While the theories of technology convergence lend themselves toward the marriage of the set-top box and the TV, the stand alone TV peripheral isn’t ready to go away. Just the opposite, from Apple TV to efforts from Cisco and Motorola to Tivo, the set-top box continues to try and reinvent itself as its own model for a convergence device.
Entering the fray with a Hollywood caliber entrance (in the form of a substantial new financing) is Building B, a year old company founded by former semiconductor entrepreneur and Harvard professor Buno Pati and Chaired by Phil Wise, the former CTO of Sony of America.
Building B hasn’t gone far beyond cryptic descriptions and buzzwords in public description of their stealth startup and in-development hardware but they have convinced investors there’s substance behind their speech. In a first round, just closed, the company has secured $17.5m
(In an interesting overlap of portfolio interests, Index also notably invested in IPTV video company Joost which is run by former Cisco executive, Mike Volpi. Joost is aiming, eventually, to bundle their software into a set top device. Partnership(s) could be in the future – Joost with a connection to both Cisco and Building B could be well positioned.)
The defacto sound-byte from Building B about their plans has been that they are “addressing the need to simplify and unify the consumer home entertainment experience.”
Though much of Building B’s vision is shrouded in as much mystery as Area 51, a few details are clear. First, their box will be tethered to the internet in some way (presumably via an end user’s choice of hardwired Ethernet cable or WiFi). The two way net connection will allow a wide latitude in programming options and content variety. Courtesy of a partnership signed with Claria Corp in April, Building B’s box will also be capable of creating a profile for different viewers in a household based on their viewing habits. Behavioral targeting of ads could follow from those profiles. Also, the box will be capable of receiving both cable (or possibly satellite) input as well as receiving terrestrial input (presumably over-air High Def. TV).
It appears Building B is aiming for a platform service for on-demand programming that emphasizes consumer ease of use and a broad all-in-one buffet of functionality. Instead of separate video recorder, tuner, HD decoder, and so on, they will offer (it appears) all services on single platform along with their own content distribution.
Andy Lack, Chairman of Sony BMG Entertainment will also be joining the board at Building B.