The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas sets the stage for each new year, and the 2015 edition was no exception. Once largely about home audio, TVs, and car stereo, CES has evolved into a must-attend event for every stakeholder in the digital content value chain; from content creation to the point of consumption and every stage in between. Hence, most of the TV service delivery infrastructure players either had booths on the trade show floor, had suites in the nearby hotels, or did both; and most pay TV operators were there as well.
It must be a huge challenge for the Consumer Electronics Association to select winners of the CES Innovation Awards each year, and being ‘just one guy,’ I won’t even pretend to emulate this task. But I found three items during CES to be especially noteworthy – and taken together, emblematic of the larger trend of platform and service virtualization.
Of great significance is DISH Network‘s continuing evolution as an alternative kind of ‘TV Everywhere’ provider. By launching Sling TV, DISH has both elevated the expectations of what online TV should be, and while it isn’t perfect, has deliberately moved to address the demographic that the pay TV industry is the most concerned about losing: millennials. In my opinion, DISH has been the most forward-thinking of the US pay TV operators in the area of online TV. DISH also announced a new user experience, a track-pad-based TV remote control with speech recognition and a new 4K Joey client set-top box for its Hopper with Sling home media center. DISH’s sibling company EchoStar used CES for the US launch of a new home security and home control offering called SAGE, which EchoStar also demonstrated a few months back at IBC.
Also noteworthy was cable operator Charter Communications‘ new WorldBox set-top box, Spectrum EPG and user experience. Unlike the direction being taken by other Tier-1 cable operators, and in particular with the RDK, where the adopters must have RDK-specific set-top boxes and must upgrade their networks to all-IP distribution in order to realize the full potential, Charter has partnered with Cisco and Active Video Networks to introduce an experience that can be deployed to decade-old set-top boxes as well as new IP video-capable ones. Yet, at the same time, it’s a multiscreen solution. Further details are in my article for CED Magazine.
But to me, the highlight of CES wasn’t at CES itself, but rather, was AT&T’s 2015 Developer Summit and Hackathon at the nearby Palms Resort in Las Vegas. While most pay TV operators advance their features in carefully controlled increments, AT&T offers APIs that allow it to essentially open-source its entire network, and has invited developers of all kinds to play in their sandbox. By doing so, AT&T is providing keys to the kingdom to any developer that helps drive traffic over the AT&T network. While other pay TV operators are taking their first steps into home security and home control, AT&T has not only opened AT&T Digital Life (not to mention its AT&T U-verse pay TV platform) to third party developers, but enables development for mobility, connected vehicles, wearables, and the industrial ‘Internet of Things.’ And a host of partnered developers were there in support.
DISH, AT&T and Charter are each “coloring outside the lines” of conventional wisdom, and I’ll be writing more about each of them in the coming week.
During the CES conference, Cisco Systems hosted an analyst reception, showcasing Charter Communications, a major US cable TV operator that is one of Cisco’s customers. I came away quite impressed with Charter’s new IP-hybrid HD TV set top box.
The WorldBox and its underlying Spectrum software stack provides a re-usable, portable platform which provides an alternative basis for IP-based multiscreen services. Charter’s offering is more akin to the DVB hybrids from European operators than it is to the US cable industry establishment’s reference software platform, the RDK.
At CES 2013, Cisco held an event which included demos of Cox Communications new Cisco video gateway, a Cox TV app on the iPad, and a new EPG. DISH Network launched a new version of its Hopper whole home DVR and AT&T held its 2013 Developer Summit. Read the rest of the article on Telecompetitor…
Here is the second of two articles about IBC 2012. At IBC this year, I was on the lookout at the intersection of TV software – which has always been my focus – and multi-screen delivery. Two product categories enable multi-screen services: service delivery platforms and video gateways. Some suppliers have entries in both. This article looks at offerings from Viaccess-Orca, Cisco (with NDS), Nagra, and Motorola.
Update, October 28, 2011: According to reliable sources contacted after this blog entry was posted, only Intel’s Digital Home Group (the Marketing team) was dissolved and reassigned. The Atom chips themselves are alive and well. In fact, the next-generation 51xx dual-core series are in the hands of outside developers, and the first new products based on them are coming in the CES 2012 time-frame.
(Original Post: October 13, 2011) It’s interesting and unfortunate that Intel seems to have (suddenly) exited the Atom STB processor business – The CE4100 ‘Sodaville’ and CE4200 ‘Groveland’ chips. You’da thought it was a healthy business, given the effort and expense Intel put into promoting it just last month at IBC. A sizable booth, and about a half-dozen commercial implementations on display – and if it’s true, this move likely left these implementations in an awkward position.
It’s strange timing, just as the platform was beginning to get some market traction. The Boxee Box uses it. Logitech and Sony built GoogleTV devices around it. Amino built its Freedom product line around it, including a custom–built an Atom-based box for Telecom Italia. Not to mention Comcast and DirecTV and their upcoming Atom-based set-tops. But these chips were much more expensive than other STB chips and never got to real volume as a result.
From the initial news reports, it has not been clear if Intel has stopped taking orders for the chips altogether, or has only ended proactive marketing for them. Intel’s apparent exit follows in the tracks of (a couple weeks ago) Intel pulling out of MeeGo, which is the environment that Intel had been pitching to STB co’s for these chips. Now MeeGo has been merged with Limo, to expand its scope and shift it toward HTML5 (not a bad thing, but disruptive for developers).
Just goes to prove my old theory. In the end, so many companies always revert to “safe” businesses when the chips are down (and that’s literally, in the case of the Atom line). For Intel, it’s always been about the chips – the money they put into vertical markets such as TV are tactical marketing programs, not strategic.
Then there’s Cisco, which buys S-A and later sells its Mexican STB factory to Foxconn. Nobody’s quite sure what the story with Cisco’s Videoscape is, but its lead executive resigned. Cisco always goes back to its core networking businesses.
Google and Google TV? The Google TV platform was also implemented on ARM-architecture chips, so that platform itself is not in jeopardy with Intel’s exit. But (without going into the tangent about what Google might have planned for the platform after the Motorola Mobility acquisition), Motorola’s IPTV set-tops are Broadcom and Sigma (MIPS architecture) based. So (correct me if I’m wrong), wouldn’t GoogleTV have to be ported to MIPS in order to run on these Motorola boxes, if it hasn’t been ported already? That could make it a long wait.