LAS VEGAS—In addition to trotting out state-of-the-art TVs, audio systems, and all manner of gadgets they plan to sell this year, some vendors at the International CES like to show off aspirational technology—stuff that looks cool, but won’t be commercially available for years.
Such was the case with Cisco. At its CES news conference Monday, the networking giant showed its vision for pay TV, and it looked a lot like stuff we saw in Minority Report and Total Recall.
Called Videoscape Unity, it’s basically a template for a cable, satellite, or other TV services that integrates traditional broadcast television with DVR, on-demand, Web, and social network content. And in its ultimate form, you’d watch it on a video wall large enough to display the equivalent of several current HDTV screens.
Cisco introduced its Videoscape brand a couple of years ago for products created for purveyors of next-generation video entertainment. In Cisco’s video wall demo, a live TV feed was flanked with king-sized modules containing relevant information (e.g. statistics for a sportscast), chat with Facebook friends, Twitter feeds, and more.
Until video walls move from the silver screen (or the CES show floor) to middle-class homes, Cisco sees Videoscape Unity as a service for connecting multiple displays we already have, most notably tablets and TVs. “We need to be able to leverage the second screen in context to what’s going on in the primary screen,” said Jasper Anderson, senior Vice President and general manager of Cisco’s service provider video technology group.
Videoscape Unity will feature cloud DVR features to allow for delivery of all operator-supported content (which could include on-demand rebroadcasts of all programming, whether or not you actually recorded it) to a range of devices via a simple graphical user interface (codenamed Snowflake) that works on large and small screens alike. (This was Microsoft’s goal in designing Windows 8’s Metro interface, which resembles that of a Windows Phone.)
A panel of industry heavy-hitters—including executives from BSkyB, Cox Communications, Fox Broadcasting, Liberty Global, and Major League Baseball—took the stage with Marthin De Beer, senior vice president of Cisco’s Video and Collaboration Group, moderating a discussion of the service’s possibilities and problems.
For example, Joe Inzerillo of Major League Baseball Advanced Media pointed out the potential for rights disputes among entities involved in content creation and distribution.”Whose content is it?” he queried rhetorically.