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Sony Veterans Plot Retail Plans For Digeo

DENVER — Cable TV set-top equipment and systems developer Digeo has its eyes set on entering retail distribution next year with a Moxi high-definition multi-media cable TV set-top box, company executives told reporters attending the recent CEDIA Expo here.

Former Sony A/V marketing executives Mike Fidler, now Digeo’s CEO, and Greg Gudorf, now Digeo’s COO, said they will showcase at International CES in January a multi-tuner HD cable box with built-in DVR to be priced at around $1,000. Plans are to begin selling the product through consumer electronics retail partners by fall 2007, they said.

Still an “open issue” is whether the box would be sold under the Moxi brand or under the brand of another CE trademark, Gudorf said, adding that the company is ready to take the product to market under the Moxi brand if that’s what is required. Fidler said that Digeo is looking for suitable partners to help market a retail version of the product.

The box will incorporate an advanced Moxi graphical user interface (GUI), which Digeo said has received high satisfaction reports for intuitive ease of use from the nearly 400,000 subscribers who currently own Moxi equipment.

The new multimedia boxes will link cable TV (or possibly IPTV telco TV services) with digital multimedia playback as well as broadband Internet connectivity that among other things will add streaming and downloadable video and music choices to consumers’ TV sets.

The boxes will also have some sort of optical disc drive for packaged media discs, and may ultimately include either a Blu-ray Disc or HD DVD drive, Gudorf said.

For its retail box, Digeo plans to put together Internet content access and distribution deals with leading multimedia Web sites, enabling the placement of links to those services on a Moxi “portal.”

“We see an opportunity to drive the FCC’s [CableCARD] mandate, by using the CableCARD to gain access to HBO, ESPN etc. that cable companies provide and use the high penetration of broadband access in the homes to drive an IP pipe to deliver the data that may come from the cable operators today, may be new services and capabilities that aren’t there today and maybe long-tail content that comes from the Internet,” said Gudorf.

In addition, Digeo will continue selling hardware and licensing its Moxi Media Center technology to cable TV partners, who may make their own IPTV content deals for the Moxi devices they distribute. Digeo executives said they will carefully gauge retail and cable distribution of the set-top devices to avoid conflicts with cable operators’ business models.

Gudorf said the Moxi retail set-top will incorporate a multi-stream CableCARD slot enabling purchasers to access most cable TV services including video-on-demand and other interactive services using a CableCARD supplied by the local system operator.

The multi-steam card would allow using a single card for multi-tuner viewing and recording, unlike the recently announced TiVo Series3 devices which include dual uni-directional CableCARD slots to access two channels at one time.

Gudorf said that both Motorola and Scientific Atlanta, which control the conditional access systems used by most cable operators, approved multi-stream CableCARDs within the last two months.

In pursuing both cable and retail distribution, Digeo is betting that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will stick to its July 2007 deadline mandating separable conditional access in cable set-top equipment, at least for HD-enabled devices.

Gudorf reminded reporters that cable operators have sought out exemptions to the digital cable box mandate several times, and the rules may ultimately change for basic level boxes, he said. Digeo believes premium equipment, such as their Moxi HD boxes, will be required to have CabeCARD slots.

Meanwhile, Digeo’s boxes will also have an affordable multi-room solution to allow sharing content from the main Moxi set-top with other TVs in the home. The company makes a Moxi Mate thin-client box that uses a coaxial cable connection to the core box. This will permit second room users to do anything they can do in the main room, Gudorf said.

Second room access will include pausing and rewinding live content, and playing back recorded HD programs (down-rezed to SD for playback in the remote location), he said.