Cisco: TV, weather and Facebook could take over one of your walls

Cisco's new Videoscape Unity back-end platform is designed to help pay-TV carriers expand their offerings

As TVs get higher resolution and bigger displays, while getting cheaper over time, cable operators may be able to cover an entire wall of your home with a screen that includes two full-size TV shows plus weather, upcoming show information, a social media feed and other elements, according to Cisco Systems.

The company demonstrated such a screen  on Monday at the International CES where it announced the latest version of its Videoscape platform for service providers.

Cable operators are working on how to incorporate multiple content feeds on TV screens while also delivering their offerings to tablets and other devices. Videoscape is a back-end software platform designed to help service providers offer new content combinations and interfaces to all types of devices. Its latest iteration, called Videoscape Unity, incorporates digital rights management and other technology from NDS, which Cisco acquired last year.

Cox Communications is building its next-generation video delivery platform on Videoscape Unity. Though it doesn't go as far as that wall-sized screen, it is designed to combine different content streams and give subscribers more options for how to view them. Cisco wants to drive the transition to new types of video delivery, pushing one of the networking giant's major areas of focus.

"The TV experience the way we define it, versus our kids, versus our kids' kids, are going to be dramatically different," Cisco chairman and CEO John Chambers said at a reception with Cox on Monday night.

Later this quarter, Cox will use the platform to offer a complete programming guide and a variety of video content on iPhones, iPads and Android devices. As content owners sell the rights to content on different devices separately, Cox won't be able to show all of its video on mobile devices. For the new devices, Cox designed a totally new interface that takes advantage of touch interfaces.

Also on Monday, Cox announced it will offer a Cisco-built IP (Internet Protocol) gateway with a 2TB hard drive for recording up to 1,000 hours of shows to share among all the TVs in a home. It has six tuners and can play and record multiple high-definition shows at the same time, according to Cox. That gateway is the device that will deliver content to mobile devices in the home, via Wi-Fi, said Len Barlik, Cox's executive vice president and chief product officer.

Each viewer in a home can have Cox personalize his or her view of the programming based on viewing history, highlighting the most relevant shows on the home screen. Each user logs in, and viewers can switch among their personalized views.

Offering that personalization on tablets as well as TVs is a good move and probably a first in the cable industry, said IDC video analyst Greg Ireland. Pay TV has been a slow-moving industry even as consumers have been distracted by mobile apps and online sources of content, Ireland said. But operators that can smoothly combine their distinctive live TV offerings with other types of video could capture viewers who would otherwise look to "cut the cord" and seek other sources such as Netflix or Apple's iTunes store, he said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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