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Video hardware

Open Standards Wars

With competition heating up in the switched digital video (SDV) business, equipment suppliers are increasingly squabbling over who adheres to the most open tech standards.

Like kids showing off in the schoolyard, each vendor is taking turns loudly insisting that its standards are by far the most open ones yet. At the Cable Show in Vegas earlier this month, Tandberg Television became the latest to join the crowded club, plunging into the SDV market with the boast that its new OpenStream platform is more open than all of its rivals' systems.

"We have a single product that supports all standards, including the Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) / CableLabs standard and the Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) standard," says Michael Adams, VP of systems architecture for Tandberg TV. "We think we're the only ones that support both."

Likewise, when BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) announced a key SDV gear deployment with Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) earlier this year, other competitors privately took pot shots at the switched digital pioneer. Deriding BigBand for its purportedly "proprietary technology," they argued that their SDV systems are much more open than its older technical solution. (See Cablevision Switches With BigBand.)

Naturally, BigBand isn't about to take all this standards-bashing talk sitting down. At the Cable Show, the early SDV leader stressed that its system works in both Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Scientific Atlanta environments, unlike some other vendors that shall go nameless.

"We're by far the most open," says John Connelly, executive VP of marketing and business development for BigBand. "Wherever a standard existed, we embraced the standard. We think we're the most open standard out there."

What a surprise, eh? May the most truly open standard win.

— Alan Breznick, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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