By acquiring Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Mediaroom platform for an undisclosed amount, Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERIC) finally made the move into IPTV everyone was anticipating. But, perhaps it made that move in a way no one within the wireline space thought would happen.
The conventional wisdom was that Ericsson would move into IPTV as yet another wireline vendor, adding its technology to a mix that already including Motorola Mobility--soon to be Arris (Nasdaq: ARRS)--Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Pace (LSE: PIC.L). But, Ericsson, coming from the wireless side, has taken a different approach. In fact, there were some who were convinced that it would be Ericsson, not Arris that snatched Motorola Mobility from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG).
Instead, the international vendor has gone in another direction, acquiring a TV platform that has been pretty much rooted in the traditional wireline space and stating right upfront that it's going to turn it into a less-than-traditional offering that taps into the growing demand for video across all devices.
"We see it as being very complementary to TV Everywhere, the multiscreen TV, the mobility aspects the industry (is) moving towards," Simon Frost, Ericsson's head of TV marketing told me in a phone conversation about the acquisition.
In other words, Ericsson plans to redefine IPTV: from an Internet transport of television across conventional broadband networks that compete with traditional cable and satellite delivery, into IP video, an Internet transport of video across multiple types of wired and wireless networks to multiple types of wired and wireless devices that include, but are not limited to, television sets.
"I don't think it's purely about mobility and I don't think it's purely about the big TV IP environment in the home," Frost said. "I think it's a combination of the two which is the future of television. Our goal is to bring together the best of both."
The first move, he suggested, is to change the Mediaroom definition. Microsoft invariably described Mediaroom as its IPTV platform. That partially limited the company's success with the product to the point where it had only one large U.S. customer and had, in fact, recently lost a large UK player when BT (NYSE: BT) abandoned Mediaroom for Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA) thePlatform.
Of course Microsoft was also limited by its historical inability to understand the TV industry, and its scattered focus on the space led some to believe that the company was not dedicated to IPTV. That belief was reinforced when the software giant sold off Mediaroom and said it would concentrate on its Xbox gaming business.
Ericsson has its own biases and inclinations, most prominently in the wireless space, but appears more focused on redefining IPTV as IP video delivered across all available transport methods and devices.
"We see the full market as a strong opportunity for the solution of Mediaroom blended together with the Ericsson solution moving forward," Frost said. "I don't really see that anyone has quite the unique blend that Ericsson has in terms of the portfolio breadth and the very large services organization. Our goal in life is to provide the TV service providers, the operators, whomever's offering paid for, premium television experiences to the home and now any screen … with the advanced services and products and solutions to monetize that opportunity."
It is, marketing jargon removed, another small step in making IP a video transport mechanism that just happens to include TV.--Jim