The Future for Motorola and Google, Ready for Android on Your Cable Box?

Motorola Mobility Logo Last week Light Reading sat down with Sanjay Jha and Dan Moloney of Motorola Mobility to talk a bit about the Google purchase of Motorola Mobility and what it might mean for the future of Motorola’s set-top boxes and Android devices, and they released two videos.

They were very cagey in their responses, largely due to the legal issues of the pending merger and the limitations on what the two companies can do together until the merger is complete. But it certainly sounds like they’re looking at Android, probably in a form similar to Google TV, as Motorola’s new STB platform. This is exactly what I talked about in August when the merger was first announced. The buyout, or merger if you prefer, is about more than phones and patents. It seems like most of the press surrounding the merger continues to focus on just phones and patents, but Google is playing a much bigger game. Motorola only has 4% of the global smartphone market, but they’re the dominant player in the US cable STB market. Google also has SageTV, which was asked about int he videos but they declined to talk about it, and we still don’t know how it will be used. But it seems logical that it will play a role in the future of the Google TV platform and/or a related STB OS.

There are a lot questions and the answers could have a major impact on the industry. Android runs primarily on ARM core chips. Google TV launched on Intel chips, but it is moving to ARM. Cable STBs tend to use embedded chips using MIPS cores. Could Motorola STBs shift to ARM for Android? That would be a huge change for traditional STB chip vendors, and a huge opportunity for ARM vendors. A chip like a Tegra 2 or Tegra 3 would make for quite a powerful STB. Consider that today’s high end smartphones have far more processing power, graphics power, and protocol support than pretty much any cable STB on the market. And MVPDs are increasingly looking to OTT features to enhance their services and attract and retain customers.

But I’m extrapolating a bit, certainly reading into some of the things that were said, or not said, in the videos. There are a lot of interesting points in the videos. The first is primarily about the cable business and the second discusses tablets and if MSOs might start offering tablets as a part of their service, just like leasing an STB.

Here are the videos, see what you think:

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MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
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  • Fanfoot

    Not sure I heard a lot of news in those videos, but interesting nonetheless.

    As usual it isn’t whether Motorola can develop something that would “delight consumers” (though of course I’d have some questions about the chance of that happening), but whether MSOs would roll it out even if Motorola did develop it.

    Most of the OTT things that consumers would actually want on their cable STBs (Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon On Demand, HBO Go, Crackle etc) is directly competitive with the MSOs own offerings.  So typically even when some capability has been available on say a Tivo box, when the box is deployed at an MSO, the capability gets disabled.  If you get used to watching Hulu Plus a lot rather than the MSO’s own VOD service, you might figure out you could get buy without the cable company entirely.  They can’t have that.

    So sure they’ll talk about “Internet Video” but what they mean is things like YouTube, and not so much that long form content that is what you’re really looking for.

    But hey, I could be wrong.  Maybe at some point the defections to Verizon, AT&T, Dish and DirecTV and their constant low consumer ratings will have some kind of impact on these companies.

    But I won’t be holding my breath waiting.  But hey, I didn’t think the iPad stuff would happen at anywhere near the speed it did, so what do I know?

    • MegaZone

      MSOs aren’t as worried about OTT content as you may think.   Remember, they’re the most likely broadband provider for the customers.  They win if you decide to go OTT too.

      RCN has stated numerous times that they want to offer Netflix to their customers.  Charter has stated that they want to offer Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix to customers.  They’re already incorporating them into their web based content portal.

      Grande Communications is apparently offering Amazon Instant Video to their users.

      The issue with Netflix is contractual – on Netflix’s side.  They said the contracts with the content owners precludes them from streaming to MSO-provided boxes.

      I’m not sure what the issue is with Amazon.  It was thought they had the same issue, but if Grande really is providing Amazon content that’s new.  So it isn’t clear why other MSOs who say they would like to provide Amazon aren’t.

      • Fanfoot

        Yeah, I’m not completely convinced.  Call me when the list above includes Comcast or Time Warner or Cablevision or Verizon or AT&T.  Then we’ll talk.

        And including other people’s content on their web portal doesn’t count.  That’s just capturing eyeballs when you’re already on the web on your laptop.  TV playback is clearly different, both contractually and seemingly in terms of how they view it competitively.