TV Set-top boxes (Definition)

The integration of TV and Web content is resulting in new kinds of hardware that displays web page content at TV resolution.

In the same way that we had a browser war, there is a similar activity going on with TV set-top boxes. These are generally a slightly lower than normal functionality browser burned into a ROM or upgradeable Flash PROM chip.

There are several varieties already available in various forms. From the MSIE tradition comes the WebTV box. This is a browser originally based on MSIE 3 but now enhanced somewhat. There are limitations due to the need for it to occupy as little memory as possible. For those who prefer the Netscape browser, the Liberate box comes from a company initially formed as a joint venture between Netscape Communications and Oracle. It now has significant backing from Cisco and all things considered may well become the dominant platform.

Other alternatives exist from Bush Electronics and Netgem.

Because of the hardware limitations, these 'browser in a box' systems tend to support a reduced functionality set when compared with the more recent desktop computer based browsers. Typically the HTML support would be at version 3.2 of HTML and if JavaScript is supported it would be based on JavaScript version 1.2 with some minor additions and a few features omitted or compromised. This is very much a generalization however, and you will likely find some products that exceed these specifications.

A good source of information about the progress and development of the whole area of Digital Interactive TV and set-top boxes can be found at the Ruel web site.

See also:JellyScript, Liberate TV Navigator, OpenTV, WebTV