Can lightning strike thrice?
The next project of the guys who brought you Kazaa and Skype? A (mostly) peer-to-peer IPTV service called Joost (pronounced yohst).
This will not be a YouTube sort of thing, where just anybody can upload stuff. The idea is to provide secure streaming TV. And not just individual shows, but a traditional TV experience, complete with continuously running programming interspersed with ads (and fewer of them, they promise.)
While that borders on me-too, Joost says they'll have a more efficient delivery mechanism that relies on server farms for the least popular content and peer-to-peer delivery for the most popular stuff.
And they say they can provide good video quality with 500 kbps, though of course the more bandwidth, the better. (Netflix is doing something similar with as little as 1Mbps - see story below).
A screenshot of Joost video.
(Flea with hair?)
The initial implementation of Joost is a software download that will allow users to watch video on their PCs. That will be supplemented by the ability to search the Internet for video channels and video content, as well as features such as chat. Eventually, Joost will stream video to TVs, mobile devices, and other display products. If they can get by with as little as a half-meg of bandwidth, that makes the service that much more likely to be portable to cell phones on 3G networks
The service is now in beta, and content currently available runs to comedy clips, sports, music, and documentaries that run in continuous loops. Content will eventually be available on demand. The service will be ad-supported. The company has a limited number of content deals in hand, with Warner Music being the most prominent partner.
The Joost browser will be open for other software developers to create their own features.
The hybrid P2P approach is interesting, but it is not a differentiator, it'll either work or it won't. Success will depend on whether content providers - especially those that have traditionally provided content for traditional broadcast outlets - release their content for Joost to stream. Joost will have to convince them that the security and quality are there, and that will take a little time.
But Joost may certainly be one of the most dangerous services to come along for pay TV providers.
You might yawn about another Web-based TV service (see item on Brightcove below), but then you have to take into account that Joost's two founders, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, have a pretty good track record.
Oh, and $2.5 billion of eBay's money.
Look, ma, no postage! Netflix to start streaming
In a phased rollout over the next six months, Netflix will give customers the option of streaming IP-based video to their PCs. The new option will be available to subscribers at no additional charge.
Netflix said viewing will require the installation of a small browsing applet that requires a one-time download taking about a minute. Streaming of films can be accomplished with a broadband connection as slow as 1 Mbps, which provides what Netflix called "preview" quality. A 3 Mbps connection is sufficient to provide DVD-quality video, Netflix said. The service has PVR functionality.
Netflix intends to expand the service to deliver video to handhelds and directly to TV screens.
The introduction expands Netflix's capabilities just as Blockbuster has finally countered with its own DVD-by-mail service that is combined with its storefront service.
Orca is a takeover target
IPTV middleware vendor Orca Interactive recently told the London Stock Exchange it has received inquiries from more than one company expressing an interest in buying the company. It said negotiations are still preliminary, so there is no certainty of deal. Various media reports suggest that Comverse is one suitor. Orca provides middleware for Comverse's IPTV products.
Pixelmetrix has MPEG analyzer
Pixelmetrix recently launched its VISUALmpegPRO, an MPEG analyzer that performs visual inspection of all aspects of MPEG video coding right from bit rate to macroblock motion vector analysis. Attributes include quantizer values, picture frequencies, MPEG artifacts, frame quality index, DCT coefficients and an error logger. It analyzes MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 Part 10 (H.264) video. The new MPEG analyzer is part of Pixelmetrix's suite of IPTV testing gear that includes its DVStation-IP, an IPTV QoS monitor, and its DVStorIP-Gen IPTV Test Stream Generator.
Brightcove raises $59.5M
Brightcove just closed a funding round that attracted $59.5 million from old and new investors. Brightcove plans to use the money to accelerate international expansion and for other uses. The company helps content owners launch "channels" on the Internet, including The New York Times Co., which is both a customer and a recent investor, and Transcomos Investments & Business Development, a wholly-owned subsidiary of transcomos inc., which will help Brightcove expand in Japan.
Tech advances will help pace VoIP market
The market for VoIP chips is not only growing, but also shifting as consumer offerings expand, according to In-Stat. Wireless and video will play stronger roles in the next several years and present new challenges for chip level players, the high-tech market research firm says..
The company expects VoIP chips will actually disappear as VoIP functions are integrated at the network level; it will become "simply another application on an IP network."
In-Stat's findings include:
- While today, less than 16% of total VoIP chip revenues are attributed to IP phones, this segment will represent close to 60% of total sales by 2010.
- Revenues associated with VoIP ICs will grow from $613.7 million in 2006 to $2.63 billion by 2010.
- Infrastructure revenues associated with VoIP chips will make up only 13.6% of total revenues in 2010.
The report on VoIP ICs is called "VoIP Chips: Preparing for a Wireless Multimedia Future," and it covers multiple factors that affect the market, including the actions of end-users, carriers, equipment manufacturers, and VoIP chip producers.
But first, the VoIP market needs to be schooled
Adoption of voice over IP (VoIP) services in North America should accelerate, but first VoIP providers are going to have to educate the consumer market about the service, according to a new Frost & Sullivan report published by Research and Markets.
The report, "North American Residential VoIP Services Market," observes that mass-market consumers remain satisfied with landline telephony, and are likely to be suspicious of lower priced services, worried that VoIP is a you-get-what-you-pay-for proposition. Those perceptions are a remnant of VoIP's origin with PC-to-PC services.
VoIP-based services, the report points out, are now usually more associated with voice over broadband and analog terminal adapter (ATA)-based services. Meanwhile, PC-based services are experiencing an increase in usage with services from ISPs that leverage e-mail and instant messaging functionality.
Despite challenges such as lack of end-user awareness and the slow pace of technology associated with VoIP, instances of retail distribution are increasing and positively impacting VoIP services. Retail distribution in stores enables demonstration of the service, which is beneficial in attracting customers. Customers are usually pleased to see that the service works the same way as traditional phone service does, the report continues.
Cellular puts even more pressure on Vonage
Vonage must feel like it's at the bottom of a pile-up. Pali Research issued a report suggesting investors should sell Vonage stock. In addition to current price pressure, things are going to get worse when cellular operators enter the VoIP landscape. Pali noted several initial instances of that happening:
Apple's new iPhone
T-Mobile, for example, has launched a service in Seattle that costs an additional $20/month for unlimited in-home (and at T-Mobile hotspots) Wi-Fi calling using a free VoIP router. The researchers note that's $5 per month cheaper than Vonage's product and Vonage does not have a national roaming cellular option.
In the UK, BT Fusion has relaunched and now offers an integrated cellular/Wi-Fi service. Consumers that subscribe to BT Broadband and BT wireless can make calls over Wi-Fi at home and at BT hotspots throughout the UK. There is no extra cost for the in-home VoIP calling, but a consumer's allocation of minutes will be depleted.
Apple and Cingular announced the launch of the iPhone for June 2007. While the voice functionality is completely cellular at the moment, Pali Research notes, the device actively switches to Wi-Fi for web-browsing when it becomes available. Given that AT&T (Cingular's parent) offers a separate VoIP product (Callvantage), it is not hard to imagine the product integrating Wi-Fi VoIP (particularly as it has a fully-functional Safari web browser that likely enables consumers to use applications such as Skype for VoIP), the researchers said.
Zodiac debuts TV-based local business search with VoIP
Zodiac Interactive, which seems to be positioning itself with an interesting new URL, today announced the availability of a new application called TVLocalSearch that aims to increase the value of the integration of video and voice services.
With Zodiac's TVLocalSearch and TVCallME, a viewer can click a button on their standard TV remote control and pull up a menu that offers a variety of products and services, ranging from news, games, fantasy sports scores, traffic, shopping and entertainment to billing applications.
From there, the viewer can select TVLocalSearch and quickly locate a business of interest in the area, either through a keyword or category search. Once the business is located, the viewer can click on the TVCallME button to speak to the local business. Zodiac's TVCallME service calls the viewer first and then the business, instantly connecting them through VoIP technology.
Microsoft-Nortel relationship bears fruit
Microsoft and Nortel Networks introduced several new products for the enterprise communications market and laid out a roadmap for continuing collaboration. UC Integrated Branch is an integrated VoIP and communications exchange for branch offices, scheduled to be introduced in the fourth quarter. Unified Messaging assures SIP interoperability between the Nortel Communication Server 1000 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007; it is scheduled for release in the second quarter. The third product, Conferencing, adds features from Nortel Multimedia Conferencing to Microsoft Office Communicator 2007; it is also scheduled to be available in the fourth quarter.
Bresnan to use Primal billing platform for business VoIP
Bresnan Communications has will use a service management and billing system from Primal Solutions for its rollout of business telephone services. Bresnan last April announced its plans to begin offering carrier-grade digital telephone services to small and mid-size business customers in early 2007. In October, Metaswitch announced Bresnan would be using its softswitch, media gateway, and application server to create the service.
Charter deploys Acme Packet session border controllers
Charter Communications is using Acme Packet's Net-Net session border controllers (SBCs) in its Charter Telephone VoIP network. The Net-Net product family enables Charter to connect to application service providers (ASPs) to offer innovative IP interactive communication services while protecting its network and providing critical control functions for these services.
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BigBand wows WOW! with M-CMTS/DOCSIS 3.0 plans
BigBand Networks said WOW! Internet, Cable and Phone has completed a deployment of Cuda cable modem termination systems (CMTS) systems to increase broadband access speeds and deliver enhanced voice-over-IP (VoIP) services.
WOW!, which also uses BigBand platforms to deliver digital video services in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, now uses BigBand platforms to support each of its video, voice and data offerings. The service provider also uses BigBand's BMR router to deliver video.
Verizon gets rid of landlines in Northeast
Verizon Communications is shedding its fixed-line business in a good chunk of the Northeast. FairPoint Communications, which focuses on rural and small urban markets, will pick up Verizon's Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont local exchange businesses for $2.7 billion. Verizon's operations in those states cover about 1.5 million phone access lines, 180,000 high-speed Internet subscribers and 600,000 long distance customers. With the acquisition, tiny Fairpoint will immediately jump to the eighth-largest U.S. telephone company, with 1.6 million access lines, 234,000 high-speed data subscribers and 600,000 long-distance customers.
BT selects Siemens, Nortel, for Ethernet part of 21CN
BT continues to rely on Siemens Networks and Nortel as key equipment suppliers, tapping both for carrier-class Ethernet network equipment for its 21st Century Network (21CN) program. Siemens gets the edge, Nortel gets the core. BT will deploy Siemens' SURPASS hiD Ethernet carrier-class switches, element management, system integration and support services, and will use Nortel's Metro Ethernet Routing Switch 8600 and Metro Ethernet Services Unit 1850 in its 21CN backbone.
EarthLink offers taste of free Wi-Fi in Philly
EarthLink is inviting anyone in Philadelphia to test its EarthLink Wi-Fi service for free for a few days, through January 21. EarthLink Wi-Fi offers download and upload speeds up to 1 Mbps.Taking its first step toward covering most of the city, EarthLink has turned on service in a 15-square-mile proof-of-concept (POC) area in downtown Philadelphia.
Cox San Diego taps Ciena to connect metro rings
Cox Communications has deployed Ciena's CoreDirector Multiservice Optical Switches in the super headend of its San Diego system. In so doing, Cox became the first MSO to employ Ciena's CoreDirector. Cox has been a customer for Ciena optical Ethernet equipment in the past. Ciena explained its equipment represented the easiest and least expensive way for Cox to connect two of its metro rings, each transporting multiple 10 Gbps circuits over DWDM.