- New exciting form factors enabled by ultra-low power silicon originally developed for the Smartphone
- Open application development platforms
- “Pay-TV” readiness
We partnered with 4 key operators around the world, Cox Cable (USA), Orange (France), BesTV (China) and Sky (UK) to validate their HTML5 based RUIs running on the Cotton Candy microcomputer.
For as long as we have had pay-TV in our homes, the Set-Top Box – called such because it used to sit on top of the large console TV sets – has kept its distinct rectangular shape. Certainly devices like AppleTV, Boxee and Roku box have had distinct form factors, but then again these are designed mostly for Over-the-top (OTT) of the internet services. This is all about to change with the advent of “headless gateways”, devices which terminate operator Wide Area Network (WAN) interface into the home and are tucked in the back closest turning those proprietary cable signals into a home network based on WiFi. This will enable operators to use IP (in many cases Wi-Fi enabled) devices in the home as pay-TV endpoints, and combined with ARM’s ultra-low power high performance CPU and GPU cores, new form factor devices like FXI cotton candy USB-HDMI stick will emerge. These sticks, about the size of a pack of gum, are poised well to replace the traditional STB form factor.
For better or worse, it has historically been the case that the User Interface of STBs has not been something that most consumers have been excited about. This has started to change recently with the advent of products like Comcast’s Excalibur service and Liberty Global’s Horizon which provide rich user interfaces, making the discovery of premium content easier through features such as search and recommendations. The evolution of this trend will further improve the service from operators by offering a rich application platform on top of which to offer services. In China especially, we are already seeing Android taking off as an application platform for TVs and STBs. In Europe and the US there seems to be a lot of interest around using HTML5 DLNA Consumer Video standards for both RUI and applications. As we have seen from industry initiatives such as FireFox OS on phones and Chrome OS on notebooks, using the browser as a platform is not an entirely new concept. The evolution of standards within W3C such as inclusion of <video> and WebVTT are enabling the HTML5 platform to have the necessary hooks to make them suitable as pay-TV endpoints, which matter to operators.
Finally I want to emphasize the concept of Pay-TV “readiness”. We have seen over the years a number of STB technologies which make compelling demos but never make it to deployment on operator networks. One of the major reasons is because technology, while a very key aspect of delivery, is only part of the solution. Operators have a unique challenge in that they not only have to deliver compelling services, but have to in a way that does not generate additional customer care calls or the dreaded “truck roll”, which can easily turn a nice profitable services into the red. On top of this, operators need to comply to regularity and legal obligations as well. Fortunately the overwhelming response from the operator community on this project has given the team some specific items to go and work on to make it “pay-tv ready”.
Some of the key items involve bringing ARM TrustZone® technology to bear to provide a hardware root of trust for content protection, providing the latest in WiFi technology for seamless in-home video distribution, and implementation of simple Pay-TV centric features as Closed Captioning and SAP all on a robust, highly performant, low-power platform based on the latest ARM Cortex CPUs & Mali GPUs.
Here is a video from our announcement, filmed from the audience:
Karthik Ranjan, Senior Strategic Partner Manager, ARM, has spent the last 13 years in the consumer electronics industry with companies such as Intel, Microsoft, and Amino. Recently Karthik joined the ARM team and is responsible for managing ARMs relationship with Mobile and Pay-TV Operators in N. America. Karthik is an individual who can best be described as an “Early Adopter” of new technology, be it MID, Tablet, or even the Smartpen. Since Karthik has joined ARM he has been a kid in the candy store drooling over all the smart mobile devices which are ARM powered.
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