No to be confused with the typical 'dumb' set-top box devices used by the legacy pay-TV sector, innovative new devices are being introduced into the global streaming video entertainment marketplace. Creative hardware design and imaginative software user experience enhancements will transform this product category.
According to the latest market study by ABI Research, the smart set-top box and dongle market is expected to pass 18 million units in 2013 -- that's higher than originally forecast, due to the arrival of the Google Chromecast.
Overall the market is expected to grow with a 10.8 percent CAGR (from 2013 to 2018) with less saturated and developing -- from a new product perspective -- markets like Asia-Pacific and Latin America helping drive this growth.
"Despite stiff competition from a range of connected consumer electronics (CE) devices, the smart set-top box and dongle market offers an equally compelling user experience often at significantly lower price points" said Michael Inouye, senior analyst at ABI Research.
Google’s Chromecast device in particular sets a new low price bar for the connected CE market and as more applications are added to its library its value to price ratio will continue to grow.
In time, as the installed base of devices with new technologies like MHL grow we will start to see more dongle form factors in the smart set-top box market; although the puck design will remain highly relevant.
The price of these devices will also allow lower tier TV manufacturers to separate the connected TV component, keeping prices lower and enabling customers the option to upgrade the connected platform as desired without replacing the TV or purchasing costly and proprietary upgrade modules.
ABI practice director Sam Rosen added, "If Sony secures the rights to distribute live cable channels from Viacom, partnerships such as this allude to a content future quite different from the one many are accustomed to today."
Content holders are already forging more direct relationships to viewers and this would be a natural step forward, but the pay-TV operators are likewise evolving and adapting to this changing market environment.
ABI believes that the amalgamation of legacy pay-TV and over-the-top (OTT) video will become increasingly important, suggesting Google TV’s vision might have come too early but might grow into this role as a bridge or new entrants like Microsoft’s Xbox One might fully realize this unified vision.