Are streaming media players a passing fad?

Last updated May 23, 2011 — 6503 views

Market analyst In-Stat is questioning whether dedicated “streaming media player” devices like the Roku player, Boxee Box, and Google TV-equipped Logitech Revue will be around for long. The reason: IP-streamed video is becoming a standard feature of TVs and Blu-ray players. Passing fad? We think not!

The following excerpt comes from the introduction to In-Stat’s recent report, “Streaming Media Players: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?”

“The growth of ‘over-the-top’ (OTT) video services is generating a great deal of attention for consumer electronics products that can efficiently support streaming media services. One of these products, the streaming media player, has enjoyed significant growth over the past two years. However, despite the recent growth, the market for streaming media players is facing a questionable future…

Foremost among the challenges are how to competitively position streaming media player products against other products, such as connected Blu-ray players and video game consoles, that are more common in both consumer households and in retail electronics stores.

In addition, there is a longer term challenge of how to best internally position streaming media player products in a market segment chock full of virtually identical products. These challenges will significantly alter the shape of the streaming media player market, ultimately causing demand for products to decrease…

A key threat to the streaming media player market is the growing number of consumer electronics devices that can stream IP-based video. It seems likely that the ability to stream IP video will soon become a common product ‘feature’ [of products such as TVs and Blu-ray players,] rather than the central function of a device.”

DeviceGuru’s take

Sure, TVs and Blu-ray players are beginning to show up with a few IP-streaming A/V apps, such as Netflix, Pandora, and YouTube. And yes, there’s no denying that Google (story), Roku (story), and Boxee (story) are aggressively peddling their wares to the manufacturers of these devices.

But does that mean the market opportunity for dedicated IP-streaming media player devices will soon dry up? Not at all!

The thing is, IP-streaming of A/V to TVs and other media rendering devices in the home is an emerging market, not a mature one. It’s rife with rapidly evolving technologies, media formats, protocols, strategies, services, policies, alliances, and more, and it’s not clear where all this change will end up.

Consequently, despite next-generation TVs and Blu-ray players being built with integrated media-streaming apps and capabilities, they won’t be able to keep pace with dedicated media streaming boxes, which typically come to market with beta firmware and get wrung out by early adopters who don’t mind putting up with a few bugs and frequent firmware updates, in return for being on the bleeding edge of new gadgets.

In short, the mass-market A/V delivery systems — TVs and DVD/Blu-ray players — by necessity will lag the dedicate devices by a couple of years, until the market matures. Which is probably a decade away.

From the broader perspective, what’s really taking place is a major transition beyond desktop PCs. We’re moving to a world in which powerful processors, broadband IP connectivity, and various new peripheral devices (video cams, motion sensors, and others) are being integrated into our home entertainment centers, with the HDTV, audio system, and universal remotes serving as the UI.

Fasten your safety belts — this ride has just begun!

4 responses to “Are streaming media players a passing fad?”

  1. Rick Cobb says:

    I’m with you guys. There are also a number of “simple” features that aren’t worked out in any standardized fashion, which makes any notion of a low-cost commodity chip-in-your-tv harder to realize.

    An example from the streamed-audio side: Logitech’s Squeeze line supports a proprietary synchronization protocol & algorithm, which means you get no reverb or echo effect if you move between rooms playing the same stream. AFAIK, nobody’s even tried to solve that problem for video players (where just getting the audio & video to sync to each other has been a challenge in multicomponent installations).

  2. Julien says:

    While I agree that net boxes are here to stay, I don’t think the reason for it is that physical media players can’t update their firmware.
    Also, I wonder if net boxes might get absorbed into TVs.

  3. Jeremy says:

    Net top boxes are definitely here to stay, but may over time take their place in the mid-high end of the market. The reason I say this is simple….you can still buy a component stereo system, or surround sound system piece by piece, but it is far more common for people to get an all-in-one unit. We live in a disposable world. You buy something, use it for a while, and when it breaks (or something better comes along) you toss it or donate it to charity.

    I welcome more things being built into the tv’s. That is a great thing for people like my 65 year old father. Myself, I’m much pickier about my technology. I take great pride in hand picking my components, and getting the most out of them.

  4. Jared says:

    I prefer the Net top boxes right now. I myself use Roku. It was cheap and does what I wanted it to do very well. I just do not see the TVs and Blu-ray players with integrated media-streaming apps being updated and supported like the stand-alone Net top boxes. Not sure about the Blue-ray players but the TV manufacturers are charging to much for this added intergration.