Monday, June 22, 2009
Macrovision has transformed the company to be a leader in enabling the rapid adoption of digital entertainment. They have accomplished this by a series of strategic acquisitions, divestitures and continued innovation of our product portfolio, and as a result, the company is dramatically different then it was just a year ago.
As Rovi, they will unite their technology and people under one shared identity that speaks to who they have become and how they will drive our strategy moving forward as a technology leader that powers the discovery and enjoyment of digital entertainment.
For more information, read this press release.
Friday, June 19, 2009
CONNECTIONS™ Europe announces call for papers to address new challenges, opportunities in changing product and service landscape
“There will be over 180 million households in Western Europe subscribing to TV services in 2013,” said Kurt Scherf, vice president, principal analyst, Parks Associates. “These consumers will drive demand for advanced entertainment products and services, including DVRs, VOD services, and advanced set-tops. There will also be considerable competition for these consumers. CONNECTIONS™ Europe will address these challenges and examine the right business plans necessary for companies to succeed in this changing service environment.”
CONNECTIONS™ Europe is accepting speaker submissions within five main topic categories.Adding Value to Access Services examines the impact of broadband value-added services and the role and design of connected CE enabling these services.
Digital Home Tech Services examines consumer demand and new revenue opportunities for installation, troubleshooting, and service plans.
Residential Gateways – Devices Enabling New Services examines hardware requirements and service opportunities as these devices enable enhanced bundled services and home connectivity applications.
Video Devices & Entertainment Platforms examines the new roles and functions for the television, the set-top, the game console, the PC, portable devices, and mobile phones as well as the software enabling these technologies.
Television, Digital Media Services, & Advanced Video examines next-generation entertainment applications and “go-to-TV” services and products.
CONNECTIONS™ Global Sponsors include HD-PLC Alliance, DSC, Macrovision, MoCA, Radialpoint, ActiveVideo Networks, Affinegy, Icron, Irdeto, NXP, ProVision Communications, Telcordia, and Zilog. CONNECTIONS™ Europe Advisory Sponsor is Eyecon Technologies. Visit http://www.connectionseurope.com for sponsorship information or to submit a speaking proposal. Deadline for submission is August 15, 2009.
For the full press release, click here.
The Scientific Council operates under the authority of Vince Pizzica, Head of Thomson Strategy, Technology and Marketing. Its members have been selected among the top experts worldwide in Thomson’s areas of excellence:
>> Internet security: Vern Paxson, Associate Professor of Computer Science, University of California, Berkeley
>> Content coding and compression: Bernd Girod, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University
>> Internet architecture: Jim Kurose, Professor of Computer Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
>> Internet applications and content search: Serge Abiteboul, Senior researcher, Institut National de la Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique (INRIA)
>> Security: David Naccache, Senior researcher, Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) and Professor of Computer Science, University of Paris II Pantheon-Assas
>> Content production: Jim Mainard, Head of Production Development, DreamWorks Animation
This initiative marks a new phase in Thomson’s recent refocus on key Media & Entertainment industry technologies through three strategic research programs: Intelligent Media, Media Production and Media Distribution.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Companies participating at the event as speakers, sponsors, or attendees include:
8 Alarm Marketing
Actiontec Electronics, Inc.
Alcatel-Lucent, Motive Product Division
Allegro Software Development Corporation
AMIMON & WHDI
AnySource Media, LLC
AT&T Mobility & Consumer Markets
Averlogic Tecnologies Inc,
Bay Area News
Broadcast Engineering Mobile TV Update, Santa Clara Weekly
Caregiver Omnimedia Inc
Carlson & Co Public Relations
CE Interactive, Inc.
Chip Design Magazine
Communications Magazine/Grandsoft Information Inc.
Compliance Department News
Consumer Electronics Daily
Converge! Network Digest
c't magazin/Heise Zeitschriften Verlag
Deutsche Telekom USA
Digital Security Controls
Digital Software Magazine
Digital Video & Multimedia News
Docomo Labs USA
Eyecon Technologies, Inc.
France Telecom North America
Fraunhofer USA Digital Media Technologies
Fujitsu Microelectroncis America
Global 3C Newsletters/Topology
Home Theater Magazine
Icron Technologies Corporation
IDG News Service
I'm in Control
Indus Tech Reports
Las Vegas Woman Magazine
Lawrence Berkeley National Labs
Multimedia Research Group
NetShelter Technology Media
NTT DATA AgileNet LLC
NTT MCL, Inc.
Ogilvy PR (on behalf of Intel)
Pacific Vision Partners
Panasonic Communications Liaison Office America
Panasonic Electric Works Laboratory of America
Panasonic Electronic Devices Applications Center of America
Panasonic Strategic R&D Planning Office
Panasonic Venture Group
Paramount Digital Entertainment
Pie Digital, Inc.
Pond Venture Partners Ltd.
Premier Technical Sales Inc.
Residential Systems Magazine
Rich Green, Ink
Semantic Seed Blog, BlackWeb 2.0, Appfrica Blog
Silicon Image, Inc.
Silicon Valley Journal
Sony Pictures Entertainment
Southern Cross Venture Partners
Stage Two Consulting
Streaming Media Magazine
Telcordia Technologies, Inc.
Tellus Venture Associates
The French News Agency
The Sunnyvale Sun
The Viodi View
U.S. Department of Energy
Valens Semiconductor Ltd.
Ventures Tech. Watch
Via Licensing Corporation
Z-Wave Alliance / Sigma Designs
Z-Wave North America
- "The analyst likes so-and-so better than such-and-such!"
- "He like so-and-so, but he doesn't "like-her/like-her!"
- "The analyst took sides with so-and-so and says that such-and-such is [enter in derogatory statement here]!"
I've accepted that this comes with the territory. In the end, what I'm trying to do when I write a report, an article, or lead a moderated discussion among highly competitive players vying for pieces of the same pie is to put myself in the shoes of a home network vendor, a consumer electronics manufacturer, or a service provider and do my best to evaluate technology solutions as consistently as possible. This means that I get to ask a lot of "dumb" questions - often multiple times, and often over a multiple period of briefings over multiple years to the same companies.
To the home networking companies that have endured the questions and shared your perspective, thanks!
The stakes for next-generation wireless networking solutions are really high these days, as silicon companies target the embedded market well beyond the router, access point, and notebook computer space. Our recently-completed Home Networks for Consumer Electronics report forecasts that worldwide sales/shipments of network-connected (and in most cases Web-enabled) consumer electronics products will double between 2009 and 2010. That's a chipset opportunity well north of 100 million units in 2013, so it's no insignificant market. If you add in embedded home networking in devices like residential gateways, home computers, and pay TV set-top boxes, you're adding at least another 50-60 million units each year during the forecast period. So, the pressure is on, and with a reported $300 million in funding having gone into next-generation wireless chipset companies over years, folks want to make sure that they make the right calls.
We had a really great wireless networking panel at our CONNECTIONS™ Summit at CES in January (where panelists from AMIMON, Celeno, ProVision, TZero Technologies, and WirelessHD spoke), and the feedback was positive in terms of the information that was covered. TWICE provided an excellent summary of the panel. As we started planning for CONNECTIONS in June, we decided that it would be well worth it to bring some of the main players in next-generation wireless networking back for a reprise. Besides, I had plenty of dumb questions left to ask! So, we asked six companies to participate on a panel discussion titled Wireless Networking & Video Consumption in the Home.
First, I want to thank the participants - Vijay Desai from Aceurity, Noam Geri from AMIMON, Lior Weiss from Celeno, Ian Walsh from Provision Communications, Andrea Goldsmith from Quantenna Communications, and Sheung Li from SIBEAM - for competing with food and beverages in the Showcase Theater, and generating a lively debate about the respective merits of their solutions! Who knew that one simple question would lead us down the 75-minute road we took?
Several of our panelists have agreed to answer some follow-up questions, so I've captured their responses. My hope is to get some additional perspective from all of the panelists.
Who's Gonna "Win" in Wireless?
To set the stage, the looming question that I think is out there is "Can any wireless solution successfully unseat Wi-Fi® as the wireless choice for delivering high-quality video streams in either one room or multiple rooms of the house?" A lot of folks look at the hype and the eventual downfall of UWB solutions as a cautionary tale to those who want to work outside the boundaries of Wi-Fi to deliver high-performance. They argue that Wi-Fi's performance-to-price ratio is more than adequate for most connected CE use cases.
Wi-Fi's clear success to date has been on the enterprise and consumer router side of the business, but its CE business is no slouch. Both stationary (gaming consoles, digital televisions, set-top boxes, and printers) and mobile/portable (handheld games, cameras, and portable music players) consumer electronics rather than PCs provided the fastest growth for Wi-Fi chipsets in 2008, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance. Among the more than 4,000 Wi-Fi certified products, consumer electronics products – and those particularly aimed at entertainment – represent a very low percentage of the total (less than ten percent), but are a growing percentage of annual shipments, according to the Alliance.
But is Wi-Fi (and specifically 802.11n) sufficient for the needs of consumer electronics manufacturers and service providers that are seeking to facilitate the movement of several high-definition streams of content around the home? Upstarts like AMIMON and SiBEAM developed their own solutions to address this issue, and they've had some success. Noam Geri at AMIMON reminds me that they sold more than 100,000 chipsets in 2008, and their customers include:
- Hisense wireless HDTVs.
- SONY shipped TVs in Europe and in Japan embedded with AMIMON’s chipset, including the world’s thinnest LCD TV – The SONY ZX1 which does not have any connectors on the thin panel – only wireless.
- In the U.S., SONY is shipping the SONY BRAVIA Wireless link based on AMIMON’s technology. This is a wireless video accessory for BRAVIA TVs (you can get it on Amazon.com).
- Sharp is selling a wireless kit based on AMIMON chipset in Japan, and Mitsubishi is selling a wireless TV with embedded AMIMON chipset.
- In the U.S., Gefen is selling dongles based on AMIMON’s chipset, and most recently Philips announced a wireless dongle based on AMIMON.
- There are also customers in the professional and Medical spec like Stryker and IDX (professional wireless HD camera system).
On the SiBEAM side, products include:
- Panasonic Z1 Series - NeoPDP HDTV;
- Toshiba REGZA LINK;
- LG LHX and LH85 LCD TVs; and
- GefenTV Wireless for HDMI 60Ghz Extender
At the same time, companies like Celeno and ProVision have their own design wins. Celeno's announced customers include a Cavium Networks reference design; Comtrend Wireless Video Adapters for distribution of multiple HD IPTV content from any Ethernet-equipped home gateway or DVR to IP set top boxes; and SerComm Corp. IP902CL, a Wireless HD IPTV networking solution.
ProVision's announced customers include the AXAR Media AXAR 1000, a Sender and Receiver kit that enables HD video, from set-top boxes, DVRs or Blu-ray players, to be securely distributed over Wi-Fi.
The Compressed/Uncompressed Debate
During the panel, SiBEAM's Sheung Li was ... how shall we put this ... forceful ... in his argument that a 60 GHz uncompressed solution was the only way to provide consumer electronics manufacturers and content owners with assurances that the quality of their 1080p high-def video wouldn't be compromised. We had just started digging into this subject during the CES panel, so I wanted to better understand the sentiments of the other companies in this regard.
Lior Weiss, Celeno: Indicates that H.264 encoding is sufficient for what he calls "perceived lossless compression," where the human mind cannot distinguish the video quality of an uncompressed versus a compressed stream. He notes that encoding companies and video experts have indicated that a solution that facilitiates the distribution of 720p60 quality video at 12 Mbps or 1080p60 at 30Mbps can be considered "lossless" according to the companies with whom he's speaking. He gives credit to the 60 GHz solution providers for developing a true uncompressed solution, but questions the robustness of the 60 GHz link to provide a consistent high-quality experience. Weiss notes that an examination of the quality of the radio link is a critical factor in evaluating a solution's effectiveness, noting that compression that is otherwise not detectable by the human eye allows for a solution that can operate at a lower bitrate and enjoy higher robustness overall.
Noam Geri, AMIMON: Noam appears to agree with Lior in the sense that the design of the radio link itself is a critical factor in determining the type of quality of experience a wireless networking solution can deliver.
"Trying to deliver all the information in a brute-force approach will actually result in very poor quality because when the channel degrades the link will break and picture will be lost, and even occasional breaks in the link are very annoying," he notes. "A better approach is to design a solution that is tolerant to errors and loss due to degradation in channel conditions."
I asked our panelists to provide some perspective on the costs for implementing their solutions, and received some interesting responses.
Lior Weiss, Celeno: The Celeno solution is based on a Transmitter chipset (i.e. Access Point) and a Receiver chipset (i.e. client). The uniqueness of the Celeno technology (vs. other Wi-Fi solutions) that our powerful “sauce” can yield HD performance even if the receiver chipset is not Celeno’s. That helps us with the price curve of the solution.
Weiss notes that the Celeno solution is receiver-agnostics, so as long as the transmitter used their solution, then connected CE devices could use other Wi-Fi chipsets. The transmitter side could be an over-the-top STB bundled with the TV, it could be a Tuner in case of a “two-piece” TV model, etc.
"On the transmitter side, Weiss notes,"the Celeno chip has about 25% premium over plain-vanilla Wi-Fi. “By working on the client side with Wi-Fi price leaders we achieve end to end attractive price points, especially when multiple clients are involved." Weiss notes, however, that this wouldn't preclude Celeno from working with other Wi-Fi chipset vendors. "In fact, he notes, "keeping open architecture is a great advantage and is perceived well with the tier 1 OEM’s."
For example, a big TV manufacturer who is bundling USB Wi-Fi adaptors on the TV side with Media server device for DVR functionality complained about the performance and the reach of the solution between rooms for video streaming. After plunking in a Celeno CL1300 into the Media server side (and still with the same USB Wi-Fi adaptor) performance was improved dramatically and became a true multi-room solution. Lastly, The Celeno solution is standard Wi-Fi based. We are interoperating with other 802.11n chipsets. I would call it a 'novel' implementation of Wi-Fi."
Noam Geri, AMIMON: WHDI uses 5GHz, OFDM, MIMO – basically 80% of the WHDI solution is similar to 802.11n so the inherent costs of WHDI is about the same as 802.11n. Current offering of WHDI is more expensive than wi-fi, because of the volumes and the many cost reduction iterations that wi-fi underwent. Overtime WHDI should converge to the same price-points of wi-fi since it has similar complexity and uses the same RF technology.
It is worth noting that WHDI and Wi-Fi have different functionality so this is not an apples-to-apples comparison. WHDI can deliver uncompressed video and wi-fi chipset can deliver IP data (or compressed video). In order to build a solution based on wi-fi to deliver raw video, one would need to add a real time compression engine (e.g H.264 encoder). The compression engine not only degrades quality and adds latency, but also adds complexity and costs, so a solution to deliver uncompressed video based on wi-fi is actually be more expensive than WHDI.
In fact, the synergies between 802.11 and WHDI will lead within 2-3 years to single chip solutions that implement both WHDI and 802.11. Many systems need both. For example: a TV will need WHDI to connect to all the video sources in the home and 802.11 to connect to the Internet. With a single chip device the TV will get both for the price of one.
A good deal of the analysis that focus on the wireless space target price and power as two major constraints to growth. I wanted to ask our panelists their take on the power consumption/output issues, with a specific eye on any potential regulatory concerns or the use of their solutions on more power-sensitive consumer electronics devices, such as mobile phones or portable multimedia players.
Lior Weiss, Celeno: We are fully compliant to ETSI and FCC regulations for 5GHZ radio transmission as far as power output, DFS, etc. No issue there. We are using standard power amplifier , the same as any other WiFi chipsets and transmit as per the regulated output power in the specific radio channel. Our OEM and ODM partners certify their Celeno based devices per ETSI and FCC regulations.
Noam Geri, AMIMON: WHDI is very suitable for portable applications. Current implementations of WHDI can be as lower than 2W which makes WHDI suitable for notebook computers. Granted, this is still too high for ultra-portable devices, but we can expect future versions of WHDI to enable modes of less than 1W enabling applications such as wireless portable gaming consoles and even WHDI in cell phones. This is one of the major advantages of using the 5GHz band as opposed to 60GHz which requires much higher output power levels because of the poor propagation qualities of the wireless channel.
The Fit for Wi-Fi
I received some input from Vijay Desai, the founder and CEO of ACEurity, regarding how Wi-Fi may be best positioned to support very high-quality video distribution for the home. Desai says that the use of so-called "4x4" MIMO configurations will increase coverage range and throughput. 4x4 MIMO configurations rely on four transmitting antennas and four receiving antennas that allow for four "spacial streams." Desai says that a focus on low latency will place emphasis on such enhancements as dynamic bandwidth adaption, recovery mechanisms for packet loss, and H.264 compression.
ACEurity's solution, Desai notes, is a HDQ™ (HD-ViMAC/XCoder), capable of handling real-time video at 4.5 Gbps and adapting bandwidth between 10 and 130 Mbps, even with 3 x 3 Spatial Multiplex MIMO configuration. This solution, he notes, is very resilient, capable of of withstanding greater than 50% packet loss in transit and rendering "visually losless" video with an extremly low latency (approximately one millisecond).
Desai also provided some helpful information in terms of the bill of material cost expectations for consumer electronics vendors considering a high-quality wireless video solution. He says that the desired pricing for a two-pair dongle would be $149, but with a clear path to $99. This means that the cost for the wireless solution itself should be no more than $20-$25, which he believes is achievable with volume production in 2010.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Case in point? Let's look at U.S. revenue estimates for 2008 for all online video (including that consumed at the Xbox)? A little over $1B. These estimates are from Internet Video: Direct-to-Consumer Services (Second Edition).
Now, 2008 revenues for digital home tech support services - including home computer and home network set-up and troubleshooting? For U.S. households, that figure comes in at $3.2B! This estimate is from our recently-completed report Digital Home Tech Support: Analysis and Forecasts.
Remote technical support is a very dynamic side of the home IT tech support business, and our recently-completed study Customer Support in the Digital Home finds that 3-4 million U.S. broadband households used remote technical support services in 2008, and reports growing interest in having their home computers and home networking remotely diagnosed and troubleshooted with remote experts. The interest in remote tech support services was notable, particularly compared to findings from our 2006 study Managing the Digital Home: Installation and Support Services. The message we're getting from consumers is "Fix my home technical problems as quickly and conveniently as possible, and I'll pay for it!" Indeed, our revenue forecasts for the entire home technical support market indicate that remote technical support services will account for a growing share of revenues - more than 40% by year-end 2013.
There are some exciting things occuring for consumer-facing IT support services, and in allowing service providers to reduce customer support costs and create new revenue-generating services wrapped around support. So, CONNECTIONS™ was an ideal venue to showcase sponsors (Alcatel-Lucent, Affinegy, BluePhone, Cisco, PlumChoice, Radialpoint, Retrevo, SingleClick Systems, Support.com, and Telcordia) and feature several panels that dive into tech support and customer support issues. Our panels included:
- Driving the Next Dollar: The Role of VAS (with panelists from Affinegy, Calix, Radialpoint, SupportSoft, and Synacor);
- Service Provider Home Networking Strategies: RGs and Services (with panelists from 2Wire, Alcatel-Lucent, Jungo, Motorola, and PUCC);
- Truth in Networking (with panelists from Actiontec, Best Buy, D-Link, and NETGEAR);
- Remote Technical Support (with panelists from BluePhone, CrossLoop, PlumChoice, Support.com, and Telcordia); and
- Building the Holistic Support Environment (with panelists from Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, and Retrevo).
I enjoyed the Building the Holistic Support Environment as the penultimate session for CONNECTIONS 2009, as it gave us the opportunity to explore the "what's next" area of enhancements to customer support services. As with some of the other panels, I've asked our participants if they would be willing to answer some follow-up questions. Ben Geller, Senior Director of Marketing, Motive Product Group, Alcatel-Lucent, was kind enough to take some time to respond to a virtual interview. Here's the transcript:
Parks Associates: We've described a holistic customer support experience in which one or several entities extends the “break/fix” or troubleshooting relationship with a customer to additional services that could include 1) new product or service recommendations; and 2) the use of analytics to best match consumers with products or services that best suit their needs. How does Alcatel-Lucent describe its role in creating more holistic support between service providers and customers?
Ben Geller: Alcatel-Lucent offers a unique portfolio of digital life management solutions marketed under the Motive brand. These solutions will make it easier for service providers to offer, activate, support and manage a wide range of high-speed internet, VoIP, video, mobile and converged services. Motive digital life management technology gives service providers the tools they need to help customers set up and manage the services and devices that power their digital life while delivering a positive, consistent experience at home or on-the-go throughout the entire service lifecycle.
Parks Associates: What would you say are the key elements of what Alcatel-Lucent is offering its customers in the holistic support space? How would you classify your offerings?
Ben Geller: Key Elements of offerings from ALU’s Motive Product Division are:
- The ability to go beyond basic network management and device management and provide a 360° view and extended management control across the elements of the entire service delivery ecosystem (customer premises, back office, network and partner domain).
- Easy to use, intuitive self-service tools for consumers that leverage multiple contact channels – Portal, email, chat, IVR, and desktop client.
- Easy-to-use tools for the help, designed to guide frontline call center agents through the problem triage, trouble shooting and resolution process.
- Support for converged services via real-time visibility and control over fixed-line and mobile services and devices, deliver help desk a single UI that consolidates management visibility and control over fixed and mobile services and devices.
- Multi-platform and multi-protocol support; support for a wide range of mobile platforms and PC operating systems and support for TR-069, OMA-DM, OMA-DS, UPnP, and proprietary protocols.
Ben Geller: First, we are advising providers to look beyond device management and evolve toward true service management. Therefore part of our messaging and approach is based on helping providers leverage their current investments in device management, OSS/BSS, NMS and EMS systems. Currently, these systems offer providers “stove pipe or functional” views into their customers experience. There are management solutions within our portfolio (Motive ServiceView) that use critical information from these functional systems to deliver providers a real-time perspective of the customers service experience. These mean that help desk personnel do not have to swivel chair across multiple systems in an attempt to isolate a problem or determine root cause (which make the customer service experience better, faster and more effective) and providers can get more out of their existing service delivery and management investments.
Parks Associates: What is Alcatel-Lucent able to show its customers in terms of the return on investment?
Ben Geller: The Motive Product Division conducts regular quarterly business reviews with customers for the sole purpose of evaluating actual results against expected results. These review offer both Motive and the service provider an opportunity to understand what’s working right and where possible course corrections are needed.
Parks Associates: Let's talk some specific data, which you've shared with us in the past. In the broadband service provider business, new service and product rollouts (like home networking) have tended to generate a big increase in support calls. Can you share some success stories in helping service providers reduce them?
Ben Geller: Our customers tell us time and time again that creating an easy, consistent, and personalized experience across service and devices throughout the purchase, installation, maintenance, and support phases of the customer service lifecycle is a key factor with respect to lowering support costs and ensuring customer satisfaction. In the context of service installation, Motive self-activation tools help providers increase their first-time install success rates. [Geller's specific examples include the following:]
- One of our customers measured improvement in this area by realizing an increase in first-time install rate success from just under 60% to over 98%, while reducing ‘first-30 day’ supports call by 75%.
- In the context of customer technical support, our customers tell us that subscribers who use Motive self-service technology to troubleshoot and resolve issues are five times less likely to call for help when compared to subscribers that do not use self help.
- Finally, in the context of home device management we’ve helped service providers drive substantial cost savings via the ability to remotely manage and proactively push out device updates.
We heard of several instances when a provider has learned about a firmware flaw in a device that needed to be resolved immediately due to security or service instability concerns. In the past, the way to address this problem would be to replace the flawed modems. Correcting a problem of this magnitude would require a substantial investment in additional modems, shipping, managing the support calls, and loss of revenue due to service outages while the recall took place. From a customer satisfaction standpoint, most providers feel that addressing this type of support issue with a recall would further erode customer confidence and would negate any gains made in providing a seamless customer service experience.
Using Motive solutions providers are able to correct the issue without requiring subscriber interaction, technician visits and costly device swaps saving them millions of dollars. These results are indicative of the benefits being realized by the more than 100 service provides around the world who are using Motive service management solution.Parks Associates: What tools do you see as critical in building a more holistic support environment? Beyond TR-069, what is needed?
Ben Geller: When it comes to device management specifically, having management technologies that support industry standards is certainly an important part of developing and executing delivery of a holistic support environment. However, standards can’t often keep pace with real-time requirements from the field. In the event device management standards do not go far enough, it is important to have the ability quickly extend management technology to leverage proprietary or custom functions exposed by CPE manufacturers. That’s why the Motive Product Division continues to remain vendor agnostic. We maintain interoperability relationships with over 70 of the world’s leading CPE and handset manufactures and have a proven track record of delivering custom device management functions in the absence of industry standards.
Parks Associates: Beyond broadband and home network management, what other things/services can be managed?
Ben Geller: That’s a pretty open ended question but I’ll offer a few perspectives. First, we think the future of broadband is mobile. Second, we also see providers (fixed and mobile) looking for new ways to work with 3rd party application and content providers to offer new services. Therefore, it is increasing more important to extend robust service management capabilities into the wireless world (for mobile operators) and extend management visibility and control deeper into the partner domain. Simply being able to manage a device (home of mobile) is not enough. Our service management capabilities are currently evolving from the ability to manage to the last ten feet of the last mile to managing the entire service delivery ecosystem. Solutions such as Motive ServiceView help providers get a real-time, accurate view of their customers service experience (beyond the home or devices they carry around in their hand) and subsequently offers the ability to automate corrective actions across the service delivery ecosystem when appropriate.
- The Marriage of Online Video to CE (with panelists from Cisco Systems, Qualcomm, TiVo, and YouTube);
- Connected TV Strategies (with panelists from AnySource Media, IBM, VIZIO, and Yahoo!
- The Future of the Set-top Box (with panelists from Exceptional Innovation, Irdeto, Microsoft, NDS, and NXP Semiconductors);
- WebTV: Extreme TV Makeover? (with panelists from ActiveVideo Networks, Boxee, Cisco Systems, Intel, and Paramount Digital Entertainment); and
- Bringing “Cloud Media” to Consumer Electronics Devices (with panelists from Accedo Broadband, Allegro Software Development Corp., Clearleap, Eyecon Technologies Inc., and Syabas).
In The Marriage of Online Video to CE, we unfortunately ran short of time, and we had a number of really interesting questions queued up for our speakers. So, I'm following up with them to get some additional perspective on what they're seeing in the connected CE space.
Ken Wirt, Cisco Systems' Vice President Consumer Marketing, was kind enough to respond to some questions. Here's a transcript of the Q&A:
Parks Associates: As Cisco looks at marrying online content to a variety of consumer electronics devices, what are the main tenets of your solution? Can you describe the work that Cisco has done/is doing to deliver these kind of content experiences to a growing number of devices?
Ken Wirt: Cisco sees the consumer market growing thru three phases:
- Connected Home — This phase is nearing maturity. In this phase people get wireless routers in order to connect one (or several) computers to the Internet.
- Media-Enabled Home — We’re in the early stages of this phase. This is about having multiple connected devices in the home and wanting to move media around among the devices and access the media from outside the home. Examples would be viewing photos stored on a computer on the TV, or viewing video on a PC, or streaming music to your mobile phone.
- Visual Networking — This phase is on the (not too) distant horizon. In this phase there’s a combination of the social networking connections with video. Video is a huge step up from the text we use today because of the immediacy and the ability to communicate emotions (a real smile vs. an emoticon). An example of this type of product is consumer telepresence.
What Cisco is doing is becoming what we view as a new kind of CE company — where CE no longer stands for “consumer electronics,” but “consumer experience.” Historically, CE has been about silo’d devices which don’t interact with each other. What differentiates “consumer experience” is that it’s about the triumvirate of device+software+cloud services. A good example is Flip Video. While most people look at this as the device, it’s also the FlipShare software that runs on your computer that lets you edit and share the video, and FlipShare.com that provides a private “channel” for others (example family members) to stream your videos that are stored in the cloud.
Parks Associates: What work is Cisco doing to ensure a good quality video experience on the consumer electronics device? Does Cisco do any work in the backend to groom video for optimal viewing?
Ken Wirt: Cisco has a variety of technologies within the network that we refer to collectively as medianet. These technologies optimize the experience of all media (but especially video) for the capabilities of the network (bandwidth, traffic), the nature of the content (resolution, media type, etc.) as well as the endpoint (screen resolution, speed of connectivity, buffer size, etc). Within the home network, we also support technologies like VQE (video quality of experience). Finally, we are offering no cost licenses to our HNAP protocol that helps consumer electronics devices connect to the network, tell the network about their capabilities, and provide network administration for managed services.
Parks Associates: Will Cisco implement one solution for delivering Web content (or Web-like content) for both set-top boxes (Scientific-Atlanta) and retail-based products (like a connected TV)? Is Cisco's goal to develop a one-size-fits-all kind of solution for everyone?
Ken Wirt: Cisco already offers a solution that can work with STB’s, PC’s, mobile devices, and CE devices — it’s our combination of our MXE and CDS products. MXE can reformat any type of video for a desired frame rate and resolution – this let’s it adjust to different types of devices and bandwidth. The CDS can then distribute that content to different types of devices as well as insert ads.
Parks Associates: What kind of efforts is Cisco putting forth to help content owners, service providers, and CE vendors make money off the content? I would imagine that Eos is part of this, but what kind of advertising work is Cisco doing?
Ken Wirt: Cisco is working closely with all of these groups. Cisco works with content owners through its Eos service platform that combines social networking capabilities with short-form video distribution to create a network of content sites for media companies that will let them better manage the sites and better know their customers. This reduces costs and through targeted advertising, better monetizes those sites. Cisco works with service providers to both improve the quality of their networks, and through managed services to reduce costs and increase revenue. And finally, we are helping CE vendors to develop more connected products by offering no-cost licenses to the HNAP protocol (see above).
Monday, June 15, 2009
Individual video interviews available:
Allegro Software Development
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Thanks again to Ken and Roger for helping us capture this event on video!
When I was introduced to the Icron solution last September, I was intrigued by the solution that can basically extend a home computer desktop onto a high-definition TV using different types of standard networking solutions (be they Ethernet, “no-new-wires,” or wireless). I think that there’s good potential for products that allow consumers to access Web content on their TVs without going through devices like the digital media adapter or expensive solutions that don’t seem to work quite right.
Brian Donnelly, Icron’s vice president of sales and marketing, who walked me through a demonstration at CONNECTIONS last week, followed up on that article with some notes he wanted to clarify. Brian notes that Icron would be complementary to Valens or Synerchip, as their customers might implement Icron’s solution for whole-home video+USB-type of extensions. He also notes that Icron uses other company’s video chipsets (uncompressed and H.264 encoders/decoders) as part of their solution. So, they’re not looking to create a new video compression chip, but rather work with the solutions that are out there already and add remote USB functionality to enable a true PC on TV experience.
Icron’s “special sauce” – in wonky parlance – they multiplex all the data channels together (video, audio, USB) and perform various QoS and flow control optimizations as well as overall system optimization – this means that Icron has figured out how to ensure priority of the different data types so that your keyboard and mouse (and other USB I/O devices) are immediately recognized and processed as well as ensuring that video/audio are delivered in a very high quality format.
Brian says that products using the Icron PC-on-TV solution will be available in Q1 of 2010. I’ll look forward to seeing how the solution gets implemented.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Glenn Lurie, President of Emerging Devices and Resale, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, delivered the opening keynote “Embedding Wireless in Consumer Electronics” on June 2. In the following session, executives from Qualcomm, TiVo, YouTube, and Cisco addressed efforts from CE companies and content providers to deliver new video experiences to end users. PlumChoice hosted the evening networking reception.
Tricia Parks, CEO, Parks Associates, and Retrevo’s CEO Vipin Jain opened the conference on June 3 with “Navigating the Changing CE Purchase Process.” The presentation offered insight into 2008 CE purchase patterns, which showed consumers shifting away from spontaneity in their purchase decisions. Then, Kurt Scherf, VP, Parks Associates, moderated the session “Connected TV Strategies,” featuring IBM, AnySource Media, VIZIO, and Yahoo!, who discussed the implications of adding Internet connectivity to the televisions.
Joseph Ambeault, Director, Product Development and Management, Video Services, Verizon, provided the morning keynote, where he discussed the disruptive force of IP and the evolution of FiOS TV services to deliver a more personalized video experience. Eyecon Technologies sponsored the networking break.
The afternoon sessions featured speakers from Paramount Digital Entertainment, 2Wire, Alcatel-Lucent, Motorola, uControl, Macrovision, and more. The sessions focused on service provider strategies, WebTV, home monitoring, connected CE, and interactive services. MoCA hosted the session “Truth in Networking,” featuring executives from Actiontec Electronics, NETGEAR, Best Buy, and D-Link.
Mitch Singer, CTO, Executive Vice President of New Media and Technology, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc., and President of Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), delivered the day’s closing keynote “Entertainment 2.0: The Future of Entertainment.” He discussed DECE’s efforts to remove the barriers for digital distribution of content. The final session of the day, “Wireless Networking & Video Consumption,” featured executives from Aceurity, AMIMON, Quantenna Communications, SiBEAM, ProVision Communications, and Celeno.
Via Licensing opened Thursday with the presentation “Ideas for addressing IPR issues for technology standards,” which described the collaboration between Via Licensing and IEEE and discussed the benefits of patent pools in helping technology companies deploy digital lifestyle solutions.
Bill Ablondi, Director, Home Systems Research, Parks Associates, presented the firm’s residential energy management research and moderated a session featuring executives from Cisco, Direct Energy, and the U.S. Department of Energy. Andres Carvallo, CIO, Austin Energy, presented the morning keynote “Building the Smart Grid,” discussing efforts in Austin, Texas, to deploy intelligent electrical systems that benefit utilities and consumers.
Thursday’s sessions featured topics on remote technical support, mobile multimedia, and wireless home controls, with participants from support.com, Telcordia, Pandora, Ortiva Wireless, Sigma Designs, and Control4, among others.
The afternoon session “Building the Holistic Support Environment” featured executives from Retrevo, Alcatel-Lucent, and Cisco Systems and discussed the expansion of customer care services for PCs and other electronics. The conference ended with the session “What’s Coming Next?”, featuring venture capitalists for the tech industry who discussed the challenging economic climate and current solutions with the best long-term outlook.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Utilities and their partners are adding Smart Grid capabilities so they can shed load, accommodate alternative energy sources, and pinpoint outages. For consumers, benefits include reduced energy bills, enhanced comfort and convenience, and a smaller carbon footprint. This panel brings together companies leading Smart Grid initiatives through new technologies, systems, and business models.
Panel speakers include:
Sanket Amberkar, Marketing Manager, Network Systems Solutions, Cisco
Christopher Deutschen, Senior Manager, Product & Business Development, Direct Energy
Dr. Kenneth Wacks, Member, GridWise Architecture Council, U.S. Department of Energy
Bill Ablondi, Director, Home Systems Research, Parks Associates; panel moderator
The IEEE and Via Licensing Corporation are writing a new chapter in IP licensing by bridging the gap between standards settings activities and the formation of patent pool programs aimed at facilitating those standards. This is a first-of-its kind collaboration from two leaders in IP management that is bound to have a significant impact on the future of standards and joint licensing efforts. Patent pools allow multiple licensors of patents that read on a technology to provide their essential patents under a single license to implementers of the technology. The creation of a patent pool can save licensors and licensees time and money and allow new technologies to hit the market faster by reducing IP obstacles.
Craig Lee, Vice President, Marketing and Business Development for Ortiva Wireless, will present to mobile operators, service providers, entertainment executives, and solution providers at CONNECTIONS 2009 The Digital Living Conference and Showcase today, Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 11:15 a.m. PT .
Lee has more than 20 years of experience in corporate marketing, product management and business development. Currently, he leads Ortiva’s strategic marketing, business development and partner initiatives as the company grows its global customer base of wireless service providers. Prior to joining Ortiva, Lee held a number of executive roles, including Vice President, Marketing, and Vice President, Sales for Nuera Communications (acquired by AudioCodes Ltd.), provider of packet voice equipment. He holds a BA in economics from Williams College and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
In the “Multimedia on Mobile Devices” panel, Lee will join other wireless experts to discuss the market’s most promising multimedia applications, including those driving the mobile TV/video market forward. Lee will detail how mobile operators can grow mobile TV/video viewing communities by meeting stringent consumer expectations for smooth video and clear audio. Panelists will discuss the latest mobile multimedia trends and technology, and their impact on carriers, device manufacturers and application companies.
Ortiva Wireless offers the industry's most advanced commercial solution for proactive management of mobile video, allowing service providers to dramatically improve control, quality, and efficiency of rich media content delivery. Ortiva's mobile Video Optimization Gateway (mVOG) extends service reach, increases network efficiency, and improves video coverage density for mobile operators, while dynamically shaping the content to give subscribers the smoothest video and clearest audio experience possible – all regardless of fluctuating and hostile wireless network conditions.
To learn more about how Ortiva is accelerating mobile video delivery, visit www.ortivawireless.com.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
ViaCube is a global technology development company committed to delivering innovation. Our teams are comprised of people from a wide range of cultural, educational and geographic backgrounds - people who are passionate, driven and competitive, who are able to challenge conventional thought, offer unique perspectives and generate innovative ideas. The result is a portfolio of innovative Internet related products and suite of software and hardware applications designed to increase productivity and enhance the human experience.
The emergence of the true 24x7 global economy has put an increasing spotlight on the need for personal and professional productivity and communication tools. The increased mobility of people and dramatically reduced barriers for conducting business on a global scale has transformed the traditional structure of businesses and families alike, making the demand for convenient, powerful data and communication management tools greater than ever before. Committed to delivering innovation, ViaCube provides industry leading products to help our customers increase productivity and efficiency so that they can remain focused on running their business, managing their organization, leading their household and enjoying their lives.
For more information about ViaCube, visit www.viacube.com .
What is your company's/division's newest initiative?
4Home is new in the area of conservation management, but we are quickly establishing ourselves as a leader. Conservation management not only encompasses the SmartGrid as defined by NIST standards today like electricity, and soon gas, but also water management. Our platform allows us to easily add these new services that equip utilities, property managers, and home dwellers alike with usable interfaces and information necessary to make a positive impact on this planet. We’ve been working with some of the brightest minds in high-tech and look forward announcing some of our partners and trials shortly.
What is your company's biggest challenge?
The fact that 4Home is a software-only ingredient platform is both a great advantage, as well as a source of big challenges. Our platform is used across multiple markets, protocols, and applications. For this reason we must have both a wide and deep level of support for devices in these various ecosystems. We are consistently pushing our ecosystem partners to bring more energy, health, and home control devices to the market.
What are your company's long term goals?
Our goal at 4Home is really simple. We are striving to make technology more usable to the average consumer, by equipping mass market providers with affordable and intuitive services.
What is your company's most successful product/service?
Our most successful product is the one that everything is built on top of, the 4Home FLUID platform. A great deal of thought and design went into our platform architecture. Because of this, we are able to provide a lightweight software solution that can easily be leveraged anytime a service is needed to connect an end user to information in an intuitive way, be that setting a thermostat in the their home from their PC at work or a notification to a mobile device to warn the user that they are about to exceed the daily energy usage setpoint they determined for themselves.
What do you perceive as your company's greatest strength?
That’s a tough question, hard to pick only one. As I mentioned before, the ability of the 4Home product to remain a pure software offering has proven to be a tremendous advantage against many of our competitors. However, I think our biggest strength is the quality of our team. We’ve brought together an eclectic and talented team with proven track records at leading high-tech companies such as Polycomm, Intel, Motorola, Covad, and 3Com. Each day I am excited to come to work to be involved in the planning, strategy, debate, and ultimately execution of our vision. We work hard but we also take time to celebrate our victories.
Jim will be speaking on June 3rd at 1:30 PM on the panel, New Applications and Services in Home Monitoring & Controls.
Qualcomm Enables Whole-House Media Streaming with Industry's First 4x4 MIMO Wireless Network Solution
Qualcomm Incorporated, a leading developer and innovator of advanced wireless technologies, products and services, today introduced the N-Stream Wireless LAN WCN1320 chip, the industry's first dual-band 802.11n standards-based wireless local-area networking (WLAN) solution with 4x4 multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) technology. Offering industry-leading performance of 600 Mbps, the new chip is designed to enable users to distribute multiple simultaneous streams of high-definition video, voice and data throughout the home, without the hassle and cost of installing cables or the interference and range problems of previous wireless technologies.
Qualcomm's N-Stream WLAN solution is being demonstrated this week at Computex Taipei and at Connections 2009 in Santa Clara.
"Qualcomm's advanced 4x4 MIMO technology sets a new performance milestone for home media streaming devices," said Mike Concannon, senior vice president of Connectivity and Wireless Modules for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies. "Our N-Stream solution delivers a new level of performance and range, enabling next-generation whole-house wireless LAN coverage."
Qualcomm has created WLAN reference module designs to enable manufacturers to quickly integrate WCN1320 into a wide range of media streaming consumer electronic devices such as access points, set-top boxes, and media-centric devices. The WCN1320 chip includes an internal high-speed application processor to run the WLAN software within the chip which provides OEMs the flexibility to use lower cost host processors in their design, easing integration, and reducing development costs for adding WLAN to their products.
"Qualcomm's WCN1320 chip opens up new possibilities for the digital home, and we have been collaborating closely to bring this technology to market, paired with our set-top box solutions," said Mark Samuel, general manager Cable and IP STB business, NXP Semiconductors. "We are very excited about the progress we have made in jointly enabling a new level of whole-house wireless media streaming coverage with exceptionally high bandwidth for multiple media streams."
"AppliedMicro, a global leader in energy conscious computing and communications solutions for enterprise applications, is pleased to work with Qualcomm to complement our multimedia networking expertise with this new WLAN technology," said Gopi Sirineni, AppliedMicro's vice president of consumer and SMB business. "The combination of Qualcomm's WCN1320 WLAN and AppliedMicro's Power Architecture embedded processor technology in access points, NAS, and gateways enables end-to-end solutions that accelerate the deployment of wireless media streaming for both consumer and enterprise applications."
WCN1320's advanced 4x4 MIMO technology uses four spatial streams to distribute multiple streams of concurrent voice, video and data in either the 5GHz or 2.4 GHz radio bands. Qualcomm has developed sophisticated algorithms which take advantage of the multiple transmitters and receivers to increase data throughput, extend range and overcome interference with a spectrally efficient solution. Qualcomm's WCN1320 solution is backward compatible with existing 802.11a, b, and g devices.
The highly integrated N-Stream WCN1320 solution utilizes a 65-nanometer CMOS process technology to combine an embedded applications processor, media-access controller, digital baseband, radio-frequency transceiver and system power-management in a single compact 12x12 mm package.
Qualcomm's N-Stream WLAN WCN1320 solution is expected to begin sampling in the second quarter of 2009. The WCN1320 is part of a complete end-to-end solution for 802.11n from Qualcomm, which also includes the WCN1312(TM) solution for handsets and other mobile devices.
Qualcomm Incorporated (Nasdaq: QCOM) is a leader in developing and delivering innovative digital wireless communications products and services based on CDMA and other advanced technologies. Headquartered in San Diego, Calif., Qualcomm is included in the S&P 100 Index, the S&P 500 Index and is a 2009 FORTUNE 500(R) company. For more information, please visit www.qualcomm.com.
Except for the historical information contained herein, this news release contains forward-looking statements that are subject to risks and uncertainties, including the Company's ability to successfully design and have manufactured significant quantities of the WCN1320 chip on a timely and profitable basis, the extent and speed to which 802.11n-compliant wireless local-area networking is adopted and deployed, change in economic conditions of the various markets the Company serves, as well as the other risks detailed from time to time in the Company's SEC reports, including the report on Form 10-K for the year ended September 28, 2008, and most recent Form 10-Q.
Qualcomm is a registered trademark of Qualcomm Incorporated. N-Stream, WCN1312 and WCN1320 are trademarks of Qualcomm Incorporated. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
Wednesday, June 4th, Lior Weiss will be a panelist on the Wireless Networking & Video Consumption in the Home panel. This panel examines the development of multimedia wireless networking technologies and their respective applications. Topics include the latest advances in Wi-Fi, wireless HD solutions, and additional silicon, software, and antenna enhancements that can be implemented on both fixed and portable CE devices. The panel focuses on wireless technology’s capability to facilitate video consumption in the home, a key area of interest to CE vendors, service providers, and chipset developers.
Lior Weiss is responsible for marketing, product and business development at Celeno Communications (www.celeno.com). Lior Weiss brings to Celeno more than a decade of experience in the telecom industry, with proven success developing marketing programs and leading marketing teams to implement them. He has special expertise in market strategy, product differentiation, and market communication programs. Mr. Weiss has held multiple senior positions at AudioCodes and Seabridge (a Siemens-Nokia company), including roles in business development, product marketing and product management. Mr. Weiss received his B.Sc. EE and MBA degrees from Tel Aviv University.
Lowe will discuss wireless home controls and share his thoughts on the future of in-home mesh networks, what new technologies home enthusiasts can expect in the next few years and how Sigma’s Z-Wave devices accessed over the Internet can create a revolution in the wireless home network.
“Enabling wireless home control networks that can also be accessed from the Internet is an exciting next step in the direction of a modern digital home,” says Lowe. “With the continuous advancement of Z-Wave technology, consumers are now able to install a set of fully interoperable dimmers, switches, thermostats, cameras, and other home devices with the convenience of accessing them through their laptop or cell phone. With the focus on controlling energy use in the home, hundreds of Z-Wave products provide an off-the-shelf solution with this new remote management technology.”
Moderated by Bill Ablondi, Director of Home Systems Research at Parks Associates, panelists will discuss how the advancements in wireless technologies enable new configurations and opportunities in the connected home. This panel will discuss the technology trends, market opportunities, and design challenges in bringing new capabilities to market in familiar packages. Examples include a universal remote control (URC) that controls lights or locks the front door via a mobile phone or the ability for installers to connect security systems to garage doors, lighting controls, and HVAC systems.
What is your company’s/division newest initiative?
We have recently announced Performance Manager which represents the first of many Value-Added Services (VAS) we will be adding to our portfolio. Performance Manager joins our latest Download Manager offering which uniquely automates the installation and upgrade of VAS. Based on repeated analysis of our customers’ call log data, we will continue to deliver pre-packaged products that address security, home networking, and other online-based and automation-focused content services that will both add value to our Dynamic Agent platform as well as deliver tangible cost reductions and revenue enablement opportunities to our customers.
What is your company’s biggest challenge?
Historically, our greatest challenge has been communicating our traditional support-focused message into one that includes revenue enablement. An important trend we have seen is the revenue enablement of traditional call center-based service and support; many providers have already begun to allow their customer service reps to offer Value Added Service in context to the support call when it is appropriate. For example, support organizations that have been our staple typically are not measured on revenue, therefore making it difficult to engage in conversations regarding the opportunity for those organizations to leverage our platform to drive post-sale and point-of-need revenue up-sells. This challenge has been made even more difficult because of the silos that exist within most service provider frameworks. These silos drastically limit a service and support organization’s ability to provide end-to-end service and support to their customers. Similarly, product managers at our customers often see service and support as a necessary ‘readiness’ hurdle they must overcome to launch product, rather than as the sales channel which it effectively is.
What do you perceive as your company’s greatest strength?
Our Dynamic Agent platform takes a holistic and automation-enabled approach to service delivery of any kind; ensuring the best customer experience in the context of sales or support, whether the preferred communications channel is voice, chat, email, or remote control. This, combined with our global service organization which enables our customers to integrate and implement our platform in unique and differentiating ways, has repeatedly won us business against some of the biggest names in the marketplace. Two key pieces that differentiate us include:
1. In order to achieve differentiation, service providers have to ‘know’ their customers. Our platform enables this knowledge.
2. In order to deploy differentiated services to as many customers as possible, providers need another vehicle besides web portals. Dynamic Agent utilizes skinning, targeting, and personalization capabilities to provide this differentiation and ensure maximum penetration of message.
What are your company’s long term goals?
When we talk about a holistic and automation-enabled approach to differentiating service, we envision our platform becoming even more robust with key service enablement components such as community portals, self-ticketing (SRM), and CRM, among others. We are very excited at the potential of providing an end-to-end service delivery platform that includes these elements to our existing and future customers in the near future.
What is your company’s most successful product/service?
By far, our Dynamic Agent, Chat, and Remote Control products represent the strongest offerings in our portfolio. Customers using these in an integrated manner, in combination with our support automation content as well as our Value Added Services such as Performance Manager, are experiencing the greatest success.
Bogdan Odulinski is speaking on the Driving the Next Dollar and Subscription: The Role of VAS panel on Wednesday, June 3rd at 11:15 AM.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Director, Product Management
Enterprise Solutions Group
Service providers have acknowledged that growing business, winning sales and expanding their customer base in an intensely competitive environment requires proactive programs to drive revenue. Add an unstable economy to the mix and this seems almost unattainable! Nonetheless, in their quest for growth and profitability, many are taking to transforming strategic operations such as the contact center/help desk where viable customer interactions take place and could be turned into sales. Once considered a ‘cost’ center, the view of the contact center is increasingly shifting to a new awareness that it can become a ‘profit’ center, or at least become cost neutral. The realization is that through successful up-selling of value-added services (VAS) including “premium” (paid) tech support, the contact center can help generate additional revenue for providers. This we call the monetization of support.
Key to monetizing support is that it’s about optimizing contacts rather than minimizing them. This is important to note because most support organizations’ vernacular focuses on “time to resolve”, “resolve in one” and “contact avoidance” activities—all of which do not recognize that there are ‘good’ calls which are in fact to be desired as well as ‘unnecessary’ contacts that do not provide value to either the customer or organization. Monetizing support requires the removal of internal silos that sequester support organizations to non-revenue generating activities. Historically, this sequestering has created poor customer experiences. An example of this is when a solution to a support problem handled by a call center service rep requires an up-sell -- if the call center is not equipped to handle the up-sell directly (if at all), customer expectations cannot be met.
Some providers have already started to enable their customer service reps (CSRs) to offer value-added services in connection to the support call when it is fitting. To help this to happen, they have had to determine how best to make critical sales and service/subscription data visible to their CSRs. Those providers got down to business by re-engineering their operations, changing service level agreements, adjusting customer expectations, and eliminating inherent boundaries across sales, service and support, thereby allowing agents to have a 360 degree view of the customer’s history. In so doing, their agents can now receive vital information about the issues that matter most to customers, and they can gain insight into customer goals and into what kind of offering is most likely to generate revenue. They can then translate these insights into successful up-selling.
Important to this discussion is that while monetizing support of the CSR-assisted phone and chat support channels is a good start, Contact Optimization is just as much about achieving the maximum efficiency in volume of customer requests across all other channels of support, including the self-help channel. Web-based and desktop-based self-help channels represent a largely untapped frontier for the monetization of support. Combining the ‘web-support’ and ‘pc-resident support’ framework can provide auto-remediation of customers’ routine problems so that they don’t have to call the help desk. By delivering “1-click fixes” to known “points of pain,” service providers can offer just-in-time support, as well as help customers resolve their own issues. Additionally, with real-time access to the customer’s context and system configuration, providers and their marketing organizations can be better armed with essential analytics to present targeted and personalized services in the framework of providing support. These could be premium, pre-packaged services that address home networking, security and warranty renewals, for instance, that can significantly enhance the end-user experience and can be turned into revenue more successfully.
Across the board, managing support and converting it into a revenue stream should be a major component of any service provider’s strategy, if they intend to differentiate their offering. The real question is will your organization take the necessary steps in time?
So what is it with us and our gadgets? We seem to be growing more passionate about them, whether it’s that shiny new petite digital camera with 12 megapixels, face recognition and optical image stabilization, or that Blu-ray Disc Player exhilarating us with all 2 million pixels delivered in our newly installed home theater system with a receiver that can blast lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD master audio. Or maybe it’s that recently purchased Blackberry Storm that most of us have a love/hate relationship with and that is on the verge of becoming obsolete by Storm2 within months (with hopefully a better touch screen, usable software and WiFi). And even though we were almost scared to buy anything in the first few months of the year, we have now come back with a vengeance, scooping up all the latest and greatest gadgets we’ve always aspired to own to make our digital lives more productive and enjoyable.
Retrevo is releasing its monthly Pulse Report for May. Surprise, surprise... what do we see? Electronics shoppers are back in the market buying electronics but not just any electronics. We’re buying gadgets that are new and shiny, and we’re willing to pay higher prices for these innovative products that deliver the latest and greatest features. The most notable categories picking up momentum are Digital Cameras and Optical Disc Players (some of us are used to calling this category DVD Players but the introduction of Blu-ray changes the definition so it will take some getting used to).
Here are the specifics:
1. Optical Disc Players: more than a third of Optical Disc Players shipping now are Blu-ray. These Blu-ray players comprised less than 10% last holiday season. This transition to newer, hi-def technology has created an uplift in ASPs of > 20% post-holiday season. And in mid-April, demand started picking up for Optical Disc Players. So people are not only buying Optical Disc Players, they are spending more money than ever before to acquire the latest and greatest in hi-def.
2. Digital Cameras: more than 50% of shipping digital cameras now have optical image stabilization and face recognition making it easy to click and organize those precious memories. DSLR is also finding its way downstream with a more consumer friendly interface and form factors. Aided by general knowledge, consumers are buying these higher feature products and paying higher prices (10% higher than last holiday season). Digital Camera demand had been flat from Feb through April but it has picked up in May. So again, people are not only buying Digital Cameras but they are willing to pay higher prices to acquire the latest and greatest than ever before.
Now don't take me the wrong way. The fact that people are spending more money doesn't mean consumers aren't value conscious. In fact, a recent Retrevo Gadgetology analysis revealed that 76% of Consumer Electronics shoppers selected products based on good value (34%), Trusted sites and experts raving about a product/brand (25%) and other users raving about a product/brand (10%). The consumers are absolutely value conscious for the technology they wish to purchase, they just are not interested in buying cheapest products around without regard to the innovation.
So did we see any disappointment in Retrevo's Pulse Report? Absolutely. HDTVs and Home Theater Systems continue to disappoint consumers. Here is our analysis of these two categories:
1.Home Theater Systems: these were hot during the last holiday season but demand plummeted post-holiday season along with everything else. Prices after being stable for better part of this year started falling in mid-Apr (now down > 10%). Yet the demand has continued to fall. Why is this so when Optical Disc Players are picking up? Guess how many Home Theater Systems ship with a Blu-ray player? Less than 5%. Yes, while consumers can buy HDTVs and Blu-ray players to their heart's content, they can't find Home Theater Systems with a Blu-ray player. Yikes! Lesson learned? Don't assume consumers will keep buying stale products with no major innovation in sight for more than 6 months. And we are not talking about new innovation, HTS manufacturers just need to keep up with the market, follow the lead from HDTV and Blu-ray players and get more Blu out. There is pent-up demand. Amen to that!
2.HDTVs: this category is near and dear to my heart. High momentum in the first half and excess inventory in the second half of 2008 depressed prices to unrealistic levels last holiday season. Negative margins forced brands and retailers to raise prices post-holiday season as excess inventory cleared from the channel (ASPs up more than 30% from January to mid-April). Even though the category has gone through a refresh cycle in last few months (more than 50% of currently selling HDTVs were introduced this year) but demand hasn't picked up even after a technology refresh cycle. What is the innovation in HDTVs lately? Transition from 720p to 1080p? Yawn! Consumers are not biting. Let's work on the basics. Get the best out-of-the-box experience without worrying about ISF specs, calibration etc, get HDTVs to network and "simply" download content from your computer and from the Internet, and we will have a shot at making people spend more for the newer technology rather than simply gravitating to value brands for a seemingly commoditized technology.
What's the takeaway? Overall demand is soft (Retrevo's Demand Index shows a 15% decline year-over-year), lower demand doesn't translate into people buying cheap (and commoditized) technology. Consumers care about innovation, latest and greatest (in a meaningful way, not from marketing speak). Consumers are spending 20% more time researching and yes, they will want the best value and good quality products but at the same time, they will spend more for the innovation. So let's not slow down the pace of innovation. Let's push the envelope, think about ways to make our daily lives more connected, more productive and more enjoyable and we the consumers, will spend more money because it will be worth it. This is what I call Obsession for a Purpose!
What is your company's/division's newest initiative?
Celeno has announced today a strategic partnership with Ralink technology, one of the leaders in the WLAN semiconductors business. This partnership will enable Celeno to become a one-stop shop for its customers looking for an end to end video over Wi-Fi solution. Celeno also continues to push forward its latest initiative and provides the CL1300 to the Consumer Electronics (CE) space for wireless HDMI applications.
What is your company's biggest challenge?
Celeno has demonstrated that Video over Wi-Fi distribution is quiet challenging and requires special implementation at the silicon level. Celeno's OpimizAIR(TM) technology meets the challenge with cross-layer optimization at all levels: Antennas, silicon PHY and special MAC algorithms. Moreover, some far-sighted service providers and OEM's are already concerned about overbooking of the 5GHz spectrum - Celeno is working extensively with them to demonstrate techniques to overcome those concerns.
What are your company's long term goals?
Celeno is currently busy to secure a tier one service provider deployment at both North America and Europe as well as landing a meaningful design win with a CE OEM. We are aiming to become leaders at the WLAN semiconductors space for multimedia and video applications.
What is your company's most successful product/service?
The Celeno CL1300 is a Wi-Fi MAC/PHY baseband semiconductor aimed at optimized Video over Wi-Fi solutions. It gives Service providers and CE OEM's a carrier-grade solution with the right combination of throughput, range and robustness for wire-like quality of experience for multiple HD streams. The CL1300 becomes the corner stone for products that handle such applications and use cases as IPTV home distribution, DLNA multimedia devices, Wireless TV sets, Media centers, etc.
What do you perceive as your company's greatest strength?
Celeno has mastered the art of phased array beam forming MIMO
techniques. This technology which is optimized for video distribution
(compared to the plain vanilla Spatial multiplexing MIMO) excels
performance in rich multipath home environment and helps to achieve
whole home coverage for multi-room use cases. Moreover, Celeno has a
novel implementation of Implicit beam forming that enables this
technology without any protocol collaboration with the client device,
hence easing off interoperability and making the technology deployable
today. Moreover, it allows OEM's and manufactures to mix and match AP
WiFi chipset and client WiFi chipsets enhancing flexibility and price