Charter, Cisco officially unveil cloud-based 'World Box' partnership at CES

LAS VEGAS--Having been lauded by media analysts for months for its new, cost-effective, cloud-based video delivery system, Charter Communications on Tuesday held a Consumer Electronics Show press conference to formally credit the key vendors behind the so-called "World Box" initiative.

Specifically, Charter (NASDAQ: CHTR) formalized its partnership with Cisco Systems, which is providing key downloadable security software, as well as replacement set-tops, to the MSO.

Contrasting significantly from Comcast's complex rollout of its X1 platform and associated boxes, World Box utilizes legacy set-tops, rendering a modern, IP-based user guide in the cloud then shuffling back the guide as an MPEG video signal to subscribers--no new high-end set-top required.

To demonstrate the cost efficiency, both Charter CEO Tom Rutledge and Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers appeared on the Venetian Hotel ballroom stage standing in front of an 11-year-old Scientific Atlantic cable box, which they say is perfectly capable of operating the new program guide.

"This makes every box in the Charter footprint state-of-the-art," Rutledge said. "Smart networks make dumb screens smart. We can take any kind of device and make it a sophisticated device."

Products provided by Cisco will include the technology company's cloud-based security suite, including a downloadable security solution (DCAS) for set-tops, and a digital rights management solution for IP devices. Cisco will also supply a "substantial share" of Charter's new "skinny client" set-tops. And it will continue to supply CabelCARD boxes until Charter migrates all current and acquired systems to the downloadable security solution.

Marketed under its "Spectrum" brand, Charter has already tested the new technology with 25,000 customers in the Fort Worth, Texas area. It plans to roll out the technology to its entire footprint this year.

Also on hand at Tuesday's press conference were executives from cloud computing company ActiveVideo, which provides the technology behind the Spectrum's new user interface.

Media analyst Craig Moffett estimates total costs to build a cloud-based system like World Box to come in at around $600 million, with most of the cost consumed by network infrastructure. Conversely, he estimates complete deployment of an IP-based set-top solution to exceed $3 billion.

For more:
- read this Charter press release
- read this Bloomberg story

Related links:
Cable's Yen and Yang: Comparing Comcast and Charter's different approaches to user guides
Charter hires former Starz exec Robinson to lead user experience design
Comcast X1 platform experiences second major outage in less than a week