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Set-top boxes

ADB Revamps, Reveals Its Soft Side

Having kept something of a low profile over the last couple of years -- and especially since it delisted and became a privately held company in March -- Geneva-based ADB has been undergoing a radical behind-the-scenes transformation, quitting many of its hardware activities to focus more heavily on the sale of software and services.

The set-top box (STB) company has today emerged from the shadows with a new logo, a new software platform -- branded ConnectedOS -- and details of new customer relationships.

The branding overhaul accompanies a strategy shift that will see ADB S.A. place more emphasis on its software capabilities while leaving much of the hardware development to low-cost manufacturers in Asia.

"For the last two years I've been transitioning the business to what it needs to be in future, taking away the veneer of the hardware provider and getting back to software," said Peter Balchin, ADB's CEO, during a presentation to reporters in London. "ConnectedOS will be the foundation of the business."

The move is one that has been forced on ADB, to some extent, by commoditization in the devices business and shrinkage in hardware margins. Balchin tells Light Reading that staff numbers have fallen from about 1,100 to just 500 as hardware activities have been increasingly outsourced. Most of the company's employees are today based in Poland, whose universities are seen to be churning out some of the most talented software developers in the world.

Even so, ADB insists it is also responding to a growing demand among service provider customers for the separation of hardware from software -- a trend that is gathering momentum as New IP and virtualization technologies enter the mainstream -- and for more open standards.

ConnectedOS is supposed to meet all of those various needs. "Fundamentally it's an evolution of capabilities we already had, but it should allow customers to deploy faster and bring in devices more effectively," said Jamie Mackinlay, ADB's vice president of global business development, during the London presentation. "ODMs will be able to take better advantage of our platform and open standards will give us a competitive edge, allowing third-party software organizations to integrate [their technology with ours]."

ADB sees various market opportunities for the ConnectedOS platform, including Internet of Things (IoT) services used by consumers and businesses as well as its more traditional TV sector.

Executives are especially optimistic about the outlook in what ADB calls "business TV," which involves providing digital and video signage services in various commercial environments, including hotels and hospitals.

Most of ADB's work in this area is currently done in the US -- where it has been collaborating with cable operators including Charter Communications Inc. , Cox Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) -- but the company says it is in discussions with a number of players in Europe and carried out its first hotel installation in Poland just a few weeks ago. "We're providing an integrated solution that has market potential in Europe and is also being trialed in Japan and Australia," said Mackinlay. "We're going to be pushing very hard over the next 12 to 24 months because of our strong footprint in the US."

In the so-called "personal TV" area, meanwhile, ADB has just announced a major partnership with Cyfrowy Polsat, one of Poland's biggest pay-TV providers.

Having established its own STB factory in 2007, Cyfrowy Polsat is to begin integrating ADB's software into its devices, while ADB says it will add the Cyfrowy Polsat STB to its range of end-to-end personal TV products.

"We've been working on that with them for more than a year now -- they were trying to do everything themselves but realized they couldn't do the multiscreen," said Balchin, highlighting the ability of ADB's software to support viewing experiences across STBs, mobile devices and PCs.

Another hardware partner revealed at the London event is Taiwanese STB chipset maker Ali Corp. , which is fast becoming the "silicon of choice for Chinese ODMs," according to Balchin.

"[Rival] Broadcom is becoming a bit too pushy and dominant," Balchin explained. "Ali is now one of our partners and we'll be launching a personal TV solution on the Ali platform at IBC [a tradeshow being held in Amsterdam next week] and we expect ODM partnerships to come from that."

Next page: Different strokes for different folks

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Mitch Wagner 9/2/2015 | 2:15:21 PM
Re: Software/virtual frenzy at IBC? Ambitious plan. Too ambitious?

ADP isn't just competing with other STB vendors here. By setting its up as an IoT platform it's competing with ... well, everyone. Cisco, to name just one company, has strong ambitions in that direction. What's ADP got that they ain't got?
msilbey 9/2/2015 | 8:21:35 AM
Re: Software/virtual frenzy at IBC? This is a seriously difficult transition for traditional hardware companies. It's easy to sing the software tune, but I'll really believe it when there is evidence in revenue. Motorola/Arris has been touting software and cloud services for years, but a huge percentage of its revenue is still in set-tops. Curious to see how things play out for ADB.
[email protected] 9/2/2015 | 5:58:29 AM
Software/virtual frenzy at IBC? SO we have ADB, we have Envivio unveiling its virtual head end and no doubht countless others.

Is IBC 2015 going to be remembered for virtualized video infrastructure?
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