Translation Please

A 2011 Tech Trend Preview

12/13/2010 8:06 AM

In cable, December is typically a tech-heavy month - until 2003, because of the Western Show, sandwiched in between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

More recently, because of the gadget bonanza that is the annual Consumer Electronics Show.A brief walk through Tech Decembers past: Way back when (Dec. 1, 1977), the pioneering interactive-TV project known as QUBE launched. Three Decembers later, Zenith took the wraps off of a programmable VCR. (List price: $1,350.)

Microsoft announced its “Insight Architect” program - its first foray into interactive TV - in December of ‘94. Also that month: AT&T, IBM, Northern Telecom and H-P all announced their plans to make set-top boxes for cable. (None ever really materialized.)

The CableLabs specifications that begat the DOCSIS cable modem were unveiled in December of ‘96. (Note: This means that cable broadband turns 15 in 2011.)

This week in 2001, technologists at AT&T Broadband and Cox were pulling all-nighters, orchestrating a frenetic, seven-day cutover from the Excite@ Home broadband effort - perhaps the industry’s most fiery collapse.

Here’s a short list of what appear to be the most plausible tech trend lines for 2011:

Cable over IP, or whatever we’re going to call the notion of sending a managed video service over those broadband pipes. Despite the lack of a good descriptor, the body of work is critically important to compete with the growing list of over-the-top video alternatives.

Deals, deals, deals. Call it a widget, soft client, cable button - it’s the thing that pops up on the Internet-connected TV, after you buy it and hang it on the wall. Picture it as the MSO-branded button sitting next to the Netflix button. Getting there means cutting deals with consumer electronics makers. Samsung and Panasonic are safe bets, given their cable partnership histories.

Freight fights. The scuffle between Comcast, Level 3 and, ultimately, the bulge of Netflix bits clogging the industry’s broadband pipes will intensify next year .

Web services, to outfit, say, the deployed base of OCAP (OpenCable Applications Platform) set-top middleware, to do IP video.

Expressed interfaces, another term in the “Webservices” lingo that means opening up key back-office components to IP-based techniques. It matters for economically speeding the deployment of new services and apps.

All of it will almost certainly provide a heaping plate of jargon and gibberish. We’ll keep the light on it for you.

October