Motorola�s Follow Me TV Unveiled
PC Today Q A
Departures, November 2007 - Vol.5 Issue 11, by Jennifer Johnson
DVRs (digital video recorders) have become commonplace in our entertainment centers. After all, who can resist the convenience of recording a show at the touch of a button or pausing live television when the doorbell rings? Looking beyond today�s current capabilities, wouldn�t it be great if your DVR could broadcast all of your favorite shows, music, and photos to any room of the house without a lot of special equipment? Those capabilities aren�t as far off as you may think.
Motorola is no stranger to these types of services. In fact, Motorola is getting ready to launch its Follow Me TV solution later this year, according to Nick Chakalos, senior director of software product management, Motorola Connected Home Solutions. As the No. 1 set-top box provider in the world, Motorola produced the first commercially available MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance)-enabled set tops. MoCA is an industry standard that makes it possible to share media such as video, music, and photos throughout the home over existing coaxial cable. Read on as Chakalos tells us more about what Follow Me TV offers for the future of entertainment.
Q: Can you give me an overview of Motorola�s Follow Me TV solution?
A: Where it starts is really about enabling something we call seamless mobility. This is based on consumer experiences and ensuring we can provide more control over their entertainment and communication experience by allowing them to do things such as time shift video, play shift, and device shift.
That overall umbrella is a strategy and a drive toward a variety of different solutions. Follow Me TV helps support that strategy by allowing a video operator to extend its brand to a variety of devices within a consumer�s home. One example is a whole-home DVR experience, where I have a Follow Me TV solution that is cost-effective and allows a central DVR to be used as a single repository for all DVR content. Content can then be sent to non-DVR set-top boxes around the house as a first step in Follow Me TV.
The next step after that is allowing an operator to offer that same service and the same quality of service outside the home, allowing a user to transfer recorded content to a mobile device, a personal media player, or a laptop to take with them.
Q: Will Follow Me TV work with any device? Or do you need a specific Motorola device?
A: The intent is for the Follow Me TV services to support a variety of different industry standards that are evolving. If you look at our Follow Me TV solution, it�s based on an OCAP platform, the OpenCable application platform that cable operators are beginning to roll out in limited quantities. This platform will largely be rolled out over the next 18 to 24 months. OCAP is an application platform that resides on a set-top box, and it�s meant to provide a common platform across an operator�s entire footprint. It lets application developers write a single application and have it run on a variety of different operator networks. We have taken this platform and extended it to enable this Follow Me TV capability, so that an operator can distribute an application written for one box in such a way where the end user can enjoy the Follow Me TV experience throughout his home.
Q: How does the Follow Me TV solution relate to cellular services like Sprint�s mobile TV offering?
A: If you�re looking at consumer behaviors and how consumers want to gain access to content, there are a variety of things they want to be able to enjoy and take with them. If you look at the research we have seen�both primary research in addition to third-party research�consumers want to gain access to the content they have recorded in their libraries, whether that content resides on set tops or on PCs. We enable the user to do this easily, with the content protection that the studios and the operators demand.
Outside the home, users may also want to enjoy live video broadcast and/or video snacks. That�s where a service delivered over a handheld would come into play. If you look down the road, there are a variety of different standards evolving to enable broadcasting directly to devices. Today, operators have dipped their toes in the water with the current unicast [one-to-one data exchange] models. What ends up happening, though, is that as more and more users access video, the cell networks start to fail due to high spikes.
Bottom line, there are needs for different types of content consumption: content you already have stored on your DVR in your home library, or content you receive as on-demand updates while out on the road. We�re developing solutions to handle both of those, although from a timing standpoint, we feel the larger opportunity today is in looking at leveraging recorded content.
Q: Is Follow Me TV still in development stage or has part of it already launched?
A: The first instantiation of it is already launched: Verizon offers a FiOS [Fiber-Optic Service] TV service. One of the features in that service is a whole-home or multiroom DVR that relies on Motorola technology. This would be a next-generation offering of Verizon�s FiOS TV service with additional features.
Q: What does a user have to do in order to transfer a show from the DVR to a mobile phone?
A: It�s as simple as connecting the portable media player with the set-top box via a USB interface. Plug in the USB and synchronize the device. That�s it.
Q: You mentioned that the new iteration of Follow Me TV will launch later this year. Can you tell me about the services customers can look forward to even further down the road?
A: That�s the fun part. We are evolving technologies and developing products right now that allow and expand this concept, not just to cover video, but also to cover music and photos�in effect creating a jukebox that you can enjoy anywhere around the home. We�re also talking about having this ability with photos, as well.
Extending outside the home, we�re talking about being able to take photos on a cell phone or on your digital camera and being able to walk into your house and have them automatically synchronized with storage. Those photos would also be immediately available for viewing on your plasma TV as part of a slideshow where you can also attach music.
A fully integrated experience like that is right behind the base Follow Me TV platform. Other features could include remote access for managing the system, so you can schedule a recording from the road. From an operator�s standpoint, it�s also about being able to offer a service that can alert customers, based on an opt-in model or based on a profile, that there is content of interest to them that they might want to record. This type of service might send an update saying, �Monday night football is coming up, and you�re on the road. Do you want to record it?�
If we take it a step beyond that and look at the social networking aspects of this, more and more operators are looking to build communities of subscribers with common interests. We�ve seen it with Comcast, Yahoo!, and others who are looking at doing this. It�s about enabling the various devices to tap into these aspects of social networking.