MSO CTO Panel 2011The MSO CTO Panel on Tuesday gave an overview of where the cable industry is at in terms of battling the competition, serving the customers and building out new networks.

In response to a question by moderator Paul Kagan, CEO of PK Worldmedia, about the next "big thing," Comcast executive vice president and CTO Tony Werner gave a rundown on the build-out of the company's digital ecosystem, which includes the all-digital conversion project – scheduled to be completed early next year – transitioning the backend systems to a Web services architecture and moving content to the cloud in order to give customers the ability to store their personal settings there.

In addition to being able to push more content across varied devices, Werner said Comcast also benefits from a faster innovation cycle with the new digital ecosystem.

"I think we're heavily investing in building out the digital ecosystem. I think we're all heading in the same direction, which is really a much more agile platform," Werner said. "A lot of pieces are starting to come together in the way of HTML5 and DLNA and a whole bunch of other pieces that truly does give us a platform that does a number of things. It's very quick to develop on. We can turn out applications in a tenth of the time with a tenth of the staff on these new platforms than what we did on legacy. The second part of that is these platforms are consistent not only across our devices, but across the customer-owned and -managed devices.

"So when we change the look of the UI on the product that we rolled out in Augusta – Xcalibur – we can change that both on the PC and the TV and other devices, all with the same backend. I think we're all enthused about this. We're all at the early stages of it because a lot of these things, like HTML5, have a ways to go, but I think we're all very promised by it."

Time Warner Cable executive vice president and CTO Mike LaJoie said customers' expectations have changed; but despite the fact that subscribers are watching more content on mobile devices or tablets, cable operators can offer a richer viewing experience.

"[Customers] now expect their content, their information, their communications products to be with them more than they are," LaJoie said. "They're carrying them in their pockets, and they expect them to show up on their personal device and on their computer, and they'd like to see them on their TV, as well. By building out this digital ecosystem, I think the goal is to allow our consumers to bring their devices to the table."

Bright House Networks President Nomi Bergman agreed with Werner and LaJoie's assessments on offering customers the new services and products that they want across various devices, but she also included some practical advice for Cable-Tec Expo attendees.

"Expo is so much the place to learn about the here and now and come away with things that you can deploy today in your markets," she said. "I think one thing that still remains the same, along with new technologies, is also doing a really great job of operating our business. I think there are terrific advances on the Expo floor today of ways we can better operate our business. It's really important that we pay attention to that."

Cox Communications executive vice president and CTO Kevin Hart was the newcomer to the panel after joining the company earlier this year. Hart said he is bringing the lessons learned from his time at Clearwire to Cox, which included speed to market for new products and services.

As an example of innovation, Hart cited Cox's new, live streaming service, which is slated to launch in December, for tablets. Cox President Patrick Esser provided some details on the new streaming service, which is called Cox TV Connect, in the opening session that preceded the MSO CTO Panel.

"From the mobility standpoint, we have to enable mobility," Hart said. "Our customers are demanding that. It's just where we are in the development lifecycle.

"Enabling the ecosystem for Wi-Fi in the home, Wi-Fi around larger footprints, and also having a high-speed mobile data solution – being able to travel – is part of the solution set we're designing."