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Active Video Sees A La Carte Future

3/21/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
SAN JOSE, CALIF. — Now with its first consumer electronics manufacturer partner on board, ActiveVideo Networks is looking to spread the gospel about its cloud-based interactive TV technology and the turnkey solution it is providing CE manufacturers, programming providers and retailers.

The company recently signed up Funai, which will implement Active Video Network’s software and backend server infrastructure on Philips-branded TVs and Blu-ray Disc players. Chances look good that similar offerings will soon be found on other products in the Funai stable of brands as well as other manufacturers to be named later.

For an update on where ActiveVideo Networks stands now and what to look for in the future, we caught up to Jeremy Edmonds, the company’s business development technology director, for the following Q&A interview:

TWICE: What is ActiveVideo Network’s goal for the consumer electronics space today?

Edmonds: We have a Cloud TV platform, which enables interactive applications to run on connected devices. We cut our teeth in the cable and IPTV space and have recently been moving with our first partner [Funai/Philips] into the consumer electronics space with the same platform, now targeting connected TVs, Blu-ray Disc players and other media devices in the living room.

Our platform runs applications that are DCMLbased, pretty much like web applications, and are executed on servers up in the Cloud. The user interface then streams video down to the TV or Blu-ray player, where there is a very small client that plays the video and sends the remote-control keystrokes back to the server.

The requirements are very lightweight on the device itself — it has very low requirements for CPU or memory or any other expensive components that the manufacturers have to stick in there. But it is very powerful. We can run Flash-based applications, web-centric applications that are able to play multiple video streams or interact with other servers out there for content or various results, such as information pulled from social networks or other databases, all combined into a coherent, interesting experience for the consumer.

TWICE: Other than Funai/Philips, what other CE partners are you targeting now for your platform?

Edmonds: We are trying to get into the TV sets themselves, so we are looking at all the major manufacturers of connected TVs that are shipping to North America. Just for ease of deployment we are focusing on North America first, although we have offices and partners in Europe and elsewhere that we hope to get to eventually for this particular deployment.

TWICE: Who do you see as your primary competitors in this space?

Edmonds: Since we are deploying a platform with a lot of potential capabilities that application developers can use, I would say if you look at similar platforms like Yahoo! Widgets, Google TV or Boxee as they try to expand beyond their proprietary box, those are some of the companies in the same space as us for the type of platform.

TWICE: What took so long to announce Funai/Philips as your first CE partner?

Edmonds: We’ve been doing the proof of concept on the technology for our own sake to show this is a viable solution that can run over unmanaged networks to the majority of North America so that pretty much anyone with a broadband connection, regardless of who they are getting that from or what their home network looks like, will get a reasonable experience from what we are running. Once talks have progressed with various CE manufacturers toward doing the integration and deployment, it’s gone very fast. Pulling Funai up to the table and getting them ready to deploy has occurred in a matter of months, not years.

TWICE: Beyond providing the necessary infrastructure, are you also working with the content suppliers to bring services to your platform?

Edmonds: Yes. From ActiveVideo’s perspective, we are the platform provider for this. We are not in the long-term a consumer-facing brand, as far as content aggregators or service providers. We are currently signing up partners that are interested in running on this platform and being able to deploy their applications to these devices. We expect there will be a consumer- facing brand that will be interested in managing this in partnership with us moving forward.

TWICE: Does the device manufacturer embedding your platform have any flexibility in choosing services to create some exclusivity or feature differentiation?

Edmonds: Absolutely. And the retailers are also interested in having both some control over what applications are available as well as having some branded exclusive applications for them. It’s a wide-open ecosystem, and all the players are interested in being able to manage their brand and what gets sold under their brand.

TWICE: Beyond streaming media content, what sorts of interactive applications and services will your platform deliver?

Edmonds: The first applications we are rolling out are video-consumption-based. We are doing a suite of games content with at least a dozen different casual video games along the lines of Bejeweled, poker and other card games, logic games and a wide range of titles allowing multi-home, interactive competition between friends and neighbors. We’ve also got a Facebook application to be able to see and share content on the TV screen. We can also do commerce very easily on here, and in the cable world we partnered with some of the home shopping channels to enable online transactions.

Edmonds Bio

Experience: A veteran of more than 15 years in the digital cable and satellite industries, Jeremy Edmonds joined ActiveVideo Networks in 2005. As technical business development director, he is responsible for working with the company’s business development and engineering teams to shape products that best meet customer needs.

Prior to joining ActiveVideo Networks, Edmonds was technology VP and chief technology officer of Switched Media, a Silicon Valley startup that was acquired by ActiveVideo (then ICTV) in 2005. Previously, he had been director of engineering for IVAST and the architect for Microsoft TV’s Microsoft Response Network application to enable tCommerce activity.

From 1998 to 2001, Edmonds served in a variety of capacities for DIVA Systems, including leading the development team for the company’s Interactive Programming Guide client. With DIVA Systems, he was named as co-inventor on 25 issued patents. Edmonds began his career with General Instrument (now Motorola) and C-Cube (now Harmonic).

Education: Edmonds has a Bachelor of Science in engineering from Harvey Mudd College.
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