ATLANTA -- With the set-tops now rolling off the assembly lines, Arris plans to ship its first RDK-enabled cable boxes before the end of the year.
Speaking at a roundtable event for reporters and analysts at the SCTE's Cable-Tec Expo show here, Kevin Keefe, senior vice president and general manager of Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), said that the company's new Reference Design Kit (RDK) hardware is in "manufacturing as we speak." Like the initial RDK-outfitted gateways made by Pace Micro Technology , the new Arris boxes will incorporate pre-integrated software bundles that will enable them to offer IP video services and apps more easily, more quickly, and more efficiently.
While RDK continues to attract attention from the cable industry, only Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has deployed any RDK boxes to date -- nearly 1 million of them. The company's hybrid IP video X1 set-tops and gateways from Pace all run RDK, and Comcast Senior Vice President Steve Reynolds declared earlier this week that any new hardware will be based on the software framework as well.
Besides Comcast, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) has committed to rolling out RDK boxes in customers' homes. Also, both Cox Communications Inc. and Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) have expressed strong interest, although neither has yet signed up as an official RDK licensee. (See All the Way With RDK?)
In addition to working on RDK, Keefe noted that Arris is experimenting with new set-top "form factors," such as smaller, simpler IP and wireless boxes, dongles, and even media streaming sticks. Jokingly referring to "the device formerly known as a set-top," he predicted that 2014 will be a big transition year as the traditional set-top model gives way to the industry's new combination of more intelligent gateways and simpler client devices. Once these more sophisticated boxes enter the home, operators will have greater flexibility with client devices, and can start to introduce smaller products like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Chromecast HDMI streaming stick.
"I think that's the start of the migration," he said, comparing the shift to smarter gateways to the migration in the mobile world from cellphones to smartphones. "So the home is gong to change."
Although Arris is not disclosing any potential RDK customers, Keefe suggested that the fourth quarter will mark a "big launch" for its new boxes. If everything goes according to plan, that timing would be in line with Comcast's intended X2 rollout, which the company says will happen before the end of the year. (See Comcast Offers Peek at X2 .)
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable