IN PERSPECTIVE - App Stores for Cable

Thu, 12/31/2009 - 7:25pm
Brian Santo, Editor-in-Chief

I predicted an App Store champion would arise in the cable industry in 2010, but it looks like Patrick Knorr showed up early

By Brian SantoIn the last 10 years, cable has rapidly and successfully expanded its scope into broadband and telephony. In response, the consumer electronics industry has been developing devices to take advantage of cable services.

Cable and CE were once tangential; now they’re heading toward being integral.

Recently, consumer groups, the FCC and the NCTA have been agreeing with each other that a retail market for set-tops is desirable, even as individual cable companies are looking to get out of the set-top business to rely instead on gateways. CE vendors are developing products to conform with those plans.

The biggest story in CE the past few years has been smartphones – the iPhone, in particular, with its pioneering model for applications. Anyone can develop an app; apps can be downloaded through Apple’s App Store.

I’ve been asking cable execs about the App Store model for cable TV. Earlier in 2009, the responses ranged from “What are you babbling about?” to “It would be nearly impossible to make it work for cable.”

Somebody really ought to figure it out, though, because the CE industry is already attempting to make the App Store model work for TV without cable’s participation. The last two CES shows, CE makers have been highlighting widgets on TV, and this year they’ll only get more sophisticated with their demos.

I predicted an App Store champion would arise in the cable industry in 2010 (see “Remembrance of things future”), but it looks like Patrick Knorr showed up early (see “Gateways a keystone for future cable operator architectures”). I kept my prediction – because with my fortune-telling record, I can really use an early win.

The App Store model is now entrenched. Consumers are going to expect cable to replicate the model, and they’re not going to care how hard it is to do so. And if they don’t get it, somebody else will give it to them.


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