Cable companies may well be developing more apps for third-party devices, but that doesn't mean traditional set-tops are going away.
Arris announced today that it's been selected by Charter as a vendor partner for the cable company's WorldBox 2.0 initiative. The two organizations are careful to position WorldBox 2.0 as a "next-generation video platform," but practically speaking, that platform means consumers are getting a new piece of hardware in the home.
The WorldBox news follows on the heels of another announcement last week stating that Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) and Charter Communications Inc. have entered into a warrant agreement. The warrant agreement offers Charter the ability to take an investment stake in Arris based on the cable company's purchase of a set volume of Arris products and services. That agreement gave Charter a financial interest in sourcing future contracts to Arris. The WorldBox 2.0 deal fits the bill. (See Charter Inks Warrant Deal With Arris Too.)
The WorldBox partnership with Arris is particularly notable because only Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Humax Co. Ltd. were listed as the chosen vendors for the first stage of WorldBox development. There were rumors all along that Arris would also get a piece of Charter's set-top pie, but nothing official ever surfaced. (See Hey New Charter Subs, You're Getting a Worldbox!.)
In today's announcement, Charter even emphasizes Arris's contribution to the downloadable security technology in WorldBox 2.0, which was one of the key aspects highlighted in Charter's original vendor agreement with Cisco. (See Charter Thinks Outside the 'Worldbox'.)
"Our ongoing work with Arris -- in developing this platform, including the downloadable security component -- and the establishment of the warrant program, speaks to the strength of our long-standing relationship and the value of Arris's expertise in large-scale, next-generation deployments, said Charter EVP Jim Blackley in a statement.
The continuing development of the WorldBox platform comes as Charter is also promoting its cloud-based Spectrum Guide, which is powered, at least in part, by another Charter/Arris joint venture. Charter and Arris together bought out cloud technology provider ActiveVideo in a JV established in 2015. (See Arris, Charter Nab ActiveVideo for $135M.)
It's an ongoing theme in the cable industry that more and more pay-TV functions are moving into the cloud. However, even as software eats the world, cable companies are finding that they can't entirely quit the hardware business.
Cablecos may also be deciding that hardware has more to offer than previously thought. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) just introduced a number of new hardware products for the home, giving that company new ways to interact with consumers as the smart home movement continues to evolve. (See Google Home Could Be Pay-TV's Nightmare and Google Plans Home WiFi Takeover.)
The battle for the home is more competitive than ever, and the large cable operators seem to be concluding that maintaining their own hardware presence is a necessary investment.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading