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TWC Preaches Openness With iPad Tilt

Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) is crafting an iPad application that will tie into a broader cross-platform video future that, the MSO claims, will enable it to be more "open" and work with myriad consumer electronic devices and third-party application developers.

TWC detailed some of those plans on a blog posting on Tuesday, noting that it has created a "working prototype" for an iPad app, but did not say when it intends to commercially launch it. But the blog and associated video series sheds more light on that strategy and on what TWC CEO Glenn Britt told Light Reading Cable contributor Steve Donohue at The Cable Show in May.

Boiled down, TWC's app brings the video navigation experience to the iPad, allowing customers to search and browse an interactive program guide optimized for the Apple tablet, and to set up DVR recordings. Streaming video via the iPad, which would play into the MSO's TV Everywhere strategy, is another element being considered.

"Essentially, the iPad has become a more convenient and versatile way of navigating content that we find on the video service today," noted TWC group VP of Web development Jason Gaedtke, who joined the MSO from Joost almost a year ago. (See Gaedtke Jumps From Joost, Joins TW Cable .)

Delivering the cable video experience to multiple screens "is definitely something that we're interested in," he added.

TWC believes a stronger embrace of the Apple platform and other Web-based service environments will allow the MSO to play better with others. The next step, Gaedtke said, is "maturing those Web services [and] APIs to a point where we can publish them to our partners and enable and unlock third-party innovation."

"There's a lot of devices coming along, and the iPad is just one of them… but we want to be more open," Britt said.

TWC chief technology officer Mike Lajoie said porting the app and the MSO Web-optimized interface from the Apple environment to devices such as PCs, Macs, and Sony PlayStation 3 consoles is "a relatively short haul."

"The ability to innovate on these third-party devices is actually much more robust than what we can do on our legacy infrastructure," LaJoie said. TWC, by the way, has hooked up with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) for an IP video Mediaroom trial in Los Angeles. (See TWC Taps Microsoft Mediaroom for IPTV Test .)

TWC's move toward the iPad and other consumer electronics devices is coming into play as it grows clearer that tru2way will have a very limited role at retail. (See Panasonic Tunes Out Tru2way TVs and Tru2way's Retail Forecast: Cloudy .)

The US cable industry, or at least its set of major MSOs, now appears better positioned to participate at retail by ensuring that its tru2way networks and set-tops are capable of communicating and sharing content with a wide range of CE devices, including game consoles, using Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) . (See Tru2way Flashes Some Retail Hope .)

Lajoie shrugged off the iPad's lack of DLNA support. "Just because the Apple iPad doesn't [support DLNA], doesn't mean we can't connect it up. They just support a different protocol."

TWC is the latest in a string of cable operators, telcos, and satellite TV companies that have launched or have plans to launch apps for Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s smartphone and tablet marketplace, amplifying that such work is no longer a differentiator but competitive table stakes. Among recent cable activity, Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) relayed its intentions for the iPad last week, and, at The Cable Show in May, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) chairman and CEO Brian Roberts demonstrated a browser-based "Xfinity Remote" app running on an iPad. (See To Xfinity... & Beyond!, Cablevision to Deliver Live TV & VoD to iPad, and Dish & the iPad.)

A Time Warner Cable spokesman said the MSO hasn't specified a timeframe for the launch of the iPad app, but did note that the demo is "indicative of the things we're working on now."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Indrasena 12/5/2012 | 5:09:17 PM
re: TWC Preaches Openness With iPad Tilt

May be, right now, it is too early to talk about apps that 'differntiate' - the goal of the Cable MSOs, it seems, is currently to drive user adoption of an alternative 'user interface channel'. And once that is done, think about creating unique user experinces.


The article quotes TWC, in the near future, 'opening' up by making available web services APIs to 3rd party app developers...may be this is when true innovation would happen with 3rd party app developers building TWC specific apps (that can run on an iPad or any other device) that would exploit the functionality that the APIs expose.


And if the APIs that TWC is talking about could expose similar functionality as what the Parley APIs expose in the telecom world, that's when a true unlocking of value (of Cable MSO infrastructure) can happen.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:27:06 PM
re: TWC Preaches Openness With iPad Tilt

Okay, it's official.... EVERYONE is doing something with the iPad. Congrats, Apple, you've changed the world again, and even gotten the cable guys to get on the stick.  One thing I'm noticing is that all the apps from the service providers seem to have the same distinctive smell --  navigation, remote DVR management and, if you're lucky, streaming TV Everywhere.


So instead of a possible differentiator, we've now got what looks like a bunch of seemingly cloney apps so it appears that no one left out of iPad-mania.  Does quantum-level differentiation matter much in this instance, though?


Also, among the major multichannel service providers, who do you think has their iPad game going on the best so far? My vote right now goes to Dish & EchoStar. Adding time-shifting sling capability is what's setting them apart so far in my book.
JB

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:27:05 PM
re: TWC Preaches Openness With iPad Tilt

I understand where TWC wants to go here, but I'm still leery on exactly what "open" will really mean in this case.  We've heard it before with tru2way, EBIF, etc., yet cable is still the gatekeeper on those platforms, which don't even come within a sniff of what Apple and Google have done on the apps front.


Granted, there's some major gatekeeping there, too, but it's worth pointing out that cable's not even in the same league here. Part of that is due to the "legacy" that Mike Lajoie pointed to and all that dark magic that's required to write in that creaky environment... but part of the blame also goes to what cable allows or doesn't allow to happen there.


But this looks like a promising step. Will be interested to see if they're willing to take a few more and how quickly they do it. JB

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