Archives For Broadband

NDS Snowflake guide 1

The SCTE Cable-Tec Expos is an engineer’s show, but there are always a few hidden gems with broader appeal. One of them this year was the NDS HTML5 Snowflake guide. You can’t find it anywhere in the U.S. yet, but UPC has deployed it in the Netherlands with the new Horizon service. And now that NDS is part of Cisco, there may be a better chance that some version of Snowflake will end up with a cable, telco or satellite provider near you.

There are a few key things to know about Snowflake. First, even though it’s HTML5, it doesn’t have to run on an IP box. NDS creates an abstraction layer on top of existing set-top software to support the guide, which is actually hosted in the network. (A handful of other companies are doing this too now, by the way.) Second, while your set-top doesn’t have to be an IP box a la the AT&T U-verse model, the fact that the guide is IP-based means it runs on tablets and smartphones too. Third, in addition to the pretty UI, web-based guides like Snowflake can add in a whole lot of new information – think personalization, content recommendations, and eventually targeted advertising.

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Entone Magi cable TV gateway

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Entone, but the TV set-top company is ready to start raising its profile. Entone announced today that it’s introducing the Magi Hybrid CATV Media Gateway in conjunction with the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo show this week. The Magi is Entone’s first product specifically for cable, and it combines live TV, DVR and web-based video delivery under the FusionTV brand name

CEO Steve McKay says Magi boxes will ultimately come in multiple versions. A high-end Magi box will include many tuners, and full video transcoding capabilities in addition to DOCSIS, CableCARD, MoCA and Wi-Fi support. Lower-end boxes will skip the transcoding function and offer fewer tuners for a more basic service.

Interestingly, when I talked to McKay, he noted that Entone, which has traditionally focused solely on the IPTV space, would never have considered making cable hardware even a few years ago. He said that, “at that time it was suicide for a small company to compete with Motorola and Cisco.” Things have changed, however. McKay pointed out that cable networks are starting to look a lot more like telco networks, and that there’s huge uncertainty now about the two big set-top providers; Motorola because of the Google acquisition, and Cisco because of its greater focus on software with the purchase of NDS.

Entone Magi FusionTV interface for cable 1

Meanwhile, the entire pay-TV industry is finally starting to warm up to the idea of hybrid services, and to the reality of consumer demand for streaming video. Consider:

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Amid new Roku apps and the launch of the Roku Streaming Stick, company CEO Anthony Wood also let slip this week that Roku “has been in talks” with companies about introducing new lower-cost, broadband-only TV services. Wood said at a recent industry event that he expects a new virtual MSO to pop up in the next 12 months. Such a company would offer a limited channel line-up delivered entirely over the Internet, and would target consumers unwilling to shell out major cash for cable TV.

We’ve heard people forecast the rise of virtual MSOs before, but the timing was never right. Today, however, consumers are well accustomed to watching TV online, and both content and service providers have had time to experiment with different models of Internet delivery. We’re also already seeing companies like Aereo and Skitter test out hybrid television models, suggesting that there’s a market for cheaper TV service.

It’s important to note, though, that Wood doesn’t expect some new start-up to jumpstart the virtual MSO market. Says Wood: “A lot of this is about getting access to the content, and that requires a lot of money and experience to structure it well.” That means we’re looking at an industry incumbent to be the source of a new online TV service. And it also means that any future venture is only going to move forward in a mode of extreme caution. Incumbents want to protect their existing revenue sources. Any new service will operate with that premise at its core.

Cablevision subsidiary OMGFAST! has begun leasing Apple TV to broadband customers in South Florida. While they probably sport the cleverest (or nerdiest) name in Internet service, long term, $5 a month for a $99 device you can easily pick up on your own may not be the best value. Then again, we imagine there are those unfamiliar with the space who would also benefit from installation assistance.

From the promo page:

Special Offer: $5 per month for Apple TV box with free installation. Apple TV provides access to Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus and more on your TV. Also allows iPhones, iPads, Macs and iPods to display video, music and photos on your big screen!

Charter Drops TiVo… For TiVo

Dave Zatz —  September 5, 2012

tivo-charter

Wondering what happened to Charter’s stalled rollout of TiVo? Charter (CHTR) has updated their TiVo page with new details.

You want a better TV experience – loaded with better browsing capabilities, personalized recommendations, and integration with smart phones and tablets. And we’re dedicated to bringing it to you, just not through the launch of TiVo Premiere from Charter. Instead, we’re doing something even better. We’re pursuing software solutions that will integrate into our next-generation video platform, ultimately delivering even more capabilities to the Charter TV experience.

And from TiVo’s recent quarterly call:

In terms of our relationship with Charter Communications, both TiVo and Charter are focused on driving TiVo software to future set-top box platforms and potentially to already-deployed Charter set-top boxes. Obviously, deployment there has been slowed by the fact that Charter is now looking to utilize TiVo on a next-generation platform that is still being determined. So we don’t have as much visibility in the timing there as we’d like.

So it’s safe to say Charter’s goal of deploying TiVo across their footprint in 2012 is off the table. As to what comes next, guess we’ll have to wait and see. And, speaking of cable deals missing in action, neither TiVo nor Cox have had much to say about the partnership they inked in 2010. Yet, having moved one million Virgin Media TiVo boxes in the UK, perhaps Cox and Charter aren’t so relevant to TiVo these days.

(Thanks Sam!)

According to a post over on DSLReports, Amazon and AT&T are now locking down free Internet access on old Kindle models so that users can only visit Amazon.com, Wikipedia, and the Kindle store after they hit a fixed monthly cap. No more browsing the wider web, or hacking Kindle hardware to create a free-riding mobile hotspot off of Amazon’s Whispernet service.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Whispernet model where Amazon bundles free Internet service with its e-reading hardware. However, the primary purpose behind Whispernet has always been to give users anytime/anywhere access to books, not to the Internet at large. While unrestricted access would be nice, the bundling model unfortunately doesn’t scale if users can chew up 3G bandwidth at will.

DSLReports cites a further post on the MobileRead forums suggesting that some users are now getting Kindle warning alerts when they skate past 50 MB in a single month. It’s not clear yet if the warnings are only popping up outside the U.S. This comes from one user in Canada:

I was using the browser when it popped up a message to say that I’d hit my 50 MB monthly limit of 3G Web access on my Kindle 3G. When I clicked the ‘OK’ button (which was my only choice, really), I got a second message saying that I’d have 24 hours of grace to continue to use 3G for Web browsing, but that after that I could use 3G only for visiting Amazon.com, Wikipedia, and the Kindle Store. Otherwise I will be obligated to use Wi-Fi.

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My wife and I just can’t seem to kick this gypsy lifestyle and are on the move once again. While we’d initially contemplated moving closer in to DC or returning to Maryland, we’ve changed tack and will be venturing deeper into the Northern Virginia suburbs next month. And, as with our former home, we’re fortunate to have Verizon’s FiOS TV & Internet service as an alternative to the cableco. At the house we’ve vacated, it was a no-brainer to dump Cox Communications given their inability to sufficiently support the two SDV Tuning Adapters required to power our TiVo DVRs and Verizon’s superior CableCARD support. But, this time around, we’re starting with a blank slate and the decision will be a bit trickier… as Verizon’s CableCARD experience has diminished and Comcast hasn’t implemented SDV.

On the Internet front, I assume either provider would be sufficient. Verizon may offer insane new speeds over fiber, but Comcast’s offerings aren’t too shabby. And, honestly, for most there’s a point of diminishing returns — how much broadband do we really need on a regular basis? Yet, there is one area where Verizon trumps Comcast’s Xfinity. At least for now. And that’s the lack of data caps.

Regarding television services, we’re not prepared to cut the cord and one of these two will be providing “cable” TV. Verizon’s DVRs beat Comcast… unless Xcalibur/X1 is being deployed to our region. Not that it really matters as I’ve upgraded to a TiVo Premiere Elite XL4 and intend to distribute one or two TiVo IP-STBs around the house for a whole-home DVR experience. So what will be the differentiators? What comes to mind at the moment is that Comcast continues to block HBO GO over Roku — for reasons unknown, that obviously have nothing to do with providing a great customer experience. On the other hand, Comcast does offer the nice Xfinity TV iPad app with tons of On Demand content. And, speaking of On Demand, it’s started rolling out to TiVo Premieres.

Decisions, decisions.