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Verismo Visualizes Versatility

Mountain View, Calif., startup Verismo Networks seems to know it can't win the Internet-TV convergence war by itself.

The company says it is taking its VuNow set-top, built to make Internet video, on-demand movies, and other digital content accessible on consumer TVs, to the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) market -- and it could sell its technology through service providers, too.

"Our strategy has been to take our end-to-end solution and license it to OEMs," says Dhaval Ajmera, Verismo's executive vice president of sales and marketing. "We are not Sling or Roku, which try to take everything directly to retail. We know that we need a big OEM to take our product to market."

The approach, Ajmera explains, allows consumer electronics companies and other vendors to, for example, quickly integrate networked video distribution into a line of TVs. Or, perhaps, provide a digital set-top maker a quick way to add in a working Internet video solution.

Verismo execs say they expect to ship some 500,000 units in 2009 and have deals in place with more than 15 OEM partners, ranging from national service providers, to content owners, to consumer electronics manufacturers.

Only Netgear Inc. (Nasdaq: NTGR) has disclosed its associations with Verismo, and that came in November 2008, two months before Verismo announced it was targeting OEMs as a corporate strategy. Netgear has said it will take a VuNow-based product to the retail market this year. "Our business policy is very open," Ajmera says. "We allow OEMs to license and manufacture the technology or private label it as they see fit."

Verismo, of course, says it is far more versatile than better-known offerings from Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Roku Inc.

"Anybody can develop a set-top box," Ajmera says, "but the real value is the back end; creating the user interface, managing the client software, handling the DRM [digital rights management] and giving OEMs the ability to bring in their own content for private networks.

"Our box figured out a way to bring together Internet video from multiple sources. Plus, it also allows you to bring in your home media, YouTube, live TV, international channels, and other Website content directly to the TV."

In addition to the OEM market, Verismo is also selling some VuNow-enabled set-top boxes to consumers via its Website. A standard-def version costs $99 and a high-def version runs $149.

What else is Verismo trying? Ajmera says the company will be working with its OEM partners to integrate new functionality into the VuNow platform, including VoIP support and Web conferencing. And, yes, cable operators are supposedly looking to integrate Verismo's technology as well. (See Verismo Gets Cable's Vote .)

Ajmera adds: "The MSOs are all over us now asking. 'How can we get this content to our subscribers in the format they want? How can we integrate this functionality?' "

To review, Verismo is making a set-top and software. It's selling indirectly through OEMs, and straight to consumers. It is looking to license to consumer electronics companies and service providers. Maybe it's part of the strategy, but this company is all over the map.

— Timothy Sprinkle, Special to Light Reading

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