to finish buffering. No, its not quite DVD quality, but it's better than SDTV. That's probably good enough for most people. I think streaming video would work, from a technical perspective, for a lot of people today. I think it hasn't caught on yet because 1) the current lack of an easy way to watch these videos on TV (hence the STB) and 2) the movie/TV selection isn't great.

hooray! (3, Funny)

sneakyimp (1161443) | about 6 years ago | (#23030642)

I can't wait to start paying late fees when my computer can't download their movies fast enough due to my poor broadband service!

Linux BOX - best mediabox (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23030664)

You know, as for me the better way is to use my PC as PC and connected to 5.1 and 42" tv as mediabox. So I don't have to pay and pay more and more for new devices. I don't need them. I do as I saw there http://marchelly.org.ua/wiki/Mediabox [marchelly.org.ua] Russian! Linux BOX + Plasma tv + 5.1 audio + IR is the best choise for me and it can play video from the net! All hdtv dvd etc from my server storage.

Existing Competence? (3, Interesting)

greenslashpurple (1236792) | about 6 years ago | (#23030690)

I tried using Blockbustre for a while. But their utter incompetence at renting DVD-based products ultimately drove me away. First off they only sell you the 'child safe' versions of a lot of DVDs, so you never even get to see what the director actually intended. Once I tried going through the whole Alias program. They were missing a disk right in the middle of the last season (which I didn't find out about until I tried to rent it). They said they could not, and would not order the disk, and that this kind of thing happened all the time. And of course there were months when each time I came in they would beg me to do the online thing. The last straw was when I went to rent two movies at normal price and the clerk told me I was throwing that money away compared to what it would cost to get it online. I realized she was right, and after that I went to Netflix, and never went back. I think Blockbustre is like that Real Player company, once you've proven to be beyond a doubt how evil you are at your chosen field of business, I will NEVER go back to you.

Re:Existing Competence? (1)

martinX (672498) | about 6 years ago | (#23031822)

I tried using Blockbustre ... I think Blockbustre is like that...
Are you French by any chance?

Enron Redux (3, Interesting)

Jherek Carnelian (831679) | about 6 years ago | (#23030764)

They tried this already...

http://www.forbes.com/2000/07/20/mu4.html [forbes.com]

and we all know how well THAT worked out.

mod parent up! (1)

Izabael_DaJinn (1231856) | about 6 years ago | (#23031778)

Funny stuff. If it wasn't on Forbes I would have thought it a joke :)

"Network provider Enron Broadband Services, a subsidiary of Enron ene (nyse: ene), partnered with Blockbuster bbi (nyse: bbi) yesterday in a 20-year exclusive deal that aims to sell movie-on-demand services, including 500 titles, on its broadband network by year's end."

Open, Standard, Set top box (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#23030802)

What dooms all of these slightly different boxes, whether cablebox, cablemodem, TiVo, or even gaming machines, is that people don't want a pile of different boxes, each one trapping them in a different "mode" in which they use their TV. Where each content mode has a different GUI, and lots of redundant overlap with the others. They certainly don't want to get locked into different boxes with different viewing modes for different sets of the same kind of content, like movies. Who wants to care whether they're watching a "cable movie" or a "TiVo movie" or a "disc movie" or a "Blockbuster movie"?

What will replace all these boxes and modes is an open standard box that does it all with a unified GUI. It might even take "expansion boxes", to handle retrieving and decoding different data types, especially if they're as different as, say, a videogame and a newshour.

That's why I say "game consoles" will replace all these different "media terminals". The Sony Playstation3 is probably the winner waiting for the world to catch up with it. With the imminent introduction of PlayTV [wikipedia.org], a TV decoder, the PS3's single GUI will play regular cable (or broadcast) TV and enable tivo DVR, and of course games and DVD/Blu-Ray, as well as on-demand and multicast Internet video (and music, and telephony...). Since the FCC has mandated that cablecos stop bundling set-top boxes with their networks and data (including TV data) service, the PlayTV cable decoder will fill that gap. If PlayTV had a DOCSIS modem built in, it would do it all - until then, the DOCSIS modem gets its cable from a splitter off the incoming cableco coax, just like now with the regular cablemodem, but the DOCSIS modem can plug right into the PS3 gigabit ethernet port (or one of its USB ports).

The important difference is the integration. The PS3 has a single GUI for all that. It's also got multiple parallel DSPs ("SPUs") onchip, for fast processing all of that different media, all in parallel, all flippable around "picture in picture" (or whatever paradigm Sony brings to true multimedia). The PS3 runs Linux already on its PPC, with drivers arriving for video and other media processing on those SPUs. So even the "PC" might get sucked into this single platform.

There will be a few years while the PS3 is still ahead of its time. In that time, Blockbuster and the others might have some markets they can reach with their dumbed-down, simple "single media" players. But they'll have to invest quite a lot into new kinds of tech they're not familiar with. All the while showing Sony what works and what doesn't, for Sony's paid-off manufacturing plants to adopt as software on the PS3s increasingly filling people's homes. Eventually the shakeout will come (not too far off), and Sony's position and diversity will win. The dominance of Sony in that landscape will also intimidate smart investors from backing competitors, further delivering the market to Sony instead.

This analysis could also apply to other game consoles, like the X-Box. But the X-Box took a serious setback by betting on HD-DVD instead of Blu-Ray, and against Sony which controls what has now won the HD format wars for physical distribution (which beats Internet speeds in the USA for the next couple years for most people). X-Box is also not able to compete with the PS3 parallelism, either in the multiple streams or in the ultimate rendering chip to the TV. And so even the leader right now, the Wii, will be underpowered for the multimedia challenge the PS3 will win.

It's a win for us, too. Because it will work only if these different media work on open standards, which is the only way to integrate them on a single box, rather than proprietary formats on proprietary, redundant, compartmentalized boxes. Which means the overall economics and tech directions favor openness. A non-PS3 PC with the same horsepower, and 3rd party integrated GUIs could come in and compete, too. Which means you.

Re:Open, Standard, Set top box (3, Interesting)

Izabael_DaJinn (1231856) | about 6 years ago | (#23031700)

This makes more sense from a "nerd" point of view, but I don't feel it will pan out like that.

The PS3 is not the answer, nor is any other game system. Why? Simply because they are considered "game systems" by the mainstream world, and I don't feel that will change no matter how hard Sony pushes the media center aspect of the PS3. It will fail or succeed on its merits as a game system.

So where will the answer come from? Who knows, but I think perhaps Netflix is a good contender for creating something mainstream and popular. I think maybe Apple can pull something off eventually too (Jobs seems committed to AppleTV, so he might tweak it till it's a hit like the iPod).

Change the subject slightly, I have a question:

On this PlayTV, you can record from TV without any DRM. I'm kind of surprised to see a product like this from Sony. Wouldn't they care about the potential use for piracy?


Re:Open, Standard, Set top box (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#23032034)

The PS3 is the bestselling Blu-ray player in the world. With the death of HD-DVD, it's the bestselling HD videodisc player in the world. It was the first BD player on the market, and has always had more movie than game titles. I don't think it's locked in a definition as "videogame" by a longshot.

The PlayTV unit isn't quite released yet, but it will be the gateway to selling lots more PS3s. And that's before Sony really launches a campaign to show the PS3 as the "media hub" for all its products, including networked picture frames, mobile cameraphones, and all the other stuff people will suddenly realize is all Sony, and all works together.

Sony's approach to piracy has long puzzled people who'd expect Sony to build in more DRM. The latest PS3 Internet auto-upgrade lets it play DivX off the hard drive, no questions asked, which is obviously an appeal to people who download pirated content. But Sony has sold a lot of Vaios and flatscreens hooked up to them for people to play pirated content with. Sony might just be coming around, especially after getting so beat up over the wrong directions it went too far in, like the rootkit etc. If Sony really cared about DRM it would have long ago enabled end-to-end DRM including its MemoryStick, all of which hardware has it built in. Maybe they're taking the indefinitely prolonged stealth approach, expecting that once people are using all Sony DRM compatible products, and the analog equipment is a distant memory, they'll finally close the trap. Or maybe they're making so much money, and recognize that keeping the flow going and not pissing off customers into being hostile to their brand gives them an edge, and all that money that would eventually flow to their kinds of products will do so anyway, but to them instead of their more hostile appearing competitors.

In any case, the platform is fairly open (except the PS3 videochip under Linux, but it's not necessary now that the lockdown has forced development of SPU drivers). And here now. All that's necessary for the platform I described is for PlayTV to finally be released, which is any day. All without real DRM, all with high-end quality HW for fairly cheap. I like it.

Re:Open, Standard, Set top box (1)

Izabael_DaJinn (1231856) | about 6 years ago | (#23032190)

Thank you for your reply. I think you have good points, and I really hope you are right about Sony keeping the platform as open as possible.

The PS3 is the bestselling Blu-ray player in the world. With the death of HD-DVD, it's the bestselling HD videodisc player in the world. It was the first BD player on the market, and has always had more movie than game titles. I don't think it's locked in a definition as "videogame" by a longshot.

This I don't necessarily agree with because Sony is trying to eat its cake and have it too.

They want to force the PS3 into the home as a Blu-ray player, but the only way Blu-ray is going to be a success (compared to DVD) is if there are players under $200 by Christmas (there most likely will be). The PS3 will not last long as the #1 Blu-ray player, and once again will be left to fend its own as a game machine, IMHO.

I really think a lot less people want everything integrated into one machine than you and Sony think. People like a standalone movie player separate from the game machine (which may not even be in the main room of the house).

And this will be a completely moot point when Blu-ray players drop to under a $100. I mean didn't the same thing happen with the PS2 and DVD? After a year or two did anyone use the PS2 to play DVDs? Who still does so?

Re:Open, Standard, Set top box (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#23032794)

Well, I used my PS2 almost exclusively to play DVDs until I got a PS3 last year, because I'm not a gamer.

But the multimedia multiprocessing power of the PS3 is really game changing. Since Sony controls all Blu-Ray player licensing, I'm sure whatever lowest price point they're available at will be consistent with Sony's PS3 plans. The power of the PS3 to flip between TV, movies and games in a blink is really different from how any other previous config has worked. And they're positioning the PSP as the "dumb terminal" for the PS3 hub, a $200-300 satellite that uses the PS3 for the "heavy lifting", and WiFi/Gb-e for the media distribution. I don't know if that setup will all be available by Christmas 2008, but I do expect it, along with a developed network and portal for PlayTV, by Christmas 2009.

hmmm (1)

rastoboy29 (807168) | about 6 years ago | (#23030858)

And how does this compete with the Pirate Bay, exactly?

Re:hmmm (1)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | about 6 years ago | (#23031192)

Well, if they get it right, you should be able to start watching your film instantly, instead of having to wait for it to finish downloading. Pirate Bay requires you to predict that there's nothing good on TV and pick something good to watch, anything from 30min to a few days before depending on how popular the film you want to watch is.

Re:hmmm (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 6 years ago | (#23031918)

It's pretty easy to predict that there will be nothing good on TV. Because there is never anything good on TV. The trick, is to always have 2 or 3 movies waiting to be watched. That way, when you're in the mood to watch a movie, it's always sitting there, just waiting for you to watch it.

Rental Boxes (1)

Elder Entropist (788485) | about 6 years ago | (#23030940)

No, the only way this would work is if the customer doesn't have to buy a $200 hardware device, but can rent the box for, say, $15 month or so. Amortize the box costs like cell phone companies do.

Confused (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 6 years ago | (#23031148)

Blockbuster is proposing to provide a similar service to Netflix, only at two to four times the marginal cost* AND an up-front fee?

*It's one movie per dollar of your plan, right? or is it unlimited now?

I mean, I see the advantage of a set-top box, but that marginal cost is going to make a lot of people think twice, non? I guess it worked for Tivo, though...

SageTV (1)

bastafidli (820263) | about 6 years ago | (#23031180)

They should just buy SageTV (http://www.sagetv.com) and their HD Media Extender (woops, I shouldn't be probably saying it since I do own one and it is the single best piece of electronic equipment I have ever bought).

$3 or $4 each? WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23031286)

Uh, has Netflix taught you nothing?

So you're gonna charge me $200 for a box, make me pay for my own network connection, use up all my bandwidth, then charge me $4 each movie?

I don't think you have thought your cunning plan all the way through.

existing competence?! (2, Funny)

Eil (82413) | about 6 years ago | (#23031304)

the store's existing competence in the industry

C'mon, am I really going to be the first one to point out the hilarity of that phrase?

Re:existing competence?! (1)

timelorde (7880) | about 6 years ago | (#23031784)

What hilarity? They're the absolute best at never having the movie I'm looking for...

A day late and a dollar short (1)

westlake (615356) | about 6 years ago | (#23031408)

The device is believed to be a stand-alone product akin to Apple TV as opposed to embedding a Blockbuster-branded service in such existing devices as Microsoft's Xbox 360 or TiVo. Blockbuster eyes streaming to TVs [hollywoodreporter.com]

It competes for shelf space, back panel connections and room on the power strip.

It competes with the services of your cable or internet provider.

Time-Warner owns Harry Potter. Why should it let Blockbuster in on the action?

It duplicates the functionality already built into your DVR, video game console, computer and home media server.

I'd not be surprised to see the same functionality built into the stand-alone Blu-Ray player, the HT receiver, or the HDTV itself.

Denon builds a Rhapsody subscription-compatible Internet radio player into its high end HT components today. Plug in a USB drive and you are more than halfway there.

No reason why the independent hardware manufacturer shouldn't let you purchase a la carte. From Amazon. The BBC. Disney and so on.

Why are we still dealing with middlemen? (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | about 6 years ago | (#23031558)

This whole thing is rediculous and is exactly why open standards exist. I should be able to buy a settop box on my own and point it at any content providers I want over my neutral pipe (say what you will about the modem age, the telephone company had no control over the bits passing over my line). I want a Warner Bros. movie, I go to the Warner Bros. content point (some web service somewhere) and buy the movie from them. If they want to focus on their core competencies and license out the movies to someone else, that's fine. But it seems dumb to have "blockbuster" and "apple" and whomever competing over delivering the same content. The only thing that middlemen add value to is having a single subscriber account - and that's really because there's no way for me to pay them without setting up an account and going to a third party. And as "channels" - setting up syndication points that buy X copies of the show in bulk from the content providers and resell for a discount as part of a package. So what's currently "SciFi" becomes an all-you-can-eat selection of various shows.

Blockbuster's business model is dead. Shoving it into some half-assed internet service isn't going to make it live again.

Another remote (1)

eggman9713 (714915) | about 6 years ago | (#23031806)

Another remote to lose? Sonnofa squirrell. Make it work with my universal remote and I'll consider it. And get off my lawn!

Blockbuster is Desperate (1)

MxTxL (307166) | about 6 years ago | (#23031926)

I'm studying Blockbuster in my MBA program. They are really getting their lunch eaten by Netflix. Really and truly. They eventually copied the Netflix model, but they charged too much. Although they had the great idea of letting you drop them off in the store(actually, brilliant) it was too little too late. They are WAY behind on subscribers with little hope of turning the tide. Rentals are dwindling, they can't charge late fees any more. The brick and mortar stores are really dragging down profatability. They are in a downward spiral that is going to be tough to reverse.

My group is studying possible strategies going forward and we pretty much concluded they have to do a box like this. The DVD is now obsolete and it's replacement, the Blu-Ray may be slow on the uptake and worse, even if it were the best newest thing, Netflix will still be eating their lunch because it has the same delivery model as the DVD. Blockbuster needs to get away from the costly brick and mortar stores it operates and needs to skip the Blu-Ray wave. This means they need to deliver HD content directly to consumers. They could copycat the Netflix download service (which they are working on) but my opinion (and probably a lot of others) is that it sucks to use a PC to watch movies and Joe Public isn't savvy enough to use MythTV's or other home-grown media boxes to get the video to the TV.

Apple has a really good set top box, but it seems to not be taking hold. HD content is still pretty slow to deliver via broadband download. Maybe as higher-speed services like FIOS start coming to the mainstream, this can change and the download model will be viable but Blockbuster may be in chapter 11 before this happens. And besides that, they have to start poaching back subscribers from Netflix or they will be screwed when Netflix has their own set-top box.

My clever marketing idea was to pick up the AOL model and start sending out Mail Service subscriptions to everyone and anyone. Offer three months free or something and keep them hooked. Then when the online downloads or set-top boxes become stable offerings, then they have an easy way to convert people instead of having to gain all new customers. It's a critical race right now for subscribers and Netflix is winning that battle. They need to start playing hardball.

Re:Blockbuster is Desperate (1)

Izabael_DaJinn (1231856) | about 6 years ago | (#23032072)

I enjoyed, and agreed, with most of what you wrote, but:

it sucks to use a PC to watch movies
Why is that? We just use an HDMI cable from our computer to our HDTV set when we want to use the computer for movies (including Netflix online movies). Even non-tech people could do that....(Plus I know a lot of people who love to watch movies on their laptop, though that is not us.)

At any rate it is good to see Blockbuster finally going down!

Re:Blockbuster is Desperate (1)

drsmithy (35869) | about 6 years ago | (#23033252)

Why is that? We just use an HDMI cable from our computer to our HDTV set when we want to use the computer for movies (including Netflix online movies). Even non-tech people could do that....(Plus I know a lot of people who love to watch movies on their laptop, though that is not us.)

Because you (by which I mean the average, tech-ignorant consumer) can't sit back on the couch with a beer and do everything from your remote control.

Re:Blockbuster is Desperate (1)

Televiper2000 (1145415) | about 6 years ago | (#23033614)

I think that's the real deal here. It's hard enough to find an affordable remote for the PC, and even at that the UI isn't suited for sitting back on the couch with a beer. Even moderate adjustments to the volume are a pain in the ass.

Let's not forget that the average person already has a hard enough time using the PC. Blockbuster considers those who find it difficult to operate a mouse a valued revenue stream. I'd equate the set top box with the point and shoot camera.

It's not as bad as you think--it's much worse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23033816)

Blockbuster's computer systems are ancient (at least what they use in all their stores): they're slow, confusing, prone to debilitating problems, and almost useless for any task outside of basic transaction functions.

Blockbuster did develop a new computer system that supposedly solved all of these problems--however there are currently no plans to roll it out beyond a handful of model stores due to cost.

If a customer is looking for a product your store is out of, you must call other stores to see if they have it, there is no way to check inventory of another store using the existing computer system. The search function to check your store's inventory is as basic as it comes: you can only search by product title, and any mistakes in spelling, formatting, etc. will lead to zero results or a list of hundreds of titles which you do not even carry (and you can only view 10 titles at a time, 4-5 seconds to go to the next set of 10, and you can't go back to a previous set of 10). This leads to many employees simply telling customers that they are out of stock, or do not carry an item because they don't want to deal with the pathetically limited search function. It also means that if a customer is looking for a title, and they know the plot, the actors, the director, etc, but not the title they are simply out of luck until someone remembers the title. That's not even the half of it.

Blockbuster also acquires inventory and distributes it to stores in quantities that are unbelievable. Want a blu-ray movie? Too bad, stores only get a maximum of 3 copies for rent (just changed recently to 5 I believe) despite the fact that 90% of the blu-ray titles are rented out at least 75% of the time. Blockbuster charges more for blu-ray rentals.

Blockbuster also has one of the highest turnover rates in the industry.

The deals Blockbuster gets with studios are bad, shockingly, amazingly bad. Blockbuster pays so much more per movie than you would ever believe.

There are so many ways blockbuster could improve its business significantly it's not even funny.

So what do I think when I hear BBI is rolling out a set-top box and on demand service? Short BBI. They will fail. Their existing customers won't switch--the only reason their existing customers still come to the stores is the fact that they are so far from tech savvy, they don't consider any alternative.

BBI's market cap is currently $640M.

Its sure to fail (2, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about 6 years ago | (#23032134)

Just like every other set top box on the market.

With these newfangled flat panel TV sets, none of the boxes stay on top of the set. They all fall on the floor.

I hate to mention this- (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 6 years ago | (#23032464)

But with the ISPs looking to go to a "pay per gig" tiered Internet, ideas like this will be dead in the water. Who is going to waste what little bandwidth the ISPs allow you to get something you could just drive to Blockbuster for? And if you think you'll have plenty of bandwidth, two out of the three ISPs in my neighborhood have gone tiered. Here is what you get-

ISP A-$40 for 20Gb-$1.50 per gig afterwards Or ISP B-$40 for 35Gb-$1.00 per gig afterwards. I personally hope that competition will mean that there will always be someone offering "unlimited" but at least in my neighborhood it doesn't look that way. But IMHO this is a good example of why a "pay per gig" Internet is a bad idea. We are just now figuring out new and interesting business ideas for our broadband, but by going tiered all these new services will just dry up and IMHO we'll go back to the bad old days of the 80's where you had to watch every bit like a hawk. But that is just my 02c,YMMV.

late fees for a movie download (1)

heroine (1220) | about 6 years ago | (#23032508)

If anyone can charge late fees on movie downloads, BallBu$ter can. Well, if they're making vapor press releases like this, it only means they'll be out of business soon enough.

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