Your browser is not supported. Please update it.

23 September 2009

Deals, launches and products

UK set top maker Pace said that cable company UPC Broadband, the Liberty Global European subsidiary, will use one of its HD set top designs across 9 countries, beginning in early 2010. The set top box has been created under Pace’s Low Environmental Initiative, delivering lower power, reduced packaging and reduced use of hazardous substances in manufacture and it has achieved stand-by power consumption of less than 1 watt.

US researcher Parks Associates says that residential gateways, as a sub-category of home networks, will make up 50% of installs by 2013. Instead of installing them purely to save money on auto-configuration and remote management, operators will find that users are more willing to pay for value-added services such as enhanced technical support and data and media backup.

Despite our disbelief, the French Parliament went and blessed so called three strikes and you’re out law, although the Socialist Party said it will try to block it by referring it to Council which polices the constitution because it doesn’t respect the rights of the individual. The new group to track down and cut off practicing pirates, will be established in November and should be operational at the start of next year.

After about a mountain of nonsense about the Palm Pre and its affects on the future of Palm, the company still reported its first quarter figures to the end of August at $68.0 million, a colossal drop from $366.9 million a year earlier. The net loss was a disastrous $164.5 million and the company said that because all revenue for the Palm webOS products, including the Palm Pre, are deferred, it was bound to happen. If it had not changed it accounting revenues would have been a far more respectable $360.7 million. The company says it has shipped 823,000 smartphone units during the quarter, but it is unclear where they are, because Sprint has not shipped anything like that, and the company has not said where else it has shipped high numbers.

Tele2 in the Netherlands, has selected Amino to supply MPEG-4 set tops for IPTV services, including its latest A132 and A532 MPEG-4 dual SD/HD DVRs, over an 18-month period. Amino Communications Chief Executive Officer Andrew Burke said: ‘This is a strategically important contract win with a large and established Western European operator.’

US research group DisplaySearch suggests that India is the final frontier on the flat panel display TV market, with the region likely to account for more than 30% of the forecast Asia Pacific flat panel TV shipments by 2013. Flat panel TV shipment growth in India slowed to 80% from 100% growth in the last four years, but in comparison to other regions, the slowed growth is still impressive, with the exception China. A growing middle class and a low penetration of flat panel TVs, will fuel the transition from CRT to LCD TVs, with LCD TVs overtaking CRTs in 2012. India has 230 million households and only 115 million of them have TVs, mainly CRTs.

UK analyst group Screen Digest also says that India’s TV market is set to grow in all sectors until 2013 with India weathering the worldwide downturn far better than almost any major country. It says the number of TV households will rise from 133 million last year to 191 million by 2013, outstripping increases in the population and households in the same period. Analog cable accounted for 89% of all pay TV homes in 2008 across roughly 60,000 operators. Cable will increase its subscriber base from 80 million to 113 million in that time but Screen Digest says satellite is the best prospect from Dish TV, Sun Direct TV, Big TV, Airtel Digital TV and Tata Sky.

Nine of Europe’s leading cable network operators, representing 35 million connected homes, have said they will use DVB-C2. In a signed statement YouSee (Denmark), Numericable (France), Kabel Baden W’rttemberg, Unitymedia, Kabel Deutschland (Germany), Ziggo (The Netherlands), ZON (Portugal), ONO (Spain) and Com Hem (Sweden) welcomed DVB-C2, which uses different modulation and coding to make more efficient use of cable networks. All the cable networks tend to stick with the same core technologies, so it’s no surprise. DVB-C2 can use QAM (from 16 to 256), and also can use COFDM and higher order QAM (all the way up to 65536 QAM).

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has agreed to sell 24 700 MHz spectrum licenses around Oregon and Washington to AT&T Mobility. We understand that he was approached to sell these before the UHF auction, but wanted to hold onto them to see if their value would go up. No financial terms were revealed, but AT&T is thought to have had too little spectrum in these areas to fully deploy LTE.

Parks Associates says that consumer electronics purchases were low in first half of 2009, but US consumers intentions are higher for the second half with PCs, flat-screen TVs and netbooks starting to generate consumer interest. Nearly half of US broadband households did not buy a CE product in the first half of 2009, said Parks. The most popular purchases in the first half of 2009 were desktops, laptops, and LCD flat-screen TVs.

Canadian IPTV supplier Espial showed off its Espial Mediabase, the VoD server that it inherited from Kasenna working with Intel Solid State Drives and the new Intel Xeon 5500 processor. This sounds a little like an off the shelf version of the Edgeware Flash based VoD servers which are proving so popular, both in IPTV and in over the top HTTP services. The two introduced a white paper which can be downloaded from its web site saying it dramatically reduces power consumption, and makes for a smaller equipment footprint.

I wouldn’t say there was a hail of protest, but one or two people emailed in to dispute the idea that HTTP across mobile was any kind of an issue, which was a thought we had picked up from Vidiator at IBC last week. The thrust of the argument seems to suggest that rather than the Apple streaming offerings being clumsy, they enable each client to compensate for network quality in real time and result in a stream with no stutters, re-buffers or audio corruption. They also point out that HTTP protocols can transparently traverse firewalls and broadband routers, and that any bottlenecks in the system can be handled by graceful degradation of stream quality rather than hard limits on devices and programs. There were a few other things, but they were effectively saying this is a trend, even on mobile, and it’s here to stay.

Talking of Apple it has come out with a price cut on the ailing 160GB version of Apple TV, cutting off $100 to bring it to $229, the same as the older 40GB version, which it has now discontinued. This price includes shipping. Apple TV connects a PC or a TV that’s connected to a PC, to Apple’s iTunes store. It allows users to purchase and play movies, TV shows and music. It could be a price clear out to make way for a new model that perhaps can stream content and not just use downloads.

A French company Directique has interviewed users after they witnessed DVB-H services and streaming 3G services and says that users rated both technologies as “perfect” for sound quality 89% of the time. For “perfect” image quality, DVB-H received this rating 85% of the time, while 3G+ received it only 72% of the time. DVB-H also had fewer failed connections, less waiting time and faster channel switching, even though this was 5.2 seconds versus 18.7 seconds.