So the Internet’s hot again, huh? That seems to be how most analysts view Google’s YouTube acquisition. Certainly the deal promises to deliver more eyes to sleep-deprived Comcast techs who find subscriber sofas too inviting to resist, but on a deeper and more serious scale, it has serious repercussions for an IPTV space where content is starting to trump delivery and service providers are fretting over becoming pipes. The IP in IPTV means it has the potential to be a direct route between the Internet and the TV set, leaving out programmers and advertisers who take their cut in the middle. Service providers, used to having their cake and delivering it too, are scrambling around for some way to maintain revenue streams either by developing their own content or providing some sticky IPTV features that glue subscribers to their sets, not their keyboards. Vendors, meanwhile, are scrambling to make the IPTV appliance the most important device in a subscriber home, sticking that sub to the service provider with Gorilla glue strength. A couple announcements this week indicate that the vendors have figured out on which side their bread is buttered and are doing their best to get out of a content jam by trying to make things better for service providers. Microsoft TV’s announcement Microsoft TV put out a somewhat innocuous announcement with Cisco, Motorola, Philips and the household-famous Tatung Co. that advanced system-on-a-chip (SoC) set-tops for IPTV are now available to support the (choose your own adjective here, we’re not getting into trouble) Microsoft IPTV Edition software. The announcement, while containing all those big name vendors, must have been an afterthought for busy Microsoft, which only offered up a company spokesman to explain its relevance. “Microsoft TV doesn’t issue too many press releases, and this is something we thought was noteworthy for the overall IPTV industry,” said the spokesman who, to be fair, did consider this to be an important announcement. “This is a major milestone because a lot of advanced features and functionalities of IPTV – like high def, whole-home DVR, picture-in-picture functionalities – are going to be available now that these set-top boxes are shipping.” That’s all well and good if you’re going to use a set-top box. NDS and Jungo don’t see any need for that investment. The software pair advanced its own IPTV idea to scoop the brains out of the box and let the subscriber do the heavy lifting via a feature called Distributed DVR that integrates Jungo’s residential gateway software into the NDS’ IPTV middleware. The digital home “In a digitally networked IPTV home, you pretty much guarantee that 100 percent of the households are going to have a home router, and it’s pretty much guaranteed there’s going to be a PC within that household,” said Ian Tapp, vice president of business development at NDS. NDS and Jungo followed that logic and concluded that there’s no need for a hard drive in a set-top box when there’s already storage within the home “whether that is contained within the PC, a network attached storage separate from the PC within the home network, or storage contained within the home router,” Tapp said. While questions abound, including whether it’s wise to put digital content into the hands of potentially larcenous subscribers, Tapp is pretty confident that things will work out and that operators, seeing how much money they can save on dumb set-tops, will embrace the idea. “All of the content is fully encrypted, fully protected with the original encryption that was used to broadcast it to the household in the first place,” he pointed out. “All the content is always under the control of the service provider.” That means it’s protected against viruses that subscribers might inadvertently add when sharing it on the NDS-Jungo-based ShareTV peer-to-peer network. It also means that even if a subscriber backs up the content on the PC or an external storage device, it won’t be available for broadcast via YouTube to the rest of the Internet universe because it’s encrypted. The set-top crash That model, in fact, is better than the one that exist today where “if you store content on a set-top box and that set-top box crashes, your content is lost. If you start looking at more of a network approach, you can really start to implement archiving or backup,” Tapp said. The partnership was pushing two main points: • “First and foremost (it) provides a significant cost advantage for the operator because he doesn’t have to supply a costly DVR set-top box.”

• And second, “the subscriber has advantages because he’s not bound by the size of storage within the set-top box, and he can build his own home network and define how much digital storage he wants to assign for his DVR services.” Now that’s thinking outside of the box. – Jim Barthold

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