Cisco unveils its vision of TV of the future

LAS VEGAS--Cisco Wednesday posed a question at the beginning of its press conference at CES: "What do you wish your TV could do?" Its answer? Just about everything.

CEO John Chambers launched an upbeat description of what the company believes is the future of television--Videoscape--a TV platform for service providers that brings together digital TV and online content with social media and communications applications to create an immersive home and mobile video entertainment experience.

Although Videoscape includes a set-top box and will help pay-TV operators stay relevant in a consumer space that is rapidly evolving to demand more over-the-top content, it's equally about merging the video flow into a single, high-quality stream... with Cisco at the helm.

Videoscape is an open platform that utilizes the cloud, the network, and client devices. In the home, its media gateway integrates voice, linear and online video, high-speed data, Wi-Fi and network traffic routing. An IP STB is engineered to support all video forms delivered to a TV, including pay TV, broadcast channels, premium channels, VoD and the Web.

Its cloud component relies on the Videoscape Media Suite to offer full life-cycle content management so that service providers can efficiently and cost-effectively manage and publish content across multiple screens.

Its network component, the Cisco Conductor for Videoscape, orchestrates various services and subscriber-management functions across the cloud, the network and client devices.

Videoscape, will allow access to any content from any device anywhere in the world with proper authorization," Chambers said. It's also designed to seamlessly transition content from device to device (smartphone to tablet to TV, for example) with no additional authentication needed. It will, he said, "redefine the video experience."

"A decade ago we talked about how (the connected consumer) was going to change the market, that it would be driven by the consumer," he said. He contends that's already begun to happen, stressing that the industry is just at the front of a curve that will accelerate very rapidly as consumers, more so than business, fuel changes in video delivery.

Videoscape is just one part of a video ecosystem Cisco has aggressively been constructing, and it includes the Umi home video conferencing system and the Flip video camera the company acquired from Pure Digital.

"Video will be the next voice," Chambers said, drawing a parallel to VoIP. But, he added, "Video is more of an art than a science. It is inevitable how fast the market is going to move."

Despite an array of hardware to help deliver video, Chambers said more than 75 percent of the company's investment has been in software, a trend he says has to continue for video to really take off.

"We have to make it simple, more visual, more intuitive, more social and more mobile," he said. "It's about consistency of quality delivery, not about the individual box, piece of software, or the device."

Chambers said no providers in the U.S. currently were in trials with Videoscape, although he did announce Australia's Telstra was an initial partner. "You'll see us, just about every quarter, announce tighter relationships with key service providers," he said.