Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Netcentrex Hires David Michaud to Head Americas Market

Netcentrex has appointed David Michaud as the new CEO of its North American subsidiary, replacing Alain Fernando-Santana who has left the company. Theodore Martin remains CEO of the Paris-based parent
company Netcentrex, SA.

Michaud recently he led sales and marketing initiatives for startups in the IP networking business, including Carrius and NexTone Communications. In 1997 he founded and became Chairman and CEO
of Taqua Systems, a telecommunications switch developer sold to Tekelec for $85 million in March 2004. From 1992 to 1995 Mr. Michaud served as head of sales and marketing at Excel Communications where he grew the company six-fold in three years, becoming the leader in the programmable switch market and providing a foundation for the eventual $1.7 billion acquisition by Lucent Technologies. His career also includes positions at DSC Communications, AT&T Bell Labs, Southwestern Bell, and IBM. He holds an MBA from Washington University, St. Louis and a BS from Carroll College.

Bill Gates Previews Vista's Entertainment Capabilities

Microsoft's forthcoming services for Windows Live and its Windows Vista OS will help people find and manage entertainment content on the Windows-based Media Center PC or Microsoft TV IPTV Edition-powered set-top boxes, said Bill Gates, speaking at the opening of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Gates showed how Microsoft's next-generation Vista operating system will tie into online services, such as video.

Some of Microsoft's initiatives include:

Windows Vista - Integrated Media Center experience

The new OS will feature a a new look and feel that is optimized for high-definition (HD) wide-screen display. The Media Center experience in Windows Vista can also be moved throughout the home via the Media Center Extender functionality of the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system.

Windows Vista - CableCARD support

Media Center in Windows Vista will also deliver new HD scenarios, including CableCARD support, that will allow people to watch and record premium and HD cable programming on Media Center PCs without a set-top cable box.

URGE Digital Music Service

This will give users of Windows Media Player 11 access to more than 2 million songs from major and independent labels as well as exclusive MTV Networks programming and content on a subscription basis.


Microsoft announced a multiyear agreement with DIRECTV that will enable consumers to enjoy their digital media in the networked home and on portable devices. Microsoft and DIRECTV will work together to enable digital content to flow between Windows-based PCs, DIRECTV devices, PlaysForSure-based portable media devices and Xbox 360.


It was also announced that Microsoft and British Sky Broadcasting (Sky), the leading pay-TV provider in the U.K. and Ireland, plans to create a Windows Media Center version of Sky's forthcoming broadband content service, Sky by broadband. The service will enable millions of Sky TV customers to access video content from their PC, including hundreds of movies and sports clips.


Sprint Nextel and Cable Partners Hire John Garcia for Quadruple Play

John A. Garcia, senior vice president of Strategic Partners for Sprint Consumer Solutions, has been named president of the nationwide joint venture being launched by Sprint Nextel and its cable partners.

Garcia, who assumes the position immediately and will be located in Overland Park, Kan., will focus on delivering the convergence of video entertainment, wireline and wireless data and communications products and services to the approximately 41 million customers currently served by four of the country's largest cable companies as well as to Sprint's nearly 46 million wireless subscribers. The venture has the potential to serve approximately 75 million homes currently passed by the cable companies. Garcia will report to a six-member governance council - three from Sprint and one each from Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox. The remainder of employees for the joint venture will be named in the next few months and will include positions in marketing, product, operations, program management, finance, strategy and other areas.

Garcia was one of the earliest employees hired into Sprint's Wireless group in 1995. In his first role as vice president of Marketing, he managed many of the initial marketing and sales strategies used to launch Sprint PCS into the marketplace.

  • In November 2005, Sprint Nextel, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse Communications outlined their plans to form a joint venture to offer "Quadruple Play" services -- video entertainment, wireline voice, and wireless voice and high-speed data services. The joint venture, which is mutually exclusive for three years and has a 20-year term, calls for a combined initial financial commitment of $200 million, $100 million of which will be committed by Sprint and $100 million of which will be committed collectively by the cable companies. The investment is expected to be used to fund the development of the converged services, national marketing initiatives and back office integration.

Vonage Deploys Sonus Switches

Vonage has selected the Sonus Network architecture to support the growth in its subscriber base. Vonage has deployed Sonus platforms, including the GSX9000, PSX Call Routing Server, SGX Signaling Gateway, and the Sonus Insight Management System, in New York and Los Angeles and is expanding deployment into additional major markets throughout the United States. In future phases of the network expansion, Vonage plans to broaden the network to international locations. Financial terms were not disclosed.


Alcatel Acquires Brazil's GMK for Contact Center Solutions

Alcatel has acquired GMK, a leading provider of contact center voice self-service solutions in Brazil. Financial terms were not disclosed. Founded in 1984, GMK is based in Sao Paulo, Brazil and currently employs approximately 100 people. GMK has established a market-leading position in the Brazilian voice self-service and interactive voice response (IVR) market. The company currently serves more than 100 customers with a strong market presence in the financial services and outsourcing sectors. GMK will be merged into Alcatel Telecomunicacoes S.A., Alcatel's subsidiary in Brazil, and GMK employees will become part of the Genesys center of excellence for the local contact center market. http://www.alcatel.comhttp://www.genesyslab.com/

XM Satellite Debuts Coin-Sized Mini-Tuner

XM Satellite and Audiovox today unveiled the XM Passport, a tiny, portable tuner that delivers XM Satellite Radio to an expanding portfolio of XM Ready products, including home stereo and home theater systems, DVD players, mini/micro-shelf systems, car radios, clock radios, boomboxes, and the new Samsung NEXUS XMP3 digital audio player.

The XM Passport measures only 1.3 inches wide, 1.65 inches long, 0.44 inches thick. The XM Passport is inserted into a docking station connected to the product, or it is inserted directly into a port offered by the manufacturer.

An XM subscriber can move the XM Passport from one product to another, allowing the subscriber to receive XM Satellite Radio on many devices with only one subscription.

Consumers can purchase an XM Passport for $29.99 (MSRP) and home and car docking stations ($29.99 each) at retailers beginning in spring 2006.

The XM Passport is approximately 40 times smaller than the original trunk mount XM radio tuners introduced just four years ago.


Motorola Ventures Invests in Coppergate for HPNA Silicon

Motorola Ventures has made an equity investment in CopperGate Communications, a start-up based in Tel Aviv supplying chipset solutions for multimedia home networking. The investment was made as part of a $14.5M round led by new investor Carmel Ventures, with the participation of existing investors Tamir Fishman Ventures and the Challenge Fund. The funding round was first announced in November 2005.

  • CopperGate has been a prime contributor to the HPNA V3 specification for high performance multimedia home phoneline networking. HPNA V3 standard chipsets utilize existing coax cables and telephony wiring in the home for connecting devices such as residential gateways, TV set-top boxes, personal video recorders (PVRs) and PC peripherals.

Thomson Develops Portable MPEG4 PVR for DIRECTV2Go

At the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show, Thomson introduced the LYRA X3000 Personal Multimedia Recorder, a handheld multipurpose device that will support secure high-speed video transfers from select DIRECTV digital video recorders. Along with this DIRECTV2Go capability, the pocket-sized LYRA X3000 by RCA allows for the direct recording of up to 40 feature-length films from multiple video sources without using a computer and is ideal for digital subscription music content.

"The LYRA X3000 morphs into a virtual VCR, utilizing MPEG4 technology, with the capability for both real-time recording from any analog source or high-speed transfer of digitized content, plus the advantage of DVD quality picture performance when outputting to a TV," said Thomson's Dan Collishaw, Chief Operating Officer of Thomson's Americas Audio/Video and Accessory businesses.

The LYRA X3000 by RCA boasts a 3.6-inch TFT ultra-bright color LCD screen with 320 x 240 resolution. It features a replaceable lithium ion battery providing for at least four hours of constant video playback on one charge. A Home Theater Docking Base enables easy time-shift recording of TV programs from a tuning source such as the video output of a television or cable/satellite set-top receiver. With a composite video output the X3000 is capable of displaying high-resolution photos as well as video with DVD picture quality.

Thomson said digital quality content securely downloaded from compatible DIRECTV DVRs to the X3000 can be viewed on televisions located in other rooms. The device displays TV programs and program information in a format familiar to customers with these compatible DIRECTV DVRs.

The X3000 also includes an SD memory card reader and high-speed USB port.

The LYRA X3000 by RCA is available in January with a suggested retail price of $399.


NETGEAR Supplies Skype WiFi Mobile Phone

NETGEAR unveiled a Wi-Fi mobile telephone optimized for Skype.

The Skype WiFi phone will connect to Skype over a wireless Internet access point in a home, office, cafe, open public hotspot, or any open municipal wireless access point being deployed worldwide.

The NETGEAR phone is pre-loaded with Skype's software. All a user needs to do after turning on the phone is enter a Skype username and password. The Skype software pulls up the user's full contact list, displays the connection status on the phone screen, and allows the consumer to connect to any other Skype user for free. The phone will also allow users to connect to non-Skype users with the SkypeOut feature.

Pricing and availability have not been disclosed.


Akimbo Teams with Thomson and Movielink

Akimbo has formed a partnership with Thomson and Movielink to offer an Internet-based VOD service featuring premium Hollywood content.

Akimbo and Thomson will offer a co-branded Akimbo Player through national retail channels by early spring. The new Akimbo Player will offer recently released films and classic movies supplied by Movielink in addition to 8,000 titles already available on the Akimbo Service.

The new RCA Akimbo Player, priced at $199 with rebate, will features Ethernet and dual USB ports, providing consumer options for peripherals and home networking connectivity, such as through 802.11g adapters. The hard disk drive will allow Akimbo subscribers to store up to 150 hours of movies and video for on-demand playback. The RCA Akimbo Player is based on Thomson's next generation IP1100 IPTV platform which offers an array of advanced compression codecs to deliver improved video performance at lower bandwidths.

Akimbo is providing the software and service for the new RCA Akimbo player, based on the existing Akimbo Service.


BellSouth Tests SES AMERICOM's IP-PRIME Video Distribution

BellSouth will trial SES AMERICOM's IP-PRIME centralized, satellite-centric video distribution solution for its upcoming IPTV service.

Specifically, SES AMERICOM will provide BellSouth with video aggregation, encoding, monitoring, and transport over the IP-PRIME platform, which is based at the SES AMERICOM IPTV Broadcast Center in Vernon Valley, New Jersey. The IPTV solution will be delivered over the AMC-9 satellite. The open architecture of IP-PRIME enables plug-and-play integration with a broad range of infrastructure platforms, including Microsoft IPTV middleware and conditional access systems, which are being tested by BellSouth.

BellSouth has initiated a technical trial of IPTV in conjunction with Microsoft and plans to expand it to market trial participants using the additional MPEG4 encoded programming channels delivered by IP-Prime.

  • The National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) signed a multi-year agreement with SES AMERICOM to offer IPTV services to nearly one thousand independent and local telcos across the U.S. using SES AMERICOM's "IP-PRIME" distribution platform.

  • The centralized, satellite-delivered IPTV solution originates from SES AMERICOM's IPTV Broadcast Center in Vernon Valley, New Jersey, where high-end video programming and content is received, processed, and then transported by SES AMERICOM's AMC-9 satellite to authorized video hubs nationwide. The NRTC IPTV offering is an end-to-end solution to the IP set-top, which includes conditional access and middleware and greatly reduces headend and video operations and equipment costs.

  • The AMERICOM-9 (AMC-9) satellite, which was launched in June 2003, is a hybrid C/Ku-band satellite based on Alcatel's Spacebus 3000B3 platform. The C-band payload features 24 - 36 MHz transponders, while the Ku-band payload features 24 - 36 MHz transponders.

HomePNA Alliance Cites Membership Gains

The HomePNA alliance announced the addition of Entone, Tatung, Amino, and TII Networks as new members and the appointment of Scientific- Atlanta to the Board of Directors.

HomePNA 3.0 technology, which was standardized by the ITU in May 2005, is a technology option for in-home distribution of new triple-play services such as IPTV. The technology works over both phonelines and coax cables.

MobiTV Goes WiFi, 12 Channels at 24 fps

MobiTV is launching Wi-Fi enabled MobiTV Service for the Palm T|X handheld. MobiTV promises to deliver broadcast quality television at 24 frames per second, offering more than a dozen channels including ABC News Now, Bloomberg, C-SPAN, Comedy Time, ESPN 3GTV, Fashion TV, Fox News, Fox Sports, MAXX Sports, NanoTV, The Weather Channel and ToonWorld TV, with more channels to be added over time. Subscribers will be able to connect to MobiTV over home and corporate WiFi networks as well as the over 30,000 Wi-Fi hotspots available in the US.

"This launch signifies MobiTV's foray into non-cellular network environments," said Paul Scanlan, Co-founder and COO of MobiTV.

  • MobiTV's television and digital radio service is currently available in the U.S. through Sprint, Cingular, Alltel and several regional carriers; in the United Kingdom through 3 and Orange UK; and is now available to Canadian customers through Bell Canada, Rogers and TELUS Mobility.

TI Ships Hollywood Mobile Digital TV Chip

Texas Instruments began shipping initial "Hollywood" DTV single-chip solutions for mobile phones to handset manufacturers worldwide. The Hollywood chips integrate the mobile TV tuner and demodulator into one device. The first mobile phones with TI's Hollywood chips are expected to hit the market in late 2006.

The DTV1000 supports DVB-H operating at 470-750 MHz (UHF) and 1.670-1.675 GHz (L-band) frequency ranges, while the DTV1001 supports ISDB-T one-segment operating at 470-770 MHz frequency range. The chip can support multiple concurrent television channels (elementary streams) and fast channel switching times under 1.5 seconds.

"Mobile TV is expected to boost 3G adoption, much like camera phones did for the 2.5G market and add significant new revenue to both television broadcasters and mobile phone operators," said Gilles Delfassy, TI senior vice president and general manager for TI's Wireless Terminals Business Unit.


Marvell's Orion Processor Targets Multi-room HDTV

Marvell is previewing its "Orion" chip family for new media vault platforms that allow users to access rich multimedia and data content throughout the home using wired or wireless connections.

Marvell said its Orion product family provides a scalable storage, networking and smart media processing architecture for standalone home storage appliances; integrated storage appliances, such as access points and digital video recorders; and next generation broadband service provider product.


Monday, January 2, 2006

Softier Offers H.264 IPTV STB Based on TI's DSP

Softier Inc. announced the availability of Wave-300, an H.264 IP set-top box for IPTV.

Softier's Wave-300 supports next generation video formats including H.264, MPEG-4, and Windows Media Video 9 (VC-1) as well as MPEG-2 for backward compatibility. The Wave-300 is powered by Texas Instruments' DSP-based DM64x generation of digital media processors, and runs on a Linux operating system.

The Wave 300 lets operators easily expand services after initial deployment by using the set-top-box's remote boot capabilities to add software components and applications. The Wave-300 IP STB can also be remotely upgraded without causing any interruption to ongoing services.

Key features include:

  • H.264 MP@L3 D1 resolution up to 2 Mbps

  • MPEG-2 MP@L3 D1 resolution up to 10 Mbps

  • Windows Media 9 MP@ML up to 8 Mbps

  • AAC (MP4), MP1 layer 1&2, WMA audio and AC3

  • IGMP support for multicast services, RTSP for interactive video on demand services

  • Softier's JSTB (Java Script for IP STB) and embedded browser for easy integration with leading middleware packages

  • USB 2.0 for external storage attachment

  • Remote Boot and Upgrade capability

  • Embedded Web-based user configuration and SNMP-based device management


Verizon to Offer Branded Home Networking Gear from Belkin

Verizon will begin offering company-branded wireless routers, desktop and notebook cards, and USB adapters at many of the nationwide retail outlets that already sell Verizon Online DSL service.

Verizon will be reselling Belkin's networking products under its own label.

Verizon said the introduction of the home networking gear is the first step in a licensing strategy to expand the Verizon brand into new markets and reach new sets of consumers.

The agreement between Verizon and Belkin was facilitated by Brandgenuity LLC, a New York-based licensing agency. http://www.verizon.com

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Lenovo Plans to Embed Cingular WWAN in ThinkPads

Lenovo will begin embedding wide area network capabilities into its ThinkPad enabling built-in access to the Cingular BroadbandConnect service without needing a separate PC card. Through this agreement, ThinkPad notebooks will be preconfigured for BroadbandConnect, which delivers average mobile downlink speeds between 400- 700 Kbps.