From telco TV to video chat

Telco TV services have not exactly evolved rapidly beyond what most people consider cable TV-like offerings--not that there is anything wrong with that. Whether you are talking about FiOS TV or U-verse, IPTV or some other method a telco has of delivering TV services, telcos have made great strides in building successful and reliable TV offerings. Meanwhile, they continue to tinker with integrating online TV and video, social networking and other interactive features with their services.

But, could the next explosive evolution in telco TV come via the video chat? Video chat has been, well, chatted about for years. A number of TV service providers, including telcos, also have started to look at ways to incorporate the feature with their TV services, though for most of these developments have been pursued in the lab and under the radar (Integra5, which just announced it is changing its name to MediaFriends, is among telco TV vendors that have eyed the opportunity).

Now, they may be set to get a boost from a potential partner, Cisco Systems, which sees video chat on TVs as a sort of consumer extension of what it has been doing with new-fangled telepresence videoconferencing systems in the enterprise market. Cisco increasingly has been edging into the consumer market over the last year, and talk of a possible "consumer telepresence" offering has been circulating for months. The immediate question was how Cisco could adapt mostly high-priced telepresence gear for a consumer market experiencing tightened spending, but instead of trying to do that, the key to Cisco's consumer video chat push appears to be software it bought as part of its Pure Digital acquisition, according to a recent report in the San Jose Mercury News.

That Cisco sees telcos as valuable partners in the video chat push is encouraging and not as surprising as it might have seemed a few years ago. Particularly in the TV services market, telcos may need technology and business partners to give them a bit of a push when it comes to rolling out new offerings. Having Cisco with them will supply more confidence to support video chat, and Cisco will be able to strengthen the service provider relationships that the company has built in recent years through the Scientific-Atlanta acquisition and other efforts.

Still, the partners will enter a market environment that already includes numerous options for video chat via the Internet. If video chat is to be the next hot telco TV feature, the evolution needs to happen very quickly. Cisco sees video chat happening in TVs within a year, but can telcos move with that sense of urgency?

-Dan

For more:
- The San Jose Mercury News has this article

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Integra5 also has been looking at TV-based video chat

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