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Next Generation Set-Top Boxes

The market for set-top boxes -- the consumer's main point of connection to cable-based services -- is huge, and will remain so for some time. But the shape of the STB's next generation replacement or evolution is already discernable, and it's called the Home (or Broadband) Media Center. The idea, according to ABI Research, is to combine a number of electronic devices in one package. STBs, cable modems, personal video recorders, computer interface, and telephone connection boxes are all likely candidates, and plans even include interfaces for controlling household heating and appliances. ABI is skeptical about some vendors' plans to incorporate CD/DVD players in their home media centers. They won't offer the same functionality or quality as stand-alone units, they won't generate easy profits, and they will be unpopular with entertainment content owners. ABI believes that home media centers may start to replace STBs in the United States around 2008, but that the process will start later in other parts of the world.

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