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Are Set-Tops Dead? Comcast Offers Its RDK Remedy
Industry observers have been predicting the death of the set-top for some time, sparking debate in many forums (including Light Reading message boards). As cable embraces the cloud and broadband-connected retail devices, the thinking goes, why does it need to maintain its reliance on STBs in the home?

If they are not dead yet, STBs most certainly are getting a makeover. The traditional STB is transforming into a gateway device, fueled by IP and capable of managing new cloud-based services, including graphically rich interactive program guides, multi-room DVR and content sharing across tablets, smart TVs, smartphones, game players laptops and other connected devices.

Now Comcast, the largest U.S. cable operator, is leading an industry-wide effort to transform STBs into IP-fueled devices, speed their entry into the market and provide an open platform for service innovation. The Comcast Reference Design Kit prescribes the latest system-on-a-chip (SoC) microprocessor technology coupled with a stack of the latest open-source middleware. With this powerful, flexible combination, Comcast believes it can cut STB development time by more than half and provide a new line of IP devices that offer new services, applications and user experiences.

RDK represents a noble effort to rectify the past wrongs of cable STB development by utilizing the latest SoC solutions and open-source middleware. The RDK process developed by Comcast is as unique as the technology process itself. It is unprecedented for an MSO to establish a license process to distribute open source software and create a shared-learning development community. And oh yeah, the licensed middleware stack is free.

While nearly 60 companies have obtained the RDK license, only about a dozen have announced actual RDK-related product. Other MSOs are taking keen interest but have to fully commit. This year, with more testing and product development, the number of companies that officially join the RDK parade will grow, even if some may not like marching to Comcast's tune. The advantages of utilizing the SoC and software package will be too compelling to ignore.

If the cable industry is going to truly embrace innovation, it must embrace open standards and a more collaborative development cycle. RDK may create a pattern for the industry to follow in other areas, one that will keep cable on the cutting edge.

Are Set-Tops Dead? Comcast Offers Its RDK Remedy explains RDK, the market drivers and its implications for cable operators and suppliers. Included is a look at announced RDK products by 11 suppliers.

Sample research data from the report is shown in the excerpt below:
Table of Contents (cii0313_toc.pdf)
Overall, cable's interest in RDK stems from its need to innovate quicker and embrace IP technologies. The industry must shake off the shackles of legacy STBs. In doing so, it can take advantage of new software-based service opportunities and remain competitive with other traditional service providers and newer over-the-top (OTT) entrants.
[click on the image above for the full excerpt]
Companies profiled in this report include: Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS); Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM); Entropic Communications Inc.; Espial Group; Humax Co. Ltd.; Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC); Pace plc; SeaChange International Inc.; ST Microelectronics (NYSE: STM); Technicolor SA and ThinkAnalytics Ltd.
Total pages: 21
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