ActiveVideo Networks has shifted its cloud platform into overdrive with today’s announcement that it can deliver TV as an application over IP along with the news that it’s behind Charter Communications’ cloud-based user interface.

ActiveVideo also said it has partnered with Sumitomo Corporation to target cloud-based deployments in Japan and in the Asia-Pacific market. Sumitomo owns a 50 percent stake in J:Com, the latter of which is the largest cable operator in Japan. ActiveVideo also announced it was enlisted to build more interactive applications for Cablevision, but didn’t provide any additional details.

On the product front, ActiveVideo has updated its CloudTV H5 platform to help service providers and content aggregators deliver content and user interfaces from the cloud to connected devices.

Charter Communications has had its cloud-based UI in the works for sometime, but hadn’t disclosed it was working with ActiveVideo until today’s announcement. In last month’s first quarter earnings call, Charter CEO and President Tom Rutledge said the cloud-based UI was one of his company’s top priorities this year. When Rutledge was COO of Cablevision, his team signed up with ActiveVideo to deliver apps from the cloud to subscribers.

On the earnings call, Rutledge said that one advantage of the cloud-based UI is that it takes the intelligence out of the box in a customer’s home and puts it into the cloud. The end result is a thinner client in the box, which also means a less expensive DVR or set-top box. It also gives Charter a state-of-the art UI to compete with over-the-top (OTT) competitors. The UI works with QAM-based legacy boxes and hybrid IP boxes.

Rutledge also said he wanted Charter to speed up its innovation cycle, and cloud-based services were key to providing a better user experience.  

Comcast, which has licensed ActiveVideo’s CloudTV H5,  has already deployed a new UI on the company’s X1 platform using a gateway in the home, which also seems to be the approach that Time Warner Cable is taking with its cloud-based UI that’s currently in trials. Comcast and Time Warner Cable have cast their lot, for now, with expensive, powerful gateways while Charter has opted to put the functionality and rendering in the cloud.

“We think the timing is very, very interesting,” said Murali Nemani, chief marketing office, ActiveVideo. “In the last three to six months the language of cloud-based UIs has really accelerated at the c-suite level of our customers. When I was listening to (Liberty Global CEO and President)) Mike Fries talk about what LGI’s objectives for Horizon were he said they were pushing the UI into the cloud so they could de-couple the user interface from device dependencies. And then you hear Tom Rutledge on Charter’s earnings call talk about how innovation is stalled because of device dependencies, and about how he wants to be able to push the UI into the cloud so he can roll it out more aggressively and with capital expenses that are significantly reduced

“So when you start hearing this sort of language at the c-suite level with major executives talking about cloud-based UIs you know you’ve hit a nerve.”

CloudTV H5 upgrades

In order to provide the operational scale that is needed to launch TV Everywhere services across various second-screen devices, ActiveVideo added three new features to its CloudTV H5 platform:

* Render Layers that enable UIs and animation to be rendered more smoothly and to reduce required bandwidth up to 50 percent

* Smart Multiplexing to increase the number of CloudTV sessions delivered across an existing cable QAM network, resulting in 25 percent throughput improvement, or in an IP network benefiting from adaptive bit rate technology

• Dual-Stream Rendering that allows the bandwidth-efficient delivery of partial-screen user interfaces that are controlled from the cloud but rendered locally on devices, resulting in better viewing experience without creating bottlenecks on the network

A fourth innovation, support for a family of thin clients based on an ultra-light code base, works with the CloudTV platform to deliver consistent user experiences on any connected device.  Dubbed CloudTV Nano, CloudTV Nano Lite and CloudTV Nanoware, the clients are designed to meet a variety of customer deployments supporting managed and unmanaged devices with full UI-in-the-Cloud capabilities – while cutting down on custom integration.

“Around the CloudTV H5 platform, the announcement is really that we can now deliver the full pay TV paradigm of services, which includes the UI and the applications coming straight from the cloud, at scale,” Nemani said. “At scale is really important because in essence we’re unveiling four new technology enablers that we think will enable the platform to achieve network scale. In terms of bandwidth utilization and so forth we don’t create bottlenecks and chokepoints or create massive capital expenses.

“On the cloud we can support advanced UIs, 3D animations and renderings that previously required tremendous compute cycles, so we think we’ve solved that problem. Around device reach, now we’re not just addressing cloud TVs, and set-top boxes, whether they’re IP or QAM-based boxes. We can address all of these connected devices.”