While those who own a digital video recorder seemingly can’t live without one there are some needed improvements in the evolutionary chain. David Grubb, Motorola’s vice president for connected home solutions, said during the Connected@Home Conference & Expo in Las Vegas this week that his company is working on technology that will network DVRs in the home. Earlier this year Motorola purchased Ucentric Systems, and it will use Ucentric’s software to network DVRs. Ease of use “Customers don’t want to worry about where content is stored,” Grubb said to attendees during one of the sessions. “They want to be able to pull up the same content and play lists on any TV.” Motorola hasn’t made any sort of official announcement on its networked DVR initiative, and it’s currently not in any trials, although some cable operators are aware of the work in progress. According to Grubb, 6.5 percent of households in the United States have DVRs, but the real hook is that 30 percent of them have more than one DVR in the home. “It (DVR) changes viewing habits,” Grubb says. “Once they have it in one room they want it in another. I have two in my house, Comcast and Tivo, but they each have separate play lists.” Both Grubb and Intel Powerline Initiative Manager Mathew Theall said during their session that one of the keys to home networking deployments is ease of use. Currently that’s not the case with 20 percent of home networking equipment being returned by customers. Networked DVRs were just one example of providing a consistent home networking experience for customers. S-A demos DVR with DVD burning ability Over at the Fiber-to-the-Home Conference & Expo, which was collocated with Connected@Home, Scientific-Atlanta’s Tony Stanley made the case for including DVRs in FTTH deployments. According to S-A research, 42 percent of DVR owners used the devices to record shows and 18 percent used them for time delay, with the remaining 40 percent watching TV in real time. “Sixty percent of the time they used them (DVRs) for time shifting,” Stanley said at the session. “It’s a very used device.” With three million DVRs currently deployed in the U.S., 92 percent of S-A’s research responders said they would continue using the service. S-A had a DVR with DVD-burning capability at the conference, which it expects to start delivering by the end of the year. Stanley cautioned that conditional access and digital rights management issues need to be resolved with programmers and providers in order to allow the content to be stored on a DVD. The DVR at the show was an RF/multi-channel version that has caught the interest of SBC for its fiber-to-the-home initiative. “We’ve made public three new IP digital set-tops; single stream, high definition and the DVR version,” Stanley said. “Those products were announced and we have a contract with SBC for those.” Mike Robuck On-Demand Trends: New Arroyo CEO Speaks Several buzzwords – content distribution networks (CDN), open interfaces and linear paths – have surrounded cable’s on-demand initiatives over this past year, and continue to do so this week. To review: Back in January, Comcast EVP and CTO David Fellows characterized his team’s Next Generation on Demand (NGOD) project as an attempt to hit something between the 100 percent on-demand model of a CDN and the 7-10 percent peak utilization of (then) current on-demand systems. Associated with improbable partnerships (Enron/Blockbuster) back in the dot.com boom, the CDN has lived to fight another day, in part because of Akamai’s enduring success, and moreover because intensive local caching just makes sense for the Internet. But if one overriding goal of an MSO such as Comcast is to shuttle both movies and Web pages across its national IP backbone down to countless last-mile links, then the CDN model applies to cable, as well; it then becomes necessary to have open interfaces to multiple storage and streaming devices which can serve up all of this requested content. Fast forward to today This model gathers some steam when you add live programming to the mix. As reported in The State newspaper today, Time Warner Cable is planning to launch its so-called StartOver service in its Columbia, S.C. test-bed in November. This type of ‘linear path’ service, which allows subs to restart movies or shows without a DVR, has the potential of adding exponential amounts of video to an MSO’s inventory, with associated demands on an operator’s storage, streaming and networking infrastructure. In addition to today’s news from the Palmetto State, two other recent developments in the on-demand world bear comment. First is an announced collaboration last week between Vertasent and Concurrent, which brings the former’s open network management functionality within the latter’s on-demand server and software architecture. The second is Rick DeGabrielle’s appointment on Monday as president and CEO of Arroyo Video Solutions. Previously led by the financially minded, cable insider Kim Kelly, and in the interim since her departure by the company’s CTO (and Ethernet guru) Paul Sherer, the company now has at its helm something of a cable outsider but a veteran of several networking firms who believes that those technologies are increasingly relevant to emerging on-demand (NGOD/CDN/StartOver) landscape. “We’ve taken an architecture that’s become predominant in other industries,” DeGabrielle says, “and applied it to delivering content to operators.” Has 10 Gigabit Ethernet, one of Arroyo’s talking points, really reached cable’s on-demand world? “I think it has arrived. What you’re really looking for is price points and the ability to take advantage of 10 Gig from a systems perspective,” he says. His overall point is Gigabit bullish: “We see a steady progression of 10 Gig, 40 Gig, 100 Gig right on down the line.” On the business side, Arroyo also announced deployments with Time Warner Cable in Portland, Oregon, and Wilmington, N.C. DeGabrielle is confident about Arroyo’s ability to play in a StartOver world: “I need to be able to ingest, store and play out simultaneously, and we do it within a third of a second.”

The Daily



Eric Harris joined DISH’s wireless team as director, enterprise program management. Harris has been with the company for 11 years.

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