Yes, that headline is harsh, but that’s how I feel. Dave Zatz picked up on more info that supports the rumors that NetFlix is still working on a set-top box for movie rentals. This is a long running rumor, which arose after the announced TiVo-Netflix partnership collapsed. TiVo, of course, ended up partnering with Amazon for Unbox and Netflix started streaming video online.
I feel very strongly that, at this point, a one-trick pony is doomed in this market – unless it is very, very inexpensive. Even then consumers have ‘box fatigue’ and are tired of putting Yet Another Box in their entertainment center and finding a place to connect it. Convergence is where it is today – which is why Unbox on TiVo was a great idea – and Netflix on TiVo would be too. This is also why Apple TV has been lackluster at best, and Akimbo and Moviebeam pulled out of the hardware market completely – and why I believe VUDU will fail as well.
We have VOD available through pretty much ever cable and satellite operator now. TiVo has Unbox. Xbox has video downloads – including HD. Sony just announced they’ll be bringing downloads to the PS3. Modern hardware is so powerful that it can perform many functions, and do them all well. There just isn’t a place for a horde of single-purpose boxes today. The comments on the ZNF post seem to agree with my viewpoint as well.
Netflix should partner with someone – or multiple someones – who already have STBs in the market. TiVo has said their partnership with Amazon isn’t exclusive – so they’re a possibility. Microsoft would likely welcome more content in XBox Live for 360 downloads. Netflix could do downloads, or streaming, to a PC and support viewing over a Media Center Extender. Or work with the MCE companies to stream right to the MCE over broadband.
Stop reinventing the wheel. Unless your system requires specialized hardware (like a Slingbox), we don’t need a new box. Something like the SlingCatcher I understand, it is a client for another hardware device and isn’t a one-trick pony.