By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Preparing for the July 1, 2007, deadline when cable operators are required to separate conditional access security systems from set-top boxes, Digeo used International CES to show the first fruits of a cable-centric multimedia product line it will take to retail in the second half.
Manned by a team of long-time former Sony Electronics marketing executives, including Mike Fidler, Digeo CEO, and Greg Gudorf, Digeo president, the company looked to connect with new retail distribution partners at CES in an effort to seat its Moxi-branded products on showroom floors.
Although the company is a supplier of set-top equipment to cable multi-system operators who typically lease devices to subscribers, Digeo will look to sell consumers a pair of devices — one using digital CableCARDs and one supporting only in-the-clear QAM digital cable channels. Digeo will supplement the cable-delivered programming with content it arranges to make available to purchasers via a broadband connection to the box.
Digeo expects to target specialty A/V dealers with assisted selling floors to help sell the products in the early rollout phase, but the company is still determining the scope of its retail distribution plans, Fidler told TWICE.
Retailers will have the opportunity to profit from the margin on the sale of the device, but Fidler said Digeo has had "some discussions with retailers about exploring additional options."
Under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandate that takes effect in July, cable operators will be required to separate conditional access system from cable boxes and support all third-party digital-cable-ready products with CableCARDs.
This will enable users to view premium cable content that is typically encrypted, using devices purchased in retail stores across the country.
Digeo is taking advantage of the ruling with one product called a Moxi Multi-Room Recorder that records video (including high definition), audio and photos to a hard drive like a generic digital media recorder (DMR) and then redistributes that programming to thin-client boxes, called Moxi Mates, located in other rooms in the home.
The system, which has not yet been priced for retail, is expected at this time to connect the hub recorder to the thin-client receivers using secure IEEE-1394 ultrawideband-over-coax cable connections, capable of supporting high-definition signals, Fidler said.
The hub device, which incorporates a built-in optical drive for DVD and CD playback (disc recording capability will be determined later), will include a slot for unidirectional CableCARDs, including the newly approved Multistream CableCARDs that are capable of supporting tuning up to four video programs at a time through one card.
The first Multi-Room Recorder will include two tuners, Fidler said, and Digeo will speak with retail partners to determine if they want to sell the hub device and Media Mates separately or in bundled packages.
"We think multiroom is an important trend because some consumers now want to have access to HDTV content in more than one room in the house," Fidler said.
Digeo will offer in all devices its unique graphical user interface to let users easily find programming to playback or record. As for video-on-demand or pay-per-view content not supported by the unidirectional CableCARD, Fidler said Digeo is now working with content partners to make Internet-carried video services available through the device, using two-way ordering capability supported by the Internet.
The second device, called the Home Cinema Edition HD DMR, was designed to offer "the power of the PC and deliver it in a TV-centric environment," said Fidler.
The Linux-based system with an AMD reference design — ironic for a company owned by Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft — will incorporate an 5.1-channel A/V amplifier, optical disc drive for DVD and CD playback, over-the-air ATSC broadcast tuning and in-the-clear QAM digital cable tuning.
Fidler, who pointed out that Linux provides critical operational dependability, said the device lacks a CableCARD slot because "right now CableCARD for PCs are available only for Vista-based products."
It will omit multiroom support but will add a broadband connection allowing access to Digeo's Internet video content partners.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.