This was an interesting week in Digital Television. At the beginning of the week, Microsoft unveiled their new Vista operating system that has been designed for the 'Digital Lifestyle.' NVISION came to town the following day to preview several new products that will launch at NAB 2007. Lastly, NiveusMedia spoke to the press about their new A/V media servers that are built-on the Vista platform for high-definition content. High-definition played a role in each press briefing.
Last Monday (Jan. 29) unveiled both Microsoft Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 to 5,000 media at the Nokia Theater in NYC. While I normally don't talk about computer-type products here, Vista and the new Windows Media Centers are noteworthy as they both support HD. Besides including ATSC (over-the-air) and QAM (tuners) in new Media Centers, Vista makes it easy to record and playback HD signals from television or HD DVD. In fact, new Windows Media Centers will be Digital Cable Ready with CableCARD slots. While most of us in the CE industry feel that one-way CableCARD is essentially "dead in the water" because of the lack of support by the Cable Industry, Microsoft believes that it's a viable technology to be used and exploited. In fact, Bill Gates went to far as to say that Microsoft has met with several leading MSOs regarding the adoption of CableCARD, and that they would support the Windows Media option. We'll see.
NVISION previewed several new pre-NAB 2007 products including its new HD H.264 Encoder that uses breakthrough video processing technology based on the H.264 compression standard to deliver low-latency, high-quality, artifact-free HD video at bit rates of 6 to 12 Mbps for building cost-effective HDTV services. These low bit rates enable more HD channels to be squeezed within the defined bandwidth, thus providing an opportunity for broadcast providers -- satellite, cable, terrestrial (TV networks and local stations) IPTV, and telecommunications -- to increase revenue per distribution channel. H.264, also known as MPEG-4 Part 10/AVC (Advanced Video Coding) MPEG4/H.264, is a video compression standard that offers significantly greater, or more efficient, compression than its predecessors. The H.264 Encoder will ship in the 2nd quarter. NVISION also showed its various Digital Master Controllers along with Digital Video Routing technology products.
The new 2007 NiveusMedia Server line of media server products were unveiled at Harveys in New York City on Tuesday (Jan. 30). Harveys is a mid-to-high-end upscale electronics dealer and custom installer, who is based in the Tri-State area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The new media server products include the passively-cooled Summit Series' Rainier and Denali, the rack-mountable Pro Series, and the Digital Cable Receiver. Combined together or separately, all of these NiveusMedia products provide us with an inside look into Niveus' vision of a true 'Connected Digital Home' as they are designed to work with high-end audio and high-definition visual display devices. What's noteworthy here is that all of these IT-type products support high-definition TV as well as HD DVD.
While the media servers include ATSC tuners, a built-in HD DVD player, and 1080p signal output, the new Niveus Digital Cable Receiver is an external dual digital cable receiver box. The Digital Cable Receive has been designed as an accessory for Niveus' 2007 media server lineup, and features two internal digital cable (CableCARD) tuners. Each CableCARD is inserted into the back panel of the Niveus Digital Cable Receiver, which is easily connected to the Windows Vista Ultimate-based Media Center PC via a USB 2.0 cable. With very slick functionality, Windows Vista users can view and record premium high definition digital content (HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Discovery, ESPN, etc.) without the use of a set-top box, leveraging powerful DVR functionality, and a robust electronic program guide. At presstime, pricing had not been set.
All in all, it was an interesting week in Digital TV. Stay tuned.