If you're a cable video technology vendor and you don't have multi-screen support on your roadmap, you're just not trying very hard.
The latest to jump in is Tandberg Television , which has introduced a "device aware" back-office platform update that, it claims, will let cable MSOs deliver on-demand video to PCs, mobile handsets, and even IP set-tops, using a variety of codecs, including MPEG-4/H.264. (See Tandberg Gears Up for Multiplatform TV.)
Multi-screen video support is the marquee feature gracing the 5.0 version of OpenStream, a video-on-demand (VoD) back-office system that's already integrated with a broad range of video servers and boasts historic deployments with major MSOs such as Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Charter Communications Inc. , and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK). Tandberg, which claims to have 150 back-office systems deployed worldwide, got its hands on OpenStream in 2005 through its $118 million acquisition of N2 Broadband. (See Tandberg Completes Merger With N2.)
Tandberg has not announced any deployment deals for the new version, but MSOs can upgrade their existing deployments of OpenStream to support the new multi-screen, multi-codec capabilities found in 5.0, says Brad Ferris, Tandberg's VP of business development.
As he explains it, the upgraded system dips into the MSO's asset management and billing system records to detect what type of device -- a set-top, PC, or mobile device -- is requesting video and then determines which video format (MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Flash, etc.) is the most appropriate for that particular device.
As designed, the 5.0 release also allows a VoD session to be shifted to different devices. For example, if a customer rents a VoD movie and starts viewing it on a TV, he or she can pause that stream and restart it on a supported handset or PC -- so long as the customer is "authenticated" to do so.
Although mobility plays a role in the new version, Tandberg doesn't expect it to be among the initial use cases for cable. Instead, Ferris says, MSOs today are interested in using the system to deliver titles to set-tops and PCs, and to deliver MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 VoD streams to set-tops.
While that first example could tie into some of cable's early "TV Anywhere" ambitions, the latter would come into play as MSOs consider launching massive HD-VoD programming tiers, which take advantage of newer cable set-tops that can decode and display more bandwidth-efficient MPEG-4 streams. MSOs may store multiple versions of those assets or transcode from one primary version. Whatever the case, all that preparation is expected to occur before it reaches OpenStream. (See 'TV Everywhere' Race Heats Up and Time Warner, Comcast Team Up for TV Everywhere.)
Ferris says there's "international interest" for the new version of OpenStream, but he admits that discussions are furthest along with North American MSOs.
Tandberg's latest aim with OpenStream will face plenty of competition. Concurrent Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: CCUR), SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC), and Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) make VoD back-office (and server) gear, as well, and have all talked up cross-platform video product strategies. BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) doesn’t make VoD back-office systems, but it's also shooting for some multi-screen glory with its recently announced Converged Video Exchange (CVEx) system. (See Concurrent Upgrades for Mobile & PC VoD, Arris Pumps Up Video With Dolce's Verivue , and BigBand Pushes IP Video Convergence.)
Tandberg will first demo the system at next week's CableLabs Summer Conference in Keystone, Colo., showing how a VoD asset can be delivered in multiple formats to a PC, an iPod Touch, and a traditional MPEG-2-based set-top. It will also show it off at next month's IBC show in Amsterdam.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News