Video hardware

Imagine Imagines Success

As the company's name implies, Imagine Communications focuses a lot on how things could be.

Imagine, a San Diego-area digital video specialist, is promoting a variable bit rate (VBR) scheme designed to boost a cable operator's bandwidth efficiency by 50 percent for video on demand (VOD) and switched digital video applications. Last week the two-year-old tech upstart made a splash by announcing its first integration deal with a VOD equipment vendor, hooking up with industry leader SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC). (See Imagine Connects With SeaChange .)

Score a big one, then, for Imagine. But, in the nitty-gritty world of cable, that's just the beginning. Now Imagine has to show that it has long-term traction by landing a major MSO as a customer. As numerous other cable tech startups can attest, that's a tall order.

Imagine executives insist that they're making good progress with the big cable guys. They point to ongoing lab trials with two major U.S. MSOs, which, of course, cannot be disclosed.

"We're deep into lab trials," says Marc Tayer, senior VP of marketing and business development for Imagine. "We're moving into field trials in the late summer."

If all goes well in these two trials, Imagine officials hope to deploy their first products commercially by the end of the year. But the firm already faces healthy competition in the space from fellow startups like RGB Networks Inc. , as well as such industry powers as the Comcast Media Center (CMC) . And other players will likely pile on.

So the road to success will definitely not be an easy one for Imagine. Or, at least, not as easy as its executives might imagine. Stay tuned.

— Alan Breznick, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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