Archives For Industry

One of the selling points for Amazon’s Kindle Fire is supposed to be its Silk browser with embedded web acceleration capabilities. However, new data suggests Amazon’s claims of a better browsing experience are overstated. Google employee Steve Souders tested the performance of Silk on the Fire and compared it to web browsing on other tablets. Souders can’t be considered an unbiased observer given Google’s own interest in web acceleration technologies, but his findings are still interesting. According to Souders (and reported by ReadWriteWeb), Safari on the iPad 2 loaded pages faster in most cases than Silk on the Kindle tablet did. The Galaxy Tab performed better than the Fire with three out of eleven pages tested.

Part of the issue with Silk is that it requires content to be routed through Amazon’s servers in order for the company to perform its acceleration magic. That’s great for content already hosted on Amazon’s cloud, but (as I understand it) it means an extra step for content originally hosted elsewhere. In addition, as one commenter points out on Souder’s post, websites that already use serious content delivery network services have maxed out acceleration potential at the network level and won’t see improvement on Amazon’s network. Despite public perception, the Amazon cloud can’t compete from a distribution perspective with the networks operated by the major global CDN players.

Souders does make clear that he expects Silk to continue to improve. He says Amazon hasn’t optimized everything yet on its acceleration platform, and certain obvious optimizations, like concatenating scripts, are likely to roll out in the near future. In the meantime, Kindle browsing appears to work better with Silk acceleration turned off than with Silk acceleration turned on. Keep that in mind if you plan to wrap up a Kindle Fire for someone this holiday season.

Time Warner Cable was the first operator to bring live TV to the iPad earlier this year (apart from Dish with its Sling solution), and now TWC has added an Android app to its arsenal. Multichannel News reports that TWC hit the Android market yesterday with an app that enables remote DVR programming, channel tuning, and filtered program searches. There’s just one catch. The Android app doesn’t include any video streaming. That’s right – no live or VOD content.

I got a glimpse of the new Time Warner app at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo earlier this month, and it looks pretty much like what you’d expect from a tablet-based TV guide today. However, the fact that there’s no video streaming is a big disappointment. Time Warner’s iPad app already confines live streaming to the boundaries of a subscriber’s home, but at least the service offers a simple in-house place-shifting option. The Android app’s limitations are more significant, and one has to wonder if they’re a result of the  legal battles Time Warner is currently fighting over streaming rights. Viacom took Time Warner Cable to court in March over its iPad app, and TWC pulled several channels from the service as a result. Negotiations and judicial debates are ongoing.

For those who are still interested, the new Time Warner Cable Android app is available to all subscribers running the “Navigator” program guide on their set-tops. The app has specifically been certified for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and the Motorola Xoom, but it’s designed to run on any Honeycomb tablet.

UPDATE: Richard Lawler points out that TWC says it will bring live streaming to Android with Ice Cream Sandwich. Stay tuned.

Microsoft Xbox Fios TV live streaming

Verizon has a press release out today detailing plans for the launch of its FiOS TV service on the Microsoft Xbox. The service is still listed as “coming soon,” but all reports suggest general availability will happen before the end of the year.

It’s worth noting again that the new Xbox content (Microsoft is also partnering with Comcast) isn’t representative of a major shift in TV distribution models. Users still have to be subscribers of FiOS TV and Internet service to get access to the new Xbox FiOS app. However, it does illustrate how the shift to IP delivery is slowly taking place. Verizon currently delivers its VOD service over IP to subscriber set-tops, but its live television streaming happens over a QAM-based system. Several cable operators have started to deliver linear TV over IP to mobile devices, but although it was one of the first MSOs to promote the idea, Verizon still only has VOD content available for mobile viewing. I believe the Xbox app marks the first live TV streaming over IP that Verizon has introduced. Continue Reading…

Everyone wants in on the EPG business. That’s one of the conclusions I took away from the SCTE Cable Tec-Expo event earlier this month. Even as CE manufacturers are pumping up the volume on connected devices with their own video interfaces, vendors in the cable TV world are pushing a range of solutions that tie the electronic program guide into larger content management systems for pay-TV operators. I talked about Rovi’s TotalGuide EPG a couple weeks back, and there’s Arris’ Moxi guide, but those two are far from the only players in this game. Here’s a sample of three other companies touting their own guide solutions.

Clearleap

Clearleap is perhaps better known in the world of Internet delivery than it is in the cable industry, but the company is rapidly carving out a niche among MSOs. Speaking with CTO John Carlucci at the SCTE event, I learned that Clearleap has a hosted, white-label guide on the market, and that it offers media services to help operators manage, encode and deliver video to connected devices. Clearleap’s solutions are strictly IP-based, but they’re already being used by Verizon for its VOD platform, and Carlucci says the company’s in trials with “four of the top five” operators for its media services. As for the guide specifically, Clearleap’s solution could be a compelling one for tier-2 and tier-3 operators. The service runs on a pay-as-you-go model, and Clearleap is rapidly adding advanced features. The company recently integrated with Great Lakes Data Systems (GLDS) to add options for a-la-carte transactions that are tied back to a subscriber’s monthly cable bill. (Think additional IP content purchases on top of the monthly subscription) Carlucci says social features are on the way. Orbitel, a small cableco out of Arizona, launched the Clearleap/GLDS solution in October to create a branded VOD experience on subscriber Roku boxes.

Motorola

Motorola showed up with a reference EPG back at the Cable Show in 2010, but that’s as far as the company had ventured into the guide world until this fall. Continue Reading…

Comcast Xfinity Barcelona Guide with AnyRoom DVR

Comcast has a new TV guide in the works, and it’s reportedly headed to Cisco set-tops this year and into 2012. Online personality cypherstream (who always seems to have the inside scoop at Comcast) pointed out a new web page yesterday on the Xfinity site. The page details features of the new guide, including the ability to control DVR place-shifting in the home, a feature Comcast calls AnyRoom DVR. After scouting out the page, I was able to confirm with my own source that the “Barcelona” guide is scheduled to roll out to Comcast subscribers with Cisco set-tops in the near future, followed by subscribers with Motorola set-tops at a later date.

Since Motorola set-tops are usually the first ones to get updates in Comcast land, I wondered briefly why the operator decided to switch things up this time around. But the answer seems obvious after a moment. Motorola set-tops got the update to the A28 guide in 2010, and Comcast started introducing AnyRoom DVR via the A28 guide last summer. In contrast, Cisco boxes have been stuck with the A25 guide for some time now, and no multi-room DVR service. The Barcelona guide brings Cisco boxes up to par, not only with AnyRoom DVR, but also with an HD interface, a filter for watching HD-only shows, and integrated search combining linear TV and VOD listings.

Of course, the Barcelona guide still doesn’t compare to the promise of the IP-based Xcalibur guide. But most of the country still has to wait a while for that one.