Motorola Slims 5100 for Fast HD Work

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Capitalizing on a spurt of high-definition TV deployments, Motorola Inc. has slimmed down one of its advanced set-top boxes to offer cable operators a lower-cost, single-unit option.

The slimmed-down DCT 5100 can ride on the same networks as the DCT 2000, but adds an HDTV decoder, a built-in Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) cable modem, an integrated SmartCard reader and three universal serial bus (USB) ports to link to peripheral devices.

In recent months, such MSOs as Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications Inc., have unveiled high-definition services to keep up with their satellite competitors. Up to now, Motorola has provided them an HD sidecar that links to existing DCT 2000s.

"A lot of people are saying, 'We need to get HD out there with a single-box solution,' " said Motorola director of strategic marketing Bernadette Vernon. "That's where the 5100 with this thin client comes in, where it is literally acting as a thin client similar to the 2000."

The only difference between the slim version and the original 5100 — which went into production just last week — is that the middleware component has been stripped off.

"It's just really working right now on the APIs of the 2000," said Vernon. "It really is emulating what the 2000 is doing, but with all of the advanced horsepower and features of the HD and all of that.

"Then a couple of years from now, if they want to move and put more of a thick client-type software on there, the customer — i.e. the cable operator — will have the ability to do that."

Motorola isn't releasing the list price, but Vernon said the all-in-one 5100 will cost less than the combination DCT 2000 and the sidecar HD tuner.

"It's pretty clear when you look at the economics, you would look at the 5100 and say, 'This is the solution I want to put in the customer from a cost and price point,' and also again, that single-box solution, considering that is the most appealing thing right now the research is saying," Vernon said.

While it's likely that more MSOs will buy into the "5100 lite" for its expandable functions and single-box advantage, don't start composing eulogies for the DCT-2000, Vernon said. It will still provide the lowest-cost entry option for digital service for some time.

"The 2000 is still going strong and still very much meets the market need," said Vernon. "For someone who doesn't have HD in their home, the 2000 is the answer.

"I think you are going to see a mish-mash of all of these different boxes, all coexisting."

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