The Bauminator

When Android Met The RDK

Alticast Demo Mixes Managed, Unmanaged Video On A Stick 5/07/2014 3:45 PM

With Netflix scoring its first set of deals that will allow its service to run on MSO-provided, TiVo-powered boxes in the U.S., a big theme at last week’s Cable Show was the industry’s slow but ongoing embrace of over-the-top services.


While some of TiVo’s U.S. MSO partners (including Suddenlink Communications just this week) appear to be out in front of the pack with Netflix tie-ins, evidence at the event showed that the adoption and integration of OTT services has become a business issue and do not present much in the way of technical hurdles. 


And that even extends to the Reference Design Kit (RDK), the preintegrated software platform that’s being managed by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Liberty Global. As Comcast continues to show, the RDK is fully capable of supporting Internet-based apps such as Facebook, Pandora and Instagram, as well as authenticated streaming apps like NBC Sports Live extra, which was baked into Comcast’s X1 platform for the Sochi Games.


And as Alticast demonstrated last week it’s possible to have the RDK and Android coexist on the same device, which could offer an interesting way for cable operators to deliver traditional, managed video services alongside unmanaged OTT apps and services that are available through the massive Google Play store.


It was just a demo, but Alticast did show RDK and Android running on an HDMI-connected “stick” that cooked in everything from YouTube, Google Play and MSO-run TVE apps (Alticast, as the image below shows, has several HDMI stick form factors on display).


And the notion of packing all of that into portable stick form could open up some other possibilities pointing to what Alticast was calling the “untethered future.”


Such a device could, for example, allow a cable TV subscriber to take that experience with them on the road. While the customer wouldn’t have access to MSO-managed subscription video services while they’re away from home, the device could at least pipe in all of that OTT content, including the operator’s TVE applications.


And there are other applications being discussed. An operator, for example, could subsidize the stick and pitch it at retail, or allow a premium programmer to test out new ways to get its content in front of consumers and  use it as a vehicle to sell subscriptions.


I was told that those ideas were all in the very early stage, but the demo did offer a potentially interesting vision for a more integrated blend of managed and unmanaged video services.