Cisco's refocused Videoscape floats more clearly to the cloud

editor's corner

Jim O'Neil

Over the past year, Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) has struggled to regain its mojo, as well as figure out its direction. Its identity crisis approached seemingly schizophrenic proportions, as it championed its doomed Flip video camera, and, until recently, the just decommissioned Umi personal video conferencing system. There were rumors it would sell WebEx and that it would get out of the set-top-box business. Investors, customers, hell, even executives, seemed confused.

At this week's CES in Las Vegas, Cisco appears to have rediscovered itself. CEO John Chambers' promise to refocus the company on its core mission--and to trim $1 billion in expenses as well as cut underperforming divisions and products--appears to have taken root.

In a series of releases, the company reasserted its commitment to its Videoscape TV platform initiative that Chambers rolled out in a dog-and-pony show as "The Future of Video" at last year's CES.

At the time, Videoscape was more promise than reality; even Flip and Umi played roles, albeit small ones, in the ecosystem. A year ago, there was more a sense of showmanship than substance, a feeling that, while the idea of Videoscape had all the makings of a best seller, it remained a rough draft.

No more.

The new Videoscape is pushing aggressively into the cloud, with "Any Screen TV" capabilities that deliver live video and on-demand video experiences to PCs, Macs, iPads, iPhones and Android devices.

Videoscape, designed to bring together digital TV, online video, social media and communications applications, has gotten a lot of attention over the past 12 months, and it shows.

As Jesper Andersen, Cisco's SVP and GM of the service provider video technology group said: "We have spent the last year refining and advancing our Videoscape platform with new capabilities that will support our customers' biggest challenges."

The new initiative is something of a magic bullet, offering the combined power of the network, cloud and client in an effort to help service providers catch up to the demand for multiscreen video services by cutting the time it takes them to get to market.

"With our new cloud components in play, we are confident we can help our customers open new programming distribution channels and advertising possibilities to drive new revenue," said Andersen.

Tuesday's announcement touched on a multitude of technologies for Cisco, including the first of a new family of multiscreen gateway products, the Cisco 9800 and the Videoscape Voyager software platform that connects STBs to the cloud.

Also announced was the Videoscape Voyager Virtual, a cloud-rendered user interface that delivers IP video to legacy MPEG-2 set-top boxes. It also helps enable new social media applications, e-commerce, gaming, cloud-driven electronic programming guides (EPGs), video place shifting and remote user interfaces. It's built on Cisco's Unified Cloud Services Platform.

Also bult on the platform is Cisco's Conductor back-office technology (for QAM video), which allows service providers to roll out differentiated video services faster and more efficiently; the Cisco Media Processor and Transcode Manager that juices service providers' capabilities to deliver video content to second and third screens through expanded video format support; and its Videoscape Content Delivery Network Analytics software that delivers advanced reporting so that service providers can gather and view more in-depth information from their Cisco Content Delivery System (CDS) or third-party CDN deployment, and analyze network performance in real-time.

A year ago, Cisco announced its vision of the future of video. It's much clearer now, and it looks good.--Jim