Gateways obviate the boxed-in feeling for an entertained home

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Unless the recent unrelenting heat wave, power outages and wildfires sapped your mental resources (and no one could blame you if they did), you've probably noticed that IPTV has almost officially morphed into something more than a way to get 82 channels of nothing, as Bruce Springsteen might put it: it's a big, but not complete, component of what I like to call an "entertained home." Feel free to use the term; just give me credit.

Making IPTV an element within said entertained home--along with voice and data and over-the-top video, among other services--requires a gateway traffic cop to direct each incoming piece of a service provider-delivered package to its correct destination. Both vendors and service providers recognize this need for directional control and are either scrambling to make sure they've built the foundation for gateways or scrambling to make sure they can build gateways themselves.

It's the big reason why Humax, a major IPTV set-top box maker for international clients, grabbed a controlling stake in gateway veteran MMC Technology.

"Humax's strategy is to become a leader in the market by introducing the advanced technology and expertise of MMC Technology in the home gateway server market," said a Humax news release.

What the release hinted, but didn't quite say outright, is that gateways are hot in the U.S. and Humax wants a chunk of this new market. Perhaps the company can't come in as a fourth set-top box vendor--against the likes of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) (Motorola Mobility, for as long as that continues), Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Pace Plc (LSE: PIC)--but it can hit the ground running as gateways take over.

There is a narrow timeline to do this, though, which leaves a vendor with two options: work 24/7 to develop its own technology or buy into someone who's already there. Humax bought in.

"For more than 15 years MMC Technology has accumulated and established technological expertise in the residential gateway market. This advanced know-how will become leverage for us to find a new market for our home gateway server, which is the next-generation set-top box," Humax CEO Dae-Gye Byun said in the news release.

At the same time vendors scramble to enter the gateway business, operators are beefing up their home networking offerings. AT&T (NYSE: T) U-verse, which has already discovered the power of Wi-Fi and a home network, just announced it's adding even more features to deliver content to as many devices as possible (starting, of course, with the ubiquitous Apple "i" lines in as many places as possible so that everyone in a home can remain entertained within any part of that home.

"The second screen complements and enhances TV by letting viewers explore and have a deeper experience with the content they care about, on the device they use most," Jeff Weber, president of content and advertising sales for AT&T Home Solutions said in a carrier news release.

It is, in the end, one more testimonial to the gateway—and perhaps one more nail in the coffin of the traditional set-top box, so long maligned, so long predicted to be going away and now perhaps at last, only a sideshow attraction in an entertained home. --Jim Bartold

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