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True to form

The growth in smartphones and tablets are fuelling demand for remote access to managed services in the home, according to Motorola’s Andy Hooper speaking at the TEN Digital Home event last month. 

Why? As service providers look for ways to add value and differentiate, a number of them are laying the foundations for home monitoring and control services – but need a device such as a smartphone or a tablet to act as the consumer’s point of control.

Although the jury’s still out in terms of which will be the best form factor, the number of smartphone owners is steadily increasing. Huge numbers of consumers now own a smartphone, whilst tablets are gaining in popularity. Although larger than the smartphone form factor, tablets offer a larger, easier to use screen while still having the advantages of being compact, lightweight, and portable.

Pay TV service providers have been quick to take advantage of their popularity and their form factor, and are now using tablet devices for  companion services such as social TV and enhanced EPGs which enhance the TV experience. Some are offering tablets as an incentive to join their service or lock the subscriber in for longer. Using a tablet as an incentive also increases the service provider’s chances of increasing subscriptions to other services they might offer, such as VOD. It’s a win-win situation.

KDDI Uses Smartphones to Make TV Interactive

KDDI is a Motorola customer that has been innovating with fixed-mobile convergence services for years now. In its latest venture, the Japanese operator is showing off an interactive mobile app that lets users point to a product on TV to bring up more information on their mobile phones. Kind of like Shazam for television. There’s no word on how the technology works (or if there is, it’s in Japanese), so it’s unclear what type of image recognition is used and how many on-screen products the app is really able to recognize. But certainly the new concept fits in well with other KDDI initiatives to bridge the TV and mobile experiences. It’s also an interesting twist on the old scenario of how to buy Jennifer Aniston’s latest fashion accessory.

Check out the KDDI video over at Engadget to see how the “smARt” TV concept works. It’s a great demo, though I wonder: Couldn’t they have come up with a better product to show off than ketchup?

IBC 2010 in Photos

It’s not as good as making it to Amsterdam, but here’s a photo show of IBC 2010. The pic above shows the intense activity around the European Medios introduction. Below is another look at the new NYXboard QWERTY TV remote. Pics in the gallery show TV on the new Motorola DEFY mobile phone, a Medios interface screenshot, booth photos, and more.

Q&A with SVP Rob McLaughlin, Part One

Every once in a while I manage to corner an executive for perspective on both Motorola and the industry at large. Recently I had a chance to question Rob McLaughlin, Senior Vice President & GM, Global Go-to-Market for the Motorola Home business. Here is part one of that interview. Stay tuned for part two next week.

Interview with Motorola SVP Rob McLaughlin

Q. The industry’s had a wild ride in the first half of 2010. Here on the blog we’ve been tracking the FCC’s broadband proposals, the explosion of 3D, massive growth in VOD content libraries, the return of switched digital video, and several developments in the area of TV/Internet convergence. What do you see ahead for the second half of the year? What are you hearing from customers?

A. We see many of these trends continuing throughout the rest of the year. It’s important to realize that cable operators and telcos are no longer just TV providers, but rather experience providers that must deliver all types of media content –– across all screens that consumers engage with, particularly the TV, PC and mobile device.

In the past few years, these traditional service providers have seen increased competition from Internet-based service providers that have introduced consumers to new social media experiences and alternate media engagement platforms that provide unique access to both consumer-produced and programmer content, such as video and photos. With the Internet now a viable – and increasingly popular – channel for TV content, traditional video providers must consider new distribution and customer engagement strategies to maintain customer loyalty.

That’s why in 2010 we’re going to continue see service providers develop strategies and commit resources to solutions capable of addressing an increasing consumer expectation for what we call the 3 C’s – Content, Community, Customization. Consumers want the ability to discover, consume, manage and share content –anytime, anywhere, any place – basically on any device capable of receiving video content.

Motorola recently launched, for example, its multi screen service management solution, Motorola Medios which supports this consumer expectation. The feedback about Medios to date has been very positive.

Q. One of the big discussions going on in the industry right now is around the role of the television set-top. With the proliferation of over-the-top video boxes (Boxee, Roku, Google TV, etc.) and the push toward moving content into the cloud, what kind of future do you see for traditional set-tops? What’s the evolutionary path?

A. We’re not going to see the traditional set tops disappear from homes any time soon, although great progress has been made in developing alternative content management and delivery systems. Whether in the cloud or via over-the-top boxes – service providers still need a way to deliver rich media experiences to consumers’ TVs. As the capabilities of set-tops and associated software platforms continue to evolve, theses devices will provide the richest experiences, and quality of service consumers expect.

If anything, we’ll start to see set-tops become more critical in the delivery of new services to the home as demand for 3D TV, multi-room DVR, video streaming and even social TV becomes more mainstream. Given the extensive networking, storage and control capabilities being built into the next generation of set-tops, it is ideally positioned to be the central enabling device for the cross-platform content sharing and access consumers demand in and beyond the home.

TeliaSonera, who has confirmed this month that it is adding the Spotify online music streaming service to its IPTV services in Sweden and Finland, is a great example of how set tops are evolving. TeliaSonera uses the Motorola KreaTV set-top platform.

Motorola Set-Top Launching with 4 Tuners, 500GB Storage

Here’s a set-top for the Japanese market that’s sure to make US consumers a little jealous. Long-time Motorola customer KDDI will launch the VIP2060 on June 2nd as part of the provider’s “au Hikari” service. The HD DVR set-top sports 500GB of storage, four tuners, and the ability to deliver IPTV signals as well as terrestrial and satellite broadcasts. The Motorola VIP2060 supports 1Gpbs fiber connections, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 encoding, and KDDI’s service allowing subscribers to transfer content between set-tops and mobile devices. Talk about fixed-mobile convergence.

Introducing Motorola Medios, Part Two

Editor’s Note: See “Introducing Motorola Medios, Part One” for the first post on Medios

Still have questions on Motorola Medios? Consider this part two of the introduction to Motorola’s new software suite. Below is a question-and-answer session with Motorola Senior Director Buddy Snow. My questions. His answers. Enjoy.

Q&A with Motorola Senior Director of Solutions Marketing Buddy Snow

There seem to be a lot of parts and pieces to Motorola Medios. Can you define very briefly what’s included in the software suite?

The heart of Motorola Medios right now is software for content and service management. If that technology sounds familiar, it comes out of the Motorola acquisition of Leapstone a few years back. However, we’ve taken significant steps forward with the Leapstone technology. We are also building a framework that will act as an interface between devices (set-tops, gateways, etc.) and the content and service management modules within the software suite. The point of the framework is to pull everything up into the cloud so that consumer devices aren’t responsible for the heavy lifting involved with personalization and contextual content delivery.

Is Motorola going into the Guide business?

Motorola is not going into the Guide business. We’ve created a reference design of an EPG to illustrate what Motorola Medios can do, but we work very closely with partners who are in the Guide business, and we are not getting into that game. The point is to show how our IP platform can be used to create a consistent UI across devices and to add and manage content and features in almost a modular fashion. The reference design is our chance to put a face on the back-end functionality that Medios brings.

How does this new solution help advance the FCC’s goal of fostering continuing video device innovation?

Motorola Medios shares the FCC’s vision of bringing IP into the home, which we agree will be a key driver of continuing device innovation. Motorola’s Medios software is based on open standards like IP, and is modular, making it a very flexible and interoperable solution.

And our software is very open. Motorola has solutions at every point along the video delivery system, but if an operator just wants content management, the Medios software will work with non-Motorola technology, including set-tops, DRM solutions, and network infrastructure equipment. We think we’ve got the best answer in each of those areas, but our customers do not have to be tied to Motorola in other ways in order to take advantage of Medios.

What is available to buy today, and what’s the timeline for the entire suite of products?

The first modules for content and service management are available today, and we’re in conversations with a number of our customers about those software products. The bigger promise of Medios, including the framework described earlier, will evolve over time.

Introducing Motorola Medios, Part One

Editor’s Note: See “Introducing Motorola Medios, Part Two to continue reading on Medios.

In a major new initiative, Motorola is today introducing a suite of software applications under the name Motorola Medios. The software products taken together provide a platform for managing media across multiple screens and rapidly deploying new TV services. That’s as simply as I can distill the Medios concept, but the functionality of the software is ever so much more sophisticated. Motorola has published several materials on Medios, including a white paper, and a video of the vision driving the initiative. For the purposes of this blog, I will focus today’s post on the theory leading to Motorola Medios, and the content/service management portion of the software suite. Stay with me. This is cool stuff.

Motorola has been talking for a while now about the Internet Era of TV, a successor to the analog and digital eras. Major elements of the Internet Era include two-way connectivity, personalization, and cloud-based delivery. Motorola organizes the broad elements of the Internet Era into Three Cs: Content, Community, and Control. More recently, Motorola has also added a fourth C to the mix: Context.

Using the four Cs as a basis, Motorola developed an architecture for managing multi-screen content and services. The architecture includes a control plane for managing devices, sessions, resources, ad insertion, and fulfillment; and a plane for asset, metadata and experiences management. Within the last plane are two software products that form a key part of the solution architecture: Medios Applications and Medios Portals.

The Medios suite uses Web-like development environments to allow service providers to move content seamlessly across consumer IP devices and introduce new services at speeds we typically associate with Internet-based offerings. The implications here are huge. Operators get dinged regularly for not upgrading the UI experience and not bringing new features to market quickly enough. In reality, operators have been a bit hamstrung by what they can deliver on legacy systems. But by creating an IP abstraction layer, operators can now take advantage of the speed and flexibility afforded by an IP-based architecture – all while leveraging existing networks and systems that provide the best mechanism for high-quality television delivery.

I am barely scratching the surface of Motorola Medios in this post. But to illustrate in part what these software products can do, I’ve included Motorola’s reference design of a UI as it exists across multiple devices. It’s only a still image, but I promise there is much more coming from the floor of The Cable Show next week. More info, photos, and video of Motorola Medios to come.