Tech Talk #12: Your Humble Set-Top Box & A New Rollable Keyboard

What is the future of your Set-Top Box, and a novel new take on the flexible keyboard!

Microsoft is reportedly developing a complimentary cheaper alternative to the upcoming XBox 720, which will provide streamed access to core entertainment services. This means that it is aimed squarely at Apple TV, which is also reportedly getting a make-over to add its own App Store (so you can play Angry Birds on your big screen). According to The Verge, which claims to have multiple sources, Microsoft will launch a set-top box in 2013 as a low-cost option to the next-generation of XBox console, which will run the core Windows 8 O/S parts and allow low-end gaming rather than the full-blown XBox catalogue.

But I’ve just got back from electronica, the every-other-year largest electronics components show in the world (Nov, Munich), and I heard from several sources that the STB as we all know it, could well be on its decline over the next 5-10 years. Rumours abound that 2014 will be BSkyB’s last STB release before it starts licensing out the electronics to the TV makers. And when you think about it, this makes perfect sense.

As consumers, we try to keep our TVs going as long as we can, but think nothing of rolling our boxes over every 18-24 months. It costs about £150 to change your Sky+ box every other year, and less than £20 to get a FreeView box, which means it’s less likely that you’ll upgrade your TV as regularly. No-one has really gone out and bought 3D TV’s in abundance, or even upgraded just because OLED TV’s are thinner and consume less power, so the market is suffering.

But if you put the STB inside the TV, then we’ll have no choice but to upgrade our TVs every 2-3 years. The TVs themselves are getting physically bigger (in surface area terms), so there is plenty of space to put the additional electronics. And those electronics are getting smaller (witness System-On-Chip) and less power consuming, so the TV can easily handle the extra load. The recent significant move from hard drives to SSD (solid state disks), accelerated by the floods earlier this year in the Philippines. As consumers, what we really need is a modular set-up, where the SSDs/hard drives can be swapped out as bigger capacities become available, but this will be counter to the TV makers goals. At the very best, with the advent of USB 3.0, and PCIe Gen 3, we might hope to be able to connect an external drive for extra storage – but don’t hold your breath!

This may well mean that Apple will release their own TV (which has been rumoured forever), but I reckon Microsoft would rather license the technology and offload all the product management & manufacturing to Samsung, LG, Sony et al. Apple would rather hold on to the prestige product design, but M/S are a software company ultimately, and prefer the low overhead / high margin of selling IP.

Mobile Rollable Keyboard Concept?

Roll-Qi Inc, Qii is claiming to have the world’s first truly mobile rollable keyboard, designed to be ultra-thin and flexible and available in both full-sized and pocket-sized. Qii uses a new kind of transparent, flexible electronic film together with a new touch sensing technology developed by a technology partner. The keyboard can be used on virtually any surface, hard or soft, flat or curved, turning a smart phone into a computer which fits into your pocket.

The full QWERTY keyboard has a number pad and function keys and connects wirelessly to a smart phone; it has an anti-fingerprint coating to keep it clean and a textured surface for easy touch typing. It is dirt and water-resistant and can be washed with soap and water. It is designed to roll up into a small, pocket-sized case that also serves as a touch pad and can be rolled out fully, or only partially to access just the basic keys. Check out the photo at the link below.


Sources: The Verge, Printed Electronics World
Reporter: SilverFox

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