Set-top boxes with Moxi

New S-A digital offering expected to incorporate PVR, other advanced functions

Scientific-Atlanta (S-A) is developing an Explorer set-top box that will incorporate Digeo's Moxi services, which include access to PVR and digital music, photos and games through one box. Cable MSO Charter is expected to deploy the boxes sometime in 2003.

The Moxi concept of the home media server was rolled out at CES last January to much fanfare and press, particularly the consumer kind. The promise of a device that could incorporate PVR, audio jukebox and digital photo capabilities was attractive. But, with costs estimates ranging from $600 to $1,000, interest by most MSOs has been a wait-and-see proposition.

Peter Kellogg-Smith, head of product development for Digeo, says cost is an issue and, in an effort to limit costs, development focus is on the 80GB hard drive and PVR functionality. With satellite receivers increasingly offering integrated PVR service, cable operators will increasingly find themselves in the role of laggard.

"There's also early proof that [PVR functionality] has a positive impact in battling satellite vendors' churn rates," he says.

Future services include a music jukebox, wireless gateway capabilities, digital photography display modes and digital slide shows on the TV, says Kellogg-Smith.

"For a single household needing only one system, it's an expensive proposition," he explains. "So we've decided to focus on two-TV households, and the reason for that is the cost of supporting a second TV off the media center is minimal."

Kellogg-Smith also believes that Digeo will be able to support two TVs with the media center for the same cost as two low-end S-A or Motorola digital boxes by the second half of 2003. Digeo has licensing agreements with S-A and Motorola.

The Carmel Group sees big gains ahead for the PVR market, which could help push deployment by cable operators. U.S. household penetration, the analyst firm predicts, will grow from 1.5% by the end of this year to 25% in 2008. It also expects U.S. cable operators to have 4.8 million PVR-based users and DBS operators 4.9 million PVR-based users by the end of 2005. Most of the market will be products from Digeo, Metabyte Networks, Microsoft, OpenTV, SONICblue and TiVo, with TiVo and Metabyte expected to lead the market's pure-PVR providers.