Digeo, Motorola Prep for BMC Debut

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Digeo Inc., Motorola Broadband Communications Sector and Charter Communications Inc. will take the wraps off their new Broadband Media Center devices at this week's National Show.

The BMC 8000 is designed to serve as a companion to the already deployed base of Motorola DCT 2000s, said Motorola vice president of marketing and systems engineering Mark DePietro. It will have an 80 gigabit hard drive for personal video recording, a Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 1.1 cable modem and home-networking ports, as well as firewall and content-filtering applications.

The BMC 9000 will have all of the 8000's features and the DOCSIS 1.1-capable modem, as well as traditional set-top conditional access capabilities, two digital-video tuners, an optional DVD drive and high-definition television support.

The BMCX is the "slave" device that consumers would place next to their second and third TV sets.

"The BMCX is the extension device, and another way of sharing content," DePietro said. "It's a network device that will allow you to effectively move MPEG video around the house."

The BMCX device in the bedroom or basement would use the BMC 9000 in the living room as the base device to either retrieve traditional TV programs or to stream content from video servers or the Internet, for instance. It would afford consumers all of the functionality of the BMC 9000, except for futuristic video-phone services.

LINUX, FLASH ON BOARD

"Digeo is introducing the systems software and applications, as well as the service for Charter on top of this BMC 9000 and 8000, and this is middleware that's been built between Digeo and Moxie," said Digeo CEO Jim Billmaier.

The BMC that Digeo and Motorola are building for Charter will use the Linux operating system and incorporate Flash media and other such players, licensed from third parties, Billmaier said.

But Billmaier said other operating systems can run on the box. Digeo is working with Microsoft Corp. about porting a version of Windows XP to the BMC, he said.

Charter executive vice president and chief technology officer Steve Silva said the operator is still working with Microsoft to determine the operating systems and interactive services on which the MSO and the software giant will collaborate.

"We have a strategic relationship with Microsoft and are working with them to develop future interactive services," he said. "We have not refined our plan as to what role Microsoft will play on this first version of the BMC 9000 or its Digeo applications, but we continue to have discussions and look forward to a long relationship."

The BMC 9000 has high-definition capability, but Charter is already testing HDTV in several markets, and will continue to plow ahead with deployments using Scientific-Atlanta Inc. equipment, Silva said.

"When the BMCs come out, we expect and will test customers' adoption of high-def in those homes," he said.

Silva expects to start trialing the BMC 8000 line later this summer, with initial deployments coming this fall. The 9000s will likely ship in the first quarter of 2003, Silva said.

Although both boxes are more complex than the Motorola's DCT 2000 — or even the 5000 series — Billmaier and DePietro were optimistic they would meet those development schedules.

"We've had two plus years of development on this software," Billmaier said.

Digeo is packaging the software for the BMC 8000, so for the 9000 "we are able to leverage that immediately, because of the architectural strategy of similarity between what you see in the 8000 and the 9000," DePietro said.

Added Billmaier: "There is a very tight partnership with the hardware and a single software integrator, as well as a service and application integrator, all coming from one effort."

Digeo will bring its media-navigation system to the BMC 8000, as well as the ability to integrate with Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc.'s TV Guide Interactive. Silva said Charter believes it needs both the Digeo navigational system for advanced applications and TV Guide for traditional broadcast schedules and information.

LINKS INCLUDED

The BMC work marks a departure for Motorola, which traditionally set the specifications for boxes on its own, then brought them to market. In some ways, the BMC series supercedes what Motorola had been developing in its DCT-5000 product series.

The difference is that previous Motorola boxes didn't look to link devices throughout the entire home, said DePietro.

"This is different," he said, although he noted strong interest among MSOs in its 5100 HDTV set-top.

But the BMC series appears to be the end-all box spurred by the "Wired World" concept of Charter principal owner Paul Allen.

"Consumers want PVR, VOD, local info, IPG, watch and interactive, purchase on-screen" functionality, said Silva, citing research from the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing. "It's all encompassed into this platform.

"My goal is that a consumer could sit there, select sports, and not care if the content comes from a media player, or conventional MPEG-2 [Moving Picture Expert Group] streaming or a VOD server."

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