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New Comcast Guide for Motorola Set-Tops

Comcast has begun rolling out its new A28 guide to Motorola set-tops across the country, and Scott McNulty has a demo video up over at the Comcast blog that shows off a lot of the new features. As it turns out, my area is one of those getting the A28 guide early (rumors are that most subs should have it by the middle of this year), so I tested out the new features and made notes on my favorite additions:

  • Updated search – A quick keyword search will pull up any name or topic occurrences over the next 14 days. I ran a search for Duke, and immediately found all of the upcoming Duke basketball games airing on multiple channels.
  • Skip ahead and back five minutes in VOD shows – VOD veterans know the frustration of having to scan through a program using Fast Forward or Rewind. And while there’s no official commercial skip function enabled, you can now skip instantly ahead or back five minutes in a show with a single click. Use the Page Up and Page Down remote keys. It works!
  • Mass delete function for DVR recordings – Want to get rid of some of the kids shows clogging up your DVR? You can now check off multiple programs and clear them all at once.
  • Remote DVR – I’ve been keeping an eye on the MyDVR page at Comcast.net, and sure enough, now that I have the A28 guide, the remote DVR scheduling feature is enabled. Comcast is syncing my TV listings now, and I should have full functionality within the next 24 hours. In other words, I’ll be able to set up new DVR recordings from anywhere using the Comcast portal.

Want more details on the new A28 guide features? Comcast has a new site up with the complete list.

A Very Different CES 2010 for Motorola

This year’s CES felt very different from years past in the Motorola booth. There were no celebrities, no video phones, no candy-colored modems; there was significantly less bling. For all that, the mood was upbeat, and my impression was actually one of greater sophistication. This is a Motorola blog, so take my opinions with that in mind, but the change was noticeable.

The mobile side of the house was dominated by demonstrations of the Blur interface, not just handsets. And the Home and Networks Mobility demos were housed as much or more in private back rooms as out on the show floor. Publicly Motorola showed off more 3D TV updates (including fantastically layered 3D graphics), and Blur-based social applications on the set-top. Behind the scenes, Motorola ran meeting, after meeting, after meeting with customers, association representatives, and analysts. I got my own back-room walk-through too, but of course I’m sworn to secrecy. All I can say is that if what I saw is a sign of things to come, there are a lot of changes in store.

Across CES, the trend seemed to be a move toward more private meetings than public demonstrations. That’s not to say there wasn’t still a lot of flash on the show floor, but from what I saw, a lot was getting done behind closed doors. Take PowerMat as an example. Right next to the Motorola booth, the PowerMat display front was mobbed, but most of the time there were no actual products to be seen. Company representatives led select press and individuals with appointments back to a private suite for discussion and demos. It was a very productive approach.

As you can see from the photo above, Dan Moloney, president of the Home and Networks Mobility business, was present in the Motorola booth and seemed to be enjoying himself. Good meetings, I was told. That would make me smile at CES too.

An Innovations Award and an Acquisition

There’s a lot I’ve missed covering in a combination of holiday travel and CES madness, and it’s worth a look back at the past week’s events to review. Motorola put out two noteworthy press releases last Thursday: one announcing a CES Innovations award, and one on the intent to acquire DRM company SecureM.

The Motorola Mover product won an Innovations award in the video components category. The branding has changed a couple of times, but the Mover product has been around in one form or another for more than a year. (See video from The Cable Show) It’s a small device handling encoding, compression and digital rights management that lets users take content off of a set-top and move it on to a mobile device. What’s different now from a year ago? There’s public support for the product from service providers. Check out this quote from Comcast:

Mark Hess, Comcast senior vice president of digital TV, says, “Comcast and Motorola have a long history of working together to offer new and innovative services that make consumers’ lives easier and offer them more choices. We congratulate Motorola on The Mover winning a CES Innovation Award and think this mobile media product is a terrific example of how Motorola’s innovations align with our vision to provide our customers with the entertainment they love anytime, anywhere.”

On the acquisition side, Motorola announced it has signed an agreement to acquire the assets of SecureM, LLC. and its subsidiaries, which operate together as SecureMedia. SecureMedia developed the Encryptonite ONE system, which is a software-based DRM system that is approved by “all major film studios and TV broadcasters.” (Infer what you will.) DRM technology certainly fits in well with Motorola’s heritage in conditional access and its commitment to making media available across multiple devices. The deal is expected to close this quarter.

Motorola at CES

It’s that time of year again! Even though the fun doesn’t officially begin until tomorrow, CES 2010 has already kicked off with press events, press announcements, and a lot of breathless speculation. Motorola is stationed, as always, in a rather large booth in the Central Hall of the convention center. And while much of the attention is focused on the mobile side of the business, there are a few goodies from the Home and Networks Mobility group.

First, Dolby Labs and Motorola announced this morning that Dolby’s Volume technology will be featured in Motorola set-tops. You know how commercials often sound a lot louder than your TV show? The Dolby tech lets you set a volume level that stays consistent across commercials and channel changes. Motorola’s DCX set-tops support Dolby Volume, and existing DCX3400 and DCX3200 boxes in the field can be updated remotely by cable operators.

Meanwhile on the 3DTV front, the MPEG Industry Forum (MPEGIF) has announced it will be holding its first meeting of the brand new 3DTV Working Group this Saturday during CES at the MGM Conference Center. Motorola is one of the founding members of the group and is sponsoring the inaugural meeting.

Finally, check out Motorola’s YouTube channel for CES-related content. There are two videos up now, one with commentary from Motorola’s John Burke on trends for 2010, and one on 3DTV tech. Enjoy.