CES: Cisco Paints NDS Into 'Videoscape Unity'

Updated Platform Combines Multiscreen Video and TV Elements from Both Vendors

Las Vegas -- Cisco Systems said it has integrated the multiscreen-video elements of NDS -- which it acquired for $5 billion last year -- into Videoscape Unity, an expanded version of the video services delivery platform Cisco launched two years ago at CES.

The consolidated Videoscape Unity, announced Monday, includes new preintegrated applications for service providers, including a network digital video recorder that can deliver content over any network to any screen. However, it also remains modular and based on open interfaces, allowing operators to pick and choose the elements they wish to deploy, according to Cisco executives.

“It represents the unification of the user experience for all content,” including traditional TV programming as well as over-the-top and even free content, Marthin De Beer, senior vice president of Cisco's Video and Collaboration Group, said at a press conference here. “The world of television is expanding way beyond the television and way beyond the living room.”

De Beer, in an interview, likened the Videoscape Unity release to the latest version of an operating system, “like Windows 8.”

After the NDS deal closed in July 2012, NDS's approximately 5,000 employees joined Cisco's Service Provider Video Technology Group, headed by senior vice president and general manager Jesper Andersen. Cisco now has more than 7,500 video engineers, according to the company.

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With the addition of NDS and its large professional services group, “we now have very much of a services-led engagement with our customers,” said De Beer (pictured, right).

Videoscape Unity rationalizes the different product and technology areas both Cisco and NDS were developing. For example, the new platform uses NDS’s HTML5 Web-based interface approach rather than Cisco’s, according to company executives.

Operators using elements of the Videoscape platform include Cox Communications and Liberty Global.

“Operators cannot only differentiate themselves on the content,” De Beer said. “Increasingly it’s how they deliver the experiences.”

In addition to the multiscreen cloud DVR, Videoscape Unity provides a “Video Everywhere” component that provides unified search, discovery and viewing functions to allow consumers to watch premium live and on-demand content on any (service provider managed or unmanaged) connected device regardless of location.

Cisco also touted a new IP video solution for cable operators, to let MSOs deliver an expanded range content and IP video services across a wider range of managed devices with the flexibility to add unmanaged devices.

Client components of Videoscape Unity use the NDS Snowflake interface design model and NDS Media Highway multiplatform clients.

Key attributes of the new platform are synchronization of content, personalization and social features, Andersen said. A few years ago, “operators had a little bit of envy of the new over-the-top services, which looked a little fresher,” he said.

In a demo of Videoscape Unity, Cisco showed a guide running the Snowflake interface with live video thumbnails showing what’s currently on TV. It also included tabs for YouTube channels, cloud DVR, “new in store,” “new in library,” Twitter and Facebook. Executives showed the same guide on an HTC Android smartphone.

The demo also featured a “video network dashboard” map, showing real-time usage patterns in a hypothetical operator’s network by geographical area and device type.