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IPTV World Forum Eastern Europe 2009 Roundup

[lang_en]The turn out subjectively seemed to those who I spoke with, to be disappointing, but Informa, the conference organisers, were as always upbeat pointing to the 60+ operators present and the 20+ exhibitors. So I suppose, as the recession isn’t officially over, the glass is over half full.

The conference was setup around cosy tables so it was hard to judge the audience size but there were always between 50 and 100 people present in the conference.

The conference was branded with “quality of experience” and there was some effort to get that into the titles of some of the talks. But what I saw of day one talks didn’t reflect that. I suppose it’s the editorial control issue here. Informa can’t enforce much, the upside of which can be some surprising talks. One speaker I spoke to actually admitted to not really knowing what quality of experience actually is … I picked up a few snippets like from Michal Taborsky that Telefonica O2 has no plans on OTT yet and that HD is delivered in a best effort mode and so not charged for yet in the Czech Republic.

Sebastian Becker, founder, thebrainbehind, stood in as chair on day two. He was surprised by how cautious Russia seems to be with IPTV. It was surmised that torrent users are dominating/ruining this market. Croatians on the other hand seemed bullish on IPTV probably because of the lack of cable there.up

Mihai Crastelnau made a good presentation about the myths of content sourcing that we all say is so veeeeeery difficult, namely because you can’t work with studios. Well that may no longer be the case. It is however still not so easy to get all the details right like the metadata, subtitles, dubbing, encoding, etc.

A learning that OTE shared with the audience was that there should be a significant gap between the price for double play and triple play. Iskon in Croatia uses 25%, which seems to fit the market well.

The Orange IPTV advertising experimentation seems to be still in very early days, like the red button was in 2003. Orca and Dreampark both gave convincing middleware presentations. Finally Sebastian noted how NBC Universal showed their new channel branding strategy is a way to become must-have channels. Their message to platforms is (surprise-surprise) to focus on quality rather than quantity.

Overall, Sebastian Becker thought it was a good show considering the circumstances, although as chair he regretted that the audience didn't ask many questions.

The exhibition was well laid out in such a way that, unlike in London, no booths were stuck in the corner off the beaten track. Informa cleverly served a scrumptious desert in the middle of the exhibition so there was plenty of passage.

I randomly dropped into some booths of companies I didn’t really know.

Gravity is a Hungarian start-up in the recommendation space. They proudly stated at the booth that they were “Founder of the overall best Netflix prize best team”, but I never got to the bottom of that and everyone in this space claims some sort of link. Their demo worked fine, but with a database of 120 movies at the show I was unimpressed. If I get the time I’ll try out their half collaborative filtering half metadata approach on the web with a real database.up

I was more impressed by the DS2 booth. DS2 is a Spanish chip and reference design company for power line communications (PLC) devices. Their chipsets end up in the PLC devices from the likes of D-Link or Netgear. They compete with Intellon (also at the show) and claim a few USP’s like a TR-069 client option for just an extra $1. This could enable an operator to do things like upgrade a device firmware or reboot a customer’s PLC device. As we look towards more and more commitment from operators to manage IPTV services this looks like a really smart move.

DS2 sell a tiny daughter card for $16-20 which will let you integrate PLC into other devices, so it could for example be in the modem-router and STB of the operator straight out of the box.

The big news for folks in the PLC market is ITU-T’s ratification just this month of the G.hn standard that will enable true compatibility between vendors (hmmm sounds familiar, I thought that was already the case, I suppose it can’t be). DS2 say they’ll have new 400 Mbps devices ready and compatible by the end of 2010. Current devices are at 200 Mbps. Remember to halve all published rates between the physical layer advertised and what is achievable at o-an IP level. The dynamic range (i.e. how far you can get two PLC devices to talk to each other) isn’t expected to change though. So if it doesn’t work in your home now, it won’t any time soon.

As Evertz are at most of the IPTV shows and I have no idea what they do, I thought I’d stop by to find out. The first good news is that they come from Canada. They sell - and do correct me if I'm wrong with the technicalities - 3RU racks where you can slot up to 15 cards each of which takes an SDI input and spurns out an MPEG stream ranging from 1 to 20 Mbps. So I deduct that they do encoders. The company website (which feels uncannily like you’re at the Hertz rental car company) did little to help deepen my understanding. I’ll try the literature next time and anyone from Evertz please feel free to contact me for proper write up.

I stopped off at the Open IPTV Forum booth where I had three green t-shirted friendly people all to myself (hmm wonder who pays for that). Starting from 8 founding members in 2007 they boast an impressive 58 paid-up members. They have no pure-play middleware vendors (Ericsson doesn’t count because they supply the whole ecosystem). If they did have, say, Dreampark, it could help to get their specs off the white-boards and into live deployments.up

As I passed the Orca booth, Sefy Ariely, VP Sales & Marketing at Orca Interactive, grabbed my arm and told me he was a bit cheesed off [with me] about the comments I’d made in my last piece about them showing the Compass demo over and over at show after show (Read IBC 2009 report on Middleware). I told Sefy I had been nice because not only was it repetitive, but getting less interesting than it was in the beginning. Sefy, being a seasoned professional, had an answer to every objection. It was first just a concept demo, now it’s a real product. It looks like we just have to accept that real products are less exciting than demos.[/lang_en]
[lang_fr]The turn out subjectively seemed to those who I spoke with, to be disappointing, but Informa, the conference organisers, were as always upbeat pointing to the 60+ operators present and the 20+ exhibitors. So I suppose, as the recession isn’t officially over, the glass is over half full.

The conference was setup around cosy tables so it was hard to judge the audience size but there were always between 50 and 100 people present in the conference.

The conference was branded with “quality of experience” and there was some effort to get that into the titles of some of the talks. But what I saw of day one talks didn’t reflect that. I suppose it’s the editorial control issue here. Informa can’t enforce much, the upside of which can be some surprising talks. One speaker I spoke to actually admitted to not really knowing what quality of experience actually is … I picked up a few snippets like from Michal Taborsky that Telefonica O2 has no plans on OTT yet and that HD is delivered in a best effort mode and so not charged for yet in the Czech Republic.

Sebastian Becker, founder, thebrainbehind, stood in as chair on day two. He was surprised by how cautious Russia seems to be with IPTV. It was surmised that torrent users are dominating/ruining this market. Croatians on the other hand seemed bullish on IPTV probably because of the lack of cable there.haut

Mihai Crastelnau made a good presentation about the myths of content sourcing that we all say is so veeeeeery difficult, namely because you can’t work with studios. Well that may no longer be the case. It is however still not so easy to get all the details right like the metadata, subtitles, dubbing, encoding, etc.

A learning that OTE shared with the audience was that there should be a significant gap between the price for double play and triple play. Iskon in Croatia uses 25%, which seems to fit the market well.

The Orange IPTV advertising experimentation seems to be still in very early days, like the red button was in 2003. Orca and Dreampark both gave convincing middleware presentations. Finally Sebastian noted how NBC Universal showed their new channel branding strategy is a way to become must-have channels. Their message to platforms is (surprise-surprise) to focus on quality rather than quantity.

Overall, Sebastian Becker thought it was a good show considering the circumstances, although as chair he regretted that the audience didn't ask many questions.

The exhibition was well laid out in such a way that, unlike in London, no booths were stuck in the corner off the beaten track. Informa cleverly served a scrumptious desert in the middle of the exhibition so there was plenty of passage.

I randomly dropped into some booths of companies I didn’t really know.

Gravity is a Hungarian start-up in the recommendation space. They proudly stated at the booth that they were “Founder of the overall best Netflix prize best team”, but I never got to the bottom of that and everyone in this space claims some sort of link. Their demo worked fine, but with a database of 120 movies at the show I was unimpressed. If I get the time I’ll try out their half collaborative filtering half metadata approach on the web with a real database.up

I was more impressed by the DS2 booth. DS2 is a Spanish chip and reference design company for power line communications (PLC) devices. Their chipsets end up in the PLC devices from the likes of D-Link or Netgear. They compete with Intellon (also at the show) and claim a few USP’s like a TR-069 client option for just an extra $1. This could enable an operator to do things like upgrade a device firmware or reboot a customer’s PLC device. As we look towards more and more commitment from operators to manage IPTV services this looks like a really smart move.

DS2 sell a tiny daughter card for $16-20 which will let you integrate PLC into other devices, so it could for example be in the modem-router and STB of the operator straight out of the box.

The big news for folks in the PLC market is ITU-T’s ratification just this month of the G.hn standard that will enable true compatibility between vendors (hmmm sounds familiar, I thought that was already the case, I suppose it can’t be). DS2 say they’ll have new 400 Mbps devices ready and compatible by the end of 2010. Current devices are at 200 Mbps. Remember to halve all published rates between the physical layer advertised and what is achievable at o-an IP level. The dynamic range (i.e. how far you can get two PLC devices to talk to each other) isn’t expected to change though. So if it doesn’t work in your home now, it won’t any time soon.

As Evertz are at most of the IPTV shows and I have no idea what they do, I thought I’d stop by to find out. The first good news is that they come from Canada. They sell - and do correct me if I'm wrong with the technicalities - 3RU racks where you can slot up to 15 cards each of which takes an SDI input and spurns out an MPEG stream ranging from 1 to 20 Mbps. So I deduct that they do encoders. The company website (which feels uncannily like you’re at the Hertz rental car company) did little to help deepen my understanding. I’ll try the literature next time and anyone from Evertz please feel free to contact me for proper write up.

I stopped off at the Open IPTV Forum booth where I had three green t-shirted friendly people all to myself (hmm wonder who pays for that). Starting from 8 founding members in 2007 they boast an impressive 58 paid-up members. They have no pure-play middleware vendors (Ericsson doesn’t count because they supply the whole ecosystem). If they did have, say, Dreampark, it could help to get their specs off the white-boards and into live deployments.haut

As I passed the Orca booth, Sefy Ariely, VP Sales & Marketing at Orca Interactive, grabbed my arm and told me he was a bit cheesed off [with me] about the comments I’d made in my last piece about them showing the Compass demo over and over at show after show (Read IBC 2009 report on Middleware). I told Sefy I had been nice because not only was it repetitive, but getting less interesting than it was in the beginning. Sefy, being a seasoned professional, had an answer to every objection. It was first just a concept demo, now it’s a real product. It looks like we just have to accept that real products are less exciting than demos.[/lang_fr]

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Q: Is DLNA ready for living-room action? A: Almost.

This afternoon I was to prepare tonight’s Indian meal and decided to put on some music. I like it nice and loud perhaps as a reminder of my teenage years or maybe because past 40 hearing drops, who knows. Anyway I was alone at home so the time was right.

My new Bravia 5500 series TV is hooked up to the stereo system with an HDMI cable and connected to my home network. An Apple Time-Capsule acts as an Ethernet hub for all my sitting room devices (TV, BlueRay, multimedia hard disk, PC’s). The family Vista PC with the MP3 collection was switched-on so I decided to try and listen through the TV. I’d seen demos at shows, checked I could do it myself when I got the TV six months ago, but this time it was to actually listen to music rather than play with technology.

The whole operation took about twenty seconds and lo and behold everything worked first time.

I hit the big ‘Home’ button on the Sony TV remote, scrolled to the ‘music ‘ section, and bingo: the PC appeared. So I selected it and started playing the first MP3 I came across. It was a Mozart piano concerto and sounded brilliant.

With my wife and three kids adding to the collection, there are tens of thousands of files of absolutely every kind of music imaginable. The DLNA client on the TV found its way to the root of the music collection that is managed by iTunes on the PC. I could navigate by genre (with the typical issues like having to choose between ‘classical’ or ‘classique’ as we live in France) or by subdirectory. In this case it’s a matter of luck with some explicit names, but many meaningless ones.

I wanted to listen randomly to titles and found that option on the TV. It seemed a shame not to use the 46” screen with its 1920*1080 resolution, so tried to get a slide show of family photos to display at the same time.

I selected the current music as background and used the TV remote to navigate to my photos (again simply pressing the ‘home’ button).
I selected ‘all photos’ and got the slide show working. As the default setting must be file date I got stuck watching our oldest digital family photos I’d forgotten about.

I was now getting a bit behind schedule for the dinner party preparations.
The Mozart piece I’d selected lasted about 20 minutes, so after that time I realised that I was not getting what I wanted, namely to watch my photos and listen to my music.

One can only set one piece to accompany a slide show and there’s no option (yet) to have a slide show accompany music (which was actually my state of mind).

So I gave up on the music and decided to satisfy myself with the photos alone. But as the photos were in chronological order, I soon ran out of the small 200Kb files from the very early digital cameras. As I got to a more current 3MB file size, the loading times became unusable at about half a minute. I presume the TV’s chipset is a bit underpowered for high-res photos. I haven’t and don’t want to investigate the technicalities of this slowdown. I just want it to work.

Another limitation was that you can either see the whole picture, in which case part of the screen isn’t used as the camera uses different aspect ratio or have the photofit the screen exactly by being cropped. Mac and PC based photo software has got us used to much nicer solutions with the best of both worlds were photos either scroll across the screen or zoom out so you can see all of them.

My initial feeling of elation at how it all worked was waning so I went back to the music and got the tandoori paste around the chicken in time (oh and btw I usually just grilled the meat, this time I tried slow cooking in the oven wrapped in silver foil, follow by a quick grill on one side to dry and brown it – it was much more succulent than usual).
So my tupence worth from this mixed experience is:

• DLNA already works in the living room, not just on trade show demos
• You need a powerful device to manage big files or HD and current TV for example don’t yet pack enough oompf
• The embed software on TV’s just isn’t user friendly enough

I am left with the feeling that there still is room for various flavours of set-top-box technology to flourish, including an Apple TV or a PC under the TV. But I wonder how long for until the set-makers get it right.

(This blog was first published on Videonet http://www.v-net.tv/NewsDisplay.aspx?id=193&title=dlna-works-for-real)