Archives For Industry

Last week a number of Comcast subscribers had a serious hardware problem on their hands. Netgear modems in California suddenly stopped working. Specifically, owners of the Netgear CMD31T lost Internet service, and subscribers were given a lot of confusing information about why they were being left out in the cold.

Industry analyst Mike Demler first reported the issue on EE Daily News, and noted that he was told by a Comcast technician that his Netgear model was not designed to work in California. Demler’s modem had been working for two straight months, however, and a quick search on the Internet found a data sheet saying the modem should work for all major providers except Time Warner. A trip to the local Frys Electronics store confirmed other Comcast subscribers were having the same problem, and Demler quickly escalated his investigation by reaching out to the PR departments at both Comcast and Netgear.

Fast forward to today, and it turns out that the faulty modem problem is an IPv6 issue. Here’s the statement from Comcast:

Comcast is in the process of deploying IPv6 nationally, as noted on this site in great detail. We recently identified that the retail NetGear CMD31T device ships with and runs an uncertified version of firmware that exacerbates a critical IPv6-related defect. To ensure Comcast customers with these devices will continue to have uninterrupted Internet service, we have rolled back IPv6 temporarily in some parts of our network to give NetGear more time to address the issue. Comcast anticipates NetGear will soon address the issue for their retail devices, which we will test and deploy on an emergency basis.

Of course the Comcast/Netgear problem makes one wonder what other glitches we’ll see as the IPv6 rollouts continue. Comcast plans to have IPv6 deployed in half of its network by the second half of this year. Here’s hoping the migration progresses as (relatively) smoothly as the digital TV transition. I had concerns then too, but ultimately the shift proved largely uneventful.

If you were mesmerized by Apple news this week, you might have missed the scoop from The New York Post suggesting that Google is putting the Motorola set-top business on the chopping block. So far it doesn’t appear that anyone else has confirmed the report, but no one’s terribly surprised by it either. Google has enough of an integration mess on its hands without adding set-tops to the list. And while I speculated on some of the potential advantages for Google last year, I would have been more surprised than not to see the company try to make a go of it in cable.

So with that out of the way, who could potentially be interested in the Motorola cable portfolio? It’s important to note that the products include a lot more than just set-tops. There’s also encoding, content management, security, and access network technology. (Full Disclosure: I still do some contract work for the network infrastructure portion of the business.) Jeff Baumgartner has speculated here and here about who might be interested. The potential suitors mostly differ depending on which set of Motorola assets we’re talking about, but there are couple that might be willing to take a flyer on the whole bag of tricks, namely Arris and Ericsson.

Meanwhile, Jeff mentioned one company that had me spitting coffee across the table. He wasn’t talking about an acquisition, but he did suggest TiVo might be in a position to help fill in the gap left if Motorola exited the set-top biz. Yes, TiVo. After all the years of fighting for toehold in the cable industry (and even times when Motorola at least unofficially considered acquiring the company), the idea that TiVo might come out on top here is irony at its finest. There’s nothing to say that will actually happen, but even that there’s editorial consideration of the idea has me chuckling and shaking my head. Here’s what Jeff had to say about TiVo:

It’s been a painful and sometimes downright ugly process, but TiVo’s cable strategy is paying dividends as it sees subscribers rise to new levels thanks to MSO partnerships. Cable’s starting to take a real shine to TiVo’s UI and over-the-top video capabilities. Also, TiVo gives cable a line into the retail market.

For a look at the other side of the coin, check out what Motorola has to say on its blog about its business and the future of the set-top.

As we’re all well aware, Apple introduced the “new” iPad yesterday. And, while I’m still not quite sold on the tablet form factor, I did place a pre-order. Primarily due the iPad 3’s integrated voice dictation capabilities and much heralded “retina” display — likely featuring more pixels than anything else in our homes. Although, I do wonder how long it’ll take app developers to maximize its potential.

During the marketing spiel Apple made several fascinating and dramatic proclamations. I’m not prepared to classify any as dubious, but it looks as if some could be comparing apples & oranges. For example, I was initially stunned when they said, “This new device has more memory and higher screen resolution than an Xbox 360 or PS3.” Yet, after thinking about it, the factoid isn’t so surprising… and what exactly does it mean?

Other interesting points to ponder: Nvidia has taken  issue with the characterization of their competing chipset, utilized by some Android devices, and what exactly is a PCContinue Reading…

Nest vs Comcast smart thermostat

The tech world went a little crazy when the Nest thermostat launched. However, we haven’t seen quite the same level of excitement for the home automation services making their way to market from the cable and telco providers. And those services are growing by the day. Comcast has launched Xfinity Home to about one third of its customers, and plans to cover almost its entire footprint by the end of the year. Time Warner Cable also said in a recent earnings report that it plans to extend its home automation service to more markets in 2012. And Verizon is quite likely to do the same, having debuted its home control service back in October.

Of course, the MSOs are offering something quite a bit different from Nest. The full Xfinity Home package, for example, includes thermostat control, home security, door and window sensors, motion detectors, smoke detectors, lighting control and a glass-break sensor. Nest is just a smart thermostat. But the beauty of Nest is that it offers something simple, and you only have to buy it once – no subscription fee required.

The operators are betting big that home automation will give them another value-added service to keep margins up and avoid the dumb pipe scenario. However, I have to wonder if subscribers are willing to fatten up the cable/telco monthly bill even more. Home security is its own business, and perhaps the operators can chip away at ADT’s market share. But adding on a regular fee for thermostat or lighting control strikes me as a hard sell. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is like the DVR, and only when the cable/telco industry jumps on board will the market really take off. But personally, if I decide to spent money on temperature control, I’ll pick up the Nest device. It sure is prettier.  Continue Reading…


The Verge sat down with chip manufacturer ARM at Mobile World Congress to discuss strategy. But when confronted with an Apple inquiry, they responded:

We don’t comment on Apple. Full stop.

Of course, these days, this sort of reaction isn’t so unusual. Apple clearly prefers to tell their own story and they’ve got the muscle to insist. But it seems a far cry from the era when Apple raged against the machine and encouraged us to think different. Now they make the rules as every one of us eagerly anticipates their iPad 3. Yet, really, the main purpose of this post was as an opportunity to brush up on my Photoshop skills. Leave your clever captions below.

Earlier this week, as part of PBS Mediashift‘s 2012 guide to “Cutting the Cord” one entry in the series covered the darker side of this phenomenon:

I catch my favorite shows, new and classic movies, real-time sports, and breaking news for free, on my TV, through the Internet. […] There is the legal way, and the other way. Netflix, iTunes, Blockbuster, Hulu and PlayOn are lovely services. I have never used any of them. Instead, some of us revel in the freedom and free price tag of less-than-legal downloading services and streaming sites. Ones I may or may not be utilizing at the moment: uTorrent (part of the BitTorrent family, a program for downloading copyrighted files); FirstRow Sports and (both great for sporting events, the first more reliable from my experience); (a streaming site popular for its catalog of both little-known and just-released mainstream movies); and Torrentz and The Pirate Bay (the best sites I’ve stumbled across that house movie files ready to download).

Of course, to those that follow this space, the text isn’t particularly dramatic or revealing. It’s quite clear a large number of folks who have the technological knowledge and wherewithal are helping themselves to content online. And as industry analyst Michael Gartenberg responded, it’s “easy to cut the cord when you’re stealing”. But I find the article most notable simply because it’s hosted by PBS – an entity that creates, licenses, and presents content. So I’d think they might have also discussed how theft potentially hurts their business or cover the approaches they’re taking to make PBS content more accessible. Rather, their editor responded to a copyright infringement remark on Twitter with, “PBS prob not worried about sharing Downton Abbey. You can watch episodes free at“. Which seems to show a poor understanding of how BitTorrent functions and the limitations of PBS’ licensing – which I assume does not extend internationally.

However, PBS must have sensed something was amiss with their presentation, as the article was updated to remove much of the cited text above and a disclaimer was added. Further, I guess PBS also has second thoughts regarding people sharing Downton Abbey, as they ironically filed suit today (along with Fox and Univision) against Aereo… for unlicensed content distribution.

Free VOD is where it’s at. According to Comcast, 70% of the nearly half a billion video streams that subscribers watch on demand comes from the free section of its VOD library. And, leaving subscription fees aside, Comcast thinks that content should be bringing in cash. So get ready for more ads with Comcast VOD, and, quite likely, with every other cable operator.

At a Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News event yesterday, several cable and programmer folks got together to talk about “advanced” advertising. The term covers everything from interactive ads, to dynamic ad insertion, to cross-platform campaigns, but there was significant focus yesterday on VOD commercials. That’s because a cableco consortium known as Canoe recently ditched efforts to create a national platform for selling interactive ads, and instead decided to spend all of its resources on video on demand. (Canoe laid off 80% of its staff in the process too. Ouch.) With all of the flexibility on the web, the cable industry has been fighting to catch up in the advertising revenue game. Operators have all this premium, time-shiftable content, and yet with little ability rotate new ads in an out of on-demand programming, they’ve felt hamstrung. In 2012, they’re finally ready to do whatever it takes to change that. Continue Reading…

Wide Open West Ultra TV service with Arris gateway

Cable provider Wide Open West (WOW) is beating Comcast to the IPTV punch with a new service called Ultra TV. Not that WOW is delivering TV over IP exactly, but it is deploying the Arris six-tuner IP gateway to combine standard TV delivery with lots of IP entertainment goodness.

WOW joins BendBroadband and Canada’s Shaw Cable in picking up the Arris Moxi gateway. Leasing the gateway will cost you $25 a month, but it comes with two media players for two TVs, and it takes the place of your cable modem and router. You get whole-home DVR service, and the ability to shift content from your PCs and mobile devices to your living-room flat screen. (Hello HBO Go) WOW also includes a Flickr app, news ticker and some basic games.

Thanks to an Arris SDK, WOW could add more custom apps to the Ultra TV service at a later date. Essentially, subscribers are getting a combined cable set-top and Roku box (or any other media extender you could name). If WOW wants to, it could even add Netflix, though there’s little incentive given the MSO’s competing VOD library.

Rounding out the tech specs, the Arris gateway for Ultra TV offers 500GB of storage space, a DOCSIS 3.0 modem and DLNA support, in addition to its six TV tuners. The Ultra TV service includes remote DVR scheduling, and VP Steve Stanfill notes on the company blog that, while self-service install isn’t available today, it may be offered in the future.