07 Jan SBC blends TV, video, music and the Internet in a new media box
SBC kicked off its strategy of digital convergence on Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas by showing off its new home entertainment service.
Designed as part of the company’s plan to unite its offerings, the service brings together satellite TV, digital video recording and Internet service in a set-top box. The system requires a an SBC satellite dish and DSL connection.
In his keynote address, SBC chairman Edward Whitacre said bringing all this information together was a long overdue task for the company, an idea that never got past simply being a good idea.
“All electronic devices [now] speak the same language … It’s clear that in many ways we are in the golden age of communication,” Whitacre said. “[The service] takes the confusion out of communications and designs a set of services that fits the consumer’s needs.”
According to SBC spokesman Andy Shaw, SBC wanted to provide its users with as many features in one place as possible. The box incorporates an SBC satellite TV receiver, a digital video recorder, and an Internet connection, and using these connections is able to connect to computers all over the house. Movies can be downloaded through a DSL broadband connection and played on the television, and channels can be locked or ordered at will. Features such as parental locks or digital recording can be adjusted online.
The system’s capabilities are not limited to television. Customers can go through the music files of each computer in the house or access the Yahoo online radio service, pick out the music they want and play it on a home stereo system. Photos taken with a digital camera can be transferred directly to the box to be viewed or posted online.
“What this really means is putting your network together,” Shaw said. “It’s really making all these devices talk to each other on the same wavelength – that’s the way it should be.”
SBC worked in concert with several other companies. DSL broadband supplier 2Wire is responsible for the construction of the box that integrates services together. EchoStar Communications handles the majority of video and TV services that the box provides, making sure that the DVR capabilities blend with standard broadcasts. The user interface will be provided by Yahoo, and will be designed so a similar feel exists through the Web-based features such as music files and remote access.
A new SBC division called SBC Media Solutions, LLC, will develop and market the box. The company will be composed of key executives that have been involved in project development: CEO Ed Cholerton is also vice president of SBC’s DSL department, while president Brian Hinman is also CEO and president of 2Wire.
The service will be publicly released in the summer across SBC’s 13-state range. Shaw said that 85 percent of current SBC customers polled said they would be the first or second to sign up for the service when it became available.
Plans for further development include integration with United Communications Service, a unit that uses one mailbox for wireless voicemail, email, and faxes. SBC also hopes to give customers access through wireless phones and provide more digital video through Yahoo.
“Convergence opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for consumers,” Whitacre said in his speech. “The time when customers will tolerate nothing less is finally here … this is the year when excitement and dependability meet on the same stage.”