The device in the foreground is a moderately powerful general-purpose computer, including 40Gb of storage and an optical drive. The device behind it, occupying approximately the same volume, is a cable modem.
The cable modem is the most hated device on my desk. Everything else was chosen by me, to be an efficient part of my lifestyle. The modem was supplied by my cable company, with the most likely motive of shaving a few bucks off the cost of each new subscription.
I see no reason the cable modem couldn't be small, unobtrusive, and (pet peeve) USB-powered so I don't have to add yet another power-adapter under my desk. No reason aside from the fact that in this market the major purchasing decisions are made by a middle-man working for an effective monopoly (there are two cable companies here, and one refuses to run cable into apartments), not the end-user.