As market competition heats up, broadband service providers are looking at ways to differentiate their services with advanced applications. Cable has made a big push with VOD, Verizon has introduced Home Media DVR and TV widgets, and AT&T talked just today about lab trials with features like TV caller ID, IPTV webcams and podcast downloads.
Originally, high-end set-tops were designed to handle advanced applications like high-def television and digital video recording (both fairly standard now), but since no operator wants a set-top that will be a doorstop within a year, Motorola’s high-end hardware was also given room to grow. As one example, higher-end processors and graphics cards initially implemented for HDTV and DVR functions can be provisioned for set-top gaming. Add in network capacity for on-demand services, and gaming could become a nice new revenue source for service providers, as well as an addictive casual pastime for consumers.
Technically speaking, one of the biggest challenges in enabling set-top gaming is the issue of latency. With a set-top you’re dealing not only with potential delays at the local box level, but also in communicating back to the network for interactive and on-demand features. Mastering latency on a cable or telecom network is a complex but certainly achievable feat. One that will likely come in handy in the not-too-distant future.