Here's something that sells well in a bleak economy: set-top boxes

Networking and telecommunications market research company the Dell'Oro group released research today that shows the IPTV subscriber base grew to 23 million, nearly doubling the total of the prior year. As a result, the set-top box business is booming.

Cisco and Motorola were the top STB makers in both cable and IPTV, and Thomson was at the top of satellite boxes. While Europe receives the most IPTV set-top boxes, Verizon and AT&T's aggressive IPTV marketing made North America a major contributor to the market's growth.

"For 2009, we are expecting that unit shipments for all segments will increase with a higher percentage of units being high definition capable with a slowing in the trend toward integrated DVRs due to increased use of set-top boxes with multi-room DVR functionality," Greg Collins, Vice President at Dell'Oro Group said.

The jury is out on the expected penetration of IPTV in the future. Multimedia Research Group forecasts a global IPTV market in 2012 of 89.6 million subscribers. Digital Tech Consulting analyst Antonette Goroch on the other hand postulated in December that the IPTV STB is not the "next big thing," but that it does broadly imply the Web's role in content distribution in the future. The integration of streaming services like Netflix or Hulu into an existing set-top box or media player is a further indicator of progress in that direction.

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