Just as Deutsche Telekom released its new Entertain TV service last week, it seemed sensible to talk to one of its major technology partners in Zenterio, a company that has found favor at DT, as the middleware and OS basis of its entire future TV operation, both inside and outside Germany.
We met Marco Frattolin, VP product Development Zenterio at TV Connect, and he was keen to tell us how Zenterio is not resting on its laurels, but is taking steps to shortcut tier 1 journey’s from traditional broadcasting, towards a multiscreen future.
For those who thought that Zenterio came out of nowhere, it is as well to remember that it was effectively the R&D arm of Nokia TV, which was cut lose when Nokia came under pressure to stick to what it knew best, and concentrate on becoming a phone business. We know how that went. Today Zenterio is a 200-person company headquartered in Sweden, with offices in the US.
It while the founders were at Nokia that they came up with the idea of Zenterio OS, which is the basis of its product wins to date. Zenterio OS sits in just 16 MB of cheap NOR flash memory inside a set top, and that includes all of its hardware drivers and a secure bootloader. It runs on its own distribution of Linux.
Why Linux we ask? Frattolin is immediately on the attack over Android. “Why would an operator use Android? We used to support Android Apps on our old OS, but operators really only want to invest in a handful, perhaps 5 or 6 Apps, and these are the ones that drive their ARPU. We do use an App store, the one from Metrological, but mostly we deal in just 5 or 6 key apps, plus YouTube and Netflix, which they want to integrate right into the set top. So operators do not need Google Play”
Frattolin wanted to talk about Jet UI, and two tools he calls Audience and Engage, neither or which are yet featured on the company’s website. Jet UI is built around an HTML 5.0 browser based on Access Netfront, with an applications framework built in the LUA scripting language. LUA is an a cross-platform language, portable because it is written in C, and used for embedding applications.
“TV operators need to develop interactive apps at a much faster pace than set-top box software releases. LUA is a lightweight scripting engine, offering access to the Zenterio OS API and enabling a rapid deployment cycle including on devices which cannot run a HTML 5.0 browser.”
The idea of Jet UI is to write a User Interface once and then deploy it on a variety of iOS and Android devices, but also on Linux set tops and potentially on older, already deployed set tops.
“Creating and maintaining the User Experience for a complete multiscreen TV
service is a big project,” said Frattolin. “There is a fragmentation issue, how do we handle increasing costs for market presence on all devices, operating systems and browsers? And how do we manage low-cost maintenance and support when platforms are constantly changing?”
In essence all the screens are driven by common code, each able to call
EPG, content and advertising from a single integration point. It also has a lot of reusable and customizable buttons and content lists to make UX building faster. Because it works with a generic backend, the system avoids vendor lock-in, says Zenterio, making your TV solution future proof and software independent. Frattolin claimed that it cuts UI development by around 50%.
The Audience and Engage products seem next on the company’s list with Audience described as a data capture and analytics tool which lets operators get to know their customers so they can source relevant content, and negotiate with likely viewing figures at hand. Engage is a way of creating new advertising real estate, opening up the full multiscreen to possibilities of interactive and targeted advertising in a native browser. We can’t speak to either of these systems, because Frattolin could not say if any of the company’s clients had requested them or planned to use them. Right now that customer list is entirely European, taking in Deutsche Telekom in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece, as well as satellite specialist M7 across Europe, who also owns Kabel Kiosk in Germany.
But we also know that Zenterio is also on the verge of introducing recommendation services. Initially it integrated with Viaccess Orca’s Compass and RightTV in its Telecom Romania implementation which was supposed to provide the roadmap for the almost 4 million Deutsche Telkom pay TV installations, outside of Germany.
We now know that this roadmap has been prematurely halted by Deutsche Telekom, and although Zenterio OS is being deployed across all Deutsche Telekom, Viaccess-Orca has been told that it has no role in those other deployments, so what happens at these has become a bit of a mystery.
We do know that an integration with the Xroadmedia recommendation system is underway, Frattolin told us, “We don’t have any joint customers with Xroadmedia yet, however its content discovery and recommendation solution is pre-integrated with our Jet UI, the multiscreen UI framework for which we now have 1 field trial ongoing and 2-3 customers in the very final phase of the discussion (one in Europe, one in Mexico, and another which is an international system integrator). It was Jet UI that was integrated with the Viaccess-Orca compass system.
Whether that means Deutsche Telekom has ordered the integration is hard to know, especially given how vocally some internal voices at Deutsche Telekom have been in praise of that Romania Telekom installation, which deployed in 5 months and proved to be very popular with customers.
Like any other OTT and IPTV provider, Zenterio is expanding sideways into neighboring markets, sensing that once operators come to rely on one part of your system, they come back to you for more.