The Sensation About Cloud UIs: Simply the Fastest Route to Better TV Experiences

Murali Nemani — SVP & CMO

Is it just me, or is the talk about Cloud UIs hotter than Vladimir Putin’s Super Bowl ring? These days it seems like even CFOs see the bling in Cloud UIs, and when an issue has their attention, it’s succeeded in “crossing the chasm”—to borrow from Geoffrey Moore—into mainstream acceptance.

At The Cable Show last month, talk of the cloud was everywhere.  Whether you were tuned into CloudTV™ deployment news with Charter or Comcast’s X2 announcement, the message was the same:  Consumers are impatient for better TV experiences and cloud rendered UIs are the fastest way to deliver them.

It wasn’t just industry chatter.  The investment community is getting in on the conversation.  The smart folks at ACG Research did a paper comparing total-cost-of-ownership (TCO) of CloudTV with device-upgrade approaches. Colin Dixon went toe-to-toe with Will Richmond on cloud-based vs. device-based UIs. Charter got high marks from Todd Mitchell at Brean Capital and Andrew DeGasperi at Macquarie for moving their UI into the cloud.  And at UBS, John Hodulik and Lisa Friedman talked about how Charter is getting “more for less with CloudTV.”

The last word – chronologically, anyway—came from Craig Moffett, one of Wall Street’s go-to guys for cable insight.  While most of us were still picking up our luggage after the show, Craig was penning a note that said:“The most exciting development at this year's Cable Show was the emergence of cloud-based guides that don't require new set top boxes;”

  • “That means much lower cost to deploy, and much faster time to market;” and
  • “ActiveVideo…was the clear star of this year’s Cable Show.”

Here’s the important distinction the Wall Street folks are making: As UBS noted, not all cloud-based user interfaces are created equal.  For some, cloud-based metadata is streamed to browsers in specific devices.  CloudTV, on the other hand, moves the browser to the cloud and streams the UI to any device.  This video shows the difference.

I’m not going to quibble about which approach is best.  Fact is, they can be complementary.  Service providers who see the value of new, branded devices in the home can continue down their rollout paths, while using cloud-based browsing platforms to deliver the same, consistent user interface to existing STBs and connected IP devices.

In “Crossing the Chasm,” Geoffrey Moore describes how making the leap between visionaries and pragmatists requires more nuance than simply having defined sets of customers, products, wants and needs.  A key factor is the ability of customers and others to create momentum in the marketplace.

Over the past few weeks, here’s what we’ve heard from customers, analysts and influencers:  that the cloud can reduce capital and operational costs, shorten time to market and increase viewer engagement.  Based on that, I think Mr. Moore would agree that Cloud UIs have arrived on the other side.