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Video Portability to Become Key Issue for MSOs

Cable operators make their living as video content distributors and based on the action at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this month, MSOs will soon need to grapple with a critical emerging issue: portability of that content. Unless you've been asleep for the last two years, you've watched Apple redefine audio content portability through its iPod devices and iTunes service. Well, video is next on the horizon from a host of players. At CES Tivo launched its new TiVoToGo service, an enhancement for its TiVo Series2 DVR boxes. As the name implies, TiVoToGo allows subscribers to transfer recorded programs from their Tivo DVR to a laptop to be viewed later. While the initial offering is a bit clunky in its execution, TiVoToGo offers a glimpse of what's to come. Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post details the pitfalls of Tivo's initial implementation in a review this month. (See 'Recordings Made Way Too Hard ToGo' at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A11103-2005Jan14.html) Tivo's issues aside, in the coming years, consumers will likely be eager for video "take out" options which allow them to transfer their favorite shows to a laptop, PDA, portable media player or mobile phone. Microsoft made a major push at CES for its Portable Media Center platform, and several manufacturers offered compelling initial implementations, like Samsung, Creative Labs and iRiver. Archos Inc. introduced the Pocket Media Assistant PMA400, a which features a 30 GB hard drive, Linux-based OS with IP communications support, plus WiFi and USB 2.0 interfaces. With a television adapter cradle, the $799 device enables consumers to actually record video directly from a TV, VCR, cable box or satellite receiver. UK start-up Gizmondo hawked a nifty device. Designed like a portable game player, the $399 device supports games, videos, MP3 audio, and even includes a camera and GPS capabilities. Very cool. While it's still early in the video portability game, MSOs need to figure out how they're going to enable subscribers to move and manage cable content from the set-top box to mobile devices.
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