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Convergence Is A Major Theme At IBC 2009

Convergence is a major theme of IBC 2009, with numerous vendors addressing how network operators might handle the inevitable interaction between TV, other CE devices and the Internet.

The requirement, of course, is to bring together the wide area network–the web, broadcast TV and so on–with a local area network (wired or wireless) and to do so in a way that is not only simple and intuitive for consumers, but is also reliable–especially as upgrades and additions change the software mix.

"A revolution is needed in TVs so that consumers can have a unified user experience across platforms," said Erik Huggers, director of future media & technology for the BBC. The BBC’s answer is its Canvas proposition that seeks to create one system that allows various broadcasters to offer on-demand programming using one technology platform.

Huggers suggested that there will likely be a fallout among the online video aggregators (Joost has already stepped back from trying to be a consumer online portal) and possibly a "device play"–as happened with the iPod in the music industry.

"The internet rule is that one winner takes all. It happened that way in the search space, with online commerce, and with social nets. So will it happen with online video."

Vidiator Platform Delivers to Mobile and Web
Broadcasters and content owners looking to reach multiple screens with their content can now do so in one platform. Launched at the show, the Xenon Interent Pack from Vidiator is bring together live HTTP streaming to the iPhone 3.0 OS and Flash streaming for web devices in one unified, integrated platform.

Connie Wong, CEO, Vidiator said, "This is a pioneering system that delivers to mobile and internet devices via a single platform, simplifying the solution architecture and reducing total deployment costs for operators. Currently, operators need three separate systems to deliver their content to customers' devices. Xenon streamlines these silo systems into one simple process making it easier to deliver and monetise a mobile video service."

Getting your entertainment from any source in the world and delivering it to any room in your home is, it is widely believed, the ultimate goal for consumers–and manufacturers believe it’s the next significant trend in television.

ADB Pushes Multi-Platform Interactivity
Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB) was talking to visitors about its vision of what it takes to rise to these challenges. There is a need, says the company, to merge networks into hybrid platforms that enable true two-way interaction with the home–but this convergence must be seamless: consumers want the simplicity and reliability of the TV, and therefore the technology and network complexity must be hidden from them.

ADB also points out that hybrid technology is complex from a software management perspective. The IP software stack has to be implemented in parallel with other software such as MHP middleware, DRM, and DLNA implementation of home networking.

The company was demonstrating how its DLNA-certified set-top boxes interact with other DLNA-enabled devices such as gaming consoles and mobile phones.

Active Video Puts Processing in the Cloud
The prevailing means of generating interactivity through the TV has been to rely on the power of the set top box and its middleware. ActiveVideo was fielding another solution that transfers the processing power to its own network of servers.

"We believe that by harnessing the power of the cloud we can deliver much greater interactivity and richer presentation and run the same applications but independent of STB capability," said Ronald Brockmann, managing director of ActiveVideo Europe. "We’ve decoupled the presentation technology from the consumer."

By using the Common Interface Plus standard (CI+), which most new TVs from Panasonic, Philips, Samsung and Sony will feature, ActiveVideo demonstrated VoD menuing, navigational mosaics, brand-name channels and games from Tag networks over legacy set top boxes at IBC.

The US developer recently acquired Dutch interactive TV platform vendor Avinity Systems and merged both company’s technologies. Between them they claim that interactive TV services will be deployed to over five million homes worldwide by the end of 2009. Customers include Oceanic Time Warner Cable, Tele2 in Sweden, and PCCW in Hong Kong.

As distinct from the trend of TV manufacturers incorporating web capability in new TV sets, ActiveVideo’s cloud-based approach "retains the control of the look and feel of services streamed from the internet in the hands of operators," says Brockmann. "Our cloud-based iTV technologies are providing an engaging experience that combines web video, web 2.0 functionality, and traditional television."

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