Topical Index: Video/TV Applications and Appliances
This page provides a topical index to material on this website covering
IPTV - video services delivered by telephone companies
Internet video - streaming video delivered over the unmanaged Internet
interactive video - interacting with the video on the TV screen
mobile video ("video on the go")
networked digital audio/video devices
semiconductors and software used to create these devices
Articles are listed ordered by date of the newsletter they appeared in—newest to oldest.
Cable's Capitol Return -- Cable Show 2009
Seeing is Believing -- Video Demos of Interactive TV (BBHR 4/14/2009): Visitors to the show saw many demonstrations of interactive TV. Some were based on tru2way, the forward-looking standardized approach for new cable boxes, which is also built into new TV sets from Panasonic and soon many others. Other demos were based on EBIF, a simpler standard designed to work on most existing cable boxes.
We used our camcorder to capture lots of these demos, so the applications could come alive for people not attending the show. In the sections below, we'll describe these demos in terms of what they make possible for the end user. We've separated those based on tru2way--requiring deployment of tru2way headend equipment and available only on new boxes-- from those based on EBIF--designed to operate on legacy digital boxes and likely to be in many consumer homes fairly soon.
Tru2way and EBIF Provide Interactivity (BBHR 4/14/2009): The message from the Cable Show was clear. The industry has finally rallied around and is implementing common software platforms to allow linear TV to become interactive. We provide some background on the "what, why and when" of tru2way and EBIF, while reminding readers that the ultimate vote on acceptance will come from the consumer.
Tru2way Demos--Seeing is Believing (BBHR 4/14/2009): The only way to convey what is happening in a tru2way interactive application is to see it. We feature tru2way video demos from Panasonic, ADB, AMDOCS, NDS, Alticast, integra5, itaas, TAG Networks and Zodiac Interactive.
EBIF For the Masses (BBHR 4/14/2009): Although EBIF is designed to run on even low-end digital settops, the demonstrations showed how many interesting things can be achieved with this basic functionality. These video demos show ways to give viewers more choice and control in a Starz application, the many things that can be done with ad widgets from BIAP, and how ActiveVideo builds on EBIF capability to enhance social media and e-commerce with live Internet content.
The days of the stand-alone TV set seem to be numbered. Everyone is coming up with ways to enhance the functionality of the television. Solutions include putting more capability directly into the TV, enhancing its value through servers in the network or adding additional boxes to the already overcrowded TV top. There are way too many solutions today, so over time we expect that consumers will vote with their wallets on which of them provide real value.
Service providers initially rejected the idea of DVRs but emerged to become their leading suppliers. The current situation with "over the top" video -- ways to bypass a broadband provider's pay-TV distribution services and go directly to the consumer -- is so confusing to ordinary consumers that we expect the market will have to sort itself out. Depending on how they proceed, service providers could once again come out as key players.
IPTV Update -- IPTV World Forum North America, and More (BBHR 9/30/2008)
IPTV is maturing. Worldwide subscribers have more than doubled year-on-year. New tools are being used to measure quality and help isolate problems. Interoperable standards backed by many of the leading telcos and vendors will be published this year, with interoperability testing coming next.
We have reported on Silicon Valley from time to time. This time we briefly report on visits with Ozmo Devices, 4Home, Actiontec and TiVo. TiVo spoke at the IPTV World Forum conference described above.
Cable Show 2008
This year's Cable Show celebrated its return to a revitalized New Orleans. Interactive TV was a highlight both on the show floor and in a pre-show tru2way Developers' Conference. "EBIF" and "Canoe" were frequently-heard words which MSOs are counting on to give them a bigger share of the $70 billion US TV advertising pie.
Time for tru2way (BBHR 7/10/2008): We spent two days looking into tru2way. It's finally really happening, but will take some time for the footprint to grow.
Interactive TV--Has Its Time Finally Come? (BBHR 7/10/2008): History is littered with the names of companies that tried and failed to make interactive TV a money-maker. But past failures don't mean an idea is wrong; it could just be bad timing. With the Internet setting new standards for both targeting and measurability, cable is looking to bring those same attributes to interactive advertising on the TV. And it thinks it has the right plan.
We tested a Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick, a high-definition PC tuner for broadcast digital TV in a package the size of a flash drive.
Internet Content on the TV: Let Us Count the Ways (BBHR 4/8/2008)
A friend who knows you work with the Internet and computers says: "I'd like to connect my PC to my TV. How should I do it?" This simple question leads to a bewildering number of choices. No wonder few people have done it yet.
With the video entertainment world in flux, many industries are vying to play a role in the delivery of consumer entertainment experiences. The delivery of online video content to the TV screen can take many routes and all could be seen at this year's CES.
US Telco TV offerings are finally on the move. After years of trailing countries like France, Italy and Hong Kong, the telcos move into video services is reaching the tipping point. The signposts we saw at this year's TelcoTV Show are clear. The talk is turning from technology to applications, its availability is growing, and consumers are buying it.
Just when we thought we couldn't bear to participate in one more conference, we yielded to the lure of MoCA. The conference provided a deep dive into the technology of the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA), and a close look at Verizon's application of it. Broadcom and Conexant have committed resources to support it. With the technology now firmly in place for service providers, is a retail move waiting in the wings?
Home networks don't replace everything when a new generation of technology appears. Ubicom is a software/hardware company which helps users get the best out of what they have. Their solutions do pattern recognition on the streams, identifying and prioritizing media traffic ahead of normal data traffic. Their latest gateway design is targeted for supporting HDTV, "toll quality" VoIP and online gaming in wireless networks with 802.11n.
Second-generation networking technologies are finally starting to reach the market, and we're about to subject them to the same kind of in-home testing we did nearly five years ago on the first generation. We're planning to augment our quantitative throughput testing with qualitative observations of networked high-definition video.
This year was different. Every year we come back from CES and people ask what exciting new toys we got to play with. This time, instead of just talking about new chips and technologies, Sandy cut short the chip interviews to play with new portable media and IP voice toys. It was fun, but expensive.
DLNA's certification logo is appearing on lots of products. A new DLNA consumer Web site explains to the curious what that logo on their new gizmo means and which products carry it. There's lots more work ahead, but "DLNA is on a roll".
DLNA has added link protection guidelines, but content owners require more in order to allow their premium digital content to be transferred between devices. SVP is a hardware mechanism to protect digital content end-to-end.
What will TV look like in the future? If people like Niklas Zennstrom, Janus Friis and Silvio Scaglia have their way, we know some of its components: P2P streaming, TV-like, choice and control, personal, social, easy to use. Their first attempts to make this real are services like Joost and Babelgum. Whether they can realize these goals, and be compelling for consumers and financially viable for investors, remains to be seen.
Over the past year, IPTV deployments have moved from pioneering telcos and vendors to mainstream players using more sophisticated components and offering services like HD. This year's TelcoTV Show included issues coming out of real deployments, maturing technologies, AT&T's U-verse deployment and new packaged solutions for smaller telcos. Although much capital and attention are being provided to TV services over managed networks, online video over the unmanaged Internet is beginning to play a complementary role.
Getting video entertainment to the home is simple compared with distributing the video signal within the home. In addition to various wired approaches, multiple wireless technologies are competing for video distribution. Both 802.11n and multiple approaches to ultra-wideband (UWB) are in the game for multi-room video distribution.
The excitement and enthusiasm were palpable. Jeff Pulver's Video on the Net sub-conference at Boston VON had some of the same feel as the earliest Voice on the Net shows. There seemed to be wide agreement that online video is a disruptive technology, still in its earliest stages. Speakers ranged from well-known names like AOL and Yahoo! to start-ups covering all aspects of online video, including content sources, methods of publishing, syndicating, distributing, searching or aggregating it. Where it will go and what will endure remains to be seen.
Networked Digital TV: A Guest Article by Keri Waters (BBHR 9/9/2006)
Consumers keep wishing for new electronics to be simpler and more usable, but technology seems to make more things possible only by adding more boxes, wires and complexity. Digital media adapters make it possible to listen to music and to view photos and videos on home theater systems, but add yet more boxes to the home. Keri Waters of Micronas tells why, as analog starts going off the air and new TVs must contain a digital tuner and digital video decoder, it makes increasing sense to incorporate the DMAs into TVs to create networked digital TV sets. The result may be more complex for the manufacturer but promises to be simpler for the end user.
Two Approaches To Mobile Video--Orb Networks and MobiTV (BBHR 9/9/2006)
Mobile video is a big deal. MobiTV and Orb Networks are two companies with very different mental models of what consumers want and how to provide it. Orb approaches the market with the vision that customers already own and subscribe to lots of music, photos and video, and see their job as making it all easily available to the customer when she's away from home. MobiTV is more focused on the mobile phone experience and providing "snack TV" in short bursts, acting as both service/application platform and content aggregator. We recently visited both companies to learn more.
Media Networking 4--Intel, Microsoft and the "Networked Video PC" (BBHR 7/26/2006)
The "networked video PC" will play a central role in television viewing. The new Vista/Viiv PCs will act as high-definition PVRs and will be able to distribute streaming and recorded video to any screen in the house using the new networking technologies.
Media Networking 5 -- Entertainment Video On the Networked PC (BBHR 7/26/2006)
In another aspect of the networked video PC, we discuss how consumers will be able to get the full array of high-definition entertainment video into the PC.
How do 802.11n, HomePlug AV, Viiv, Vista, PVRs, new sources of video, your old A/V equipment, IPTV, codecs and portable video players come together to make a difference in people's lives? Through personal examples, we describe some of today's answers and explore how these pieces will evolve and interrelate in the future.
A mass consumer market for media networking is dependent on new high-speed networking technologies that don't require new wiring. Many of these technologies are now reaching the market and fighting for market share.
Media Networking 3--How Did We Live Without DigitalDeck? (BBHR 6/19/2006)
We've been searching for a good way to distribute video around our house. We've wanted to view content coming from a device in one room on a screen in a different room. DLNA addresses one piece of the problem: making digitally-stored content available on any device. But what about video from legacy devices like PVRs and DVD players? DigitalDeck isn't perfect, but we wouldn't want to live without it.
Cable operators are confronting huge changes. Some of the most visible challenges are in their traditional video services business. MSOs are responding to the changes by striking new deals with partners and suppliers; re-thinking who their competitors are and how to compete; trying to digest which technologies that didn't matter much before are now critical and which business models will be successful. We examine some of what we saw and heard at this year's NCTA Show in the context of the bigger changes in the video industry.
We have been following DigitalDeck for more than two years, and are delighted to be testing their system in our house. In a first impression, we report on a product that lets you share and play video stored on DVDs, PVRs and PCs on any TV, anywhere in the house. We also report on the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet, a tiny but high-quality Internet terminal.
As digital video takes its place front and center in the home, standards are needed to simplify interconnection, networking and remote operation. DLNA has been developing interoperable networking standards for some time. Now a new alliance--the High-Definition Audio-Video Network Alliance (HANA)--is developing standards specifically for networked high-definition video. Its narrower focus and sense of urgency have led it to embrace different standards than those chosen by DLNA. Will the home need two networks for digital video?
Don't Let My TV Crash: An Interview With UpdateLogic (BBHR 4/7/2006)
Bug fixes and feature updates used to be associated with computers, not with television sets. But digital TVs have tens of megabytes of firmware--and will need updates to fix bugs, comply with changing specifications, and support emerging applications. UpdateLogic offers TV manufacturers a way to update firmware without customer intervention.
We have written extensively about the transition from the analog world to the digital one and the lack of connection between islands of technology in the home. But it took the experience of a real-world project to bring home to us how many separate factors are in flux at the moment--and how difficult this makes the decision process for someone trying to design a coherent solution for both today and tomorrow. In the first of three articles about "the digital home," we review the many factors and the ways in which they are currently in flux.
Media and Broadband In Our Condo: Some Answers, More Questions (BBHR 3/6/2006)
Between August 2005 and January 2006, we completely remodeled our condo, tearing out some walls and installing new wiring throughout. This was a perfect opportunity to consider what wiring and systems we should install to support networked media and communications--video, audio, data and telephone services--both for now and for the future. We uncovered some answers--and more questions.
Coming away from our experiences in choosing wiring and systems to support networked media and communications in a way that worked both today and for the future, two key areas remained unclear: the "right" interconnect for high-quality television, and the role of PCs for television. We describe the numerous interconnects users have to cope with today, and highlight several key initiatives that will influence the relationship between PCs and television over the next few years.
Each month, we collect miscellaneous happenings, studies, trends or observations you might have missed. This month we feature a video blog for mobile videophones, mobile wireless wins for IPWireless, and lots more "video on the go".
We came away from TelcoTV feeling that IPTV is at the tipping point. The biggest telcos are all either committed to moving forward at scale, or are close to a commitment. Their traditional vendors are playing a major role. Microsoft also aspires to play a key role, but was all but invisible at the show.
We interviewed Coaxsys to learn about their approach to home networking over existing coaxial cable. Many telcos think this is a good approach to connect the home gateway to IPTV set-top boxes on each TV.
To provide IP-based television services, companies need a way to move video streams from the home gateway to the TV set. That's where the next generation of "whole-home wireless" technologies and products are important. Recent announcements from Ruckus Wireless, Metalink, and a big one from EWC are all pieces in the puzzle of how quickly 802.11n standards will be adopted and products get to the market.
"Video on the go" is growing by leaps and bounds. The contest is underway to find out which implementations of the concept will stick and which are a flash in the pan.
The Open Systems Dilemma: An Interview with Minerva's Mauro Bonomi (BBHR 9/13/2005)
What's the future for a small company in IPTV, when Microsoft has decided to win the market? We interviewed Mauro Bonomi, CEO of IPTV vendor Minerva Networks, to understand how one experienced company is approaching that issue. While Mauro believes Minerva's open systems approach is best for customers, he understands the risks a big telco might see in choosing "not-Microsoft". Bonomi shared his thoughts on how the dynamics of this game might be changed.
In our "always connected" world, it's not just technology that keeps changing. People's lifestyles, industry structures and the products and services they count on, are morphing in front of us. Our concepts of "real time", "at home" and "living room TV" are being changed by PVRs, devices like Slingbox, and MobiTV. As new devices keep flowing at the consumer, it will be interesting to see which have real value and which are simply "how many functions can I put in one box"?
CES 2005--The Next Big Thing: Video-on-the-Go ("Vidi-Go") (BBHR 1/25/2005)
What was big at CES? Our answer is the dawning of Video-on-the-Go--what we're terming "Vidi-Go". It's logical, since mobile phones have fulfilled the "call from anywhere" promise for voice, and broadband wireless technologies like WiMAX are poised to add the "anywhere" dimension to broadband data. Video innovations like TiVo first addressed the desire for "time shifting". Vidi-Go, which addresses the desire for "place-shifting", is a natural complement. We review a raft of products we saw at CES, including those for use anywhere in the world, those that address your time spent in a car and those that give you flexibility to move around the home.
For the first time SBC had a major presence at CES. The occasion was promotion of their two-pronged thrust in providing video services and the introduction of their new U-verse branding for its suite of IP-based products and services set to launch in 2005. Although lots of snazzy things were demonstrated, the crowd seemed most appreciative of a simple one--instantaneous channel changing.
The HDTV era is finally arriving in the US, albeit slowly. This can be seen from the number of digital televisions being sold; the number of stations broadcasting in HD; the carriage of these stations by cable (and to some extent satellite providers); and increasing publicity and promotion by the FCC.
With the enormous success of home Wi-Fi, the segmentation of who bought what flavor of 802.11 had settled down: consumers bought 802.11b/g and enterprises bought 802.11a. It turns out that was just a stop along the road to full home networking of video as well as voice and data. New chips and products based on them suggest that 802.11a will be a big part of the consumer solution for video networking. We expect to see an increasing number of a/b/g devices as new networked video products hit the market. Microsoft is playing a big role in pushing it along.
With cable operators increasingly attacking telephone companies core voice revenues, there has been much discussion of how telephone companies can go after TV services. Increasing DSL speeds and some moves to fiber make telco video services more feasible. We interviewed Roy Sherbo of MTS in Canada to see how one telco TV rollout has progressed during its first two years.
2Wire has grown from a start-up provider of residential gateways to an established supplier to telephone companies like SBC and British Telecom. Part of their success has come from adapting their product plans to the realities and needs of the market. As their telephone company customers face increasing US competition from cable's "triple play," 2Wire has created a quickly-deployable solution to integrate the video experience telcos provide by combining DSL and satellite. We met with Brian Sugar to learn more about this latest direction.
Wireless Video Networking -- Update on Bermai and ViXS (BBHR 1/22/2004)
With growth of flat screens and HDTV on the upswing, the quest for wireless video networking has taken on greater importance. The ideal is to be able to create home networks that carry multiple channels of high quality video plus other data and voice traffic wirelessly, not just within rooms but around the home. At CES we got an update on Bermai and ViXS, two companies that are trying to satisfy these wireless video networking needs.
Thomson is a major player in film and television production, distribution and home video reception. With the introduction of a new family of IP-TV set-top boxes based on advanced compression technologies, it is providing telcos with a strong argument for moving fast with TV services over existing ADSL networks.
We look into several emerging wireless networking technologies targeted at high-definition television and "whole-home" networking. While 802.11n will leverage the Wi-Fi bandwagon, several technologies based on 802.15 may get to market first--and be the winners.
Over the past two years the idea of sending digital audio over a home network to your analog speakers has gone from "far-out" to products people will be able to buy affordably; although mass market adoption will take some time, the technical and ease-of-use factors for audio are in reach. The next problem--as yet unsolved--is wireless distribution of high-quality video. We're hearing from companies like ViXS and Bermai that the upcoming CES Show in January may make clearer what solutions the consumer electronics companies will decide on.
While cable operators have been clear in their pursuit of the triple play (voice, data and video), telcos, especially those in the US, have been back and forth on the question of whether they should offer video services. We spoke with Manitoba Telecom Services about their video trial and with Next Level, the technology supplier to MTS, Qwest and others, to gauge what's happening.
DVR meets broadband in this device that's attracted both awards and lawsuits. How did ReplayTV 4000 stack up in our broadband home? The 4000 improves on first generation DVR features and promises lots more. It's real, its nifty and its works great, but we can't help but think about all the future potential.
The I's Have It - Italy Pushes Forward with IP-TV and Iceland Joins In (BBHR 9/26/2001)