For cable operators, most of their cable box shipments come from Scientific Atlanta, currently owned by Cisco. The other set top box company, Motorola, will soon be owned by Google. Now comes a report that Cisco doesn't see much of a future with its S-A division and is seeking to sell it. "Much has changed in the set-top box business since Cisco acquired S-A, most of all the streaming of Internet content and the race to introduce video on multiple platforms." With the rise of cloud computing, network DVR plans, and an emphasis on connected TV sets, does an external box improve the viewing experience or simply interfere with it? Most likely, the viewer would not prefer to have one. And Cisco's business plan is moving toward the cloud as well.
If S-A goes up for sale, who will buy it? The article speculates that private equity firms are most likely to bid. But what about a bid from a cable company or group of companies. With so much investment in EBIF, they need a set top box to distribute and interface with the TV experience. Maintaining that exclusive hold on the cable subscriber requires keeping the box in the home.
Google certainly is not buy Motorola for its cable box business. For them it is all about mobility and access to products that the consumer uses in and out of the home, phones and tablets especially. Their eye is certainly not on the cable box, but on the internet.
So what will happen to the S-A box business and how will the cable industry respond. The future is in the clouds and cable may eventually have to catch up and drop the box. Authentication of the consumer can still happen; it may not need a box anymore to make it so.