Cisco’s Dr. Ken Morse announced this morning at a Light Reading Cable event that set-tops are headed toward a next life as software, or as virtualized elements in the cloud. The statement is not terribly surprising on the face of it, except for the fact that it comes from Cisco. I’ve written plenty of “the set-top is not dead” posts in the past, and Dr. Morse agrees that it will be some time before legacy hardware disappears. However, even the fact that the company is publicly suggesting that hardware set-tops are on the road to extinction is pretty remarkable.
If you’re not familiar, Cisco is one of the largest set-top manufacturers on the planet, along with my former employer, Motorola, and Technicolor (formerly Thomson). However, consumer hardware is certainly not highest on the company’s priority list. In its most recent (disastrous) earnings report, Cisco made it clear that it plans to focus on its core network strengths going forward. That stated strategy refers primarily to ditching unsuccessful retail products, but maybe Cisco now sees set-tops in the same category. Certainly shifting everything to the network or the cloud puts Cisco in a place where it’s much more comfortable. And it seems the company is starting to align its public position with that reality.