… part II
Another half-day session honed in on what it means, technically, to offer an integrated suite of services to customers, in what AT&T calls “the whole broadband approach.”
Ralph Brown, chief architect of set-top systems for @Home Network, kicked off the session by noting that PC and TV application convergence will never reach 100 percent. While an array of applications can be translated to either platform, he said, there are quite a few that will simply never make the transition.
On the silicon side, Thomas Quigley, director of Broadcom’s residential broadband business unit, said the rapid evolution of silicon will produce a single chip cable modem by the second half of 1999, and a single chip (albeit simplified) interactive set-top by 2000. When it comes to software, Sid Gregory, vice president of Tele-Communications Inc.’s National Digital Television Center, said that when MSOs are choosing an operating system, they need to consider the services they’ll offer, the performance, the development tools and the hardware that an operating system supports.
He said TCI is still working at a feverish pace with Microsoft, for its Windows CE operating system, and with Sun Microsystems for its Java-based middleware.
Also on the silicon front, John O’Donnell, president of Equator Technologies, detailed the structure and concepts behind programmable media processors that are optimized to handle multimedia-and especially video, audio, telephony and graphics.
Discussing Equator’s new chip line, which features fully downloadable software, O’Donnell said the biggest advantage of the approach is its applicability to advanced set-tops, in that service changes could be coordinated via a download, and not a chip change.
On the second day of ET, attendees heard separately from Motorola Inc. and from Lucent Technologies about how the new, integrated service environment will affect traffic loading on today’s cable plant. That issue is destined to become a big issue in coming months, as operators cram high-speed data, IP and digital video services into a limited amount of spectrum.
And, as always, the last ET session focused on the competitive landscape, with presentations from Angel Technologies- which wants to launch a sort of flyover video delivery service, with antennas mounted on a trio of airplanes that fly over a city to deliver video. Other presenters included Ward Laboratories, which has come up with a low-cost way to minimize signal disturbances in digital set-tops, and Texas Instruments Inc., which discussed how programmable DSP chips will affect the broadband market over the next five years.
At the end of the conference, attendees left sated, lauding this year’s program lineup and calling the annual gathering a don’t-miss event. “There’s just no other event that gets together a group of people of this caliber, and imparts this amount of detail, on what’s happening to the technologies we use,” said one attendee.