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The Cisco Borg in your TV

An overview of Videoscape

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Regardless of your feelings toward Cisco – whether you’ve been absorbed into the Borg or are preserving your precarious freedom on the outside – the company’s CTO in Australia, Kevin Bloch, at least offers that rare combination of enviable technical competence and media-accessibility.

So it was that at Cisco Live, an event rampant with choice corporate jargons and catch-phrases (a personal favourite from the day would have to be “productionising the revenue opportunity”), Bloch’s discussion of Cisco’s Videoscape strategy was worth taking in.

Although outlined last January, Videoscape has had only limited exposure in the Australian market, although it had some attention internationally since it was part of the justification behind Cisco’s acquisition of Inlet Technologies for US$95 million.

Bloch put forward Videoscape’s objectives from two points of view: the carrier, and the end user.

There’s a reasonable degree of unanimity about the problem facing carriers: every aspect of their existing business model is becoming a cheap commodity.

This is particularly true in Australia, where the National Broadband Network (NBN) creates a nearly-ubiquitous and nearly-uniform fibre-to-the-premises transport to the consumer. The NBN’s architecture gives carriers little or no scope to protect margins they might now enjoy simply as carriers.

“If there’s any carrier or ISP that isn’t thinking about a new business model for te NBN, they won’t be around for long,” Bloch said.

So, in what must seem a phrase venerated by at least ten years of repetition, carriers need to find those “added value” opportunities that have so far eluded them. In spite of a long history of being advised to “move up the value chain” yet failing to do so, carriers will have no business at all if they can’t find some way to turn content into income, in Bloch’s opinion.

That’s where the consumer comes into the picture. One way or the other, Joe Sixpack needs to stick his hand in his pocket on behalf of those soon-to-be-starving giant carriers. If Joe can be persuaded to drop some coins in the hat for his favourite content, all will be well.

Except, Bloch told The Register, for one thing: delivery falls short of expectations. People won’t pay to have content delivered over the Internet if it’s of the unreliable quality they mostly experience today. Moreover, people are also sick of the complexity of today’s world of home media (or at least Cisco hopes they are).

He described Videoscape as a three-part platform: there’s the one-box offering that hopefully makes life simple and comprehensible for the home user; there’s the carier solution designed to provide a network infrastructure suitable for shipping IPTV content to huge numbers of customers; and there’s a cloud designed to host that content.

If the model might look attractive to the carriers, it’s also a pretty attractive model to the Borg: its customer is the carrier, and the carrier’s customer is the consumer. That’s a lot fewer sales to make than if Cisco chose instead to name itself a competitor in the valley of death known as the consumer electronics industry. ®

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