LAS VEGAS -- Although not as well-known as some other video equipment vendors in the North American market, Alticast is seeking to play a starring role at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
In fact, in a suite off the main CE show floor here, Alticast Corp. executives are playing traffic cop this week, steering streams of visitors through two rooms of product demonstrations. In these rooms, the company is showing off: its new HDMI streaming stick built on the Reference Design Kit (RDK) software stack, the 2.0 version of its sophisticated Windmill program guide, a remote-storage DVR (RS-DVR) demo that includes a USB-stick solution for implementing live pause and rewind functions, and an Alticast-powered multi-tuner gateway.
Headquartered in Korea, Alticast has focused heavily on under-the-hood middleware solutions for years, making it a relatively unknown player in the US and Canada. Yet the company includes Videotron Ltd. , Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), and Bright House Networks on its North American customer list. Alticast CTO John Carlucci told Light Reading that "North America is a significant focus for us right now."
Most notably, Alticast is showing its new HDMI Media Express Stick for the first time at this year's CES. Unlike other media streaming sticks now flooding the market, the Alticast solution uses the RDK software stack originally developed by Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), and now managed jointly by Comcast and Time Warner Cable. In addition to RDK, the Alticast stick uniquely leverages Android drivers, making it possible to combine cable-driven software with Android apps on a unified platform. (See Alticast Plans to Demo Set-Top Stick at CES and 5 TV Tech Trends Heading for CES.)
At the Alticast suite Tuesday, Carlucci demonstrated several service provider program guides running on the HDMI stick -- including one from Cox Communications Inc. There were icons for the Google Play store and favorite consumer apps like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Netflix. Carlucci explained that some of the apps, such as Netflix, will only be available on the second-generation version of the product, but that the development work is well underway now.
On the hardware end, Carlucci demonstrated how the initial Alticast solution can be delivered on the Cotton Candy HDMI stick manufactured by FXI Technologies. Alticast is hardware agnostic, however, and willing to use other manufacturers according to operator preference. The Cotton Candy stick has an HDMI plug on one side and a USB plug on the other, allowing users to move the device around between TVs and PCs like a video identity key.
In a separate room from the HDMI streaming stick, Alticast is running a demo of its second-generation HTML5 Windmill user interface. The UI is heavily icon-driven, with a rounded design style and numerous options for personalization. A launcher screen lets users customize which icons they want immediately available and offers templates for consumers specifically interested in sports, kids content, and other genres.
The advanced UI automatically displays such information as recently missed programs based on a user's tastes and activity. It also includes the ability to create multiple user profiles for different household members. Alticast expects to bring the new Windmill guide to market in the second half of the year.
Also in the demo suite, Carlucci walked through an RS-DVR implementation with a unique USB twist. Traditional RS-DVR deployments can't support pause and rewind functions for live TV. However, with the addition of a USB stick for buffering (and encrypting) video, Alticast is making it possible for operators to put live pausing and rewinding in the cloud DVR experience. Because it uses a USB port, the Alticast Live Pause and Rewind solution can plug directly into legacy set-tops.
In addition, Carlucci confirmed that the USB stick could theoretically convert an old set-top into a full-fledged DVR if an operator wanted that option. The Live Pause and Rewind solution is headed into field trials now.
Finally, Carlucci briefly demonstrated an Alticast-powered multi-tuner gateway in his product walkthrough. The gateway includes eight inputs, along with the ability to decode two video streams at once for picture-in-picture delivery.
Expect to hear a lot more from Alticast this year as the company just closed its initial public offering last month. Alticast is now listed on the Korean stock exchange KOSDAQ under the symbol ATCAST. Carlucci sees the IPO as a positive sign for Alticast's growth potential, and believes both Europe and North America will be growth markets for the company going forward.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading