I was a little disappointed by the news out of CES last week. While there were certainly a lot of cool devices, like 4K Passive 3D TVs, razor thin OLED HDTVs with actual large screens, etc., a lot of the cooler devices will take a few years to enter the realm of affordability for most consumers. But there were a few announcements I found more immediately interesting, and one, or rather two, of those were the twin announcements from Sling Media that Broadcom and ViXS are both incorporating their technology into their chip families.
The Broadcom press release specifically mentions the BCM7425. That’s a MoCA 2.0 enabled chip that can simultaneously decode two HD video streams and transcode them for streaming, generally to portable devices. such a chip could be embedded in a set top box, or it could take the form of a standalone network-based transcoder that takes in the default HD streams, which are generally MPEG-2, and transcodes them to H.264 for streaming.
The ViXS press release speaks in more general terms about the XCode chip family. The Sling Media software has been integrated with the ViXS Xtensiv software stack for the XCode chips. The XCode family has varying features; the high-end 5100 can transcode six HD streams simultaneously while the 4200 can transcode dual streams. All of them have Ethernet support, so they could be embedded in an STB or used in a network-based transcoder. They don’t appear to have MoCA support, but a separate MoCA transceiver chip could handle that, as in the TiVo Premiere Elite.
Support for Sling’s streaming technology in these chips opens the door to the potential for SlingLoaded devices from vendors other than EchoStar. I think that would be very interesting. While EchoStar’s own efforts to market SlingLoaded devices haven’t met with much success, to date they’ve been limited to the Dish Network ViP922 DVR in the US and the EchoStar HDS-600RS Freesat+ DVR in the UK, licensing the tech to other vendors could be a more successful approach.
MVPDs have been showing an increasing interest in place shifting technology as a value add to attract customers. Dish, of course, already has the ViP922 and the Sling Adapter for the ViP722. DirecTV has the Nomad ‘store and forward’ network transcoding box. Various MSOs have trialed or tested place shifting hardware. Building it into their STBs, or offering a network-based add-on box to enable streaming, could be a way for MSOs to leverage the market leading Sling technology.
TiVo was showing of a technology demo of just such a box at CES, though there is no indication that Sling Media’s tech was involved. Still, now that EchoStar and TiVo aren’t involved in a blood feud, perhaps they can finally combine their respective best in breed technologies. TiVo’s demo box has a single Ethernet connection and power, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was using one of the ViXS chips. I doubt it is using the Broadcom chip as that’s slated for availability in 3Q12, though if TiVo brings such a unit to market I would very much expect the production version to have MoCA to ease integration with the Premiere Elite and to make it more appealing to their cable MSO partners. I’m hoping to have more to say about what TiVo was showing as CES soon.