Concurrent's RAM-based platform creeps to market
In addition to answering for an expected dip in Q1 revenues, Concurrent Computer Corp. spent most of its call last week with analysts and reporters talking up its long-awaited MediaHawk 4500 platform.
As you may recall, Concurrent introduced the 4500 in January, promising a RAM-centric system that not only counters offerings from competitors such as Broadbus Technologies (now part of Motorola), but would offer its customers the kind of high-ingest systems required for forthcoming network-based DVRs. It uses off-the-shelf Dell servers coupled with high-speed RAM storage and streaming.
The company, which is approaching its 1 millionth stream deployed, originally forecast that the 4500 would become available commercially in the third quarter, and that operators would use the new entrant in greenfield VOD markets or deploy it alongside legacy disk-based server systems to handle ultra-popular titles.
The sledding with the 4500 has been a bit slower than anticipated, but Concurrent just installed it in Time Warner Cable's labs in Charlotte, and shipped another to Bright House Networks in Tampa for "product evaluation and certification," Concurrent CEO Gary Trimm said during last week's earnings call.
Trimm also reiterated that the 4500 "is aimed at really new markets and conversion markets."
Concurrent RAM-centric MediaHawk 4500 platform
He also expressed confidence that the deployment window remains firmly open for the 4500, as operators migrate to more advanced platforms to handle new demands for storage, and as ingest and TV time-shifting models continue to expand.
"We think over the next three years or so, pretty much all of the gear that has been shipped out there is going to have to be upgraded to accommodate [future needs]," Trimm explained.
Still, he acknowledged that Concurrent would have been better off if the 4500 was ready to roll earlier, especially when some customers were seeking out next-gen VOD servers and systems.
"It has hurt sales, for sure," Trimm said of the delay, but adding that he believes the 4500 is positioned to leapfrog the competition. "I think we have got a next-next-gen server."
One topic also covered on the call was the ever-consolidating VOD world. Concurrent, it's been speculated for several weeks, is a possible acquisition target of ARRIS, which is said to be looking to expand its portfolio with digital video technology. In fact, ARRIS just announced plans on Monday (Nov. 6) to raise $225 million in a proposed offering, with the proceeds to go toward general corporate purposes, "including the funding of future acquisitions."
Although an acquisition of Concurrent has led speculation on possible targets, ThinkEquity Partners, in a research note, said ARRIS may also have eyes for publicly-traded entities such as Terayon Communication Systems, C-COR Inc. and Harmonic Inc.
Trimm, meanwhile, did not tip his hand toward ARRIS or any other potential suitors for Concurrent or its VOD assets.
Concurrent, he said, will continue to look at possible acquisition opportunities (as it did with Everstream), but will also remain focused on getting the company profitable.
"But from a day-to-day basis, we have to keep our heads down and just run this company as if we're going to run it for the next 40 years," he explained.
—Jeff Baumgartner, Editor in Chief, CED magazine and xOD Capsule
New Oceanic mosaic is in a sporting mood
Time Warner Cable's always ambitious Oceanic division has launched a sports mosaic application using a platform from Ligos Corp.
The "SportsChoice" mosaic, offered on channel 200, features video thumbnails of several sports channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, The Golf Channel, FSN West, FSN Pacific, and Fox Soccer Channel. The operator also has the ability to include local sports fare as well, a Ligos spokesperson explained.
Time Warner Cable's Oceanic division
is kicking things off with a
Viewers use arrow buttons on the remote control to highlight individual video tiles and hear the accompanying audio. They can also navigate directly to the channel if one of the mosaics captures their interest.
The system also features advertising banners that, once selected by the viewer, are taken to Oceanic's "sponsor portal."
The primary technology in play is Ligos' MediaRig Mosaic, a PC-server based system that leverages software video processing. The platform is designed to take the place of up to a dozen hardware MPEG decoders, and consolidate several functions, including MPEG decoding, re-scaling, compositing, supplying navigation metadata, re-encoding, and multiplexing. In addition to thematic mosaics, the system can also be made to support apps and services such as video-on-demand, pay-per-view, and specialty advertising.
Oceanic's deployment is the first in the cable sector for San Francisco-based Ligos, which announced and began to demonstrate its MediaRig Mosaic system at this year's NAB confab.
BendBroadband gives network PVR a go
Ambitious Oregon-based MSO BendBroadband is the first operator to launch an on-demand service based on network personal video recording (nPVR) technology from C-COR.
BendBroadband, a long-time C-COR customer, is using the vendor's real-time encoding and playback technology to offer broadcast programs on the On Demand platform with full PVR capability from the time the scheduled program begins.
C-COR's new Local On Demand Packager (LODP) manages the ingest and metadata entry of real-time content. The LODP platform is combined with C-COR's video server to enable nPVR capability. The system scales from a single program to as many as the operator decides to offer, C-COR said. Once encoded and recorded, all content can be made available on-demand.
BendBroadband is currently making local news available on the system, with plans for additional content including high school sports, cooking shows, city council meetings, and public broadcasting programs.
Cox engineering vet joins Concurrent
The expected dip in Concurrent Computer Corp.'s fiscal Q1 was partly offset last week with the appointment of well-regarded engineer Michael Pasquinilli.
Pasquinilli joins Concurrent as its director of advanced engineering following seven years with Atlanta-based Cox Communications, where he oversaw development and design of the MSO's VOD and interactive television technologies.
Before that, Pasquinilli was a technical program manager with Scientific Atlanta.
At nearby Concurrent, Pasquinilli will be tasked with setting and driving the vendor's strategic objectives tied to the design and implementation of advanced on-demand products and services.
"Michael has a long history of development in the video-on-demand space and worked closely with us on our development and deployment of Cox's on-demand product," said Concurrent CTO Bob Chism, in a release. "We look forward to having his expertise in-house to support not only Cox, but all our other MSO customers as we research and develop new iTV and on-demand applications.
ARRIS, SeaChange prep for DOCSIS switched digital video
ARRIS said its Keystone D5 Digital Multimedia Termination System (DMTS) has been demonstrated to be fully interoperable with SeaChange International's VOD System.
The testing anticipates and is preparatory for the advent of DOCSIS 3.0 and associated modular CMTS (M-CMTS) technology, which will make it easy for cable operators to use their DOCSIS networks not only for data and voice, but also for switched digital video services, including video-on-demand.
The D5 DMTS is able to support digital video EdgeQAM delivery today. Migrating to M-CMTS/DOCSIS 3.0 and to switched digital video applications would require only a software upgrade, according to ARRIS.
Everstream hires pro services director
Everstream, a division of Concurrent Computer Corp. that specializes in data collection, audience measurement and dynamic advertising, has hired Tom Parker to the newly created post of director of professional services.
In that role, Parker will oversee Everstream's professional services team, and manage customer requests for product extensions, custom projects and platform integration efforts.
Parker is late of Quilogy Inc., a closely held technology solutions consulting organization.
Everstream, which has deployments with operators such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and J:COM of Japan, was purchased in late 2005 by Concurrent for about $15 million.
Modulus applies MPEG-4 to HD and SD on-demand content
Modulus Video Inc. has unveiled VODxchange, a system that outfits its MPEG-4 AVC encoding system for standard- and high-definition video-on-demand services delivered over IPTV networks.
The encoding firm is collaborating with ViewNow, a content aggregation company with corporate ties to VOD server and software vendor Kasenna Inc.
The VODxchange platform, which ingests digital and analog video content and transcodes content for playout in MPEG-4 format, is based on Modulus' ME3000 Series Multi-Format AVC Encoder.
Modulus said it expects to begin shipping VODxchange in Q4 2006.
No decision yet in Cablevision RS-DVR case
As of late last week, there was no decision in the big case that centers on Cablevision Systems Corp.'s RS-DVR (Remote Server-DVR), a take on the network DVR that looks to apply the old Sony Betamax "fair use" ruling.
Several studios and content providers and programmers, including 20th Century Fox, Turner Broadcasting System, Paramount Pictures, Disney and ABC, CBS and NBC, are seeking to block Cablevision's ambitious project, claiming that it violates copyright laws.
In June, Cablevision agreed to postpone the launch of the RS-DVR until the studio-led lawsuit was resolved. Prior to that, the MSO had launched a small "friendlies" trial in Long Island using servers from Arroyo Video Systems, which has since been acquired by Cisco Systems Corp.
Multichannel News reported last Wednesday that Judge Denny Chin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York had yet to issue a decision following hearings that happened earlier in the week.
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