Meeting Notes for November 5, 1996 - BA274

Subject: Set Top Boxes

Attendees: Lark Dunham, Sandra Doi, John Dick, Shailen Mistry

Discussion Leader: John Dick

WebTV and Set-top Boxes are in the news daily. What could be easier than surfing the web with your TV remote? And think of the installed base that TVs represent. But, how close are we to realizing this scenario. John Dick tells all....

There are many major companies in the chase for market leadership. The highest profile ones are Zenith and Digital. These companies are looking to not only provide internet access, they also want to provide content. Examples of leading candidates are:

We discussed how attractive it would be to be watching a sporting event and be able to click to get the stats on a particular player or on the game. Or as you watch a news story on a hot company, you could get a stock quote instantly.

John sees the issues divided into two main categories:

  1. Where is the Technology Now?
  2. How does the use of TV affect viewership

Where is the Technology Now?

We discussed tow major problems. First is the lack of bandwidth. Second, is that the medium is poor for text, but good for pictures.

As for hardware, many companies are working on cable modums to attach directly the the TV, whereas other companies are wrestling with Op systems and equipment. There are currently two camps racing to set the standards.

Gary raised the issue of switching mechanisms. Since cable is a broadcast medium, a switching mechanism is necessary to make this a two way medium. In this way, the upstream signal may be the users request for sport stats. Cable is not equipped to handle user input/requests.

John brought up @Home which is doing experiments in Fremont. Their current challenge is that the amplification is causing upstream distortion.


WebTV is an intriguing opportunity for companies, particularly considering the global market. TVs are an installed base that may surpass telephones.

Problems that we identified are first of all technology and standards. Pixels are different on computers vs TVs. Second, no "killer app" has emerged to stimulate market pull.

Other comments:

Intel, the leader in semiconductor technology, does not appear to be supporting this drive. Whether they see this as a threat to their core business of faster, more powerful computing, or if they are simply sitting back to let the market emerge, is difficult to discern.


EE Times Set-top Boxes Summit I

EE Times Set-top Box Summit II

EE Times Set-top Box Summit IV

Set-top Box Data - Weber State Webpage

Interactive TV - Weber State Webpage

Notes prepared by:

Sandra Doi

Return to the Internet Commerce Group2 Homepage