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Google Television The Almighty Buck News

Can Google Fix the Cable Box? 223

theodp writes "In purchasing Motorola Mobility, Slate's Farhad Manjoo reports that Google will also come into possession of one the nation's biggest suppliers of set-top boxes. So, can Google work some of its do-no-evil magic on the loathsome cable box? Don't bet on it, says Manjoo. For one thing, there's no evidence that Google would be very good at remaking the set-top box (Google TV, anyone?). But even if Google managed to dramatically improve set-top boxes, it's doubtful that cable and satellite companies would buy in. First, they'd lose all those ridiculously lucrative cable-box rental fees. More importantly, they'd have to give up control of the main entertainment device in most homes, and with it the opportunity to slow or stymie competing sources for entertainment. After the merger, notes Manjoo, Google could get several billion dollars by selling off Motorola Mobility's set-top-box division — a much surer payday than taking on Big Cable."
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Can Google Fix the Cable Box?

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  • But ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @08:58AM (#37128390)
    But there is a lot of viewership demographic data to gather, and no one harvests ad data better than Google. They'll be able to offer an online ad that matches one that the view didn't switch away from last night while watching TV.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @09:35AM (#37128752) Journal
    My understanding is that, if you wish to use any encrypted cable service, you either suck it up and rent the company's cable box, or you enter the delightsome world of cablecard 'compatibility' with so-called "host" devices. At present, because of the somewhat onerous [](incidentally the 'open' in "opencable" appears to be a piece of gallows humor, not an actual description) certification requirements, specific Wintel hardware configurations are the only ones DRMy enough for the purpose, along with a number of STBs and TVs and similar appliances.

    Apple's continued lack of enthusiasm for DRM systems other than their own makes adoption of Cable Card on any of their platforms less than entirely likely, and I'm pretty sure that there is a standing order at Cable Labs HQ that any Linux system not thoroughly Tivoized is to be stopped at the door and ejected by security.

    If you are dealing with OTA signals, or snarfing analog feeds from STBs, or using non/weakly DRMed digital media, you have options; but if you want to talk to a commercial cable network, not so much...
  • Re:But ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @09:54AM (#37128982) Homepage

    It is already gathered. At comcast in 2002 I was gathering data from the boxes for sales. we had better data than Nielsen.

    I can give you a breakdown of each box and what channel it was tuned to at that time reported every 5 minutes. it can report faster but that was the default of the boxes that comcast had deployed.

    I pulled all of it into a SQL database so the sales people had real time demos in 5 minute increments of the number of boxes watching each channel INCLUDING VOD views.

    This is not new. it has been going on for a while now.

  • SageTV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GrumpyOldMan ( 140072 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @10:03AM (#37129124)

    Google bought a small company called SageTV a few months back. They were one of the only companies offering a "whole house" PVR solution via tiny thin-client media extenders running on multiple TVs, and PVR software running on PCs. They had an extensible UI, as well as a number of features (like local media file management) that cable company DVRs either don't do, or do very poorly.

    My guess is that they intend to apply the SageTV team to making cable boxes suck less; especially whole house solutions. Obviously they won't be using clients PCs as the server any longer, but a lot of the technology is applicable.

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @11:11AM (#37130178)

    I don't even have cable, and I can immediately spot problems with these boxes at friends and family's houses.

    First of all, why the hell do you all put up with the ads showing the whole time on the pay-per-view/channel listings area??? All that space is wasted for some inane repeating "preview". Remember, you are paying these people like $100/month and they reward you by putting an irritating ad where additional channel listings could be?

    Second, in ye olde days of regular TV, you could browse channels by pushing the button on the remote as quickly as you liked. Or before that, you could machine-gun turn the knob and watch the programs fly by. Now with digital cable you have a distinct pause on each channel that makes flipping around take forever. Is this inherent to digital TV? If it is a buffering issue, why can't the box buffer the next channel and the previous channel so that flipping is instant?

    Third, I notice that these boxes are crawling with input and output. Firewire, analog inputs, etc. None of them are actually turned on. WTF?

    I'm sure I could make this into an article, so I'll just stop.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"