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After a decade of predictions that the set top was on its last legs, the endgame is in sight – but far from dying overnight, over the next five years what operators seem to be planning is a dramatic reduction in the list of video operating systems. This is all spelled out in a new report from Rethink Technology Research entitled “How to survive the Set Top Box endgame.”

Android TV, RDK and a handful of other specialist smart TV OSs will come to the fore, mostly at the expense of generic Linux variants, plus a new entry out of China as the US China trade war eliminates what would have been dominance there on Android in favor of Huawei’s Harmony, which will eventually make the transition from Smart TV OS, to full bloodied set tops.

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On pure set tops globally Android will reign supreme and make huge gains in Asia Pacific, Europe and Latin America. Although Android will score in North America, it will be held at bay by the resolute rock of RDK, increasingly dominant in the cable sector.

We believe that Android TV will surge to the top of the leaderboard with 24% of global pay TV subscriptions. In North America Android will meet stiff resistance from RDK which will take 57% of set top OS subs.

Meanwhile Huawei’s HarmonyOS will become a major force in China, not due to its merits, but due to China needing independence from US toolsets. It will take 28% of set top OSs there, against 14% still going to Android TV, and in the rest of Asia Android’s progress will only be held in check by proprietary OSs of big two, Samsung and LG, at least on smart TVs. HarmonyOS will also take 75% of China’s smart TV OS market by 2025.

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Android’s rise in absolute numbers will be highest in Asia Pacific, where it jumps all the way to 161 million. While in China it will grow from 2.1 million set tops in 2018 to 70.7 million by 2025. In Europe it will rise to 42.9 million in the same time frame.

By the recent addition of a viable app store from Metrological, RDK is set to hold ground in the US and Canada, even as Android begins to make inroads there alongside it, at smaller operators and Telcos.

Very few smart TV brands have so far adopted Android TV for their operating environment, but it will make further inroads, as will China’s native Harmony OS.

This report is part of the Rethink TV series of reports, the research arm of Faultline, part of Rethink Technology Research Limited.

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