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Samsung Enters Digital Cable Box Market With Moxi Media Technology

Samsung Electronics said it is manufacturing its first set-top box for the North American digital cable TV industry, which will be based on Digeo’s next-generation Moxi Media Center technology.

The Moxi II Media Center box, which will be available in the fall, will offer cable system operators a single device that combines the functions of a digital cable tuner, a standard/high-definition digital video recorder (DVR), a digital music jukebox, a digital photo viewer and an Internet telephone.

Cable providers will have the option to determine how many of the various feature capabilities they would like to include in the boxes they order, Samsung said.

Steve Goldstein, Samsung’s senior business development manager, said Samsung opted to manufacture the Digeo box as a means of quickly entering the digital cable business.

“We’ve been working on a series of projects that at the end of the day is positioning Samsung as one of the few, if not the only, companies that can deliver on the cable industry’s quadruple play of voice, video, data and mobile,” said Goldstein. “But a lot of the projects that we are working on are things that are going to take time, so we selected a strong partner like Digeo that was already deployed with a number of multisystem operators in the United States … to get something done together by the end of the year.”

Samsung has been working aggressively to expand its role in the digital cable industry. It was among the first consumer electronics manufacturers to announce plans to support digital CableCARD technologies (both uni-direction and bi-directional) in its digital television sets. The company is also working on projects with Time Warner cable, Goldstein said. He added that Samsung will bring to Digeo a global manufacturing partner that can quickly ramp up high production volumes and bring down costs.

Digeo, meanwhile, is a company backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. who is also chairman of Charter, to develop chipsets and software platforms to enable multiple interactive applications for digital cable TV equipment. The company has developed its X-Stream chipset which integrates the handling of multiple applications with faster processing speeds at reduced cost.

“We will be working with Charter and Adelphia initially on iteration one —­deploying boxes through a traditional leased MSO distribution model,” Goldstein said. “The platform is also set up to be able to handle a multistream CableCARD when that becomes available, which can expand our distribution capability.”

He said the delivery of the multistream CableCARD, which will enable playing and recording multiple digital TV streams simultaneously, is “the gating factor” for national retail distribution. When that is ready, a second-generation box can be manufactured, and “I would look for retail distribution to be happening in the first half of 2006,” he said.

Even with the next-generation box, Samsung will continue to work with local MSOs as it rolls out product, Goldstein said. Those products are expected to distribute video and other content to multiple televisions around the house, without requiring an existing in-home network.

The first-generation boxes for Charter and Adelphia will feature embedded Motorola conditional access circuitry and will not include a CableCARD slot, Goldstein confirmed. The cable operators will be able to pick from among a variety of feature options they want to include for each market, said Craig Hummel, Digeo’s business development director. The cost for a base-level box will be under $400, allowing cable operators to typically lease set-top boxes to subscribers.

Options available in the first boxes include either an 80GB or 160GB hard disc drive, and up to four analog/digital tuners for both QAM digital cable channels and terrestrial ATSC and NTSC TV broadcasts. Connections will include broadband component video, composite video, HDMI/HDCP, DVI, USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394/DTCP.

The platform, which integrates DOCSIS capability, will also allow for new voice over IP digital cable telephony, Hummel said, but the deployment of that capability will be left up to the individual cable operators.

In addition to Samsung, Digeo is using Motorola to manufacture its Moxi II boxes. It is also working with Scientific Atlanta on a cobranded Power Key box that Digeo has contracted a third-party manufacturer to produce, Hummel said. Sony is a licensee of the Digeo reference design for a Passage-based set-top box, but a product has not been produced to date

The company announced that it had just deployed its 100,000th Moxi Media Center box, deploying at a rate of over 5,000 boxes per week. That is expected to soon ramp up to 10,000 per week, Hummel said.