IN THIS ISSUE:
Certified Wireless USB -
Sandy Cuts Loose
Joost and Babelgum
Joe Costello, co-founder and board chairman of Orb Networks, has been named CEO. ( www.orb.com )
Albert J. Estrada was named President & CEO of Optical Entertainment Network. ( www.fision.net )
Dr. Sanjay K. Jha has been named COO of Qualcomm and Sprint veteran Len J. Lauer has joined as a corporate EVP and group president for several key divisions. ( www.qualcomm.com )
Brian T. McGee has been named senior VP and CFO of Intellon Corporation. McGee will oversee global financial operations for the rapidly growing semiconductor company. McGee was previously with Lexar Media prior to its acquisition by Micron Technology. ( www.intellon.com )
Scott Richardson has been named chief strategy officer for Clearwire Corporation. He was previously VP of Intel’s Mobility Group and GM of their Service Provider Business Group where he led Intel’s WiMAX initiative. ( www.clearwire.com )
John Sorensen has been named President, Broadway Systems. Sorensen was previously President of Encoda Systems until its acquisition by Harris Corporation. ( www.broadwaysystems.com )
Denny Strigl, president of Verizon Wireless, has been named president and COO of Verizon Communications. ( www.verizon.com )
David Zabetakis has joined CURRENT as the senior executive in charge of Business Development focused on Smart Grid applications for utilities. ( www.currentgroup.com )
Chris Zanyk has been named as Managing Director, Latin America at Cedar Point Communications. Zanyk was previously with Nortel. ( www.cedarpointcom.com )
Arris, the broadband network equipment provider has launched a tender offer for digital video technology provider Tandberg TV. The aggregate transaction is valued at about $1.2 billion. ( www.arrisi.com ) ( www.tandbergtv.com )
Broadstream Communications is merging with Auroras Entertainment LLC to form IPTV company Avail Media. The company provides an outsourced digital headend for IPTV services. Avail has signed a contract to offer Intelsat’s MPEG-4 content aggregation and delivery service - Intelsat IPTV.( www.broadstream.com ) ( www.auroras.tv )
CURRENT announced an expansion of its Smart Grid solution with the acquisition of Kreiss Johnson Technologies (KJT), a developer of analytic software for electric utilities. ( www.currentgroup.com ) ( www.kjt.com )
Vecima Networks, a provider of last mile hardware/software solutions, is acquiring software defined radio company Spectrum Signal Processing for approximately $10 million. ( www.vecimanetworks.com ) ( www.spectrumsignal.com )
Aperto Networks, which specializes in WiMAX base stations and subscriber units, has completed a Series E financing round of $19 million. ( www.apertonet.com )
BPL Global, which focuses on broadband over powerline (BPL) and smart grid technology, closed its Series C financing round with aggregate investments of $26M including $5 million from Morgan Stanley. ( www.bplglobal.net )
Brightcove has raised a round of $60 million in private funding. ( www.brightcove.com )
Intellon raised $18 million in new equity financing with backing from Samsung Ventures. ( www.intellon.com )
Meraki Networks, a wireless mesh startup has raised $5 million in Series A funding. ( www.meraki.net )
Narad Networks Inc., a provider of broadband infrastructure products, has secured $10.6 million in Series B funding. ( www.naradnetworks.com )
SEQUANS Communications, a supplier and developer of WiMAX semiconductor solutions, has received an investment from Alcatel-Lucent. Terms of the investment agreement were not disclosed. ( www.sequans.com ) ( www.alcatel-lucent.com )
Strix Systems, a maker of Wi-Fi equipment, received an undisclosed amount of venture capital from Samsung Ventures America. ( www.strixsystems.com )
Comcast and Cox Communications announced agreements with Panasonic and Samsung, respectively, to support digital TV sets equipped with the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP). OCAP is standardized middleware designed to enable interactive digital cable services across different set-tops and digital TVs. ( www.comcast.com ) ( www.cox.com ) ( www.panasonic.com ) ( www.samsung.com )
Digeo, a designer of digital set-top boxes and interactive TV software announced plans to go retail. Digeo expects to start shipping products to stores in the second half of this year. The company also plans to license its "Moxi" technology to other consumer electronics manufacturers for greater retail presence. ( www.digeo.com )
Qualcomm's MediaFLO mobile TV service has been making headlines. Verizon Wireless announced plans to launch MediaFLO service in the first quarter, AT&T's Cingular announced that MediaFLO service will be added to their service mix late this year and BSkyB announced the successful completion of a second joint technical trial in the UK. In the US, the FCC is allowing Qualcomm to operate MediaFLO on channel 55 in Orlando, saying the interference on channel 56--Ion Media's analog station WOPX(TV)--is acceptable. ( www.qualcomm.com/mediaflo ) ( www.verizonwireless.com ) ( www.cingular.com ) ( www.sky.com )
TI has introduced a new cell phone chip which will support 720p high-definition video playback and 3D. The intent is to be able to load content in high definition, and potentially connect it to a projector or large-screen TV via the chip's video output port. ( www.ti.com )
Widevine Technologies has been granted a new US patent for selectively encrypting multimedia content. The company says that the patent covers techniques for securing and delivering multimedia content over cable, telco, satellite, mobile and the Internet using any format, over any video network and to any consumer electronics device. The company has said that it is actively seeking to license these patents. ( www.widevine.com )
Each month, we collect miscellaneous happenings, studies, trends or observations you might have missed. This month's briefs focus on developments in IPTV, fiber, and the end of analog, in countries around the globe.
IP TV in Hong Kong
PCCW in Hong Kong has the world's largest IPTV deployment. A conversation with Belinda Chan, VP Operations & Technology, gave us a chance to catch up on how well the company is doing with their strategy for bundling and TV services. PCCW launched its 'now TV' service in September 2003, and as of December 2006 had over 700,000 subscribers (33% penetration of Hong Kong's 2.1 million households). Their success seems to be due to a variety of good practices including strong outbound telemarketing, successful upselling of existing broadband users, an 'a la carte' market entry strategy, and providing exclusive premium content. ( www.pccw.com )
Fiber For France
Free (Iliad Group), an IPTV and bundled services provider in France, announced its plan to roll out the first and largest optical fiber network in France, based on Cisco technology. Phase one will connect over 2 million people in Paris at speeds that could exceed 50 Mbps for €29.99 per month. ( www.free.fr ) ( www.cisco.com )
Meanwhile, France Telecom has accelerated plans for its FTTH broadband network. Their goal is to have 150,000 to 200,000 customers connected by the end of 2008 with first services anticipated in March in Paris. ( www.francetelecom.com )
Dutch Say Goodbye Analog TV
The Netherlands became the first country to end transmission of free-to-air analog TV on December 10/11, 2006. The switch was simplified by the fact that only about 75,000 households relied on over-the-air analog reception. Most Dutch households receive their TV services over cable, which is generally still analog. However those households with second TVs not connected to cable need a small decoder to receive digital terrestrial signals. The analog switch off means that digital terrestrial TV (DTT) has been extended to rural areas by using the analog spectrum that was cleared.
The cost of building the digital network was borne by KPN, which broadcasts three state-supported channels and several regional public broadcasters. KPN uses the remaining capacity of the digital network to carry a package of pay-TV channels. ( www.kpn.com )
German WiMAX Spectrum
Results are in from Germany on the December auction of frequencies in the 3.5 GHz band. Successful bidders with national coverage for broadband wireless were Clearwire, Inquam Broadband (a joint venture that includes Nextwave Wireless) and Deutsche Breitband Dienste GmbH. The auction offered 21 MHz for uplink and another 21 MHz for downlink. ( www.clearwire.com ) ( www.inquam-broadband.de ) ( www.nextwave.com ) ( www.dslonair.de )
Another Triple Play in UK
See, Speak, Surf is the new triple play package from Sky. It competes with offers from cable company NTL and incumbent telco BT. The package costs £26 a month plus £11 to BT for line rental. It provides 8Mbps of broadband internet, free evening and weekend UK phone calls, and a basic package of TV channels. Other combinations of services/speeds are available. ( www.sky.com )
We're of two minds about Certified Wireless USB (CWUSB). We've been following ultra wideband (UWB) wireless technology for three and a half years. It has taken much longer to get to market than its advocates predicted, and it isn't there yet.
But we still think CWUSB will be the first mass-market application of UWB and is very likely to have a huge impact on the way people use PCs and portable devices. And it's the first step in realizing the full potential for UWB.
CWUSB Chips and Products At CES
At CES, we met with many UWB companies, saw some real products based on CWUSB, and saw prototypes of more advanced products. The most impressive was a wireless docking station for notebook PCs.
USB Implementors Forum
We met first with Jeff Ravencraft, Chairman/President of the USB Implementors Forum (USB-IF), to get an update on CWUSB. Jeff said that although final CWUSB certification was proceeding more slowly than expected, many chips had passed the WiMedia physical layer (PHY) tests and were ready to ship, and several major companies were starting to design products around them. He suggested that we look at product demonstrations from Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard and NEC as well as from the chip makers. He mentioned the Kodak EasyShare V610 digital camera as an example of a device that would be a great match with CWUSB, since it already has a USB 2.0 interface and Bluetooth radio.
Alereon: Focus on the PHY
In a telephone interview that we reported on last year ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0604_4.html#link4c ), Alereon's CEO told us that Alereon has chosen to focus on the WiMedia UWB physical layer, believing that the MAC and higher layers will be integrated into other digital components. For complete CWUSB reference designs, Alereon works together with companies like NEC and Intel that build devices with the CWUSB MAC layer and full USB support. Alereon is focused on the speed and battery efficiency of hand-helds, not on streaming media. Their goal is to transfer more Mbits of information in less time for the same battery usage.
At Alereon's CES suite, Mike Krell showed us several demonstrations. Perhaps the best sign of things to come was a simple CWUSB 4-port "Device Wire Adapter" hub, shown in the picture, based on a reference design using chips from Alereon and NEC. CWUSB eliminates the USB cable connecting the USB hub to the PC, permitting the hub to be across the room or even through a wall in another room.
We also saw an Alereon reference design for the other end of the USB cable: a wireless "Host Wire Adapter" or "dongle" which turns any USB 2.0 port into a CWUSB host. This is based on chips from Alereon and Intel.
As we looked at other CWUSB demonstrations on the show floor, we saw lots of hubs and dongles that appeared to be based on these Alereon reference designs.
Mike said we'd start seeing CWUSB dongles and hubs in the second quarter of this year, and should see laptop PCs with CWUWB built in later in the year. Then we'd see CWUSB built into multi-function printer/fax/scanners and hard drives. He said we might see some "bleeding edge handhelds" by the end of this year, but 2008 will be the "ramp year" for devices like MP3 players and cameras.
Artimi: Focus on Handhelds
In the WiMedia area, we stopped at the Artimi booth to say "Hi" to Colin Macnab, Artimi's CEO. Colin told us that Artimi is focused on handheld devices such as digital cameras that require low power and low cost.
Colin showed Dave a working prototype of a digital camera with Artimi's embedded CWUSB radio. One of Artimi's people took a picture of Dave with Colin, transferred it with UWB to a notebook PC, and printed it out.
Staccato Communications: "Cost, Cost, Cost..."
At Staccato's suite, we met with Mark Bowles, Founder and VP, Business Development and Corporate Marketing. We interviewed Mark last year ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0606_7.html ), and looked forward to hearing his current views on the evolution of UWB.
Staccato promotes its Ripcord family as having the smallest form factor for a complete System-in-Package (SiP) solution, so we asked Mark how important size would be in differentiating Staccato from its rival chip makers. He said his view of differentiating chip makers was "cost, cost, cost, size, and power consumption".
Notebook PCs are expected to be the first major market for CWUSB, and we asked Mark how WUSB will get into them. He said "It's easy to put dongles on any PC. If you order a Dell with WUSB, they will ship you a dongle."
The next step is to embed WUSB into the PC. Many chip makers have reference designs for PCI Express Minicards, which fit inside a notebook PC, often under the keyboard. Since all the notebook PCs we've looked at have only one minicard slot, and that's already occupied by a Wi-Fi adapter, we asked Mark how PC makers would find the space for the CWUSB minicard. He said PC makers were redesigning the motherboard to provide three minicard slots: "wireless LAN, PAN and MAN". One slot will be used for the current flavor of Wi-Fi (soon to be 802.11n); one for personal networks such as UWB or Bluetooth; and one for 3G cellular networks or WiMAX. Staccato has several minicard reference designs, including the half-size one shown in the picture. We asked Mark whether WUSB and Bluetooth would share the same minicard; he said Staccato has a reference design for a combination Bluetooth/CWUSB minicard, but many notebook PCs already have Bluetooth on the motherboard.
When asked about the timeframe for real CWUSB products, Mark said "We should see some products in all categories during 2007: notebook PCs, higher-end printers and MFCs, etc. These will be single products, with low volumes, testing the market. They'll still have low single-digit penetration by the end of 2007. But remember that USB is already embedded in about 3 billion devices, and low single digits could be a lot of units."
Being more specific, Mark said he expected to see "five brands" of laptop PCs with CWUSB this year, and lots of dongles and hubs. We'll also see some external hard drives and printers. Smaller devices like digital still cameras and MP3 players will come next. "2008 is the ramp-up year. There are already chip sets and many form factors of packages from UWB chip makers."
WiQuest Communications: High Quality Digital Video
At their booth on the CES show floor, Toshiba impressed everyone with its demonstration of the wireless docking station designed to go with its latest flagship portable, the Portege R400 Tablet PC. When returning home from a trip, you just bring the R400 within a few meters of the docking station (shown at the left in the picture) and everything--keyboard, mouse, display, printer, local area network--is connected automatically.
While Sandy was looking at the R400, Dave was talking to Wayne Daniel, Director, Technical Marketing at WiQuest Communications, the fabless semiconductor company whose chips are used in the R400 and its docking station. Wayne told us that WiQuest has differentiated itself from other WiMedia chip companies by focusing on digital video applications. The WiDV™ (Wireless Digital Video) technology in WiQuest's WQST100/101 chipset (shown in the picture) is designed "to deliver wireless transmission of high quality digital video for PC and HDTV applications" and claims to achieve "1 Gbps extended data rate" required for video connections such as those between the PC and its monitor. Other WiMedia radios top out at 480 Mbps; WiQuest doesn't think that's fast enough to support a wireless connection between the PC and the display.
Wayne showed us WiQuest's reference designs for the key components used in wireless docking: the PCI minicard and the Wireless Docking station. The minicard plugs into a notebook PC; the docking station (shown in the picture) includes support for DVI or VGA monitors, audio in/out, Ethernet, and 4 wired USB ports.
A Long Gestation Period
There were three contending approaches when we first started following high-speed UWB. The IEEE 802.15.3a Task Group ( www.ieee802.org/15/pub/TG3a.html ) was created to resolve the differences, but was unable to get the contending players to agree. In 2006, 802.15.3a disbanded without agreeing on a standard, leaving each approach to go its own way in the market.
At a session on new wireless networking technologies ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0501_9.html ) moderated by Dave at CES two years ago, Jeff Ravencraft, Technology Strategist at Intel and Chairman of the Wireless USB Promoter Group ( www.usb.org/wusb ), discussed the emerging UWB technology and its application to Wireless USB. Jeff said that USB-IF had selected the MBOA/WiMedia version of UWB ( www.wimedia.org ) as the basis for Wireless USB, and predicted "end-user products at end of 2005". At the same show, we saw and wrote about ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0501_8.html ) one of the other versions of UWB that seemed to be further along toward products.
A year ago at CES, we saw early versions of WiMedia UWB chips and again saw other UWB products that appeared to be further along. By May of last year, we wrote an extensive article on Wireless USB ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0604_4.html ) and reported that people had told us that we would see certified products "perhaps as early as this summer".
Here we are in February 2007. No UWB products of any type have sold in any quantity, and no Certified Wireless USB products have passed the USB-IF certification tests. We are now told to expect certified products in the second quarter of 2007.
But we believe that Certified Wireless USB is worth waiting for, since it addresses a real need. Virtually every device now connected with a USB cable will probably connect with UWB in a few years, doing away with the cluster of cables around every PC and every portable device such as digital cameras and cellphones. We think CWUSB is a "no brainer", since it doesn't require customers to change any habits--except remembering to carry USB cables with them when they're on the road.
And CWUSB is just the start for UWB. As we reported in our earlier articles, the next generation of Bluetooth and a version of Ethernet will run on the same WiMedia radio as CWUSB. Over the next few years, we'll buy a lot fewer cables.
The frustration finally caught up with me. Every year when Dave and I go to CES, we spend nearly all our time meeting with semiconductor manufacturers whose chips will form the basis of future broadband-related products. As we head up and down the aisles and through the various halls, we whiz past all the neat gizmos that TV stations like to feature during CES.
I was looking for a new digital media player, and I was frustrated that most retail stores don't let you pick them up and play with them. So I cut loose at CES. Although I visited my share of chip vendors, I escaped long enough to play with some of the new digital media players and the services that run on them.
Sandy Goes for Gigabeat, Urge, Vongo and Bose
Everyone has their own particular set of wants and needs so I won't dwell on all the devices I played with, except to tell you what my evaluation criteria were. I wanted a unit that was compact and relatively light, had lots of storage, was capable of playing video as well as music and photos, and allowed me the greatest flexibility in terms of content. For me, the decision turned out to be the Toshiba Gigabeat 60 GB unit. In addition to meeting all my criteria, it was completely intuitive, has excellent sound performance, and has the bonus of an FM tuner.
At the end of the day, the purpose of a portable media player is to play content. Dave and I were early users of Rhapsody and like the idea of subscribing to content at a fixed monthly rate, rather than selecting and paying for individual songs, albums, and movies. At CES I had the chance to play with Urge, a new subscription music service from MTV. When I got home, I subscribed to Urge All Access to Go, which gives me access to a wide range of songs, playlists and radio stations, all of which I can copy to my Gigabeat and take with me when I travel.
In his talk at CES this year, Bill Gates announced that Urge is built directly into Microsoft's Windows Media Player 11 software. He also announced a new partnership with DirecTV to allow its subscribers to move shows from their set-top boxes onto Windows PCs, the Xbox 360 and other mobile devices like the Gigabeat that are part of Microsoft's "Plays For Sure" DRM program.
In January 2006 we wrote about ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0601_4.html#link4b ) Vongo, the movie service from Starz. It lets you download as many movies as you like and put them on up to three PCs or portable devices that run Microsoft's DRM. Some blogs say Vongo's content isn't rich enough and all the "good" movies are pay-per-view and not part of the subscription service. But I'm not a movie junkie, so Vongo provides a wonderful opportunity to catch up on films while I'm traveling that I'd never find the time to watch when I'm at home. (Vongo is only available to people within the US; I'd welcome input from our readers on similar services in other countries.)
One of our adult daughters is having surgery at the Mayo Clinic next month. While I'm in Rochester, MN, I'm looking forward to getting some diversion from Vongo and Urge. After I've given these services a thorough work-out while I'm away from home, I'll have a better idea of the breadth of their content.
One postscript to getting hooked on all this portable media: After some hesitation, I let go of my wallet long enough to buy the new Bose Quiet Comfort 3 headset. That cost as much as the Gigabeat, but I really love it so far.
The only problem is carrying around all the devices, chargers and cords needed to make all this stuff work!
Skype is certainly not new news. We've both been using it for a while and have been impressed with its call quality compared to earlier VoIP services. We've contributed to Skype's viral marketing by encouraging family and friends to use it with us.
Skype Video: "Over the Bar"
Recently we've been using Skype video. With our daughter in another city preparing for major surgery, we've had lots to talk about and to do--on both a practical and an emotional level. She got a new PC with a built-in camera last year, so we decided to try Skype video as a way of working through the many items on our plate. Once we started using it, we were hooked.
I've been involved with personal video for what seems like forever, and have read (and written) many papers on the applications of personal video. I last wrote about consumer video services ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0402_3.html ) three years ago. Dave and I have played with many video services since then. None fully met my expectations in terms of quality, usability, price and cross-platform operation (one of our other kids is part of a Mac family). Thus I was a long-term skeptic on the value of "talking heads".
The ability to see how my daughter is doing and the subsequent use of video with my grandchildren (I know--it's a cliché, but it's real) have completely turned me around!
Skype video is the first personal video service I've found to be "over the bar". While still characterized as a beta, it's very impressive. It's easy to set up and use, the video quality is good and the voice quality is usually excellent. It works equally well on PCs and Macs, and it's free!
We have finally passed the point where the cameras, PCs, codecs and broadband lines are all relatively affordable and widely deployed. No wonder broadband video of all kinds is growing geometrically.
The second news about Skype is all the "Skype phones" that are coming to market. At CES, we met with Kate Opekar of Skype and Chaim Haas of Kaplow PR to talk about the beehive of activity building around Skype. At this year's CES, new devices and accessories from ASUS, IPEVO, NETGEAR, Philips and TOPCOM were added to the more than 150+ Skype Certified products already available.
In new Skype cordless and Wi-Fi phones, new introductions included a Dual-Mode Cordless Phone with Skype from Netgear and a similar phone from Philips; the same cordless phone is used for Skype and landline calls. Skype desktop Internet phones are a new category of "Skype Certified hardware"; Skype is built into the base station, so users can make and receive Skype calls via broadband without being connected to a computer. Other portable phones have Skype capability built right into the phone itself, and can be used to make Skype calls at home or at any Wi-Fi hotspot.
We started writing about IP phones back in September 2000 ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0010.html#link4 ) as the direction for telephony in the longer term. We said customers will be interested "in new phones with new features designed to work with the broadband network". Fundamental change takes time, but the future is playing out, with IP devices starting to offer many features and services that were not affordable--or even possible--in the past.
We've been writing about DLNA (the Digital Living Network Alliance) and its predecessor (the Digital Home Working Group) since 2003. But when Sandy recently bought a new Sony VAIO laptop labeled "dlna certified", the work of the group suddenly seemed much more tangible.
During CES in January, we met with Scott Smyers of Sony Electronics and Pat Griffis of Microsoft--Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively of the DLNA Board of Directors--to hear more about DLNA progress and what to expect next. Scott and Pat showed us some neat demos of DLNA in action, including using a Nokia N800 Internet Tablet as the wireless remote control for video playing on a PC and displayed on a flat-screen TV.
In January, the big news from DLNA was the expanded networked device interoperability guidelines. These now contain link protection guidelines to protect content streams on the DLNA network, a prerequisite to the flow of commercial content between DLNA devices.
DLNA recently launched its consumer Web site ( www.dlna.org ) to explain its goals, tell what it means to carry the DLNA certified logo, and provide a place to search for DLNA certified products. This quarter the organization is working toward version 1.5 of its certification suite.
DLNA began with 17 companies and now has 220 member companies headquartered in 23 countries. With quarterly plugfests worldwide, the organization has continued to work, step by step, toward the goal of a seamless digital media ecosystem, where all devices work together. As one of our industry contacts said: "DLNA is on a roll."
The most vexing issue in networked digital television has been the reluctance of content owners to allow their premium digital content--movies and television channels like HBO--to be transferred from one device to another. Content owners are understandably afraid that any mechanism to move high-definition digital video around the house--for example, from a PC to a flat-screen TV--opens the door for pirating and redistributing the content without paying the owner.
A "conditional access" (CA) security mechanism protects the premium content delivered to digital video set top boxes supplied by cable, satellite and IPTV providers. A "digital rights management" (DRM) mechanism known as Digital Transmission Content Protection (DTCP) protects the HDMI digital connections between the set top boxes and digital TVs. The new link protection guidelines from DLNA extend DTCP to the networking links in the home.
But some content owners want a stronger protection mechanism. At CES, a friend from Broadcom pointed us to SVP, an open technology specification for protecting digital video content. SVP is a hardware mechanism; applying the SVP specification to any standard video processor turns it into an SVP-compliant video processor that can protect digital content end-to-end.
The SVP Alliance is promoting the SVP standard and developing interoperability with other DRM and content protection solutions; as of September 2006 the organization had 35 members. Broadcom, Conexant, Humax, Pace, Samsung and Thomson are official licensees of SVP technology. Chip makers such as Broadcom and STMicroelectronics have already announced that they will be producing SVP-compliant chips in volume; Pace and Samsung have announced SVP-compliant set top boxes.
Early in 2007, the SVP alliance issued a technical note providing guidelines for mapping SVP onto UPnP in a DLNA-compliant manner for DLNA-compliant devices. This addresses the interoperability of content protection systems with UPnP, and would complement the link protection guidelines which DLNA has adopted. Several key DLNA member companies are also members of the SVP Alliance.
Our take away from all this is that progress is being made on the issue of strong content protection, a prerequisite for content companies to make their media products more broadly available.
Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom have not been twiddling their thumbs since selling Skype to eBay. Their new effort, originally called the Venice Project, was renamed Joost in mid-January. Their beta-test invitation letter was not shy about the project's goals. "We're working on a project that we think will completely revolutionize television. Combining the best features of TV with the powerful social features of the internet, The Venice Project will give TV viewers, advertisers and content owners more choice, control and creativity than ever before." The beta uses "secure P2P streaming technology that allows content owners to bring TV-quality video and ease of use to a TV-sized audience mixed with all the wonders of the internet."
Joost has recently released version 0.8 of their beta player for Windows and also the first Mac beta which is only for Intel Macs. Joost is going to be an advertising supported service and platform.
Joost is not the only player trying to "usher in a new era for television". Silvio Scaglia, founder and major shareholder in Fastweb, is also exploring the potential of next-generation TV over the Internet using P2P technology. Scaglia's new baby is Babelgum where he is Co-founder and Chairman of the Board. The company's stated goal is "to create a global, personal, open, free, TV-like new media". The service is currently in closed beta, with a next release later in February and open beta in March. Co-founder and CEO Erik Lumer describes Babelgum in his blog as the "Rocking Chair Experience"--the right balance for the user of "lean forward" and "lean back".
One of the questions regarding these services has been which content providers would make their content available over these mechanisms. Joost has a licensing deal with Warner Music and recently Viacom was added. Viacom had ordered its content to be pulled from YouTube several weeks previously. Viacom then announced a licensing deal with Joost for hundreds of hours of Viacom programming; MTV Networks, BET Networks and Paramount Pictures will provide television and theatrical programming on the Joost platform. Although financial details were not disclosed, similar deals in the past have yielded two-thirds of the advertising revenue to Viacom.
With all this innovation around video downloading, the unanswered question is "Who is going to pay the bill for the bandwidth broadband providers will need to keep adding to support streaming video?"
Last year we wrote enthusiastically ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0605_6.html ) about Digital Deck--a company/product aiming to allow your household DVDs, VCRs, PVRs and computers to share and play video on any television anywhere in the home. Since that time, the company has changed direction and withdrawn the product from the market.
Some things that the company expected to help boost the category of media networking--such as Vista--were postponed. At the same time, features like HD and wireless networking became more important. Rather than trying to use the resources of a venture-funded company to do yet more development and build market awareness of the category, DigitalDeck decided to focus their attention on their core software and intellectual property.
Their anticipated path to market will be to work with large, well-known consumer brands, which will do the hardware development and marketing.
Last September we attended the fall VON conference and its new companion, Video on the Net. We observed that the Video on the Net event had some of the same excitement and enthusiasm as the earliest Voice on the Net shows.
We're not going to be able to make it to VON ( www.von.com ) this spring, but want to remind readers that it is coming up in San Jose March 19-22, 2007. As with their session last fall, Jeff Pulver is simultaneously running a co-located Video on the Net conference; more information is available at www.VideoOnTheNet.com ( www.videoonthenet.com ). With the enormous amount of Internet-influenced TV, film and broadcasting, there will be lots of fascinating subject matter and experts to talk about it.