John Burke heads up Motorola’s digital video solutions business and has his own take on what’s coming next in the video biz. I had a chance to sit down with him just before the holidays, and here is some of what we discussed. Happy New Year!
Table Stakes in 2008
I asked John what offerings will be standard from cable and telecom companies by this time next year. Topping his list is multi-room DVR with media manager features, which include the ability not only to organize/search service provider content, but also manage personal content like music and photos. AT&T has already said it will have multi-room DVR by Q3 of 2008 and will look to further integrate convergence applications into their U-Verse offering, so John’s theorizing makes sense. Even though we’ve predicted cable roll-outs of the service before, by the end of 2008, multi-room DVR should have enough traction with consumers to become a critical add-on for cable operators. A seamlessly integrated whole-home entertainment experience is quickly becoming tomorrow’s table stakes, creating a competitive disadvantage for those providers that don’t continue to drive services innovation.
Best Approach to Media Mobility
Given the variety of ways companies are attempting to deliver media mobility, I asked John what he thinks the most successful approach will be. His answer: every consumer is going to want to access and consume content in different ways. So while there will be entertainment megatrends (like the continued growth of high-definition and on-demand viewing), there will be a lot of fringe or niche applications for mobile media too. For example, the ability to access specific types of content available on your home network from a mobile device: pictures, music, movies, etc. Home monitoring is also likely to become more prominent as consumers have more devices in the home that can tell them what’s going on while they’re away.
Cable, Telco and the Internet
Everyone is asking when cable and telco set-tops will connect to the Internet, but the better question is how will they connect? John’s perspective is that service providers are going to expand on the walled garden approach. He uses Comcast as an example pointing to the company’s significant investment in online properties and technologies. (Think Fancast, the Fandango acquisition, and Comcast’s thePlatform helping to power Hulu). He also outlines an application scenario: you turn on your TV, call up the program guide and get an integrated search tool that pulls broadcast, VOD and Internet content. In the short term, imagine this type of tool would allow you to bookmark interesting Internet videos for later viewing via a Comcast online portal. In the longer term, of course, online content will be available directly on the TV. John points out that service providers will continue to broadcast popular content in traditional fashion, but will likely start offering more long-tail content via an IP delivery system.
Convergence at the Service Level
The notion of convergence has been talked about for many, many years, but rather than focusing on a single, converged device, John believes convergence is starting to happen at the service level. Service providers are beginning to integrate offerings across different platforms, with the simplest example being the ability to program your DVR from an online site. As these services grow more integrated, there will be a growing role for software or middleware solutions that work between billing and provisioning systems and that communicate with a variety of different devices attached to a network. Solutions like those in the Motorola Leapstone portfolio. AT&T and Verizon are already Motorola Leapstone customers, and it is anticipated that service providers will be looking to expand their cross-platform services in the upcoming year, further capitalizing on traditional stand-alone video, voice and data applications.