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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Pick-and-Choose Convergence Is Coming to an All-in-One Box on Top of Your TV Set

11 Jun, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Pick-and-choose convergence is coming, and it's headed for a little box on top of your TV set.

I have long held that the biggest obstacle to new technology is space. The top of the TV set is getting awfully crowded, with the VCR and cable box sharing space with a DVD player, a home theater control center, a personal video recorder like Tivo, a satellite decoder and who knows what's coming next down the pike.

It sort of makes you long for the good old days when a TV was just a TV and not a platform for a towering stack of black boxes.

I speak from experience -- I would love to have one of those recordable DVD machines, but the biggest hindrance to me getting one, after the hefty price, is a lack of room. I'm one of those people who have my music system in the same room as my home theater, so I have to draw the line at three boxes -- not counting my vintage turntable, which is tucked away in a cabinet below the TV, all hooked up and ready to play. But I've only got one shelf above my TV, and there's barely room for my DVD player, my CD player and my home theater command center. My cassette player's in the closet, and the digital cable box was sent back to Daniels Cablevision when I realized digital cable, at least in my area, amounts to paying a lot more for hardly anything extra.

But I digress. The top of the typical American TV is getting very crowded, and what we need is one box that does it all -- or at least lets consumers choose which functions they want, or believe they need, and get all of them in one unit.

I believe we're going to get it, too. The manufacturing community has duly noted this set-top space crunch and is working overtime on finding a solution. Just recently, AT&T announced it plans to offer a variety of semi-customized set-top boxes designed to satiate consumer appetites without adding clutter.

"We initially started down a path for one-size-fits-all strategy for digital television, but customers have a range of interests, so we decided we can best accommodate them with a range of services," AT&T spokeswoman Tracy Baumgartner told the Reuters news service.

After six months of customer trials, the Reuters story said, AT&T said it found consumers didn't have the need or interest in many of the sophisticated services being built into the advanced set-top boxes.

"We found that for the services they found really compelling, we could get it out sooner and without requiring them to get a new set-top box" by adding software to existing boxes, Baumgartner said.

Now that's music to my ears. And I'd like to be the first to place my order: I want one (1) box that will play my DVDs as well as VHS cassettes and 8-millimeter cassettes from my camcorder, give me advanced cable (when and if it ever really becomes advanced), let me record stuff off the TV and give me the option of picking up satellite service.

It's a tall order, but who knows? If I can get this thing filled, I might even have room enough on top of my TV to hook up my cassette deck and maybe even my 8-track player!

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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